Finance Companies Work Wonders with a Defined Paid Search Strategy

Ian O'Rourke Posted by Ian O'Rourke

As the seasons change, so do the way that people save and spend. As we finish splurging for the holidays and begin saving for tax season, financial services looking to get a leg up on the competition need to bid intelligently.

The top players in the financial services industry are upping their PPC game this month, anticipating a rise in demand for savings accounts and strategies as the UK’s financial year comes to an end.

Because advertisers are dependent on demand during this short season, it’s smart to spend your PPC budget wisely. Constantly bidding on keywords will return some results, but it isn’t the wisest competitive strategy because even if you have unlimited budget you wouldn’t want to waste it and even the biggest budget in the market has its limit.

That’s why this industry’s competitors showed some interesting and divergent strategies in paid search last year.

We looked into the paid search strategies of the top financial comparison sites and savings providers to see how they are bidding across 20 relevant keywords between January 2014 and January 2015, but excluding any brand terms.

An Even Split?

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Finance companies paid SOV, Adthena data

When comparing against the organic performers in the savings market, it’s clear the editorial websites were relying on organic search to give themselves a boost rather than paying out in PPC, because the only common denominator was MoneySupermarket.

The top five strongest competitors in paid SOV included a wider spread of financial institutions, with Tesco Bank, Standard Life, and Sunlife Direct all making an appearance on the side of direct financial providers, while MoneySupermarket and representing the comparison engines.

One of the standout points in this data is that Tesco Bank and’s SoV trends demonstrate how a competitor’s actions can have a direct impact on your own performance in search, with dominating the market in April and between September and October and Tesco Bank dropping share of voice (SOV) at these exact times.

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Tesco and Money Supermarket SOV, Adthena data

Interestingly enough,’s peaks appeared in April – the beginning of a new financial year when people are looking for the best deal for savings and in particular, ISAs, and between September and October, when people are starting to think about Christmas spending after their summer holidays.

At this point, was probably patting itself on the back in April because without Adthena’s competitive intelligence insights at its disposal, it looks like it did a great job.

However, Tesco Bank’s SOV dropped to 0% in April – a surprising statistic, considering it offers a wide range of savings products and ISAs. There are a number of reasons why it could have dropped out, including that it ran out of budget, changed agencies or bidding platform etc

However, what is more interesting is that the only competitor that was affected big time was by Tesco Bank’s performance, which saw a big spike in traffic, which is not what we would expect to see. Usually, if one well-performing company drops its SOV, others scramble to pick up the slack, but seems to have taken the whole of Tesco Bank’s share.

If had used Adthena, it would have known about Tesco Bank’s drop off and could have prepared itself for the supermarket’s money division inevitably re-entering the market.

The Best of the Rest

Taking the two leaders out of the equation, MoneySupermarket’s SOV shows a clear downwards curve, with the company significantly losing sponsored search SOV from July, settling to around 10% between October 2014 and January 2015.

It could be they decided to reduce budget towards the end of the year, deciding to use the bulk of its PPC spend at the beginning of the year instead.

Standard Life and Sunlife Direct just could not keep up, both consistently holding a much lower SOV than the three leaders. There was a slight peak for Sunlife Direct in July, but this was short-lived and the company’s SOV decreased gradually until July when it took last position alongside Standard Life.

Both companies bidded on very few savings-related words, with the only one they both spent on being ‘best isa’, which, although having a very high number of monthly searches (33,100), it also has high competitiveness and a high CPC (£1.58). Should they vary the keywords, say, to be ‘best isa rates’ or ‘best cash isa’, they could cut costs by half, making it better value for money.

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Top keywords, Google Adwords data

Google AdWords Data

Interestingly, none of these direct savings account companies ranked at all in the organic search for the same terms, suggesting they are more willing to invest in PPC rather than splurging on an organic strategy, albeit bidding for fewer, better targeted (and more expensive) keywords rather than bidding on a lot of cheaper keywords.

Organic vs. Paid Trends

The vast distance between organic and paid traffic trends demonstrated by our two studies into savings trends points to an interesting difference in the strategies that leading competitors are using throughout the year.

Based on the inverse correlation these two trends showed – especially between MoneySupermarket and Money Saving Expert, it would appear that the top competing brands have a long-term strategy in place for organic search, while a shorter-term strategy for paid search prevails.

These two companies in particular seem to be using MoneySupermarket as a testing ground, while Money Saving Expert keeps holds on the organic share. However, MoneySupermarket may need to adapt its strategy in 2015 to ensure its step away from organic doesn’t end up being a downfall for paid search too as its SOV steeply declines.

The variations in paid search traffic (sometimes appearing as erratic) would suggest that the competitors are trying to bid on the right keywords at the right time, taking the time to look into the smartest keywords to spend on rather than bidding constantly without an eye on the industry at large. As the example showed.

As explored in our detailed analysis of the finance market in the Marketing Effectiveness white paper, SEM is used by many financial institutions with a focus on either paid OR organic search, but few institutions effectively balance the relationship between the two.

Although MoneySupermarket tries to compete effectively in its balance between organic and paid search, its steep downwards trend in paid search and strategic play-off with Money Saving Expert shows it hasn’t quite perfected its tactics yet.

What Have We Learned?

As the most competitive period for financial services will soon be upon us, you need to make sure your company gains the SOV it has worked hard to obtain.

To do so, financial services companies looking to maximise the effectiveness of their PPC campaigns should turn to the insights generated by Adthena’s Competitive Intelligence tool, comparing their performance against their competitors’ and finding keyword gaps in the market.

As the example shows, it is vital to understand your true market share with a dynamic competitive intelligence solution like Adthena. Especially in an OPAC market like this, changes in your competitors’ strategy can have a huge impact on you own strategy which you don’t understand without in-depth analysis.

While it’s true that markets can prove hard to conquer, Adthena’s detailed market-driven competitor analysis can give you the upper hand delivering the actionable insights that enable you to outwit your competition. your competitive landscape.

(Main image credit: John Liu/flickr)

About the author

Ian O'Rourke
Ian O'Rourke
Ian is the CEO and Founder of Adthena. He has been involved in technology businesses and start-ups for over 22 years and has built businesses across the globe including in Silicon Valley, London, Australia and Taiwan. Ian has grown Adthena since 2012 to its current position as the premier global provider of competitive intelligence. Ian likes to foster a culture of great products, getting things done, responsibility, freedom and continuous improvement.