SEO for Banks and Credit Unions Faces New Challenges

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The Financial Brand recently published an article (“Google’s Hummingbird Update Triggers SEO Bedlam for Banks and Credit Unions”) that goes into depth about Google’s new algorithm Hummingbird and how the new change negatively affects search rankings for credit unions and community banks.  Credit unions and community banks now face various marketing challenges due to Hummingbird’s reduced dependence on keywords and its focus on looking “for the meaning – the content- of the words in a search, and their relationship to each other”.

First off, what is Hummingbird? Google developed Hummingbird because they saw more users searching using a conversational tone. They saw more and more searches starting with who, how, what, why, and when vs. keywords.  They saw a change in user’s intent, so they adapted.

“People communicate with each other by conversation, not by typing keywords — and we’ve been hard at work to make Google understand and answer your questions more like people do.” – Amit Singhal, Google

This decision was also influenced by the increased use of mobile devices and how most of those searches are driven by “speed and convenience” as reported by Business 2 Community. Now instead of rewarding websites for their use of keywords, Google is rewarding and ranking sites based on their how useful their content is; and how responsive sites are to people’s questions. 

Thus the challenge presented by The Financial Brand article: community banks and credit union’s websites will not rank as high since Hummingbird’s main focus is no longer on keywords but on rewarding sites with engaging and useful content. If you do not rank well it is harder for people to find you, which means less traffic to your website and less new business. And since the core business of banks and credit unions can be frankly a little boring, they are presented with a pretty steep obstacle. So how do you overcome?

1.  Leverage your relationships: As Community Banks, and Credit Unions you have strong ties to the local community, and that community offers a lot of great content opportunities. Examples:

o   Photos of local events, especially events you sponsor

o   Photos of local projects that you are financing

o   Photos of local people engaging with you

2.  Provide how-to content: Frequently your customers are in the midst of financing a home project, so help them by sharing ideas of how to improve their homes. Many constituents may be getting ready to send their kids off to college, so share content about financial responsibility. Foster your relationships with small businesses in the area by providing information on best practices to help them grow and sustain their business. While this may sound overwhelming, this content can be provided from many trusted destinations around the web or you can find a writer to create the content for you. 

3.  Encourage your customers to be your ambassadors. Build an advocate team by asking your consumers to contribute stories of how you have helped them.

4.  Build a business advocacy team. Ask local businesses to contribute their personal stories of how you have supported their business. 

5.  You have so much great content at your fingertips! People have great experiences with you every day, and sometimes they will post it on your Facebook wall. Take that content and place it on your website and in your email newsletters. But don’t forget to say thank you to anyone who has shared their experiences with you, good or bad.

Now that you have all this content, where do you put it? Content should be used to drive traffic to your website, whether that traffic is from Facebook, email, or third party sites. So what does this mean?

1.  All content created and curated should be placed on your website or blog. This will improve the SEO rankings through frequent updating of original content.

2.  Place Facebook conversations on your website to help demonstrate and create engagement. Remember engagement improves SEO.

3.  All posts on Facebook or other social sites should link back to your website or blog. Encourage people to share your articles by providing them an incentive like a reward. The more links you have that direct people back to your website means a larger impact on our SEO.

4.  Have all the content that is placed inside your email newsletter link back to your website to increase traffic and back to your Facebook page to increase engagement. When considering which content to include in your email newsletter, leverage the content you already have from your social sites and other places. This content drives the greatest conversions, which means more opportunities for your content to be shared and seen.