INTERVIEW: Elita Falkvard, SEO & Web Lead, Starling Bank

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

Elita Falkvard, SEO & Web Lead at Starling Bank, explains how the neobank approaches content and Google search.

This interview is an excerpt from our new report into SEO in the retail banking sector.


FSF: Can you summarise the SEO strategy within Starling?

Elita: It’s a combination of some purely search engine optimisation (SEO) led activities and broader campaign supportive work. On the SEO-led side, this is often based on the opportunities we identify through keyword research and content gap analysis between us and competitors. This is often led by the SEO team.

From the broader side of things, there are key moments throughout the year where we will see certain types of demand in the market are observed. For instance, during school holidays, there is an increase in searches for travel products, as well as for kids’ banking products. At the beginning of the year, there is an increased demand for generic content around banking.

We’re aware of these moments throughout the year, and SEO supports these moments by ensuring that our core content is iteratively optimised.

This process also involves collaborating with the editorial team to create new content when necessary. The SEO strategy is fluid and can adapt quite quickly if necessary; it’s not necessarily something that we set out at the beginning of the year and follow no questions asked. We try to take in what’s happening around us, learn from that and respond accordingly.


How does this fit into the overall marketing strategy more broadly?

SEO is as an “always on” channel, capturing and converting demand from other channels. This includes especially brand marketing and above the line advertising.

For example, [the sponsorship of the UEFA Women’s Euros], generated a lot of brand awareness for Starling. That’s of key importance for SEO as it captures the demand. We ensure that whatever people see in the world is integrated with what they experience when they find us on Google.

We respect SEO as its own channel, the website and content are considered their own mediums, and the Google search results pages are also considered a separate medium. With SEO we make sure it’s aligned and meets the customers’ expectations in terms of a seamless journey. So everything from the copy we use, the tone of voice and the messaging needs to be integrated.

When it comes to SEO fitting into the overall strategy, it is important to collaborate with the brand team, editorial team, and design team. We talk about SEO as an acquisition channel, similar to paid advertising efforts. It plays a valuable role in ensuring our customer acquisition costs are quite low.


Where does SEO sit within the company and how big is the team?

SEO sits within the digital growth team, which encompasses the paid and unpaid digital marketing channels. The growth team consists of around ten people, with a couple of them specialising in SEO. It’s a very integrated team so every member of the team is aware of others’ activities and what they are working on. We try to approach our channel mix holistically where it makes sense. For instance, channels like SEO, PPC and affiliates are similar in the way they capture demand. So we try to approach them together and ensure the best visibility possible and maximise coverage on products and features.

With SEO, you’re always keeping a finger on the pulse of the market and monitoring changes. SEO monitoring plays an important role in understanding and gauging all forms of demand, whether product or brand demand. We have a learning and feedback loop with the brand team, helping them make informed decisions on broader advertising decisions.


What technology tools do you use to manage SEO?

We use SEMrush for all keyword insights, rankings, and it has some good features around content and competitor insights. Google Search Console informs our data on search traffic and demand. For general website analytics, Matomo helps us look at traffic and front-level KPIs.


How has the current market climate and cost of living affected your content strategy, if at all?

The rising cost of living is definitely something we’re aware of, and it has affected the way we approach content. As the cost of living crisis became more of a concern in people’s daily lives, we noticed there was an inevitable increase in search interest around savings and budgeting content.

We noticed this and wanted to address it, and do the right thing by the customer. The team responded to the increased demand by providing helpful content. A tangible example is the budget planner—an interactive web tool which helps people manage their budget and find areas to save.

This wasn’t only an SEO effort. From the demand and optimisation side, it was SEO doing the research and understanding the demand to communicate it to the rest of the teams. We had a lot of work from the copy team, the design team and the web development team that built the final tool. Generally the budget planning tool was quite well received and people interact with it on a regular basis.

We’ve also been creating search-led content pieces on more niche topics within budgeting and saving that we saw demand for. Additionally, as we have useful features in our products, there is a focus on optimising core product content to ensure it’s visible at the right time for relevant search queries.


What do you think are the key reasons for your success?

Our team is able to move quickly and collaboratively, with a test and learn mindset, so if an approach doesn’t have the expected outcome, we move on to the next strategy. This agility and mindset contributes to staying innovative.

It is important to remember that SEO is an ongoing process that is never truly “done.” As the market evolves and demand changes, it’s important to have awareness, and keep a close eye on your content and how it’s performing so you can keep iterating while taking into account the changing environment.


Read the full report here.


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