Friday Fun: Searching for “Mobile Banks”

If you could choose one banking term to dominate in Google searches, “mobile bank” would be near the top of your list. In the past two months, Google has served 1 million searches for the term (see chart above). And not surprisingly, 75% were conducted from mobile devices.

So who’s on the first page today? When searching “mobile bank” from my Seattle IP address I expected to see the usual mega-banks. And yes, they were there. Among organic results (see desktop screenshot below, mobile search results were similar), US Bank was #2, BofA was #3 & #4, PNC was #5 (despite no branch network in Washington state), Citizen’s Bank was #7 (also with no branches here) with Key Bank, Union Bank, and TCF finishing off the first page.

Nothing too surprising there, other than perhaps the omission of Chase and Wells, which evidently need to boost SEO efforts. But what did surprise me was who finished #1 AND #6, BankMobile from Customers Bank. Next year, the mobile bank is expected to be spun-off in a $110 million merger with Flagship Community Bank, which is wisely keeping the BankMobile name.

Bottom line: Thinking about it, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the results. BankMobile has 1.8 million mobile accounts, ranking it among the 10 largest U.S. mobile banks (after BofA, Chase, Wells, US Bank, Capital One, Discover, Amex and perhaps Barclays and/or TD Bank), I guess Google had it right after all. Enjoy your weekend!

Author: Jim Bruene (@netbanker) is Founder & Senior Advisor at Finovate as well as Principal of BUX Advisors, a financial services user-experience consultancy. 


Google search results for mobile bank (17 Nov 2017, Seattle IP address)

Landing Page Love: PerkStreet’s Facebook-like Testimonial Montage

image Not surprisingly, Google served a PerkStreet Financial ad in my Gmail account tonight (8:30 PM Pacific). I barely remember clicking it, but I started paying attention when I saw the virtual bank’s  landing page (see first screenshot; note 1).

PerkStreet uses a clever visual technique, one that’s familiar to Facebook users (note 2; fourth screenshot), a montage of "friends." In this case, they are not actual friends but 53 thumbnail photos each containing a customer testimonial via either webcam (18 of the thumbnails; second screenshot) or static photo with caption (35 thumbnails; third screenshot).

The bank tops it off with two easy-to-see Apply Now buttons. Nicely done. I Like it.

—————————-

Landing page from Google Gmail ad (link)

Perkstreet landing page with "face montage" 

Clicking on a video testimonial launches a popup

Perkstreet customer testimonial (is that Alex?) 

Clicking on a static photo brings up a short written testimonial

Perkstreet static customer testimonial

PerkStreet uses Facebook’s "facepiles" social plugin on its blog (note 2)

Facepiles used on Perkstreet blog

———————————

Notes:
1. I am calling it virtual because they are a pass-through to a third-party bank that holds the funds.
2. See our latest report, Banking on Facebook, published yesterday.

Friday Fails: Banking Site-Search Edition

I was doing some research into banks’ Facebook sites and found a couple pretty terrible results when using each bank’s own search feature. Here are three samples. 

1. Citibank site-search results for “Facebook” (17 Feb 2012; 3 PM Pacific)  
The search results try to convince you to search for “fake book” instead (why?). Ironically, the second search result does lead to the bank’s Facebook page, but you’d never know it from the title, “Citibank Online – IMPORTANT INFORMATION.”

image

2. Chase Bank site-search results for “Facebook” 
Chase has more Facebook fans (3.4 million) than any bank on the planet, in fact almost 4x the nearest competitor. But you wouldn’t know if from their site search, which returns exactly zero useful results. 

image

3. US Bank site-search results for anything
It looks like US Bank’s site search is broken today. Every search comes up with the same error message. Too bad there isn’t a better error message. “We could not process your request” sounds a bit like they are shifting the blame to the user.

image

———

Note: We’ve covered banking site-search in our Online Banking Report industry newsletter (subscription).

Google Launches More Financial Product Comparison Pages: Savings Accounts, Checking, CDs, and Mortgages

image Today, I ran into Google’s new savings-account comparison chart for the first time (see notes 1, 2 and screenshot below, link). The search giant now offers separate pages with financial product comparisons for mortgages, credit cards, CDs, checking, and savings accounts. And the comparison matrices are at times positioned prominently on searches potentially reducing traffic to top advertisers and to organic results as well (see screenshot below).

Savings account search results
Let’s look at an example search today for “savings accounts.” The results include a blue-chip lineup of paid advertisers. Following is a list of the top 10 paid results compared to their position on the Google comparison page (note 3):

1. American Express (#1)
2. ING Direct (#7)
3. US Bank (#24, 30, 32, 33)
4. BECU (local advertiser)
5. Citibank (#19, 25, 26 )
6. Capital One (#10, 15, 31)
7. Navy Federal CU
8. TD Ameritrade
9. Zions Bank (#4, 5, 22, 23, 27)
10. Discover Bank (#2, 11)

Analysis
I still don’t understand why Google would risk antagonizing its financial advertisers by drawing traffic away from their ads and into the Google-powered comparison matrix. The company says its focus is on the user experience. So I guess they believe that long-term this approach will generate more traffic, more searches and ultimately more revenue, possibly from commissions for actual accounts generated, rather than just pay-per-click.

