Having a strong online presence is critical for financial services companies that want to succeed in today's digital age.
As a financial adviser, your offering will be pretty much determined by the product providers you work with. So how can you differentiate yourself and get ahead in such a crowded and competitive sector?
The answer is to make sure that potential clients find you before they find your competitors.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a powerful tool that can help companies like yours in the financial services sector achieve this competitive edge by improving your online visibility and establishing credibility so as you no longer have to go hunting for clients.
In this blog article, we'll provide a comprehensive guide to SEO for financial services, including best practices, tips, and strategies to help your business rank higher in search engines and reach your target audience.
What is search engine optimisation (SEO)?
Search engines are the librarians of the digital age. Tell them what you need to know about and they will point you towards the most relevant and authoritative sources of information on that topic.
But, unlike librarians, search engines aren’t limited to just showing you the most useful resources in their own library. A search engine like Google will have access to every website in the world and will give you the most useful and reliable sources of information from the millions of web pages it has in its index.
So, how do you ensure that your website is one of the ones that Google offers up as a suggestion when someone searches for the kind of financial services that your business offers? Well, that’s where SEO comes in.
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. And it describes the various processes and techniques that you can use to increase the chances that Google (and other search engines, but I’m going to focus primarily on Google in this article) will recommend your website to someone who searches for a product or service that your business offers.
Broadly speaking, if you want your website to appear on that all-important first page of Google or any other search engine, then you need to:
Do technical SEO to make sure that your website loads quickly and that Google can read and index all of your pages easily
Do onsite SEO to make your website as relevant as possible to the kind of search terms your potential clients will be typing into Google
Do offsite SEO to help your website be seen as a credible and authoritative source of information
We’ll talk more about these different aspects of SEO for financial services later in this article.
Why is SEO important for financial services?
Until the early 2000s, the Yellow Pages was an essential item in every household. In case you’re too young to remember, this was a big directory that was distributed free of charge to every house in the country, and it listed all the businesses in the local area, divided into categories.
So whatever kind of product or service you were looking for, whether it was an out-of-print book or a French polishing company, you’d turn to Yellow Pages.
But Yellow Pages hasn't been printed since 2018. That’s because, nowadays, everyone has a device at home or in their pocket that is permanently connected to the internet and which gives them instant access to Google and its huge index of websites. And so, today, when people are looking for financial advisers or anyone else in the finance and banking sectors, it’s Google that they will turn to.
This means that, whereas in the past you might have changed the name of your IFA firm to A1 Financial Advice in order to be top of the listing in the financial services section of Yellow Pages, you now need to get a bit cleverer.
You need to understand what’s involved in financial services SEO and either do it yourself or find someone to do it for you (Google can be a good place to look!).
What benefit does SEO have for financial services?
Of course, financial services SEO isn’t just about getting your business found by people who are searching for an IFA. There are a number of other reasons why SEO is important for financial services companies:
Credibility: When your financial services company appears at the top of the search engine results page (SERP), it helps potential clients see you as more credible and trustworthy. In this way, SEO allows you to build trust, and that can mean more enquiries and a greater percentage of those enquiries converting into clients.
Cost-effectiveness: Compared to traditional advertising methods such as newspaper ads or leaflet drops, SEO can be a much more cost-effective way to generate leads in the financial services sector because you’re only putting yourself in front of people who are actively searching for your help right now.
Targeted traffic: Financial services SEO can help you get found by specific demographics or for specific niche services that you want to target.
For all of these reasons - improving visibility, building credibility, and reaching your target audience cost-effectively - SEO is an important marketing tool for any financial services business that is looking to grow and take on new clients. And that’s why we have seen an increased use of SEO for financial services lead generation in the past 25 years.
How does SEO differ from PPC?
SEO and PPC (pay per click) are two different strategies for getting your website to appear on page one of Google.
The most noticeable difference between SEO for a financial services website and PPC (pay per click) is in terms of where the results from each strategy appear on a search engine results page (SERP).
