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Mar 01, 2012
Case Study

Search Engine Marketing: Bank lifts organic traffic 30%, paid traffic 360%

SUMMARY: Taking the time to improve SEO on the website provides many benefits -- improved organic search traffic being the most obvious result -- but the lessons learned and website improvement can really boost paid search efforts as well.

Find out how a community bank embarked on a year-long program to fix a troublesome website, improve SEO, and even lift paid traffic from its PPC campaigns by 360%. Read the entire process, and learn how the marketing team is incorporating social media into the overall effort.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter

CHALLENGE

Landmark Bank serves both consumer and business audiences, but faced a B2C marketing issue with search engine optimization (SEO) on its website. The actual site architecture was split into more than one entity, and the overall website experience just did not function properly from an SEO perspective.

This case study looks at how Landmark Bank, over the course of one year, was able to improve the SEO on its website, add social media to its marketing mix, and even improve its paid search efforts.

Andy Craig, Marketing Manager, Landmark Bank, said, "I would say that the largest pain point that we had was a little bit of confusion with our site architecture and the structure. We had some redirects and there were some mechanical issues that we needed to overcome in order to have the site function as properly as it should."

CAMPAIGN

Landmark Bank’s marketing team took a very methodical approach to correcting the existing problems and then improving its SEO for organic and paid search over the course of a year. This program remains an ongoing effort at Landmark Bank.

Step #1. Perform a website analysis

Before taking any steps to actually begin improving SEO, the team at Landmark Bank conducted a full analysis on the website. This process took about a month in total and found a number of issues that needed attention:
  • URL optimization

  • Problems with redirects on important website pages

  • Mechanical issues, such as with metatags

  • Indexing problems

  • Domain problems with "www" versus "non www"

With this information in hand, Landmark Bank now understood what needed to be done to fix the SEO problem.

Step #2. Create an SEO road map

Using the knowledge from the website analysis, the team then created a road map to improve SEO that prioritized the process over a six-month period.

The road map outlined the strengths and weaknesses of the existing website and provided a very high-level view of what needed to happen to fix the SEO pain point.

In Landmark Bank’s case, the site structural issue where search engines couldn’t effectively crawl the website’s content was the highest priority and received immediate attention once the team began implementing the road map.

The big picture concept behind the six-month road map was to find the most pressing problems, fix them, and then refine and fine-tune from there. At about the five-month mark, the team took a fresh look at the entire effort and created the next six-month road map.

Step #3. Perform keyword research

With the SEO road map in place, the marketing team began keyword research to both optimize website content for SEO and also improve the pay-per-click efforts.

The idea was to find a group of keywords and phrases that would optimize the website content for organic search, and actually map those keywords and phrases to the site so the entire team would know where they fit into the big picture of improving SEO.

Keywords were optimized for:
  • Competition

  • Search volume

  • Relevancy

The goal was to optimize four or five keywords per page on the website and to try to find keywords and phrases that would both drive traffic to and conversions on the site. All optimization is conducted manually on the webpages.

Step #4. Fix the website structural issues

With keyword research completed, the team addressed the most pressing problems uncovered during the site analysis: the actual structural problems. At this point, the SEO road map was being implemented.

Those initial problems to be addressed included:
  • Indexing issues on redirects

  • The domain problem with "www" versus "non www"

  • Metatag issues

Step #5. Optimize website content

With the most pressing structural problems fixed, the team then began optimizing the website content. This process involved actually mapping out and prioritizing each page, and utilizing the keyword research to get four or five keywords or phrases into each webpage based on the earlier research.

This optimization helped Landmark Bank achieve strong positioning on the search engine results page (SERP) for a variety of keyword combinations. Before this effort, Landmark Bank’s average organic search position was beyond the first page of results.

Step #6. Begin link building

The site structure had been fixed and the content was in the process of being optimized based on earlier research, and prioritized based on the most important webpages. At this point, the team began working on building links to the site.

"We take a two-pronged approach of quality and quantity," explained Craig. "Obviously, quality links are a little bit harder to get, but they have a bigger impact, and quantity links are a little bit easier to get."

He added that because banking is a highly regulated industry, Landmark Bank is very careful with its link practices and his team looks for good partnerships.

"One of the things about us is we are a community-focused bank, so we have an entire section of our website devoted to community links," Craig explained.

These links include libraries and community theater websites. They provide Landmark Bank with reciprocal links, and also offer Landmark Bank’s customers a resource for local information.

Step #7 Use the SEO research to improve PPC efforts

"One of the benefits of doing both SEO and paid search is that we are able to do as much overlap as possible with our keyword selection, and that we could support the paid search campaign with the content that was on the site," stated Craig.

He continued, "We are actively optimizing the content so that we can get better performance out of the paid search campaign."

Landmark Bank launched its revamped PPC effort after it started the SEO work, but the two efforts were executed simultaneously last year once the paid search campaign began.

The team runs three campaigns with 16 ad groups in each paid search campaign and three or four different ads running in each ad groups for a total of 130 ads at any given time.

Last year, the marketing team focused on Google, but they are now adding Microsoft adCenter this year.

Step #8 Use the social media channel to enhance the entire effort

Craig said his team links specific pages on the website in tweets and Facebook posts, and basically tries to "come full circle" to tie everything back to the main website to add to the link authority and enhance customer relationships.

The company also utilized LinkedIn, and even developed an active YouTube site where they enlisted some bankers to spoof songs and create music videos just to let their customers know even though the industry is pretty "white oxfords, tie and jacket," they do have a little fun in the bank.

Craig said the goal of the social media outreach is to provide information and just connect with the community, along with getting the link authority benefits that help the overall SEO effort.

"We are using our social media to get information out to our customer base to help protect them against fraudulent scams and let them know that we are here with them in our communities," said Craig.



RESULTS

After a little over a year of executing this program, Craig said Landmark Bank has seen "tremendous improvement in organic traffic to the site and positioning." He added the PPC effort has also been very successful.
  • Organic traffic is up 30% month-over-month

  • Paid traffic is up more than 360%

The PPC campaign also produced these results:
  • 64% decrease in costs over the paid search before beginning the SEO program

  • 175% increase in average paid search positioning (This metric was determined by looking at the average position of the ads and calculating the variance of baseline average position against current standings)

"It has been fantastic to see the improvements in our positioning and the lowering of cost-per-click, and the improved visits to the website. All those positives are beneficial to the bank as a whole in that we are putting our best foot forward, and (our customers) are seeing us as a community bank because we are very active in our communities," Craig stated.

Useful links related to this article

CREATIVE SAMPLES:
  1. Search positioning

  2. PPC ad example

Landmark Bank

SteadyRain – Landmark Bank’s digital marketing vendor

Webinar Replay -- The Cumulative Effect of SEO Improvements: How a methodical process for SEO pays off in markedly better results

Special Report: Social Media’s Impact on SEO – 5 Trends to Guide an Integrated Strategy

Marketing Research Chart: SEO tactics used by organizations with and without SEO processes

PPC Mysteries Revealed: 7 Answers to your pressing PPC questions

Content Marketing and SEO: The world doesn’t need another blog post


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