How to Bring Functional Content to Life

How to Ensure Functional Finance Content is Engaging

Jade Lamb 5 years ago

Financial content doesn’t have to be dry, serious and well... boring. You can write for the financial industry while keeping it light, informative and knowledgeable, providing people with engaging content that leads them to using your service or buying into your product. This post is for those working in the financial industry, starting fresh when it comes to creating engaging content for the site.

Zazzle Media has written for a number of financial clients over the years and has seen great success with the points below. Feel free to use this post to inform your work moving forward, to ensure you’re writing the content your potential customers need and want, as well as hitting your own targets.

Here’s what to consider when writing financial content:

  1. Have you considered EAT and YMYL?
  2. Who are you writing for?
  3. What do they need from you?
  4. Do you have your tone of voice nailed?
  5. Have you got a strategy in place?
  6. Have you done your research?
  7. Avoid jargon where you can
  8. If in doubt, make it a listicle
  9. Where is it sitting on the site?
  10. What are your competitors doing?
  11. Consider your keywords
  12. How are you handling sensitive subjects?
  13. Are you making it clear where to go for free and impartial advice?
  14. Write in a natural order


Think about EAT and YMYL

Google’s ranking algorithm dictates whether a piece of engaging content is considered to be worthy enough to rank high. EAT stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness - three very important factors to consider when it comes to financial content. The information you provide your audience should come from a trustworthy source and should remain neutral to ensure you’re not pushing your product on those who don’t necessarily require it.

Create content with these three points in mind and you’ll see an uplift. The main bulk of the articles you create should appeal to the user’s needs, giving them the main points and going into detail where necessary.

What you’re writing about should also be relevant to your industry, you can stretch a little - for example, a loan company discussing how to increase the value of your home (if they offer loans for home improvement). You wouldn’t start writing about money saving recipes in your main guides section - but you could branch out into this on your blog, but don’t expect to rank particularly high.

YMYL stands for ‘Your Money or Your Life’ content - and no we’re not seeping into the realms of Adam Ant here, creating stand and deliver style guides. This principle, however, is very important when it comes to financial content, Google uses YMYL to determine if a page could have an impact on an individual’s life and therefore low-quality content won’t do well. Financial content definitely falls under this remit, as the content you write can have a real effect on a person’s life and future. The search engine’s expectations for these types of pages is incredibly high to ensure people are receiving correct and useful information, so in order to rank you must be providing content that benefits the customer and if there are commercial elements these should simply support the message.

Know who your audience is

Whether you offer short-term loans for emergencies or personal loans that can be used for home improvements or a new motor, you need to understand who you’re talking to. An individual who needs help in an emergency situation isn’t going to read hugely lengthy pieces of content, they want the facts, they want to know whether they’re eligible and how much they can borrow. However, someone considering a loan for a house extension will be interested in a 3,000-word guide featuring detailed steps to follow to complete it successfully and how to save money along the way.

Look into your current customer database to understand the average ages, sex and background of those who require your product. That way you can write content that appeals to them.

You may want to be a thought leader in your field - all brands do - but your audience should still be at the forefront of your mind. Keep things simple, explain important elements in detail and cover all bases - if it comes to mind while you’re writing it then it needs to go in.

What does your audience need?

Understanding your demographic can help you better understand what they’re hoping to get from your content. Are they simply looking for advice on a financial subject? Do they need to understand what a certain product involves or how it works? Are they dealing with an urgent situation and need fast, to the point information?

You need to know what your audience needs before you begin. A customer base that wants a simple list of loan examples to consider and how much this could cost, doesn’t want a detailed explanation of what APR is - in fact, no one really does, not even those who write for the financial industry.

Nail your tone of voice

Andrew Brookes here at Zazzle Media recently penned a post around tone of voice and how to do it right, noting that many brands over generalise with expectations such as ‘the content needs to sound human’ or it should be ‘helpful’. Here is a helpful point to consider when pulling together a tone of voice brief:

Look around - what big name brand or even a TV show do you compare yourself with? Andrew uses a great example of a food brand and whether they would consider themselves to be more Masterchef or Bake Off. Both are shows centred around cooking and competition but each offers the viewer something a little different. Bake Off is warm and fuzzy, while Masterchef gives us a glimpse into the cold hard world of professional kitchens.

Take a look around and consider who you want to be like, what their tone of voice conveys and adapt this into your own.

Create a strategy that meets your objectives

A strong strategy is important. Creating engaging content that targets search is good to have but you need to ultimately understand what your audience needs from you and how this ties into that all-important funnel.

