Last Friday I attended the Search Marketing for Financial Services session at SMX-London. This session was moderated by Danny Sullivan.

The first presenter to take the stage was Chris Cathcart of BigMouthMedia, with a presentation on best practices for financial service companies

He started by talking about the status of the marketplace as it currently stands:

  • There has been greater online adoption
  • Expenses have increased (most likely due to the first point)
  • There are more diverse strategies being adopted in the market as companies try to both differentiate themselves, and identify the strategy that works for them
  • There has been a gradual acceptance of new technologies

He then talked about the 3 stages of an online campaign - Plan, Execute, and Review.

Set the foundations - Planning

  • Set manageable objectives
  • Agree timelines
  • Agree targets
  • Agree reportable metrics
  • Understand the proposition
  • Questions to ask (no assumptions)
    • Who are the key stakeholders
    • How will the campaign be measured
    • What's a success?
    • How regular is reporting required?
    • What's the communication structure?
    • How will you agree on campaign changes?
    • What other parties are involved? How will data be shared?


  • Successful planning leads to successful implementation
  • Refer to objectives regularly
  • Meet agreed objective dates
  • Evaluate reporting
  • Communicate effectively
  • Capture campaign status regularly
  • Stick to the plan!


  • Log performance of campaign as a whole
  • Review objectives
  • Investigate and understand success
  • Investigate anomalies / variances
  • Marketplace movements
  • Patterns

Do a post review assessment

  • What worked, what didn't, how can you avoid problems next time?
  • Not meeting targets is not a crime if you learn and take action

The next presenter was Gillian Muessig from SEOmoz. Gillian walked through a case study on Avatar Financial Group, a B2B financial group that was a client they took on under a revenue sharing agreement. She was quite blunt about some mistakes that they made early on in the campaign, but demonstrated that those mistakes were learning opportunities, and taken as such. They did link building, and had their most success with some link bait titled "21 things I learned about CakePHP", an article that had no relevance to the operations of the client, outside of it being used in the development of their site. They also worked with specialty vertical sites in the financial industry to get people to come over to the site (not just to generate links).

After 18 months the campaign hadn't really worked, so SEOmoz decided that they needed to get more intimate data than they were currently gathering. They offered to answer the phones for the client and talk first hand to the customers. Once they did that, they were able to identify roadblocks, and identify how the brand should best be targeted. They were then able to create a consistent brand, and establish a reputation for reliability for the client.

For this client they also did some email marketing, and Gillian presented some findings from that effort. Firstly get the focus set, there should only be one piece of information per email. Secondly, get the frequency right - not too often, not too infrequent. For this client, they determined that 3 weeks to a month was the sweet spot. The final finding was on follow up, which they determined to be 1-1/2 to 2 weeks after initial contact.

Jonathan Beeston of Efficient Frontier was the next presenter to step forward. He presented a case study on He recommended a full examination of the long tail, it may be hard and time consuming, but it is worth it in the end. He also recommended examining your portfolio as a whole, and not limiting yourself by applying rules and goals to individual keywords. Taking the holistic approach allows you to apply your budget in the areas where it'll bring in the best return.

When examining their campaigns they tested, tested, and tested the following:

  • Keyword generation
  • Ad copy writing
  • Match type expansion
  • Negative keywords
  • More restructuring and refinement
  • Landing page optimization
  • Content network optimization - don't just tick the box, set up an new campaign targeted specifically for the content network
  • Simulation and forecasting

As a result of this, they've seen a click out value increase of 320% and a reduction in CPA by 86%.

The last presenter of this session was Aisling Blake of Interactive Return with a case study on Europe's biggest online B2C Banks - RaboDirect. She talked about how dynamic keyword insertion has worked well in their PPC ads, and how branded search queries really follow their TV ads. She also recommended doing PPC ads, even if your brand has strong organic results, as it's a reconfirmation of the strength of your brand and prevents others from bidding and leeching your customers. She recommended looking at less expensive niche terms, as those longer tail terms are less expensive, and carry less competition. RaboDirect also has had great success by responding to events, such as the current problems in the UK banking industry. They've also done well with link baiting, which has been helped by the quirky image of the brand.

November 29, 2007

Simon Heseltine is the Director of Search at Serengeti Communications a McLean, Virginia based digital marketing agency specializing in search engines, social media, word of mouth, Blogs and RSS, digital PR, and online media & advertising for a wide range of clients in both the nonprofit and commercial sectors.

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Search Engine Guide > Simon Heseltine > SMX London Coverage: Search Marketing for Financial Services