Recently, banks have begun to expand their digital presences to align with the growth and influence of the digital landscape. This transition prompted a move toward responsive sites that bridge banks and their customers in a new, simpler manner.
In addition to responsive sites, banks need to ensure that their investment in the digital space is maximized through proper utilization of SEO—Search Engine Optimization. This term refers to strategies that can make your site easier for Google and other search engines to find.
5 ways to say “we’re here!”
A few emerging SEO strategies that can strengthen a bank’s search results include:
1. Back links: Back links, or links to a bank’s site from external sites, continue to be an important SEO method.
As search engine algorithms change periodically, they draw their results from the number of backlinks a bank has to determine its relevance. The number and quality of these links is a decisive factor into how sites appear on a search engine’s results page.
Often, large banks have hundreds of thousands (sometimes millions) of backlinks due to the amount of content on the web in the form of press releases, social media content promotion, and media mentions deriving from top news outlets.
Small banks can cultivate back links through streamlining their media materials to highlight their service offerings. Because small banks tend to have more limited service offerings, producing content across traditional and social media platforms with similar messages alerts the search engine algorithms that the bank can provide the service which the consumer or business person searched for.
For example, if a customer searches “mortgages,” a small bank with consistent and regularly updated content around mortgages can appear near the top of a search results page along with the larger banks.
2. Content targeting: Tailoring content toward a specific audience is a fundamental marketing principal for most banks.
Large banks often produce large quantities of content with relevant search phrases many times in body copy, titles, internal links, and URLs. These banks leverage content to target thousands of search phrases and cover every possible variation of a product—e.g. student credit cards, home equity loans, etc.
Smaller banks have a difficult time creating copy for a website and keeping it fresh because they often lack a significant copy writing team. However, smaller banks can leverage content gaps that lie within every large bank to create niche search phrases that customers may use—especially phrases specific to a particular area or region.
For example, if a small bank is located near a college campus, using terms such as “mobile-banking,” and “student banking” tailor content toward the college-aged demographic most likely to use the bank’s services. If a bank is located near a popular vacation spot, they may want to include phrases such as “vacation homes,” or “seasonal residences” to play on their demographic of vacation-seeking property owners.
3. Audience vocabulary: While large banks produce a constant stream of relevant content, it is not always written in the common language of the customer for brand and legal reasons. This presents an opportunity for small banks to tailor content with the nomenclature of the area, which can strengthen their SEO.
For example, content around automobile loans may be written as “auto loan” by large banks, but customers may search using terms such as “car loans,” “RV loans,” “bike loans,” and “jet ski loans” instead.
Small banks can tailor their content to include phrases that large banks may tend to leave out. For example, a small bank promoting SBA loans product can include terms such as “short-term lending” and “guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration,” which feed into search engines algorithms if a search is conducted around those terms.
If a bank’s content fails to pull the customers’ search term, it can potentially prevent customers from finding the information for a product they need, and cause them to turn to another financial institution.
4. Geographic search: With the massive growth of mobile, search algorithms are beginning to leverage location to produce location-specific results for users.
This means search phrases such as car rentals and home mortgages are starting to prefer geographically close sites over large or national sites.
For example, if a customer is to search “home loans near me,” their results page would show a mixture of both smaller banks and larger bank branch locations near them. This localization of search can help both small and large showcase their offerings to attract potential customers.
To leverage this, banks should include their location (city/state and or region) into their webpages and title tags. Banks can even go as far as including the addresses of their branches to further localize their locations.
A good practice would be including the address and contact information at the bottom of the web pages to ensure each page is pulling the location. This also allows the search engine’s algorithm to cross-reference location information with the other contact information that may lie in press materials to verify the location of the bank and localize it during search.
5. Vocal search: Voice-enabled search continues to grow in popularity. Customers are increasingly turning to voice driven services such as Apple’s Siri®, Amazon Alexa®, and Microsoft Cortana® to help them locate their financial answers.
This emerging reliance on voice-enabled search makes it important for banks to continue to tailor their content with key phrases users are likely to include during a search. Incorporating voice-enabled search also utilizes geographic location to pull results. A user looking to open a checking account may ask “checking accounts near me” and these search tools will pull information for the closest banks to open a checking account based on information from the banks’ sites and their proximity to the user.
A practice worth the time invested
Developing an efficient SEO strategy is vital for any bank to gain maximum ROI from their digital presence.
Implementing SEO tactics help customers locate information on a product. Often, the bloated sites of large banks make it difficult for customers to find information and cause them to search elsewhere for answers. By tailoring content in a manner that presents information clearly and concisely, community banks are better able to assist customers and create new business.
If information is not readily available or tailored toward a particular need, banks can stand to lose large amounts of potential business.
About the author
Mark Ryan is chief analytics officer at Extractable, Inc., a San Francisco-based boutique digital design agency that helps organizations transform their digital experience to drive significant business results through data-driven design methodology centered on research and analytics.