Skip to main content


3 Online Advertising Mistakes Small Financial Institutions Make

By on April 11th, 2016 in Marketing

Online advertising, often referred to as Pay per Click or PPC, is certainly not new territory for most banks and credit unions. In fact, a common trend that we see in the financial industry is that as more and more of our clients shift their marketing budgets from traditional advertising strategies to those that are digital, online advertising is among the more popular transition points. And, rightfully so.

Online advertising campaigns, through providers like Google, Bing, and Facebook, have become proven methods for increasing online exposure and brand awareness. Additionally, this marketing strategy serves as yet another way to reach your target audience – account holders and those within your local communities – through incredibly well-targeted ads.

LKCS is fortunate enough to manage a wide-variety of online advertising campaigns for a large number of banks and credit unions of various sizes – each having their own unique goals, customizations, and budget requirements. With that said, it has been our experience that most smaller financial institutions initially believe that online advertising is too expensive, or worse yet, that it doesn’t work. This becomes especially true in situations where the customer has had past experience in either managing their own online ad campaigns or sub-contracting this work through a different vendor.

In these scenarios, when reviewing our client’s previous PPC data to identify their shortcomings, our team will most likely find one of several missteps attributing to these ill feelings. What are these missteps, you ask? The following are 3 of the more common mistakes that small financial institutions make when running online ad campaigns.

Mistake #1: Not Deviating from the Default.

Google, Bing, and others go out of their way to make the initial onboarding process as quick and painless as possible. One of the ways that they achieve this is by creating default settings that, in the large majority of cases, will work for most businesses and in most industries. Unfortunately for our client base, the financial industry is not one of those industries.

One setting in particular that should always be adjusted is the “Targeted Locations” setting, which in Google’s case is set to “United States and Canada” by default. Using each channels own unique targeting capabilities, we strongly recommend that this setting be configured so that your bank or credit union is targeting only those from within the local communities you serve. If you are a credit union in Chicago, Illinois then your target location should be set to Chicago, Illinois. By advertising to only your exact field of membership or customer-base, you remove the need to compete with all financial institutions on a national level, which in turn will lower your click-costs and provide a more relevant advertising experience.

Mistake #2: Ignoring the Importance of Segmentation

Any marketer will tell you that the more you know about your audience, the better you can speak to it. That’s why research is so essential in online advertising – it can help you choose the right keywords, match them up to the best copy, and ultimately, help you communicate more effectively to your audience. But what happens when you have multiple audiences spread out across multiple locations? How can an online advertising strategy address this issue? Segmentation is the answer.

One of the biggest mistakes that many small banks and credit unions make in the managing of their online advertising efforts is failing to understand the importance of segmentation. Some examples of these mistakes can be seen when all keywords are within one ad group, or every product, service, and location is represented within the same ad campaign. In other words, everything is unified under the same settings and budget restrictions. This almost always leads to a very poor online advertising experience, and makes accurately tracking the ROI and value of your efforts very difficult to do.

Instead, depending on each financial institution’s individual needs and goals, our strong recommendation is to diversify and segment every aspect of your online advertising campaign. For example:

  • Advertising types: Search and display campaigns should always be separate from one another, allowing you to budget and adjust campaigns individually.
  • Local vs. National Targeting: A campaign should be created for each location, or in the very least, local keywords should be separate from all national promotion.
  • Product/Service Keywords: Keywords for each product or service should be managed separately. You will never want auto loan and checking account keywords within the same ad group.
  • Devices: There may come a time when it makes sense to segment by device in which you separate desktop traffic from that of mobile.
  • Customer-Types: If you are fortunate enough to target by customer-type, each customer type should be segmented and have unique ad messaging and landing pages.

Mistake #3: Failure to Use Negative Keywords.

In my opinion, there is nothing worse than paying for targeted advertising that isn’t very well targeted. One feature that both Google and Bing share is the ability to apply “negative keywords” that work alongside your normal keyword lists. Unfortunately, a big mistake that most small banks and credit unions make is not using negative keywords.

A negative keyword is essentially an exclude-filter that will prevent your ad from showing up when specific terms are searched. For example, your bank or credit union will likely wish to advertise to those searching “auto loans” or “car loans” in your area. However, are you also interested in advertising to those searching “car loan with bad credit” or “no credit check auto loans”? Those financial institutions answering “no” to this question will want to avoid advertising to these search users by utilizing negative keywords such as “bad” or “no credit check” when building their campaigns.

Simply put, not using negative keywords will likely equate to more wasteful click activity and spending. Overall, this creates a non-relevant advertising experience.

These were just 3 of several common mistakes that we often see made by smaller banks and credit unions, to which more or less can be attributed to a lack of understanding of how each platform works. My hope by sharing this information is to provide real, actionable tips for improving your current online ad campaigns, and to help lay the ground work for achieving long-term success.