A lot of fintechs we speak with are looking for quick wins. Revenue in the door next month.
SEO doesn’t necessarily fit into the strategy for a lot of brands because it’s an investment in long-term growth—and that means it takes more time to get results when compared to other strategies like paid media.
But it also means your competition is likely not focused on organic traffic growth, either.
Fintech companies exist in one of the most competitive and noisy online marketplaces. Not only do startups compete on the same stage with billion dollar brands—in a lot of cases, those behemoths are buying ad space on smaller brands and completely pricing you out of the game.
So how do you get noticed in a noisy digital world?
The answer is meaningful search engine optimization. It’s not just about generating tons of content, it’s understanding where that content lives in the customer journey, what role it plays, and how consumer education can drive higher conversion.
SEO can solve a lot of problems for a financial services company struggling to drive top-funnel traffic to their website or mobile app. However, SEO is but a single pillar of many (including paid media, experience design, social media marketing, and more) that come together to form a holistic digital marketing strategy.
And while SEO does mean you need to produce more content, it also requires focusing on technical elements of website performance, as well as outreach activities that take place wholly away from your website (more on both of these later).
In this article, I’m going to make a compelling case for SEO for fintechs. By the time you finish reading, you should understand what it is, why you need it, and how you can leverage SEO for sustainable long-term growth.
Buckle up, because it’s time for your crash course on SEO for financial services.
What Is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it refers to a set of practices to optimize your website to improve your site’s visibility and rank higher on Google, Bing, and other search engines.
SEO started in the late 90s, when the only way to engage in any kind of SEO work was through “on-page” activities. While this typically involved having enough text on the page and including appropriate HTML tags, it quickly became a battle of how frequently your page repeated keywords and phrases. Today this practice is known as keyword stuffing, and is no longer an effective strategy.
As search engines and algorithms evolved, the ranking factors have become more complex. Today, company’s have teams of employees and freelancers dedicated to optimizing their website for organic search. And yet, SEO success can be boiled down to a three-part formula: high-quality and relevant content, website performance, and a superior user experience.
With this formula in mind, SEO can be broken down into three different sub-categories:
- On-Page SEO: this can be defined as content creation, page structure optimization, and topic cluster development (among other activities).
- Technical SEO: technical SEO refers to the structure of your website, including navigation, sitemaps, and metadata like title tags and alt text. It’s also grown to include page speed optimization and user experience design.
- Off-Page SEO: off-page SEO refers to actions taken outside of your website like backlink outreach (more on this below).
As we move through all things SEO in this article, we will take a closer look at all three sub-categories of SEO. For now, let’s review some of the benefits of SEO for financial services.
SEO for Financial Services: Benefits
When SEO is done right, it always works.
When opening up a search engine, each query we type has a particular intent. Some of us want to purchase a product. Others want to learn more about a specific topic. All of us are looking for answers. The main benefit of SEO is that it helps you find those individuals that are running searches related to your business, either because they are searching for a product/service, or because they are looking to learn more about your industry niche.
SEO puts more eyes on your brand, and this results in a number of derivative benefits.
SEO Increases Traffic Quality
High-quality traffic is traffic that converts. If you’re not investing in SEO, you might be getting quality traffic from paid campaigns, but the majority of users are looking for trustworthy organic search results. Organic results get clicks and traffic at a much higher rate than paid ads. In fact, only 4.42% of Google searches lead to a paid ad click, vs. 45.25% of searches that lead to an organic search result click.
SEO Drives Brand Awareness
SEO is often overlooked when brands try to increase awareness, but these two strategies go hand in hand. If you want to increase your reach, try optimizing your website for relevant and accessible keywords with a balance between monthly search volume and keyword difficulty (as measured in SEO tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs).
Even if your website does not receive the lion’s share of traffic, your brand will still be associated with other relevant search results. Just by becoming associated (in the mind of both Google and searchers) with a handful of relevant keywords, you could expand your reach exponentially.
SEO Boosts Brand Credibility
Google’s stamp of approval is a giant green light for your brand and website.
If Google trusts you enough to put your website on the first page of the SERPs, this is a stamp of approval (driven by domain authority), and users can safely assume you are reputable. Having your website ranking near the top of the search results is a positive signal to users that they can feel safe visiting your website and can trust in your products, services, and subject matter expertise.
