The days of offering a free toaster or $25 account starter bonus to get new customers or members are over. Thanks to the internet, people have a plethora of options when choosing a financial institution, making the competition stiffer than ever.
That means your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) game has to be excellent to give you the best possible chance of standing out from the crowd, generating traffic and reaping the rewards.
Why Is SEO Important for Financial Institutions?
No matter the type of business, SEO is the most reliable way to get traffic from search engines. However, because of the advent of online banking, SEO is much more important for financial institutions than it is for other local businesses, such as roofers or dentists. You can draw customers and members from all over the world – but you’re also competing with financial institutions locally.
There are three main reasons SEO is vitally important for your website:
- More sustainable traffic
- Higher conversion rates
- Greater ROI
More Sustainable Traffic
The best deal in the world won’t help you get new customers and members if you don’t have traffic coming to your website to start with. More traffic to your site translates into more leads and more new customers.
There are all sorts of methods for getting traffic to your website, with some working better than others.
The main sources of website traffic are:
- Organic (from search engines)
- Referral (from other websites, email newsletters, etc.)
- Social (from Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms)
- Paid (from Google Ads, display ads and other paid sources)
- Direct (when people type your website’s URL into the address bar)
While it’s always a good idea to have a comprehensive plan for all of your traffic sources, SEO is the most sustainable source. It’ll bring you traffic over a much longer period of time than other methods.
When you stop running paid ads, for example, that source of traffic stops immediately. Traffic from social media declines or completely stops if you aren’t routinely creating engaging posts with links to your website.
Organic traffic, however, continues as long as your website exists. While the amount and quality of traffic you receive can fluctuate, your website will always receive organic traffic — if you set up your SEO correctly.
Higher Conversion Rate
Getting solid traffic to your website is great, but it isn’t going to do you any good without conversions. You need visitors to go from just reading and looking at your site to actually opening accounts or taking out loans. All the views in the world won’t grow your member and customer base if they aren’t converted.
On almost all metrics, organic SEO beats every other source of traffic.
A 2014 study by Conductor showed that organic SEO accounts for 64% of the overall traffic to a website. That means that paid, referral, social and direct sources combined make up the remaining 36% of incoming website traffic.
This means you have a much higher potential for conversion from organic traffic than any other type of traffic.
Here’s an example to illustrate this:
Say you get an across-the-board conversion rate of 10% on both your paid and organic traffic.
Paid traffic brought your financial institution's website 50 visitors last month, while organic traffic brought you 1,000 visitors. That means you got 5 conversions from your paid traffic, but 100 conversions from organic. That’s a 1900% increase in actual conversions!
These conversions represent people actually signing up for accounts, taking out loans and otherwise joining your financial institution. Without organic traffic, you’re leaving money on the table.
Organic SEO has the highest return on investment than any other traffic source. Why? Because paid or referral traffic is reliant on a solid foundation of organic SEO.
If your website is targeting the wrong keywords or doesn’t have content that’s relevant and interesting to your audience, driving traffic from ads or your Facebook page won’t do you any good. Those visitors are going to turn right around and find another financial institution that can fulfill their needs.
Not only is investing in organic SEO a basic building block of any online marketing presence, but the amount of money you put into organic SEO is also going to get you better results for longer and with better margins.
Your ROI on SEO is Better than with Other Traffic Sources
We’ve already mentioned that organic SEO continues to bring in traffic and convert visitors into members even after you stop investing in it, while paid traffic stops providing traffic as soon as you stop the campaign.
Plus, when you use paid traffic, you’re paying per visitor received from the ad. In order for your ads to be seen, you have to bid on specific keywords for your business, such as “bank account” or “mortgage loan." Because there’s high competition for these keywords from other financial institutions, their cost per click remains among the highest in the industry.
If, for example, you’re running a Google Ads campaign for “mortgage loan” and the cost per click is $25, you’re paying $25 for every person that clicks on your ad. If you have 100 people who click on your ad, but only convert 2 of those 100 into customers, you’re spending $2,500 for two customers.
The difference with SEO is that it gives financial institutions the ability to acquire those same clicks, leads and customers for free.
However, if you put that same $2,500 into organic SEO focused on increasing traffic for the “mortgage loan” keyword, you’re spending the same amount of money but driving more traffic and converting more visitors into members over time than with paid ads.
Use SEO to Increase Traffic to Your Financial Institution Website
So you’ve decided to spend your money working on your financial institution website’s organic SEO. Now what?
