Google, SEO and investment fund management – what a COO needs to know Jonathan Moore, SEO Group Head, equimedia.

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Buy-Side FeaturesFeatureOperational RiskOpinions
18 May, 2017

Savvy spectators in the investment management community typically have one eye on Google. The internet innovator is continually rumoured to be moving further into the financial space following its parent Alphabet’s launch of the Capital G and Google Ventures funds. However, the reach and influence of Google can go much further, in a much more controlled and useful manner for the UK’s investment management businesses. I’m speaking, of course, about its influence as an information source.

Google’s dominance in the search space hardly needs to be mentioned, nor the plethora of paid and organic opportunities to reach people seeking advice there on a minute-by-minute basis. In the UK it is a well-acknowledged fact that the vast majority of the population don’t seek professional financial advice. A recent Scottrade survey even found that younger generations actively mistrust investment advisers, considering their recommendations to be often biased in favour of their own best interests. Many of this generation (and beyond) naturally turn to Google as a first point of call for investment information, to educate themselves and build their own insights. This means that, increasingly, a business needs to make sure its listing on Google, the information it provides to educate potential clients, and even the way that information is listed has to be done correctly for the search engine to find and rank it.

We recently undertook a nine month research study, looking at the impact of changes to Google’s service and algorithms over that period to returned results, across over 3000 financial service key words and search terms. The results in investment were illuminating. In terms of businesses and pages returned against investment-themed key word searches, the sector is much less dominated by large aggregator sites than banking, or insurance. This means there is much more opportunity for smart investment companies to not only rank, but rank well on the first page of Google. This is a tremendous asset when it comes to gaining potential client eyeballs and becoming a trusted source of advice on what can be a complicated subject for the layman to understand.

Indeed, if you look at the top 20 highest-ranking investment websites from the start of our research project and at the end, you may be struck by just how few dedicated investment providers feature there. Both lists are largely filled with ‘independent’ sources of advice such as Forbes.com, the Telegraph, Nasdaq, Wikihow, and the Money Advice Service. This should tell you all you need to know about how people are using the search engine – they are actively searching for information to better understand the market, and seeking it from perceived unbiased sources. This is precisely the role that financial advisors and investment managers used to occupy. Our research found that they still can.

For investment in particular the top 20 results didn’t change dramatically over the research period, aside from some changes in position on the page. Many of these sites not only regularly and actively manage their Google rankings through paid and organic means, the new entrants into the chart at the start of this year – including the CISI and The Balance (a new financial advice website from About.com with no declared commercial offering) prove it is possible to crack the coveted first page with the right approach, even for those new to Google. However, surprisingly, which.co.uk fell from the top 20 returned results – which should be a lesson to anyone on effective search engine optimisation. This could be down to the site using a mixture of secure and non-secure links, and multiple pages linking on the same search query. For those looking to dip their toes into the SEO waters, keyword targeting and technical maintenance of the site in line with Google service tweaks are key.

So, what does this right approach look like? Ensure a site is optimised for a mobile experience.  Much of Google’s current strategy is powered by an acknowledgement that mobile is fast becoming the preferred device for accessing online information. To reflect this, Google now prefers sites which are mobile-optimised. Furthermore, sites need to be properly migrated to the more secure https:// platform which now sends out more trust signals to the search engine. As the predominance of information sources in investment rankings should tell you, having a range of updated and informative content on your sites should help in organic search. Not only are you looking to inform and attract potential customers, but Google is also reading these pages (and ranking your website based on this content). Exploiting niche terms under the umbrella of investment topics, can also help a provider to stand out. Monitor competitors to see what they’re up to, as this can provide useful insights and tips on areas they may have overlooked, as well as best practice.

If a COO in investment is looking for one top tip when it comes to improving his business’ visibility online, my number one piece of advice would likely be to simply test and learn. Paid search ads can be trialled cost efficiently (and quickly) for a company looking to start out, and will give businesses an idea of what works, and the results it can drive. For a sector with so much to offer those seeking often detailed and complex financial information, ensuring your advice finds the eyes of people seeking it should pay dividends. 

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