What’s New in SEO for the Financial Services Industry – Rich Snippets, Mobiles and Structured Data

What’s New in SEO for the Financial Services Industry – Rich Snippets, Mobiles and Structured Data

In the beginning…

…Google was just a search box and list of 10 search results.  Over the next decade we saw them introduce ads down the side of the results and images and videos, but over the last decade the number of SERP (Search Engine Result Page) features has grown to over 20.  A number of these features called snippets are particularly useful for the financial services industry

Snippets usually appear in Google above the search results and below the Ads.  But what many online businesses don’t know is that you only have to be in the top 10 for a particular search term in order to earn your snippet.  This means you may rank at number 9 in the results but your snippet will lift you above your main competitors and you’ll find your website above the first position.  Gaining a snippet or taking your competitors snippets can be as simple as structuring your pages, paragraphs and data correctly.

Below I’ve listed some of the most common snippets you will see for financial services in the SERPs.

 

Snippet Paragraphs

There are the most straightforward and the most common snippets.  It is recommended that if you are writing content to target a snippet like this you should aim for around 50 words or 270 characters.

Any accompanying image should be appropriately tagged with the relevant phrase or keywords.  The wording of the paragraph on your page should answer the question, in this case it would answer the question “what is life insurance?”  Your paragraph should have a clear “Life insurance is …” and should answer the question as succinctly as possible using all of the expected associated words such as policy, health, age etc.  You may want to adapt an FAQ page in order to target multiple questions and snippets like this with one carefully written page.

 

Snippet Lists

Snippet lists are usually restricted to 8 items in the SERPS, but it is common practice to always add more than 8 in order to have that enticing and clickable “more items” option as if your potential customer can see all the items on a list they may not need to click through to your site at all.

Snippet lists are usually taken straight from an ordered or unordered list which are coded with the standard HTML of either an unordered list (<ul></ul>) or ordered list (<ol></ol>).  The accompanying image is sometimes taken from a different website (as in the example above) and the recommended dimensions for these images is a ratio of 4:3.

If you do acquire one of these snippets and Google has used a competitor’s image simply add a well tagged (Alt-text) image cropped to a reasonable size and in a reasonable ratio.  Add your branding to the image as we’ve seen one of our client’s branded images sitting nicely next to a competitors snippet.

 

Snippet Tables

These are the same as above but coded on the page as a standard HTML table.

Tables can be especially effective if you are advertising a list of products where the originator of the products has not added the raw data to their website in a format that Google can understand properly.  So if you are selling loans or mortgages as a broker on behalf of a bank or other financial institution, the customers may come to you first.

 

People Also Ask

If you have a comprehensive FAQ page, it is worth carrying out the keyword research to determine which are the most commonly asked questions in your industry and adapting the questions to match.

You can also adapt the format of the answer as some formats are more successful depending on how the question is asked.  This blog from SEMRush shows that in their data set, 89% of questions should be optimised for paragraph featured snippets, questions beginning with How, Where, Which and What all perform well with ordered or unordered lists and questions beginning with Have perform well with tables.

 

Structured Data

7 years ago in June 2011, Bing, Google and Yahoo launched Schema.org, a framework which allows website content to be marked up with metadata specifying what kind of microdata is contained within each page.

There are schemas which describe the most common types of online data such as retail products, films, books, recipes and hotel or holiday prices.  There are hundreds of other schemas describing everything from medical trials to playgrounds.

If you have product data that can be displayed programmatically, then it is worth putting the time and effort into adding the relevant structured data coding into your site.  Your customers won’t notice that it’s there but search engines and other online crawlers or bots will read and index it.

The financial service industry has a number of specialized schemas which cover the following products.

There are also a number schemas that are relevant to financial services as well as other industries e.g.

Google has a number of helpful guides on how to implement structured data on your website such as How to add structured data to your website and  How does structured data work? and tools for analysing and testing your existing data.  The coding is straightforward and the look and feel of the data can be controlled with your standard on-page CSS and HTML.

 

Accelerated Mobile (AMP) Pages

The Google Developers site sums up AMP pages perfectly;

The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project is built on top of existing web technologies to enable blazing-fast page rendering and content delivery.

This is the main reasoning behind AMP pages, to provide cut down but fast loading pages for mobile devices and tablets.  AMP strips out most of the slow loading adverts, popups and elaborate javascript carousels and presents the user with a page consisting mostly of text and images.  Most websites now receive more visitors via mobile than desktop browsers so it’s become essential for all modern companies to adopt the latest technologies that make the user experience faster and more enjoyable.

Let’s take a page from the Daily Mirror as an example and look at how fast it loads using the Google Page Speed tool:

Google gives it a speed score of 25/100 with the first contentful paint (the time the first text or image is rendered) at 1.9s and the first meaningful paint (when the main content of the page is visible) at 2.8 seconds.

Now if we try the same with the equivalent AMP page

Google gives the AMP page a speed score of 39/100 with the first contentful paint at 0.8 seconds and the first meaningful paint at 1.4 seconds.  Therefore the AMP page is loading twice as fast as the standard desktop page, essential for users on a 3G or 4G network.  These small increases in page times encourage lower bounce rates and longer visits.  They also encourage your visitors to return to the site in the future.

One point to note is that a Google page speed of 39/100 sounds slow, but when you are loading videos and large images you sometimes have to trade speed for user experience.  As an example the Wikipedia main page which only has a few very small images has a page speed score of 95/100 due to it being 90% text.

 

And Finally, the Mobile First Index

Back in the Spring of 2018 Google finished the roll-out of their Mobile First Index which has now been incorporated into the Google Algorithm(s).  This means that the part of the Google Algorithm which uses measurements of page speed, mobile usability and page layouts takes it’s data from the website’s performance on mobile first rather than the desktop version of your site.  This has meant a drop in rankings for those companies who do not have responsive websites or those who haven’t optimised their page load times for mobile.

If you have not yet implemented a plan that encompasses AMP, structured data, the Mobile First Index and mobile usability for your website, you need to start planning for 2019 before your competition takes your customers from you.

 

If you need help, get in touch with us here at BORN, we have nearly 20 years of experience working for financial services companies.  Call us on 01243 786728

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