Whether you’re in the financial industry or any other industry, you should recognise the importance of having an optimised website that works for you. If not then you’d best continue to read this post. If you don’t see the importance then you’re probably underestimating how useful having a website can be. As always, planning comes first when it comes to your financial services website.
A good website serves as a way of educating site visitors. The whole goal of inbound marketing is to get visitors to keep returning to your site, to help convert those that are ready to become a customer. It should target visitors at each step of the buyer's journey. But what should you keep in mind when planning your new website? Here we've put together 5 5 things to consider when planning your financial Services website. This is by no means everything, but they're key things that people often forget about.
So you want a new website? What should it include?
If you want a new website, whether you want one built from scratch or you know that your existing website is in dire need of a redesign, how should you approach it? What things must I remember to include?
First, you should have a think about your site’s content. You need a landing page, of course, one that captures visitors attention, and directs them to other pages.
The 5 key things that we'll be going over are the following:
1. Make it visual:
People crave images video and anything that they can look at. Large volumes of text with little or no images scream 'DON'T READ ME!' at your website visitors.
2. Blog and Content:
Blogging and producing things like ebooks, webinars etc. help to educate and promote whilst also allowing you to get hold of peoples details. Building a relevant list of leads for email marketing is a vital element of the inbound methodology.
3. Good copywriting:
As people scan more on the internet and read less, you need to focus on writing your content well. How many times have you scanned something on the internet and wished they’d cut out the waffle?
4. Social media accounts
Social media is vital. Remember that old Twitter account you used once but quickly gave up on? You will have to take full advantage of it for promoting your content offerings.
Analytics is a must. Set time aside to look at how hard your site is working for you. It allows you to see clearly what sort of content is scoring the biggest views, and how people are finding you.
All of these things are necessary parts of making a great website. It can seem like quite an undertaking and it is, initially. But think about this. Your website is there for all to see 24/7, 365 days a year. And it doesn't ask for sick days. Having a good website that works for you can yield huge benefits for your business and it's true that you get out what you put in. Let us take a look at these 5 points in greater depth.
1. Make it visual!
A home page should ideally have a lot of visual content. One that just offers text will just send visitors back to their search results. Other pages (such as your about us or services pages) will undoubtedly have more text, especially if your business is in the financial sector, but still, you must prioritise good images and, if you can, video.
How much better is it when you go to do some online shopping and you find a site with large, clear images than when you find one with small, ugly images? Whether you're a broker or an IFA, there's plenty of visual things you can do. Clear infographics, videos discussing case studies, photos of your office. All these things provide some visual stimulus and break up your text. Be sure not to neglect them.
Tip: Make it as visual as possible. We process images 60,000 times faster than text.
2. Remember the blog
You may be wondering ‘why do I need to blog?’ You may think that it would be boring but banish that thought. If you’re good at your job, and passionate about delivering results for your clients, you can and should write interesting blog articles.
Tip: Anyone with their ear to the ground in the financial industry can write a blog.
It’s not just about producing content to intrigue on interest. Blogging and producing any sort of content, serves to position you and your business as an authority on financial matters. It reflects the value of your company and if a visitor is set on employing someone in your field, good content shows them that you know your stuff, a reassures them that you are an expert in financial matters.
Search engines also prioritise websites that produce content over those that don't. They look for how it is being shared across the web, and it’s vitally important to have a regularly updated blog to rank highly.
3. Good copywriting
Your page content should be well organised, directing people to learn more about your company and your services. It has to be as concise as possible and structured appropriately with titles and subheadings. Formatting and clear typography support this element and you can read more about that here.
If you are in the financial services industry, you will certainly have a lot of text to include in your site, so you need to make sure it is well written. You can undertake this task yourself, so plan to spend a few afternoons or evening writing it out, then rewrite it and edit, edit, edit.
Some people really enjoy this process but if you don't or you simply don't have time to spend writing up your content you can get a copywriter to do it for you. Copywriters specialising in different fields can be found with ease, so there's no excuse for poorly written content. And spell check it. Always spell-check it. Please, PLEASE, spell check it.
