Too many financial marketers obsess over how they rank with certain keywords. While this is important, it shouldn’t be the primary driving goal of your search engine marketing strategy — getting more clicks that lead to more business should be your primary objective.
By John Siracusa, President & CEO at mOSa eBank Marketing Services
If you knew nothing about your financial institution and researched the web for a new bank or credit union, what would you learn? Would that research cause you to choose your financial institution? Or would you choose another?
Contrary to popular opinion, consumers don’t choose new banking providers based on keywords like “mortgage rates” or “banks in (city/state).” Although keyword searching in Google for certain banking products or services is an important piece of the puzzle, a high ranking in the results is not necessarily the ultimate piece that consumers use to make their decisions.
Whenever banks and credit unions investigate SEO services, they seem to dwell exclusively on keyword ranking. “We want to be on the first page of results for [keyword X],” they often say. But the never seem very concerned about how to gain more market share based on how people research and ultimately choose an institution. It is assumed that high keyword ranking automatically translates into more business — not necessarily the case.
( Read More: 50 Essential SEO Terms Financial Marketers Should Know )
If your only search engine marketing goal is to rank or bid on keywords, your leaving out integral pieces of information consumers need to before they are comfortable choosing your financial institution. A study by Shopper Sciences states that on average, consumers research and use 8.9 sources before making a decision to open a bank account. Most of this research is performed online. The younger the researcher is, the more sources they require before making a decision, and the more online sources they use.
We will never go back to the old days when you could place one advertisement and suddenly a swarm of people visit a branch.
With the amount of information available through venues like Google, Facebook and Amazon, consumers have very high expectations on what they believe they should be able to find on the web. Some people need to compare products, see ratings and read reviews from other people. Others head to Google looking for more than one source of information, like personal finance blogs, third-party sites like MyBankTracker, news, videos, etc. They may pop into Facebook or Twitter to ask their friends for advice — “Should I use this bank?” or “What’s the best way to refinance my house?” This is the way consumers make decisions today. We will never go back to the old days when you could place one advertisement and suddenly a swarm of people visit a branch. The faster that information can be processed and consumed will only increase the amount of research that people will need before making their decisions.
( Read More: 12 Common SEO Mistakes Financial Marketers Make )
To be a brand that is chosen more often than others, your search results on mobile, desktop/laptop and tablet devices should clearly present your financial institution as the obvious choice. But how to accomplish that? Sure, there’s plenty of analytics involved, but it also takes a lot of creativity, a focused strategy, patience and consistency.
Here are five concrete ideas to help you get the results you expect from your online search marketing strategy.
1. Increase and Improve Online Ratings & Reviews
Your first priority should be to encourage, influence and correctly manage as many genuine ratings and reviews as possible on platforms that people use more often, and influences as many technologies as possible. Yelp being one.
2. Maximize the Power of Press Releases
Financial marketers need to distribute as many online press releases as possible. It is vital to understand how online press releases are created and work; it’s much different than those old paper press releases. An example is that a press release on www.patch.com will show very high in search results compared to an exact same press release hosted on your website. The reason being is that Google gives much higher search value to Patch, compared to your site.
3. Crawl Your Site for Errors
Double check your site for correct and accurate links on and off your website. Broken and low quality links are suicide to your websites rankings. We have a detailed service that checks how Google crawls a website and points out all errors on and off of a website, but here is a site that will give you a basic audit of links on your site for free. Essentially Google should crawl your site, and any site that links to your site, and it should be a smooth and easy transition with high value interaction with high value sites.
( Read More: Google Adwords Costs For Banks & Credit Unions )
4. Make Sure All Your Locations Are Listed
Claim all of your institutions’ branch locations on Google+, Yelp, MapQuest, Yellow Pages, Foursquare, and Yahoo Local. If you want to see how your listings look you can see it here on a free service GetListed. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. There are services that help you claim locations for a fee, we also have it available for our clients, but you can manually do it as well for no more than a cost of your time.
5. Monitor Like a Madman
If someone leaves a review, respond to that review. If someone links to your site, try to ensure that link is a quality link that is properly linked to the right page. If someone Blogs about your brand, leave a comment thanking them. Respond to everything!
All the ideas mentioned here will not just help with keyword ranking, they will give consumers multiple research points when they are looking for a new banking product, service, or relationship.
SEO goes much further than hiring an SEO company that focuses on keyword ranking. In fact, I truly believe that the acronym “SEO” is completely misleading and misunderstood. Most people who think of SEO think of it in a very tactical manner, with little regard for broader strategy that truly influencing people’s decisions about their future financial providers. The better you brand yourself across all devices — mobile, laptop/desktop and tablets — the more quality and quantity of genuine leads you will yield. Remember that showing up in results is important, but showing up correctly ensures consumers make decisions in your favor.