A review of the payday loans algorithm in 2021

30-second summary:

  • Any company holding a top-five position for the search term “payday loans” on Google is likely to be generating some serious revenue.
  • Being an industry that was once worth around £2 billion in 2013 the industry is not as decorated as it once was, with companies from all over the world trying to tap into the UK payday lending market.
  • The result of heavy regulation and fines has seen the industry shrink in recent years, even if the demand for products of £500 or $500 has not.
  • Site hacking and black hat SEO caused Google to respond with their own specific ‘payday loans algorithm’ versions 1.0 and 2.0.
  • The payday loans algorithm is seen as very separate from other SERP results.
  • Tudor Lodge Digital’s Managing Director, Daniel Tannenbaum identifies patterns in the payday loans algorithm and shares steps to help you rank.

Despite an industry facing turbulence, the search term “payday loans” on Google continues to command huge search volumes – and any company holding a top-five position is likely to be generating some serious revenue.

Sure, there are bounce-back loans and stimulus checks now available, but the demand for payday loans is an economic certainty, which is regularly discussed in Government and even University classes in Economics.

Of course, the industry is not as decorated as it once was, with companies from all over the world trying to tap into the UK payday lending market, an industry that was once worth around £2 billion in 2013. The result of heavy regulation and fines has seen the industry shrink in recent years, even if the demand for products of £500 or $500 has not.

The wild-wild-west nature of site hacking and black hat SEO caused Google to respond with their own specific ‘payday loans algorithm’ versions 1.0 and 2.0 – which was something very unique for Google to single out a specific industry and create an algorithm just for it.

With this in mind, the payday loans algorithm is seen as very separate from other SERP results across finance, travel, insurance, or business, and with this comes certain patterns that we notice when trying to rank for this almighty keyword.

Content created in partnership with Tudor Lodge Digital.

Ranking for payday loans in 2021 – What can we learn?

Here is a brief explanation of the steps you can take.

Step 1: Use landing pages, not homepages or comparison tables

Consistent with our findings from last year, it is indeed landing pages that are ranking over homepages. In the US search results, every competitor in the top 10 has the URL /payday-loans/ in some shape or form. In the UK, there are two out of the ten that is a homepage and the others follow the same inclusion of /payday-loans/ in their parent URL.

Comparison tables yet again fail to command a page one position, whereas, in the UK, the price comparisons and tables are incredibly dominant for products such as credit cards and insurance. There are around five to six price comparison sites that control the market share of search results of financial products, but they fall short when it comes to ranking for payday loans.

With this in mind, if you have a price comparison table in this industry, you would be more successful using loan engines, eligibility checkers, or calculators in step 1 that lead you to comparison tables in step two.

Step two: Long pages of content

On the content side, the successful landing pages for payday loans are long and those on page one of Google often have a minimum of 1,000 words of content on the page – with images, videos, and more semantic SEO elements.

Other popular elements included in landing pages are tables that compare the cost of their products to competitors, calculators, reviews, bullet points, and maybe as many as five call-to-action buttons throughout the page of content.

What is the terminology used?

In the UK, the search term “direct lender” is still very prominent and actually is included in eight of the top ten search results. The popularity of this search term dates back to when brokers were aggressive in capturing leads and selling customer data, but whilst brokers have diminished, the search for direct lenders has remained. Other popular words include “no guarantor” and “bad credit”. The word “alternative” was once very strong, but this has now gone out of favor.

In the US, the term direct lender rarely appears, but phrases such as ‘no credit check,’ ‘advance’ and ‘installment’ are very popular.

No exact match or partial match domains

Remarkably, the word payday is not used in any domains that rank well on Google, only making its first appearance on page three in the US and page eight in the UK.

In the UK, there is no real term that is used in domains more often than others. But in the US, words like “cash”, “credit”, and “advance” appear more often in the domain names that rank well on the first few pages.

PBN links and real anchor text variations

There is a consistency in the US and UK that PBN links are used quite aggressively for the sites that rank top, with few exceptions such as news and charities like the BBC, Citizens Advice Bureau or MoneyAdviceService, or LendUp in the US who are more of a startup than a traditional payday lender.

A variation of anchor text is achieving strong results, including long anchor texts such as “payday loans no credit check online.” And whilst this would appear spammy for most industries, many strong performing sites appear to be using this.

Is there stagnation in the movement of payday loan search results?

Yes, there is an argument that the payday loans algorithm has not been fully updated or reviewed in some time. The change in rankings appears to be slower than other industries or the general movement that you might see in casinos, insurance, or other highly contested industries.

As proof of this, we have a client who is no longer trading and has not updated their website in over 18 months, yet they still hold very strong positions on pages one and two of Google for payday loan and other related terms.

The website was once very well optimized, and today it is still functional since they are selling off any enquiries. It could argue that the role of how long users spend on the site, low bounce rates, and how usable it is on desktop, mobile, and tablet is a contributing factor to strong search results. Or alas, the algorithm is stagnant in updating.

Are other industries growing at the expense of payday loans?

Yes, the result of regulation and refunds has seen a huge exodus of lenders in the UK in the last year. And whilst 165,000 searches per month is a large number, it is down by almost 50% compared to this time last year.

This has seen the growth of other alternatives such as guarantor loans (up 50%) and other asset-backed lending products such as logbook loans (known as auto loans in the US) and secured loans (backed against your home or car).

Secured loans are commonly known as second charge mortgages, second charge loans, or homeowner loans – which have further crossovers with other loan terms such as bridging and debt consolidation.

The algorithm and approach for secured products are still more consistent with what you would expect for standard SEO practices in terms of content, links, and domain names – and it is not as diverse or distinct as the payday loans algorithm.

Recap: How to rank for payday loans today

  • Use landing pages, do not rely on your homepage to rank on page one
  • Use a long page of content and include calculators, reviews, images, and more
  • Use a range of vocabulary associated with the product, for example, direct lenders
  • Avoid using exact match domains, try to be unique, and use a brand
  • PBNs to work as a link building strategy and you can be very adventurous with anchor text – even though this would not be recommended for a regular SEO campaign

Daniel Tannenbaum is Managing Director at Tudor Lodge Digital.

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