Search Engine Optimization
The last two years were certainly an interesting time in the banking industry. When pandemic shutdowns forced the closure of bank and credit union lobbies, online banking became the norm. The record-low interest rates led to a surge in home sales and online mortgage applications. Was your financial institution successful in gaining new mortgage loans? If you struggle with getting new business online, you may want to invest your time in Google Business Profile, formerly Google My Business (GMB).
Why is Google Important To Your Bank?
To understand the importance of Google Business Profile you must first understand why Google is important. Here’s why you should care about Google:
- 92% of online search traffic is conducted via Google.
- About “4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information”
- 60% of smartphone users contacted a business directly through the “click to call” option on search results.
As a bank marketer, you should care if your bank or credit union is not showing up on local Google searches or Google Maps because chances are, your competitors are.
What is Google Business Profile?
Google Business Profile is a free tool that allows businesses the opportunity to manage how they are represented in Google Search and Google Maps. The information you provide determines your eligibility to show up for local searches. A better profile means better Search Engine Optimization (SEO). So, the more complete your Google Business Profile, the more likely you are to show up.
If your profile ranks as one of the top three search results, you will show up in the “local pack” (also known as a map pack). The local pack shows up right after Google Ads and before other organic search results.
Here is how the information you provide shows up in a local pack:
Showing up in the local pack can give you a huge advantage over the competitors. From the map pack, users can learn more about your business, visit your website, or get directions to their local branch.
Why Your Bank Needs Google Business Profile
Your Google Business Profile is the first thing that comes up when someone searches for your business. It’s also one of the first places customers look for up-to-date information about your company. Failing to claim, fill out, or even create a listing can leave customers frustrated and confused. If you don’t show up at all, it can leave them second-guessing your business.
The biggest advantage of being a local bank is that you are in fact local. Customers and prospects see your branches on their way to work, they meet your team at community events, they have friends work for you. Your bank is a crucial part of your local community. Why not reaffirm your presence as a local, community bank by taking advantage of all the free features available through Google Business Profile. There are many ways to optimize your Google Business Profile to increase your local rankings, but first, let’s talk about how to set up your profile.
Set Up A Google Business Profile Manager Account For Your Bank
If you see that your bank is already showing up in the local pack or Google Maps, you can claim the individual listing, but it’s much easier to manage and control the information when you claim and manage your listings with a Google My Business account.
To create an account, head over to your Google Business Profile account and sign in to your bank’s existing Google account, or create a new one. To avoid future headaches, set up a generic Google Account that’s accessible for your team and not tied to a single person. If you’re able to use a generic corporate email address (like firstname.lastname@example.org) this can often expedite the verification process. Choose any Google username you want, but don’t use your bank name in the “first” and “last” name fields since this will create a “personal” Google for your brand name that can cause confusion in YouTube and other Google profiles.
Claim or Add Your Bank’s Google Listings
If there is an existing profile, whether created by someone at your bank or a Google user, you can claim your profile. If there are no existing profiles, Add your business name. Google will ask for basic information about your business including address and phone number. During the last step of the process, Google will ask you to “Verify your business”. Google will verify your bank is a legitimate business by sending a postcard with a verification code to the address that you provided. If you will not be at this location, let someone there know to expect the postcard and to provide you with the verification code once it arrives. Postcards usually arrive within 14 days. If you do not receive yours within that time, you can request that another postcard be sent.
Once you have the code, log in to your Google Business Profile account and verify your listing. When sending out postcards, you must send them to the exact address of the bank. Google does not send verifications to a P.O. Box.
You will need to claim and verify listings for each bank location. This is one of the reasons why Google Business Profile is a wonderful resource for local banks. When a customer or prospect searches your bank by name, the information or the branch closest to them will show up in their search results.
Once you’ve claimed an initial location, search and claim or add any remaining locations. You can add a listing by clicking the blue “Add business” button and select “Add single business”.
Google Business Profile Bulk Verification
If you have 10 or more locations, you can take advantage of bulk verification. To use the bulk verification feature, click the “Add business” button and click “Import businesses”. Download the template and populate it with the information for each branch. Do your best to ensure every available field is accurately completed for each location. For details on each of the fields included in the import file, you can refer to this Google Support page.
When you’re ready to upload, navigate back to “Import businesses” and click the “select file” button. Upload your completed spreadsheet.
Build Out Your Bank’s Google Business Profiles
Once your profile is claimed, it’s time to build out your bank or credit union’s Google Business profiles. For each location, fill in:
- Business Category
- Service Area
- Hours and Drive-Thru Hours
- Appointment links – If you don’t have a special page where visitors can request an appointment, consider linking to your “Contact Us” page.
- Accessibility information
- A description of your financial institution. If there is anything special about a specific location, mention that here.
