US Insights

How Capital One gets in your wallet

Jim Leichenko

Director of Marketing, AdGooroo

Digital 04.18.2016 / 09:40

person paying

Credit card behemoth leads the pack in paid search; advertisers stalk searchers for “bad credit”

A study of US Google desktop text ad activity on 200 top credit card keywords based on paid search ad spend in early 2016 shows Capital One leading all advertisers with $1.8 million spent—accounting for 17% of all paid search spend by the category in Q1.

In total, 1,010 advertisers spent $10.5 million sponsoring the 200 credit card keywords in Q1 2016, at an average clickthrough (CTR) 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:

Top credit card advertisers by paid search

Key Numbers

  • 1,010 advertisers for the top 200 credit card-related keywords

Capital One, at more than $1.8 million spent, is 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 keywords. The following chart ranks the top credit card keywords we examined by paid search spend:

Top credit card keywords by paid search

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% versus 3%), average cost per click ($6.14 versus $6.04) and number of advertisers (39 versus 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 versus 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 versus 37.

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 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.

Source: Kantar Media

Editor's Notes

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 which, if measured, would alter the findings of this report.

This article is excerpted from an April 14, 2016 post on the AdGooroo blog. For the entire article and dataset, click here. Journalists, to speak with the author, contact us. Follow us on Twitter for the latest news or sign up to receive our email alerts.


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