What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of enhancing content so that it is “optimized” for both users and search engines. It is important because top search engines, like Google and Bing, “score” your content to determine your bank’s ranking in an organic search. Optimizing your content, by putting just a few simple SEO practices in place, will improve the performance and experience of your website, helping your bank gain better visibility in a consumer’s search for financial industry products and services. Done properly, SEO can bring you closer to the “top of the page”, generate more traffic to your website, convert your site visitors to customers, and then convert those customers into revenue for your bank.
Why is SEO important?
When a user types a search phrase into their browser’s search field, search engines — using what are called “bots” or “spiders — use complex algorithms to identify and “score” the content they “crawl.” The crawled content can include web pages full of text, news articles, images, videos, linked websites, and business listings, to name a few. The search engine then places the resulting sites on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page), ranking them based on the score given by the algorithm.
Search engine optimization is critical because with it, you can ensure that your website delivers on what potential customers will find valuable and useful. Specifically, information that they find fresh and relevant to their search. After all, customers searching the web using certain search terms are looking for answers. The better you do at providing those answers, the better your site’s chances of getting placed higher in the SERP
So now you know a little bit about how SEO can increase the number of visits to your website. And yes, while “quantity of visits” is certainly an objective — and an important one — you don’t want to focus solely on increasing your site visits. You want to make sure that those visits are quality visits; that the individuals coming to your site are coming there for the right reasons. It does your bank no good if your optimization efforts bring visitors to your site in search of furniture or computer equipment, right? High-quality traffic includes only visitors who are genuinely interested in the products, information, or other resources your site offers.
Now, for the short course in SEO.
Your time is valuable. Therefore, this isn’t intended to be a comprehensive course on SEO. Instead, this overview is designed to, hopefully, inspire you to investigate the possibilities of SEO further and use it to grow your customer base. To that end, we’ll briefly discuss the basics of SEO best practices.
On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing elements on a website page in order to improve search engine ranking and visibility. While there are several, common on-page SEO practices, including optimizing title tags, content, internal links, and URLs, for purposes of this blog, let’s talk about content and the use of keywords as this is a fairly simple, straightforward practice that can be implemented quickly and easily.
Keywords are key
What are keywords? These are the high-volume, high-competition search terms for which you want to rank at the top of the SERPs. Here's a good way to easily figure out what your site's primary keywords are. Start by writing down the words that you think a customer might enter into a search in order to find your bank. The word “loans” for instance is a good start but you can’t stop there. Keywords can also be “phrases” or what’s called “long tail keywords.” If your bank is in Harrisburg, PA, for instance, and you offer more than one type of loan, you should consider long-tail keywords such as “auto loans Harrisburg.” If you can be even more specific with phrases such as “pre-approved auto loans Harrisburg,” that’s even better. Then, build these phrases into your site’s content. Don’t “keyword stuff,” i.e., fill the page with keywords, as search engine algorithms will detect this and will lower your score as a result.
Another central pillar of SEO is building your industry “authority, which is accomplished through what are called “backlinks.” What are they? A backlink is created when another website puts a link on their site that “backlinks” to yours. Search engines like Google and Bing view this as a “vote of confidence,” if you will, in the content of your site. As long as the site linking back to yours is a good, trusted authority, your site could earn traffic and gain trust. The more backlinks on your site pages, the higher your site can rank on SERPs.
According to Backlink.com, “backlinks are one of the most important components of SEO because earning authoritative backlinks is one of the most critical factors considered by search engine algorithms,” which determine page rankings. What makes a high-quality backlink? Trust is a huge factor. If a quality website with an excellent reputation links to your site, that's an important vote of confidence. Conversely, if you only have sites that Google considers of low quality and “spammy,” a backlink to your bank’s site is not likely to do you much good. Another search engine algorithm consideration is popularity. Because Google views external links as “endorsements” of a site’s content, there is a strong correlation between sites with lots of quality backlinks and higher SERP rankings. Think of it this way. Who would you rather trust with a recommendation? Someone you know and trust, or someone you don’t know at all? Search engines view links the same way. A few examples of good backlinks for a financial services site may include but are not limited to association memberships, local business groups, regulatory agencies, and major news sources; all which could further boost your site's reputation, so to speak, within search engines.
Like I said, there’s a lot to SEO, much more than we can cover here in a single blog. As a community bank, you need every tactic available to you to compete more effectively in the digital space. And SEO is certainly one of them.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.
About Bank Marketing Center
Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; the messaging that — developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the thinking behind effective marketing communication — will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. And with them, your brand. To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com. Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.