Financial institutions face a unique challenge when it comes to web content. As consumers increasingly shop for financial products online — 40% by 2020, according to projections from McKinsey — their path to purchase relies heavily on search. Financial marketers who excel in search engine optimization (SEO) will win the day.
Effective SEO requires compelling content — the kind that engages readers and search engines notice. But today’s traditional approach to content-creation often focuses more on optimization and less on consumer engagement. Without adequately mapping consumer intent to the content topics your institution is serving up, you’ll struggle to achieve the kind of search results that can really boost results… and your institution’s bottom line.
A change in perspective will help. To really make your marketing strategy hum (beyond just SEO), you need people with a different mindset. Deriving actionable insights and optimizing your approach takes a curious mind and a unique ability to process information using data analytics.
That’s why you need to expand your digital marketing team with experts who have STEM skills — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Modern marketing techniques revolve around metrics, statistics, analytics, correlations, formulas, and patterns — all of which are based in mathematics. Applying a STEM mindset brings analytical rigor to content development, so your marketing efforts not only bear more fruit but become much more efficient.
1. Keyword Analysis is a Must
Understanding keywords is the foundation of great SEO. When creating a search program, marketers must define the market landscape in terms of the keywords that their customers are searching for, and more importantly, the consumers’ intent behind those keywords.
Lately, experts have been encouraging financial marketers to build their strategy around customer personas. It helps to think of keywords in that same context: You want to “profile” your target customers and home in on what clusters of search phrases they employ. This tells you what they are looking to accomplish.
Remember: Every Google search starts with a problem someone is trying to solve.
While some terms will be obvious —”best mortgage rates” for a consumer who is shopping for a home loan — there’s an opportunity to capture more search activity further up the funnel. Dig deeper into the “why” behind low-funnel searches to identify the sequence of behavior that leads to a purchase.
To pick up on the mortgage example, a person will likely research neighborhoods before choosing between homes and filling out a loan application. In this case, consider how your brand can become relevant in a search like “best neighborhoods north of Boston.”
You can target that term with paid search ads, of course. But to boost your organic position, ask how you can more effectively create and leverage content. Could one of your employees in a Boston suburb write a blog post about their own experience finding the right neighborhood?
This kind of content not only enhances SEO in upper-funnel searches but establishes your institution’s brand as a trustworthy source. The more voices your customers can hear, talking about things that are meaningful to their needs, the more impact your search results will have. This will build valuable brand equity as the consumer moves closer to their ultimate purchase.
2. Conversion Mapping Guides Your Strategy
The greater the extent that financial marketers understand what leads information searchers to become paying customers, the more they can influence the entire purchase journey and capture a larger percentage of that search volume. This knowledge can also help improve content.
Cooperating across the entire organization, financial institutions are able to understand the path a visitor followed on their way to a conversion, allowing content producers to back into the content — and the search keywords — that brought them in the door. Analyzing actual customer behavior may uncover unique terms and search patterns that are more effective and potentially less expensive than the seemingly obvious.
To maximize efficiency, focus on the purchase paths that lead to the highest-margin conversions and work backward. This may require involving groups within the organization beyond Marketing, and working collaboratively to understand the digital conversion funnel, as well as gain a comprehensive understanding of your product margins.
It may also be useful to identify the channel mix that produces sales, and what combination of marketing messages a customer sees on their path to purchase. Financial brands typically spend far more on paid search than SEO. Often they can achieve exponentially more cost-effective results, in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars, by re-orienting some of this spend towards better content, which in turn drives more organic search success.
3. Revenue Modeling Sharpens Your Aim
Search can be an extremely valuable acquisition channel, especially when the right combination of on- and off-page elements are working in harmony. However, determining that model for how to have the most impact on your search rankings can be elusive.
You don’t pursue better search rankings for their own sake. You want to ensure that these higher rankings are also resulting in more engagement: higher positions on the search engine results page (SERP) almost always have a higher click-through rate (CTR). This is where the analytical mindset, and STEM backgrounds, can play a critical role in determining the likely impact of content enhancements on raising your organic search ranking for the keywords your customers use.
By modeling a CTR graph for your brand’s target keywords, using the rates at which you are currently converting, you can identify the areas where your content development focus should be. By understanding which keywords could use lift in their CTR you can model how an increased rank position leads to more traffic.
The more a financial services marketing team can understand about the metrics of their search engine strategy, the more impactful modeling can be. Within the Google algorithm there are a myriad of complex interrelationships between content, engagement, and search results, and mapping these against each other in a comprehensive model can lead to insights that increase conversion and client acquisition. STEM skills will enhance these efforts.