Searching for Excellence: Redesigning Banking Websites for SEO

When redesigning any bank or credit union website, search engine optimization (SEO) is as important than aesthetics — if not more so. If Google can't find your website, you'll struggle moving the needle. Every financial marketer must make sure their website makes Google happy, not just graphics designers and people using the site. Begin by thinking about filing cabinets and what sends people to search engines in the first place.

In the digital age where consumers constantly look for the next best thing, an outdated website is a major disadvantage. For financial brands, a site refresh or total redesign shouldn’t just be about a cosmetic upgrade. Any web makeover project also affords significant opportunities to improve your search rankings.

No matter the scale, the goal when updating any bank or credit union’s site should be to reinforce the brand’s integrity, authority and credibility — striking a balance between branding and SEO strategies. Financial services companies, however, typically approach web projects from either a design or technology standpoint, often overlooking (or flat out ignoring) the impact of these changes on search engine optimization — even though the smallest change can have huge consequences for a site’s search ranking.

Audit Your Keywords

“Knowing how your current keywords are performing is imperative when redesigning your site.”

To evaluate what SEO steps need to be taken as part of a site redesign, you must first understand what is organically driving traffic to your existing site.

By analyzing your site’s ranking report from Google, you can determine what is driving the site’s success at a keyword level. This will provide insight into which keywords are performing well and which ones could be improved. It may also help to identify keywords that you may not have been prioritizing, but that are driving traffic or could be further optimized.

Knowing how your current keywords are performing is imperative for your site, telling you what to focus on and which keywords to protect when redesigning your site. If you reduce or eliminate keywords from your site that are performing well today, it will negatively affect SEO and cost you valuable traffic. Conversely, increasing the use of relevant keywords throughout your site during a redesign will likely increase traffic.

The next step is to perform an exhaustive content review at a page-by-page level to identify additional opportunities to improve keyword usage. Taking a deeper look at your content and the keywords you are prioritizing will highlight any missed opportunities and help you identify where you can improve.

For example, let’s say you are choosing between using “auto loans” and “car loans” when listing your bank’s offerings. To decide, look how those search terms rank from an SEO perspective and use the data accordingly. The more consistent you are in your keyword usage, the better. Look for keywords with strong search volume and relatively low competition.

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Structuring Site Architecture: ‘Folders’ and ‘Drawers’

“Think of your site and its different pages and sub-pages as a virtual filing cabinet.”

A redesign will typically involve some amount of restructuring around how the pages and content are organized within your site. Understanding your site architecture and naming conventions from the very beginning provides a better opportunity to ensure search success for a new site.

Imagine if you threw everything into one drawer in the filing cabinet in your office. It wouldn’t be long before you were frustrated, digging through the entire pile to find what you needed. Most executives, however, systemically organize everything into folders and drawers to ensure their documents are easy to find and access. Similarly, it helps to think of your site and its different URLs as a virtual filing cabinet — primary navigation pages are like “drawers” and sub-pages are like “folders.” This is particularly helpful for financial services sites with a large number of similar products and offerings.

By creating a highly detailed hierarchy of content following a logical pattern, both consumers and search engines are more likely to find your site valuable. For your website to be effective and easy to navigate, the content must be organized in a way that is easy for both consumers and bots to follow and quickly reach the information they are looking for. For example, a bank’s website likely contains a variety of personal and business products, which can be organized into landing pages for overarching products (loans, for example), and subpages for the explicit details (loan types, such as home loans, construction loans, student loans, etc.).

Putting an emphasis on how you name and organize your website content matters. The clearer your labeling and the more related your content is, the better the site visitor experience and the more likely search engines will reward your site with a favorable ranking. This is a significant factor in your SEO ranking, but be aware: You cannot trick the system! (Read more: “keyword stuffing.” ) If you try to game your SEO results (e.g., by for instance), it can backfire… big time.

Optimizing SEO = Great CX (And Vice Versa)

You can achieve exceptional SEO ranking by making it easy for users to understand the intent of each page on your site. To ensure customers can easily navigate your site, ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose of each page?
  • What is it that you want visitors to do while on that page?

Your answer must align with the keywords you identified earlier in the process that you are trying to target, otherwise it will not increase your SEO value.

Most importantly, the content on each page needs to be relevant to your identified intent. What you publish must matter and match the intent or purpose of the page.

Once you know the intent of each page, you can align all of the primary page attributes — the title, H1 header tags, meta descriptions (snippets of code that describe the content), and H2 level subheadings. Your site should allow you to set these attributes for each page. Avoid using content that is too similar across pages.

It is important that your site have content organized efficiently, so that multiple pages are not providing similar information. Understanding the intent of each page minimizes the chance of duplicate content, which Google sees as detrimental.

This goes back to the filing cabinet system. It would not make sense to have bank loans be the intent of the page but have content that focuses on checking accounts.

No matter what point a user is at in viewing your site — from learning to buying — the page they are on and the content they read must answer their questions and engage them.

The most effective site redesign is one in which the user does not notice the under-the-hood changes, but recognizes a significant improvement in their experience, leading them to the information they need faster and more clearly. By following these steps, financial services companies will see the additional benefits of a redesign, including stronger SEO and more traffic to their site.

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