SMX London Day 2 – Search Marketing for Financial Services

Guest entry from Marie Howell, Bruce Clay Europe.

Marie sent along her observations for the first panel of Day 2 of SMX London. As the week goes on, she’ll cover more from last week’s inaugural London show.

The morning kicked off with the Case Studies track looking at Search Marketing for Financial Services with great input from panellists Gillian Muessig of SEOmoz, Chris Cathcart of Bigmouth Media, Jonathon Beeston , Efficient Frontier and Aisling Blake, Interactive Return and excellent moderation, as always, from the delightful Danny Sullivan.

Chris Cathcart from Bigmouth commenced with his presentation on working in general with financial institutions and the importance of setting manageable objectives and timelines, naturally, understand the individual company proposition. Those of us who work with large financial organisations understand it is not just about loans and credit cards, it could also be sharedealing, CFD trading, credit insurance, or one of a plethora of financial services. Chris stated an essential fact of our business: it is vital to understand your client and his business. Chris then went on to suggest a vital shopping list / consideration list:

  • Do not make assumptions about the client business.
  • Who are key stakeholders?
  • How will conversion be measured?
  • What constitutes success?
  • How regular is reporting required?
  • What will communication structure be?
  • How will campaign changes be agreed?
  • What other parties are involved and can we share data?
  • How does company sit within current marketplace?

He then went on to stress how uccessful planning = successful implementation and that spending the extra time in the planning phase delivers much better ROI. Chris discussed how it is necessary to refer to objectives regularly; meet agreed objective dates; evaluate reporting / available metrics; communicate effectively with the whole team; capture campaign status regularly and stick to the plan. With that last point, I would agree to an extent: yes, stick to the overall plan, but within the plan-do-review cycle to ensure that the plan is adjusted to take into account external internal and external variances such as a new branding campaign / traditional media campaign, a fluctuation or news within that market sector, etc.

In his clear, detailed presentation, Chris stated that "review time was not relax time" – an excellent statement – where it is important to address if the objectives are being met? Can we see new objectives? Etc. The review logs performance of the campaign as a whole and allows a detailed look at progress; to investigate and understand success;
investigate anomalies / variances; look at marketplace movements – e.g. seasonality;
patterns for PPC- anything capitalise on – times of day / week greater traffic. During the review, the client will ask:

  • Were objectives / targets met?
  • What went well? Not so well?
  • Why?
  • How can we avoid similar issues?
  • What can we improve on?
  • What is the campaign evolution?

Chris reiterated the Plan – Do – Review mantra:

Plan – sets precedent for do and review – don’t be scared to ask questions of the client.
Do – clear communication between campaign team – more discussion, more actions agreed
Review – use reviews to power future planning.

Chris concluded his presentation by stating that not meeting targets is not a crime if you learn and take actions for the next review (month / quarter).

Danny next introduced the powerful Gillian Muessig, President of SEOMoz, who discussed the financial case study of the Avatar Financial Group. Although not a company with which the UK / Europe are familiar with, the company and the excellent work Gillian and her team did for the organisation set a very high standard and benchmark what customer service means.

For those who are not familiar with Avatar Financial Group, it is a national lender in the US. In 2002 it was an unknown entity, by 2004 – thanks to Gillian – it was top of the game.

Avatar makes loans for construction, land, etc. When a construction project is 80% complete (or greater) and a bridging loan is needed, they are a private lender who can help out. Apparently in the US banks are not allowed to help out at this stage of a project and only private equity firms, such as Avatar, are able to undertake this ‘higher risk’ lending. SEOMoz did print media for them, created a corporate identity, a web site, etc. and worked with them under a profit sharing agreement. She then listed some of the ways to work with financial clients:

  • Search
  • Social media
  • Email marketing
  • Melding traditional and search media

Within Search, they also did Link Building, which was a learning curve as they bought bad links and had to then repair the damage caused by that. They also created reciprocal links, but it is important to remember – who is your friend, who isn’t, why not? They linked, for example, to major aggregators within the industry.

Within Social Media they created link bait – what qualifies as relevant to individuals. For instance, the site was created in cakephp – they included a ‘how we created the site’ which interested the php community who then linked to it. They put this onto the financial site. Gillian and her team also worked to find vertical market communities and wrote articles under the name of the CEO / President of company.

They undertook email marketing for the client, which was a struggle and not something they do as core business and they worked to refine a system that worked, there, too.
The final part of the process was to meld traditional media and search media. Initial search successes were bringing calls. Unfortunately the calls weren’t converting so Gillian had an extra line put in and has the calls forwarded to the SEO offices. They answered the phone as if they were the receptionist and this allowed them to get the data they needed and, where Avatar was not the most appropriate lender, could recommend the brokers on to other companies. This soon gave Avatar the name as the company which could help. Traditionally, hard money – non conforming loans which charge higher interest rates – was seen to be the province of hard edge, grumpy men. Suddenly Avatar became helpful, passing leads to someone who could help. This earned them a great reputation and Avatar became the first stop for brokers.

In concluding her highly intriguing and intelligent presentation, Gillian identified the main lesson learned from this client: success is dependent on performance in all sectors. Avatar had nothing for 18 months then SEOmoz picking up the phone was what started to turn campaign around.

Jonathon Beeston and Aisling Blake went on to make their superb presentations using and as case studies to conclude an interesting and very informative session.

As an audience we want to hear about the successes of clients and how campaigns can go from strength to strength, after a little thought, time, care and ‘pro-activeness’. Although I have heard Rand speak many times – and thoroughly enjoyed his sessions – I have never been fortunate enough to be able to attend one by his ‘boss’. For me, Gillian Muessig gave one of the best presentations of the conference and I was thoroughly impressed with the way she was open, honest and frank about challenges in the project and how she, ultimately, overcame them with this client to a resounding success.

Susan Esparza is former managing editor at Bruce Clay Inc., and has written extensively for clients and internal publications. Along with Bruce Clay, she is co-author of the first edition of Search Engine Optimization All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies.

See Susan's author page for links to connect on social media.

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