SEO (search engine optimisation) is an immense way for financial websites to attract potential clients to a financial adviser or wealth management firm.
The idea is simple, yet effective. Get your website into the top search results for your target audience’s relevant search terms, and let your content and contact forms generate inbound leads from there.
Most honest, decent people (such as the IFAs and financial firms we work with) want to rank their financial website through honest, positive means. However, there will unfortunately always be those who look for a shortcut, or who look to use negative efforts to knock the competition (you) from the top.
Can’t Google Detect SEO Attacks On Financial Websites?
Of course, search engines such as Google have come a long way in identifying these kinds of malicious activities, and stomping them out. However, some SEO companies make it their specialty to find loopholes in order to tear down websites, rather than lift them up.
Unfortunately, no one is really completely safe from SEO attacks. A day hardly ever goes by without some news story hitting the headlines, describing how a company’s website was taken down by hackers, or forced down the search results by negative SEO.
However, that does not mean nothing can be done to keep your financial website as safe as possible. The key lies in first understanding how SEO works, on a basic level. From there, you can start to anticipate some of the malicious SEO strategies that might be used against you to steal your potential clients.
SEO & Negative SEO – A Brief Overview
Search engines optimisation is a process used by financial marketers, such as CreativeAdviser, to rank financial website higher up in the search engines. The purpose of this endeavour is to get your website viewed, and clicked, as much as possible by relevant, potential consumers and clients.
Various practices have different SEO “weight” or “importance”. For instance, having outbound links in your website content to other peoples’ websites is generally seen as a positive SEO signal by Google. However, this is not given as much weight by Google as high-quality backlinks from other websites which point to your content.
The ethical, “white hat” approach to SEO is to provide high-quality, original and valuable content on your website to your target audience. From there, if sufficient numbers of people view, click on and engage with the content, Google will be inclined to rank your financial website higher up in its search engine for the appropriate search term (e.g. “financial adviser Lincoln”). If other websites then link back to that content you’ve created, then even better from an SEO point of view.
This process of ranking a financial website higher up in Google takes time. It can take 6-18 months, depending on the search terms in question and the competition over them.
The fact that lots of companies often fight over the same keywords can be seen as healthy. It incentivises companies to provide the highest quality content possible to their users and potential readers. However, the fierceness of the competition also leads some companies to try and cheat the system.
Sometimes these “black hat” SEO techniques pay off in the short term. However, in the longer term you’re almost always going to get caught. And when your website gets caught by Google, it’s bad. Sometimes financial websites get removed altogether from the search engines, not just pushed down the rankings.
How To Know When You’re A Victim Of Negative SEO – And What To Do About It
It usually isn’t too hard to identify a negative SEO attack on your website. Spammy links, fake reviews and/or a direct website hack can all be methods used by competitors and disgruntled users to take down your financial website.
Make sure your financial website hosting and maintenance provider is sending you regular reports of your website security. They should be able to quickly identify when your website is victim to an attack.
However, SEO attacks are not always picked up by IT companies, who are looking out mainly for coding and formatting issues on your website. This is where working with a financial SEO agency like CreativeAdviser can offer value. They will be able to track your website search rankings over time, and identify the possible reasons for a decline in your SERPs (search engine ranking positions) – which might take the form of a negative SEO attack.
To help prevent an SEO attack, you should therefore, firstly, keep a sharp eye on your search engine rankings. Keep an extra sharp eye on your website links. Sometimes negative SEO takes the form of a competitor or hacker going onto bad quality websites, and leaving a link to your site (e.g. in the comments section of a bad blog).
If this happens, then in the most extreme situation you can disavow these poor quality links. You do this through your Google Webmaster Tools account (AKA Google Search Console), where you essentially tell Google which links to your financial website are inappropriate and unwanted.
You should also watch the speed of your financial website. Was it really faster before, and now all of a sudden has it gone really slow? This might just be a blip with your hosting provider. However, sometimes it can be the result of “forceful” crawling of your website by a hacker.
The aim here is to make your financial website so frustratingly slow for users, they bounce off. This can result in lower search engine rankings, because Google might think that users do not like your website or find it irrelevant. Or, the aim might be to make your website crash entirely.
Another thing to keep a lookout for is copycat content. Sometimes, competitors will steal content from your website in order to boost their own website rankings. Always make sure your content is the first to be indexed by Google in the even someone copies your content. That way, your competitor’s financial website will be the one penalised – not yours.