Search Engine Optimization for Financial Institutions—The Basics
February 2019

Search engine optimization, or SEO for short, is one of the most important aspects of owning a website. Is your website mobile friendly? Does your website load quickly? Are potential customers and borrowers able to find you when they search for you online? If your answer to any of these questions is “no,” or even “sometimes,” or if you simply do not know these answers, you should look into optimizing your site.

As the name suggests, SEO means optimizing your website for search engines. For example, when a customer or borrower searches for “Banks in Los Angeles, California” in a search engine like Yahoo, Google, or Bing, they are trusting that the search engine will turn up the best result. As a financial institution, your job is to make sure that the search engines recognize your website as a viable and reputable source of information.

Selecting Target Keywords

If you would like to drive more traffic to your website, you should first ask yourself, “What kind of traffic do I want to drive to my site?” For example, if your goal is to grow your auto loan portfolio, your target keywords might include “auto loans” “low interest car loans,” and “used car loans.” If your goal is to increase visibility with your members or customers, you might consider focusing on branded keywords. These keywords would include your business name tied to various hot-button phrases.Examples include, “Highland Savings and Loan credit score,” “Highland Savings and Loan mortgage rates,” and “Highland Savings and Loan interest rates.”

Knowing what you want to target will greatly help you accomplish your goals with your website. If you’re like we are at Visible Equity, you’ll find that your website fills a variety of needs. For our SEO, we place the majority of our emphasis on specific phrases that potential customers might search. Any extra resources after that are focused on boosting our branded keywords, so our current clients can always find us.

Optimizing Your Website

The first thing you will want to look at with your website is the content. A common adage in the SEO community is “Content is King.” The content of your website is often the predominant factor that search engines consider when indexing and ranking your site. A well-optimized website should have a good amount of content. If you’re trying to figure out how much content to write, run a quick Google search for a keyword you would like to rank for, and then compare the top 10 results to your own site.

For example, if you are trying to rank for the key phrase “Credit Union Los Angeles CA,” type that key phrase into your browser’s search bar. Then open up each of the top 10 results. What do those websites have in common? Often the page you land on will not contain a great deal of content, but if you search through the site, you’ll find that each contains many pages, each with a great deal of useful information. If you hope to compete with these websites, you need to create unique, valuable content—and a lot of it.

Of course, you’ll also need to optimize your website. This means putting relevant information into key spots on each webpage. These spots include the following: Meta Descriptions, Titles, Alt-Image Tags, and Headers. You’ll also want to invest some time into creating structured data so that Google can easily recognize where you’re located and what services you provide. If you don’t know what any of these are, your web designer will.

The final stage of optimizing your site is to build and connect local business profiles. These include Google Business pages, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc. Be sure that all of the information in these profiles match and are updated regularly.

Monitor Online Presence

Monitor Link Portfolio

One of the most significant factors that affects your rankings is your link portfolio—meaning the websites that have links to your site. These links are a signal to search engines that your site has relevant and useful information. The more of these links you have from reputable websites, the more likely your site is to be higher in the search results. With that being said, be wary of link-building schemes!

Many SEO providers abuse this and will build low-quality links to your site, which could actually damage your online reputation. In fact, Google discourages paying, or even asking, for links to your website. While there’s not really a way to enforce that for now, in the coming years it is a high possibility that search engines will find a way to further penalize links that are built unnaturally. This is why it’s so important to create high-quality content. Providing quality content will encourage people to visit your site and create links on their own websites. If you can master this step, your site will be safe from algorithm updates and link-building schemes.

Engage with Reviewers and Be Active on Social Media

You’re also going to want to engage on social media and with people who leave you reviews. Responding to consumer reviews is a great way to show customers that they are valued.  Additionally, Google recently confirmed that your activity in the reviews is indeed a SEO ranking factor. Speaking of social media, if you have the accounts made you will also want to make sure you are posting updates regularly, as search engines crawl these as well for relevance.

Use the Google Suite to Improve Your Website

Lastly, if you haven’t yet, you should monitor your website in Google Analytics and Google Search Console. These tools will send you alerts if there are problems on your site, such as a page that isn’t being indexed or if your site is unreadable. I would plan on checking your Analytics and Search Console every month, just to be safe.

Final Tips for Beginners

It took me a couple years to really get the hang of SEO—and I still encounter new problems all the time. I highly discourage you from taking any shortcuts when it comes to your website. SEO is a long-term strategy that’s notoriously difficult to predict a return on investment. If you take shortcuts, you’re going to be kicking yourself down the road. I’ve seen it many times.

Lastly, there are many free resources out there, but the problem is most people don’t know about them. In the infographic, I’ve written down a few of the sites that I use all the time. Seriously, I use these tools every day. If you’re hoping to start doing SEO for yourself, you should look into these resources.

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