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A Comprehensive Guide to Google Search Partners for Banks and Credit Unions

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Banks and credit unions who have incorporated Google Ads into their digital marketing strategy may have heard about Google Search Partners throughout their process of building out ad campaigns. However, a clear definition of what search partners are and how they impact ad campaign performance does not seem to be easy to come across. In this article, we will discuss how we can better understand Google Search Partners, as well as whether or not your bank should consider including them in your Google Ads strategy.

What are Google Search Partners?

Google defines search partners as “sites that partner with Google to show ads and free product listings.” Search partner sites are meant to extend the reach of text ads to domains outside of the standard search engine results page of Google itself. There is not much additional information confirmed or provided to shed further light on what sites actually make up what is called the “Google Search Network,” which Google’s official definition for is just as cloudy.

What we can gather from this is that text ads through Google Search can potentially appear in more locations than the results page of a standard Google query. The nature of Google Search provides the understanding that our text ad presence is directly related to keywords we choose to bid on and their assigned match types, so we can begin to think about where our ads are showing if we understand where users go to type those keywords in a search bar other than on Google itself.

What websites are considered Search Partners?

While Google does not provide a comprehensive list of all sites included in the Google Search Network, they likely choose sites that both utilize the Google Custom Search Engine and regularly receive a consistent amount of traffic.

Google has confirmed that YouTube is one of the potential sites included in their list of Search Partners, but it is possible that across different industries and product offerings, a video search engine may not be a relevant place for users to be searching with the keywords that you are bidding on. Outside of YouTube, Google has also confirmed that websites that utilize their Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) tool could potentially serve ads within their results. This helps us begin to compile a list of potential Search Partners due to known sites that utilize this CSE tool, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, W3Schools, and BizRate.

There are even other search engines that fall under the umbrella of Google’s Search Network. While direct competitors such as Bing and DuckDuckGo won’t be serving Google text ads, and Excite are two example of smaller search engines that serve ads from Google Search.

For now, Google does not provide much more official or confirmed insight into what websites are considered search partners within the Google Search Network. However, because they mention there are hundreds of sites within the program, it is safe to assume that they have compiled a mix of high traffic and qualified domains that collectively cover a large variety of industries so advertisers of all kinds can find additional clicks and impressions through their Search Partners program.

What impact does Google Search Partners have on my digital advertising campaigns?

Segmenting your performance data in Google Ads or Google Analytics will help you gauge the impact of Google Search Partners while comparing it to standard Google Search.

Having your text ads appear on domains within the Search Network is optional, so you may be wondering how you can evaluate their impact on your Google Ads campaigns. Thankfully, Google has made this step simple. You can see and measure the performance of your ads for search partners specifically, and even compare search partners side by side with Google search itself.

Pointing out where in Google Ads users can find the Segment button.

Once you log into Google Ads, you can choose which lens you prefer to view your data through, whether that is the Campaign, Ad Group, or Ad level. When you are viewing performance data for the time frame of your choosing, Google Ads provides a toolbar just below the time frame dropdown, and to the right of your filtering options. You will see a button labeled “Segment”, and this is where you want to focus your attention first. Clicking on Segment will reveal a dropdown menu that includes an option titled “Network (with search partners)”. Choosing this will then allow you to view the performance data of your ads within sites on the Search Network directly beside the performance of your ads when they are shown in Google search results.

Should my bank have Google Search Partners turned on or off?

Google Search Partners may perform differently for you depending on the product you are advertising, so keep an eye on your average cost per click and conversion rate so you can understand the value of having Search Partners enabled.

Now you may be wondering if Google Search Partners are good to have enabled, especially if your business has a tight advertising budget and you want to be as efficient as possible. There are a handful of factors to consider when making this decision. One important detail to understand is that search partners utilize Google’s automated Smart Bidding by default, and this can’t be changed. Many advertisers may find it beneficial to manage their keyword bids manually, so having search partners turned on would relinquish full manual control over your max CPC. This can potentially result in your average cost per click surpassing the max CPC bid that you have set for some keywords, so it is important to keep in mind that while you can have control over bid management within Google search results, the bidding for search partners clicks and impressions will always be automated.

Should that matter to your bank or credit union? That will depend on your own unique goals for your campaigns. If your priority is to keep your average CPC under control or below a certain amount, then perhaps search partners would not benefit you in this endeavor. If seeing your average CPC creep higher is not as much of a concern to you, then perhaps utilizing the Google Search Network could be worth exploring.

If you have had the Search Partners setting turned on for your campaigns, it can be beneficial to use the segmenting capabilities of Google Ads to evaluate how the Search Network has performed for you historically to make an educated decision based on your performance data. Depending on the products and services you promote through your ads, search partners could potentially outperform or underperform the presence you are also getting from Google’s own search engine results page. For example, it could be possible that your wealth management ad campaign sees a stronger conversion rate from Search Partners that it does in Google search results, but perhaps your mortgage loan campaign does not perform as well in the Search Network. Banks and credit unions have a variety of ways they can improve their conversion rate, and depending on the product focus, Search Partners could potentially help or hurt your efficiency efforts. It can be a beneficial exercise to evaluate the impact that search partners have across all of your campaigns individually so you can understand which campaigns may be a good fit for the Search Network and which others may benefit from having the Search Partners setting disabled.

Not sure where to start?

Google Ads offers many advertising features that may be new to some marketing teams, including Search Partners and Responsive Search Ads. If managing manual bidding or evaluating performance data in Google Ads is something you could use help with, then it may make sense to connect with a team of experts to guide you in the right direction.

At BankBound, we’re financial marketing nerds. We focus exclusively on digital marketing solutions that grow local banks and credit unions. We understand your needs and the challenges you face as a bank marketer. We’ll work with you to formulate and implement an effective PPC advertising strategy to attract more customers and expand your brand’s visibility online. If you’re ready to reach new customers and increase traffic to your website, request a no-pressure consultation or talk with a strategist about your digital marketing plan today!

Brian Anderson - Digital Marketing Specialist - BankBound Digital Marketing