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Financial Services PPC Competitor Targeting

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Can/should financial institutions target other banks and credit unions with online ads? Absolutely.

Financial pay per click advertising is a competitive niche. Generally speaking, targeting users that are searching online for anything related to money is typically going to cost you at least $5 per click. Many keywords will cost much more; Google’s suggested bid for “get a mortgage loan” currently is $21.77! Naturally, it doesn’t matter so much what you’re cost per click is so long as your return on investment is positive. That being said, targeting users searching for a competitor should be a part of your bank’s continual quest for better ROI!

Competitor targeting is often a PPC tactic that many finance marketers shy away from. A lot of people mistakenly think there could be some repercussion or consequence for showing ads to users looking for a competitor by name. Not to worry! So long as you’re not using a competitor’s trademark in your ad copy there’s nothing they can do about your ads. Their only recourse is to start running ads that target users searching for your bank by name. It’s likely you’re already being targeted by a few competitors!

Getting Started With Competitor Targeting

The first thing you’ll want to decide is where to run ads that target your competitors. Using AdWords you actually have quite a few options for targeting competitors using search ads, or display ads that include placements on specific websites including YouTube and Gmail.

It’s important to keep in mind the sort of traffic that will be seeing your ads within each of these different locations. The most common place to start is within search results, where users are searching Google for your competitor by name. Interestingly, most banks and credit unions are still missing out on targeting their own brand names with search ads, so it may be the case that your ads are the first thing users see after searching for a competitor by name. This is extremely prime real estate so make sure your ad copy is written well, clearly articulating your offer or value proposition.

In addition to Google search ads, you can use the Google Display Network to run ads on comparison websites like Bankrate or relevant industry websites like Redfin. Google also allows advertisers to target users searching for your competitor’s videos on YouTube, and if your competitor is monetizing their videos you can even run ads while their videos are playing!

Improving Competitor Targeting Relevance

While testing different competitor targeting options, it’s important to make sure your ads are customized to the audience you’re targeting and the location of the ads. This is especially crucial with search ads where maintaining a decent quality score is necessary to receive impressions. Instead of targeting your competitor’s brand name by itself with search ads, consider targeting more qualified brand name variations that include keywords like “reviews”, “application”, “apply”, and “rates”. Make sure to decrease bids or use negative keywords to avoid wasting ad spend on brand searches that are less qualified such as “login”, “app”, “routing number”, “careers”, and “locations”.

One additional tactic for improving relevance when targeting competitors in Google search is to use RLSA, or remarketing lists for search ads. Using RLSA, you can increase bids for comparison shoppers that are now searching Google for your competitors by name after they’ve already visited your website.

Competitor Brand Targeting Challenges

The main struggle for PPC advertisers when going after competitors by name is that your ads are unavoidably less relevant (you’re not the institution the users is searching for after all!). Even if you’re able to create compelling ads that receive decent click through rates, Google is still likely to assign low quality scores to your brand-specific keywords. Keyword quality score is the system Google uses to grade how relevant your keywords are to the search query; the lower your score, the higher your cost per click. It can become quite costly to target competitors by name with low quality scores, so make sure you’re doing everything you can do qualify the traffic you’re targeting and entice clicks with great ads.

One small workaround for this problem of low quality scores within AdWords is to try a different ad platform. Using Bing Ads you’ll typically pay about 30% less per click on any keyword, and brand name keywords often retain higher quality scores in Bing than they do in AdWords.

Final Thoughts on Competitor Targeting

As with all pay per click strategies, continuous testing is key to improving your return on ad spend. Targeting users that are searching for your competitors can provide an additional stream of qualified visitors to your bank’s website when executed properly. Ultimately, the best way to earn customers from other financial institutions is to be a better financial institution, but pay per click ads are a great way to make an introduction!

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