- Google holds financial services companies, like banks, to a higher standard than most industries.
- Because of this, banks should focus on E-A-T when link building.
- You’ll need more than a few backlinks in order to move the needle with your organic search results. Use a variety of creative link building strategies to scale your link building initiatives.
- One of your primary goals is to make your audience and Google trust you, so aim for links that boost trustworthiness.
If you’re marketing for a large bank, then before you go any further, picture your customers. There’s the single mom who started a savings account and currently has $10,000 saved up for emergencies. There’s the hopeful entrepreneur, using his bank loan to jumpstart his dreams. And there’s the young couple taking their finances seriously for the first time, starting a high-interest savings account and figuring out how to make their home ownership goals viable.
Banks have one of the most diverse customer bases of any sector. But there is a common theme: every single customer trusts the bank to handle something so essential to their well-being that mismanaging it could change their life. We need money – not just to survive, but to participate in almost every aspect of daily living. And because money is so fundamental to our safety and happiness, it takes an off-the-charts level of trust to let another entity manage it.
Outside of the healthcare field, there’s perhaps no other private sector that shoulders so much responsibility.
Because of this, both people and search engines will hold your brand (and website) to the highest of standards to make sure you’re worthy of that trust.
Financial Services Industry 2021: Overview, Outlook & Trends
Your money, your life (YMYL)
The algorithm overseers at Google care so much about trust that they’ve instructed their Quality Raters to hold “Your Money, Your Life (YMYL)” page content to more rigorous standards. YMYL is Google’s shorthand for any site that could drastically impact the user’s financial or physical well-being. As a result, the medical and financial services industry, which frequently give health- and finance-related advice, are under the microscope.
E-A-T and SEO
When it comes to financial services SEO, credentials are critical. When Quality Raters score a page, they use the acronym E-A-T to guide their decisions. They assess the quality of a page by looking for:
- Expertise – Is the content accurate, helpful and detailed? Does it demonstrate a level of expertise that goes beyond the basics? Does it address the user’s query with answers a non-expert couldn’t have given them? This is extremely important in a sector where bad advice can lead to financial catastrophe.
- Authority – Authority is both a way to gauge expertise and the result of expertise. It’s also integrally tied to link building, as a form of social proof of your authoritativeness. If you’re sizing up the authority of a person, what’s one of the best ways to make your decision? Ask around and see what the people you respect say. It’s the same with websites. Links from relevant, high-authority industry sites can speak volumes about the authority of the content.
- Trust – Together, expertise and authority build trust. Other factors, like how professional your website looks, how secure it is and how well it runs, also influence trust. Trust is also heavily impacted by social signals: how many people on social media are reading and sharing your content?
What does this mean for your link-building strategy?
Focus on high-quality, reputable and relevant websites.
This can include popular mass media publications, industry blogs, industry association websites, and partner sites. You should also look to financially-focused resources like American Banker, Bloomberg, CNBC, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal. However, it does not include backlinks from spammy websites.
Legitimate link building takes time and skillful relationship building.
You should never buy links. That’s right, NEVER. Great links provide value, so they take time and effort to build. As a result, really good links can’t be purchased on the cheap from shady websites.
If you do buy links, they’re very likely to hurt your site. Not only will they diminish trust, but they’ll also set off manipulation red flags for Google.
Scalable link building for banks
To acquire the large number of backlinks an enterprise SEO strategy requires to be successful, you need two things:
Let’s talk about scalability first. When your competitors are getting millions of visitors each month, you’re going to need to build more than a few links to see any change in your site’s authority, rankings and organic traffic.
Adding 5 links per month to that kind of backlink profile would be like pouring a glass of water into a swimming pool. So it’s essential to find tools and a process that can let you build organic, reputable links at scale.
Terakeet has spent many years developing our platform, Chorus. Chorus fuses the power of a vertical search discovery engine with the functionality of the best CRM software. But it’s also a database with more than 9 million pre-categorized online publishers and influencers. That means we’re able to precision match each client with the ideal set of highly niche publishers and influencers. And not just a few dozen—but thousands per client.
For example, for one financial services client, our strategic outreach resulted in 478 content placements by third parties. In another case, the outreach for a bank led to content placements with an audience reach of close to 9.8 million.
With link building, scale is one thing, but remember that personalized blogger outreach at scale is 10X more powerful and effective. Chorus’s built-in tools allow for unprecedented scale in personalization, a critical factor in driving greater engagement.