If you're successful with your SEO efforts, your website will appear in the organic (aka natural) listings. These are the non-paid search results that appear below the ads and maps on Google. The search engine uses its algorithm to decide which websites to show in the organic results for any given search and, as mentioned earlier, this takes into account things like the relevance and authority of your site.
All the major search engines also have a PPC platform - Google's one is called Google Ads. The PPC results appear at the top of a SERP, above the organic listings. These are paid ads where the owners of the websites that appear have placed bids against specific keywords, and then the search engine has run an auction to decide which advertisers to show and in which order. The PPC results are usually labelled as "Ad" or "Sponsored" to indicate that they are paid-for placements.
The other big difference, then, is that there is no cost to you as the website owner if someone clicks on your website in the organic search results. But if you do PPC then you will pay a fee each time someone clicks on your ad and is taken through to your website.
You can find out more about the differences between SEO and PPC and the pros and cons of each system in this article.
Two aspects of SEO - onsite and offsite
As mentioned earlier, SEO for financial services is divided into onsite SEO and offsite SEO.
Onsite SEO (also known as on page SEO) covers all the things you can do on your own website to increase the chances of it ranking highly in Google. Offsite SEO is all about things you do away from your own website to help it gain credibility in the eyes of Google.
An example of onsite SEO would be carrying out an SEO audit and then streamlining your HTML code and reducing the size of your images so as your pages load faster.
Onsite SEO would also include doing things to the structure and content of your website so that it is more obvious to Google what each page is about. This is a similar concept to what the authors and publishers of books do in order to make it more obvious to potential readers what the book is about - for example: choosing the right title, writing a good summary for the back of the book, adding relevant images to the front cover, etc.
An example of offsite SEO would be to carry out a link-building campaign where you try to get other websites to link to yours - in order to help Google believe that other people find your website useful and that it is a credible source of information.
Let’s look in a bit more detail at some of the most important onsite and offsite SEO factors.
Brief overview of important onsite factors
If you want a page on your website to rank well for a particular keyword or search term then it’s important that you make it clear to Google that this is what that page is about. So, for example, if you want a page to rank well for the keyword “pension drawdown advice” then you should include that keyword in the main headline of the page and in the subheadings and elsewhere throughout the content.
Don’t overdo it though! It’s important that your content reads naturally - so as humans enjoy reading it and so as Google doesn’t penalise you for keyword stuffing.
The easier it is for Google (and humans) to find their way around your website, the better. So make sure your site has a logical structure. For example, you’ll see on this site that we have all our Google Ads articles in one section of the blog, all the articles for mortgage brokers in another, the ones for IFAs in another, and so on.
Meta tags are bits of HTML code that you can add to each page of your website in order to make it clearer what each page is about. The two most important meta tags are the Title tag and the Meta Description tag. You can set these tags manually or, if you have a WordPress site, you can do it very easily with a free plugin such as Rankmath. You should make sure that your most important keyword for each page features in both of these meta tags.
Brief overview of offsite
In an ideal world, your content would be so great and so popular that other website owners would be falling over themselves to link to it. But the reality is that if you want to gain a decent number of links from other sites, you need to help the process along a bit. This is known as link building. The simplest form of link building is just to approach other websites (ideally other ones in financial services that have a high domain authority score) and ask them if they will link to a particular piece of your content. You can read more about a proven process for link building in this article about the shotgun skyscraper method.
A challenge that all website owners and bloggers face is that they never have enough content. Writing new articles takes time and effort. And so if you approach another website and offer to write an article for their blog in return for being allowed to include a link to your own site in the article, there’s a good chance your offer will be accepted. This is known as guest posting, and it’s a well-know financial services SEO strategy for increasing the number of inbound links your site has.
HARO or other
HARO is a service where journalists can post requests for people to provide information and quotes for articles they are writing. It stands for Help a Reporter Out. It costs nothing to sign up to HARO as a potential contributor/interviewee. You can then review the list of journo requests each day and respond to any that you feel are relevant to your website and your areas of expertise.
If one of your responses gets used, you’ll probably get a link to your website included when your contribution is published - and this can be a great way to get a free link from a high-profile site like a national newspaper. Another service like HARO that is well worth looking at if you’re doing SEO for financial services is Newspage as a lot of their requests are for quotes from people in the financial services industry.
