As a bank marketer in charge of your website’s search rankings, it's always important to keep up with the latest ways to optimize your website and content. One important aspect of the marketing of your website is your natural search results, of which there are many facets. Some of these are improved by external methods such as getting more links to your content, while some are improved by making direct changes on your site.
Financial services brands are no exception to the intense competition for Search traffic. When it comes to natural Search Engine Optimization (SEO), while special rules don't apply to banks, there are some very important things to keep in mind. One of these is the “Your Money or Your Life” guidelines, made available in Google’s Quality Ratings Guidelines.
While in its earlier years, Google kept its Quality Ratings Guidelines as secret as possible, in the last few years, it has made them more publicly accessible. This helps give us all more insight into how Google looks at content and what its website reviewers look for when reviewing sites. For a complete overview, you can either review them directly from Google, or several Search experts, have reviewed and distilled them for us, including an excellent article from Jennifer Slegg of The SEM Post.
What is YMYL?
YMYL is a subset of Google’s Quality Ratings Guidelines that their human website reviewers use to assess the quality of a website. By using a combination of many factors, it helps these reviewers determine how reputable a website is. This includes everything from the frequency of updates, the content of key sections, to the overall look of the site.
In particular, YMYL deals with website content that discusses or affects the visitor’s “financial stability,” to use Google’s exact words, in addition to their health. In the most recent update, “financial stability” was used to replace the word “wealth,” which was a little more vague.
The “Money” part of YMYL means that when you are giving advice, offering products and services, or providing any other content relating to someone’s financial stability, it is important that they be written responsibly. The “Life” part of YMYL deals with health and other aspects of someone’s well-being.
Julia Spence-McCoy of SEMRush explains that YMYL “are comprised of pages that are important enough that, were they low-quality, they could have a potential negative impact on a person’s life, income, or happiness. As a general rule, the pages that Google requires to be written by experts are known as YMYL pages.”
In addition to banks, credit unions and other financial institutions, this also includes medical and legal advice pages.
How do banks comply with YMYL?
In order to make sure that your bank website passes the YMYL standard, there are a few things to keep in mind. We can categorize these in 6 ways:
Is the content from a reputable source?
Make sure that your thought leadership content, such as blogs or other financial advice are attributed to their authors correctly. I assume that as a financial institution, you have great people writing your content with at least good credentials, so make sure those are visible. In other words, substantiate that the author of the content is an expert.
Are contact details present?
It’s also important to provide a way to contact a site that is providing financial advice. Chances are, you are already making it pretty easy for visitors or potential customers to get in touch with you, but just in case, you might want to pay special attention to the way contact information is provided on pages giving financial advice.
Does the site have a good reputation?
An easy way for banks to substantiate their reputation is by showing things like the FDIC (or NCUA) logos, Equal Housing Lender logo, or other things that are already mandated in other ways. It also doesn’t hurt to find other ways to offer third-party validation. Generally speaking, this is less of an issue for a bank or credit union than it is for a consultant selling financial planning advice or tax services, but it’s still important to keep in mind.
Is the website kept up to date?
Make sure your site has content that is updated and demonstrates that you regularly review and refresh content. While having dates on blog posts has become less important to Google’s reviewers, it’s still important to find ways to give an overall sense that the site is being updated and maintained.
Is there consistency within the site?
Consistency can refer to everything from design to the tone of content, but primarily this refers to making sure that the page fits the context of the overall site. For instance, if a shopping site for stuffed animals has a page buried within it regarding tax advice, that tax advice page would be deemed inconsistent. This may not be an issue for you, but it’s important to keep in mind that you should tie back the content of your pages to the services that your organization provides.
Is the design of the site of high quality?
While design can be a very subjective way to evaluate something, we can all generally agree when something has been professionally designed versus done by an amateur. Websites that haven’t been redesigned to fit mobile standards or other recent user experience trends may suffer according to this criteria. It doesn’t necessarily mean your site needs to be pretty, but it does mean that it needs to be functional, highly legible, and clear to navigate.
The positive thing here is that (for better or worse) as a bank, you are already all too familiar with dealing with levels of compliance! While you may look at YMYL as yet another set of guidelines you need to follow, the good news is that much of what is already guiding the types of content you can/can’t post is also keeping you in line with Google’s restrictions. YMYL, despite trying to protect consumers against predatory e-commerce sites and other financial-related sites, is much softer than the type of compliance requirements you are used to dealing with.
There are a number of factors that determine your search rankings. Making sure you understand all of them is important as you manage your site or if you plan to redesign your banks. As a financial institution, or any company in the financial services sector, clearly understanding Google’s YMYL ratings guidelines could mean a big different in your search engine rankings.