Your strategy should focus on the services or products you want to increase awareness of but also still offer potential customers something they need.

For example, let’s say you’re a banking brand. You’re online and mobile-only and relatively new to the scene. A campaign around ‘How to Live the Easy Life’ would go down well with those 20-30 something millennials you know you appeal to. Here’s an idea of what it could involve:

The campaign is intended to offer millennials everything they need to make their everyday life easier. It features guides, has survey data to back it up, always ties back to money and making the right financial decisions. Ideas for engaging content you could create include:

  • A listicle featuring the best apps every millennial needs for money management (featuring your banking app of course), travel, time management and eating out.
  • Money-saving tricks for travel featuring advice on railcards, best times to book flights, how to pack a cabin suitcase to save on luggage charges etc.
  • A comprehensive guide to managing money when you want to go on holiday, want a new car, are saving for something big, need a new wardrobe, are planning a wedding or moving house.
  • A guide on how to make money fast, featuring interviews with entrepreneurs and people who work with franchises on how to get started.
  • A survey asking people questions such as how they manage money, where they seek advice when it comes to money management and how long they’ve been with their current bank. This data then feeds a write-up feature that can be seeded out to journalists and financial titles, as well as supporting an infographic highlighting the most interesting stats.

All of this content helps establish your brand as a forward thinker, one that understands its audience and strives to offer advice that isn’t already available. Speaking to experts and a survey to use as support is necessary to ensure it’s a campaign that stands out. Also, ensure you can get it designed so it looks attractive, works on mobile and is easy to find from the homepage.

Alongside this campaign strategy, you can be creating everyday guides and blogs that feed into it and can be linked back to. A campaign piece of content talking about credit cards can easily link back to your main credit card information page, pointing people towards the product if they need it.

You should also consider social, this campaign is a great piece to share on there but don’t forget about the other stuff too. Those following your page want to know more about your product so ensure you’re posting those blogs about the latest deals or updates to APR.

Have you done enough research?

Not to sound condescending but it’s likely, as the copywriter or new marketing manager, that you won’t necessarily be an expert in the industry you now work for.

This is where those who have worked there for a long time can help, lean on them for guidance when it comes to discussing the finer details, refer to expert financial sites such as The Money Advice Service if anything you’re writing about refers to Government legislation or legal aspects and ensure you check and check again before anything goes live.

Get your hands on all the documents and legal documentation you can get your hands on, sit down with the compliance team to nail what you can and can’t say - ask them to explain things in layman's terms - and understand the product and industry fully before you begin.

Don’t hide behind jargon

Compliance might like it - as it’s the official wording - but your audience likely won’t understand it or think you’re not writing with them in mind. You don’t need to dumb things down, just ensure you take a moment to explain anything that isn’t common knowledge and remember that those looking for your content likely don’t know anything about it, so you need to cover all bases. Clearly label each section and they can skip the ones they don’t need to read.

A good example of this is referring to payments as a CPA. Many people don’t know what this means - Continuous Payment Authority - or how it differs from the regular old Direct Debit we’re all accustomed to. Whenever you mention CPAs, always take a moment to clarify what they are even if you’ve covered it in a guide before - or create a dedicated page on the subject that you can link back to if people want to understand what it is.

Analogies are valuable to use in financial content, especially if you’re dealing with something particularly confusing or taxing. For example, you could explain what interest is by likening it to American tax rules i.e. you’ve got the set price on the label but then you have to add some more money to the final cost when you get to the counter.

Don’t be afraid to use lists

People like lists because they give us all that important info we need in a succinct and easy to digest manner. That’s why Buzzfeed got so big all those years ago - listicles. I recommend breaking down what you’re going to cover in a list at the top of the page - Google likes that as well - then going on to break each point down in a section with a clear H2.

Where is the content sitting on the site?

You need to understand where the content is going to feature, as this affects how you approach it. Blogs naturally lend themselves towards lighter, less serious content but sometimes your site may only offer this as a place to upload content which may be where categories come into play. Categorising your blog into more serious financial issues and lighter, lifestyle content is a good way to begin, even if you deal with debt management or IVAs (Individual Voluntary Arrangements) your content doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.

What are competitors writing about?

When it comes to competitors, it’s important you take a look at the content they’re creating. You’ll find that many in the industry go down a very narrow commercial route, strapping their brand message loosely onto a subject unrelated to what they offer in a bid to get people on the site - but those who do this are only going to see higher bounce rates.

