Should financial marketers worry about SEO? After all, isn’t Search Engine Optimization used predominantly for B2C businesses like restaurants, stores, the entertainment industry in an attempt to rank higher in organic searches and directly drive customers to their establishments? In financial services on the other hand (especially in investment management companies like Invesco, UBS and Vanguard) marketers approach financial advisers more directly, and email marketing is the reigning king.
While SEO is indeed a key to success in B2C businesses, its importance in B2B industry and in the financial services sector is not to be underestimated by any means.
SEO can take a financial marketer’s email-marketing-centered digital strategy a step further!
Regardless of your business model, every successful company wants to be present, easy to find and part of a larger community, and email marketing on it’s own can’t get you there, nor can social media. Ultimately, it comes down to Google.
Often underestimated in its importance, SEO is the part of marketing that will give you insights as to how Google operates. It will ensure that all of your web-based content – from the CMS your website is built on, to your landing page and blog content – is as Google-friendly as possible. The results: more traffic, higher click-through rates, better branding and a larger market-share.
Where do you start?
Once convinced of SEO’s importance, you have to hit the ground running. But where do you even begin? If you have no prior background in SEO, don’t make the mistake of jumping into the deep waters of back-end optimization.
Start slowly and familiarize yourself with how Search Engine Optimization works. You will soon realize why everyone who has ever done it tells you that it is a continuous and ever-changing game that keeps you on your toes. Truth be told, there is no such thing as being done with SEO.
As you may know, Google’s organic search results are populated after Google’s spiders crawl the World Wide Web for results according to your inquiry. Based on certain characteristics that determine the relevance of the results’ content, algorithms rank all the result pages and the best, most relevant results end up on Google’s first page. Understanding how the algorithms work is crucial for gaining and maintaining a good organic search rank.
Google’s concept of relevancy keeps changing, and so do its algorithms. The most-recent algorithm update was Penguin 4.0 in September 2016. A key take-away from Penguin 4.0 was that unlike previous Penguin updates, this one runs in real time within the core search algorithm, thus making less space for spam, imposing penalties on non-optimized content quicker, but also lifting them faster. Some of the most important Google algorithms include Hummingbird, the Mobile Friendly Update, Panda, Penguin and Pigeon.
2. URL structure
Granted that all the content on your page is fabulous, an imperfect URL structure will not only cause your page to get completely lost in the pool of Google search results, but it will also negatively affect your SEO ranking. It is the small things that make a big difference between top-of-the-page results and “everything else”. Some basic things to keep in mind include:
- The shorter, the better
- Similarity to the page title is good
- Yes to keywords, no to stop words (see below)!
- Case sensitivity plays a role – everything in your URL after “.com” is case sensitive so refrain from capitalization or your URL won’t be type-able.
- Use hyphens or underscores as word separators
- Canonicalize multiple URLs with the same content by implementing canonical tags in the HTML code of all URLs but one. The tags will redirect the URLs to that one page of content that you wish to be displayed.
3. Headers and Tags
Contrary to some beliefs, you don’t need HTML background to ensure your SEO basics are covered. There are plenty of useful browser extensions like the Moz toolbar and SEO Site Tools that will help you examine your titles, meta data and headers with one click.
Page Title or Title Tag
A good title is very important, to say the least, for the long-term success of any page/post. Think of it as the subject line of your email marketing campaign. It’s the bait to your fish, the pollen to your bees, the content to your Google – it can make you or break you.
On average, a page title should be short and sweet (between 50-60 characters) and contain keywords which describe the content on your page. Try to refrain from using “stop” words that carry little to no keyword value such as: the, a, an, am, is, and, but, on, which, her, that, of, etc.
A good practice is to include the name of your company at the end of the title, separated with a dash or a line from the rest of your title.
It is important to also remember that the recommended title length for Google is different from that of social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
An ideal meta description varies between 150-160 characters. Where the title tag should be a clear and concise sentence, the meta description can be more descriptive (ha!) giving your audience a glimpse of what they should expect of your content if they decide to click. Feel free to throw in a punch line or two!
A frequent mistake made by many content marketers is the misuse or lack of use of headers. The general rule of thumb is that a web page should only have one H-1 tag, no more and no less, and as many other headers as you see fit. Remember, use but don’t abuse!
- Size does matter. Scale an image down to the exact size that you wish it to be displayed prior to uploading it. If you upload a 3000×1500 pixels image to your WordPress media center and then the platform automatically shrinks it down to fit the 250×150 pixels dimensions, your page will be slowed down because the full-sized 3000×15000 image will have to load every time someone opens the page.
- Names matter too. When saving an image make sure to give it a unique and descriptive name, as opposed to a generic “photo.jpg.”
- Alt-text is how Google “reads” visuals so don’t forget to add it to every image you upload.
There is more to SEO than just fixing titles, plugging in keywords and optimizing. It lays the groundwork for something much greater – your place in the greater industry community. In order for your website to be considered an established and web-renowned specialist in your field you need to gain popularity, credibility and Google’s trust. This can be achieved by producing relevant content that is linked to other highly trusted sources of similar content.
For example, if you are writing a blog article with market predictions for 2017 and have used sources like Citywire, the findings of an independent trends research agency and have quoted an industry specialist, put links to those articles/research in your piece. Some tips to keep in mind are:
- Create hyperlinks that open outbound links in a new tab
- Choose a good keyword for anchor text and avoid “click here” hyperlinks
- Use a web tool to monitor your domain rating and backlink quality over time
- Track your traffic with Google Analytics
Search Engine Optimization is beyond important for marketing your financial brand, laying the base work for your social media strategy and going hand in hand with content which will ultimately conquer Google’s organic search.
Above all, it is a perfect addition to a solid email marketing strategy as it helps broaden out the scope of your audience. Not only will you be in your client’s mailbox, but also in their web browser and Google search results – a complete marketing takeover!
Remember to be patient because unlike paid search ads, SEO rarely results in an instant traffic boost and gratification comes over time. Should financial marketers pay closer attention to their SEO, however, the positive long-term effects on all aspects of their digital marketing strategy, including email marketing campaigns, will likely blow their minds.