Reputation management: The winning SEO strategy credit unions aren’t talking about

Our take: reputation management is first and foremost an SEO strategy. A killer SEO strategy. A strategy with clear execution, clear ROI, that will help your CU win in local search.

Let’s take a step back and lay the foundation with a few facts.

  • “85% of consumers trust reviews as much as they trust the opinion of a friend”
  • “Google’s local pack is displayed for 93% of all searches”
  • “87% of customers read online reviews for local businesses in 2020”

Broad data points are all well and good, but I’d encourage you to look inward for a moment. Say you find yourself in a new city (I suppose this example is pre-COVID). How do you find a place to eat? You fire up Google or Yelp, search the area, read some reviews and make a choice.

Reviews are extremely influential. But for many businesses, elusive. A hope and a prayer your happy members will find a way to share their thoughts. Well, in 2021 a passive strategy is no longer competitive. It’s a tragic marketing oversight.

Better yet, I’m here to tell you there is a proven way to generate hundreds of 5-star reviews and positive member interactions online each month for your credit union. You can guide the narrative, activate the voice of your happy members, and establish local search dominance.

Let me show you how. But first, how does Google use review content to guide search rank?

Google loves reviews like pecan pie for breakfast the morning after turkey day

Like any business, Google is delivering a product to its customers and protecting its market share. It’s in Google’s best interest that the searcher has a good experience. So Google shows the best businesses first. How does Google determine which businesses are “best”? Simple – reviews.

”The prominence of reviews isn’t particularly shocking, as it’s a way for Google to crowdsource ranking factors, it’s hard to spam, and the most problematic type of abuse is illegal.” – SEO Guide

Google is primarily looking at four things when assessing a search: 

  1. Do you offer the requested product/services?
  2. Where is your business?
  3. Are members saying good things about your business?
  4. Are you engaging with them? 

In the SEO world, these three concepts are described as GMB (Google My Business) information, proximity, and review signals.

Notable for 2021, according to Moz, for the first time ever review signals are a more important ranking factor than proximity. I like to explain this using the “deli concept”.

It’s 1:00 PM on a Thursday, time for a sandwich. You run a search nearby and Google identifies two options, one is 1 block away with a rating of 4.2, the other 3 blocks away with a rating of 4.5. Google is going to show you the deli 3 blocks away first. 

This is big. As a business owner, this puts you in control of your own destiny. Digging deeper, what are the review signals driving rank?

4 review components drive rank


We recommend at least 20 a month, but hundreds of positive reviews are within reach depending upon foot traffic and your strategy for generating/encouraging them.


The regularity with which new reviews come in. Track your review performance in 2-week increments. A successful review strategy is constantly active and evolving. Your reputation is defined and redefined daily. Yes, they were good last month, but are they still good today?


5-stars, 4-stars, 3-stars? This one is pretty straight forward. Anything around 4.5 is good, interestingly a perfect 5.0 is perceived as too-good-to-be-true or, worse, fraudulent. With a proactive strategy, feedback tends to be overwhelmingly positive. EmpowerFi strategic partner and reputation management firm, Widewail, refers to this as “activating the voice of your happy members”. The firm has responded to a quarter-million reviews in recent years, only 10.5% of which have been 3-star or less.


Google wants to see a response to every member review. This shows your brand is actively engaged and focused on customer service. Your members want to be treated like humans, so don’t throw a “thank-you bot” at all of them. Remember, review and response content is public, forever.

This is what you’ve been waiting for: CU reputation management strategy

We live in a Trust Economy where peer-to-peer validations are the top assurance for real people taking action in this world; for real people making decisions. We do this when checking our Uber driver ratings, when reading Airbnb host reviews before agreeing to stay somewhere, and we do it before, you guessed it, making financial decisions.

Credit unions are member-first organizations, so why not use the voice of members to influence their peers? 

SMS, Not Email for Reviews

This is a “read the room” situation. Email has its place in marketing, but it’s slow. 22% of emails are opened, average response time is 2 hours. 

SMS has a 98% open rate and an average response time of 4 minutes. According to EZ Texting, 69% of customers across all age groups would like to be able to communicate with a business via text. The review generation secret sauce is all about speed and convenience. From notification to review submission in 30-90 seconds on the same device.

That’s why SMS text, coming from a real 10-digit number, and with a personalized message following your interaction with the member, is the best way of generating reviews in 2021. 

Imagine every time a member has a teller interaction, opens a new account, closes on a loan, has a positive experience on the phone with a call center rep, they then get a personalized text simply asking for a review of their experience. 

“Hey John, this is Jenny from Acme Credit Union down on Federal St. We would love for you to share your experience with our community and leave us a review. We really appreciate it! Here is the link…” 

Personalized, on-brand, clean, genuine, contextual. 

And best of all, it fits your bandwidth needs, ranging from triggered review requests coming right from your data systems or empowering your employees with manual review request capabilities. Your members are happy, and you love them, so harness all that positive energy online through SMS review generation. 

Human-led Engagement is The Best Engagement

But you know this.

No member likes feeling like they aren’t important, and that’s exactly what it looks like to them when responses are generic and automated.

Thank you for your review.
Thank you for your review.
Thank you for your review.
Thank you for your review.
Thank you for your review.

Not cool. 

Jen, thank you so much for your 5-star review of Acme Credit Union! We sincerely appreciate having you as a member and we appreciate you taking the time to leave such a kind review. We look forward to working with you again on your next time!

Ah, much better.

Review response can also be a win-win – not only a personalized response to your members but also an SEO boost to further increase your local search ranking and online visibility. 

With every 4 and 5-star review, respond with important keywords: credit union name, branch name, location, strategic products and services you want to emphasize. 

So much money is spent on display ads, keyword bids, SEO management, etc. – why not use this opportunity for organic … and free … local search optimization. All of this is possible by using real humans behind keyboards to deliver human-led, personalized review responses. There is no substitute.

Hilary Reed

Hilary Reed

Hilary Reed, founder of EmpowerFi, is an innovative thought-leader who has been involved in various aspects of strategic sales and marketing for 15 years. Her career began in 2000 when ... Web: Details

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