6 Easy Steps to Optimize Your Financial Institution Website

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(Last Updated On: February 16, 2020)

A Split-Second to Make an Impression

Annnddd…we’re out of time. You’ve already decided how you feel about this page.

Today, your website is one of the first impressions someone gets of your brand (another being reviews shown on the search results). And you get hardly a split-second to come across the way you want!

Most users form an opinion on your website in just 50 milliseconds. Blink 5 times. That’s it. Time’s up. Did you convince them to stay on your site yet?

What determines if they’ll stick around? How it looks. More than 90% of their first impression is from the design and (apparent & real) user experience (UX). Are you confident your website will make the cut?

Walking Down Beach Footprints

It’s ok. We’re here to help you make sure those 50ms turn into much more. We’ve got 6 easy steps you can take right now to get your site on the good side of that first impression.

  1. What’s your value proposition?
  2. SEO Intro
  3. Site speed
  4. Works well on all devices
  5. Logical website flow
  6. Test. Iterate. Adapt.

Advantages of an Optimized Website

A well-produced website offers many technical and tangible business benefits. For example, you’ll see higher organic traffic, greater conversions, better search placement, all of which translates to additional revenue. You want more revenue, right?

Having trouble believing a nice website can have a direct impact on your revenue? Imagine your physical branch presence. If the paint was peeling, the floors were cracked, and the sign was dirty, how would account holders feel? And would you attract new ones?

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Your website is a digital branch. Even more so when accessed through a phone. Consider the following of a poorly designed website:

  • May lead to higher “page abandons” (% of visits that arrive, then leave without following any links)
  • Search engines look at how your site works on any device and if issues appear, push you down in the results (Page 1 is reserved for mobile-friendly sites, unless they searched explicitly for you)
  • ADA compliance on your website is a thing. Avoid regulatory intervention or fines and make it work the best you can.

Like a branch, a well-organized, easy-to-navigate, and visually appealing site encourages visitors to “stay a while” and interact with the content. They’re also more likely to take an action.

What makes a good website?

Online Marketing Flowchart Tablet

There is no one single formula for building a perfect website. Except kittens. Always include kittens. Or puppies. Ok, that’s two things already. See? There’s no one thing!

It depends on your industry, your brand, your user base, and your own unique goals. But there are a few best practices when building a quality website.

For financial institutions, a good website must be:

  • Secure (it’s financial information, after all)
  • Easy to navigate
  • Visually pleasing
  • Logically organized
  • Providing quality content
  • Functional (everything on it works and performs equally on all devices)
  • Tailored to your brand identity
  • Distinguishable from your competitors (if you took off the logos and colors, would people know it was yours?)
  • Built to achieve your business and visitor goals

In summary, it must have a great user experience (UX). Which boils down to three things:

  1. Ease of use
  2. Convenience
  3. Accessibility

Just having a website is only the beginning. For it to work for and not against you, it must cater to the needs of its visitors. Let’s talk about 6 easy steps you can take to ensure your website “gets things done”, while leaving a positive impression of your brand on all who visit.

6 Easy Steps to Optimize Your Website

Floating Laptop

1: What’s your value proposition?

Upon arriving on your site, can a visitor tell what you offer, clearly, within a couple seconds? This applies to any first-arrival page across your platform, whether home page, landing pages, product/service pages, etc. It’s your unique value proposition (UVP).

This is also what sets you apart from your competition. Can visitors quickly identify your core competitive advantage? Because that’s how you’ll grow your conversions. Without a clear UVP, visitors (Read: Potential customers) will pass you by in their browsing.

2: A bit of SEO

Website Visitors Chart on Laptop

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a continuously-evolving process that plays a large role in your search rankings and, by extension, traffic.

While we could dedicate an entire article just to SEO (and we will!), here are a few basic recommendations (we’ll share links on where to do these things after):

  • Research keywords to figure out what your target audience searches before writing content
    • In other words, write about what people want to know!
  • Ensure all pages on your site are optimized
    • This actually covers a lot. Here are the main points for now:
      • Include descriptive meta titles and descriptions
      • Properly size and compress all images
      • Add appropriate alt text to images
  • Practice link hygiene. Check to make sure your links all work!
  • Local SEO: Claim and fill out all local directory listings with the same business information

For getting your business info on the sites your customers visit, start with:

You are free to add accounts on other sites. Just imagine where you go to look places up!

For your website, try these tools to get your SEO efforts going:

3: Speed it up

Space Shuttle Launch

At a restaurant, slow service usually means a poor experience.

