By Michael Bertini
The golden rule in marketing is to know your customer: What are their pain points, wants and needs? However, it’s also important for consumers to know who they are doing business with. Are they reputable, responsive and reliable?
Every year, hundreds of millions of consumers use search engines to learn about and engage with businesses in their area. That means maximizing search visibility via SEO must be a priority for any local business – restaurant, auto dealership, spa or, yes, community bank.
Just how important is local SEO? Google estimates that “near me” searches with purchase intent surged more than 500 percent between 2016 and 2018.
While search optimization is a wide-ranging topic, one area of local SEO that community banks can’t ignore is Google My Business (GMB). Owning your GMB profile is an essential step in gaining preferential SERP (search engine results page) position for searches in your area.
Here are the 4 components of GMB that matter most for community bank SEO:
1) Fill in as much information as you can.
Each of your branches should have its own GMB profile. And on each of these profiles, you should aim to fill in as much information as you can.
This is block-and-tackle stuff, but it’s critically important to get the details right. Verify that your addresses – including your locations within malls or shopping plazas – are correct. Input your hours for all seven days of the week and holidays. Add your branch phone numbers, and make sure they match the numbers provided on your website.
Pay close attention to other information fields. Do your branches have bathrooms? Mark that down in your GMB profile. Do you offer reservations? Probably not, but make note of it anyway.
Be sure to use the description field to list your service offerings, as well: ATMs, mortgages, insurance, and so on. Facilitate consumer information-gathering by being as complete and accurate as you can.
2) Upload compelling photos.
Another area where you should aim for accuracy is images. It’s important to not only upload images to your GMB profile but use real pictures of the inside and outside of your branches.
In other words: Don’t rely on stock photos, which have limited SEO value. Photo’s that you take from your camera have a digital footprint or a “geotag”. This signals to Google that you’re located where you say you are. This increases the odds that a Google image search of your area will display pictures you’ve uploaded.
Data shows that the better an online vendor’s images the more likely visitors are to convert. Using images to visualize the benefits received from a product increased revenue per visitor by 17 percent and increased page click-throughs by 8 percent. An increase in product image size, which means greater visibility, deeper emotional connections and better-looking pages, also resulted in a 63 percent conversion lift.
3) Strategically fill out Q&As.
GMB profiles’ questions and answers section is a great place to add more content to your listing. Google’s algorithm loves quality content, especially when it is user-generated.
Q&As can demonstrate engagement on the part of both customers and employees. If you’re not receiving a lot of organic questions, consider having your employees ask questions from their personal Google accounts on a week-to-week basis that your customers might have questions about as well.
Questions about specific locations are especially valuable for building topical relevancy as a local business. A great question might be “Which of your locations are close to public transit?” You could then offer a comprehensive reply that demonstrates knowledge of your local area.
One more important detail for SEO: Try to use common local-search keywords in all of your Q&A replies. For example, keywords like “walk-in ATM”, “location hours” and “wait times” are frequent concerns of bank visitors.
4) Actively manage reviews.
Reviews are critical to SEO for a few reasons. First, they add high-value content to your GMB profile(s). Second, they show that your profiles are generating engagement. And third, they demonstrate the quality of the services you offer.
Something many banks neglect is responding to negative reviews. From both a search optimization and a branding standpoint, you ignore reviews at your peril.
It’s important to see negative reviews not as a burden but an opportunity to reshape the narrative. Use your responses to give your point of view, apologize and acknowledge any mistakes.
Reviews are a great example of how investing in SEO and building your online brand are overlapping activities. Creating strong GMB profiles and applying local-SEO best practices will not only enhance your visibility in search but give consumers more confidence in what you have to offer.
By putting in the necessary time to build a complete Google My Business profile, community banks can reap the rewards as it supports brand-building throughout the customer journey and allows consumers to easily find what they are looking for- while driving traffic in the process.
Michael Bertini is an online marketing consultant and search strategist and iQuanti, a performance-based digital marketing firm. He is an SEO industry veteran with 15+ years of experience. Prior to iQuanti, Bertini was a backlink analyst/strategist & product engineering consultant at Moz, as well as a search strategy consultant at Digital Next. Bertini has been a speaker at BrokerBin Roadshow Las Vegas and BrokerBin Roadshow International.