A common misconception among marketers at community banks is that you can’t compete in search without spending at big-bank levels. In reality, you can tailor your keyword strategy, site content and page architecture to match your local customers’ needs to earn a higher search ranking and drive more customers in the door.
Rather than focusing on competing with the big banks, community banks should direct their attention to developing content specific to their buyers’ journies, keeping local SEO top of mind and building authority off-page to achieve SEO success.
Coordinate Content With the Local Buyer Journey
The most successful SEO for any business comes from truly understanding the journey your customers take — from initial discovery to purchase — for each product you offer. For community banks, it is even more important to discover what pieces of your customer journey are different than those of a national bank customer — why do your customers bank locally?
This is crucial for SEO because of the way today’s consumers make purchases — a large majority of people rely on search engines when they want to buy something. Because every page on a company’s website is a potential entry page from search, getting noticed means your page content must match what consumers are looking for.
Think about the keywords an online checking shopper may search for and how your content can help them find what they are looking for. Some of these queries are high-funnel: How do I open an account? What’s the cost? What are the restrictions? Others are lower in the funnel: What are some banks in my area? What are the different rates and benefits they offer?
To be successful with SEO, your pages should address these kinds of questions. By leveraging the right keywords and great content, you can introduce consumers to your brand at every stage of their purchase journey. And by tailoring your content specifically to local customers you are able to offer a more helpful online experience that a national bank cannot provide.
Think Local, Act Local
As a local business, community banks benefit from building out a locally focused site structure to drive local SEO value.
To excel with local search, each branch should have its own page instead of a single “location finder” page. These pages can be created to highlight the benefits of each branch and neighborhood references, as well as SEO best practices, such as schema markup around the branch’s name, address and phone number. Commonly searched phrases like “checking accounts in San Diego” should also be included in the body of your local pages, and, if appropriate, the header tags.
It’s also smart to mention ATMs in your local branches’ page content. “ATMs near me” is an extremely common search and one in which you should have a presence, as ATMs can be a consumer’s first point of contact with a bank brand.
Another way to solidify your SEO presence is to add reviews or ratings to your branch pages that are specific to that branch. Over 90 percent of consumers say they rely on reviews when buying from local merchants thanks to their recency and relevancy.
Build Your Authority Beyond Your Own Website
While on-page and technical SEO improvements to your site may be most impactful when you are first getting started, it is also important to build an off-page presence to drive traffic to your site because 45 percent of the Google algorithm currently relies on off-page authority.
“Off-page” refers to the SEO tactics you deploy beyond your own website. For community banks, it’s extremely important to create profiles on Yelp, Google My Business and other local directories, especially those specific to your community. These validate your name, address and phone with the search engines, and including links to your site in the profiles will increase your domain authority.
You may consider services like Yext to help you manage multiple off-page profiles at once. Especially if you have more than one location, these services can be worth the cost.
Community banks can also invest in link-building as part of their off-page strategy. Though this can become time-consuming and expensive, and generating off-page links requires you to have compelling content on your site, it is beneficial to look for opportunities to build legitimate links with reputable sites. Even in 2018, backlinks continue to be one of the most influential SEO ranking factors.
To effectively optimize search, even with a small budget, there’s a lot that can be done. It all starts with knowing who your customer is, what they’re searching for, and how your brand fits into their financial lives. Be smart with your SEO strategy and you’ll be well on your way to a higher ranking in the searches that matter to your target customer.
Wayne Cichanski joins iQuanti with 23 years as an SEO expert. For more information, visit www.iquanti.com.