Bouncing back: Learning from SEM hurdles and coming back stronger

Sean O'Connor Posted by Sean O'Connor

search competitors

The search landscape is incredibly turbulent: you can be winning one week, and the next your competitors make a counter-move or Google disrupts the landscape with a new tool and your results are sent reeling. 

In this blog, we look at the three companies who dropped out of the Search Intelligence Top 10 for Finance this quarter. We investigate what happened and look at what these companies can do to overcome their challenges and, ultimately, come back stronger than ever.

To create the Top 10, we evaluated the market using our AI-powered technology, comparing the search behavior of 350 finance companies across the US. Each company’s overall score averages on a scale of 0-100 by analyzing search performance across three categories: Market Leadership, Search Excellence and Brand Ownership, with the market average set at 50.

Credit Karma – Search Intelligence Score fell from 91 to 73

What went wrong: Credit Karma’s Search Excellence score completely plummeted from 79 in our Q3 index to 24 in Q4. This was caused by high Cost Per Clicks and low Click Through Rates, and has knocked them way outside of the Top 10. In its downfall, the company has gone from a leading online figure to a mere paid presence. 

What to do next: Credit Karma’s marketers can hope to make a come back by reining in their Cost Per Clicks. They are casting a wide net and competition will be fierce, as credit score and report service search terms have a large number of advertisers bidding on them. By focusing on reduced spend and finding less-expensive longtail keyword opportunities, as well as fighting back on brand terms, the credit report company should be able to return to its former glory. Marketers should make sure they’re presenting qualified ads to a targeted audience to help with Click Through Rate as well.

Top Tip: Be on the alert for runaway ad spend

Wells Fargo – Search Intelligence Score fell from 88 to 57

What went wrong: Wells Fargo’s Market Leadership score suffered in the last three months, falling from 93 in our Q3 index to 88 in Q4. Although a relatively small drop in score, the company’s market share for clicks and impressions dropped roughly by half, stripping the bank of its Top 10 status.

What to do next: With two branded approaches (WF.com and WellsFargo.com) the bank can hope to bounce back by re-entering local markets. The company’s marketers should look to use longtail brand generic search terms to gain presence on the right Search Engine Results Pages and drive more relevant traffic. 

Top Tip: Keep it local and longtail

Experian – Search Intelligence Score rose from 83 to 85

Experian actually performed well between our Q3 and Q4 reports and its Search Intelligence score rose 2 points from 83 to 85. However, it slipped just outside of the Top 10 from 9th to 11th place. 

What went wrong: There were two major factors which contributed to the credit report company’s fall: 1) The rise of new players in the financial space, such as Paypal and Progressive, strong-arming their way into top positions, and 2) A lack of brand defense on Experian’s part, with its Brand Ownership score suffering a blow from 84 to 76.

What to do next: Once you’ve established yourself as a market leader, the competition will take note. Reduced Cost Per Click scores combined with a drop in brand position tell us that competitors have been aggressively bidding on Experian’s brand terms. The company’s brand bidding strategy may have been effective in the past, but now their winnable market potential has been brought to the attention of competitors, Experian’s marketers will need to re-think their game plan.

Top Tip: Reach for the top for pure brand terms. 

To see the full Top 10 leaderboard for Finance for Q4 as well as further insights, download the full report on our Finance CMO Search Intelligence hub page.

About the author

Sean O'Connor
Sean O'Connor
Sean is a Senior Customer Success Manager at Adthena in the Austin, Texas office. He is responsible for ensuring the ongoing engagement and success of Adthena’s users. With eight years of ecommerce marketing experience prior to joining Adthena, he has deep roots in digging into data to find actionable insights that customers can implement. When not at his desk, he can be found taking pictures and hiking in the hill country of Texas.