How to succeed at PPC in the most competitive niche

Some of the prices per click in the most competitive niches on Google, i.e. finance and insurance, are staggering. You can be paying $30-40 PER CLICK, regardless of whether that person goes on to make an online application. Unchecked, you could rack up thousands of dollars per day in wasted click costs.

The vast majority of my own PPC activity has been in the finance and insurance sectors. Having spent over $2 million of my own money on PPC campaigns in these highly competitive niches I am well placed to tell you how to succeed here:


Focus on your website first

Before you spend a penny on a PPC campaign you should ensure that your website is optimised for conversion. I would highly recommend that you create a dedicated landing page or landing pages for PPC. You want to convert as many people as possible from click to application or sale, so you do this you need a compelling offer, a smooth & consistent customer journey from ad impression to sale, and a clean, well-designed, easy to use website. If you’re collecting applications, putting the form on the landing page is the preferred option. Don’t make the user click to reveal the form – this creates an extra unnecessary step, and you’ll notice a decrease in conversions.


Don’t occupy the top spot

People like to shop around, especially when it comes to things like applying for a loan. They also like to click links starting at the top of the page and working their way down. So if you’re the top listing on Adwords here’s what will likely happen: person will click your ad, look at your site, press their back button to have a look at the other ads, click a few more, and if your offer is the most compelling they will click your ad again and apply. So not only are you paying more than everyone else, you’re paying twice. Ignore whatever people tell you about brand awareness with PPC – at the beginning you’d be wise to simply focus on tangible ROI.


Go mobile right now

Not all your competitors will have mobile sites. Even those that do may be doing it wrong. Get this right and you’ll clean up with mobile search, which is fast overtaking traditional desktop search.

In order to create the perfect mobile experience you need to understand that the rules on mobile are very different, especially for online application-based websites.  For starters, your application form needs to be shorter. Much shorter. Anything over 5-6 fields and your conversion rate is going to drop off a cliff. You need pages which will load quickly in places where mobile data speeds might be slow. You need bigger fields for fat fingers. You need HTML5 elements to make forms easier to complete. I have always gone for dedicated mobile versions over responsive designs – this way you have a blank canvas to create high-converting mobile websites.

Here’s the thing about mobile – clicks are cheaper, there is less competition, the competition that does exist may be flawed, and the conversion rate from click to application is up to 4 times higher than desktop in finance and insurance, with no reduction in overall conversion from application to packaged product based on the feedback I’ve had from lenders/brokers.


Increase your Quality Score

Writing the above title made me laugh because of the countless PPC experts I’ve heard over the years saying that you need to increase your quality score. Higher quality score = cheaper clicks. Duh?

The reason people don’t often go into detail about quality score is because Google doesn’t explicitly reveal how to increase it, so it’s a guessing game based on what has or hasn’t worked for you in the past. I’m currently writing an article detailing the methods I’ve used over the past 10 years to increase my quality scores, so keep checking the blog or subscribe to updates in the top right corner of this page to be notified when this goes live. The basic principle regarding quality score is relevance.


Use broad match with modifiers

This pretty much sums up match types for me:

Exact/Phrase match – not enough volume

Broad match – too costly/too much wastage

Broad match with modifiers – the perfect balance


I wouldn’t bother with broad matching on generic keywords like ‘loan’ or ‘insurance’ unless you’ve got deeper pockets than Sheikh Mansour and you don’t care whether you lose millions in the quest to become the most recognisable brand on the planet. Seriously, generic terms with lots of competition will burn through your cash very quickly even if you’ve got quality scores of 10/10 across the board. Broad match modifiers with a huge negative keyword list is the way to succeed in the most competitive niches without sacrificing volume of conversions too much.


I could go on to talk at length about the Google Display Network, but I’ll leave it as I don’t want to upset most of the #ppcchat community again…

Hope this article helps your PPC efforts. If it did, please share! Or if you want to hire me as a consultant, click here!

About The Author

Michael Madew

PPC expert with over 10 years' experience in creating and managing highly profitable PPC campaigns on Google Adwords, Bing Ads and other paid search platforms.

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