PPC for financial services uses initiatives like search ads, display ads, and remarketing to drive more leads and sales, while being mindful of regulatory compliance. Read on to learn 15 strategies our team uses every day to help our FinServ clients run successful campaigns.

Here, you’ll find 15 tips for PPC for financial services:

  1. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs)
  2. Understand the regulations for financial ads
  3. Know the financial products Google Ads won’t accept
  4. Start paid search marketing slowly
  5. Harness the power of both SEO and PPC
  6. Prepare for higher cost per click (CPC)
  7. Know your audience targeting options
  8. Create original, compelling ad copy
  9. Refine your landing pages
  10. Leverage display advertising
  11. Research the competition
  12. Prioritize the user experience
  13. Test, adjust, and test again
  14. Create a lead-scoring system
  15. Add retargeting to your PPC ads

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising boosts brand awareness, attracts leads quickly, and drives conversions for finance services like banks, financial advisors, credit card providers, financial technology (FinTech), and investment funds.

But here’s the kicker: Over 60% of Americans prefer to stay hush-hush on the subject of money.

So how do you tap into this nuanced demographic? With PPC for financial services.

As a top 3% digital marketing agency, HawkSEM boasts an impressive 4.5X average ROI for a diverse clientele, including financial services businesses

We tapped into the expertise of our CEO, Sam Yadegar, to break down 15 tips for top-notch search marketing strategies in the finance industry.

15 tips for high-impact PPC for financial services

PPC is a nuanced marketing strategy that demands skill, experimentation, and continuous optimization. Now, marry that with the finance industry’s web of rigid rules and regulations. It makes for a challenging yet highly rewarding landscape. 

But we’ve got the juice to fuel up your campaigns:

1. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs)

As data-obsessed techies, it’s no surprise that finance is one of our favorite sectors to work with. After all, it’s an industry that’s all about the numbers. As a result, financial institutions are no strangers to key performance indicators (KPIs).

KPIs are measurable data points for how well your business performs toward a certain goal or objective. When you establish these benchmarks early on, you’ll align your efforts with your financial goals.

Our go-to KPIs for PPC advertising in finance include:

  • Cost per acquisition (CPA)
  • Conversion rate
  • Return on ad spend (ROAS)
  • Marketing-Qualified Leads (MQL)
  • Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)
  • Compliance rate
  • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Average position
  • Return on investment (ROI)

All of this data helps inform your PPC ads as you go. And since these metrics ebb and flow, you’ll want to monitor your KPIs regularly.

We know what you’re thinking: ‘Great, one more thing to pile onto an already busy plate.’

Fortunately, when you partner with HawkSEM, you get exclusive access to our proprietary tech, ConversionIQ. This dynamic marketing tool streamlines all your KPI measurement and optimization efforts with real-time analytics and data-backed refinement.


2. Understand the regulations for financial ads

Financial products and services are part of highly regulated industries. This is why Google requires businesses to comply with local, state, and national regulations in their marketing.

Google and other search engines (like Bing or Yahoo) may require specific information within financial ads before they approve them, 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 details about quality, fees, features, benefits, and risks associated with financial offerings. The idea is that these disclosures provide crucial facts to help consumers make informed decisions. When you create financial ads, your content should contain:

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
  • Minimum and maximum repayment period
  • An example that represents the total loan and other applicable fees

Plus, all of Google’s financial content and advertising must comply with E-E-A-T and YMYL search quality rater guidelines.

  • E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) speaks to the quality of all content Google serves, as well as its creators.
  • YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) is content that requires an especially high level of E-E-A-T due to its sensitive nature and potential impact on readers’ lives. 

Our advice? Dig into the policies of each search engine, as these platforms regularly update their guidelines to align with evolving regulatory and industry standards. (According to Semrush, that’s about once per year for Google.)

3. Know the financial products Google Ads won’t accept

In addition to their distinct policies and regulations, search engines like Google are particularly selective about the financial offerings they let businesses advertise.

For instance, Yadegar points to how Google banned ads for quick payday loans with high interest in recent years. But that’s not all; they also don’t let advertisers promote other financial products, such as:

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

Loan modifications, debt services, and cryptocurrency ads are allowed, but there are strict rules. As mentioned earlier, if you plan PPC for financial services in these areas, thoroughly review Google’s guidelines carefully.

