The recent crisis brought about an interesting opportunity for financial marketers to “re-plan” and “re-think” what 2020 will involve. One of the shifts I’ve discussed lately with banks and credit unions, many of whom paused some or all of their advertising dollars, focuses on organic search. As discussed on a recent episode of The Financial Experience Podcast, this is a perfect time for “maintenance marketing” or handling items you often deemphasize in “normal times.”
Over the last few years, Google has made some if its largest changes to how people find you and your services in search. The changes have also presented financial marketers with an enormous opportunity to increase traffic to their website and awareness of their brand. We’ll cover some of the most important search trends here and how you can begin to use this period to accelerate your success in search for years to come.
Are You Snippet Worthy?
If you don’t understand featured snippets, it’s time to brush up on them. One of Google’s most important strategic goals for search the past few years is to make searching faster by bringing important information off websites and onto your results page. They’ve done this with a Knowledge Graph that grabs facts and presents them immediately (to the tune of 500+ billion facts on ~5 billion entities as of May 2020). But Google also knows that it doesn’t know everything and relies on content creators to bring the best answers forward. Snippets could appear in search from your website if you write about anything from local travel spots to specific bank technology.
Some who work in SEO are upset that Google will continue to “steal” traffic from brands by revealing essential information (thus preventing a click), but marketers should look at this change as an enormous brand and sales opportunity.
Here’s an example of the featured snippet at the top of the search results page from the query “what is an ITM?”
How did Bank of Oak Ridge achieve a ranking like this for the search query “what is an ITM?” Simply by accident? Or did they build the page intentionally with the keywords, titles, and links pointing to a low-competition topic with this goal in mind? Either way, the fact that a bank with less than $500M in assets achieved a top ranking for a search on a technology that exists at banks 10 times its size demonstrates that power of search.
Are you creating content that fills a gap for your markets, niches you serve, or even products (however commoditized you may think they are)?
Technical Ranking Factors
One of the longest standing debates in SEO grapples with what technical factors Google uses to determine how a page on your website ranks. There has been a steady shift in recent years to “quality metrics,” however many of the technical components (site speed, sitemaps, title tags, etc.) still rise to the top as the most fundamental and important aspects of high-ranking web pages. If you have not audited your website in some time, it may be the perfect time to do so.
Visual Search Is A Brand Opportunity
You’re not selling shoes, but you should be paying attention to visual search. Using original photography and associating relevant keywords can help you unlock new sources of organic local traffic. You won’t win with cleverly named iStock photos, but if you can create a unique set of meaningful photos and evolve your website (or at least sections of your website) into more dynamic, image-based media, you might be surprised at the traffic lift you start to see. Remember, it takes research and understanding of the opportunities, but the tools are there and, with a little hard work, you can find success.
Is This “The Year of Voice?”
Every year for the last five years has been “The Year of Voice.” So, why hasn’t voice taken off? Speech recognition has improved significantly as an important technology on our phones, in our cars, and in our television remotes. But its integration with search via natural language processing and cognitive processing of our intent is still maturing slowly. This is a longer term trend, but do not discount the foundational work today. In the not-too-distant future, audio clips from a podcast may be the most important content on the web. Or Google Home might see your website’s “frequently asked question” as the most important source for answer on home improvement and HELOCs.
SEO initiatives are often choppy, uncoordinated mixes of audits and content. Could this period of uncertainty be a great time for you to change that narrative and dedicate the energy needed to win some organic share of market and set your company up for longer term success? The opportunities are out there, and there may be no time like the present to pursue them.