Do you have a scalable link building infrastructure in place to achieve massive SEO ROI statistics like these:
Increased monthly organic enrollments by 553% within 19 months
Increased Google Top 3 organic ranking keywords by 936% within 19 months
Increased monthly organic search traffic by close to 700K within 19 months
Effective link building strategies for banks
Once scalability has been addressed, it’s time to crank it up to 11 with your creativity. Individuals and businesses are inundated with content every day. Creativity is critical to cut through the sea of mediocrity, especially for strategic outreach, content production and content amplification. The more creative you are, the more likely others will find your content valuable enough to share it with others.
To that end, here are 11 strategies for amping up your creativity for improved link building results.
1. Find your in-house celebrities
Whether board members or boots-on-the-ground financial advisors, some of your most valuable resources work at your own bank. Who has years of experience? Who is active in their community? Or who contributes to worthy causes? Or is genuinely excited about what they do? Who reflects your brand’s core values in their words and actions?
Don’t let these people stay hidden because they can reflect your brand in a way nothing else can. And if they become faces for your content, the content will quickly become trustworthy and recognizable. Just like people start to gravitate toward certain writers on their favorite news websites, people in your industry can also start to look for content from their favorite advisors.
Take Simple Bank’s former CEO, Josh Reich, for example. He’s been featured in The Verge, Slate, Business Insider and Adobe’s creative resource center 99U, to name a few. He has the classic founder story: a university dropout that started a new business in, you guessed it, a basement. Reich is smart and was one of the first people to offer an entirely mobile alternative to big banks. Who wouldn’t want to hear what he has to say?
Assign them a ghostwriter if they’re extremely busy (they probably are) or set up interviews for them. Then build out their personal brands in the same way that you’d build out a company brand. Create and optimize social media profiles and provide the support needed to make these accounts active. Secure writing gigs and opportunities with the right publications for them. You can also conduct outreach to promote them, schedule interviews with the media, have them appear as a featured guest on relevant podcasts, etc. Have them become a regular guest contributor on popular industry websites and blogs. Let their expertise strengthen your brand and your backlink profile.
2. Get creative!
When you think “bank” you may not think “viral marketing campaign,” but that’s where the guerilla marketers at TD Bank beg to differ. From handing out free umbrellas and pizzas to designing an ATM that delivers personalized thank-you gifts, the bank loves performing fun experiments that put the focus on customer appreciation.
And people love watching it happen. In fact, the video TD Bank released documenting their ATM experiment has amassed over 24 million views.
Let your brand personality shine in the choices you make with your content strategy. If quirky and experimental isn’t your brand, that’s fine! Creative, viral content doesn’t have to be a feat of guerilla marketing; it just has to make people think.
3. Claim your local listings
If your bank has brick-and-mortar locations, claim the local listings for each branch. Links from review platforms and local listing sites typically don’t pass authority directly to your website, but they do fall into the “trust signal” category along with social media links and other nofollow links. They’re also a critical piece of your local SEO strategy for each branch. In addition, searchers who come across your branch info in these sites are relying on them to be fully accurate, and any inaccuracy could result in a frustrated customer.
4. Build ties with your local community
Work your brand values into your interactions with the local community, like Allstate did when they launched their Worth Telling campaign. The campaign honors people in the black community who have overcome exceptional odds or perform amazing work. It includes documentary-style videos, community events and so much more. Each type of content promotes linking and sharing within the local community and beyond. Beyond that, the campaign lets Allstate leverage its large platform to empower others.
You can also hire content strategists who can understand the culture and community of a particular region. Their expertise will help you better define your content marketing strategy for that community. For example, you might write banking content for software-centric areas like Silicon Valley with a technology edge, whereas your content for Nebraska might be oriented for agricultural businesses and workers. The more your content is customized for the region, the greater the opportunity to connect more deeply with the local audience and to subsequently generate more organic links to the content.
5. Pitch publications
Don’t just write up a press release and send it out into the ether via a wire service. Make a pitch! Tailor the pitch to each publication, sharing why the story is compelling and what each reader base will learn.
Newsworthy content isn’t just company updates and the sort of news that we traditionally call, well, news. It’s about storytelling. Farmers Insurance does this in their commercials, re-enacting real scenarios they’ve covered that range from jaw-dropping to funny to heartwarming. The Farmers’ Hall of Claims has generated more than 300 backlinks, for example. Take a leaf out of their book and talk about the real scenarios your bank has encountered, inviting specific customers to be part of the story.
For example, if you gave out a business loan to a business that is now expanding and succeeding, share that story. Remember that within that single story, there are many different angles. As you pitch the story, use the angle that fits the publication: from the deeply personal (good for a site like HuffPost) to the instructive for business (great for Inc.com).
