How to combat rising media costs

Managing paid search accounts can be very similar across different verticals, with tasks being done in a comparable way. Nevertheless, some verticals are challenging account managers to adapt their work and adopt different strategies to achieve success. Finance is one of them.

Why is the finance sector challenging?

The main difference in the finance sector (and what we will endeavour to tackle in this blog), is the cost-per-click (CPC). It is not uncommon to find £30, £40+ CPCs in this vertical – and these continue to grow each quarter, which creates challenges:

Unstable competition

When competitors are pushing on your main terms, it often results in a drastic CPC increase. If you are not vigilant and don’t have the right caps and alerts in place, you can use up your budget very quickly. Additionally, spend is difficult to predict, as seasonality is not as strong in finance as in other verticals, such as retail.

Big strategies

Another impact of the unstable competition is that performance-based bid strategies have become more difficult to use, as they may overreact to CPC changes. In the past, we have seen big strategies aggressively pulling back bids one day and pushing the next, trying to achieve the CPA (cost-per-action) target while the competition was volatile.

Rising CPCs are not insurmountable and there are common and more ‘out of the box’ tactics that paid search managers can adopt to achieve success. We’ve highlighted some of these below.

Review your PPC basics and optimisation

Recognise when you are competitive (and not)

The first thing to keep in mind is that CPCs are probably not the most important KPI you are reporting against. Countless times we’ve seen keywords with higher CPCs delivering a lower CPA. You need to continue to focus your CPA and volumes to help determine your strategy.

Quality score

  • As well all know, quality score is a key part of where you appear in the auction, and by default, how much you are paying at the end. To work on your quality score, you first need to have a structure that makes it possible, therefore splitting out ad groups finely to allow tailored ads.
  • Once your structure is optimal, focus on your ads and landing pages. Use all three headlines and two descriptions to tailor your ad as much as possible to what users are looking for. This can require a change in your current account structure but it will be for the greater good.
  • Once your ads are fully optimised, test customer landing pages, using what users are searching for to tailor the content of the page. By associating tailored ads and landing pages, chances are you will be able to pay less than you’re used to.

Recurring search queries reviews (SQRs)

Reviewing SQRs is a basic; however, if your CPCs are particularly high, you might want to increase the frequency SQRs and focus on adding additional negatives.

Ensure you have the right alerts and caps in place

Again it might be obvious, but it’s important to ensure you have the right alerts in place to be able to monitor any drastic changes in CPCs and the impact it is having on your performance and budgets.

Use other marketing activity learnings to inform your strategy

In order to be more effective, it is useful to gather insights from other marketing activities to refine your audience, ad scheduling and messaging, which can be used to filter knowledgeable (hence lower funnel) users from others.

Identify valuable audiences for your business

  • Audiences, especially for the financial vertical, are the core of modern PPC activity. With the recent new audiences on Google and Bing, we are able to know a lot more about our users than we did in the past. This knowledge also means optimisation opportunities.
  • It’s not just about leads volume. Identifying which types of users bring further value for the business, in regards to the products they buy or the value of their business, is key to understanding how much to pay for certain users.

Use dynamic search ads

  • Dynamic search ads (DSA) are a great way to show long tail and unique keywords, which are usually not being targetting by a lot of competitors. Therefore DSA activity usually has a lower CPC than typical generic activity.
  • You might be limited in using this tool because of compliance teams (due to headlines being generated automatically), however, solutions exist, as you can see, for example on Bing in the entire ad.

Time to go cross-channel

As well as evaluating your paid search activity using the guidelines outlined above, taking a cross-channel approach and using insights from other channels can help to create efficiencies in your overall marketing budget.

Brand CPC testing

  • This test is about finding the right position and impression share in order to optimise traffic, conversion and spend.
  • If competitors are increasingly bidding on your brand terms, this can heavily impact your activity, as PPC brand bidding usually delivers a good volume at the best CPA.
  • Knowing that you show in the first organic position, you could test pulling back on your brand PPC while monitoring paid and organic traffic and conversions to find the best position and impression share in order to keep the same volume at a much lower spend.
  • By doing this with one of our clients, we were able to save £60k per month while keeping the same volume.

Identify long tail keywords through organic

  • The relationship between SEO and PPC is key to bringing down your CPCs. On top of the brand test outlined above, you could also review the keywords against which you’re appearing organically and test any long tail terms with low organic ranking via PPC.
  • The objective is to find cheaper long tail keywords that perform well, enabling you to pull back on poorer performing terms and bring your overall non-brand CPC down.

Use SEO to focus on high CPCs or high volume keywords

This strategy is more of a long-term one, but SEO can support PPC (and vice versa as seen above) on costly keywords. By increasing the organic ranking of those keywords, it might be possible in the future to pull back on PPC and let organic pick up traffic (as is often the case for brand terms, as we’ve seen).

Using the keywords with the highest CPC to inform display and YouTube targeting

  • Using this strategy, we would build keywords with very high CPCs to use in customer intent audiences on Display and YouTube, allowing your brand to still show to users looking for those keywords (and similar users as well), but at a much lower CPC.
  • The goal here is to proactively reach the correct audience before they enter the SERP. By using Display and YouTube we can hit the correct types of audiences at a fraction of the CPC than what would be the case once they start to search. Yes, the conversion rate will be lower, as the ultimate sign of first intent is the user actively searching for that keyword; however, the CPC is often 10x less than typical finance head terms for PPC.
  • Then you can combine this by pulling back on the same keywords on your search activity. This should reallocate a part of your budget going to your high CPCs keywords to YouTube/Display and Brand search.

To find out more information on our PPC services or about Croud, get in touch.

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