Broken links. Typos. Links to documents that don’t work. Let’s face it: every website has issues, including The Financial Brand (more on that in a minute).
The integrity of banking websites is hyper critical. Consumers live in the digital world, and have become very savvy users; they are exposed to a ton of top-notch websites, and they know what they like. Consumer expectations are high, and if financial institutions are going to succeed in digital/mobile channels, they have to hold themselves to this higher standard. That’s why the online experience must be central in any institution’s strategy.
Now, think about the last time you went to a company’s website and saw a “404” error page. It’s maddening, isn’t it? It’s irritating enough for a consumer when they hit a “404” at their dry cleaner’s website, but it’s much worse when it’s a banking website, where the expectations for accuracy and professionalism are significantly higher. If someone runs into busted links and typos on a bank or credit union website, there’s a fair chance they may start to wonder, “Should I keep my money here?”
As if good UX and consumer confidence weren’t reason enough to focus on your website’s integrity, there’s also the SEO consequences. (When we talk about “search engines” we generally mean Google.)
Google has gazillions of spiders — not the eight-legged arachnid, but a type of digital “spider” that crawls around the web, methodically indexing one page after another for website after website. These spiders will explore every link on every page they find. But a broken link is like a giant red stop sign, halting the progress of Google’s spiders. If a search spider lands on too many of these “404” error pages, it diminishes the value of your website in Google’s eyes.
And if there is any lesson financial marketers need to take to heart, it’s that you want your website to be friends with Google. If Google doesn’t like you, you’re in trouble. Big trouble. In all, there are only about 35 things that Google really wants you — as a website owner — to follow. That’s all it takes to keep Google happy — 35 things. And listed among Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, you will clearly see that broken links are specifically called out. If Google says you should pay attention to it, then it’s probably important.
When Google finds a bunch of broken links on your website, their search engine algorithm is essentially programmed to think, “This website lacks integrity. The owner of this website doesn’t take the quality of their website seriously, therefore the content must also be inferior. We will rank content from this website lower in our search results.”
Siteimprove: A Tool to Fix Broken Banking Websites
Siteimprove is a company specifically focused on improving “web governance” for financial institutions. They offer a turnkey service that helps banks and credit unions find broken links, misspellings, SEO errors and ADA issues — all areas that directly impact the user experience, and Google’s attitude towards your website.
The Financial Brand took Siteimprove for a test drive, and what we found on our own website was shocking. Out of 1,000 pages scanned, Siteimprove found 222 broken links and 56 typos. A subsequent and more thorough evaluation later revealed that roughly 3,500 of the 33,574 outbound links on The Financial Brand created problems for search spiders — that’s about 10% of all the links on the site. We had hundreds of articles linking to blog posts, vendors, publications, and even banks and credit unions that no longer exist. Out of the 800 or so YouTube videos we’ve linked to in seven years, approximately 70% have been deleted. The analysis revealed about a dozen PDF reports that were no longer available from their original source. All that needed to be cleaned up.
An estimated 20% of online users are effected by website accessibility issues, and some major banking institutions have been sued for lacking ADA compliant websites. Fortunately, Siteimprove addresses ADA compliance too, with a tool that provides a summary of all accessibility errors affecting your site.
( Read More: Could Your Banking Website Be The Target Of A Lawsuit? )
Siteimprove can help with other compliance issues too. Say, for instance, you want to avoid the word “guarantee.” Siteimprove is optimized for financial institutions working in a regulated environment, helping marketers and compliance people guard against dangerous terminology. Siteimprove can also help you achieve continuity for disclosures, and ensure you are providing the right compliance documents when and where you should be.
If the consistent execution and application of your brand is a priority, Siteimprove can help there too. Maybe you want a ® registered symbol after your brand name, and a ™ trademark symbol next to your “AlwaysFree™ Checking” product. Some institutions use “VISA” while others prefer “Visa” (the correct treatment). Whatever little niggles tend to frustrate your team, Siteimprove will likely be able to help you achieve the level of consistency you’re looking for.
One really nice thing about Siteimprove is that it runs automatically, in the background. You can easily schedule and circulate periodic reports about the QA status of your website. You’ll get a detailed summary — maybe too down in the weeds for some senior level execs — but it’s fascinating and very convenient to have all your website issues packaged up in one handy punch list.
Erin Brownlow, AVP at Busey Bank ($3.4 billion, in Champaign, IL), says she has to manage a really large site with lots of contributors, so it just isn’t feasible to manually look through the website for broken links and misspellings on an ongoing basis.
“It’s so much easier to see errors and broken links. We link to lots of third party sites who don’t advise us when they change their links,” Brownlow says. “Now Siteimprove tells me if anything changes, so we don’t need the reminders.”
“We also found that we weren’t compliant with accessibility guidelines for disabled users, which was a surprise,” Brownlow continues. “Making sure that we are compliant is a huge deal to us, because we want to be able to always provide the best service to our customers.”
“With Siteimprove everything is easy,” Brownlow adds. “You can just get in and do everything without running into technical jargon or confusing controls.”