Paid search marketing for financial services can be a highly effective ROI driver — use it to build brand recognition and boost conversions quickly.

Here, you’ll find:

  • The regulations around financial services paid search marketing
  • Best practices for your paid search ads
  • The latest targeting updates
  • Why display ads are also worth exploring

Financial services encompass everything from credit unions, banks, and insurance to credit-card companies, financial technology (FinTech), and investment funds. But even though everyone should be thinking about at least some of these topics regularly, especially these days, not everyone does.

This makes it a challenge for financial services (or FinServ) marketers looking to attract new customers. Luckily, paid search or pay-per-click ads can give your digital marketing a boost by helping you build brand recognition, attract leads quickly, and drive conversions for your finance-based services. Below, we highlight 13 tips to help you develop top-notch search marketing strategies in the finance industry.

1. Understand the regulations

Financial products and services are highly regulated industries. This is why Google suggests that, when creating ads, you make sure to comply with local, state and national regulations. This may include specific disclosures that provide transparency to the product or services highlighted by the ad. Google and other search engines may also require specific information within the ad for it to be approved, such as:

  • Disclosure of associated fees
  • Contact information and physical location
  • Links for implied third-party endorsement or accreditation

Personal loan advertising must also contain info about the quality, fees, features, benefits, and risks associated with the product. The idea is that these disclosures provide valuable information to help consumers make informed decisions. When creating an ad, make sure your content contains:

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
  • Minimum and maximum repayment period
  • An example representing the total cost of the loan, including applicable fees
PPC for financial services

Whether you’re experienced in PPC or are new to paid search, starting slowly can help ensure you get the most efficient results possible. (Image via Unsplash)

2. Know the financial products Google won’t accept

Google doesn’t allow advertisers to promote a variety of financial products, including:

  • Short-term loans (loans that require full repayment within 60 days)
  • High APR personal loans
  • Trading binary options or similar products
  • Complex speculative financial products
  • Credit repair services

Advertising for loan modifications, debt services, and cryptocurrencies is allowed, but there are strict rules. If you’re planning PPC for financial services in these areas, review the guidelines carefully. Luckily, if your ad is not approved, Google provides guidance for what you can do to fix the issues.

3. Start paid search marketing slowly

Whether you’re experienced in PPC or are new to paid search, starting slowly can help ensure you get the most efficient results possible.

Start with one to three campaigns and a core group of four to ten keywords, then measure the results after a few weeks or so. You’ll see where your budget is being spent most effectively so you can cut the underperforming ads, continue to iterate, and put more effort towards what’s working.

4. Prepare for higher cost per click (CPC)

Financial keywords are competitive. When it comes to digital marketing for financial services, this often translates into a higher cost than for other industries. 

Focus keywords in your niche rather than the industry as a whole to help attract the most qualified leads, and leverage negative keywords when it makes sense to weed out unqualified leads. If you need help with keyword research, HawkSEM provides PPC services to help build a winning keyword strategy.

5. Know your audience targeting options

If your company has physical locations in a few areas, tightly focused search engine marketing can help you make the most of your budget. In addition to targeting by geographic location, you were once able to can take advantage of other demographic options such as age, gender, household income, and more.

However, as of October 2020, Google will no longer allow housing, employment, and credit-related ads to target based on gender, age, parental status, marital status, or ZIP code in the U.S. or Canada. This applies to credit cards, loans including home loans, car loans, appliance loans, and short-term loans.

The more specific you are, the easier it will be to find your ideal target audience. For example, if you want to attract management-level consumers, use income levels, which should still be permitted. This can help you find the clients that want your products in a sea of those who aren’t the right fit for one reason or another.

6. Create original copy

To stand out from the crowd in the financial services industry, you’ve got to get creative. By writing unique copy that features offers and benefits, you can increase click-through rates (CTR) and attract the right consumers. 

For example, if you’re developing PPC for credit unions, credit cards or banking institutions, you may want to promote offerings like no annual fees or 24/7 customer service. If your campaign revolves around insurance company products, what perks or savings can you offer? Create a call to action (CTA) that stands out, catches the consumer’s eye, and inspires them to click.

7. Customize landing pages

If your ad simply goes to your company’s homepage, your campaign isn’t primed to convert. Keep conversion rates high by making sure the link on your ad goes to an optimized landing page that has the matching content.

