According to Social Media Examiner, 45% of marketers say that blogging is the most important piece of their content strategy. By posting content on a regular basis that consumers find useful, you can then leverage a blog for other marketing messages and important institutional updates — news items, upcoming events, job postings and press releases.
Many banks’ and credit unions’ approach to blogging aims to keep readers generally informed about what’s happening at their institution — contests, product promotions, shred day events, shareholder meetings, new branch openings, etc. However, the most engaging blogs deliver more value through insightful content that helps consumers solve their financial problems. Banking providers must focus their blog content on sharing knowledge in the form of educational articles, lifestyle information, how-to guides and tips for financial well-being.
The Business Case for Blogging
TIP: Aligning the blog to your institution’s mission and marketing goals makes it easier to appeal to consumers, manage internally and recognize a return on investment.
A blog can raise consumer awareness of your brand, get more eyeballs on your website, position your staff as subject matter experts and present your institution as a solutions provider. A blog can also allow a bank or credit union to “loosen the tie” a bit, affording opportunities to demonstrate your organization’s character using a tone that exemplifies the brand.
If your institution’s mission is about “Delivering Smarter Solutions,” then your blog should offer more than just basic, useful education — the insights should be smart, savvy and sophisticated. Alternatively, if your organization is focused on “Community,” then you should be celebrating your outreach in local neighborhoods and make that the forefront of your blog. Focusing your blog content in this way makes it a more consistent experience for both your writers and its readers.
Ultimately, blogging is an inbound marketing technique that assists with lead generation by driving additional site traffic through enhanced search engine optimization (SEO). Blogging.org reports that websites with a blog have 434% more indexed pages — a huge boost for your SEO strategy, since search engines seek out quality, timely content as part of their ranking algorithm (translation: Google loves blog content).
Here’s a quick summary of the benefits financial institutions can realize from blogging:
- Lead Generation – Attract more financial consumers with valuable content, converting site traffic into warm leads by collecting email addresses of blog followers.
- Thought Leadership – Demonstrate thought leadership in the financial sector, establish your financial institution as an authority, and position your team as experts by solving consumer problems with articles and blog posts that build trust.
- Market Intelligence – Gain valuable financial consumer insights, learning more about your target audiences from their feedback to your blog content.
- Search Engine Optimization – Improve your financial institution’s SEO by posting fresh and relevant content, while your previous blog articles can rank for long-tail search queries.
- Marketing – Market your financial institution, increasing brand awareness and promoting products related to article content.
- Branding – Humanize your brand, engaging members and customers in a more friendly and topical manner, while simultaneously controlling the conversation about your financial institution.
- Networking – Build a network of contacts — both readers and writers — that include prospective and existing consumers, partners, vendors, investors and employees.
- Social Media Integration – Support content marketing initiatives, generating inbound links to your blog from social media, email and other digital marketing tactics.
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Best Practices For Building A Financial Blog
Once you’ve convinced internal constituencies that a blog makes sense for your organization, then you have to actually build it. Your blog should be branded, easy-to-manage, scalable, aesthetically pleasing and interactive. It must have all the features and functionality that you’d find on leading blogs outside the industry, while presenting valuable, shareable content specific to banking and personal finance. Building it to be simple for your content managers to update, the design and development of your blog should focus on your readership.
With that in mind, here are 15 tips for building a great banking blog:
- Integrate your blog within your main site, so it is hosted on your primary domain and administered within the same CMS, sharing in site traffic, optimizing for search and making cross-selling opportunities a lot easier to manage.
- Give your blog a distinct section on your main website, to create a clear navigation structure and allow for easy access.
- Develop a masthead that signals to the site visitor that this section is for the blog, including branded graphics, as well as a unique name and purpose statement.
- Establish a name for the blog, relating to your institution’s overall brand, because labelling it “blog” feels generic, whereas a unique, branded title will further position its purpose and your institution.
- Write a purpose statement that clearly conveys what your consumers can expect, including types of articles, subject matter and publication frequency.
- Create categories that programmatically tag each article by type or subject matter, allowing the reader to filter by specific blog content.
- Offer an RSS Feed button, so users can view your most recent articles in their news aggregator application.
- Include social media buttons to allow readers to follow all of your institution’s applicable social media channels, as well as to share articles along their personal channels.
- Program enewsletter signup functionality to build your elist for future correspondence.
- Make a main blog page to serve as a directory for the blog, teasing several articles with lead-in text and links to read more.
- Display entire articles via permalinks to their own pages, complete with headline, author, date, category, image/video, and full text.
- Allow for contextual content, such as in-line images and embedded videos within the article text to increase engagement.
- Add call to action to end of post, such as “Check out this product” or “Contact us for more information.”
- Show similar posts at the end of the article, pulling in previews of several recent, related blogs based on the same Category as the full article.
- Allow for comments, so readers can post feedback to your articles and join in the discussion – provided you can closely monitor and quickly respond.
Plan Your Blog Content Carefully
Once your financial institution’s blog is properly set up, it is time to really focus on content. To maintain an effective blog, you must remember the truism: “Content is King.” The Content Marketing Institute found that 60% of marketers believe their biggest challenge is “producing engaging content.” More than half say “measuring content effectiveness” will be their greatest problem, and 57% say “producing content consistently” is their biggest struggle.
You’ll want to establish a strategy — the plan, people and policies — for your blog, one that identifies your content strategy, writers, approval process and management. In order to fulfill readers’ expectations for new material, a content calendar will help your team to focus on editorial topics, adhering to a monthly schedule for article production. Aligning articles to your financial institution’s service offerings, you’ll want to vary the subject matter for freshness and consider seasonal topics for timeliness.
Bring Them To Your Blog With Content Marketing
As is the case with your financial institution’s site, you need to market your blog, making sure your customers or members know it is available with new content that can help them. According to HubSpot, 60% of marketers say launching a blog is their top inbound marketing priority. Therefore, you must also drive traffic to your blog from your various content marketing tactics, including site promotions, enewsletters, social media, statement inserts, in-branch signage and more offline and online tactics. With a committed and capable team supporting you, blog management will become routine, your financial institution will enjoy the increased visibility and audiences will begin to see your institution as a trusted resource for financial education and information.
Believing In Blogging
Blogging can be an incredibly valuable marketing practice; it can truly work for your bank or credit union… when done right. The success of your blog can be measured quantitatively with page views, referral traffic and lead generation, as well as qualitatively with overall awareness of the institution and its products and services. Moreover, educated consumers trust and appreciate the knowledge you share, leading to more loyalty and higher adoption rates for products and services.
The planning, implementing, writing, posting, monitoring and responding involved with blogging requires considerable resources and commitment. But rest assured, once you set up your blog and get into a good rhythm with your team, you will feel the results.
Chris Rinaldi is a Digital Strategist at ZAG Interactive, a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury CT that has built hundreds of bank and credit union websites. To discuss your digital strategy needs with ZAG, call 860.633.4818 or send an email.