These days, online visitors will judge your entire brand simply based on your site. What grade would your site get? Take the test and see how many of these ten common mistakes you may be making.
By Michelle Brown, Director of Marketing at ZAG Interactive
Your website is the lifeblood of your bank or credit union. It is the 24/7/365 source for online banking, marketing campaigns, corporate communications, employee recruiting, etc. Chances are, your website isn’t exactly scoring straight A’s.
See how your institution’s site grades against these 10 common mistakes. For extra credit, pass your site’s score on to your management team to justify what needs to be done if you’re going to make the grade online.
1. Poor Quality Content
More than likely, your website content started out with okay content. Then over time, with the site changing, multiple administrators and no formal guidelines, your site has become a bit of a patchwork quilt. Many institution sites suffer from poor content, which not only provides a poor user experience, but also affects conversion rates and ROI.
Can you say ‘yes’ to any of these content no-nos?
- Use of “click here” for links instead of descriptive, action-oriented terms
- Limited (or no mention) of important product/ geographic keywords to support SEO
- Inconsistent content tone and quantities
- No clear call-to-action on each page
2. Ignoring Mobile Audience
The world is becoming increasingly mobile and people expect a great website experience, no matter which device they are on. Consider this: 90% of American adults have a cell phone; 58% of Americans have a smart phone; 42% of Americans own a tablet computer*. Your visitors are on your site at work, at home and during their commute, so if your site doesn’t deliver a seamless device-agnostic experience, then it’s failing them. Having apps for common tasks is great, but more institutions are rebuilding their website using responsive design, because it just doesn’t make sense not to.
Do any of these responsive design tipping points apply to your site?
- More than 10% of your traffic comes from phones or tablets
- Your mobile audience is growing each month
- Your mobile conversion rates are low
- The bounce rate from your home page is over 75%
- Your site still uses Flash, which isn’t visible on many mobile devices like iPhones and iPads
3. Cluttered Home Page
When your home page loads are you overwhelmed by banner ads, cross promotions and other featured items? A home page has many jobs to do and has many people to please. It’s no wonder that so many are about as crazy as Times Square. In an effort to say so much, you end up saying little to nothing in a blur of color and messaging. A well-designed home page should have a solid strategy behind it, white space or breathing room, and rules for ongoing maintenance so that everyone understands how to keep it from spiraling out of control.
Does your home page suffer from these ailments?
- Promotions everywhere instead of in select real estate
- Confusing navigation
- News/event modules that have outdated information
- No HTML text for search engines to understand what your institution offers
4. Poor Site Architecture/Navigation
Do you enjoy being confused and disoriented? I didn’t think so. Neither do your visitors. The manner in which the pages of a website are organized is so important to guiding visitors quickly and easily to the information they are looking for. An intuitively organized sitemap is critical to the success of your website and user experience, as well as to allowing your site to be scalable as it changes over time. Having a site search is great, but don’t force users to rely on it because your site architecture is confusing.
Does your site offer any of these frustrating experiences?
- Links to key pages are hard to find: Branches/ATMs, Rates, Contact
- Users have to click multiple times to navigate from level to level
- Users aren’t quite sure where they are when they land on an internal page
- New pages have been haphazardly added in menus that aren’t intuitive
5. No Search Engine Strategy
Wanting to be ranked on the first page for as many terms as possible is not an SEO strategy. If you don’t have a defined SEO strategy, your chances of ranking on the first page for all of your important terms is about the same as being struck by lightning, winning the lottery or being bitten by a shark. If generating search engine-referred traffic is important to you, it’s time to develop a defined search engine marketing plan. From organic SEO strategies to paid advertising, search engines are the best way for your institution to be found by people actively looking for your products and services.
How do you rank against these SEO worst practices?