Here are the 4 steps you need to take to help your website stand out from the crowd:
Before you can start to fix your website’s SEO, you need to determine what keywords you want it to rank for.
Keywords are the words and phrases that visitors type into search engines when they’re looking for a good, a service or an answer to a question. Finding the right keywords for your business is an essential first step to creating a successful organic SEO strategy.
Keywords come in three major types: informational, commercial and navigational. You want to choose a mixture of all three types for your website.
Informational keywords are the most basic of keywords. These are keywords entered when searching for an answer to a question or when looking for more information on a topic.
People who enter informational keywords are usually at the top of the conversion funnel, meaning they’re still looking, thinking and researching their options. They’re not yet ready to sign up for that new checking account or get rates for a car loan, and they want as much information as possible.
Some examples of informational keywords for financial institutions include:
- “What is PMI”
- “What is the home loan process”
- “Can I earn interest on a checking account”
- “Is online banking safe”
Informational keywords are important for building trust and awareness with potential customers so your financial institution is first in their mind when they decide they’re ready to make that leap. Use these keywords in blog posts, for social media posts and to create instructional videos and infographics.
The next level of keywords you’ll need to include in your website is commercial keywords. These are keywords that people enter into search engines when they’re ready to buy. These keywords have an element of action to them.
Some commercial keywords for financial institutions include:
- “Car loan calculator”
- “Mortgage rates today”
- “Interest rate on CD”
- “Get mortgage quote”
These are your high conversion point keywords, meaning these are your best opportunities to take visitors and turn them into customers or members. Use them on your landing pages for specific services, and make all information clear and easy to read.
Navigational keywords are used when visitors are already aware of your brand and may even be current customers or members. While it can be easy to leave these keywords out of your strategy, they’re still important for customer retention and experience. If your website isn’t easy for a current member to find, it’s not going to be easy for a potential member to find.
Some examples of navigational keywords for financial institutions include:
- “US bank login”
- “Ally bank”
- “Chase bank near me”
- “Wells Fargo ATM near me”
These keywords are used by people with a very specific intent — they’re looking for a particular page on your website or wanting to know the nearest physical branch or ATM location to them. Carefully matching your keywords to landing pages on your website will improve user experience and can quickly turn customers into advocates for your brand.
Now that you know the type of keywords you should have, let’s look at how to choose the right keywords for your financial institution's website.
Start With Your Assumptions
Before you start to research keywords that may be relevant to your business, sit down and make a list of all the terms you think may land searchers on your website. This list can be as simple as “business checking,” “checking account” and “home loan,” but giving yourself a good jumping-off point for your keyword research is important. It’ll help you arrive on the most highly targeted list for your website.
Once you have your basic list, think of ways you could use each of the words on your list in each of the three keyword types: informational, commercial and navigational. Your “home loan” keyword could then become: “What are the types of home loans” (informational), “Home loan interest rates” (commercial) and “Home loans near me” (navigational). Your list will probably be long — that’s OK! You’ll be adding and subtracting from this list as you move through the keyword process.
Test Your Assumptions
Now that you’ve got a pretty lengthy list of keyword suggestions, you need to put these to the test.
The easiest way to test your potential keywords is to plug them into specialized keyword research software, such as Ahrefs, SEMrush or Moz. Keyword software gives you all sorts of information including what your website already ranks for, search volume of your chosen keywords, and how difficult it may be to rank on the first page for a given keyword. Most keyword research software costs a monthly subscription fee, but it is well worth the price to be able to determine the keywords that are important for your financial institution.
If you don’t want to spend money on a subscription, there are some free tools you can use for your keyword research:
- Keywords Everywhere: This Chrome extension hangs out in the background of all your Google searches and gives you a little notification of the search volume of anything you type into the search engine. Just install the extension, enter your keywords into Google and make note of the search volumes it shows you.
- Google Trends: Simply type your keyword into Google Trends and you’ll see the relative popularity of that search term over the past 12 months. This helps you see whether your chosen term’s search volume remains steady throughout the year or if there are seasonal peaks and valleys you can capitalize on. It also has a “Related queries” section where you can get suggestions for other keywords similar to the one you entered that you may not have thought of.
- Wordtracker Scout: Another Chrome extension, this one analyzes existing web pages and gives you the most relevant keywords from each page. Download this extension and use it on your own website to find keywords you’re already using or use it on a competitor’s site to see what keywords they’re using.