6. Grant expert interviews
Are there experts at your bank who have something to say about the stock market? About a celebrity’s headline-grabbing tax disaster? About whether people should buy homes now or wait? Or about how people should save for and buy a home? Connect them to the publications that need their voice!
Sometimes you’ll be able to pull directly from the news to find your angle and share the value the expert can add. Sometimes you’ll need to create the story. Lean on tools like Google Trends or check out trending items on social media for an up-to-the-minute read on what gets people talking.
Sign up for Help A Reporter Out to receive an email full of daily requests from reporters who need interview subjects and experts. Jump on any opportunity that fits your expert’s field of knowledge.
7. Conduct original research
The content kings over at BuzzSumo say their original research gets more shares than any other type of content they produce. People find original research fascinating! And when your bank produces that research, people are going to link to it as the source whenever they write about it.
Data tells a story. And there are plenty of opportunities for you to discuss your own insights and findings without ever breaching customer trust. Take a look at aggregate data and notice connections that provide interesting insights for your audience. How many retirement-age individuals actually have a 401k? What type of people take advantage of small business loans the most, and is more representation needed? How many of those wacky millennials are spending all their money on avocado toast?
You can also conduct customer- or industry-wide surveys to get a read on changes in banking habits or feelings about finance in general. We all love studying other people, so information like this is inherently interesting – especially if the change could impact the reader’s financial decisions.
8. Leverage strategic partnerships
So your business development team, who’s responsible for building strategic partnerships, is stellar at their job. They land partners left and right, they wine and dine them, they are masters of the win-win.
But there’s one big problem. Are they thinking about backlinks at all? Of course not. Their partnership goals are broader than a single link, and they may not even know why a link would be beneficial for your organic search program.
So that leaves you with a significant untapped resource on your hands. Leverage this with cross-promoted webinars, original research and other collaborative content that helps you and your partners. You can also simply reach out to partners like brokers and request backlinks.
Consider sponsoring events to get linked on the event’s website. If you currently sponsor events or organizations, reach out and request a link or suggest a cross-promotional opportunity.
9. Host conferences
Speaking of events, industry conferences are an incredible way to build authority both on-site and in person. They give leaders in your industry a chance to share their knowledge. And they help people in finance connect to each other. And if your bank plans and hosts conferences, they’re a perfect way to get people talking.
Share information about your conference and get it written up in industry blogs. Work every connection at your company’s disposal to find high-profile, engaging keynote speakers. Reach out to presenters and offer them embed codes or shortened URLs that will help them share the event on their blog or on social media. Create a hashtag for the conference and add it to every type of marketing material you produce, letting social media users see how many people are talking about the event.
And have fun! Don’t host what you think a financial conference should look like. Host the one your brand would host. Warm, casual, funny, caring, or community-driven: what sort of experience will people have at your conference?
10. Get listed
If there are comparison sites and financial resource sites that link to different banks and financial plans, get your bank listed. This isn’t quite the same thing as directory link building, a practice that used to be popular with certain people in the SEO world. The old-school practice of directory link building was 100% concerned with SEO and 0% concerned with people. That means link builders would look for listing opportunities regardless of whether the directory looked useful or not. Today, we only care about the directories people actually use.
And they’re still out there. Think about why you might need a listing resource like this. They are highly niche and curated, and they give people a starting point that isn’t the entire internet. With this need in mind, many listing-style websites have morphed into helpful and informative comparison sites like NerdWallet.
Find sites like this and get listed. Aim for dofollow links, which pass site authority from the linking site to yours directly, when you can. But never, ever remove legitimate resources from your outreach list just because their links are nofollow and won’t add direct SEO value. The traffic and engagement that moves through relevant websites produce trust signals and impact authority whether or not they actually “pass” any authority through the link itself. And since the traffic is likely to be high-intent, these listings are friendly for your conversions too.
11. Provide answers
A sure sign of expertise is genuine passion for the subject. And that isn’t just established by engaging with publications and influencers. It’s established by engaging with anyone who has a question.
Become an expert on Quora and answer the financial questions people have. When people express confusion about a financial topic on Twitter, help them out. If there are blogs you enjoy following and a blogger asks a question you can answer, share it in the comments.
These trust signals are an important addition to the web of search context that surrounds your brand. They’re also a great way to put your money where your mouth is (so to speak), letting your brand express its expertise and helpfulness directly. And finally, what does agenda-free helpfulness establish? You got it: trust.