Keyword research tips for the finance industry
A common mistake even experienced marketers make is to overestimate Google’s powers. There’s no denying that Google is an amazingly successful business. Its parent company, Alphabet, is the fifth most valuable company in the world according to the accounting firm, PwC. It completely dominates search, handling more than 90 per cent of queries in Australia and New Zealand.
It’s also true that Google’s algorithm for ranking website content has become increasingly sophisticated in the 20 years since the company was founded. Google leverages machine learning to handle 5 billion daily queries, up to 15 per cent of which have never been searched before. There are 200+ signals, daily tweaks and regular, more significant overhauls of how it all works.
But don’t get carried away and start assigning human qualities to an algorithm. Google is not “reading” your blogs and sending organic traffic your way because it “enjoyed” them. A lot of what Google’s search algorithm does is pretty simple. And the fundamentals of search engine optimisation (SEO) hold true today even if tricking Google into ranking your weak content is now much more difficult.
One of those SEO fundamentals is keyword research. In this post, we’ll provide our actionable tips for doing effective keyword research, specifically for the finance industry. We’ve worked with clients from across the finance space, so we can draw on our first-hand experience. Before we get to our tips, let’s start by looking at some of the SEO challenges finance sites often face.
Keyword research for the finance industry: common hurdles
Building and implementing a successful SEO strategy these days is challenging in any industry. But there are some specific challenges that our finance clients have faced in the past. If you’re working in this space, chances are you’ve run into these challenges too.
1. Getting new content through compliance
Finance firms have to be especially careful about what they publish on their websites. In other industries you might be able to give tips and advice or comment on what’s in the news without any risk of blow-back. That’s not the case if you’re a bank, insurance company or accounting firm.
Your landing pages and blog posts will need to go through your compliance team before they get published, otherwise you could face the wrath of disgruntled members of the public or a fine from the regulator. This can present a big challenge to the marketing team because getting new and updated content on to the site is essential if they want to win more organic search traffic.
Compliance will be particularly nervous about content targeting the most valuable keywords. These are the terms with strong purchase intent. People Googling these terms are ready to buy, but to answer their queries you’ll need to get into the specifics of how your products work. This is the sort of content compliance teams get nervous about.
Ideas for getting around this problem:
- Interviews: trust is such a big factor when it comes to running successful content marketing campaigns for finance clients. So, a human face and the personal credibility and in-depth knowledge of key employees are great assets. These people are busy and their time is valuable, so interviews that we can turn into blogs or landing page copy are an excellent way to get compliance-friendly, accurate content with the necessary technical detail.
- Low volume, high value: if compliance has to approve everything you create it can help to reduce the number of deliverables. This could mean building the strategy around the big, substantial editorial pieces rather than 40 new blogs, all of which need sign-off before going live. You can also repurpose content that’s already been through compliance into different formats. That might mean splitting up an ebook in to a series of blogs or taking a long-form blog post and turning it into an infographic.
2. Nurturing leads through a long sales cycle
The finance clients we’ve worked with tend not to sell the sorts of products people buy on a whim. It takes more than an eye catching social media ad or a clever blog post to prompt someone to take out a mortgage, move their super fund or sign up for new accounting software.
Finance is one of those industries where people take time over their decisions. This is both a challenge and an opportunity. Keyword research isn’t just about the high purchase intent terms we mentioned in the previous section. Keyword research should support each stage of the sales funnel.
For finance clients that means targeting keywords that people are searching on during their initial research, through the middle of the funnel when they’re digging into specifics and down to the bottom of the funnel when they’re deciding who to trust with their money.
Ideas for getting around this problem:
- Aiming higher: when finance clients first engage us the big gap in their SEO and content marketing strategy tends to be at the top of the funnel. The finance industry has some of the most competitive keywords on the internet. Winning bids on Google Ads for “life insurance”, for example, can top AUD $160 per click. You might need to compete there, but you should also compete earlier in the sales cycle where the keywords are less valuable but also less competitive;
- Remarketing: this long nurture process for selling finance products needs a good remarketing strategy. It’s one thing filling the top of your funnel by producing quality blogs that hook people in from search engines, but you don’t get from there to money in the bank without being proactive. You would need email first of all. The oldest digital marketing tactic but still one of the most cost effective. And remarketing tags on your site so you can build audiences of people who have read your blog or hit certain landing pages. You can then retarget these people with follow-up ads on social media or around the web.