4. Dust off your social media accounts
Remember that old Twitter account you used once but quickly gave up on? You will have to take full advantage of it for promoting your content offerings. Set up your company account, and start following people in your industry. Every time you publish a blog post, offer an ebook or white paper, plan a webinar, you must tweet about it. Include hashtags for relevant topics, #finance for example. Over time you will see your followers increasing. It also allows you a great way to interact with other figures in the industry, and these sorts of relationships and referrals will serve greatly to increase traffic to your website.
Tip: Don't underestimate the power of social media and get savvy. It's not just for teenagers and selfies!
LinkedIn is a great tool for professional connections, chances are you have it already but you may not be maximising its potential. All posts you add to your blog, insights or anything should be posted on LinkedIn, in order to promote yourself as an authority on financial affairs.
Setting up analytics allows you to see a variety of things. How frequently people visit or return to your site, how they’re finding you, what content is scoring the most views and conversions. This allows you to see what things are working for you and what isn’t, allowing you to pinpoint what interests people most. Gone are the days of just throwing things out there and seeing what sticks, we’re talking constant feedback and providing a much more tailored, scientific approach.
The tricky bit is knowing how to interpret the data. This can take some time to get to grips with but take it from us, it's worth it. Yes, it can seem like death by data, but learning how to view it and extract the relevant information will help you constantly review your site performance. If you are in charge of your companies site and you need to justify implementing change, then the data is there to support you.
Tip: Overcome the fear of data and learn how to interpret it, allowing you to see what things are most engaging.
These are just a few of the things you need to be thinking about when you start planning a new site. Getting organised and planning how you will develop a site that works hard for you is a vital stage in revising your online presence. The website is the most accessible part of your company and a poor one makes you look bad by association.
Financial businesses are often lacking in their web offerings, but it’s a vital extension of your business. It’s totally normal to be slightly intimidated by the scale of such an undertaking, and we are more than willing to help alleviate this. We offer complete web design services and inbound marketing that covers content and strategy, but if you’re hell-bent on doing this yourself, it’s important to realise that you shouldn’t just have a website ‘because you probably should.’ Make it work hard for you and it will pay dividends in the long term, becoming an indispensable asset to your company.
To help business owners, I've put together a few tips for improving their sites, making them more engaging and work harder for them to generate leads and customers.
On the websites, I came across I took a look around to check the following points. The overall design, calls-to-action (CTA’s) and landing pages (or lack thereof), blogs, social media, and any other regularly posted content. There was a distinct lack of inbound strategy, let alone any sort of strategy, and many of the businesses I came across had rather dated looking websites.
I delved deeper into site performance using Hubspot’s website grader in order to look at site performance, responsiveness, and SEO optimisation. As I said before, gone are the days of just designing a site and handing it over to a marketer to promote it and create content. There needs to be an integrated strategy for making a website design function well and enhance the content that’s uploaded.
So let's get into some tips for improving the site of your financial service business…
Lack of calls-to-action and landing pages
When so many independent financial advisors embark on their solo careers knowing that the success or failure of their business will come down to raising their profile throughout their network, it’s alarming how few utilise effective calls to action and landing pages to generate leads. It’s an inbound marketing fundamental but few people do it. It’s a great way to start a conversation with website visitors and will allow you to contact them again in the future.
Tip: Click here to read more on inbound strategy for the financial services industry.
Aurea Financial Planning has 3 CTA’s on their home page, but without any way to allow visitors to register their email address, they fail to capitalise on people clicking on them and collecting their contact information, therefore losing the opportunity to build a lead base. If they regularly post content and insights to educate visitors, and put together things such as ebooks or white papers, they'd be able to boost traffic and capture information about their visitors.
Of course, you can't develop a good inbound strategy without…
Content creation and blogging are so important for generating traffic and leads. Still, less than 15% of financial advisors are blogging, those that are we found, are not blogging effectively.
A lot of business owners think blogging is a pointless exercise, a waste of their valuable time or they just think their posts would be boring. This is simply not true and needs debunking.
They know their industry, what their clients are after and are passionate about delivering results for clients and themselves. Think of it this way, if you're good at what you do and you're passionate about your work, why wouldn't you want to talk about it?
Tip: Don’t treat your blog as a way for promotion, treat it as a way of offering visitors useful, educational information that they’ll come back again for more.