- Website – To better track traffic from our Google Business Profile, use the Google URL Builder. Make gmb the campaign source and organic the campaign medium. If you have a location page for each business, link to that branch’s location page. If not, the home page is fine.
- You can also consider adding your bank’s products to the “Products” section with corresponding images. Use your own images instead of stock images.
Why is it so important to optimize your Google Business Profile
The importance of your business ranking well in Google Local results is evidenced by the high search volume for queries that trigger Local listings. Here’s a few that trigger bank listings:
- “banks near me” – 90,500 monthly searches
- “credit unions near me” – 60,500 monthly searches
- “local banks” – 3,600 monthly searches
- “local credit unions” – 3,600 monthly searches
- “closest bank” – 2,400 monthly searches
These monthly search volumes reflect Google searches conducted nationwide, but even on a local level, you can expect these queries to produce enough interest to be worth caring about. It’s also worth pointing out that on occasion, banks that have very generic names or who share a similar name to another bank might see other banks showing up in Google Local results for branded searches. Without properly optimized Local listings your own customers may end up finding another bank’s listing while they’re attempting to find you!
Google Local Optimization Best Practices
Completing your business profile and sharing posts are just a few ways you can improve the visibility of your bank or credit union’s local listing. Here are a few more best practices for optimizing your Google Local listing.
- Make doubly sure your listings have the most complete and accurate information – Google wants to provide users with the most relevant results, so take the time to get your listings right and update when necessary.
- Solicit reviews – You already know that your financial institution is amazing, so help Google (and everyone that uses Google) know just how amazing with real reviews from actual customers. Reviews have an enormous impact on people researching your brand, thus Google also values reviews greatly. Not only should your bank be soliciting reviews, but take time to respond to negative reviews and thank users who leave positive reviews.
- Get more citations than your competitors – Citations are listings of your business on other website directories like YellowPages, Yelp, and Manta. These data providers aggregate information from various sources and likely already have information posted about your locations. It’s a tedious job, but claiming each citation for all of your branches across popular websites will establish consistency which is a big ranking factor for Google.
- Categorize your listing properly – Google and other local networks like Bing often allow businesses to choose primary and secondary “categories” to classify their business. Choosing multiple categories for your listings is a good idea when possible, but only if those categories accurately reflect what you have to offer at each location. And don’t forget, ATM locations are also eligible for their own Local Listings. Relevant Google Local categories for financial institutions include:
Bank, Bank or ATM, Investment Bank, Investment Service, Savings Bank, Credit Counseling Service, Credit Union, Federal Credit Union, Money Order Service, Money Transfer Service, Loan Agency, Check Cashing Service, Mortgage Broker, Mortgage Lender, Financial Consultant, Financial Institution, Financial Planner
- Link to your Local Listings – As a best practice, your bank or credit union should have individual pages on your website for each branch location. Within each location page on your website, you’ll want to make sure you embed a Google map that links to the corresponding Google Maps listing. Implement location-based schema on your website’s individual location pages, especially on the name, address, and phone number of each location (NAP).
- Improve your website SEO – A big Google Local ranking factor is how well your website ranks in organic results. The more relevant your website is for a local search query, the better your chances to rank well in local results. To improve your website’s organic rankings, focus first on a smart “localized” content marketing strategy, then make sure your website is using technical best practices for Google search optimization, and finally look for opportunities on other relevant websites to acquire backlinks or brand mentions.
- Localize your listings – This is missed surprisingly often by local businesses who take the time to claim their Local listings! Help Google understand how relevant your local business is to a local user by using a local phone number (not an 800), mentioning town names in your listing description, and linking back to the corresponding location page on your website instead of the homepage. Additionally, many local businesses often include the location of their listing in the “business name” field (for example YouBankName – Newtown). This is technically against the Guidelines for representing your business on Google, but we’ve never seen any action taken by Google against businesses for utilizing this tactic.
- Make sure your listings are 100% complete – Take the time to get all the details filled out on each location, including hours and as many high-quality photos as you can for each photo category. Write out a full description that is unique for each listing.
- Be mobile-friendly – For many reasons, including Local rankings, your website should absolutely be mobile-friendly.
- Create Events – Having a grand opening, or another special event at your financial institution? Create an event in Google Business Profile so it will show up as part of your GMB profile in search results.
- Use posts to enhance your SEO – Share your bank’s blog posts in the “Posts” section. This is another way to increase your blog’s visibility and get more traffic to your website. Use the Google URL builder so this will show up clearly in reporting.
Local SEO Beyond Google Business Profiles
Although more than 90% of search traffic comes from Google, you should still consider building out Bing Place’s, Microsoft equivalent to Google Business Profile. The process is very similar to Google. You may also want to consider building Facebook pages for each bank location and creating Yelp listings. The more resources you utilize to establish your financial institution as a local bank, the better your chances of showing up in local searches.
Learn more about marketing your local bank. Get the Digital Marketing Strategy for Local Banks.