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Banks face a lot of competition both in the real world and online. Standing out in the crowd can be a daunting, difficult task — especially for community banks. Often times community banks don’t have the big-number budgets national and big city banks have to promote their brands, particularly if the bank is based in a rural area. But just because a bank operates in a small town doesn’t mean it can’t successfully promote its brand in a big way. Especially online.

We’ve compiled a list of five things every community bank website needs to stay ahead of the curve and on trend.

So let’s dig in…

1. Mobile optimization

This is immensely important. If your website is not currently optimized for use on mobile devices, you could be missing out on the most successful method of connectivity today. Contact your marketing team, your website manager, your creative firm, whoever built your site and ask them to mobile-optimize it right away. And let’s be clear: This is different from having a mobile version of your site or an app. Being mobile-optimized means your main website reformats itself to the device being used to view it.

In our mobile-driven world, users are web browsing on their phones at the same rate they are on desktops. Since the trend for mobile usage has increased so drastically in previous years, Google now docks your company’s search rankings if your site is not mobile optimized. So not only is this important from a user standpoint, it’s also important for search rankings. To see how mobile friendly your site is, check out this handy article from Google.

Many community bank websites today are still not mobile optimized. Make sure your bank’s not one of them.

2. Search engine optimization

Is your site showing up for the keywords related to your business? Is it showing up for more than just your name? Or is your site’s name so buried you’re on the second, third, tenth page of search results? Organic search is one of the top drivers for traffic to a website. It’s how visitors — and potential customers — are finding your business. Not structuring your site’s content for search means losing visibility to those potential customers.

Search engine optimization requires building a keyword portfolio of the search terms that will bring the most qualified traffic to your site (the kind of visitors most likely to do business with you). You’ll also want to list keywords focused on the areas you serve. For example, a community bank with branches in Springfield, Missouri, might include keywords like “Springfield community banks” or “Banks in Springfield MO” or “Best checking accounts Springfield.” Even if your bank is not named “Springfield Community Bank” (and even if you have a competitor named as such), it’s important to rank on those types of search terms. After all, potential customers may not know your bank’s name.

Once your keyword portfolio is set, you then need to begin updating your site’s content, meta data and URLs to use those keywords. You won’t see results overnight, but as you continue using those keywords on your site, Google will take notice as it crawls your site. This can take anywhere from six months to a year, but it’s still an extremely important habit to form for your website maintenance. There are many factors that also affect your search rankings. If you’d like to learn more, please contact our team for more information.

3. Easy user log in and interface

Most community banks today understand the necessity of online banking. Users today are more likely to log in to their account online rather than physically visit their local branch. So it’s imperative you make it easy for your customers to find where to log in on your site. Typically, this means putting the log in form high and prominent on the homepage. However, a lot of community bank websites clutter their homepages with other links and messages, making the login form difficult to find or use. Always make sure your login form is immediately obvious.

After a user logs in to their online banking account, the interface should be direct, simple and match the design of your site. And, like the first point, it should be mobile-optimized as well. A lot of community banks use a third-party service to host and manage online banking accounts, so it’s important to go with a service that understands current user trends. If the service you’re using doesn’t have mobile-optimized interface, then you need to demand it or look for another service. No matter how great the rest of your site is, if a customer can’t easily use their online banking platform, then your whole website — and customer service — suffers.

4. A clean, simplified design

In an effort to promote all of their best service offerings, community bank websites often clutter their pages with links, calls-to-action and competing messages. Users looking for specific information are forced to navigate this clutter, and if they don’t immediately find what they’re looking for, they’re more likely to bounce off your site and go elsewhere. Users’ attention spans are short. And yet, banks have so many offerings it’s difficult to not share all of the important messages and links.

When designing your site, first determine who your site is targeting. Who are your most loyal customers? Who make your best potential customers? How can you best tailor your website to their needs? For our client Bank of Little Rock Mortgage, we narrowed it down to home buyers, home owners, Realtors and loan officers. So when designing their site, we designed the homepage’s navigation to only feature Home Loans, Realtor Resources and Careers. Clicking through each tab leads the user to more navigation and information specific to the users needs.

Build your website so that it easily and seamlessly guides the user to specific pages and to take specific actions. By simplifying your website’s design and decreasing the clutter of messages, you create a better impression and experience for potential customers.

5. Photography and video

This is where community bank websites can really stand out. Most community bank websites use low-quality or cheap stock photography and virtually no video beyond quick iPhone videos for social media. Investing in high-quality or original photography (developed by a professional) sets the design and feel of your website apart immediately. Potential customers like to get a feel for the bank’s brand and personality from the website. Having photos of your actual employees engaging with your actual customers shows you’re proud of who you do business with.

Our client FNBC is a community bank with branches throughout northern Arkansas. For their recent ad campaign, Better Together, they invested in a photo and videoshoot where their team members engaged with the businesses and customers they serve. Not only was it a great way to showcase the loyal relationships they’ve developed over the years, but they also got to promote local businesses on their site.

Video is also the fastest-growing content type on social media. It’s easy to consume and helps get information across quickly. Publishing high-quality video on your website and social media allows visitors to more easily engage with your brand, and share it as well. Video might include testimonial interviews with customers, c-suite executives and branch employees. Video is a perfect medium for expressing your community bank’s brand.

If your community bank’s website is suffering from poor performance and outdated design, give us a call. We’d love to talk.

Author Thoma Thoma

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