Many of us are familiar with that frustration from financial SEO. You publish a blog a week (a good one!), optimise your website for Google’s algorithm and build your backlink profile – yet your organic search rankings and traffic remain stagnant, or even decline!
Why does this happen, and why is SEO for financial firms often so difficult? As a financial marketing agency, we have wrestled hard with this question and share some answers below.
We hope you find value in these reflections and invite you to speak with us about your own digital marketing if you are ready.
Bluntly, some areas of Google search are simply too difficult for smaller financial firms to rank for, organically. The competition is too great and the budget required to “get in the game” is unrealistic for local businesses like most financial planners.
For instance, we just typed the phrase “ISA investment adviser” into Google. The top results? SJP, Prudential, MoneySavingExpert, HL and other big brands with huge marketing budgets and content machinery behind them.
Getting a local IFA’s blog post or landing page into the top ten search results alongside these players is, most often, too big of an ask.
Quite simply, many financial firms fail at SEO – despite best efforts – because the keywords and search phrases they are going after are just too difficult. One way to address this is to use methods and tools which help you uncover “low handing fruit” in Google, where there is good opportunity and less competition – and which you stand a chance of ranking for.
Recently, one of our team member watched The Shawshank Redemption. There is a great scene where the protagonist, Andy Dufresne, plays a record in the prison warden’s office. He then turns on the prison-wide loudspeaker, which projects the content across the entire prison so everyone can hear it – not just him, and the people immediately outside the door.
Many financial firms think that publishing content on their website will automatically be “amplified” to a wide audience. Yet you need “connections” to do this effectively. In the world of SEO, these are known as “backlinks” (rather than wires to sound system). When you get a link to your blog/landing page from another authoritative website with decent traffic, this can give your SEO a huge boost.
Part of the trouble with many financial firms’ SEO strategies is that they neglect backlinks. Perhaps they simply do not take the time to build them (after all, it takes time and effort!). Or, maybe they take the “easy route” and find low-authority, irrelevant websites where they can post a link back to their own article.
Both courses of action are likely to do little good for your financial SEO, and will likely undermine it.
Why should Google rank your article or web page higher than the others in a particular set of search engine results? Quite often, financial firms do not see results with their SEO because their content is not as original, in-depth or useful as what’s already there.
For instance, perhaps the copy in your article is poorly written, or does not stay sufficiently on-topic. Or, maybe your content is very good but the competition has an average of, say, 2,000 words to your 500 words. Whilst quantity is not everything when it comes to financial SEO and copywriting, it is certainly important.
Another key feature of SEO in 2021 is “featured snippets”. Here, Google often displays a short excerpt from a website’s blog post in the search engine results – to answer a user’s question. This helps to address their query more immediately without needing to directly navigate to a website. A key question to ask yourself, therefore, is: “Are my blog posts optimised for snippets?”
This requires a particular style of writing which you may not be adopting.
Have you tested your website speed, lately? Today, search engines like Google take website speed very seriously. All things being equal, if your website is slower than your SEO competitors’, then it is likely to be pushed further down the list of results.
On-site issues like this can severely hamper your website’s ability to gain SEO traction. Make sure it is not being needlessly slowed down by clunky WordPress plugins or by a theme with “heavy code”. In many cases, the quality of a website’s hosting may be the main issue.
Have you also checked to make sure Google is able to index your pages properly? Sometimes, a setting can be overlooked in your theme or plugin(s) which can inadvertently lead some of your content to be de-indexed.
The type of code that your website is written in may not be the problem. After all, this issue can arise even on pure HTML financial websites. You can start to get an idea of whether this is an issue for you using the Index Coverage report in Google Search Console.