The same applies to your website: If it runs slowly, your visitors won’t be happy. We’re all as impatient as you think.

Your website speed, or performance, refers to how quickly a browser can get the page content ready to use. Sites that load slowly at any phase drive people away, which means less traffic and fewer conversions (Meaning: Those were potential customers you didn’t get.)

Website speed is another complex topic. There’s no one fix. But there are a few main things you can check:

  • Time To First Byte (TTFB)
  • Page size
  • Requests
  • Optimization

TTFB refers to the initial wait when you click or tap a link, before anything happens. It’s the time when you wonder, “does the site even work?” This is determined by a bunch of factors, but the main one is your hosting provider.

This factor is what you really want to get as low as possible (ideally below 500ms), because page abandonment before the site even starts to load makes all your other efforts worthless.

The other points above refer to how the site is set up. Lots of big images is ok, so long as they’re compressed properly. Requests and optimization are things your IT and web provider will understand. For the former, fewer is better.

Beyond those factors, there’s even more that can help or hinder your website performance. To get the numbers and some suggestions, try out Page Speed Insights (Google built it to test sites for their own purposes, so I’d say it’s important) or Pingdom Tools.

For reference, this is how Navy Federal’s site performs:

Navy Federal Pingdom Tools Performance
Worry less about the performance grade when load times are zippy.

Looking to go deep on website speed optimizations? I used this article from Moz for our own sites and it was extremely helpful.

4: Responsive across devices

Not long ago, Google switched to a “mobile-first” indexing strategy. This means they use the mobile version of your site for indexing. “What if we don’t have a mobile version of our site?” Then that’s not good.

When Google’s crawlers pass through your site, they’re looking at how it appears on a smaller, touchscreen device. Not a desktop browser.

Google Mobile First Indexing

Mobile traffic first surpassed desktop traffic in 2018. Its usage keeps rising. Are you reading this on your phone? Well, you could! So what does this mobile-first indexing mean for your website?

First and foremost: Make sure your site looks and functions on mobile devices just as a visitor would expect.

Before publishing a page, preview it on desktop, mobile, tablet, and other devices (i.e. different phone screen sizes and OSes). You can use Google Mobile Friendly Test, Responsinator, or Chrome DevTools to help with this.

If you’re using a modern website system, it is already responsive “out of the box”. Thus, this step should be the easiest!

Still want more? Google has some additional guidelines to follow.

As an example, here’s our site in the Google Mobile Friendly Test:

Google Mobile Friendly Site Test - GreenProfit
We’re friendly. Are you?

5: Create a logical website flow

Above the Fold?

Hand Holding Paper Plane
Get it? Fold?

In the early web days, this was simple: Keep everything “above the fold” (as in, requires no scrolling to see). It was as sure as getting on the first page of search results, because who looks at page two?

Today, that’s not the whole story.

Oh, being on page one is still important. But avoiding scrolling at all costs isn’t as necessary.

Think of it this way: Critical information is by its nature, important. So you’d want it to be prominent. That means above the fold. (Restaurants don’t put their featured items on the last page of their menu.) This includes your “what we do for you” value proposition.

However, one device made scrolling an accepted practice: The smartphone. Your thumb is so attuned to it, I bet you don’t even notice when it happens. And that comfort moved to computers as well (especially those with really nice touchpads).

Besides, trying to build a non-scrolling site is essentially impossible.

Are visitors on a 4” or 6.5” screen? Is their computer a 13” or 27”? Do they keep their browser maximized, or just a small portion of their enormous screen? Focus on keeping your brand and one essential message visible to all.

Now that our “what do they see first” challenge is complete, where to next? Exactly!

Site Flow (Conversion Rate Optimization)

Beach Boardwalk
What path do you want visitors to take?

When you arrive on a site, it’s one thing to appreciate the content on that page. It’s another to continue on down a path set for you by the website. Think of Amazon. From the homepage, you link to suggested products. Adding to cart is prominent, then “Check Out” is equally so.

They’re so good that even when your purchase is complete, they’re back to guiding you into more shopping!

This process has a name: Conversion rate optimization (CRO). It’s how you empower visitors to take action (that you want) on your website.

Here are some basic CRO guidelines for financial institutions:

  • Include clear calls-to-action (CTAs) and visual cues (and experiment with different CTA types to avoid banner blindness)
  • Get the data on who is visiting your website
  • Lay out what you want visitors to do (and draft the flow to make it easy)
  • Tweak your site’s navigation to match the flow and goals (ie. Common and desired tasks should be easily accessible and never hidden behind numerous links or complex navigation)

A CRO strategy helps you maximize your existing web traffic by making navigation and task completion clear and fast.

