Croud x Microsoft: The power of integrated search in financial services

Last week we hosted a Financial Services Breakfast Club, which brought together financial services marketers to discuss the power of integrating your paid and organic search activity.

Representatives from Croud’s paid and organic search teams – James Ratheram-Ball, Head of Paid Search, and Chris Kerr, Organic Strategy Director – were joined by Amanda Maw, Client Solutions Manager from Microsoft to discuss all things search integration. Here’s a wrap-up of some of the key takeaways from the event.

Search insights from Microsoft

Amanda kicked off with a look at the latest Microsoft search insights from the financial services sector. Whilst most sectors, such as car insurance, credit cards, and mortgage loans, are relatively stable currently, others such as energy and life insurance are seeing negative momentum. In such sectors, it is advisable to divert focus to organic search for the time being.

In the energy sector, for instance, the energy crisis has seen many suppliers remove their tariffs, meaning customers have fewer opportunities to switch. As such, it is not profitable for advertisers to bid on these terms, but consumers are still looking for information. In such cases, consider pausing paid search, whilst using organic to build a remarketing list for future use.

Amanda also highlighted some other key trends that Microsoft is seeing across the financial services sector:

  • Clicks for investments and pensions are increasing: Despite a softening in demand at the start of the pandemic, this area has seen strong growth since October 2020, with no signs of demand slowing down.
  • Younger people are looking for investments: Looking at clicks on investment ads by age group, Microsoft has seen a shift towards younger consumers, with more 18-34 year olds clicking on such ads compared with the same time last year.
  • Travel demand has surpassed 2020: Whilst still some way off 2019 levels, travel demand has exceeded last year, with conversion rates across top travel advertisers on Microsoft also increasing. But with many consumers still planning to book 2022 holidays at the last minute, these late bookings could mean last-minute insurance searches and a shorter path-to-purchase.

Tactics for integrating paid and organic search

James and Chris then took attendees through some practical ways in which advertisers can integrate their paid and organic search marketing strategies more effectively. Whilst the importance of integrating PPC and SEO and removing silos may seem obvious, the reality is that there is still often much room for improvement amongst both advertisers and agencies. Combining forces creates multiple opportunities, such as:

  • Shared learnings
  • Improvement of budget efficiency
  • Opportunities to drive growth

So, what needs to happen first? According to James, there are some key areas that need to be addressed before you can dive into the various tactics for integrating paid and organic search, namely:

  • Align stakeholders
  • Integrate budgets
  • Devise KPIs
  • Integrate data and reporting

With the foundations in place, businesses can look at more specific tactics for joining up their search strategy.

Use keyword research tools to identify paid keywords

Keyword research tools can be used to identify several opportunities, such as:

  • SEO rank in P1 and PPC bidding: Gain an understanding of daily spend on keywords that rank organically in P1, in order to identify testing opportunities for reduced paid search coverage.
  • Mismatched URLs: Look at the ranking URL (organic) and the final URL (paid) to spot differences in traffic destinations. Assuming the organic ranking URL is the most relevant page for that keyword, paid traffic can then be pushed to more relevant areas of the site if appropriate.
  • Keyword opportunities for PPC: A keyword opportunity is identified for PPC if the keyword is currently ranking outside of the first page for SEO, but isn’t being bid on in PPC. This can also help in understanding where competitors are potentially going strong on certain terms but we don’t have coverage.
  • Optimisation opportunities: Identify optimisation opportunities by understanding keywords ranking outside of the top 3 positions within organic where the quality score is below 8 in PPC.

Croud’s own tool for total search, PAX, is designed to bring PPC and SEO closer together, by delivering:

  • A shared keyword universe: Together we build one huge keyword set. We work with the same categorisation
  • Shared targets: We review market opportunity for each channel & create a development plan
  • Shared language, shared reporting: Because we’re working from the same building blocks we can see total share of search across paid and organic
  • Value from incrementality: Shared categories and reporting make SEM testing smooth.

Optimise your landing pages for paid & organic benefits

Optimising landing pages of course has potential benefits for both paid and organic search teams, and is something that we test continuously across clients at Croud. Some of the key benefits of landing page optimisation include:

  • Improvements in quality score
  • Reduction in CPC
  • Improved organic rankings
  • Longer term reduction in high volume generics investment

Ongoing optimisation of landing pages is key to success – this might include monthly metadata optimisations to page titles, meta descriptions and on-page SEO copy based on updated keyword research. Titles can be updated to target user intent with higher search volume, word counts can be increased to add depth, and internal links can be added to drive users to other key sections. Importantly, ensure you closely monitor the impact on PPC performance of any landing page updates, as well as building out an aligned SEO testing roadmap.

Test a gradual reduction in PPC impression share

Another common approach for getting PPC and SEO to work together more efficiently is to gradually reduce the impression share of branded keywords and even some generic terms across paid search, with the aim of getting organic search to pick up the traffic. Whilst it may be difficult to get buy-in for this approach in highly competitive verticals such as finance, it can be very effective from a budget point of view if done properly.

In testing this approach, clean data, robust attribution, and a solid measurement approach are key. To get started, evaluate competition levels, carefully scope out your testing plan, and then gradually reduce bids. As shown below, the results can be impressive!

If you have any questions, or would like to view the event presentation materials, drop us an email. And if you’re interested in attending a future Croud Breakfast Club event, sign up to our Digital Digest to stay up to date on upcoming events, as well as the latest news from Croud and the world of digital marketing.

by Croud
18 November 2021



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