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Financial Searches Should Diversify Portfolio

  |  May 4, 2005   |  Comments

Financial institutions need to hit a range of search terms to catch in-market searchers.

When it comes to buying paid search advertising, financial institutions should learn a lesson from investors: diversify. That's according to a study by Yahoo Search Marketing and Compete, which looks into the behavior of searchers in-market for financial services.

The study categorized search terms into three categories: general ("loan" or "banking"), specific ("high-yield savings account" or "mileage credit card"), and brand ("Chase Bank" or "Citibank checking"). Researchers found users seeking financial services are equally likely to start their queries at any of these levels.

Of those searching for banking services, 23 percent began with general searches, 35 percent started with specific searches and 42 percent initially tried brand searches. Those searching for loans tended to start with specific search terms. Forty-five percent of loan searchers start with specific terms, while 30 percent begin with general terms and 25 percent use brand terms initially.

Search Term Type Used
Click to view full-size chart
Searchers in the credit card category seemed to show the most brand affinity. Brand searches were the first choice for 78 percent of users, with specific searches (12 percent) and general searches (10 percent) falling far behind.

"The key learning for financial service marketers is that you have to have balance in your portfolio across brand, specific and general terms, or you won't take advantage of that opportunity," explains Justin Merickel, director of the finance category at Yahoo Search Marketing.

Distribution of Account Openings Resulting From Search
Click to view full-size chart
The report tracked ROI with follow-up surveys to user searches, but researchers found that marketers have trouble tracking offline conversions back to their online origins. It's an important statistic to track because the study found half of searchers who ended up opening accounts did so offline. Some companies have initiated dedicated 800 numbers for online users, which indicates how they arrived at the offline channel.

The searchers who opened checking and savings accounts were most likely to go to a branch to do so, with 56 percent of checking customers and 38 percent of savings customers going to a storefront. Transacting on a loan was more evenly distributed, with 42 percent of searchers completing their loan application online, 36 percent visiting a branch, and 22 percent making a call.

"[Marketers need to] assess the holistic value of search, not just the narrow online transaction value where the majority of ROI is calculated today," Merickel told ClickZ.

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Enid Burns

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