- A site architecture that isn’t crafted around your SEO goals
- A URL structure that doesn’t allow you to match page names to target terms
- Content that isn’t written with top search engine keywords and your geographic footprint in mind
- Meta titles and descriptions that aren’t customized based on SEO best practices
- A linking strategy that is weak or spammy
- Inconsistent or no defined content development plan
6. No Social Strategy
By now most institutions have dipped their toes into social media. However, many are still not quite sure how to really leverage it. Simply setting up social properties like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and slapping icons and links onto your site is not exactly the right approach. Like SEO, social media needs a defined strategy in order to maximize its effectiveness for your bank or credit union. Social media can be a wonderful way to extend your brand into your audience’s lives in a less formal way. It can also be a great tool for driving fresh eyes to your site. Unfortunately, most institutions aren’t quite the social butterflies they’d like to be.
Can you identify with any of these social media mistakes?
- Setting up properties but letting them languish
- Being afraid to set up properties and losing opportunities
- Not weaving in legal/compliance so they can give appropriate guidelines
- Not planning out appropriate content for each property
- Not running campaigns that compel people to like/follow you
7. Poor Banners
Homepage banners are a pivotal component of bank and credit union websites. Marketers conceive of them, designers make them a reality and then they go on the site and don’t work hard enough. Why? Most visitors aren’t coming to your website to see your marketing messaging. They came to access online banking. Your banners need to work hard to get their attention, match their needs, link to relevant content, project a consistent brand and support your overall strategy.
Do your banners suffer from any of these problems?
- Designed as a single graphic instead of using a more search engine-friendly approach
- Styling that isn’t consistent with your brand
- Unclear call-to-action or linking approach
- Visual overload, so they just get ignored
8. No Internal Page Strategy
Most bank and credit union websites have a huge visitor drop-off after the homepage. For most institutions, the home page is a gateway to online banking. But a well-designed website should compel visitors to navigate beyond the homepage. Following much of the preceding advice will help correct this issue, but your goal as a marketer is to facilitate a deeper site experience. Link to content that visitors want to learn about like great rates or your community support. Leverage the latest personalization technology to customize the experience for users. And be sure to link internal pages to each other to facilitate visit depth.
How would you rate your institution’s site against these common mistakes?
- Not reviewing analytics to understand what content people are interested in
- Focusing too much on your institution’s product pushing goals
- Using non-descriptive link names so that people skimming the site won’t take note
9. Poor Tracking
Websites can be a key contributor to your marketing and business success, but so many banks and credit unions don’t know how to properly track their impact. Throwing analytics code into pages is a great first step but isn’t quite an analytics strategy. Defining key goals/events, tracking activity on third parties and evaluating what happens after the form submission is how you begin to understand your site’s performance.
Are you up to snuff on these analytics tactics?
- Understanding your analytics platform and accessing it at least monthly
- Setting up conversion tracking so you can understand more about your success
- Working with your third-party vendors to setup your tracking code on their platforms
- Uniquely tracking all online/offline tactics so you can see what is working and what is not
10. Inconsistent Branding and User Experience Between Site and Third Parties
Financial institutions rely heavily on third parties, but your visitors shouldn’t have a clue. From online banking, to mortgage applications to locations finders, banks and credit unions websites must offer a seamless user experience in their most vital conversion points. Unfortunately, most institutions offer visitors a disjointed experience and don’t capitalize on the opportunities to extend custom branding to these products.
Are you shaking your head when you see these common mistakes?
- Inconsistently branding the third-party application so it is obvious to visitors that they have gone somewhere else
- Not properly researching the third-party capabilities to understand how their product helps or hurt SEO, when relevant
- Offering a non-mobile-optimized third-party experience
- Not being able to track activity on third-party products and tie them back to your plan
How Is Your Website Performing
How does your website score? Did you get an A or an F? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above mistakes, then it’s time to think hard about your digital priorities. These days, online visitors will judge your entire brand simply based on your site. The cool thing about your website is that it’s not necessarily being graded on a pass-fail basis. Remember, if you get stuck, your digital agency can make an excellent study partner. By researching best practices and correcting mistakes along the way, your bank or credit union can still present well on its website.