Finance might be the most competitive SEO vertical online. Given that, it’s especially important to dial in best-practice in order to make economically efficient decisions at scale and have success.
In this video, I share some of the finance content marketing best practices we’ve discovered in working in the vertical for more than ten years that may help you generate more traction.
Hi, everyone. I’m Ross, founder of Siege Media, and today we are going to talk about finance content marketing best practices.
We have a lot of clients in the finance space— insurance, credit, etc. So we’ve built some lessons over time that I thought may be useful for you.
One thing that stood out as of late is that generally, finance it is not always as visually heavy. A lot of the brand aesthetics make sense to be more lean on the overall site framework rather than individual images such as photos, illustrations, etc, which is kind of the nature of the beast.
People want to see people. Something about that communicates this sense of trust. So in doing that, sometimes you have to really solve for UX, UI, and the overall site experience more than you would in an ecommerce or other site experience.
This is because if you’re putting out a ton of content (a lot of these finance sites sometimes have thousands upon thousands of pages), you have to solve for scale. You can’t spend 400 hours per post if you’re going to be NerdWallet and achieve thousands upon thousands of financial related articles.
You have to build an experience that is high quality and it reaches a 2X experience better than competitors at a more scale level, and what that requires is a good template.
So if we look at NerdWallet in action, how they achieve this is functionally with their HTML framework and the design of the site, rather than simply the individual images. That means they do include stock photo images, but it’s not the primary element.
It’s more like a piece of it, part of the design story rather than the design story. And how they do it is not with a massive image or a really tall stock photo, because stock photos are often low quality. What they do is use a shorter image that is not as in your face, which basically reduces the impact the stock photo has, while still using it and leveraging it in a high-quality way.
You can differentiate this between another example that is bigger and in your face. It just feels lower quality because stock photos on average are lower quality. So this punch of color that they use, and that others like them use, like Student Loan Hero and other sites that have started to do this more. I think they were one of the first ones to do that. It shows how it can work for them.
And if you go further down their site, you can see that they solve for a lot of the design needs that charts and images often require by simply having a good design framework. The H1s look clean, the tables look clean, they basically give you a pop of color that feels scannable, that allows for not inserting design assets in those contexts or images or etc.
So by having these elements that feel high-quality that they spend a lot of time crafting, they can then scale that out over thousands of pages and have that high-quality experience. Not always do they completely not use design elements in the site setup, but it is something they commonly use.
So if you are in finance, and you are a site that is gonna be content-rich, I would suggest spending even more time and effort crafting that on-page experience immediately in the site design rather than the single page elements which are still important but you are gonna need scale in order to achieve, ironically, financially efficient outcomes with the site.
So that is the first part that is especially important for our finance clients when they come to us and we see that their single-page experience just won’t scale well in a way that is cost-prohibitive to them, especially when compared against competitors like NerdWallet who are actually in most verticals these days.
You can see that stock photos are a big piece of this in general in this market because of how serious the content is. There are illustration-heavy businesses that are so successful but that is more rare in this space.
I think the nature of finance and money means the whimsical tone of illustration which is often used with illustration just doesn’t align with the brand of cash. So the brand of cash makes sense to have visuals, but you can’t have a unique original photo every single time. So having these short stock photos I think solves for that element of needing a punch of color without having to do original photography every time.
There are two other ways to do this. One, you have a tint on a bigger image. So a kind of classy feeling, tinted image as we’ll show you here creates a feeling of high quality that kind of overcomes a low-quality aesthetic that is often found with stock photos.
The second is the shorter height. So those two things in combination, that brand aesthetic tint, so maybe if you’re green, you can use green. If you’re yellow-ish, you can put a yellowish tint. You can also combine real original photography elements with the illustration elements like Policygenius does in their blog design, as shown above.
These things can all form and match with a financial feeling while still being high quality. You’ll find a lot of really crappy finance sites. They’ll use bad stock photos and basically overwhelm you with the stock or also don’t apply a tint to it in a way that feels high quality and overcomes that aesthetic.
So that is kind of a high-quality macro experience thing that you need to know with this type of site. But once you have that set up, and you are creating the single-paged experiences, and you want to do outreach and link building, sometimes visuals will still very much make sense in that context.
Another thing to know about finance generally is that bloggers just aren’t a receptive market. So pretty much any financial site that comes to us, very rarely does it make sense for us to pitch finance bloggers because they always, always ask for money just by the nature of that market.
So what we do is find their buyer persona and align it to several different link markets. So really, they match to every single link market that isn’t the blogger sector at least from a personal finance standpoint. And what those are are national news, local news, which are basically survey and data study type assets that you have to build and promote, and also link page type markets.
So if you’re doing things for seniors or people with disabilities, or those educational, really in-depth guide type resources that also tie into finance, you can build something that’s relevant there and be successful. And then also, tangential blogger markets.
So often we’ll do personal finance plus wellness or personal finance plus careers. These tangential but still related markets on the blogger area will allow us to create nice visuals, whether it’s original photography or some applicable illustration and it matches the brand, and those kinds of markets will allow you to be successful from a content marketing standpoint.