A unique SEO strategy for financial services
When developing an SEO strategy or any other digital marketing strategy for your financial services company, there are a number of factors you should consider. Some of these are common to all kinds of businesses but some are specific to financial services.
1. Key factors that Google algorithms look at
The Google algorithm takes into account all sorts of different things to help it decide which websites to serve up in search results and in which order. The algorithm is updated all the time to make it better and to close loopholes that people are exploiting to get their sites to rank higher than they should.
From time to time there is a major update to the algorithm which causes major shake-ups of the SERPs and becomes the talk of the digital marketing world. However, so long as you haven't been trying to game the algorithm too much in the first place, you shouldn't suffer too much from these updates.
The key things the algorithm looks at are the relevance and quality of your content and the level of domain authority your site has (measured primarily by how many other sites link to you).
My advice is to keep the algorithm in mind, but don’t obsess over it.
Your primary goal should be to create content on your site which is useful, relevant and accessible for your human audience. If you do that, a lot of the SEO benefits will flow naturally off the back of what you are doing to provide quality content to humans.
2. Do in-depth keyword research
SEO is time-consuming. You need to put a lot of effort into creating content, building links, responding to journalist requests, etc. And then you need to wait a while to see the results.
So the last thing you want to do is put in several months of effort only to find the keyword you have focused on ranking highly for is not one your typical prospects actually use when they’re searching on Google.
This is why it’s important to do your keyword research before you start. There are tools you can use to find out what the most popular searches are and which ones you have the greatest chance of ranking for. The sweet spot is those slightly more niche keywords which have a reasonable search volume but where there is not too much existing competition.
YMYL stands for Your Money or Your Life - and this is a term used by Google to cover websites that can affect someone’s health or financial well-being. Most websites in the financial services industry fall under this category.
Google doesn’t want people getting ill or losing all their money as a result of taking advice from a website that they found on Google. Therefore, Google imposes higher standards on websites that provide financial or medical advice and you’ll need to take extra steps to make sure that all of your content is accurate, trustworthy and reliable.
4. Create high-quality content
As mentioned above, Google will expect your website content to be of a high quality if you are a YMYL site. But that’s not the only reason to make sure your content is good.
Human readers - i.e. potential clients - will judge you by the quality of the advice and information you provide on your website. So make sure it adds real value. Don't just churn out the same content as every other financial adviser or regurgitate ready-made content provided to you by your network.
Make your content engaging and unique. And inject it with your own personality. After all, as a financial adviser, it’s you and your personality that clients are buying into as much as the actual financial advice you give.
Good quality content is also more likely to attract links from other websites - which, as discussed earlier, will help your SEO.
And remember to check your spelling and grammar!
5. Do competitor research
Always check out what your competitors are doing. Do a search on Google for the keywords you want to rank for and see who else comes up. Look at their sites. Check out what they do well and not-so-well.
Does your competitor have an article that ranks highly for a particular keyword and where you think you could create much better content - content that’s more in-depth, more up-to-date, or more entertaining? Then do it!
6. Understand what your audience perceives as valuable information
It’s all very well creating lots of great content, but what if it’s not stuff that your ideal client actually wants to read? That won’t help you grow your financial services business.
So, as part of your keyword research, you should take some time to establish what sort of questions your audience typically asks about the financial products and services you offer. And then create content that answers these questions.
For example, suppose a common question you get asked is “How much can I put into my pension each year?”. That would mean this would be a good topic to write a blog about.
You can use tools like Answer The Public, Quora, or Google Suggest to get ideas for what sort of questions your potential clients tend to ask and what sort of information your audience will find valuable.
7. Align content to the life stages of your audience
If you look at the website of most financial services providers, you’ll find they structure their sites according to product types. So there’ll be a section about mortgages, one about protection, one about pensions, one about wealth management, etc.
But is this really what your target audience needs? How do they know whether they need a pension or an income protection plan? Isn’t it your job to advise them on that kind of thing?