SEO Touches the Entire Marketing Funnel
We all know that buying is a process, and SEO is unique in that it impacts the entire sales cycle. Understanding keyword intent at both the top and bottom of the sales funnel is key to leveraging SEO.
For example, if a user is running a top-of-funnel informational search (e.g., “what is a neo-bank?”), your content helps educate the searcher before they move into the consideration and conversation stages of the funnel. If someone is running a more transnational search query (e.g., “best neo-bank debit cards”), your product pages or long-form blog articles will help guide them through the bottom stages of the funnel.
It’s important to understand the intent of the search and also where your content sits in the customer journey. At CSTMR, we map keyword intent to our content and focus our efforts on the work that will get the best results, like optimizing old content, or building pillar content that educates users about your services.
The main takeaway is this: SEO empowers you to create high-quality content that is aligned with the search intent of prospects at all stages of your sales funnel. When done correctly, this content will be served directly to searchers with Google acting as a quasi brand ambassador.
SEO Is Cost-effective
When you pay for traffic from ads, what happens when you turn the ads off? The traffic stops flowing.
Now, I’m not saying that paid traffic is bad, because it can (and should) be an essential pillar of your digital marketing strategy. However, effectively implementing SEO can provide FREE quality traffic for months, and even years down the road. Yes, it requires some heavy lifting upfront. And yet, this investment will offer ROI over the long-term in a way that paid advertising could never match.
If you don’t believe me, listen to my peers: nearly 50% of marketers say that organic search has the best ROI of any marketing channel.
How Search Engines Work
You might be thinking:
“Ok great, Mark. I understand that SEO is awesome, but how exactly do I rank my content?”
Before we can discuss how to rank your content and what “ranking factors” actually matter, it is helpful to understand the basics of how search engines work:
- Crawling: a search engine has software that discovers new URLs, then downloads the text, images, and video from each webpage. Crawlers discover URLs by following backlinks and by following sitemaps you submit to each search engine.
- Indexing: the search engine analyzes the text, images, and video from each webpage and tries to learn what the content is all about. Then, it groups the content into clusters based on the keywords used in the metadata. Over time, other signals are used to rank your content against similar web pages, like how long a user spends on the webpage, or whether they “bounce” from your website and head to the next search result (a process called “pogo-sticking” in the industry).
- Serving Search Results: when the search engine receives a query, it delivers a list of relevant results to the user from its “index,” a massive database of URLs. When a user clicks on the result they want, then they are taken to the live web page.
Estimates vary with respect to how many webpages Google has indexed (i.e., saved). If you run a Google search, you will find data ranging from the billions to the trillions. The takeaway? It’s a lot. When a user enters a question or query on Google, like “how to hard boil an egg” Google uses a proprietary algorithm to serve the user the set of pages that, in Google’s determination, provides the result the user is looking for.
It’s freaky fast and accurate. In just 0.51 seconds, searching how to hard boil an egg delivers 53,700,000 results.
How does Google know what result is the best one to serve? Google is not searching the internet for the result. Google searches its index (database) of pages for results, analyzing it according to over 200 ranking factors.
These ranking factors are all about trust, credibility, and the user experience. Sites that rank at the top not only provide an exceptional user experience (especially with respect to mobile browsing), but they also provide unique content and are recognized as being highly credible.
I talk about Google a lot because they dominate the search engine market. Ever since its inception, Google has retained about a 92% share of the global search market. Most SEO work is done with Google in mind.
How Fintechs Can Build an Effective SEO Strategy
Building an effective SEO strategy can give your fintech an edge on the competition. But where to start? In this section we are going to look at how you can begin to optimize for the ranking factors mentioned above as you develop an effective SEO strategy for your financial services organization.
1. Start with an SEO Audit
You can’t figure out where you’re going if you don’t know where to begin. So ask yourself, how does your website currently stack up? Remember, SEO is a lot like building a house. The foundation must be sound before you start adding additional floors.
The best way to assess the current performance of your website is to engage in an SEO audit.
An SEO audit is the process of identifying issues that can stop your website from effectively ranking on Google. It is a detailed process that looks at a number of different ranking factors (both with respect to content and website technical performance), including:
- On-page issues (like duplicate content or keyword gaps).
- Technical issues (is Google correctly crawling and indexing your site?).
- User experience issues (mobile friendly?).
- Off-page issues (high-quality backlinks?).
