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SEO for Financial Services: Challenges with Terminology

Laura Cameron, VP, Digital Marketing, KeyBank [NYSE: KEY]
Laura Cameron, VP, Digital Marketing, KeyBank [NYSE: KEY]

Laura Cameron, VP, Digital Marketing, KeyBank [NYSE: KEY]

One of the largest challenges I’ve faced in financial services is the difference in how industryspecific people refer to our products versus consumers. Banks are notorious for using acronyms, which range from the more-common, i.e., ROI, LTV and NPS, to niche, like BAU, LDO, and PPNR. Unfortunately, a side effect of this industry-speak is the large delta between how industry experts refer to banking products and solutions, and how everyday people do. And of course, this becomes a very important topic when we bring our products and services to market online and need to ensure people who are searching can find what they’re looking for.

Since it’s not usually possible to change engrained practices or organizational structures to be more consumer-friendly, I suggest the following approach to bridge the gap between internal and consumer-facing language:

 Having a clear understanding of search interest, popular search terms, and trends when a new product is launching helps to get internal teams using the right language from the get-go 

1. SEO education - Empowering all teams who touch the website with an understanding of how their work is important to SEO is key to success. Product, brand, and marketing teams can all benefit from learning how their work impacts SEO, and how SEO impacts the bottom line. SEO is about providing valuable information to consumers online, and a strong partnership between all groups is needed to ensure success.

2. Do the research and start early – Having a clear understanding of search interest, popular search terms, and trends when a new product is launching helps to get internal teams using the right language from the get-go. Keyword research can often inform the marketing language chosen to present value propositions and describe the new product, while aligning with what audiences are searching for. This early research has the added benefit of reducing the time and effort needed later to optimize the content.

3. Understand user intent – You can’t assume everyone thinks, and searches, alike. When writing copy, it is important to consider the various ways people will reach this new webpage, and incorporate all relevant language in the form of benefits, uses, and FAQs. An added benefit to FAQs is that by asking and answering questions on your webpages, and coding them correctly with schema, your content can show up in instant answer areas of search results.

4. Use words that people understand - The bulk of consumers feel intimidated by financial terminology because they are not industry experts nor should they be. Using simple language to improve readability goes a long way in making information digestible for consumers.

5. Measure and spread the word - In order to judge success, you must establish performance benchmarks and identify key performance indicators (KPI) to measure against, such as organic traffic volume, onsite conversions or even keyword ranking positions. Once optimization goes live, monitor these KPI either in your analytics platform or another tool like Google Search Console. As successes are achieved, circle back with the teams that helped make the results a reality and show them how their hard work paid off. These types of case studies can also help win the favor of your biggest critics and help earn more cooperation (or even budget!).

While there are many ways to bridge the gap between industry experts and everyday people, these are the tactics I’ve found to be most effective. This process has helped spread awareness of SEO, started meaningful conversations around the organization about our customers, and ultimately helped build a strong organic presence. This is also a journey that does not end. We’ll continue to iterate to find new and more efficient ways of collaborating to ensure our content meets both consumer and compliance needs. 

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