2013 has seen plenty of changes to paid search, mainly driven by Google. For a brand in a competitive market like insurance, little tweaks here and there matter.
I've been asking Heledd Jones, head of search marketing at Confused.com (and an Econsultancy guest blogger), about the challenges presented by these changes, and her thoughts on how PPC will evolve in the next year.
What are the major challenges with PPC for the insurance market?
I find one of the most basic, but frustrating, challenges is creating PPC ads that stand out. We're continually testing on our key terms, but as we work in a highly regulated industry, writing adverts that stand out and satisfy our compliance department at the same time can be fun!
As most of us are in the same boat, I think it creates quite a bland offering to consumers, as everyone is shouting about the (similar) savings they can make. Although when we have tested some 'zany' copy, quite often the boring, savings message wins!
How do you feel about Google's own 'sponsored' comparison listings?
Well, we welcome competition in the price comparison industry as it encourages market growth, but, of course, we like a level playing field.
So of course we'd love the chance to have a similar ad to the one Google has, using visual logos and unique calls-to-action within the advert, especially for our new product, Quick Quote, which could be a great solution for customers on the search page if they allowed us to integrate it via an API.
In the finance sector (on Google) we’ve seen a drop in searches compared to last year across most of the sector e.g. insurance, credit cards. With that comes rising CPCs through increased competition, exacerbated by the launch of Enhanced Campaigns and the prominence of Google compare in some of these searches.
So it’s been a competitive year which means testing and ongoing optimisation have become increasingly important... the PPC basics of improving CTR and QS don’t get out of date!
How have you adapted to Enhanced Campaigns so far?
We were initially hit quite badly as we’d worked so hard to build out granular accounts for tablet and mobile in the year prior to the launch, so we saw our overall CPCs rise quite dramatically as we lost the competitive advantage we think we had on tablet CPCs.
Now that the dust has settled on those costs, we’re enjoying the simplicity that consolidation has brought to account management, and of course the fun of testing the new features.
It’s interesting that Bing/Yahoo seem to be running both in parallel, and aren’t talking about a cut-off date to move advertisers across.
How is PPC working on mobile for you?
Good question. We’re generally happy with our performance on mobile but you need to keep a close eye on it as the top two positions get so much volume, it can be really difficult if you’re not in those top slots and of course the conversion rates are so different to desktop/tablet so again needs close monitoring.
Car insurance can be quite difficult to buy over a smartphone, we’ve had a responsive quote engine for some time now but this year launched a new service called Quick Quote which is perfect for people comparing car insurance prices on the go.
Basically, I think to make mobile work for PPC you need to make your products as easy as possible for your customers!
Are we likely to see the SERPs becoming less organic, more paid in the next year?
I think so, in our sector our natural search space has been squeezed down by Google Compare which I can only assume it will test further next year.
I really enjoyed the recent Econsultancy posts about this – merging PPC ads within organic results will be very interesting to see, but I’m more excited by some of the opportunities for brands e.g. larger/ image adverts, as we’re in a competitive industry so anything that can help us own our brand space is great, albeit it coming at a cost.
What do you see as the major PPC trends for 2014?
Data, targeting, testing. I keep hearing that this industry will be moving from targeting keywords to audiences over the next few years so it will be interesting to see which new targeting options Google might launch next year.
When you think of things they’ve already launched like RLSA, weather-based bidding and improved location-based bidding, I think the more data you have, the better, for winning some incremental PPC volume.
The other trend I have to mention is in-house vs. agency as we recently brought most of our activity in-house. The more tools that become available via Google and other vendors, the harder that agencies will need to work to prove their value over and above recruiting an in-house team.