Stephanie Schwenn Sebring

SEO Part I…CUES CU Management Magazine

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Get to the Top With SEO

March 2013 – Vol: 36 No. 3

by Stephanie Schwenn Sebring

Why content rules and not all keywords are created equal in helping search engines find your CU on the Web.

Whether you’re a CEO, CFO or CMO, it’s critical to understand how SEO impacts your organization and bottom line. In the simplest of terms, SEO, or search engine optimization, is a tool designed to increase your website’s visibility on the Internet.

A study performed by Google in 2011 states that the average consumer seeks 10.4 resources before making a purchase decision. It’s not just about competing with another CU or bank down the street. It’s about competing with choices all across the Internet.

Marketers use SEO to ensure their websites achieve top ranking in a reader’s search engine results page, preferably, by landing in one of the top three spots. The lower you land, the less chance you have in connecting with that individual, and the less traffic your site is likely to receive. If your CU is not found on page one, forget about a potential member continuing their search. They will simply start over. And your opportunity may be lost.

Where to Begin?

“The first step is to define your strategic marketing goals, and establish benchmarks as it relates to accomplishing your overall business objectives,” says Keith Caven, CEO of Snapt, Inc., DeLand, Fla., a strategic marketing company that develops proprietary software for credit unions to measure the effectiveness of SEO and other various marketing channels.

Do you need loans? Do you need checking accounts? Are business accounts important? Once you’ve determined your marketing goals, your website—using targeted page content—should be poised to drive traffic to the landing pages of services that help achieve these business goals.

“These pages must convey the offer powerfully enough to convert the reader to your product or service,” adds Caven. “You can engage the reader by adding a link or providing a call to action; but, in all cases, results should be tracked and measured from initial keyword to actual conversion. This is the only true way to determine ROI on your marketing investment.”

Content Rules

Experts agree that content­­—concise, and compelling content—is key to achieving SEO success. It’s using the language of your reader. It’s quickly hitting upon their needs with relevant copy on each landing page before they click away.

“Keep the copy engaging, informative and relevant. The more you can offer throughout your site, the better,” explains Sherry Callahan, CSE, CCE, a social media and Internet marketing strategist based in Fort Worth, Texas, and former SVP/operations for $3.5 billion Patelco Credit Union, Pleasanton, Calif.

“Provide relevant substance,” she adds. “Mix in educational articles that position your credit union as the industry expert. Include videos, which encourage a visitor to stay longer on your site. And, if possible, host a really great blog.”

Not all Keywords Are Created Equal

Keywords are the single most important part of your online copy. They’re what make your content sing to the search engines. When used appropriately, keywords will help you land in the top spot of a Google search. Used incorrectly, you risk having your page missed entirely. Brainstorming favorite keywords used by your members is critical. Think as they think. Use words they use.

Free Checking in LA. Banking in Baton Rouge. Mortgages in Oklahoma City. Think of how you do a search on the Web. You type in a word or maybe a phrase; you get the results. If you don’t see what you’re looking for right away, you start over.

Examples of relevant keywords will vary by credit union, adds Callahan. “For instance, a credit union located in the county of San Diego might use keywords like: credit union san diego ca, credit union san diego bank, credit union san diego mortgage rates, credit union san diego coast.”

If you don’t have the resources to hire an SEO expert, you can conduct a limited, free keyword search by using Google’s Keyword Tool or going to

However, Callahan believes it’s still advantageous to pay for a professional analysis. “You’ll obtain better matches and surface higher in Google rankings. Ultimately, keywords will either make or break your SEO success.”

No matter what business you’re in, you have just a few seconds to convert a visitor to a potential new customer. Keep interior pages rich with keywords. Reiterate keywords in headings and subheadings–the first place search engines will read. In a journalistic sense, the top half of every webpage is your best real estate, for both reader and search engine. Use it wisely.

After devising your keyword list, strategically employ those words and phrases within your page content. Also, “consider adding a separate webpage for each branch location that includes the name of the city or, if applicable, the county,” says Callahan. “The page can be hyperlinked to your main page that lists all of your branches and other information,” she adds. “It can also include pertinent information about the city and events near the branch.” This will help your CU rank higher when members search using their different town names.

“Also, be sure to sign up for Google Places for each branch page, which will further help each branch be prominent when potential customers search for a credit union branch in their area,” adds Callahan.

Stephanie Schwenn Sebring has 25 years of marketing and communications experience, including managing the marketing departments for three CUs. As owner of Fab Prose & Professional Writing, her new focus is on assisting CUs and industry suppliers with their communications needs.

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