20 Google AdWords Optimizations for Financial Marketers

The right Google AdWords strategy can have a huge impact on your marketing ROI. But managed poorly, it can quickly turn into a gigantic sinkhole that drains your budget dry. Here's how to get the most from your SEM campaigns.

If you’re a bank or credit union marketing executive, you’ve probably used Google AdWords at some point (in fact, you’re probably using it currently). Whether you typically set up campaigns yourself or work with a third party, you’ve seen the impact that bidding on keywords can have — both positive and negative. However, if you aren’t careful, you could end up wasting a ton of money on worthless clicks that do nothing to increase business. With that in mind, here are 20 ways financial institutions can maximize every dollar in their Google AdWords campaigns.

1) Use location and call extensions to promote direct contact from mobile devices. These extensions allow for users to use their smartphones to either dial a branch, or use their map application to get directions to a branch.

2) Use AdWords conversion tracking on your landing page’s buttons for account openings and loan applications. Make sure the conversion is placed on an action that drives ROI for your campaign. Otherwise you’ll end up optimizing towards irrelevant data. If your landing page’s conversion takes the user to a third-party site to continue a loan application or account opening, check with your vendor to see if they allow for placement of third-party tracking codes.

3) Create remarketing lists for sections and pages on your website. Leveraging these lists within AdWords gets your products in front of an audience which is much more likely to convert. This also allows you to bid on less granular terms, and use ad copy that speaks to a more informed audience.

4) Check the “Search Queries” report in Google Analytics to see the exact search terms that are triggering your ads. This can help you develop negative keywords, as well as gain better understanding of your customers’ or members’ online habits.

5) Don’t bid too high on keywords that you are already ranked highly for in organic search. You don’t want to pay for a click that you could have received for free. If you notice in your reporting that the majority of your budget is being used in this way, update your keyword strategy to focus on growing areas of your business that aren’t getting the best organic traffic.

6) Adjust your bids based on devices, times, and geographies which are driving higher conversions. While you can exclude selected times outright, it is sometimes better to just set adjusted bids for the “off-peak” times.

7) Use the “Behavior Flow” feature in Google Analytics to understand the journey/path visitors are taking when using your site. Their behaviors could indicate confusion (can they easily find what they are looking for?), or it could indicate pages on your site that should have an AdWords campaign of their own.

8) Monitor your daily budget to ensure that you’re not underspending. If your campaigns consistently spend less than the daily budget you may not be bidding high enough to show up for your desired keywords, or the keyword list you have may not be robust enough to get in front of your target audience.

9) Be careful with campaigns built around your name. If you create an ad group that includes bidding on variations of your own financial institution’s name, you’ll want to set your bid much lower than the rest of your keywords. You could risk spending a good portion of your budget on search terms that would have driven organic traffic to your site anyway. If your competitors are targeting your institution by name, ensure your ads get top billing for a very small price using well-written ad copy and landing page copy.

10) Create A/B testing variants of your landing page to determine the highest converting copy and imagery. This will give insight into which content provides a better user experience and can help inform the structure of future landing pages.

11) Use broad match modifiers to indicate the importance of certain words in your keyword list. Certain keywords might be generating large amounts of clicks, but not for the intended purpose of the ad. Compare the search queries report against keywords to see exactly how your keywords are triggered.

12) Monitor your competition to see who else is showing up for your keywords using Google’s Ad Preview tool. This allows you to compare ad copy and extensions without harming your campaign. Pay attention to ad placement as well, since ads that display higher on the page are more likely to be clicked.

13) Update ads and landing pages. You can increase low quality scores on your keywords by updating ad and landing page copy to more closely reflect those keywords. The user experience from performing the search and clicking the ad, to arriving on the landing page and converting, should be as seamless as possible.

14) Massage and refine ad groups. If your cost per conversion begins to trend upwards, look for opportunities to build new ad groups that are similar to existing groups with lower costs per conversion.

15) Consider switching to a CPA model. If you have enough historical conversion data, you can switch to Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) bidding, which allows Google to optimize your campaign to drive higher converting clicks. This bidding strategy is ideal for campaigns using conversions with specific monetary value, like submitted loan applications. Your CPA will be higher than your previous CPC, but it’ll be worth it with more converted clicks.

16) Bidding on competitors’ brand names can backfire. Some agencies advocate bidding on the names of competing financial institutions in the hopes your ads will display when someone searches for them. However, this can negatively impact the overall quality score of your campaign as those keywords have nothing to do with your landing page and ad copy. Instead, add competitive brand terms as negative keywords. This will also lower the bounce rate of your AdWords campaign with less abandoned visits due to misdirected clicks.

17) Get geo-specific. With the growing focus on hyper-local results, add variations of your top performing keywords along with the cities that your branches are located in. Combine this, locations ad extensions, and increased bids in a radius around your branches to increase the number of local clicks on your ads.

18) Focus on conversions, not clicks. If you have keywords that drive clicks but not conversions, put those non-converting keywords on pause. Don’t continue to waste your campaign budget on things that aren’t working. Those dollars will be put to better use on keywords that have proven ROI.

19) Set aside time every month to compare performance statistics. It can be tempting to monitor data on a daily basis and make constant optimizations, but to allow for more actionable data to accumulate it’s better to make small optimizations once a week, and focus on larger campaign changes monthly.

20) Look at historical data for periods of increased product interest, in particular loans or account opening specials. If auto loans tend to do well during certain times of the year, you can adjust your bids to be more aggressive at these times.

A smart AdWords campaign manager (or digital agency) should maintain an ongoing checklist of optimizations like these that they can implement throughout the year. Some items on the list might get added at the beginning of a campaign, and others may be addressed later down the road. While the tools available to campaign managers are the same, every campaign is unique and therefore requires its own unique optimization plan.

One thing is certain: if you do absolutely nothing to optimize your AdWords campaign, you’ll have nothing to show for it — just dollars down the drain.

Patrick Trayes is a Digital Strategist at ZAG Interactive, a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT that has built hundreds of bank and credit union websites. To discuss your institution’s digital needs with ZAG, call 860.633.4818 or send an email.

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