How Financial Marketers Can Work With Motley Fool’s Comparison Tool


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Americans are increasingly shopping for financial services, from mortgages to cryptocurrency accounts through Google. And when they do, the chances are much higher that the main items in their search results are not pages on bank or credit union websites, but rankings, reviews, and articles on sites. third parties, sometimes referred to as comparison sites or affiliate sites.

Terakeet’s research found that these sites have a better idea of ​​how to rank higher in Google searches than most financial brands. These sites are generally far ahead of the banking sites.

Reach consumers where they go:

Content may be king, but if Google doesn’t like you (or even know you), your “kingdom” will be small.

To learn more about this channel, we explored Ascension, which is part of The Motley Fool family of sites.

Motley Fool is best known for its research and investment recommendations. Nathan Hamilton, director and co-founder of The Ascent, explains that the team that runs the parent site realized that before consumers could reasonably invest successfully, they needed a basic understanding of things like how to improve credit scores, budget, reduce mortgage rates and build an emergency savings fund. The Ascent started out as Motley Fool’s version of an independent source for financial product ratings and ratings, as well as advice.

Hamilton explains that the team had a revelation: “I don’t know on average how many stocks people buy each year, but they probably make five to seven financial decisions. Daily. “

The target audience of the site varies depending on the product area. Hamilton says depository product coverage tends to attract older consumers with higher disposable income and often more education. But in the areas of consumer credit, the public tends to be younger people who want to borrow or improve their credit before applying for loans.

If there’s a way to use his money, there’s a good chance The Ascent will cover it somehow. However, there are times when the site refuses to cover a product category – it may be seen as too “predatory,” in Hamilton’s term, or expensive – or simply overshadowed by better choices. In some cases, staff will find it too early to cover a provider or type of service, preferring to wait a bit for a balance sheet to be established.

A taste of The Ascent philosophy and how consumers use sites

“Overall, the great thing about personal finance is that there are so many great products out there,” says Hamilton. “The bad thing is that sometimes it’s hard to find the right ones for you. It can lead to paralysis by analysis. We’re coming in to hopefully reduce the noise a bit and help people narrow down the options they’re considering. Everyone has a different financial scenario and what is good for one person may not be good for another.

An important point about The Ascent is that just being cool won’t get you far. An article on Dogecoin, for example, shed a balanced but certainly cautious light on the cryptocurrency. And neobanks are scrutinized.

“Overall, Chime is a great product, with high performance and a great customer experience. But for every Chime, there are three or four other neo-bank products that aren’t as good.

– Nathan Hamilton, The Ascension

Hamilton shows a skeptical eye. He notes that many neobanks increase the rates on their savings accounts during their venture capital and fundraising periods.

“They want to be able to incorporate the fact that their user base is growing into their pitch deck,” says Hamilton. “But wait a year or two and those rates will be cut in half or even more.”

Such practices will work against a supplier. “We put an additional level of control on these products because they present risks. We want to make sure these are good long-term products for people, ”says Hamilton. “We prefer to turn to a supplier that is more consistent and more competitive with the market over time. “

Not always a one-stop shop:

When consumers compare financial services, they usually look at more than one site, not just one. They are more likely to choose a particular provider if, for example, three out of four sites recommend it.

Another type of comparison site user wants to make informed choices, Hamilton says, but is only willing to spend about 30 minutes on a decision. They’ll go to a site they trust, pick the first one, and call it someday.

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How Ascent’s Financial Model Works

Access to comparison sites is generally free to the public. Hamilton says the only site that has truly adopted the paywall approach is the one offered by Consumer Reports, run by the nonprofit Consumers Union.

Otherwise, some support from banks, credit unions and other financial providers is needed. Every site balances the need for profit with the need for editorial integrity. Hamilton points to his site’s statement on this, which says in part, “We strongly believe in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are our property and have not been previously reviewed, endorsed or endorsed by advertisers included. The Ascent does not cover all the offers on the market…. “

“If you take a look at our site, you’ll see that we frequently recommend products that we don’t get paid for because that’s the right way to do business. “

Hamilton adds that this practice was maintained until the start of the business downturn due to the pandemic. He adds that even when many financial vendors who normally use affiliate marketing temporarily pulled out, The Ascent continued to rank these brands prominently when product quality demanded.

Hamilton explains that a strong separation of editorial and promotional staff is maintained. Editorial staff will know that a brand pays to be exposed, but have no knowledge of the details, for example.

Typically, brand business development and The Ascent staff deal with each other, and editorial staff work with financial institution communications staff when contact is needed. Hamilton explains that paid relationships typically require input from compliance teams on both sides, especially when the site receives compensation for products like credit cards which are rife with regulatory requirements. It can take years to establish a paying affiliate relationship with a credit card provider, according to Hamilton.

And then, he says, it can take some time for a business relationship to develop to the satisfaction of compliance teams.

“They pass them through the wringer,” he explains.

“Editorial wise, we don’t interfere too much with partners, in order to maintain that wall between commercial payments and editorial,” says Hamilton.

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Let’s say your brand has an exciting new product …

Institutions large and small regularly come up with new ideas for products or services. Naturally, they want coverage, and a comparison site would be a good place to start.

Don’t expect the Hamilton team to necessarily jump on the new idea with immediate scrutiny. The Ascent is not meant to be a news site in the usual sense. Hamilton says if a development is new enough to warrant a quick word to readers, an editor will remove a quick update item.

“But we wouldn’t rush for a more in-depth review of this product because we want to make sure we have a thorough understanding of all the details and how it compares to other options available on the market,” says Hamilton. Extensive processing waits until the product has passed through the site rating model, for example.

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Mistakes made by financial brands when using the Ascent

One misstep that banking companies and other vendors make when dealing with The Ascent is to become insistent on changes to comments made about their brand or product.

“It could be that we wrote an article and they did not have the highest rating, and the team at this institution would like to have a more favorable review,” says Hamilton. “So they’re looking for better reviews. For us, of course, this is a non-negotiable.

Hamilton adds that correcting a factual inaccuracy would absolutely be done, “but when it gets into the realm of editorial and opinion, it’s just not something we will hesitate on.”

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