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Technology

Online Reputation Management for the Financial Sector – This Is How You Do It Right

iStock 1403834476 - Global Banking | Finance

Online Reputation Management for the Financial Sector – This Is How You Do It Right

Long gone are the days when companies that handle people’s money can rely solely on professional service, traditional marketing and Google’s modus operandi to present them adequately online. If you own or work in a company that is connected to the industry of finance – whether digital or traditional – you probably know how hard building a solid online reputation is – and how easy it is to destroy one.

Recently, we had the chance to sit down with Uri Samet, CEO of the global digital marketing firm Buzz Dealer, and hear from him about the importance of proper ORM (online reputation management) for financial brands. Buzz Dealer is one of the first and leading companies specializing in ORM, and it has even recently been officially crowned as the top financial services digital marketing company by the well-known B2B research and rating platform Clutch. Just last month, Buzz Dealer expanded its operations and opened an additional branch in Limassol, Cyprus, where a large portion of the European fintech sector is also headquartered.

“I find it very surprising that, in a sector that lives and breathes the online world, there is not enough awareness of how vital ORM is to a business’ survival,” stated Samet. “On the other hand, I can tell you from my experience that with proper attention and the right steps, your ORM efforts can take you even further than what ‘plain’ digital marketing can.”

  1. Make sure your brand’s website is properly indexed

Even today, Google is the ‘go-to’ search engine for almost 92% of searches conducted worldwide. This means that you have to make sure that Google presents you properly.

“Sitelinks, for example,” Samet told us, “are more than just a comfortable way to navigate from the search results page to your website. It is Google’s way of showing how credible your website is in its eyes. Also, let’s not forget that these sitelinks buy you more ‘screen space’, which brings people directly to your website – and we all know how valuable each centimeter of Google Search prominence is. On the other hand, every sitelink that Google finds dysfunctional or broken will harm how much prominence your website is given, so pay close attention to that as well and double check all of the pages on your website.”

To that, of course, we can add the value of proper meta titles and descriptions – which is what people see on Google when they look you up. Every H1, H2 and H3 you spend a few minutes on can help your indexing, and every little keyword that you research and implement can go a long way (and if you don’t know what these terms mean, we strongly recommend reading more about it or consulting a professional).

Oh, and one more very important thing. Before you start working on how to index your website, you need to decide whom you want to index it to – or, in other words, what your target audience is. Are you looking to attract buyers from Germany? Do you want leads from South America? Is Australia the direction you are heading? Google doesn’t show the same results to two people on different locations on the planet, so each target audience requires its own research, including SEO status, keyword prominence, language compatibility and the likes. Don’t forget to Google yourself with VPN periodically to monitor your status.

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  1. Claim your knowledge panel/business profile

If you are searching for your company’s name on Google, and you don’t see a box on the top right corner after you hit ‘enter’, you’re missing out on one of the most crucial aspects of your online reputation – the knowledge panel or business profile.

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“Claiming a knowledge panel is a simple process that takes a few minutes of form-filling, and a few days of waiting,” added Samet. “It is usually more suitable for entities such as people or brands. This box is like a small ‘cheat sheet’ of your business, so naturally, in today’s ‘zero-search’ reality, it means a lot to people who look you up online. Address, contact information, social media pages, user reviews, images – it’s all inside that box.”

In order to claim your knowledge panel, you will need to present some documentation, but not anything that is out of hand. A while ago, Buzz Dealer drafted up a quick and simple guide to claiming your personal knowledge panel. While the process is different for businesses, this guide can help you get a basic understanding of it.

For businesses, especially new ones in the process of growing, a recommended solution is your very own business profile on Google – also known as Google My Business. It is very similar to the knowledge panel at first sight, but there are some very important differences between the two. While the knowledge panel basically gives information about the bank as an institution, and business profile is more specific, and serves as a practical guide, with contact details, websites, reviews, maps and more.

In order to create your business profile, you need to register it with Google, and the process is also very simple. Note that Google does require that your business exist physically, meaning that you have a phone or address to back it up. Here’s how you can get started.

  1. Take control of your entity on review platforms

Sadly, today, too many people use the web (and especially social media) for unjustified shaming against businesses, and that is especially true when it comes to financial services providers. Review websites, such as Trustpilot, Sitejabber, review.io have the potential to help your business grow, but also possess the risk of causing substantial damage to it. Once you’ve set up your Google profile, reviews about your business will appear there as well. This means that people don’t need to do much more than search your company’s name on Google, and reviews about your business will appear right at the top of the search results.

 

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There is something you can do about it. As Samet explained: “These review platforms let you have control over what appears about you, to a certain extent. All you need to do is authenticate yourself to them, so that they know that you own the business in question. Once they approve you, you have the ability to respond to client reviews and even ask for negative reviews to be removed, if they are misleading, fake or defamatory. In other words, if you can’t beat these review websites, join them.”

This is also true when it comes to your mobile app, or any other interface you use to facilitate services to your clients. 4 out of every 5 app downloads comes after reading a review left about the app, usually on its App Store or Google Play page. You must make sure to constantly monitor what goes on there, and to know when (and how) to respond, and – no less importantly – when not to respond.

  1. Ensure your data is aligned the right way, across several platforms

This is where things get a bit more complicated. You need to make sure that your company’s website presents the appropriate information that you want others to see, so that Google can learn from it. That is not enough, though. You must make sure that, in terms of digital public relations, the information that can be found about you in other places across the web is coordinated with your website and your message.

In other, simpler words, your website’s appearance and prominence is not enough. You need more data to back it up. “If your website is not backed up with proper Metadata,” added Samet, “there’s no point in putting so much effort into creating a killer website. If you don’t implement a sturdy and informative schema, for example, or invest your energy in viable external structured data sources, your website’s content will only take you so far in your quest for Google dominance.”

SEO technical terms aside, there is more that you can and need to do for your reputation – and it includes a whole lot of work outside of your business’ website. Social media pages for your brand are a good place to start, as well as online blogs, but remember that if you don’t put energy into high-quality and engaging content, you are not going to get much traffic. That’s not all, of course. You need to be discussed and presented by other sources, such as news articles, topic-oriented forums, press releases and more.

If you feel lost at this point, don’t worry. There are experts in the field, with a proven track record, that can help you out. Don’t hesitate about seeking assistance, and setting a specific budget aside for it, because it can prove to be worth your while.

  1. Analyze your status periodically

Getting to the top is not enough. You need to make sure that you stay there. And yes, that means a periodical checkup of your online reputation and SEO status, including various keywords, locations, target audiences, etc.

“It is hard to achieve a good online reputation, and it is even harder to maintain it,” Samet summed up. “Luckily, there are a lot of helpful tools – and some of them are even free – to help you stay up to date. Google Alerts is one simple example. Set Google to tell you when and where your brand is mentioned online, and don’t forget to notice the context as well.”

Many business owners, especially in the financial sector, tend to underestimate the importance of a thorough and constant follow-up plan. If you do not have the time or resources to do so, we definitely recommend outsourcing this task.

The bottom line?

Online reputation management is already a main cog in the digital PR machine, and is going to be more so in the future – especially when it comes to financial institutions and brands, because people trust these companies with their hard earned funds. Having said that, the effort of achieving and conserving a good reputation online is not out of reach. We hope these few golden tips can be of assistance to you.

 

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