The unifying goal of local search marketing for any financial institution is to make every branch and ATM as readily accessible as possible to consumers. Consistently updating accurate basic location information, developing a brand-wide local marketing plan, and managing your online reputation via staff training can all impact your retention and acquisition efforts.
Conversely, the costs of neglecting local search marketing can include consumer frustration, lost sales, and a loss of control over the online narrative about your brand. Let’s walk you through five core tips for strengthening your local outreach.
1. Begin With a Citation Audit
A citation is a mention of a business name, address and/or phone number anywhere on the web. Citations can be located on structured platforms like local business directories, search engines like Google and review sites like Yelp. Citations can also exist on other platforms like local news sites, blogs or social media hubs.
If there’s one thing that will hurt your local search rankings, it’s having incorrect data out there on the web about your institution. It confuses search engines and consumers alike, eroding credibility in search results.
To ensure that you are publishing good data about your institution, start by doing a quick, free lookup on a tool like Check Listing to get a sense of the health of your data across the major structured platforms. Then, follow this up by looking at your data on local news sites, blogs and other platforms that reference your business.
Correcting your citations so that you are publishing consistent business data will have more impact on your local search rankings than almost any other activity.
2. Don’t Forget: ATMs are Eligible for Google Business Listings
ATM machines are eligible to have a separate Google My Business listing for each location. Creating proper ATM listings can increase your local search visibility, foot traffic, and provide convenience to consumers.
Google’s guidelines surrounding eligibility state that in order to qualify for a Google My Business listing, a business must make in-person contact with the public during its stated hours. But there is an exception: ATMs, video-rental kiosks, and express mail dropboxes are permitted. However, if you add these locations, you must include contact information so people can get help when needed.
Given this, you’ll want to be sure that any ATM you list includes both its address and a customer support phone number. A toll-free number is allowed, and can help keep your ATM listings distinct from your physical branch listings, for which you’ll likely want to list a local number (e.g., direct line to the branch).
Google says that when you fill out the business name fields for these listings, you must stick to the same rules as you would for other business listings. That means removing any unnecessary information like taglines, directional instructions/information, store codes and special characters. For example:
- Allowed — “US Bank ATM”
Not Allowed — “US Bank ATM – 7th & Pike – Parking Garage Lobby near Elevator”
Even if an ATM is contained within another business, Google wants:
- Allowed — “Chase ATM”
- Not Allowed — “Chase ATM in Crossroads Shopping Mall”
As with the first tip, audit all ATM locations you list to be absolutely certain that their names, addresses and phone numbers are accurate, consistent and compliant with Google’s guidelines.
3. Put a Brand-Wide Local Marketing Plan Together for All Branches
Whether the marketing for all branches is managed by a single department, or your institution allows branches to have some degree of control over how they promote their locations, be sure that everyone is accessing and adhering to a company-wide local search marketing plan.
Don’t just include what branches are allowed to do; highlight all practices you don’t allow. Be sure every branch is Google guideline-compliant and that overlapping roles isn’t causing confusion or work to be undone or overwritten. Maintain a central spreadsheet listing out all branches, the work being undertaken for them, and the identity of those responsible each task. Trouble can be avoided when everyone understands policies, permissions, and roles.
4. Staff Training Is All That Stands Between You and Bad Reviews
One study has found that 92% of consumers say they read online reviews, and another survey found that 57% of consumer complaints stem from customer service/employee behavior issues. Given the impact reviews have on both search engine rankings and any brand’s bottom line, a formal staff training program has become an absolute must.
The people representing your institution’s brand to the public must be trained not only in the goods and services you offer, but also in how to resolve complaints effectively before they morph into negative reviews, how to escalate issues to appropriate staff members, and how to carry out corporate policy governing every conceivable issue that could arise in a day’s work.
Clearly developed staff guidelines and ongoing employee training are your very best strategy for earning positive reviews and avoiding negative ones.
Keep this in mind: When consumers search for a financial institution, they are often including localized keywords in their search query. And when consumers write online reviews of a financial institution, then frequently mention a specific, local branch location. Considering how many reviews are negative, it’s imperative that you do everything possible to minimize them. It’s very likely that when someone searches for “home loans” and uses your brand name and/or one of your local markets as a search modifier, Google will place online reviews high up in its search results.
5. Weigh Risks vs. Benefits of a Multi-Site vs. Single Site Approach
Multi-location businesses — like banks and credit unions — may be tempted to take a multi-site approach (building out a website for each location). Benefits of this approach can be:
- Giving franchisees or branch managers more direct control over their local marketing.
- Google does weights keywords in domains in local search results, meaning that having redwoodbankchicago.com and redwoodbankboston.com could potentially give those branches an edge in those markets.
That being said, when you multiply the number of domains you might be trying to manage, you are also multiplying the SEO you have to do, the content you have to develop, the links you have to earn and everything else that comprises local search marketing. You are also multiplying your risk if you have numerous people engaging in all kinds of tasks on different domains.
Because of that multiplication of work and risks, most financial brands will be best served by consolidating everything under a single domain, administered by a cohesive, company-wide marketing plan. With the single site approach, every link you earn, every piece of content you develop, every social success you enjoy goes toward strengthening the overall brand, building a powerhouse internet presence. In this scenario, each branch can be given the special marketing attention it merits via the creation of landing pages.
Multi-location brands will want to start by implementing a good, usable branch locator search on their website. Local consumers looking up the branch nearest to them can search for it on the site and should then be linked to the best, unique landing page you can develop for each location. Then, be sure your citations for each branch are linking directly to their respective landing page on the website, ensuring that customers are reaching pages that have been built expressly for their local needs.
Bonus Tip: Be sure to build at least one page on your website that’s visible to Google (and the public) listing all your branch locations. Some financial institutions only provide a search function, so the address for each branch isn’t something Google can index.
Miriam Ellis is part of the local search team at Moz. When she’s not writing the monthly Moz Local newsletter and answering questions in the Q&A forum, she’s helping her clients master their local SEO strategies at her own firm Solas Web Design.