If you are here, you likely realize that SEO is important for credit unions. If your website is not near the top for important keywords, you may be missing out on critical leads.
While there are many factors that affect rankings, there is an order of operations in which to tackle SEO related issues. This is primarily due to the fact that Google’s ranking factors were not created equally. That is not to say that some of these factors should be overlooked, but it is good to know where to start in order to utilize your time efficiently. For that reason, this post is mostly laid out in order from most important to least important.
First and foremost, it is important to fix any SEO related issues with your website.
Optimize your meta data
Making changes to the text displayed on your website may help user experience and is important for SEO, but one of the most overlooked pieces of on-site SEO is meta data across all pages of your credit union’s website – specifically the page title and meta description.
Optimized page titles and meta descriptions are critical as they help Google and other search engines summarize what is contained within a webpage. It is also the snippet of text displayed in search results to give users an idea of the content they will be viewing before visiting a page.
Focus on your location
Because your credit union caters to a geographic location that can be identified it is typically a SEO best practice to incorporate location-specific keywords into the meta data and body copy of each of your pages.
For example, if you are a credit union in Iowa City, Iowa and you offer student loans at your location you may want to use the following meta data for your student loans page:
Page Title: Student Loans in Iowa City | Thread It Credit Union
Meta Description: At Thread It Credit Union we provide student loans in Iowa City and the surrounding areas. Our student loans for students at the University of Iowa and other academic institutions enable you to pay for your education.
Build out your website
One of the most common mistakes we see banks and credit unions make when planning out their website is listing all of their service offerings on a single page. While it is fine to have a general service overview page such as www.creditunionwebsite.com/services it is best to create pages for every individual service and product offered by your credit union.
Likewise, if your credit union has multiple locations it is best to create individual pages for each location, detailing contact information, hours of operation and specific services offered at that location.
Google My Business Listing
This is a particularly important step for credit unions as your target audience exists within a limited geographic area and Google My Business helps you show up for searches within that geographic area. It is even more important to optimize Google My Business if your credit union has multiple business listings.
While filling in information about your business may seem simple there are a number of common errors credit union managers make. Here are a few tips for getting started with properly optimizing your Google My Business listings.
Pick Pre-Set Categories
Google gives you a list of categories to choose from and it is best to pick as many relevant options as possible. You do have the ability to add in lines of text in the category section, but if it is not one of Google’s pre-set categories you will get a “This category is invalid” message.
You do get to pick one primary category for your listing, and “Credit Union” is one of them. So, if you are reading this you should make credit union your primary GMB category.
Use a Local Phone Number
This is probably one of the biggest mistakes local business owners make in general with their Google My Business listings. Using a toll-free 1-800 number may seem like a good idea for your customers, however using a local number with your area code signals to Google that you are in fact an established brick and mortar business that operates in a specific geographic area.
Much in the way Google pays attention to your business address for identifying where geographically it will display your business in search results.
Only once you have taken the time to optimize your website and Google My Business listings can you start thinking about off-site SEO factors and how to influence them.
Citations & Directories
A citation, also know as a NAP listing (Name-Address-Phone Number) proves to search engines that your business is active, has contact information and is established in a local community. The more citations you have relative to your competitors and the more likely you will be able to outrank them for competitive local search terms relevant to your credit union.
If your existing directory listings have conflicting information, or are missing critical pieces of information within the listing, it can negatively impact SEO for your credit union. For that reason, one of the best places to start is by reviewing your existing online business listings in directories and see what can be done to fix or improve each listing.
An added plus to getting citations is that many online business directories give you the ability to provide a link back to your website within the directory listing (more on that later).
There are generally three types of online directories to get your credit union listed in:
Large Generic Directories
These are the ones you have likely already heard about. Because their domains are so strong and they attract a high number of visitors and reviews, it is important to get listed in them. A few examples include:
- Yellow Pages
- Dex Knows
- Insider Pages
Industry Specific Directories
These are directories that only list a specific A few of these include:
- Credit Karma
Location Specific Directories
You can often find business directories that accept submissions on a city/regional/state level. If you were a credit union operating throughout Detroit and the Detroit suburbs you would want to be listed in these directories.
After your website has been properly optimized, the big ranking factor that will influence your website’s position in search results is the quality and quantity of inbound links to your website.
There are a number of sources to tap for links, but a few that might stick out for credit unions in particular would be:
- Membership Organizations – If your credit union is already a member of an organization such as a chamber of commerce you may be able to get an easy link from a high-quality website.
- Sponsoring Organizations – Clubs, charities and events often list and link to their sponsors on their website. If your credit union sponsors or regularly donates to an organization you may be able to get an easy link out of it.
- Employee Benefits – If employees from other organizations are eligible for membership at your credit union, you may want to reach out to their human resources department to see if their website can provide a link to your credit union’s website.
- Online business directories – See above.
Owners of credit unions like reviews, particularly good ones, because it shows that their credit union is reputable and does good business with its members. Google likes reviews, which means they are helpful for your credit union’s SEO, because it signifies that you are currently active with a customer base and they are engaged with your services.
Generally the more reviews the better, but in no way shape or form should you try to write fake reviews or pay to have people write fake reviews for you. Google is very good at sniffing out fake reviews and the results are not pretty.
You can, however, encourage your existing customers to write online reviews of their experiences and make it easier for them to do so. One of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is to create a “Review Us” page on your credit union’s website that includes links to your Google Plus profile pages and other online review websites like Yelp, Yellow Pages or Foursquare.
Whitespark is an awesome tool for SEO purposes and they have a free review handout generator that can help simplify the process of getting reviews.
Need More Help?
If your credit union’s website isn’t among the top listings and you don’t have time to become a SEO expert, we’re here to help. At Netvantage, we specialize in local SEO and have experience working with financial institutions in competitive markets to achieve SEO results.