You’ll also spot the competitors doing it right, creating content that appeals, is in depth and comes from an expert source. When it comes to looking around at what others are up to, here are some points to consider.

Are they taking the featured snippet?

If there’s a particular keyword you want to rank for, it’s worth looking at who is currently taking the featured snippet for it. Let’s say you’re a loans company, who wants to rank for the term ‘how to improve credit score’ - type that term into the search bar and we find that Clearscore currently has that snippet.

It’s a short, snappy listicle style piece and it’s likely the headers are formatted to read as a numbered list so Google understands that it’s providing everything readers need.

Make yours better. If you can, go deeper. Get an expert to weigh in and provide a comment to feature in the piece or bear in mind that Google loves tables. You could look to include one of these for each point listing the score ranges and what they equate to across the credit reference agencies. You could also create a table that features everything that can impact a credit score good and bad or one that lists the types of credit you can take out that can improve your score over time. Offer readers everything they need in one place and search engines will understand that you should be climbing those ranks and worming your way into the snippet box.

Are they doing comparison pages?

The financial industry isn’t afraid to cross-examine and compare. Loan companies, for example, are very good at creating comparison guides looking into what each other offer and why their brand is better or the right choice for the reader. Take a look around to determine what others are saying, whether they’re comparing your brand and create your own to try and claw back any authority they’ve taken from you with their pages.

Read the comment sections

Head to competitor forums, the comments sections on their blog posts and social media to find out what customer pain points are. You can then tailor your content to answer their queries for those who need help in the future.

Use a tool to ensure you’re nailing keywords

Keywords are still important of course, after all why write content for a site without search in mind? There are tools out there that can help you nail your functional content, to ensure it stands a good chance of ranking amongst the greats on page one.

Ryte is one example, slap your content into this tool to understand which words you’re featuring enough of and what you need to add to optimise your content as best you can before it goes live. It takes a look at what is already ranking for the keyword you’re targeting to create its suggestions, then you can tweak and hone your text until it’s as good as it can be.

Are you dealing with sensitive subjects?

Money can be tough to deal with and in some cases, people can get into financial difficulty and need your support or guidance on how to rectify an issue. Ensure your tone, in this case, is sympathetic and that you point them towards the right contact pages or where to find more information on the subject.

Write something you would want to read, take a step back to put yourself in their shoes and ensure you offer everything they need to move forward. Ensure those pages discussing sensitive subjects avoid commercial aspects, they should be there to advise.

Are you pointing them towards free and impartial advice?

Unless you are a financial advice service you should always be pointing readers towards free and impartial experts who can offer the advice they need. StepChange, PayPlan, The Money Advice Service and The Samaritans are all good places to start for a range of issues - namely debt.

Write about the subject in a natural order

Your reader has found your page, clicks through and starts to read but you haven’t considered their thought process or what stage they are at with their situation.

Let’s say, they need money to fund dental treatment and you’ve started the piece talking about how they can reduce the chances of needing work done in the future. They don’t want to know that, they want to know how much things are likely to cost and what steps to take to find the cash they need.

However, don’t be afraid to do small detailed breakdowns throughout - if you’re discussing how they can borrow money from family and friends go into detail about how this can save them money on interest but also that it could impact relationships.

Also, always bear in mind that you’re not their first port of call, they don’t want to turn to you first and are looking for another option to try before coming back if it doesn’t work. Offer them the logical steps they need to follow first then direct them to your services if they need expert help.

Here’s an example of how I would breakdown a blog on how to improve the chances of getting a loan, if I had a bad credit score.

  1. I would consider the reasons why people may have a bad credit score and perhaps list them out, detailing how serious they are and how badly they can impact a credit report.
  2. I would point them towards the credit reference agencies and break down how to analyse their credit report. I’d suggest where they can get this for free and how to handle any errors or issues they want to challenge.
  3. I’d then detail the ways in which they can improve their credit score, listing simple fixes such as enrolling on the electoral register or ensuring their address is correct to taking on a 0% interest credit card to build up their rating or how to speak to a creditor they have defaulted on to rectify the issue.
  4. I’d list what loans the brand offer, how they work and the benefits - especially if there is soft search involved and a no-risk instant decision.
  5. I’d finish by pointing them towards a free and impartial advice service, to ensure if they do need help with debt or money they know where to turn.

Ready to write that financial content? Consider these points and ensure those potential customers have everything they need to view your brand as a thought leader, a helpful place to turn to in an emergency and ultimately where they can go for their financial needs.

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