The Financial Value of Understanding User Intent for Financial Services

Everyone approaches a search engine with a specific intention and the experience of each search will almost always be unique. Successful SEO is built on an understanding of what searchers are looking for and getting in front of them where it matters. With this in mind, the searchers intent becomes all important. This is easily done for small local businesses, it’s pretty easy to guess what I’m after with a Google search for “Mechanics Glasgow” after all, but what about larger businesses and enterprises? How can you be sure you’re getting in front of potential customers when they are ready to buy, sign up or book? Understanding what they are looking for is the best place to start.

For a business like banking, this becomes even more crucial. Building your SEO strategy around big search volume phrases like “Credit Cards” or “Current Accounts” may seem like a no-brainer and the temptation to chase keywords that see hundreds of thousands of searches a month might be a little hard to ignore. But do you really know exactly what I’m looking for when I search “Banks”? The answer is almost always no, and you’re almost guaranteed to be wasting countless hours and resources getting pages to rank for these terms.

For large scale financial industries like banks, categorizing users by their intent and ensuring that content is optimized to meet the intent of these users is essential for getting product pages in front of potential customers and creating financially valuable traffic. But what type of searchers are out there?

Ambiguous

These are often short search queries with very little intent behind them. The type of person performing a search like this probably doesn’t even know what they are really looking for out of this search and are most likely looking for a general overview on a topic that they are starting to investigate for the first time. Let’s look at a search for “Current Accounts” for instance.

Inevitably the top of the search results is dominated by Ads. A broad term with a high search volume like this will be one of the most competitive SERPs to rank well for and generally, when it comes to competition, if it’s true for PPC it’s true for SEO. But once we reach the organic results the true intention of a search like this one becomes more apparent.

Google will often display a variety of results for searches like this and some of them may be personalized based on a user’s previous searches. Often though Google will display a “people also ask” section to help the user narrow down their search and get them to the answer they are looking for quickly. However, with financial products, the top result for broad ambiguous terms will regularly be comparison lists and more often than not search terms like these come from users at the top of the conversion “funnel” and pose a challenge when it comes to ranking.

Navigational

These are search terms that will show clear intent and will often be a branded keyword with the sole purpose of reaching your company’s website. It's important to remember the high value this presents to the company being searched but it also presents opportunities for competitors to use paid Ads to try and get a user to navigate away from your page.

It is important that the pages that you are ranking here are immediately useful to users based on the keywords that they have included in their search. For instance, “Clydesdale Bank Current Account Apply Online” shows a really obvious intent and likewise, the page that a user reaches on the back of this search should be quick to get the user to the first step of applying for a new account.

Users at this stage will be at the very end of the funnel and will have most likely done research on which account they would like to open before deciding on yours. Optimising the pages you are targeting this term for to load quickly and be easy to navigate will be crucial, whereas targeting terms like “best current account” or “Fee-free current account” will be less important.

Information or “Know” Queries

The user here will be looking for some information on a product or a certain feature of a product and how it works. For instance, “What are the benefits of an interest-only mortgage” opens up the opportunity for business to try and direct a potential customer to their interest only mortgage page through the use of an information page that first answers their query. With these pages, the important thing to remember is to make sure the content you are using answers the query with the level of detail required while remembering to include a call to action inviting the user to follow a link to the product page. There’s a variety of ways that users can pose similar questions and there may be a lot you can cover, so a tool like ask the public can be useful for building keyword lists.

Users here may also be looking to compare products. Normally these results pages will be dominated by comparison websites and can be quite difficult to rank for, but they also pose a lot of value to banks and similar business as it is reaching a customer while they are actively shopping about for a product. With this in mind, many banks main product pages will target terms like “Compare Business Accounts” or “What is the best Current Account” by positioning the product page as a comparison of their own products. This is often a more effective tactic in reaching a potential customer than targeting ambiguous terms.

Understanding the Financial Value of Intent

Overall, whether it’s financial services that you are looking to offer to search users or another similar competitive enterprise where it’s difficult to work with a niche, understanding what your searchers intent is will be essential to an effective SEO strategy and the content you are using to target your keywords. When considering the tangible financial value a keyword offers your business, intent should be at the forefront of your considerations. Making sure you clearly understand the intent behind each of the keywords you are targeting will be as simple as regularly reviewing the existing content of your competitors for those terms and ensuring your content does an even better job of answering the question. Sticking to these principles ensures valuable and engaged traffic to your site.