With this evolution of SEO and the industry's own turtle-like speed of innovation and adoption, it's easy to see that financial firms might be more prone to errors. Let's take a look at some of the biggest missteps and why they occur.

Do Once, Then Done – Experts often say people who tiptoe into SEO think of it as something they do once, rather than as an ongoing strategy. SEO and related content are fundamental to any online presence. Everyone who's contributing to the publishing process online – whether it's editorial or marketing – needs to be mindful of SEO, says Hearst's Gosch.

Focus on Paid Search – Citi's Frank Eliason says that many times firms focus on paid search. The problem, he points out, is that search terms then get bid up a great deal. For example, take the term credit cards. Say a consumer – you – conducts a search for the best credit cards. Naturally, you want good, relevant content coming to the top so you can move on to find that card. But, Eliason says, too often the industry has been focused on paid search in which firms pay to buy a word or phrase – credit cards – so that when you perform that search, their firm's offer will appear first. This focus on paid ads, says Eliason, isn't helping the customer: “We're not good at thinking like a customer; we think more like a company.” Better ways to think about search would be to consider why the customer is looking for a credit card in the first place: “I have a bill coming up,” or, “I'm frustrated with an existing provider.” By failing to think about the customer and focusing instead on paid search, firms will (a) spend more money and (b) fail to address specific consumer needs which could be addressed through free and/or educational content. See Figure 22.2.

A Search for Credit Cards Reveals Many Paid Ads

FIGURE 22.2 A Search for Credit Cards Reveals Many Paid Ads

Low-Hanging Fruit – Bill Winterberg, certified financial planner and founder of financial tech news source FPPad, says another common mistake is simply not addressing the low-hanging fruit. Examples of simple mistakes that could be addressed quickly include:

■ Leveraging and sharing existing content, as discussed earlier.

■ Failing to take existing content and make it searchable. One example: failing to put text around images, which by their nature, cannot be found in search engines.

■ Having titles that don't get to the heart of the content or consumer's questions.

Now that we've talked about some of the mistakes when it comes to being SEO-friendly, let's move on to how to make your content a friend of search engines.

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