Rebooting ranking factors based on machine-learning technology should not come as a surprise, but findings from research released in June confirm that marketers can no longer rely solely on general search and content optimization strategies to help content rank higher on Google. As machine learning becomes smarter, it changes the requirements.
This particular study focuses on financial institutions, but the concept can be applied across the board.
Searchmetrics analysts pored over the top 20 Google search results for more than 6,000 finance-related keywords, including terms such as "mortgage rates," "insurance," and "foreign exchange," to identify the most commonly occurring themes, ranking factors, and times when finance-related information becomes more prevalent.
The research summarized in the white paper Finance Ranking Factors – Data Insights for Performing on Google are intended to make sense of industry-specific factors commonly found on financial services Web sites that rank higher in searches, specifically on Google.
It's no secret that consumers research products online before they buy. Seventy-four percent of insurance shoppers go online to get information first.
Relevant content becomes even more important in financial services than in other sectors, per the findings. Financial services content that ranks higher in Google searches is 50% more relevant to the entered search query.
Searchmetrics also found the top-ranking financial Web site pages load a second faster than other high-ranking pages and may even use fewer images and videos.
The analysis also found that financial services-related Web pages use the searched keyword or phrase far less in the text than other Web sites that rank high, so performing well in search relies even less on creating content that repeats keywords entered by searchers.
It turns out that higher-ranking content related to financial services use the searched keyword three times less frequently in the body text than high-ranking content in the benchmark study. Across the first 20 positions, the keyword only appears on the page 2.1 times, whereas for general search queries the overall average is 7.4: more than three times as many.
Repeating the same words can come across as unnatural and it's likely that in financial services searches Google is putting even greater emphasis on rewarding sites that provide content that is easy to understand and uses natural language to answer searchers’ questions.
When it comes to buttons and interactive elements that lead site visitors to other parts of the site, pare back. Pages that tend to rank high in financial services have 29% fewer buttons, menus or other interactive elements that can lead visitors to other parts of the site. Searchmetrics suggests putting the focus, when it comes to finance, on helping visitors absorb the content on the current page.
People are 70% more likely to share or engage with on LinkedIn for those pages ranking high on Google, but they are less popular on Facebook.
This column was previously published in the Search Insider on June 9, 2017.