After testing your assumptions, you’ve likely removed some keywords that turned out to be unnecessary for your website and have added others you didn’t think of in the first round.
Expand Your Keyword List
You’ve spent some time listing out what you think are appropriate keywords for your website, and you’ve taken a look at some of the data behind those keywords. Your list has changed a little from where you began, but there’s still more opportunity for growth.
Now you need to look at all the opportunities for long-tail keywords, which are keywords of three or more words. Many of your long-tail keywords will be informational and will give you great ideas for blog posts and landing pages.
If you have a subscription to a keyword research tool, you can get ideas for new keyword opportunities within the tool. You also can run your competitors’ sites through these tools and see what keywords they rank for and where you can steal some of their rankings.
No subscription? Don’t worry! You can find tons of suggestions using nothing but free-access tools. In addition to Google Trends, try these websites:
- Answer the Public: Although this website does require a subscription for unlimited searches and premium features, you are allowed one free search per day. This website gives you a whole plethora of short- and long-tail suggestions, including great questions that can become the topics for blog posts. Bonus: You can export all the suggestions directly into a CSV file for easy access and organization.
- Google Correlate: Technically part of Google Trends, this tool provides you with keywords that are correlated with your seed keyword. Enter your short-tail keyword, such as “checking account,” and you get back a list of 10 related keywords. You also can click “Show more” to see more suggestions.
By this point, you’ve got a monster list of keywords, and it’s likely you’ve had to organize everything into a spreadsheet. Now, it’s time to...
Organize and Prioritize
Take a look at the list you’ve compiled. Chances are the list is lengthy and full of a wide range of keywords. Your head likely is swimming from trying to incorporate all of them into your website. Don’t worry. The good news is you don’t have to add all of them right away!
First, you need to sort your list by keyword type and the importance to your business. This list will then direct the rest of your SEO efforts.
Start by sorting the list into categories based on the intent of the keywords. Separate the informational, commercial and navigational keywords into their own individual lists.
Once you’ve got this sorting done, go through each of the lists and prioritize the keywords you’re going to focus on based on your financial institution's goals and offered services. Put the keywords that most align with your products, services and business goals at the top of the list and those that are only slightly related farther down.
The keywords at the top of your list are the most important for your financial institution; they need to be tracked and monitored.
Track Your Keywords
Now that you know which keywords are most important for your SEO efforts, you need to track how your website ranks for those keywords to measure the success of your strategy.
Any marketing plan without data to back it up just means you’re throwing money at things and seeing what works. This leads to wasted money, wasted time and wasted opportunities to get new customers. SEO is a constant process of evaluating what works and what doesn’t, and tracking your keywords is vital to that process.
You can track your keywords for free through Google Analytics, but the process is clunky and time-consuming. To track your keyword ranking quickly and easily, you need to have a subscription to a tracking site, such as Rank Ranger.
With tracking sites, you can get data on how your website is ranking for a given keyword with just a few clicks. This makes evaluating and adjusting your strategy easier and faster.
Once you’ve got your keyword list nailed down, it’s time to start updating your website with those keywords to improve rankings and get more traffic.
The URL of your page improves user experience, an important part of good SEO practices. A good URL with proper structure also helps search engines understand the organization of your website and how each page relates to the next.
When creating the URL for each page, be sure to include the primary keyword for that page in it, without overstuffing the URL. Much like the title tag, stick to the basics and put the most important information first.
Optimize Title Tags
The title tag is an individual page’s title as it appears in the search engine results. When optimizing title tags, keep a few rules in mind:
- Keep an eye on length. You want to limit your title tags to 50-60 characters, or what will fully display in one line on the search engine results page.
- Give each page a unique title.
- Don’t keyword stuff your title tags. Pick the most important, relevant keyword for your page and use it in the title tag.
- Put the important information as close to the beginning of your title tag as possible. If you really want your page to rank for “banking,” write your title tag so that “banking” is as close to the beginning as possible.
- If you can, include your brand name at the end of the title tag. This helps put your brand in front of people’s eyes, as well as letting them know that, if they click on your link, they’ll land on your website and not someone else’s.
The meta description is the short paragraph that appears on the search engine results page under your title tag. This is an opportunity to include a keyword, give the user an idea of what they’ll find if they click on your website and include a brief call to action.
You’re limited to 160 characters in meta descriptions, so every word counts. While it’s important to include your main keyword in the description, it’s also important to make sure it sounds natural. And don’t try to shove a bunch of keywords in your meta description. It’ll sound contrived and put readers off.