Correctly done, an SEO audit can help you identify any problems that are costing you traffic, and in turn, sales. Using a suite of SEO tools that provide a comprehensive overview of your website, you will be able to easily identify any technical issues (including how Google views your website), review content performance, identify SEO opportunities, and determine the overall health of your website.
To learn more about how you can engage in an SEO audit, check out this step-by-step guide from Moz.
2. Let’s Get Technical
Again, technical SEO refers to optimizing your website to help search engines like Google find, crawl, index, and understand your pages.
Why is technical SEO important?
Because even if you develop the industry’s most compelling, comprehensive, and engaging content—the kind that drives value at both ends of the funnel—your efforts will be in vain if Google can’t properly browse and index your site.
Some examples of technical errors that can impact your ability to drive traffic to your website include:
- Broken links.
- Slow loading pages.
- A poor mobile experience.
- No XML sitemaps.
- Navigation is not intuitive or content is more than three clicks from the homepage.
- Duplicate content.
- Missing or non-optimized meta descriptions.
These are just some of the incredibly important elements of technical SEO that impact your website. Technical SEO isn’t easy, but half the battle is identifying problems. Often, once an issue is discovered, it’s rather simple to fix. To better understand how the pieces of the puzzle fit together, we recommend checking out this comprehensive technical SEO guide from ahrefs. This article is designed for beginners, and includes a section focused on technical SEO “quick-wins.”
Remember that technical SEO will be included in your overall SEO audit (see the section above).
3. Draw Your Audience in Through Powerful Content Marketing
Content is the fuel to your SEO fire.
If your website consists of generic, run-of-the-mill blog articles, why would Google highlight your content? What distinguishes you from your competitors? What value do you bring to the discussion?
The key to effective content marketing is to create original content that covers topics relevant to your industry/audience, and does so with more detail and more extensively than anyone else in the market. There’s no tricks, no shortcuts here. If you want to taste success with content marketing, forget the content mills and writing-as-a-service companies selling you word packages in bulk.
To begin, you will need to look for the most popular search terms for your target audience and industry. This is also known as keyword research. People use keywords to find solutions to their problems when conducting research online. Effective keyword research will tell you what topics/keywords are resonating with your fintech audience, what they are hungry to discover.
There are four main elements you need to consider when conducting keyword research:
- Relevance: your content will only rank if it is relevant to searchers (i.e., matching search intent).
- Authority: the highest ranked websites have the most authority in the mind of Google. You need to do all that you can to provide your audience with valuable information.
- Volume: this refers to “monthly search volume,” and is a measure of the number of times a keyword is searched per month. Even if you hold the #1 position for a term, if no one is searching for it, you will not gain traffic to your site.
- Keyword Difficulty: how much competition is there to rank for a keyword? Most keyword research tools will provide you with this data point so you can prioritize your content efforts. A new site will have difficulty ranking for high difficulty keywords. This is one of the most important metrics to look at when building a keyword strategy.
Keeping in mind these three elements, the first step in effective keyword research is to make a list of important topics based on what you know about your business. Next, use a keyword research tool to help you determine the relevance of the keyword, as well as find related keywords. Finally, organize your terms into topic clusters (i.e., a group of content that revolves about a central topic) and prioritizes low-hanging fruit.
High-quality content is so important, that great content can overcome mediocre technical SEO. Remember, Google is interested in whether or not users are engaged with your content—not whether you have the prettiest sitemaps or structured data. Focus on the content first, then polish it with solid technical SEO.
Like much of what we are covering today, this is a topic that deserves its own comprehensive guide. I recommend taking a look at this guide from Search Engine Journal.
4. Build Your Authority With Backlinks
Finally, it’s time to move into the realm of off-page SEO.
Off-page SEO refers to activities done “off” of your website to get Google and other search engines to see your website as more authoritative and trustworthy. While there are a number of different off-page SEO strategies, ranging from brand building to social media, today we will focus exclusively on backlinks.
A backlink is simply a hyperlink from another website to yours.
Think of backlinks like votes: the more votes you have, the more powerful you become.
A “vote” for your website signals credibility and usefulness. Like most SEO factors, when it comes to backlinks, you want to value quality over quantity. Acquiring one quality link from a website with high domain authority is much better than a hundred links from a small website with poor authority.
When a strong website links to yours, some of that authority is transferred to you. This called “link equity” or “link juice.” To put the power of link building in perspective, data shows that top ranked pages in the Google SERPs have 3.8x more backlinks than results in positions two through ten!
