The Importance of Search in Your Digital Strategy
Guest Blog, written by Brent Bouldin, partner at New Media Advisors
Navigating the dynamic world of financial services marketing, particularly in the credit union space, is often like playing a high-stakes game of poker with limited chips. The secret to winning? Identifying and leveraging the most potent cards in our marketing deck. Among these, search continually emerges as the ace up our sleeve, consistently proving its value and providing a proven path to victory. But what makes search so powerful? And how can we harness its potential to the fullest? Let's delve deeper into the world of search and uncover its unique strengths.
The Unique Power of Search
Search is a unique channel in the marketing ecosystem. It is the only space where customers actively declare their intent to the marketer, articulating their needs specifically and with precision. Imagine a customer walking into a branch and telling you exactly what they want to buy. In the digital realm, this is a golden opportunity that we simply can't afford to ignore. It's a direct line into the mind and need-state of your customers.
A Forrester study paints a compelling picture: 93% of online journeys start with a consumer using a search engine. This means that the overwhelming majority of potential customers are actively looking for information, solutions, and services through search. If we fail to show up in search results when these customers are ready to engage, we're not just making our job harder, we might as well be handing our hard-won demand to competitors on a silver platter. This sobering thought also highlights the huge potential of search. Mastering visibility in this space allows us to tap into a vast pool of potential customers who are, in many cases, demonstrating an intent to purchase.
The Long-Term Value of SEO: An Investment That Keeps Giving
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the vital component of any robust search strategy. While the payoffs from SEO efforts may take a while to come fruition, the investment is undeniably worth it. Unlike paid marketing campaigns that stop performing the moment the budget dries up, SEO continues to yield results over time. It's a strategy that has quick win payoffs in the short-medium term and big dividends over the longer term. It is a commitment to quality and relevance that pays off in the form of sustained visibility and increased traffic.
Investing in essential infrastructure, streamlined processes, and top-quality content for SEO pays dividends both now and in the future. It's like planting a seed that grows into a healthy adult tree, providing shade long after it was sown. This enduring value proposition is what sets SEO apart from almost every other marketing tactic.
The ROI of SEO: A Game-Changer for Financial Services Marketing:
Numerous industry studies have consistently spotlighted SEO as the highest ROI-generating channel in marketing. A study specific to the Financial Services sector by First Page Sage revealed that SEO generated an ROI of over 1000%—more than double that of the next highest channel. These figures underscore the incredible potential of SEO to fuel growth and profitability.
But, like any powerful tool, SEO comes with its own set of challenges. Predicting the ROI of an SEO effort can be a challenge, mainly because SEO practitioners often can't control the entire strategy's implementation. Technical fixes may need code releases, content development can be sidelined by competing priorities, and link building requires outreach and cooperation with other websites. These challenges can create imprecision in any ROI forecast and require a number of underlying assumptions to arrive at an estimated ROI or payback period.
With a clear strategy and a commitment to long-term success, we can navigate these challenges and unlock the full potential of SEO. Business leaders are often well aware of the value of being present when a customer expresses interest. By building on this high-level understanding, savvy marketers can kick-start an SEO strategy with the aim of not ceding demand to competitors. Then, over the next 6-12 months, the quick wins and early results can generate momentum for sustained investment. This requires some trust, patience and persistence from internal stakeholders – but almost without exception – is worth the effort.
Deep-Dive into SEO: More Than Just Keywords:
SEO is not just about stuffing your website with the right keywords. It's a complex discipline that involves a variety of strategies, including technical fixes, link building, and content optimization. With the right SEO strategy, businesses can reach more potential customers, increase their website traffic, and ultimately grow their bottom-line revenue.
The Value of Quality Traffic:
One of the biggest advantages of SEO is that it increases the quality of your website traffic. With SEO, you can target specific keywords and optimize your website to attract visitors who are genuinely interested in exactly what you offer. Unlike other channels where you are, in essence, casting bait into the water hoping an interested fish swims by. With SEO, the fish is already declaring themselves hungry and in the market for your bait when they enter a query for your brand or the products you offer. This means that the traffic you get from SEO is far more likely to convert into leads and sales, making your marketing investment more effective and efficient.
SEO: A Cost-Effective Strategy:
SEO is also more affordable than other paid strategies – including paid search. While it does require a level of ongoing investment, the long-term benefits of SEO make it a cost-effective marketing strategy. Given that your investments in things like sound technical infrastructure and evergreen content will continue to pay off well into the future, an investment in SEO ends up costing cents on the dollar compared to paid media investments that cease to perform the minute your spending stops. Plus, with tools like Google Analytics and Search Console, you can easily track your SEO performance and adjust your strategies as needed, ensuring you get the most value from your spend.
Building Trust and Credibility:
Trust and credibility are crucial in any business – but especially in financial services. On-page SEO can help improve the trustworthiness of your website with Google, making it more likely to rank highly in search results. Consumers have, over time, come to expect high quality results from Google (when was the last time you saw spam sites on page one?) – so this can help establish your business's reputation and credibility with potential customers, further enhancing the effectiveness of your SEO efforts.
Improving User Experience:
Finally, SEO can help improve the user experience on your website. Search engine algorithms are designed to bring the most relevant, useful and easily accessible content to the top of the results page. By optimizing your website for SEO and improving things like site speed, navigation and internal linking, you can ensure your website is easy to navigate and provides users with a better overall experience. The added benefit is that these improvements also help search engines crawl your site more effectively and often result in significant gains in visibility and traffic.
Making Search an Integral Part of Your Digital Strategy:
As you can see, SEO is not just a nice-to-have in your digital strategy; it is a must-have. It is a channel that enables us to connect with customers who are actively seeking our services, providing long-term value that far surpasses the initial investment. In many organizations and industries, a marketing investment that pays off at a rate of 1.5 or 2 to 1 is considered a no-brainer. In the world of SEO, those figures would be considered low-end estimates! Once internal stakeholders begin to understand the immense potential that comes from a robust SEO program and strategy, it frequently becomes an evergreen part of the organization’s marketing mix. Especially when the costs of not showing up are incorporated into the internal calculus.
Search engine optimization is not merely responding to market demands. It means we are anticipating them. We are not simply reacting to customer behavior; we are shaping it. And most importantly, we are not just keeping up with the competition; we are staying one step ahead. That's the power of search, and that's why it's an essential part of your go-forward plans.
Brent Bouldin is a partner at New Media Advisors, a consulting organization focused on helping financial services organizations create sustained digital marketing success. Their emphasis is on SEO, content marketing and overall digital strategy.
Previously, Brent was the Head of Marketing at Choice Hotels International and was the Head of the Digital Marketing and Media Center of Excellence at Bank of America for almost ten years. He holds an MBA from the University of North Carolina and a BS from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
He and his family live in Charlotte, NC, USA.