Search engine optimization, or SEO, helps people find your community bank’s website. Here are five ways you can help your bank rise up the search rankings.
By Ed Avis
When somebody is looking for a new bank, what is the first thing they do? They Google “bank near me” or something similar. If your bank consistently maintains your website’s search engine optimization (SEO), your community bank should show up near the top of the search results.
“SEO is a great return on investment,” says Jana Jurukovska, vice president, marketing/creative director for ICBA. Part of SEO is behind-the-scenes technical website work. Jurukovska notes that the creativity and quality of the content on a website are equally essential. “SEO is a collaborative dance between the technical aspects of website development and the more storytelling, writing craft,” she adds.
Here are five tips for helping ensure your community bank appears near the top of search results.
- Don’t skimp on content
Content that is pertinent, accurate and well-written keeps visitors on your site. If users find your site through a search engine, Google (or another search engine) assumes it’s a quality page and ranks it higher the next time somebody makes a similar search, explains Michael Marriott, director of digital marketing strategy for ICBA.
“Imagine your listing in a search engine website,” Marriott says. “Is it enticing? Does it look like what I’m looking for in a bank? And then once I go in, does it serve what I need? Does it have what I’m looking for?”
“Imagine your listing in a search engine website. Is it enticing? … And then once I go in, does it serve what I need?”
—Michael Marriott, ICBA
Importantly, make sure your homepage—often the very first page customers see—contains decent content, because that’s the first stop for web crawlers, which provide data that Google uses to determine rankings.
“You need at least 250 characters on your homepage,” explains Derek Baker, an account manager at Mills Marketing. “And copy that’s designed into images does not count, because Google can’t pick that up.”
Beyond information about your bank and its products, consider posting articles that demonstrate the expertise of your staff and those that highlight your local connections.
“You want content that makes the customer feel the bank is local and there for them and trustworthy,” Jurukovska says.
- Use natural keywords
You’ve probably heard that keywords are important to your search engine ranking, but remember to consider them from the customer’s perspective. “When you’re thinking about keywords, you might think about products the bank has, but instead you might want to think about what the customer is trying to solve,” Jurukovska says. She suggests that instead of writing an article about credit cards, you use something like “how do I build up my credit,” which a person might actually type into a search engine.
If you want to learn what keywords are working for you now, set up an account at Google Search Console, a free tool that explains what’s driving traffic to your site. Your content agency should also do keyword research as part of the planning process.
- Keep your community bank’s contact details up to date
An incorrect listing on sites like Yelp and Google Maps can damage your search rankings.
“There are over 75 online directories, and some work like Wikipedia in that a consumer can put in the information about your bank,” Baker explains. “They can go in and say, ‘I bank at XYZ Bank and they are located at 123 Main Street,’ but you’re really at 143 Main Street.”
This was an important issue for VeraBank, a $2.4 billion-asset bank in Henderson, Texas, because it changed its name from Citizens National Bank in 2019. The bank hired an outside consulting firm to help ensure the new name was disseminated among all the directory sites, says Jeremy Cartwright, VeraBank’s vice president of digital banking. “We used that service because we knew it was a daunting task to visit each and every site that could have had a listing for our branches,” he says.
- Get backlinks to your site
A backlink is when another webpage links to your site. So, if your bank sponsors a local charitable event, for example, and the charity writes about the event on their website, ask them to include a link to your bank in the article.
“Creating that link back to your site elevates your bank’s presence,” Jurukovska says. “It’s really about showing [Google] that you are a valid entity and have valuable content.”
It’s also important to include relevant internal links, notes Max Prokell, founder and CEO of Venta Marketing, the digital marketing partner of The Callaway Bank in Columbia, Mo.
“The most successful banks have helpful links placed throughout their well-organized content,” Prokell says. “Linking pages within your website will help customers navigate the information and spend more time on your site to find the answers that they are looking for. Internal links also help search engines crawl your site and establish a trusted hierarchy of information, making your site more rank-worthy.”
- Don’t think SEO is a one-and-done
You need to regularly work on SEO for your site to maintain a high ranking. “SEO is always evolving because search crawlers are always changing the algorithms they use,” Marriott says, “and what people search for is also constantly changing, so you have to stay ahead of both.”
of clicks on Google search results pages go to the first five organic results
Ed Avis is a writer in Illinois.