Prioritize SEO: Compete with big banks
It’s no secret that most borrowers research banks or credit unions before deciding whether or not to utilize their services. The question is, what is your financial institution doing to ensure its website is optimized so that it’s on the shortlist of banks that show up on a potential borrower’s computer screen?
One of the primary benefits of banking with a community institution is the personalized service and attentiveness given to every customer. However, small community institutions can no longer solely rely on in-person relationships. According to the 2018 J.D. Power U.S. Retail Banking Study, the most satisfied customers are those that use online and mobile banking, but also visit branches two to three times a month. In order to gain more clients and maximize customer satisfaction, there must be a balance between website visits and visits to the institution.
Google’s Zero Moment of Truth Study states that 88 percent of consumers research the product or service they buy, consulting around 10.4 sources before making a decision. Large banks have been expanding their web presence with dedicated staff to handle the project, while smaller financial institutions have struggled to keep up. Institutions that have not updated their website in recent years should ask themselves:
Is anyone in the institution in charge of search engine optimization (SEO)?
Do we compare ourselves to our competitors on search results pages (SERPs)?
If your answer to either question is no, perhaps the following advice can benefit your institution.
Improve User Experience with SEO
Small SEO modifications to your website might seem minor individually, but they can significantly improve borrowers’ online user experience (UX) as a whole. This can be something as simple as revisiting the content related to certain products on your website to more complicated improvements like redesigning the website’s navigation to point users toward certain products.
The User Experience Professionals Association defines UX as a discipline concerned with all the elements that together make up that interface, including layout, visual design, text, brand, sound and interaction. UX is important because your website is essentially equivalent to a potential borrower walking into your bank and credit union. If a customer walks into a store and doesn’t find the product they’re searching for, then they’ll turn around and leave – website visitors parallel that behavior. In fact, according to Time, websites only have 15 seconds to capture a reader’s attention, highlighting the importance of a strong UX.
Outrank Your Competitors on SERPs
It wasn’t long ago that consumers would choose their banks primarily based on proximity, but now, consumers are choosing banks based on the proximity of a website link from the top of their Google search. If your site is on the second page, it’s possible it might not be seen at all. According to Moz, a website detailing SEO best practices, only six percent of search traffic clicks come from the second page of Google SERPs. Before a borrower reads about your institution, they must know about it first, and with larger banks taking real estate on most SERPs, it’s critical to outrank them. Perhaps the most important factor involved in this is keyword usage.
Keywords are groups of words that help search engines determine how relevant the inquirer’s search is to your content. For example, a keyword could simply be “lending” or it could be lengthier, such as “small and medium-sized business lending”, which are called long-tail keywords. Keep in mind most searchers know exactly what they want as over 70 percent of searches occur as long-tail keywords.
Think about your website and the loan concentrations at your institution. Is there more specific messaging towards loan types that have proved to be more profitable for your bank or are you using space on keywords that won’t rank your site for the searches that would be most lucrative for the institution?
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Optimize Existing Content and Produce a Blog
Financial terminology can sound like a foreign language to non-finance professionals. Often times, the copy on financial institutions’ websites is no different and can be overwhelming to borrowers. But while differentiating your products with descriptive and interesting content is a must, if your institution is just relying on product pages to attract clients, it might be time to connect with customers through a blog. The 2010 Financial Brand Online Marketing Study states only 18 percent of retail financial institutions have blogs, which could seperate your institutions’ website from the competition.
The cardinal rule of SEO is simply to write engaging content, and a blog provides another vertical to do so. Google and other search engines ranks relevant and superior content higher on SERPs, and community banks are in a unique position to provide content that caters to customers within the area and focuses on local news and updates.
Not only does a blog position your staff as thought leaders, but it provides supplemental ways for visitors to reach your website or for you to encourage exploration of the site. Blog posts are often shared online through social media, especially if it provides actionable insights for readers, and writers can easily cross-sell loan products within posts by inserting links to other relevant sources as well. For example, if you’re writing a blog post on C&I lending trends within your institution’s state, perhaps you can link to your C&I lending page, which describes your interest rates and special promotions, or a page detailing recent economic trends from the Federal Reserve. Keep in mind that search engines consider the quality and credibility of the sites that your website is linking to when ranking, so external links should be relevant to the content regardless of if they link internally or to another website.
Optimizing a website for SEO is not an overnight endeavor and takes time to fully implement. However, for community banks’ and credit unions’ websites to remain competitive with larger banks, it’s critical to research SEO, ensure high SERPs rankings and prioritize the creation of content that encourages potential customers to stay longer than 15 seconds.