But wait — what if you do all that and your ad still doesn’t get approved? Luckily, Google always guides you on how to fix the issues and bring your search ads to fruition.

4. Start paid search marketing slowly

Although a well-oiled PPC strategy can bring quick results, it’s still wise to start slow. This helps you understand your target audience better and refine your ads based on initial feedback and performance data.

Rush into PPC without a solid strategy? You risk wasting ad spend on poorly targeted ads, drawing in the wrong audience, or worse, no audience at all. Plus, a hasty approach can overlook critical aspects of campaign optimization, like A/B testing, keyword refinement, and audience segmentation.

Instead, gradually ramp up your PPC efforts for more optimized campaigns that are better tailored to your audience’s needs.

Here’s what we suggest:

  • Start with 1-3 campaigns and a core group of 4-10 keywords
  • Measure the results for a few weeks to a month

This gives you a clear idea of where your budget is allocated most effectively. From there, you can dial back underperforming ads, fine-tune your approach, and focus your resources on the practices that deliver the best results.

5. Harness the power of both SEO and PPC

Here at HawkSEM, we like to say that PPC is the short game to search engine optimization’s (SEO) long game.

Unlike PPC, SEO results take a bit longer to manifest. This is because SEO involves organically growing your visibility and ranking in search results through content, keywords, backlinks, and other optimization techniques.

While it’s a slower process, it yields sustainable and cost-effective results in the long run. It also lays a strong foundation for your PPC campaigns — but how?

When you integrate the insights you gain from SEO (like effective search terms and audience behavior data) into your PPC strategy, you create stronger, more targeted ads. The more personalized and appealing your ads are, the higher your chances of clicks and conversions.

This approach enhances the immediate visibility that PPC is known for and cultivates lasting, long-term online growth. But don’t just take our word for it.

New Century Financial brought in HawkSEM to overhaul their PPC, SEO, landing pages, as well as all reporting and tracking. We conquered high CPAs and junky leads with revamped PPC campaigns, landing page optimization, and advanced keyword tracking.

This balanced strategy paid off with better, cost-effective leads, a drastic 80% CPA reduction, and five times more monthly conversions.

6. Prepare for higher cost per click (CPC)

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

According to WordStream, the CPC is about $0.86 for display ads and $3.44 for search ads.

But it’s not just the stiff competition that hikes up prices. Other factors include:

  • High customer lifetime value (CLV) – Financial brands will invest more in PPC because a new customer can yield significant long-term revenue.
  • Complex and regulated industry – This complexity increases the effort and cost of creating and managing effective PPC for financial services.
  • Targeting high-value transactions – The potential return on a single conversion (for services like loans, investments, or insurance) can be substantial, justifying higher bids for relevant keywords.
  • More informed, selective audience – Audiences in this niche require more sophisticated and targeted marketing strategies, which are costlier to develop and execute.

We recommend focusing on niche-specific keywords rather than broader industry search terms to attract the most qualified leads. It’s also smart to leverage negative keywords to weed out unqualified leads.

For example, if you sell premium investing software, you might want to add terms like “free” or “cheap” to your negative keyword list.

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

(Image: Unsplash)

Need some backup with keyword research? HawkSEM boasts a dynamic roster of PPC services to help build a winning keyword strategy.

7. Know your audience targeting options

Audience targeting is important for PPC in any industry. However, financial services are highly specific, costly, and cater to distinct, sensitive needs. Meaning? It’s even more vital to reach the right audience, or else you’ll waste ad spend on unqualified leads. 

For example, picture a wealth management firm that specializes in retirement planning services. We can assume the target audience is individuals nearing retirement with specific financial planning concerns.

Search engine marketing (SEM) can help reach this demographic in a few ways, such as:

  • Local keywords like “retirement planning for over 50s” or “wealth management for retirees”
  • Geotargeting to reach communities with a higher population of retirees
  • Tailored landing pages that speak directly to the concerns of people close to retirement
  • Remarketing to re-engage visitors who showed interest in retirement planning but didn’t take immediate action

Yadegar says ConversionIQ can even go beyond basic demographics to help you connect with the right people.

“We key in on emotional triggers along with life events that caused people to need financial services, then create landing page [and ad] copy to resonate with this,” he explains.

But targeting isn’t without some limitations. 

As of 2020, Google stopped allowing 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, home loans, car loans, appliance loans, and short-term loans.

