SEO for Financial Services #3: A Guide to Off-Page SEO

Will Nye

Whether you like it or not, links are still a key Google ranking factor.

Within a head-term heavy vertical like financial services, ranking for the top keywords can be extremely lucrative, but competition levels are understandably fierce. A solid link building strategy can boost your organic growth even further and allow you to continue competing.

An effective link building strategy should be made up of campaigns focused on core product areas and on-going flexible link building.

As mentioned in our last guide, compliance sign-off in financial services can be slow, which can make it difficult to get assets up on a site quickly. That is, unless your department is happy to push these types of assets live without reviewing them first (rare, in our experience).

So, accompanying your larger campaigns with always-on flexible link building will help mitigate the impact of any delays – and you may find that these links are actually more valuable if they have higher levels of topical relevancy.

This guide will focus on a dual approach to link building, combining the identification of business-as-usual opportunities with the creation of larger campaigns. We will finish with some excellent examples of link building methods from top financial service providers.

The power of niche relevancy

As impactful as Digital PR campaigns can be for boosting organic visibility, it is all too common to see campaigns go live with very tenuous topical relevance to the business. In this scenario, the lasting benefits are often limited, however well the campaign does. This is because:

  1. The content isn’t that relevant to the business or its users
  2. The websites – and their link profiles – aren’t that relevant
  3. The links are quickly pushed deep into the architecture of the colossally large media site they reside on, meaning that minimal link equity is passed through

When it comes to link acquisition in 2022, your focus needs to be on quality, not quantity.

“The quality over quantity conversation continues to be rife with brands and indeed within the industry itself, and it’s very clear that more work needs to be done to overturn continued misconceptions. On surface level it may seem like your competitor is outgunning you because it’s got more links, but chances are it’s down to the quality and relevance of those links, alongside the two other core pillars, technical SEO and on-page.

Digital PR, off-site teams and internal advocates must continue to champion the importance of quality, and take the time to educate in-house teams, particularly more senior stakeholders, otherwise we stand to jeopardise organic performance in the long-term”. Olivia Wiltshire, Head of Digital PR, Builtvisible.

Identifying prospects

There are a variety of different techniques you can employ to generate a solid list of prospects for flexible link building. One of our favourites is to perform a bulk link intersect.
Performing this analysis at scale will enable you to get a whole market view of link acquisition. This in turn will help:

1. Surface links that your competitors have which are easily replicable
2. Demonstrate the strategies that are likely to work within your sector
3. Identify industry-specific media sites to outreach to when you do your next large campaign

If you’re searching for further link opportunities, other approaches to consider include:

• Link reclamation
• Link realignment
• Journo requests
• Local link building

As an example, let’s look at the caravan insurance niche. A quick link intersect (which involves pulling together all the websites linking to a competitor site but not your own) highlights that caravan clubs, parks and associations are a big opportunity, as many have links and resources pages.

The NCC website feature a list of potential finance and insurance providers for caravanners

The NCC website feature a list of potential finance and insurance providers for caravanners

This type of business-as-usual (BAU) link acquisition receives a lot less attention than larger campaigns – let’s face it, a few links on a caravan site doesn’t sound that glamorous – but something being boring doesn’t mean it isn’t effective, and some of the link profiles really speak for themselves.

Example of the NCCs strong link profile. Data from Majestic SEO

Example of the NCCs strong link profile. Data from Majestic SEO

Ultimately, it’s worth remembering that Google is building a link graph of the web and using it to rank websites. With such a heavy emphasis now placed on relevance for both off and on-page SEO, there are some sector-specific websites that it simply expects to see within the profile of a site.

If an industry publication links to all your competitors and not you, then what does this say? How can you claim to be an authority if you have no presence here? Filling this gap within your link profile will be far more impactful than another two no-follow links from the Mail Online.

Creating effective campaigns

Whichever way you look at it, investing in larger campaigns can be a risk. Both the costs and time commitment involved can be high, and there is no guarantee that the campaign will succeed.

However, to stand a chance within such a competitive marketplace, the reality is that the bigger campaigns are often necessary to secure larger injections of equity.

What is needed is a risk mitigation strategy. This can be achieved by asking yourself a series of questions and by being objective when you evaluate your work:

• Is your idea genuinely useful for the target audience? E.g., does it provide a practical element?
• Is it surprising?
• Is it hot/topical?
• Does it provoke an emotional response?
• Does it have longevity? Or can the data/material be refreshed?
• Can we provide journalists with robust material?
• Does it have multiple angles and headline potential?
• Is it novel?

Another step we would recommend is conducting preliminary outreach. This will further reduce risk and can often help secure interest in a piece at a very early stage.

Fantastic financial services campaigns

As with any industry, some tactical items of content are more suited to financial services than others. In the list below, we’ve picked some recent standout examples of performant or award-winning content.

Towergate Insurance – SMEs and cyber attacks

First released in late 2015, this animated infographic provides an excellent summary of the cyber risks faced by businesses in an engaging and accessible format. The brand has continued to refresh the piece over time with new examples and statistics, resulting in a fantastic source of passive and BAU links.

