A Beginner’s Guide to Attracting Customers Through Local Search
There are a few basic steps to local SEO for your credit union that can ensure your business listing appears in the search results when potential customers search for you on Google. Whether you’re setting up a business listing for the first time, auditing an existing marketing campaign, or simply unsatisfied with your current search rankings, we can help you set up a solid foundation that will quickly increase your local rankings and allow you to use more advanced SEO tactics in the future.
Is this guide intended for me?
You’re in the banking and financial industry and would like to establish or improve your online business listings to attract more customers. You understand how to get around the Internet, but you’re not a marketer or digital strategist. While it helps to know a little SEO, even the first-timers will be able to complete these introductory steps.
STEP #1: GOOGLE MY BUSINESS
Before Google released Google My Business last summer, managing local listings and content across other Google platforms was difficult, even for experienced marketers and informed branch managers.
Is a local business listing already set up for your credit union? Find out by visiting Google+ Local and searching for your business name. Remove any duplicate listings you find under your name. It’s important to note that you have to own the listing in order to remove any duplicates. If you’re not an owner, here’s how to transfer ownership of a listing. You can also add managers (other admins) to the listing with this tutorial. Keep in mind that changes made to your Google My Business page may not take effect in search engine result pages (SERPs) for up to three days.
When setting up the listing, ensure the following:
- The Google My Business login email is on the customer’s domain (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org vs. email@example.com) as well as the email address where customers can contact you
- The correct business name, address, and phone number (avoid 800 numbers) are listed
- The page is verified (when you log in to your dashboard, you’ll see whether the page is verified and the method(s) of page verification—usually by phone or postcard)
- The page has relevant industry categories
- The introduction description is unique and compelling (minimum of 250 words, but shoot for around 400)
- The business hours are accurate and complete
- The page includes high-quality images of the credit union, both inside and out (avoid stock photography)
- The profile is 100% complete
STEP #2: WEBSITE OPTIMIZATION
Now that you’re officially set up on Google My Business, let’s take a look at some quick local SEO best practices for your website.
Are your hours easily visible?
Potential or current customers who visit your website organically may just be looking to see when you’re open. Never list your hours within an image, as search engine crawlers won’t be able to read it. If you do have your hours within an image, be sure to include your hours of operation in the ALT tag. Lastly, make sure the hours on the website match the hours listed on your Google My Business page.
Is your site structure well set up?
Some of the structure basics include:
- The most important pages are included in the primary navigation
- Every service has a dedicated subpage with at least 400 words of well-written, unique content and images
- The homepage is the core of the site, includes the most important value statements for potential customers, and links to every relevant subpage (e.g., /services, /contact, /join)
- The blog is on the same domain as the rest of the site
- For multiple locations, each branch has a dedicated landing page, and the URL structure includes the geographic location (e.g., com/locations/vancouver)
- The site is mobile-friendly and displays the most pertinent information (e.g., contact information and specific location(s))
- Your content is optimized for basic search (e.g. all pages have title tags, meta descriptions, and relevant anchor links)
The written content is far easier to optimize than the structure of a website. Some best practices include:
- Important keywords are cross-linked within the page content
- Contact information (phone number and address) is displayed in the header and footer of every page
- Structured, direct headlines are used throughout the content to allow for quick skimming
- Every page has a specific goal or direction (e.g., establish credibility, click a call-to-action (CTA), or fill out a form)
- The name, address, and place (NAP) match the listing on Google My Business
STEP #3: CITATIONS
What are they?
Beyond a Google My Business listing page, search rankings are affected by citations, which are simply a mention of your credit union with other supporting information, such as your website, phone number, address, or a combination of the three. The branch manager or staff typically creates citations, but they can be automatically generated from a phonebook listing or data aggregators. While the SEO value of citations seems to be diminishing with every update to Google (especially Pigeon), they still play an important role when you’re trying to boost rankings.
Building citations for local SEO campaigns is very time-consuming, and we don’t recommend it for amateur marketers.
Citations for beginners
Local listing information is gathered from four primary sources—all of which need to be verified to have accurate information for each location. These four sources (along with Google My Business and a few others) supply all the major secured business listings sites with your credit union information (e.g., yellowpages.com, citysearch.com, superpages.com, bbb.org, dexknows.com, and others).
- Google MapMaker: Add all locations to the mapmaker. Changes are effective after 10-30 days.
- Infogroup: Someone from the listed branch phone number needs to call and set up the account. Changes are effective after 45-250 days.
- Acxiom: Someone from the listed branch phone number needs to call and set up the account. Changes are effective after 14-180 days.
- City Grid Media: Set up an account under admin@<your branch extension>.com and verify all locations.
Getting a little more technical with schema markup
Schema is a type of markup, or code, that is added to your website to make it easier for search engines to categorize and identify important information. Schema markup generates optimized rich snippets and improves overall search rankings—it can even show potential customers extra information, such as business hours, testimonials, and detailed information about your location(s). To learn more about schema and how to set it up on your own website, visit our blog entitled Local Search for Businesses.
STEP #4: REVIEWS
A constant flow of positive reviews is crucial to the success of any credit union, no matter the size. In fact, review quantity, velocity, and diversity play roles in both Google’s overall ranking factors, as well a major piece of the research-decision process.
How to Generate More Reviews
- Create printed collateral to be given to the customers when they visit a branch listing where customers can review you or your credit union—review diversity is good for both customers and search engines, so be sure to offer a variety of places online where customers can review.
- Link to your review profiles from your website
- Instruct staff to encourage customers to review the branch after they’ve visited
- What are popular banking-related review sites?