financial marketing

SEO in the Forex Broker space

 

The FX space is competitive. Very competitive. Top brokers post earnings in the hundreds of millions per year and the total retail market volume is almost $5 trillion a month. FXCM and Forex.com alone spent more than $17 million on advertising in Q1. Publishers the better for it (FXstreet posted earnings of 515K a month) – there is a huge incentive to do well in the search engines’ organic results. This post looks at the SEO efforts of GFT Forex, Forex.com, FXCM and Oanda, four well known US forex brokers.

Comparison

Below table shows the total number of links, and the total number of linking root domains by broker (one domain can have more than one link).

 

As you can see, link-wise, GFT is clearly doing the worst out of these. FXCM and Forex.com are running head to head and Oanda trailing a bit behind. However, if you look at it on a domain level, Oanda clearly pulls ahead (more below).

The same picture is shown in the search results, below rankings for these brokers on some of the top FX-related keywords:

FXCM

FXCM get’s some of its most important links from DailyFX.com. DailyFX is FXCM’s publishing site which attracts a large audience of forex traders (and links from a huge amount of publishers). I’ve talked about this a few times and it shows that besides using the publishing site for advertising, brand building and pr purposes it is also a great SEO strategy. FXCM also own quite a few sites they link to their main site.

Forex.com

Forex.com (GAIN capital) has a great domain – it’s a category killer and it gives them an ‘unfair’ advantage in the search engines. Every time anyone links to their site, it’s a ‘vote’ for the keyword Forex, besides the fact that an exact match domain is seen as a sign of quality by the search engines. Besides this, they have bought a few links on important financial sites as well as a large amount of lower quality links with the anchor text ‘Forex’ and ‘Forex.com’.

Oanda

Oanda’s search engine strategy is different. They use a subdomain for their main brokerage business (which seems strange given it brings the majority of revenue) which can be found at fxtrade.oanda.com. Their front-page is basically an SEO pre-page with links to link bait and inner pages with correct anchor text. They seem to have built their entire internet presence around SEO, which explains the fact that they have never really done any advertising yet manage to be the 6th largest broker in the world. The majority of their links come from bought and sought links for currency converter tools which are easier to get than links straight to a brokerage company, they then pass that link equity to their brokerage page at fxtrade.oanda.com with appropriate anchor text. There’s also few bought/built links to that subdomain.

GFT Forex

GFT has recently started a strategy like FXCM in launching FX360.com but they are not fully utilising it for SEO purposes.  They don’t seem to have many bought/sought inbound links which explains their lagging behind the competition in the search engines. Not much to say since they don’t seem to do much for SEO (which explains their rankings)

How can these companies improve their rankings?

Out of all of these, it seems FXCM has its house in order most. If they were to rebrand their brokerage domain to CurrencyTrading.com (hint: it’s seems to be for sale) or FXtrading.com (also for sale) they would be able to catch up to GAIN capital’s Forex.com (note that forex.com is a brand, not the company name). I would not recommend going with a short ‘Forex’ domain since that would cause brand confusion (even though ForexCM would work with their brand, it is too similar to the competition).

Forex.com should do something about its link profile, they should focus on getting high quality links instead of the many low quality ones they have currently. I would recommend they look into building a property (that is either officially their site or not) and use that to link build the lower quality links (ofcourse building this publication branded GAIN/Forex.com would also have other benefits).

GFT has lots to improve. Their publishing domain FX360 has no ‘proper’ links to the GFT company site, their homepage has very little relevantly anchored links either and they haven’t secured many good inbound links.

Oanda has their house in order but my personal opinion is that they would do better if they didn’t work with different subdomains. The way they are currently link building there is an unnecessary layer between the properties and it makes their brokerage business get less benefits from their currency rate links. I would put everything on the same subdomain. Also – not SEO related – their homepage doesn’t seem to be catered for the majority of their visitors which are looking for the broker…not the currency rate tool. They have a blog which they should also link to more from their homepage (there is a top bar that should be anchored ‘Forex Blog’ and linked to that site).

