If you’re reading this, chance are you’ve had a squiz at our previous post on search engine optimisation – ‘SEO for Financial Services Businesses: The Basics’. Since putting that post together, we’ve been doing a bit more learning and research of our own.

Specifically, we’ve been finding out more about how fresh good quality content can help financial services businesses get found online.

It turns out that the latest spate of Google algorithm updates (within the last six months) have had significant impact on the SEO of financial services businesses around the world. For example, in October last year, Google announced that a machine learning artificial intelligence system called RankBrain would be helping its algorithm to filter and categorise results. Specifically, it would help the algorithm to return the best possible search results, even when a website doesn’t contain the exact term the user plugged in.

Google already had ways to do this, but RankBrain is basically a smarter and faster way to get it done (read more here). One of the impacts for financial services businesses is that people asking very specific questions about their finances (especially if they’re not using the right terminology) can still be directed to a local service provider who can help – but still, only if that provider has enough content and information on their website to tell the Google algorithm that it’s going to be useful. For example, if someone is looking for SMSF advice but they don’t know the abbreviation or proper term, they might enter ‘help with doing your own super’. Thanks to RankBrain, a local adviser with lots of SMSF resources may have a better chance of ranking highly in the list of results. Previously, the algorithm might not have known what ‘super’ meant in this context.

That said, several advisers we’ve spoken to recently have much more basic and critical issues with the content side of their SEO than simply keeping up to date with the latest algorithm changes.

The problems

So what are some of the unique challenges facing financial services businesses looking to optimise their web presence? Well, the big issues are all tied up with time and resources. A number of attendees at the Adviser Innovation Digital Marketing Boot Camp we recently sponsored noted that the main impediment to their boosting their digital marketing efforts, including SEO, is time. Many advisers, especially sole practitioners or managers of small boutique firms, simply don’t have the time or resources to invest in their website, let alone the rest of their online presence.

At Boot Camp, speakers reaffirmed the importance of quality content and providing a useful experience to users visiting the website. In other words, it’s a good idea to have plenty of unique, good quality resources and information. But someone has to put in the hours to research, write, edit and produce each piece of content. Not to mention, someone has to check and edit each piece of content for FSL compliance.

The good news is that there are a number of strategies and approaches that are easy to put in to practice without adding hours of extra work.

The solutions

  1. Spending time on keyword research and planning may be the best investment of your time.

If you’re wondering where to start making more effort for maximum impact, begin with your keyword choices. Choosing focus keywords is an easy way to prioritise what to work on. For any financial services provider, whether you’re an adviser, accountant, investment manager, insurance broker or any other provider, there are almost infinite topics that you can write or product content around to establish your subject matter expertise.

Finding out what most people are looking for can help you choose where to focus your content resources for the best possible ROI.

If you have an AdWords account, ensure you’re making the most of included tools like Keyword Planner to discover fresh suggestions, trends and search volume. Alternatively, look at data from your Facebook page, enquiry form and other places where potential clients can ask you questions, and see what most of them are asking about. Thanks to RankBrain, if you can boil the question down to a key phrase and work from there, you’ll be able to capture more of that traffic.

  1. Compromise between length of content and freshness of content

The financial services industry is constantly changing. Not only are there frequent regulatory updates and mainstream news pieces, events happen every day which can impact the outcomes your clients achieve. For example, major stock market news can roll in from open ‘til close, and then overnight for foreign markets. This is in sharp contrast to other types of services businesses. For example, some tradespeople may have very few (if any) changes in technology, tools, best practice etc. that they need to stay on top of.

Unfortunately, not every practice has the resources to update their clients and followers on important events as they happen. Depending on your support resources (administrative/junior staff, contractors etc.) it may be more efficient for you to spend an extended period producing a longer and more in-depth article. Or, you may find it easier to put together a quick update for your social profile or blog, multiple times a week.

Because both quality and freshness of content are important SEO ranking factors, you’ve got a critical decision to make. If you absolutely cannot update regularly, you must make sure that what you do produce for your website – whether it’s a blog article, an information page or an extension of your company details – is extensive, well planned, and beautifully written.

  1. If in doubt, start local

Modelling your SEO / general digital strategy on the most successful businesses in your industry is generally a good idea. If you can work out what makes them constantly appear as the top results for relevant search terms, you can emulate and hopefully reproduce their results. However, if you’ve been looking at the websites of big national/international firms, banks and other big players, you may have been discouraged by the sheer volume of resources and articles they provide for users.

The best way to narrow your focus, so you get results without having to invest the hundreds of thousands that big players put in to content, is to focus on your local area. Chances are most of your clients come within a radius of a few suburbs of your head office.

Produce information pages, FAQs, blogs, articles and other content that is particularly relevant to your local area. For example, make sure you’re pitching to the demographic living and working in your local area. Look at solutions you offer that may be particularly pertinent for the area – for example, insurance products specifically for rural and regional customers, or customers in areas prone to extreme weather events. Use market research tools and free resources, such as Census data, to find out more about the average financial circumstances of people in your area, and produce resources helpful for them.

If you’ve got any questions about this article, feel free to comment below or drop us a line at our Melbourne office.