The messaging across ads and landing pages should be consistent, relevant, and highlight the value to the consumer. From there, you can customize it based on the keywords and ad groups to encourage further interaction. The most effective landing pages feature an attention-grabbing headline, proof points, and an easy form. 

Pro tip: It’s a good idea for your landing page’s H1 (main headline) and H2 (subheadline) text to either match or resonate with top keywords you’re aiming to rank for. This alignment can help with quality score and engagement.

Paid Search Marketing for Financial Services: 13 Tips from an SEM Agency

Types of display ads include static, animated, interactive, video, and expanding. (Image via Unsplash)

8. Leverage display advertising

Sure, the requirements for advertising may be strict. But millions of consumers need financial products — from help with tax preparation, retirement, and home equity loans to auto insurance and basic banking accounts.

Display advertising offers several options to improve engagement and boost conversion rates:

  • Behavioral
  • Contextual
  • Geographical
  • Site-specific

Types of display ads include static, animated, interactive, video, and expanding.

Display ad best practices

The marketing strategy for an insurance company, banking institution, or financial products group must have the right mix of elements to be successful (no surprise there). Here are a few proven best practices to consider when creating your campaigns:

  • Go local: Localize your ad to make your interactions more relevant. Use familiar local terms and graphics to increase messaging and conversion rates.
  • Make it actionable: Consider adding a call to action (CTA) message or button to the banner itself to help inspire people to click for more. 
  • Add a focused hero image: If your product benefits a particular audience, use images that resonate with that specific consumer. For example, a happy young family in a yard for first-time homeowners may resonate better than a generic stock image of a wallet.
  • Build trust: Fear and uncertainty are common emotions associated with financial decision-making. Keep the message simple and repeat it, since most consumers need to see an ad several times before they believe it, without fear-mongering. Add any certificates or recognized local customers to establish trust.
  • Combine search marketing with display: Display ads increase brand recognition. As more consumers become aware of your product, they’ll search for it as they move through their decision-making process. As the search numbers increase, your search engine ranking improves, which can result in more sales.

9. Be aware of competitor positioning

Who are your top competitors? What features do they highlight? Research them so you can be ready to outdo them with your product’s value proposition benefits.

Consumers often comparison shop, so they’ll be looking for how you’re similar to competitors and what makes you different.

10. Make it a user-friendly experience

Keep your message simple and make it easy for consumers to understand what to do next. Use a quick form that lets them speed through the process, whether the desired action is downloading content, registering an account, or completing a request.

Minimizing the number of steps and removing unnecessary fields has been shown to increase conversions significantly. You can even test a short multi-page form that first asks a fun or simple question, followed by a page that asks for the required info.

11. Test, adjust, and test again

Take your PPC insurance, loan, or banking campaign’s search marketing results to the next level by testing individual components. Start by auditing keywords for funding value, rather than for leads or conversions, to help you score the highest return on investment.

Next, look at the segment breakdown for tablet, mobile and desktop to see which ads perform best. You may find that it makes sense to run some ads only for mobile and others only for tablets or desktops.

A/B testing can illuminate which ad elements resonate most with your audience. You can test things like the images, headlines, and ad copy by running two ads simultaneously. Just make sure you only test one element per A/B test so you can accurately pinpoint results.

12. Consider lead scoring

All leads are not created equal. Because of this, it’s a good idea to align your sales and marketing goals by using lead scoring. This method prioritizes leads, allowing you to respond quickly to people most interested in your products and increase the conversion rate. It assigns points to contacts so you know which leads require ongoing communication and which should be fast-tracked.

The most effective systems use a variety of attributes including but not limited to:

  • Demographics
  • Keywords
  • Clicks
  • Website visits

13. Add retargeting to your ads

Retargeting (also called remarketing) can be a highly effective method for increasing conversions. It encourages consumers to return to your website and complete an action they may have started but not finished, such as filling out a form or completing an order.

However, there are rules that may limit how much you can do in this area, so take some time to research the requirements in your niche to find out if it’s worth it for your company.

The takeaway

When people are seeking out financial services, they’re often in the midst of making their decision, so timing is critical. You have a short time frame to attract and convert prospects to customers.

Paid search marketing can jumpstart your efforts and show results quickly, which can help you tighten the focus of your messaging and improve ROI.

This article has been updated and was originally published in August 2019.

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