What’s a Blog Without an SEO Strategy?

By Melanie Coleman

As a community bank, you might find yourself constantly competing with deeper-pocketed banks for a place on the first page of search engine results pages (SERPs). Incorporating search engine optimization into your content marketing strategy can help give you the edge you need to compete. By following SEO best practices—and publishing a blog—you should find it easier to drive more traffic to your website. There are several things to keep in mind when developing SEO-friendly blog content. Here’s where to start.

Keyword research

Developing a successful blog requires you to know and understand your audience. What are they interested in learning and how can you best incorporate those interests into your content? Keyword research is essential to any SEO strategy. Start by jotting down a list of topics/words that your customers might be interested in reading about. From there, plug the words into your preferred search engine and see which topics populate. As a community bank, it’s important to focus on long tail keywords—also known as mini phrases—that are more specific to your audience and are often less competitive than short keywords. For example, think “open bank account online” or “certificate of deposit interest rates.”

The key to your SEO strategy is identifying the under-the-radar terms that your audience is searching for but aren’t as competitive. As you generate traffic with these related keywords, your blog will drive more engagement and establish credibility that will allow you to rank for more competitive keywords down the road.

Keyword placement

Once you’ve narrowed down your proposed topics to a small handful of keywords, the writing can begin. Be aware that using too many different keywords will hurt your SEO ranking. For your content strategy to be most effective, it’s better to focus on a few related keywords, like “saving,” “savings account” and “high-yield savings.” The basic rule of thumb is to ensure your keyword appears throughout the blog post, but not in a forced way. It’s important not to overuse a keyword or your blog could be flagged for “keyword stuffing” which will penalize your SEO score. Search engines want you to write for the user, not for them.

Not sure if you’re overusing a keyword? Read it from a user’s perspective and if a word or phrase sounds repetitive or forced, change it. If you’re including images as part of your blog, make sure to also include your keyword in your image alt attribute. When it comes to integrating your keyword throughout your blog post, balance is important. Your keyword should appear frequently, but not so much that it is unnatural or takes away from the overall message.

Build credibility

Google’s primary function is to deliver accurate results that provide relevant content to users. In addition to keywords, Google ranks pages based on several other criteria such as length, scannability, related content and frequency of posts. In order to optimize the length of your blog, it should read over 500 words, but it shouldn’t be so long that it appears wordy and difficult to read.

By incorporating headings into your blog, you can break up the content and help to make the piece an easier read for your audience. It also helps ensure that they locate the information they’re looking for. Your content should be original and unique. If you use another source, always cite it. One of the most important parts of running a blog is maintaining consistency. Aim to post once a week or once every two weeks.

Building an SEO strategy takes time and patience, and it won’t happen overnight. As a community bank, landing on the first page of SERPs might seem like an unrealistic goal, especially given the competition in your marketplace. But that shouldn’t discourage you. With the right content strategy, research and placement, your blog can be a beneficial tool in driving traffic to your website, building industry expertise and ultimately building new customer relationships.

Melanie Coleman is a digital strategist at Pannos Marketing based in Bedford, NH. Pannos Marketing is an award-winning, full-service communications firm specializing in strategic marketing, public relations, social media, e-commerce and website solutions for financial institutions. Email: [email protected].