Not only is the piece relevant for the target audience and Towergate’s cyber insurance product offering, but it also adds value for the user, containing a series of interesting statistics and genuinely helpful information. Consequently, it has been widely referenced by other sites writing articles on the same topic, including HP, Engadget and KPMG.

Referring domains to Towergate's cyber-attacks URL over time

Referring domains to Towergate’s cyber-attacks URL over time

This is the beauty of producing genuinely helpful content for link acquisition. If you can get it ranking for long-tail keywords, you have an asset that will continue to drive value long after than initial campaign outreach ends.

Towergate SMEs and cyber-attacks ranks for long-tail keywords on the topic

Towergate SMEs and cyber-attacks ranks for long-tail keywords on the topic

Trussle – mortgage calculators

Within the mortgage brokering industry, tools and calculators are an extremely valuable link acquisition strategy.

This series of mortgage calculators from Trussle are a great example of this and have collectively achieved links from 151 domains.

Trussle’s mortgage calculators are an ideal example of low-risk link building efforts

Trussle’s mortgage calculators are an ideal example of low-risk link building efforts

Calculator related queries in this industry have good levels of traffic, and the consumers searching are likely to already be at the consideration phase of the purchase funnel. So, Trussle’s success here has benefits that extend beyond the link equity it has gained.

Sage – a business readiness assessment tool

Sage’s ‘Are you ready to be your own boss’ is fantastic example of creating an engaging yet genuinely useful campaign that hits a sweet spot between audience need and brand expertise.

Sage 'Be Your Own Boss' campaign

Sage ‘Be Your Own Boss’ campaign

In this case, through a survey, the brand established that there were three core areas preventing people from starting a business in the UK, namely finance, self-belief, and administrative aptitude. The solution to this was the production of a multi-channel marketing campaign ‘Are you ready to be your own boss’ which provided a personalised bank of resources in line with those aforementioned barriers, this included a quiz component for people to self-assess themselves and be led to tailored materials.

To date, the piece has achieved 12 million in social reach, 28,000 unique visits, built numerous relevant and quality links which in turn has driven 7,500 quiz views and 2,000 quiz completions. Additionally, 19 target keywords are capturing answer boxes – the much-coveted top spot in SERPs!

MoneySense – a free financial education programme for 5-18s

NatWest’s flagship financial education programme Moneysense has been recognised by the Professional Publishers Association (PPA) in its annual digital awards.

MoneySense provides engaging and interactive digital content that supports teachers and parents as they help children and young people learn about money. This innovative content hub provides resources to equip young people with the financial skills they need to manage money now and later in life.

NatWest’s MoneySense campaign produced a financial education content hub for young people

NatWest’s MoneySense campaign produced a financial education content hub for young people

This particular content hub has an extra layer of cleverness in its delivery because it targets specific demographics, rather than trying to be a ‘one blog fits all’ attempt. Good content is relevant content.

Fundamentally, it’s a great example of a campaign for social good and has accrued many relevant links from sites like Good Housekeeping, TES and news.

NFU Mutual – rural crime report

NFU Mutual’s rural crime report serves as part of a flagship resources section for the farming insurance industry.

NFU Mutual’s Rural Crime Report sits in their resources section and takes the form of a downloadable

NFU Mutual’s Rural Crime Report sits in their resources section and takes the form of a downloadable

Whitepapers and downloadable PDFs are an often overlooked tactic in organic marketing, but NFU Mutual is a great example of these kinds of resources at work. This item won coverage in various press organisations, including The Guardian and BBC.

Referring domains to NFU's rural crime report URL over time

Referring domains to NFU’s rural crime report URL over time

Because the piece contains unique data, it has continued to be quoted overtime by those looking for statistics to include in rural crime articles, and annual refreshes ensure a yearly injection of fresh links.

Conclusion

Off-page SEO opportunities can be extremely lucrative for boosting organic traffic.

While often overlooked, off-page links and referring domains can be a valuable addition to FS on-page content to help you maintain growth within the highly competitive marketplace.

Using the consumer research undertaken as part of your SEO strategy and on-page content production, you will be able to identity relevant topics to base your Digital PR efforts on. This will help large campaigns perform well and further drive quality traffic that converts.

Carrying out business as usual flexible link building is a great way to support your growth between bigger campaigns.

Our final SEO for FS guide will cover Technical SEO, an important factor in supporting your on-page and off-page growth and further improving your organic rankings.

If you’d like to talk to Builtvisible about any aspect of our work for financial services companies, in the UK and internationally, just get in touch via our contact form and we’ll get back to you for an exploratory discussion.

Further reading

We recommend the following resources to continue your research:

Will Nye

Will is our Technical Director and leads one of the most revered organic search consulting teams.

With 10 years agency experience to his name, his passion lies in technical SEO. He's the driving force behind our dedicated team of consultants in this area, constantly looking out and ahead for our clients.

He believes that successful client-agency SEO relationships are only possible when technical excellence is paired with effective consulting, and strives tirelessly to foster an environment in which equal value in placed on mastering both disciplines.

When not at work, you can find Will hiking in the great outdoors, pottering in the garden, reading and watching the occasional game of rugby.


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