8. Create original, compelling ad copy

One of the best ways to stand out from competitors within the financial services industry? Get as creative as possible! Your ad copy is the perfect place to do just that.

High-quality, compelling copy increases your CTR and brings in the right people: your people. One study found that creative ad copy generates four times more profit than those with less creative alternatives. Plus, it facilitates an even better user experience (more on this later).

Don’t get us wrong; there are essential boxes your ad campaigns have to tick — compliance with industry regulations, clarity in your offerings, and transparency with fees and services. But within these boundaries, you’ve got plenty of room to innovate and capture attention.

Let’s say you’re a mortgage lender who wants to target first-time homebuyers. You could focus on the emotional aspect of owning a home and use a tagline like “Your Dream Home Awaits – Hassle-Free Mortgages for First-Time Buyers.” 

This type of messaging goes beyond the basic offering and taps into your audience’s emotional journey.

To jazz up your ad copy, try the following:

Talk like your audience does

Address your audience’s pain points with language that resonates with them. Targeting young professionals for investment services? Speak to their ambitions and future planning. Targeting retirees considering wealth management? Touch on security, comfort, and legacy.

Incorporate storytelling

This is a great way to make your content more engaging. Share success stories or relatable scenarios that potential clients can see themselves in. Or, you can use emotionally appealing narratives that align with the financial goals of your chosen demographic.

Get visual

Integrate high-quality, relevant images and videos that complement your message and pop off the screen. If regulations allow, experiment with humor or inspirational quotes for a unique and memorable twist.

Feeling uninspired? Peep some of our favorite stand-out ad copy examples here.

9. Refine your landing pages

Spent hours polishing your ad copy, but not your landing page? Or did you bypass it altogether and send audiences straight to your company’s homepage? That’s a no-no.

Your landing page deserves just as much, if not more, attention than your PPC ads. After all, its sole purpose is to seal the deal on the offerings you advertise. And guess what? Even the most aesthetic homepage isn’t designed to turn interest into action.

With landing pages raking in 160% higher conversion rates than other types of signup forms, opting to omit this central element is not the way to go.

Some of the makings of a killer landing page are:

  • Relevant, eye-catching headlines
  • Clear, enticing call-to-action (CTA)
  • Original, high-quality visuals
  • Intuitive, easy-to-navigate design
  • Simple, spam-resistant forms
  • Aligns seamlessly with your PPC ads
  • Social proof or testimonials
  • Contact information
  • Social share buttons
  • Quick load time
  • Optimized for mobile navigation

Pro tip: Make your landing page’s H1 (main headline) and H2 (subheadline) text either match or resonate with the top keywords you want to rank for. This helps boost quality scores and engagement.

10. Leverage display advertising

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

Display advertising gives you several options to connect with these prospects. It’s not just about showcasing your services; it’s about engaging with your audience in a way that taps right into their needs and interests.

You can maximize the impact of your display ads with the following targeting tactics:

  • Behavioral – Tailor your ads based on user behaviors, like past purchases or websites visited. This is ideal for reaching prospects interested in similar financial services.
  • Contextual – Place your ads on web pages with content related to financial services. This lets your ads be seen by people already researching finance-related topics.
  • Geographical – Target potential customers based on their location. This is especially useful for brick-and-mortar providers or for tailoring services to specific regional financial needs.
  • Site-specific – Choose specific channels where your target audience will most likely hang out. For financial services, that’s usually finance news sites, investment forums, or social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter.

There are also different display ad formats, such as:

  • Static – Simple yet effective, these ads are perfect for delivering a clear, concise message.
  • Animated – Incorporates animation to grab attention, which is helpful to explain complex financial products engagingly.
  • Interactive – Engage users with a two-way interaction, which is ideal for collecting responses or providing personalized information.
  • Video – Uses video to tell a compelling story about your offerings, which can help build trust in the financial sector.
  • Expanding – Starts with a standard size and expands on interaction, allowing for more details and engagement.

Now, let’s touch on some best practices for display ads.

Display ad best practices

Here are a few proven best practices for display ad campaigns in the finance industry:

  • 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) button to the banner itself to help inspire more clicks.  
  • Add a focused hero image: If your product benefits a particular audience, use images that resonate with that specific consumer. For example, a young, happy family in a yard for first-time homeowners may resonate better than a generic stock photo of a suburb.
  • Build trust: Fear and uncertainty are common emotions behind financial decision-making. Showcase any certificates or testimonials to reinforce credibility.
  • Combine with search ads: Display ads give your audience a visual of your brand. Follow up with search ads to reinforce awareness, prompting your audience to search for you (hello, higher search engine rankings) and consider your offerings.

