Ever since the mid “naughties”, old-fashioned methods of financial lead generation (cold calling, email blasts and the like) have been increasingly challenged by inbound marketing.
Rather than blasting a wide range of unqualified prospects, uninvited, inbound marketing takes an invitational approach by positioning brands in front of qualified, targeted digital audiences.
This is one of the main ways we engage in financial lead generation for our clients. In particular, search engine marketing – i.e. increasing financial brands’ visibility in Google and Bing for relevant search results – is a great way for IFAs, wealth managers and other financial firms to broaden their brand exposure, and gain new clients.
However, one of the main challenges with this form of marketing is the constant evolution in search engine behaviour and algorithms. What works today for your financial marketing may not necessarily work next month, or in a year’s time.
This is indeed turned out to be the case in 2017. Financial advisers, financial planners and wealth managers need to be aware of these big developments in search engine marketing if they are going to leverage their website effectively for financial lead generation.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the latest, significant developments in financial content marketing and search engine optimisation.
Search In 2017: Tech & Behaviour Shifts
It used to be the case that you could follow a pretty reliable formula to increase your website’s search engine rankings, and enhance your inbound financial lead generation.
It basically went like this.
Simply publish regular, high-quality content on your website.
Make sure you’re targeting long-tail keywords (i.e. keywords with more than 3 words).
Finally, use lead magnets (e.g. ebook/whitepaper downloads) to capture your visitor’s data – in particular, name and email address – in order to nurture them through your sales pipeline.
Whilst this can still be a great way to engage in financial lead generation, technology and user behaviour are both shifting.
For instance, about a decade ago it wasn’t uncommon for users to type “Camden Sushi” into their search engine to find local Japanese cuisine. Nowadays, however, people tend to search using queries like: “where can I find a great takeaway near me right now?”
In other words, search queries are becoming more like everyday, inter-human interactions. In other words, more conversational. Indeed, Ahrefs (a prominent marketing software company) estimates that nearly two thirds of search engine queries now comprise four or more words.
Why has this happened? Is it because we’re anthropomorphising our smartphones? As much as Siri might sound human-like on our Apple phones, this isn’t really the reason. It’s because we’ve come to trust search engines, more and more, to deliver the results and quality we’re looking for.
Other big changes to search are impacting financial lead generation. We’re now increasingly turning away from desktops to smartphones and tablets when it comes to internet searches.
Moreover, people are also looking for quick answers in the content they read, skimming over articles. This makes it harder to engage users, and even more difficult to convince them to fill out a long, online form.
All of these developments mean financial advisers have to re-evaluate their strategy if they are going to effectively publish content, increase their brand exposure, and successfully execute financial lead generation strategies online.
Financial Lead Generation & Updates To Google
We could look at the updates to all search engines, including Bing and Yahoo. However, since Google comprises over 90% of UK-based internet searches, we’re going to focus on them in this article.
The way Google used to work was like this. They would look at a search query and break it down into their constituent parts (e.g. “financial adviser Essex”). Google would then return results to the user through an “exact match” approach.
This meant that financial marketers could successfully cram their content full of these exact match keywords, and Google would rank them for it. Today, however, with updates to Google’s algorithm, this keyword stuffing approach will likely see your website rankings punished, land your financial lead generation in trouble!
So what are some of the most important updates to Google, which affect financial advisers’ marketing strategies?
First is the Penguin update in 2012, which punishes financial websites which adopt the “keyword stuffing” approach described above.
The implication for financial lead generation? If you want your website content to convert leads, then make sure your keywords and links are appropriate and relevant. Make sure it looks natural in the eyes of your readers.
Next up is the 2013 Hummingbird update, which tries to account for the more “conversational” queries people are increasingly using in Google searches.
For instance, say a user types in: “Where is a good financial adviser near me?” An old-fashioned search engine would just look at the individual words, and try to match them to web pages which also use them.
After Hummingbird, however, Google will likely see the phrase “near me” and pay attention to the user’s location. Suppose they’re in Bristol, for example. Google will likely try and push up Bristol-based financial advisers in their search results.
As such, if you’re an IFA looking to target potential clients in Bristol via Google, then you’re better off focusing your content on queries like “financial adviser in Bristol” rather than “financial adviser near me” (even though the latter is closer to what people are actually typing). Also, think about the conversational way someone might consult Google about your services. Is your content answering their questions, and capturing the intent behind the exact words of the search query?
Finally, there’s the RankBrain update from 2015. This is currently, and officially, the third most important factor Google considers when ranking your financial website.
What is the update, and what impact does it have on your financial lead generation? Well, it’s essentially a from of machine learning, and focuses on synonyms and topic-based content.
For instance, if someone types “final salary advice” into Google, eventually their algorithm should come to understand that the person is looking for “defined benefit advice”, or “workplace pension advice”.
The implication for your marketing? People are likely finding your content despite not using the exact keywords your content is targeting. This is good news, but it also means you may need to rethink your content marketing strategy going forward.
You may be tempted to think that keywords are no longer important, in light of the above. Allow me to stress that this is certainly not the case. Keywords still matter, but financial marketers who rely on exact keywords to guide their content marketing are in need of a wake up call.
Think about ways to cluster your topics together. For instance, pensions and investments might be a topic grouping for keywords such as “SIPP adviser”, “investment trust adviser” and “pension adviser Newark”. Consider, then, creating a “pillar content page”, which houses content which are relevant to these kinds of topic keywords.
From here, you can then begin to create appropriate sub-topic content which links and relates back to this pillar content. For instance, these sub-pages might answer more specific questions relating to the Pillar Topic. An example might be the pensions and investments pillar topic above, and having a blog post on a specific user question, such as: “Such I transfer my final salary pension?”