When the uninitiated think of SEO for banks, the first thought that pops into their mind is “make me #1 on Google for banks near me.” This is a very, very narrow view of SEO that doesn’t reflect the realities of how you should be using SEO to market financial services.
Your potential customers have lots of questions about banking and their finances. Typically, they find the answers to those questions on Google.
This is an opportunity for any bank or credit union to create evergreen content that gets in front of prospective customers while informing and educating them.
This article is going to explain how SEO is used by banks and credit unions to serve their current customers and find new customers without wasting time and money.
What is SEO for Banks?
Fundamentally, SEO for banks isn’t much different than it is for other industries. It has three parts:
- Ensuring your bank’s website is fully accessible to Google so it can be optimally crawled and indexed
- Building expertise through unique and valuable website content that informs current and prospective bank customers
- Demonstrating authority and trustworthiness arning links from other websites
What goes into these three areas of SEO is a lot more involved than I’ve listed here, but ultimately, every activity that goes into SEO for banks falls into one of these three categories.
Technical SEO: Ensuring Your Website is Fully Accessible
The first step to SEO for a bank or credit union is to ensure that there are no technical issues preventing Google from crawling and indexing the website.
This article isn’t going to go deeply into the topic of technical SEO, but it is worth understanding it at a high level.
A typical SEO engagement begins with a full site audit, including a site crawl with a tool like Screaming Frog. There are many things that we check through this crawl, includingL
- Truncated title tags and metadescriptions
- Proper use of header tags
- Proper use of noindex and canonical tags
- And about 75 other items
We also check the website’s Google Search Console, typically checking for alerts from Google regarding crawl issues, penalties, or duplicate content.
A technical audit typically takes a day or two to complete, after which we will provide a checklist of items to be addressed with the website. Clients usually have us fix all of the issues we uncover, but they often can be addressed by their developers if they have them on staff.
Create Unique, Valuable Content
The role of content is twofold when it comes to SEO for banks.
To start, your content must be unique and fulfill search intent.
A common pitfall marketing managers fall into when producing content for their websites is that it doesn’t align with a specific query or problem that the customer may have.
Most bank blogs are essentially feeds of press releases talking about the latest news at the bank:
Or they are series of thought leadership articles:
Let’s be honest: none of your customers care about your press releases.
As far as the though leadership articles, they can be effective at getting in front of potential customers if they manage to get shares on social media, but this is usually a tall order. Of the pages on PNC.com, the most shared pages on Facebook are all service pages, with articles about counterfeit money and improving your credit score being the only blog articles with over 1k shares:
Neither of these highly shared articles are thought leadership. These are buyer’s journey posts that align with problems their current and potential customers have.
Buyer’s Journey Content is the Bedrock of SEO for Banks
What is buyer’s journey content? It is web content that aligns with some sort of problem that your bank’s services can address.
For some examples of buyer’s journey content, let’s take a look at the top traffic generators for nerdwallet.com:
Each of these top performing pages has something in common: it aligns with a question or financial problem that someone has and that a financial institution can help with.
How much house can I afford is clearly the type of query someone would enter very early into the process of getting a mortgage.
Retirement calculator is likely to be something someone would search for while planning for retirement.
Both of these topics are very clearly on the path to needing the financial services PNC Bank provides and there is a good chance that PNC may have more resources than Nerdwallet to rank for these keywords, but they simply haven’t done it.
By serving as a valuable resource for the answers your customers have early in the process of getting the financial services your bank provides, you get a first shot at turning that visitor into a bank customer.
The key is to leverage keyword research to understand what you should be writing about in the first place.
Keyword Research is the Roadmap to Improved Search Engine Rankings for Banks
Keyword research will help you to understand what your potential bank customers are searching for online, whether you have a chance to rank highly for these queries, and whether there is enough search volume to warrant spending resources on producing content.
This keyword data can often have non-SEO applications, uncovering questions your customers have about different financial services and instruments you offer, allowing you to address your messaging or services in response.
There is a myriad of tools and techniques for doing keyword research and this post isn’t going to into them, but here is a video I shot using one keyword research technique using Ahrefs’ Content Explorer:
Engaging Content Can Be Particularly Helpful for a Bank’s Overall Search Engine Rank
Banking is what Google calls a “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) area, which it treats with added scrutiny.
Since people may make major financial decisions based on the content your bank places on its website, Google wants to know you are a trustworthy resource for financial content before showing your content to its users.
This means that your content can serve to establish trustworthiness for your bank’s entire website.
Through advances in natural language processing—a type of artificial intelligence that interprets the meaning of a document—Google is able to not only understand a document, but also to determine the expertise of the person writing it.