11. Research the competition

How do you differentiate yourself without knowing what you’re up against? Competitor analysis is a linchpin in high-caliber marketing. That’s why we integrate it into every single one of our offerings at HawkSEM. 

Besides, your consumers are already sizing up your rivals. Almost all financial service consumer journeys start with online research. That means the first thing they’re doing is scoping out how your offerings align with competitors and what sets you apart.

So, how do you use this to your advantage? 

  • Identify your competitorsGoogle Ads and Microsoft Ads make this easy with built-in features to zero in on the competition. You can also try marketing tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, or SpyFu.
  • Create visuals to demonstrate findings – Illustrating competitor research makes it easier to spot trends and potential gaps to inform your strategy later.
  • Segment your competitors – Some competitors pose a bigger threat than others. Break them into groups with details on the types of competition (e.g., bigger budget, overlapping keywords, etc.)
  • Determine their positioning – Explore and dissect how your competitors fit into the financial marketplace.
  • Deep dive into the data – Devour the findings and pivot your approach accordingly for an even more successful PPC campaign.

We even put together a checklist to make PPC competitor analysis easy-breezy. Download it here.

Lurk on your competitors’ moves (and missteps), then use that to sharpen your edge. 

That’s precisely one of the strategies we executed to score TimeWarp Trading hundreds of high-quality, weekly leads and loads more webinar sales — you’re next.

12. Prioritize the user experience

Let’s say someone searches for a new credit card with better rewards.

They come across a potential option on a finance blog and head to the lender’s website. But once there, they encounter a slow, confusing interface that’s not so intuitive. The site’s content is disorganized, and before they can even find the card’s terms, it bombards them with a barrage of questions.

As impressive as this provider’s incentives may be, such a frustrating user experience is enough to push visitors towards a competitor with a smoother, more enjoyable site experience. After all, if their site struggles with basic functionality, how can people trust them to handle their finances?

Doubt is a serious factor that influences over 80% of consumers to cut brands loose after a poor user experience. That’s a hefty chunk of business you’d send straight to your rivals.

User experience best practices:

Set your financial company apart with a seamless user experience with these tips:  

  • Use clear, easy-to-follow navigation and an intuitive structure that guides visitors to the next steps.
  • Optimize your site for mobile devices for a consistent experience.
  • Keep your site’s load speed lightning-fast to prevent frustration and bounces.
  • Use engaging, jargon-free language to make financial concepts more understandable.
  • Personalize the user experience with Google Ads callout extensions for contextual details or behavior-based product recommendations.
  • Sprinkle clear, compelling CTAs to encourage desired actions, like a card application or consultation booking.
  • Highlight your security measures to protect consumer privacy and financial data.
  • Include interactive tools (like calculators or quizzes) to engage visitors and help them understand their financial options.
  • Make forms as brief and straightforward as possible.
  • Offer easily accessible customer support through chatbots, live chat, phone support, or detailed FAQs.
  • Maintain consistent branding across all your platforms to build trust and brand awareness.
  • Provide original, informative content (like blog posts or how-to guides) that add value.

Not sure which style your audience vibes with most? Time to put your ideas to the test.

13. Test, adjust, and test again

As we’ve learned, PPC demands continuous testing and fine-tuning to keep your campaigns performing at their best.

A/B testing compares two variants of the same (or similar) marketing product to determine which one audiences respond better to.

As for what you can test, the digital sky’s the limit.

You can experiment with different images, headlines, or ad copy. To do this, you run both ads simultaneously and analyze the performance of each. (For the record, you can also A/B test website elements, email campaigns, and content marketing assets.) 

But remember: It’s best to isolate one variable at a time. This way, you can confidently attribute any shifts in performance, positive or negative, directly to that specific change.

Remember those killer results we snagged for our investment client, TimeWarp Trading? 

Part of that was thanks to testing different aspects of their landing page. We think the 30% bump in conversion rates and 471% ROAS is a testament to how well it works.

14. Create a lead-scoring system

Contrary to popular belief, all leads are not created equal. 