Chatbots

Robot

Your traditional website uses visual cues to guide visitors. Things like calls to action (buttons, banners, and other featured designs) help nudge browsers to their goals. Does any emerging technology exist to supplement that effort? Perhaps, in the form of a chatbot.

What comes to mind when you hear that term? Many sites use intelligent versions now that can handle common requests at all hours. Think of the Amazon Chatbot in their app. It’s especially good, but what if you don’t have Amazon’s resources? Fair.

No matter your site, there’s a pre-built option available. In fact, if you use WordPress to power your site, these are the 12 best live chat systems for small businesses (at least according to the team at wpbeginner, who I go to for a lot of my site challenges).

We considered a chatbot for our own site, but didn’t feel it was necessary. To be honest, our goals for you, valued reader, are simple. We want you to glean all you can from our varied content, subscribe to get regular updates, and download the additional resources.

“How will a chatbot help us accomplish our goals?” For us, the answer right now is, “it won’t.” However, for your institution, I’d wager the decision is different. In fact, a few years ago, I wrote about how a chatbot was the last thing you’d want to do with your “AI efforts”.

Tech has changed. Times have changed. Today, it’s so simple and affordable that you may as well have a chatbot. Seriously. Set one up.

Question Mark

If you use a free service, it will have limited predictive capabilities. In other words, it won’t be that good at answering questions. Think of it as a simple “Contact Us” pathway. So invest in a service that makes sense (use the earlier list as a guide) to meet expectations.

Chatbots can do a lot now. You can configure one to handle typical member questions, set up appointments, and guide people to tasks (that includes easy paths to your “goals”, including loan applications).

In fact, by the end of 2020, 85% of consumer interactions may be handled without a human involved. Financial institutions happen to be a group getting a ton of value from chatbots (have you met Erica in BoA’s app?).

Creating a smooth flow on your website is important. However, if there’s a presence on every page that can do it for you, isn’t that cool?

6: Test and Iterate. Always.

Female Scientist in Lab

Your website is alive.

Give it the care it needs. Experiment with different copy, colors, designs, and other characteristics to see what engages visitors best. Of course, that means you need good analytics. You need to know what’s catching people’s attention and what…isn’t.

That means looking at site activity, keyword performance, page rankings, and even title wording. Don’t try to assess this manually. Get a tool to help. Otherwise, you’ll get frustrated and give up. It doesn’t have to be hard.

I’ve heard good things about Parse.ly. Haven’t used it myself, but the feature list looks appealing.

Stumped on ideas to quickly customize and better track activity on your site? Here are some experiments:

  • Custom landing pages to improve your ad conversion rates (product- or service-specific, catering to a certain customer subgroup, etc.)
  • Web personalization so content changes based on visitor characteristics, behaviors, or UTM codes
  • Adjust site design through selective change testing (if able to do A/B testing, even better!) of new headlines, colors, buttons, layout, calls-to-action, font size, and more (while keeping to your defined brand identity)

Let Your Website Work For Your Institution

Welcome on Board Dock Mat
Let your brand’s character shine through!

The goal of your website is the same as any of your branches:

  • Welcome existing account holders and help them achieve their financial tasks, while sharing others which might be a fit
  • Introduce new visitors to your brand and encourage them to bank with you

Take these 6 steps and apply them to your website to drive new traffic and get more value (and satisfaction) from your existing visitors. When you think of your site as a branch creating leads and solving problems, it becomes more than just a billboard. It’s a digital branch.

To reiterate from above, a good website experience comes down to three things:

  1. Ease of use
  2. Accessibility
  3. Convenience

Focus on the journey from your prospective or current customer’s mindset, and you’ll create a destination worth banking on.

Keep Learning In Our Library

We spend a lot of time thinking about experiences. Thus, we write about it a decent amount, too. Take a look at our Marketing section for more insights. If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to read our article about online “speed bumps”.

Still here? Then you absolutely must Subscribe to the Learning Library. We’ll get you content like this on a weekly basis. Goes great with a nice cup of coffee (or tea, or coconut water, or kombucha…you do you!).

Joe Winn - CU Geek

Blogger. Speaker. Part-time Jedi.

Focused on helping your bank or credit union grow in the face of emerging challenges.