Here are some common link building strategies you can implement:
- Guest Blogging: write articles for other leaders in your industry. Include links to your website within the guest post.
- Outreach: speak with leaders in your industry/niche and introduce them to your content.
- Content Syndication: third-party websites make your content available (either by publishing the content in full or in part) and link to the original article.
For a detailed explanation of proven link building strategies (beyond the three described above), check out this guide from ahrefs.
SEO Resources for Fintechs
I can understand if all of this is slightly overwhelming. Not only is there a lot of information to digest, but the world of SEO is constantly changing. That’s one of the reasons I love this work—you have to constantly be adapting in order to produce consistent results.
SEO is a lot like hitting the gym. You can’t hit it hard for a couple weeks after January 1st and expect to be in the best shape of your life. Consistency and quality of work gets results over time.
My number one piece of advice? Work hard and be patient.
Unlike paid ads and other digital marketing strategies, SEO is not immediate. It not only takes time to research and develop an action plan, but it also takes time for Google to crawl your website.
Luckily, there are untold numbers of resources and tools (both free and paid) that can help guide you on your journey. Here are a few of our favorites at CSTMR:
- Google has its own SEO starter guide. This is a great place to study the basic mechanics of the world’s most popular search engine.
- We love Moz’s Beginner’s Guide for SEO with seven chapters and a glossary to help you better understand all your new SEO lingo.
- The Search Engine Journal is a great resource for staying up to date on the latest in SEO.
- Two of the most popular tools for monitoring SEO and conducting analysis are Ahrefs and Semrush.
- Prefer to learn via video? Don’t miss Moz’s Whiteboard Friday series for tons of helpful information.
While the list above is by no means exhaustive, it will prove extremely useful as you get started.
SEO FAQs for Fintechs
In the world of SEO for financial services, there’s no such thing as a dumb question. Considering many of you reading this are just learning about SEO, there is a high probability that you have a lot of questions. To round out your introduction to SEO, we have compiled some of the top questions we receive from our fintech customers.
Don’t see your question? Shoot us a line here and ask us directly.
1. Does My Business Need SEO?
Every business can benefit from SEO, especially those in ultra-competitive industries like financial services. Perhaps the right question to ask is why wouldn’t your business need SEO? Who doesn’t need more traffic, more conversions, and increased brand awareness?
2. Why Isn’t My Business Ranking on Google?
If you’re not seeing the results you’re looking for, it could be for any number of reasons. You might have a server issue where Google is blocked from crawling your website, or you might not have a laser-focused keyword strategy on your page. Most likely, you’re targeting keywords with a difficulty that’s too high for your domain authority. If in doubt, reach out for an SEO audit. This will help you determine where you should focus your attention.
3. How Long Does It Take to Rank?
The answer to this question really depends on how competitive your industry is. If you’ve got killer content and a great backlink profile, it is possible to crack the top 10 rankings within three to six months. If you’re just getting started with SEO and you’re relatively new to your industry, you will need to be patient and trust in the process. It could take a minimum of six months to start seeing results on a brand new domain.
4. What Are Google’s Most Important Ranking Factors?
The most important factors for ranking on the first page of Google are highly debated within the industry. Some will say backlinks, but most recently, VP of Google Search, Hyung-Jin Kim, stated that E-A-T is pervasive in every search. E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. It’s been a part of the manual search quality rater’s guidelines for years.
This is particularly important for financial services companies, as Google does not want to serve up fraudulent websites or false information regarding “Your Money, Your Life” queries.
For more information, check out Google’s search quality rater’s guidelines.
5. How Can an Agency Like CSTMR Help?
SEO is a strategy for those fintechs interested in playing (and winning) the long game. It takes time to research, develop a strategy, create content, and take care of all the technical aspects covered in this article. An agency like CSTMR, with subject matter experts and years of experience, can help develop and implement a holistic strategy that covers all three sub-categories of SEO: on-page, off-page, and technical.
CSTMR: Your Partner in Financial Services SEO
Free traffic that delivers ongoing ROI is within reach.
CSTMR has been helping fintechs just like you harness the power of Google to drive traffic and boost conversions since 2014. Our team puts years of experience to work for you as we align SEO with the other core pillars of modern digital marketing.
But don’t just take our word for it, see what our customers have to say. If you’re ready to find out more about how SEO works and how CSTMR can help, reach out for a free consultation. Our SEO experts are standing by!