Of course, I use blogging as an important example, but they're far more things that can go under the umbrella term 'content':
- Cheat Sheets
- Email Subscriptions
- SlideShare Presentations
Blogging and producing content brings visitors to your site. Search engines prioritise sites that produce content and share that content around the web, so let’s look at an example.
Paradigm Norton is a financial firm based in Bristol and they regularly produce educational and promotional content that serves to offer something for visitors in any stage of the buyer's journey. They produce content ranging from financial advice, analysis of the Chancellor’s latest budget and the plummeting Chinese Market’s. They’re not telling you to buy their services, but validating themselves as an authority figure on anything financial.
Visitors could be looking around for a financial advisor or just researching whether or not they have the need for one, so even if they’re not at a purchasing stage, they can still find informative content that puts Paradigm Norton on their radar. The fact that they also have video and are one of the few sites I came across that make good use of visual content is a bonus, and leads me onto…
Branding and tone
The quality of your website reflects the quality of your business. From the moment someone visits your site they’re evaluating you and you want to ensure everything they see communicates the same message.
Tip: A good site that blends ease of use with good content and visual appeal will position your business above those with dated, poor websites.
A business that could benefit from addressing its outdated website is Heron House Financial Management Ltd. They should see the website for the potential asset that it is, something that could be working for them 24/7. However, the poor choice, placement, and scale of images, combined with the dated design exhibited by their website definitely work against them.
Another key thing I want to address regarding financial services sites is that they generally have a lot of text. That’s fine, but when so much content is text-based, copywriting and tone of voice have a large role to play in the holistic view of a financial company. On the internet, you have really less than 5 seconds to try and catch a viewers attention. Catchy headlines and images throughout the text are a great way to draw people in. People tend to scan more on the web and read less so bear this in mind when formatting text for the web.
Give your copy the attention it warrants and makes sure it is as engaging and informative as it can be without being long-winded. Break it up using appropriate subheadings and punctuate the text with key points or pull quotes. It will certainly help to increase engagement and avoid the dreaded ‘DON’T READ ME’ label that we attach to huge bodies of text.
Tip: The tone of your copywriting is a vital element. A friendly and authoritative tone shows professionalism and builds trust.
The Layout of text is something I’ve talked about before, and I seem to keep talking about. It just seems like such a basic thing to get right, when you want to do everything within your power to encourage visitors to stay on your site and move around.
Skerrit's Chartered Financial Planners have a website with a lot of copy but a combination of small type and the issue of white text on a black background make it an unpleasant viewing experience at best, incredibly strenuous to view at worst. White on black can work but you should use it sparingly. Having all the main content of the site like this causes legibility problems and makes the reader have to work harder. Not a good message to send out when you want your site to generate and convert leads.
Responsiveness is not an option
Making a site responsive has been considered good practice for a while now. But with the exponential growth of mobile browsing, it’s now a necessity. According to the ExactTarget 2014 Mobile Behaviour Report; 27% of consumers will leave a site if it is not optimised for mobile, and 67% of people are of the opinion that Mobile-optimised sites run faster.
Still, think you don’t need to get on board with responsive design?
It’s not just web design but responsive email too. Email opens on smartphones and tablets have increased by 80% between January and June 2015. That’s a phenomenal increase and if you can’t create an email newsletter that works as well on someone's phone as on their desktop, you’re making it harder and harder to gain customers. Your search ranking on Google will also be higher if your site is responsive.
John Lamb, an independent firm of Chartered Financial Planners, have a responsive site. Aesthetic issues aside, the responsiveness works fairly well. The navigation bar could be displayed better and it could be optimised further, but the website grader gave it a 30 out of 30 for responsiveness.
With the numerous ways of making a website nowadays, even if you’re using a ready-made website theme, it’s easy to find one that works across all devices. There really isn’t an excuse for not having one now.
There really such an opportunity for financial services businesses to grow their company utilising web design and content marketing strategy, and yet there are surprisingly few that seize the chance. These examples help to illustrate how things can be done well and how to spot room for improvement. Inbound is all about promoting good content organically and it can’t really do that without a website that works well and is properly optimised.
The thing about web design is that when it’s done well, visitors barely notice it. If it’s done badly, they really notice it.