So if your potential client doesn't know what products they need, then what do they know? Well, they know how old they are or what stage of their life they’re at. So, try structuring your site around this - with content categorised to life stages such as: leaving university, buying your first home, starting a family, getting ready for retirement, etc.
This will give your site a good structure (which, as we said, is important for SEO) and it will make your site easier for people to use and navigate.
8. Incorporate interactive content
A lot of the people who visit your site won't be ready to speak to you right away. So it makes sense to give them some interactive content with which they can self-serve until they are ready to actually make contact with you.
For example, you could provide calculators that help people work out roughly how much their mortgage repayments will be or how much they will need to live on in retirement.
As well as adding extra value for your visitors, you’ll be helping to keep them on your website for longer. And this is good news for SEO because the average visit length is a factor that Google’s algorithm will take into account.
9. Interact visually with your audience using video
Another thing that will help increase your average visit length is to include some short videos within your content.
An ideal kind of video would be just you talking to the camera and explaining a topic. Or you could use animated explainer videos or stock footage with a voiceover if you’re a bit camera-shy.
Not only will this increase visit lengths, but it also means you’ve got more chance of engaging with people who prefer watching something to reading a long article.
10. Perform a content audit
Every SEO project should start with an SEO audit and part of this SEO audit is to look at what content you already have and identify the gaps based on your keyword and competitor research (see above).
Once you’ve done a content audit and established what new articles you need to write or which old articles to update you can make a plan for how to tackle this content creation over the coming weeks and months.
11. Focus on speed and mobile optimisation
An important part of your technical SEO is to make sure your site loads quickly - both on desktops and on mobile devices. This is vitally important because (a) people will abandon your site if it doesn’t load quickly and (b) in recent years Google has made site speed an increasingly important aspect of determining which sites to show in its search results.
There are SEO audit tools you can use to grade your site speed and various WordPress plugins you can use to address the major issues.
And because over half of your visits are likely to come from people on mobile devices, make sure that your website looks just as good (if not better) on a mobile screen as it does on a desktop.
How to use local SEO for financial services websites
Local SEO is used to get your website ranking highly in the organic search results, but with a specific focus on getting found by searchers looking for a local business - e.g. someone searching for "financial advisers in Finedon" or “mortgage broker in Morecambe”.
As with any other kind of SEO, you’ll need to make sure you have content on your site relevant to the local search terms you want to be found for. But another important ingredient is to make sure you have a fully completed Google Business Profile for the location you want to be found for.
By having a well-populated and optimised Business Profile (which used to be known as Google My Business) you’ll also have a good chance of appearing on the Google Maps results that appear between the Google Ads results and the organic result on most local SERPs.
Before putting too much effort into local SEO, though, you should think about whether that is the kind of strategy you want to pursue. Do you want to focus mainly or solely on clients from your local area? If you live in an affluent area and/or do your best work face-to-face then a local SEO strategy makes sense.
But if you prefer working remotely with clients outside your area and across the whole country, then putting lots of effort into local SEO may not be the best use of your time.
Need further resources?
If you want to know more about SEO, there are other articles available in the SEO section of this blog. And SEO is also one of the things I help mortgage brokers and financial advisers to master through my membership programme.
The programme will show you step-by-step how to develop an effective marketing strategy for your financial services firm that covers SEO, PPC, email marketing, social media and much more. You’ll get access to online courses, live training events, and group coaching and Q&A sessions - all designed to help you implement an effective lead generation strategy that will grow your financial services business.
Click here for more information.
SEO is an essential component of any successful digital marketing strategy for financial advisers. By implementing the best practices and tips outlined in this article, your financial services business can improve its online visibility, attract more clients, and establish credibility in the finance industry.
It's important to remember that SEO doesn’t give instant results and it is an ongoing process that requires continuous attention and monitoring through regular SEO audits. Staying up-to-date with the latest SEO trends and algorithm updates, and adjusting your strategy accordingly, is also crucial for long-term success.
However, the effort is worth it because, with a strong SEO strategy in place, your financial services company can rise above the competition, connect with your target audience, generate more high-quality leads, take on more of your ideal kind of clients, and grow year on year.