While if you went head-on into personal finance, you are not going to be successful with your content. But also don’t be stupid and don’t do off-brand content that has nothing to do with personal finance just to do it. I’ve seen that happen as well and it’ll lead to less success for your campaign.
Next, finance calculators are a big part of what most markets will do. Money, numbers, they basically back in to calculators in some way. So most finance will have at least one or two finance terms that require calculators, if not several.
So here are some best practices that I would suggest in order to rank there.
One is to simply solve for “time to answer” on your calculators for as big of a percentage of your audience as possible.
So what I mean by time to answer for the biggest percentage of your audience as possible is if you have a mortgage calculator, you could default to the term limits that are most common for the biggest audience.
So you could say the interest rate that’s common today and default that into the form field so they don’t have to type that in. You could also do a 30-year mortgage which is also the most common.
If you make someone type something in, you’re basically increasing friction and increasing the time to answer which could cause them to bounce back and not complete the calculator field and also not overall have a great experience.
So you can see this in play with Credit Karma in particular. I think they actually rank pretty well, but you can see in their design aesthetic they require you to input these fields. They don’t give you any defaults.
This requires a higher time to answer on average. It also is somewhat dissonance inducing based on the inputs description being pretty far from the input itself, which causes some brain work in order to do that.
From an SEO standpoint, don’t make people think, if you want to have success.
Their overall font on the description part is a little small and hard to read. It’s not the best experience. But if you compare to someone like Bankrate who actually I think has amazing calculators on average, everything is completely above the fold, you’re hit with it right away.
Also the form fields default to those common options on a lot of their calculators. It’s big font, it’s easy to digest and understand how to get to the next step and also from an SEO standpoint, you’re hitting people in the face right away and you don’t even have to move to solve most of their calculators.
Going back to NerdWallet which we spoke so well of. They generally have really good calculators. I don’t want to say they don’t, but on a few you actually have to work to get to the calculator. You have to scroll down to get to their calculators. On the Bankrate example, you don’t.
You get the information immediately on almost all of them, and you can tell they were very deliberate about pushing content all the way up above the fold. It’s nudging it as high as they possibly could in order to get that in your peripheral vision immediately, because it does add a few seconds and take you a longer time to answer by having to scroll down on the page to get to the calculator.
So these things in general create some friction and make the experience a little bit worse for your calculator. So if you can, lower that time to answer. Every calculator is a little bit different in terms of should you have a chart, should it be one step, what should be next, but you can test that.
You can do some A/B tests, like when do people actually hit that finish page of the calculator if that’s applicable, when do they hit that calculator page, when do they bounce? The smaller that is, if you can actually measure and watch their activity to get to that final page, the better the outcome it is for you, and I would bet will result in higher rankings for all those financially related calculator terms.
Another thing that is really relevant in finance as well is that there are a lot of questions with cost involved in some way, or just quick answers. People want to know what is a 401k, what is a Roth IRA, how much is car insurance, what does disability insurance cost?
All these have different quick answers that are relevant, and there are a ton of them. And of course Google is now showing those answers, taking the clicks, but the reality is that we have to fight fire with fire, and give a quick answer experience which is there because users want that.
So on our websites, I think we should solve for the same kind of thing that Google is solving for, because they know what users want, and we want to give them a quick answer too.
Policygenius is amazing example of this. They have several examples of basically people asking the question, and then giving you the answer without ever having to get to like typical 16-pixel font or less.
They hit you with it in a very punchy, above the fold area which solves your question and yes, you can dig in after that. I think that is an amazing experience that is really solving for what people want these days. And they do it in several different ways where they give you a question and they do the Q&A, which is nicely designed and it gives it a nice Policygenius brand pop. All that I think is why Policygenius is doing so well from their SEO point of view.
Another thing that I think is especially relevant for these quick answers and cost type terms to think about from a financial content marketing standpoint is that people often reference data points from a linkability standpoint passively. We do this with our clients in terms of setting them up to rank for things that people are going to passively search for and then reference it.
That’s bloggers, that’s news reporters. These things get commonly done over and over again because they want to find the reference point that said, “This is the number.” And that happens a lot in finance because of that financial nature of what it is.
So if you’re thinking about that strategically like Policygenius does, or like NerdWallet does, but I think especially Policygenius, you want to rank early and be very deliberate about ranking for these assets that have that high passive linkability intent, because that can carry you. That can carry you far and it can basically reduce the need for manual link building in these markets.
It’s still very necessary but to be cost-prohibitive as we talked about earlier, you have to be efficient so that you are passively acquiring links and also manually acquiring links to kind of combine and be the most efficient site that you can be.
So I would especially think about the user experience, the UI, and also just getting those assets ranking early in order to power the rest of your rankings which might be car insurance quotes, which might be disability insurance, life insurance quotes, all those things factor into our overall financial content marketing strategy that hopefully you can use.
So this isn’t the full bread basket as it were from a financial content marketing standpoint, but these are some of the core tips I’ve been thinking about recently in this market. So if you have any yourself, I’d love to hear them in the comments. Give us a thumbs up, subscribe and let us know what you thought. Thanks for watching.