Conclusions

Ok, a short and not very in depth or scientific discussion of the FX brokerage field and their SEO efforts. I hope it gives a good overview of the industry and the different strategies out there. I think the strategy of building a content site to attract links and build broader links to and then linking to the main sell site with tight anchor text is a good SEO strategy. Couple this with a great domain, good on-site SEO (ie having the relevant front-page links and inner pages) and quality links to the main site and you have a winning strategy. Execution is another question all together – I’ll save my thoughts on that for a later time.

If you have any questions, comment below or find my contact details on Google (search for ‘Bart Burggraaf’).

 

Deaf Mutes

“Advertising is a business of words, but advertising agencies are infested with men and women who cannot write. They cannot write advertisements, and they cannot write plans. They are helpless as deaf mutes on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. ” David Ogilvy

Stop sending me Press Releases!

Giving the financial media something to talk about is more than sending a press release about your boring feature/hiring/award/new product to 12.000 journalists. Sure, it works for SEO – adding links from auto feeder blogs and the like – and for showing journalists and clients something is happening in your company, but almost never does a journalist write more than 10 words about your PR. If it was a story worth writing, you wouldn’t have to put out a formal PR for it.

The solution often is to do ‘something’ together with the media. For instance, at one major financial company, I organised an industry wide survey together with some key media partners. In return for promoting the survey (and the brand!) in editorial and banners, writing about the results (and linking to the company site!) I gave them some money and promised to cross-promote their brands in all publicity around the survey.

The client got around 3000 survey completions (which is a big chunk of the whole market), but more importantly, a good amount of leads that saw the survey promotion and decided they wanted to check out the trading platform. Lastly, the financial company got quoted in a number of important main stream financial publications and gained much good will and credibility in the market. All at a very low cost.

Besides surveys, you could do a conference, give away, webinar or other event. There are many ways to do this, and as long as the program has a connection to your product almost always make direct financial sense (as opposed to indirect, where you calculate the value of good will etc) not in the last case because media will barter cheap promotion and editorial for cross exposure.

If you have any questions, comment below or find my contact details on Google (search for ‘Bart Burggraaf’).

Changing your Marketing Strategy – and the Pretty PowerPoint to back it up.

Yes, you could hire an expensive market research consultancy. No one ever got fired for treating their boss to a 100 slide powerpoint on What a Genius Strategy you are currently pursuing. Nothing has to change, keep calm and carry on.

But if you’re ready to do some corporate-style soul searching, the tools to do so are readily available. It’s a good idea to schedule a whole day twice a year to do this research properly but I suggest you take a few minutes each day to keep up as well. So without further ado, here’s the skinny:

1. Listen where your target audience talks

Blogs, forums, social networks – the magic triangle of customer feedback. They are easy to find, just search for phrases like ‘top * blogs about xxx’ or ‘xx forum’ or look for ‘xx directory’.  What is your audience saying about you? About your competitors? About your product category? Make some notes as to the specific aspects of products they discuss (both positively and negatively) and save the links.  Also Google for your company name + review and note what it says.

2. Read industry sites and magazines

If you’ve been in the industry for a while I’m sure you know the publications that everyone in the industry reads. If you don’t, ask some colleagues or your industries’ association.  When you get your hands on these publications, take a look and see who is advertising and what USP’s they are focussing on , who gets quoted in articles and what about, what topics are discussed that are frequently focus pieces and – most importantly – make notes of what direction the industry and your individual competitors are going.

3. Understand the media landscape

What does your audience read? Do you have enough of a marketing budget to brand yourself in the heads of your entire target audience? Or do you just want to be there when they want to buy the service you provide?

You should find out what the strategy of your competitors is (and what messages they focus on). Online, this is easy. Have a look at the doubleclick ad planner tool. It allows you to search by category and keyword often searched by visitors of certain sites, look for sites that have similar visitors etc. Doing this you might find out that people that search for ‘Forex’ are found on fxfisherman, forex-tsd, actionforex etc.

