One of the most frequent digital marketing questions credit unions ask us at the Consulting Group is how can my credit union improve its organic search presence.
First, search engine optimization has changed dramatically from what it was ten years ago, and rapidly in just the past 18 months. That said, it isn't dead. There are always things to be doing to improve your credit union's digital member experience that will overall improve both SEO and the results your digital channel generates.
With that premise, there was a time when SEO was as easy as following a checklist. Many marketers point to approximately 200 ranking factors. However with search algorithm improvements and increased frequency in algorithm updates plus Google's mystique, SEO as a checklist or any definitive set of search ranking factors today, isn't quite as black and white.
Much of the SEO game is trial and error. Many of the changes that are beneficial aren't bot pleasing by nature but satisfying to the member or prospect trying to find your credit union or get an auto loan.
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Ultimately, SEO today is a lot more natural which bodes well for credit unions looking to make some changes and see quick lifts.
Separating SEO Hype from Hope
One of the best representations of ranking is the SEO Periodic Table of Success maintained by SearchEngineLand on which, many of the credit union opportunities we'll discuss fall. You'll see below that the items mentioned tend to lean towards improvements to an experience that treat your members well when searching for you or visiting your website.
Low hanging Credit Union SEO Opportunities
What are some of the easy targets for credit union marketers who may not have the resources or access to conduct a complete SEO overhaul?
Below are 5 areas credit union marketers can focus on listed from the least resource intensive to the most.
There is a whole subset of SEO called Local SEO that credit unions can tap into immediately.
This focuses on securing the profiles for branches on directories such as Yelp, Foursquare and Google Maps/Places.
ProTip: Keep an eye on reviews and ratings on these sites, they matter. Nearly 90% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
These directory profiles like Foursquare and your map locations carry high search ranking and will help with page one placement.
In addition, make sure your website has location information for each branch, critical information is Name, Address and Phone Number for each branch and make sure this syncs up with the information across the directories.
This is an area where I personally believe credit unions stand to gain the most. Many credit union websites are developed around e-commerce principals. They are product oriented sites with complex navigation (not a good e-commerce principal by the way). Credit unions exist in part, to help members and the community they serve create a stronger financial future. Part of this is education and providing information.
Content on the internet has changed dramatically in recent years and how people search for it continues to evolve. What matters now is the quality of the content (arguably that should have always mattered because let's be honest, does anyone like clicking on a link and getting a one paragraph article that tells them nothing?
But I get it. Credit unions have limited resources. There are still solutions to turning your credit union into a content publisher and I'm happy to talk to you if you'd like to discuss something personalized for your credit union. Here are a few ideas: interviews with internal subject matter experts, video blogs, and curation.
The key is that content becomes the fuel for a large part of success in SEO as well as other digital marketing efforts.
Are your members getting what they want from your site? Or are they leaving in a tizzy because your website just keeps getting levels added to it with no rhyme or reason and suddenly it looks like grandma's basement?
If you're experiencing an extremely high bounce rate, low conversions, and your site isn't getting any social signals (shared content or recommendations) then we have a problem.
Luckily, this can be fixed with good content (see above). A planned site structure (see below) and efforts to start building authority (give me a second we'll get there.)
You're likely starting to see now that each of these elements relate to and build on each other. That's how digital marketing works. No single tactic or channel lives in a vacuum because your members aren't single channel digital creatures.
Luckily, you should have some of this already.
There is a good likelihood that you have a large amount of brand searches and if your site has the right domain and/or title structure you're building some authority by the demand for your brand.
We've also now taken care of the major local directories which will help as well.
But we can do better.
Let's start with social media. Now that you've got content moving (see above) make sure you have the mechanisms in place to make it easy for people to share your content far and wide and send out social signals for your domain. This will add to your authority.
Additionally, taking your content and growing thought leadership into the community will help.
Pro Tip: Reach out to local media, community groups and education offices to see if they are interested in your credit union's expertise. You'll share your content and leverage their authority to build yours.
Finally, and this one may be a bit resource intensive. Your site architecture.
There are approximately three key areas of information: products, information and conversion points; account logins and thought leadership and content marketing.
All of this needs to be structured well so that both the search engines and your web visitors can get what they seek.
Pro Tip: Develop information architecture by accommodating navigation and layout to personas. Actually create fake users and define what they are like for each type of member/prospect who will be attempting to access these various areas. This will ensure they can easily find what they need and ultimately increase engagement (see above).
Once you've launched a site redesign, deploy testing to optimize your digital member experience.
Plan Ongoing SEO for Your Credit Union
Once you've beefed up those five areas, your credit union will be making substantial strides towards a stronger organic search presence. SEO is an ongoing process. With constant changes to search algorithms, it's beneficial to get into a test and learn state of mind to gain the most momentum in SEO for your credit union.