SEO may feel like “internet alchemy”—that intangible thing you’re not exactly sure you know what it is, but you know you need it if you want to see your content on Page 1 in a search. And with the rapid change in algorithms and technology, how do you know you’re doing the right thing?
We’re here to help.
Why SEO Matters
First of all, it’s important to know why SEO matters. An SEO strategy is essential to playing the marketing long game. It’s how consumers find your content when they search the internet for answers. To keep up, you need to stay up-to-date on the latest strategies and search engine updates.
Google, the undisputed king of search, released its last major algorithmic update in 2021 to prioritize pages with quality user experience (UX) and a core update in May 2022, which it updates several times a year. In light of these changes, Google gave site owners the following tips to optimize site performance:
- Focus on your content
- Get to know the quality rater guidelines and E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness)
But even with all the fancy know-how and tricks, you can’t game or short-cut the search engine algorithm. And ways to do so successfully in the short run will eventually be snuffed out by the search engine gods.
Ranking on Page 1 takes time—there’s no way around it.
Below are 5 things you can do to level up your SEO skills so your content will rank higher.
1. SEO basics
Any good SEO analysis starts with the basics. A great place to start is by reviewing your content’s framework. Make sure your website’s pages include effective titles, compelling meta descriptions, and subheadings that incorporate your SEO keywords. Is your website indexed with a sitemap and a robot.txt file so a search engine’s crawler can rank your site? If not, it should be!
Make sure Google Search Console (GSC), Bing Webmaster Tools, and Google Analytics (GA) are set up on your site. Tools like Yoast and Semrush Organic Research Tool can help ensure your content performs optimally.
Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to tighten up your existing content and what type of content you’ll create.
Know Your Keywords
Keyword research is critical to a good SEO strategy. You’ve got to know what your customers are searching for to make sure you’re offering them the content they need. This means you need to know what your main, money-earning keywords are as well as question keywords. And don’t forget to find out your handful of long-tail keyword variations.
Industry glossaries are another useful resource for building your keywords. Luke O’Neill, owner and operator at Genuine Communications, an Australia-based fintech marketing company, prioritizes using these glossaries, particularly for top-of-funnel web visitors.
“Industry glossaries are a good SEO play. Individual glossary entries can be used as internal links. And once you’ve built a thorough glossary, you can analyze the most-visited entries and create further content around the topic. Take a look at how fintechs like Ramp and Paddle have published glossaries to see how you could do them too.”
Know Your Competition
Competitor analysis is well worth your time. Seeing how your competitors rank is like playing poker while being able to see their hands. Check out what they’re doing, learn from them, and make it your own. Conduct a keyword gap analysis and break down the intent and keywords of competing pages that rank well in search results. You may even want to create a keyword map to capture your research. After you’ve reviewed your keywords, it’s time to fine-tune your list. Make sure you prioritize by search volume and keyword difficulty to get the most bang for your buck.
Additionally, if you’re able to invest in the tech, you can also use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze keywords through sophisticated models and algorithms. Founder and CEO of personal finance site BankingGeek Max Benz suggests this strategy “rather than relying on traditional keyword research” to identify and target keywords.
You can also look at data from social media and other platforms to get a more complete picture of your customer and what they’re looking for online.
2. On-page SEO and content
First, make sure your on-page SEO housekeeping is in order. That means finding and fixing multiple H1 tags (only one per page!), duplicate or missing meta descriptions, and duplicate, missing, and truncated title tags. Along with the page content, all of these should be optimized to be readable, SEO-friendly, and aligned with your target audience’s needs.
A content audit is an assessment where you root out and update old content. Ask yourself if it adds value to your customer and communicates your unique selling point. Don’t forget to include clear and interesting CTAs. Re-organize your content so the flow makes sense, and the customer journey is simple by using topic clusters under a pillar page. Finally, find and fix keyword cannibalization (when your pages compete against each other to rank for the same keywords).
Once you’ve identified your keywords, create content briefs and turn them into relevant content. Consider mixing in formats that typically perform well, like short explainer/demo videos or infographics that feature original research or case studies. In the fintech industry, a type of content that web visitors enjoy is a free calculator tool that helps them calculate some metric related to your business.