Be sure your heading tags - H1, H2 and H3 - include your keywords and variations of your keywords. This is one of the ways you will ensure that the content on your website matches the keywords you want to rank for.
Make sure your page’s most important keyword is in the H1 tag and put it as close to the beginning of the heading as possible without things feeling forced.
As you create the rest of the page’s content, include your keyword in other heading tags as well as your LSI keywords.
This is the meat of your webpage. Here are some tips for writing well for websites:
- Write like a human. While you can (and should) write with SEO friendliness in mind, never write something just because you think the search engines will like it.
- Focus on your user. Make sure your copy is informative, helpful and focused on solving the problems your users may have.
- Don’t keyword stuff. Use your keyword enough to get your point across, but don’t use it so often that it begins to lose its meaning and your copy just looks like keywords strung together. A good rule of thumb is a keyword density of 1 to 3 percent on your page.
- Use your LSI keywords. If you need to repeat your focus keyword but don’t want to overuse it, incorporate your LSI keywords. Search engines are smart enough to understand that the terms are all related to one another.
- Include calls to action. Never just write a page without including some kind of call to action. Whether you want the user to learn more about different types of checking accounts, sign up for a free mortgage quote or call to get more information about your CD options, each page should include at least one call to action within the text, usually at the end of the page.
Internal and External Linking
As you write your webpage’s copy, look for places you can include internal links, which are links to other pages on your own website, and external links, which are links to other websites.
Some sources of internal linkings include:
- A contact form or phone number in calls to action such as “Call today!” or “Contact us!”
- Your Homepage the first time you mention your financial institution's name on your page.
- Your About or Team page when you talk about your helpful loan officers or friendly tellers.
- A list or summary page of related blog posts that are all on the same general topic, such as car loans or retirement savings.
Here are a few ways you can include external links in your web pages:
- If you’re using a statistic, find an official website or study that includes that statistic and link to it.
- If your financial institution is part of licensing or credentialing bodies, link to these.
- Create a page of financial planning resources and link to reputable websites in the industry.
- If you are based in a specific location, link to the websites of local city and county governments with helpful information.
Including images on your pages is a great way to improve user experience and engagement with your content. In addition, using images allows you extra opportunities to include keywords.
When you upload an image, you have the opportunity to edit the image’s alt text. Put just one keyword, your most important keyword for the page, in the image’s alt text.
Social Media Sharing
Getting your content shared is another way to drive traffic to your website. While not everything you write will be viral content, giving readers an easy way to share your latest blog post to their Facebook or Twitter feeds is crucial to helping bring new readers.
Be sure that your website’s blog or news area, at a minimum, includes a social sharing plugin that displays on each post. If a reader finds your blog post interesting or relevant, it’s quick and easy for them to share it, driving more traffic to your content.
It’s important to ensure your website’s SEO will drive traffic to your site. But, you also need to be able to be found in other places online, such as in Google My Business or other online directories. To be sure that your potential customers and members can find you with as little effort as possible, you need to make sure that the information posted on other websites is consistent and that you can be found in as many places as possible.
All the off-site information about your website plus all the on-site information is what determines your business’s rankings in search engines. So don’t forget to take some time for off-site optimization!
Places online where your business is listed, including the listing on Google, Apple Maps and Facebook, are called citations. There are a wealth of industry-specific databases where you can get your financial institution listed. Search for some of these services and work on getting your information listed in them.
These citations are important because many people search through large database sites when they are looking for service providers but don’t know where to start. While not all citations are free and building them can take a great deal of time, the effort is worth the payoff as these citations can drive traffic to your site and bring you potential new customers.
Check NAP Consistency
The first, and most important, step to local off-page SEO is to be sure that all listings have NAP consistency. NAP — name, address, phone number — is the absolute bare-bones information about your business that must be correct across the internet.
As you searched for places to build business citations, you undoubtedly found your financial institution already listed on some sites. Make sure your NAP information is correct across all these citations and correct any mistakes immediately as inconsistent citation listings can hurt your SEO.
Online reviews are the currency of modern business. The more good reviews you have on Google, Facebook, Yelp and other sites, the more likely potential customers and members are to trust you with their business.
If your financial institution doesn’t have a lot of reviews now, you need to begin working on outreach to get more. Send out an email to current customers, have tellers and loan officers hand out instructions on leaving reviews, and make requests for reviews prominent on your website. Just don’t offer any sort of payment for leaving a review, not even an entry into a prize drawing. That goes against Google’s Terms of Service and can get your listing and website penalized.