By creating a repository of evergreen, expert-written content on your bank’s blog and by establishing a solid track record of meeting the search intent of Google users, your content may be able to help your bank’s entire website to improve its search engine rankings.
Local SEO is a Key Part of SEO for Banking
A bank that has physical locations can benefit from local SEO.
This is what most people think of when they think of SEO—ranking highly for searches such as banks near me.
The goal of local SEO is generally to rank well in the local 3-pack Google map results:
The benefits of ranking well in local search have more to do with customer retention than they do with customer acquisition.
Customers are highly unlikely to simply search for a local bank and open a bank account there. Your presence in the local map results isn’t likely to result in many new customers. It may result in your retention of the customers you already have, however.
It can be frustrating to regularly run into situations where you are traveling and are unable to find a bank branch. The goal of your local SEO efforts should be to maximize the visibility of your locations in the map results, allowing your customers to always find a branch nearby (if possible).
What Goes into Local SEO for Banks?
Local SEO is largely industry-agnostic. Whether you’re doing local seo for a medical spa or for a bank, most of the steps you will take will be the same.
Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP) Consistency
You will establish a standard name, address, and phone number for each of your bank’s branches.
In the case of a bank branch near our office, the address could be formatted as:
- Route 73
- NJ 73
- New Jersey 73
Pick a format and stick with it. My recommendation is to find out how the Post Office formats the address of the bank branch and use that.
The same goes for the phone number. Often, a branch will have multiple phone numbers—make sure you establish one as the main phone number for the branch’s online presence.
Once you’ve established a consistent NAP, claim your local citations.
Local Citations For Banks
Local citations are what Google uses to confirm the accuracy of the information it has.
The last thing it wants to do is to send one of your customers needing to withdraw money for an emergency to a branch you closed a year and a half ago.
This is why it uses information it collects from other websites to establish a confidence score in the accuracy of the information in your Google My Business (GMB) listing.
Typically, I recommend against citation management services like Yext, but in the case of a bank with many locations, it makes sense to consider using one. This will ensure the consistency of each of your bank branches’ information across the web and make it easy to manage as you open and close locations.
The one exception to this rule would be that if you aren’t going to be opening or closing bank branches anytime soon, you’re probably best off hiring an SEO to manually manage all your citations one time. Services such as Yext are recurring monthly expenses; if your branches are not changing their information anytime soon, it doesn’t make sense to incur the ongoing expense.
Link Building for Banks
Links play an integral role in determining the search engine ranking of your bank’s content.
Building links is also the hardest part of SEO and if done incorrectly, the part fraught with most risk. There are countless ways to get links to a website, ranging from entirely legitimate to outreach illegal. Going about acquiring links for your bank’s website in the wrong way could end with your website being penalized, a NY Times exposé on your SEO misdeeds, or even a fine from the FTC.
There are three techniques for earning links to a bank’s website that make the most sense to us:
- Digital PR
- The creation of valuable tools
- Studies, surveys, and statistics.
Digital PR for Banks
Digital PR for financial services is exactly what is sound like: getting coverage for the bank just as you would for traditional media, but maintaining a focus on earning links.
This may mean pitching journalists and bloggers to cover stories that are publicly available on their website and explicitly asking for a link to a press release or specific page on your website.
The Creation of Valuable Tools and Resources
We refer to these assets as “link magnets.”
In the case of Nerdwallet, its mortgage calculator has earned links for 300+ different websites, most of which were likely earned without active link outreach (see line 3):
Create unique financial tools and resources that other websites would want to link to, then do some outreach to promote them.
Data Earns Links – Studies, Surveys, & Statistics
This is the most likely way you’ll be able to passively earn links over time.
As finance-related web content is written, the writers will need hard numbers to back up their claims. Provide those numbers and you’ll often see the new links come in with no effort on your part.
The key to this is to have a concrete strategy for collecting and interpreting this data. The studies need to relate to topics that other websites will be likely to write about. They should be formatted in a way that aligns with the types of questions writers will type into Google (i.e. how many foreclosures were there in NJ last year).
This is a tricky strategy that you’re not likely to nail out of the gate. Working with an SEO consultant with experience creating link magnets will save your bank countless hours. Reach out if you’d like a hand.
SEO for a Bank Can Have a Large Payoff—If Done Correctly
Banking is somewhat of a conservative industry that has been relatively slow to adopt SEO.
Of the top 10 results for mortgage calculator, only one result belongs to a bank (Bank of America).
This is an opportunity for banks to begin reaping the benefits of SEO. By dedicating more resources to improving the search visibility of your bank, you’ll be able to get in front of customers that have demonstrated a clear interest in the financial services you provide.
In addition to the improved branding of your bank, the opportunities for retargeting these visitors and driving them into your sales funnels are abundant, yet still not overused by banks and credit unions.