Perceptions of financial institutions is ridiculously sceptical. The last ten years have witnessed fundamental changes in the way a consumer purchases and based on our experience gained working with brands in the insurance space, we have witnessed a crop of new digital marketing trends emerge and solidify for financial services.
Furthermore, we have identified some digital opportunities which we feel will grow in the future. Much of our insight is driven by our specialism in performance marketing pay-per-click and our focus on website platform conversion.
One of the most significant impacts upon digital advertising for the insurance sector in particular, has been the obvious major shift in the structure of Google Adwords sponsored links in search results. As of February 2016 the right hand sidebar column of ads was removed leaving just four ad slots at the top of the page of search results.
These remaining four ad slots were to become hard-fought-over, especially in the competitive insurance sector. However, those brands that embraced the change and responded with an aggressive bidding strategy have seen positive results. In addition, the change reinforced the need to structure, manage and optimise Adwords campaigns around quality score, as high quality score accounts have also generally been favoured by Google.
The use of ad features such as sitelinks has also helped insurance brands to win Adwords search auctions, as these eye catching ad extensions can help improve click through rate by users and so earn the advertiser improved quality score.
Another side effect of the Adwords change was to hasten another search trend which we had already seen emerging. This is a strategy of dominating brand search and key search terms, which exploits the increasing amount of ‘clutter’ seen on the first page of search engine results. For example this could include optimising the knowledge graph panel to the right of search results (often fed by Google My Business or Wikipedia) as well opportunities to feature in search with content such as video, review stars and Google answers.
Combined with this is the ever-increasing march of the online review through platforms such as Feefo and Trustpilot. We’ve seen insurance clients making even greater efforts to earn favourable review ratings from their customers, then use these star ratings to appear in search results using schema mark up or feed them into Google Adwords adverts as an ad extension. This may involve greater integration between call centre and marketing teams to help identify satisfied clients to then potentially request reviews.
While the bulk of this activity is based around winning the business at the point of decision and developing the customer into an advocate, possibly the greatest shift we’re seeing in digital focus is the earlier targeting of potential audiences to engage them at an earlier stage in their decision making process – whether this is through inspiration, education or brand awareness.
This approach offers a number of benefits; engaging with the consumer at an earlier stage can start to build a relationship which can then yield results nearer to the time of travel for travel insurance for example, or approaching renewal. Targeting potential consumers at an earlier stage of research provides a valuable opportunity to communicate in advance of search activity. This avoids head-to-head competition in PPC search results.
So, how is the upstream shift in digital being achieved? Firstly, more deliberate use of paid search to target upstream search terms – earlier stage phrases which are still relevant to the target audience and which may display potential intent at a later date. These could also be searches on topics talking around a core subject. The landing page used to receive traffic from these terms could comprise softer content such as advice, guides or articles.
Another key channel which has emerged over the last 12 months is native advertising. The user is then taken to a full article hosted either on the news website within their look and feel, or branded content on the advertisers website.
Obviously, in both cases it is branded content which is being promoted rather than products and services. This can require something of a leap of faith by a financial brand which is more used to aggressively targeting key product specific search terms. This concern can often be mitigated through carefully targeted remarketing campaigns aimed at users introduced to your brand through content, with separate campaigns and key messages designed to bring them back to the next potential step in the conversion funnel.
However, the role of content-led digital channels can play an important role as part of a well structured integrated digital campaign which takes users through widely accepted communication model from awareness and interest through to action.
Financial services, especially within the insurance sector, can increasingly benefit from these new digital search, review and targeting tools. It’s all about getting it right.
Josh Whiten is digital marketing director at Sagittarius.