Earlier, when we broke down your KPIs, we mentioned SQLs and MQLs. Simply put, sales-qualified leads are potential customers teetering on the edge of converting. 

Marketing-qualified leads, on the other hand, are still in the research stage of their journey.

This is crucial information because it tells you how to treat each individual. For instance, SQLs are primed for a hard-hitting sales pitch, but MQLs benefit more from remarketing.

Then there are information-qualified leads (IQLs) who are only in the awareness stage, just encountering your brand for the first time.

For this reason, it’s smart to develop a lead-scoring system that aligns with your sales and marketing goals. This helps you prioritize prospects primed for conversion. When you assign value to each interaction, you can track which leads need continuous engagement and which are ready for a quicker follow-up.

Here’s how you can develop an effective lead-scoring system:

  • Define what quality leads look like for your financial services company (demographics, income, household size, marital/parental status, etc.)
  • Assign scores to various actions (ad clicks, repeated website traffic, content downloads, etc.)
  • Consider where the lead came from (organic search, referrals, social media, email marketing, direct traffic, etc.)
  • Evaluate each lead’s engagement (give higher scores to those who engage with your content more frequently)
  • Incorporate behavioral data (specific keywords searched or pages visited)
  • Set a scoring threshold (a cap that demands further action, like a follow-up call or email from your sales team)
  • Test and refine (adjust scoring criteria based on conversion metrics and feedback from your sales team)

15. Add retargeting to your PPC ads

Retargeting (also called remarketing) re-engages visitors who previously interacted with your business with tailored, personalized ads. It encourages consumers to return to your site and complete a desired action that may interest them.

Think of retargeting as a friendly reminder of why they visited your site to begin with, keeping your brand top-of-mind for when they’re ready to commit. It’s also a cost-effective way to generate quality leads.

That said, retargeting in the financial sector is a tad more nuanced compared to other industries. This is due to the nature of financial products and services, as well as industry-specific regulations.

For one, financial services are subject to stringent data protection and privacy regulations (like GDPR, CCPA, etc.). Therefore, retargeting campaigns must adhere to these laws and treat consumer data securely and ethically.

Other considerations include:

  • Sensitive nature of financial offerings
  • Longer decision cycles
  • Content-driven focused
  • Personalization with caution
  • Frequent regulatory changes

…just to name a few.

Navigating all the rules can be challenging, but once you nail it, the payoff is worth it – think 10x more conversions, just like we achieved for our client DirectTV.

PPC Costs for FinServ

PPC for financial services can cost between $2,500 – $10,000+ each month and it varies widely based on factors like competition and industry. 

While the average Google Search CPC is $2.69, financial services are going to fall above that average at $2.69 per click. But remember, this is an average. 

For instance, you could pay around a $10 CPC for technology and insurance, whereas ecommerce falls in line with the industry average at $2.69. Google Display Network (GDN) ads average at $0.52 per click.

Ultimately, you want to pay for the most aligned keywords that represent leads with the intent to buy. If these leads convert then it’s worth it. And that means bidding on relevant keywords in your niche. 

PPC for financial services


To avoid wasted ad spend, create quality ads with accompanying landing pages. This will help you boost your ads’ quality scores and see more conversions.

Or better yet, partner with a qualified PPC agency with the firing power to lower CPC and maximize ROI to ensure your investment pays off.

The takeaway

In the realm of digital advertising, some industries are like the Wild West with minimal guidelines to abide by. But the financial services industry isn’t one of them. It’s a niche full of stringent rules and regulations that both business owners and marketers must carefully navigate.

Does that mean you can’t tackle your own PPC for financial services? Not at all, but know that it requires meticulous planning, ongoing management, and a solid understanding of the regulations that govern financial advertising.

Break these rules, and the penalties range from permabans and reputational damage to legal action, hefty fines, and loss of licensure. No business wants to deal with that kind of blowback.

But Yadegar says there’s more to it than that.

“Outside of regulations and restrictions, it’s highly competitive,” he says. “Knowing that financial services clients tend to have a very high lifetime value, bidding gets pretty aggressive and cost-per-lead (CPL) can get high.”

Worried the stakes are too high? HawkSEM’s team of financial marketing professionals are pros at navigating the nuances of financial advertising. Our comprehensive PPC services cover everything from initial concept to buildout, execution, and continuous optimization.

Ready to bring that 4.5X ROI average to your pay-per-click advertising? We’re all hands on deck!

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

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