Capital One Leads Credit Card Advertisers in Paid Search Advertising

In today’s Paid Search research post, AdGooroo examines U.S. Google desktop text ad activity on 200 top credit card keywords based on Paid Search ad spend from January through March 2016. In total, 1,010 advertisers spent $10.5 million sponsoring the 200 credit card keywords in the first quarter of 2016, at an average clickthrough rate of 3.91% and an average cost per click of $5.61.

Top Advertisers by Spend

The Top 20 advertisers by spend on the keyword group primarily includes a mix of credit card issuers, lead aggregator sites and advertising-supported content sites as detailed in the chart below:

credit cards top spend advertisers

Capital One led all advertisers with more than $1.8 million spent on the keyword group in Q1 2016, followed by ($1.5 million), ($1.1 million), ($872,000) and Bank of America ($759,000). Among the Top 20 advertisers by spend, Capital One also had the highest average cost per click, 4.9%, and was again directly followed by, which had 4.7% average CTR. However, the roles were reversed when it came to number keywords sponsored, with leading the Top 20 with 190 keywords sponsored in Q1 and Capital One following with 153 different terms sponsored. Specializing in offering credit to small businesses, Headway Capital had the highest average cost per click among the Top 20 advertisers, $18.01. American Express was next with an $11.43 average cost per click in Q1. On the opposite end of the spectrum, content site, which specializes in advice articles for consumers with poor credit scores, had an average cost per click of just $1.36, the lowest among the Top 20 advertisers.

Top Advertisers by Share of Clicks

Looking at the leaders in the category from a different perspective, we found that the Top 5 spenders were also controlling the largest share of clicks on the keyword group from January through March. Capital One captured 14.85% of all clicks on the 200 keywords in Q1, followed closely by (14.27% share of clicks), (7.62%), (7.05%) and Bank of America (5.66%)

credit cards top advertisers by click share

Top Keywords

The following chart ranks the top credit card keywords we examined by paid search spend:

credit cards top keywords

What a Difference an ‘S’ Makes

The general term ‘credit cards’ was the top  keyword by far in terms of paid search spend, with nearly $1.7 million collectively spent on it by 41 different advertisers in Q1 2016. Notably, the very similar term ‘credit card’ had less than half that amount in paid search spend during the period, $807,000, at a very similar average clickthrough rate (3.1% vs. 3%), average cost per click ($6.14 vs. $6.04) and number of advertisers (39 vs. 41). The difference in spend between the two terms underscores the importance of keyword selection for advertisers. Although not specified in the chart, we found the biggest difference between the two keywords came in search volume—‘credit cards’ had more than 1.2 million searches in Q1 while ‘credit card’ had less than half that figure, 553,000.

MasterCard vs. Visa

MasterCard and Visa both had a single brand term in the Top 20 keywords. However, the term ‘mastercard’ generated more than twice the ad spend of the term ‘visa credit card’–$839,464 vs. $393,544—with less than half the advertisers—18 vs. 37.

It’s Just Business (and Travel)

Five of the Top 20 keywords during the period were geared not toward consumers but businesses, including the second ranked keyword ‘business credit cards’ with nearly $949,000 in spend in Q1. The four other business credit card terms in the Top 20 accounted for an additional $939,000 in paid search spend. Notably, the five business credit card keywords in the Top 20 had the highest average cost per click, $18.03 compared to $7.08 for the other keywords in the ranking. Travel was the other dominant theme in the Top 20 in Q1. There were four travel credit card keywords in the ranking that collectively generated $810,000 in spend.

Bad Credit Keywords Had the Most Advertisers

The Top 20 term with the most advertisers was ‘credit cards for bad credit’ with 132 advertisers sponsoring it in Q1 2016 at an average cost per click of just $1.16–the lowest CPC among the Top 20 keywords. Digging a little deeper, we found there were 13 keywords containing the term ‘bad credit’ among all 200 keywords we examined, including ‘credit cards for people with bad credit’ and ‘bad credit credit cards’. In all, the 13 bad credit keywords averaged 80 advertisers per keyword—116% more than the average for the other 187 keywords, which had an average of 37 advertisers per keyword.  Collectively, the bad credit keywords had a relatively low average cost per click, $1.66, with the exception being the term ‘business credit cards for bad credit’, which had a $7.32 average CPC.

APR Had the Fewest Advertisers

The term ‘apr’ with the fewest number of advertisers, just 5 during Q1, but it had the highest clickthrough rate among the Top 20 keywords—12.3% compared to an average for the other 19 top keywords of just 4.15%. The higher clickthrough rate for ‘apr’ suggests individuals searching and clicking on the term ‘apr’ were more motivated and likely further in the sales funnel, i.e., shopping around for the best terms before making a decision on which card to apply for.


Note: The results of this report are limited to the 200 keywords examined from January through March 2016. The advertisers cited in this report may have sponsored additional keywords during the period that, if measured, would alter the findings of this report. 

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