When you do get reviews, good or bad, dedicate someone to responding to them. The businesses that take the time to respond thoughtfully to every review stands out from the crowd.
Thank the reviewer for their feedback and point out specific things mentioned in their review to show you read it. If someone leaves you a bad review, don’t argue. Apologize for their inconvenience and request that they reach out to discuss their feedback in person.
Best Practices for Multiple Locations
Handling citations for multi-location financial institutions is one of the toughest tasks of SEO. It is possible, though!
If your financial institution has multiple branches with physical locations staffed during regular business hours, follow these steps for making sure that you create listings for each location:
- Create location-specific pages on your website for each branch. Make sure to include the branch’s phone number and address. Embed a Google Map on the page and include directions or other location-specific information.
- Claim and optimize your Google My Business listing for each location. Each listing must be verified by a mailed postcard, so be sure that the information you input is correct and the location can receive mail. Check the NAP on each branch’s listing to make sure information is correct.
- Add photos of each specific location. This helps Google see that each branch is its own unique entity, as well as giving potential members an idea of what to expect when they walk inside.
- Make sure that all locations are consistently named. Do not include town or street names in individual locations. So, each location should be named “Main Street Bank/Credit Union” regardless of location, not “Main Street Bank/Credit Union on Oak.”
- Check that all business categories are the same. Each location should be listed as a “Bank” or “Credit Union.”
Once you’ve got your on-page SEO and your off-site citations all set, it’s time to dig into some link building. Link building just means that you work to get your website linked from other websites, also called backlinks.
Link building impacts your website’s SEO positively, as getting a link from another website tells Google and other search engines that the content on your website is high-quality, relevant and informative enough to be worthy of mention on other websites.
Building high-quality links to your website can take many forms.
Leveraging Current Relationships
If you’ve already got great relationships with partners in your community or industry, reaching out and asking for a link to your website is one of the easiest ways to start building backlinks. Some current relationships you could leverage for backlinks include:
- Real estate agent
- Home repair services
- Financial planners
- Local governments
- Local businesses
- Community organizations
- Chambers of Commerce
Sending an email, making a phone call or striking up a conversation in person are great ways to open doors. And if you offer to include a reciprocal link on your own website, it may make the process easier!
Chances are your business has been mentioned on other websites without being linked to. Whenever you find one of these instances, either through a search for your financial institution's name or other methods, reach out to the website where that mention is published and ask if they could include a link. Again, offering a reciprocal link to their article or page on your website may help you get these links.
A great way to get your financial institution's name out there, as well as helping build your business’s credibility and authority, is to guest post on other websites. Reach out to community websites, local newspapers, real estate agents and financial planners in your area and ask to write a column on something related to your business. They’ll link back to your website in the writer biography, giving you a backlink.
If you create a great infographic, downloadable or blog post, reach out and offer your asset to other websites. Have a great downloadable checklist for first-time homebuyers? Offer it up to real estate agents and financial advice blogs, requesting a backlink for being able to use it.
Everyone loves it when they’re picked out as an influencer or important person in their industry. Creating blog posts or other content that include mentions of influencers in a specific group, such as area real estate agents or financial planners, is a great way to give people a little ego boost. If you email them with a link to your blog post or another asset, they’re likely to include a backlink to your website to promote their mention.
Many financial institutions offer informational seminars or sponsor area festivals and other events. In listings for these events, such as on newspaper websites or on local school websites, ask that your website is linked to. In addition, putting a post on your website about the event is a great way to get people linking to that event post and, in turn, your website.
You can (legally) steal some of your competitors’ backlinks by analyzing their backlinks profile and reaching out to some of the heavy-hitters. You can run your competitors’ websites through SEO analysis software, such as Sypfu or Ahrefs, and see what websites are linking to them. Identify some of the more desirable links and reach out to those websites using one of the tactics above to see if you can get a backlink.
Making sure your financial institution's website is well-optimized for SEO is a crucial part of helping grow your potential customer or member base. If you’re not paying attention to your website and it isn’t properly optimized for the search engines, you won’t be found by potential customers or members. That means you’ll have an uphill battle trying to grow your business.
If you need help with some or all of the tasks in our guide for financial institutions, contact us at Achieve Marketing. We know SEO for bfinancial institutions, and we can help your website get found by the right people, at the right time. Start your project today!