Keyword research for the finance industry: actionable tips
Okay, so those are some of the challenges, now here are our top tips for doing keyword research for finance clients. We’ve organised them into three steps, which you should do in order: Step 1: SEO audit; Step 2: Keyword tools; and Step 3: Blog and landing page strategy.
Step 1: SEO audit
Our first keyword research tip is a bit like loosening your belt before a big meal. An SEO audit should identify improvements you can make to your site that will help your pages rank better in search. You should do this before you start researching keywords and editing or creating content.
Usually, an SEO audit will highlight technical changes or bug fixes that prepare the ground for the more substantive project of identifying keywords you want to win and developing a strategy to go out and win them.
You should expect an SEO audit to look at your Search Console set-up, internal links, external links, broken links, title tags, meta descriptions, H1s, mobile friendliness, page speed, URL structure and indexing issues, among other things. Do this first and your good work won’t be hamstrung by crawlability issues.
Step 2: Keyword tools
Now it’s time to get started and you’re going to need some help. There are plenty of third party tools, some of which we use, that can help with keyword research. For our tips though we’re going to stick to the free stuff.
First up is Google’s Keyword Planner, for which you will need a Google Ads account. While this tool is intended to help you create and run pay per click (PPC) campaigns, it is also really useful for SEO. You can use it to get monthly search volume for the keywords you’re thinking of targeting. The average cost per click (CPC) and Google’s difficulty score give you an indication of how hard it will be to rank for those keywords.
You can also get historical data, such as search volume trends. This can be particularly useful in finance where demand for certain products or the number of questions about particular topics vary through the year (financial quarters, end of tax year etc).
Once you’ve identified keywords with enough search volume to make them worth your while you need to look at the competition. If you’re not sure how many monthly searches is enough, this is a good rule of thumb: the top three places in SERPS can expect clickthrough of around 30 per cent. Down the bottom of page one it’s more like 2 or 3 per cent. So, if a query has 1,000 searches per month and you rank #1, you might get 300 clicks.
Like picking keywords, analysing the competition is something there are plenty of paid apps to help with. But again, here’s how to do it for free. Start by Googling the keyword you want to target and look at the results. Is your website and the content you can create able to break into the top three places?
A useful free tool to help here is the MozBar. You can use this Chrome extension to quickly see the Domain Authority (DA) of each link ranking on page one for your target keyword.
We could do a whole post on DA and it’s not perfect, but it does give you an indication of the search power of sites you want to compete with. If your SERP is packed with links from sites with DAs of 60+ and you’re working with a DA of 20 you’ve got an uphill battle breaking in and you might need to find somewhere else to compete.
Step 3: Blog and landing page strategy
When you’ve got your keyword list you need some content. It sounds obvious but if you want to rank for a particular search query then you need a landing page or blog post that directly answers that query.
Google’s algorithm does a much better job these days of connecting content to queries without an exact match. But that doesn’t mean you can write what you want and expect Google to figure it out. What it means is you don’t need to write blog headlines in the same way as you would write (or speak) a search query.
But Google is also digging deeper to find content that provides the best answer. There is a lot more choice now, so each page on your site will likely rank for fewer keywords as Google crawls and indexes pages that better serve some of them.
What you need is something like this:
- A landing page or long-form blog post targeting your priority keyword
- Lots of blogs targeting longer-tail variations of that keyword
- Links from the landing page or long-form blog to all the related blogs
- Links from the related blogs back to the landing page or long-form blog post
This is what HubSpot calls a Pillar and Cluster strategy. This is what it looks like:
A good tip for finding those long-tail variations on your priority keyword (again, for free) is to look at the suggested searches when you Google it.
Or you can use the suggestions feature in Google’s Keyword Planner.