It basically gives you a complete list of all important industry media. Be sure to look for several variations of your main keywords (ie look for FX, Currency and foreign exchange as well as Forex). When visiting those sites, make notes of all the banners and the USP’s they mention. Click on the banners and read the articles to get further info.

 Secondly, have  a look at Google’s ad preview tool. It allows you to see your competitors’ search ads by market, and is a great tool to see what USP’s work and which don’t. After all, a good search marketer keeps on testing, and chances are that the top advertisers have done plenty of testing and refining of their messaging.

4. Get your competitors to market to you

Go to the sites of all your competitors. Sign up for their newsletter and see how they market to you. Write down all the good stuff.

5. Talk to your sales people

What objections to your product are most common? What counter arguments do your salespeople use? Advertising is salesmanship in print (to steal a famous line) so your salespeople are usually a treasure trove of marketing related information about your company, your competitors and your target market. Ask them what their perfect customer would be. Ask them what changes they would do to the product (if there were no limitations) to ensure they make the sale to that customer.

6. Get competitors over for a job interview

Ok, this one is not for everyone, but I know several companies that employ this tactic for competitive research and a fresh look to their business model. You might end up hiring the person as well. Be sure to be frank about your intentions, and mention you are not necessarily looking for someone right away, if that’s the case.

7. Look at your numbers – understand them

Can you quantify your sales funnel? At what point do people drop off? Have your sales people call them and ask why. Take a look at your client base. Which 20% are bringing 80% of the profits? Find out what they have in common both on paper and in one-to-one interviews. Where did these people hear of you? What made them become a client of your company? Plenty to learn.

8. Brainstorming about cows that are different

The most successful companies (some would say the only successful companies) are the ones that are remarkable – at least at first. Those are the ones that shake up industries and shift paradigms. Now, we live in the real world, with real limits to how much a company can reinvent itself. But even if you don’t change in such a radical manner, thinking about it in this way allows you to see what direction you could possibly go.

Now, with all of the notes you made on unique selling points, media, competitors and clients, you must now have a good idea of what it would take to really shake the industry up. What competitors are already very different? Is there a position you could take that hits your ideal client and is markedly different than competitors? What would it take to get there? If you do, you might become a  Purple Cow’, as Seth Godin calls it.

9. Test a few new strategies

Don’t change everything over night. Even though you have a gut feeling this will work and half the office is cheerleading you, try to test a few combinations. I hear you think ‘how?’ across the intraweb.

Well, an easy way is to build a few landingpages with the new positions front and center, and sending PPC traffic there (not branded with your company name). When people sign up, send them to a page that explains that your product is not currently available and apologize for the inconvenience. Ask if they would be interested in answering a few questions and find out what made them interested. Take a look at the conversion rates  for each landingpage and collect their feedback. Then pick one or two strategies and discuss them with your ideal clients.

10. Make a pretty PowerPoint

Once all done, it’s time to make that fancy PowerPoint. It will make your boss happy. That’s all for now folks. Kick some competitor ass.

(drop me a line if you have any additional tactics!)

Public relations and social media marketing in financial services

These days financial services rely more on big marketing than ever in order to differentiate their products in an already overcrowded market. Their prospective customers are lost in a myriad of logos, brochure website and other corporate communication material that really all look the same. In order to distinguish themselves financial products companies need to resort to thought leadership strategies.

Thought leadership strategies revolve around content like research and commentary but also the “inside story” of the company, viewpoints on the industry; really anything interesting to your target audience will do. In order to reach them in the place that they are looking for you (your site) it is best to start a blog area, or further integrate the content into your site.

Once you have quality content distributing it is the easy part. One of the most popular ways of doing it these days is by social media outreach, but good old public relations (i.e. press outreach) will do as well.

About Me

Thoughts on Direct and Online Marketing in the Financial Industry. By Bart Burggraaf. Bart is MD/Partner at MGL, a London based Financial Services Marketing Agency. The posts on this blog are the personal opinions of Bart Burggraaf and not the official view point of MGL or any of it's clients.