Contently has a tool built into the platform that looks at your target keywords and suggests related topics to consider, and it gives you information like search volume, number of results, and cost per click if you were to take out a search ad for that topic.
Gamify Your Site
Another way to have fun with your content and provide your target audience with an engaging experience is through gamification. By gamifying, or adding gaming elements, to your web content or purchase system, people are more likely to enjoy engaging with your content. It’s estimated that 70% of Forbes Global 2000 companies use some form of gamification. An effort by the financial services community Sharedserviceslink.com found that using gamification, even in a conservative industry, led to an increase of 108.5% in website visits and a conversion rate of 9.4%.
You can incorporate gaming elements into your marketing campaign through a points-based reward system, contests, and more. Jason Cordes, Founder of CocoLoan, a UK-based loan broker, has successfully applied this strategy.
“There are various approaches; however, the following are the most well-liked: hold competitions and award prizes; points awarded for referrals; make quizzes, puzzles, and games that are visually appealing,” said Cordes.
3. Off-page SEO
Off-page (or off-site) SEO includes all the things not on your site that affect your search rankings. Look at your competitors (again) to see their link profiles—who’s linking to them?—conduct a link intersect analysis and target their broken backlinks.
Set up your Google Business Profile if you haven’t already, and ensure it’s optimized. And make sure you’re leveraging digital PR tools like Help a Reporter Out (HARO), LinkedIn, or Help a B2B Writer to get your name out there and generate more buzz for your brand.
Events, timely publications, and participating in open-source projects are all ways to get your name out there and boost your SEO.
If you’re a local or regional business, don’t forget to improve your local SEO by claiming and optimizing your local listings. Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal, a freelance landscaping platform, has found local SEO to be a critical focus in their marketing. “90% of our new customers come through local search engine optimization… It requires daily diligence,” said Clayton.
Another strategy is to set a routine for tedious marketing tasks, such as with a “Marketing Monday,” where you dedicate a few hours to requesting reviews, blog commenting, etc. You can use a platform like TrustPilot to gather positive reviews.
Backlinks are crucial in bringing prospective customers to your site. You can use the Skyscraper technique to build up your quality backlinks. Another method is to convert unlinked mentions of your business across the web into active links. Use a tool to find unlinked mentions, like those offered by Ahrefs, Screaming Frog SEO Spider, Buzzstream, or Scrapebox. You can then contact the author of the article and request they link to your site.
While it may take time, look for opportunities to link to your site or company blog on Wikipedia by replacing a broken link with a relevant one. This technique is called “broken link building.” Wikipedia even has a page with all their broken or “dead” links, so you can do this more easily.
Are you thinking about automating this? It may be tempting to automate backlinks and blog commenting, but search engines catch on fast, so it’s not worth it. Stella Scott, co-founder of EasyPaydayLoan, recommends investing in link-building but not overusing automated tools.
“Automated tools like comments and submissions [are] great for generating an initial flow of links, but the good ones die off fast, and once Google catches on to the fact that most of them are automated, they’ll get penalized. Instead, try manual or semi-automated link building,” said Scott.
5. Technical SEO
You can’t neglect your technical SEO. Find and fix broken links, orphaned pages, or crawl errors across your site. Website security is especially important to industries like fintech to ensure the safety of their users’ financial information. To that end, make sure you’re using HTTPS instead of HTTP, as it encrypts data between web browsers and sites.
You also want to look at your URLs and use SEO-friendly URL structures. Be sure your SEO keyword is included in the URL (aka slug) and keep it short.
Tip: Use the “Inspect URL” feature in Google Search Console. Check your canonical tags and page depth. Add structured data and check if there are any duplicate versions of your site.
In today’s world, your website must be mobile-friendly. Consumers spend about five hours a day on their devices, and that doesn’t include time used for work. So be sure your site is easy to navigate and read on a smartphone. And make sure your site loads fast. To win the day, make sure it loads in 1-2 seconds.
Building an SEO strategy that works effectively takes time and a little elbow grease, but it’s worth the effort if you want to see your content on Page 1. And following these SEO strategies can help set you up for success.
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Image by Nuthawut Somsuk