Is your bank taking advantage of your branch network to boost online visibility?
As mobile banking adoption continues to surge, branches are playing a smaller role in bank strategy. Many common bank transactions are now handled digitally, sharply reducing the amount of foot traffic in local branches from mobile banking customers. As a result, a recent study from Citigroup predicts a 30% reduction in full time employees at retail banks by 2015. While the value of bank branches in a physical sense has declined, bank branches have an increasingly important role someplace you might least expect- online.
How Branch Locations Boost Online Visibility
Google is by far the most popular search engine out there, controlling about 65% of online search. With mobile searches now surpassing desktop searches, the popularity of “near me” searches has exploded in recent years. For example, people searched Google for “banks near me” 165,000 this past June. That’s an increase of 173% over the previous June!
The point is, mobile searches for local businesses (including financial institutions) has skyrocketed, which presents a fantastic opportunity for banks that have physical addresses.
A physical location is the most important factor in determining whether or not your bank will be seen in Google’s local search results for popular queries like “banks near me”, “mortgage lenders near me”, or “banks in [your-city]”. Banks and credit unions with physical branches will naturally receive more visibility in local search results than financial institutions without local branches.
How To Optimize Your Website For Branch Locations
Despite heavy investment in physical infrastructure, banks often put little effort towards promoting branches online. So many of the websites we’ve reviewed have a single page for all their branch and ATM locations. Or worse yet, all locations are dynamically populated or hosted by a 3rd party store locator tool outside of the bank’s website. For FIs with extensive branch networks it’s surely much easier to let a plugin or 3rd party tool handle the locations section of your website, but keep in mind you’re giving up one of your biggest local SEO assets!
Instead of lumping all your locations together in a single page or map widget, commit to creating and maintaining individual pages for each location. While this requires a much greater level of effort, individual pages provide your bank with new opportunities to show up higher and more often in search results when people in those locations search Google for financial services. The more branch locations your bank has, the greater your local reach online.
If you have branches that span multiple states or metro areas you can create a hierarchy to boost state and city level rankings as well.
Here’s what the locations page hierarchy might look like for a regional bank with branches spanning multiple states:
- Locations Page
1a. Subpage for banks in PA
1b. Next subpage for banks in Philadelphia
1c. Next subpage for banks in Old City Philadelphia
1d. Individual branch page for N 3rd St location in Old City Philadelphia
Notice how we improve our relevance and ranking potential in search results with each subpage to effectively to rank for increasingly specific keyword themes: “banks in pa”, “banks in philadelphia”, “banks in old city”, “banks near me”. Each page within the locations hierarchy can still have the same interactive branch map that includes all your locations, but each subpage presents an opportunity to build out relevant content for targeting state, metro, and even neighborhood level keyword groupings. This maximizes your bank’s potential to rank higher and more often for location-specific banking keywords, effectively increasing visibility in search results which in turn generates additional organic traffic and leads.
Branch Location Page Anatomy
What sort of content should your location pages include? For starters, make sure you have the branch name, address, local phone number, hours, an embedded Google Map for directions (get your bank setup on Google My Business first), and services offered. For bonus points you can mark all of these items up with schema to help search engines more easily understand the information. Outside of the basic details, consider adding other information that communicates local relevance both to users and search engines: interesting insights or historical facts about the area, team member bios, written driving directions or tips, parking details, frequently asked questions, branch history, community events, local charities and causes you support, and customer testimonials. Adding breadcrumbs and a searchable map with all other locations will help users quickly find additional locations nearby. And don’t forget to optimize your page meta title and description for each location as well!
Final Thoughts on Individual Branch Pages
The branch is playing a different role for many financial institutions nowadays, but it should still remain an important part of your bank’s marketing strategy. People searching online for a financial partner may not have any intention of stepping foot inside a local branch, but finding your bank’s website at the top of Google search results is also an effective introduction to your brand. While it may not be the sort of traffic your bank is used to measuring, your branches are now capable of generating more traffic than ever before!