But in its current beta stage, there are some odd results. How would you feel if you are US Bank, bidding high enough to be number three on the search results page, but not shown until page three of the savings-account comparison page? Worse, three top-10 advertisers, BECU, Navy Federal CU, and TD Ameritrade aren’t even listed on the savings comparison page.

Which brings up a bigger question. How does Google determine which FIs are listed? The savings-product comparison indexes only 17 banks, of which five aren’t even playing the rate game at this point with rates of 0.25% or less (note 4). Furthermore, there’s not a single credit union and just one smaller bank (Bank of Internet) listed. 

I understand this is just a trial balloon from Google and that product comparisons could make it easier for users to find the best rate. But right now it’s unfair to any financial institution not in the chosen 17, and it doesn’t allow users to easily choose from criteria other than rate, monthly fee, and whether a branch is nearby.

It also looks like the system could be gamed. What’s to prevent one of these banks from launching ten, or 20 or 30 different savings accounts, all with temporary teaser rates, to soak up more space in the matrix?

Sure, Google will eventually build algorithms to prevent that, but that will take time. Meanwhile, it’s an odd transition time for the search engine and its financial advertisers. But if you rely at all on Google to deliver new customers, you better pay close attention to developments with its product-comparison pages.

Google search for “savings accounts” (12 Jan. 2011, 4:00 PM Pacific, Seattle IP address)

Google search for "savings accounts" showing new product comparison ad

Google’s “savings” comparison page

Google's "savings" comparison page

Offer details page for American Express High-Yield Savings

Offer details page for American Express High-Yield Savings

———————————

Notes:
1. According to MyBankTracker.com, Google started running the deposit-account comparisons in late December 2010 in the U.S. market.
2. We wrote about Google’s credit card comparison matrix in November.
3. Google’s savings-account matrix listed a total of 44 results, from 17 unique banks, displayed 10 per page
4. 14 of the 44 results, almost one-third of the matrix, were accounts paying 10 basis points or less.

Google Testing U.S. Credit Card Comparison Ads

image Today, when searching Google for “credit cards,” a small Comparison ad appeared on the top of the results page, above the individual paid spots (see first screenshot below; note 1). The title was “Credit Card Offers” and clicking on it delivered me to the following URL: google.com/comparisonads/uscredit (see second screenshot).

Google had previously disclosed United Kingdom tests for credit card and mortgage comparison ads, but this is the first I’d heard of them in the United States (note 2). The comparison page had 101 credit card offers that could be searched based on certain card attributes such as “no annual fee” and/or by the user’s self-evaluation of their credit quality.

Clicking on one of the offers delivered a page that summarized the salient points, but according to the fine print at the bottom of the page, Google isn’t currently being paid for these credit card ads. However, there was a source code in the URL that delivered me to the U.S. Bank application, so Google may be banking referral fees for completed applications.

If this practice becomes widespread, card issuers will need to adjust their Google search buy and figure out how to gain better exposure on the comparison-results page. Right now, APR (interest rate) is the default sort mechanism.

1. Google search for “credit cards” brings up comparison ad (10 Nov. 10)

Google search for "credit cards" brings up comparison ad

2. Credit card comparison page includes sort and search options

credit card comparison Landing page includes sorting and search refinement options

3. The offer page provides detailed price info
Note: Clicking on the “application form” button takes users to the issuer’s site to complete the application

Google credit card comparison Offer page

3a. Fine print at bottom of the page

image

———————————————-

Notes:
1. Searching from a Seattle IP address on 10 Nov. 2010 at about 5:00 PM Pacific Time via Firefox 3.6 on WinXP.
2. Apparently a few others have seen them; for example, Search Engine Journal reported on the practice in an October post (here).

Launched: PerkStreet Financial Focuses on Debit Card Rewards and Free Checking

image With growing debit card usage, and few rewards programs with meaningful payment bonuses (note 1), the market seems right for a focused debit-card-rewards provider.

But the market has not evolved as fast as many thought. Capital One threw in the towel on its decoupled debit rewards program. Finovate alum (video hereTempo Payments is refocusing on affinity-branded cards, which often have a reward component paid for by the affinity partner.

But a new entrant, PerkStreet Financial (powered by The Bancorp Bank) may have the right answer: reward levels on par with credit-card programs, 1% of spending value, 4x the average debit card program (note 1). The company emphasizes rewards paid via free coffee (nice tie-in to the name), music downloads (going after the youth market), or gift cards from name-brand retailers (adds retail interest to the account). See the first screenshot.

But with lower interchange, and no monthly fee (note 2), how can a bank afford such high rewards?

  • No branches
  • Rewards paid out on retail stored-value cards which are provided to the bank by retailers at prices less than face value
  • $30 overdraft charges (but it’s OPT-IN optional)

$50 new-account bonus: If you navigate directly to the website, there is no new account bonus (see screenshot 2). But if you use Google, it’s hard to miss PerkStreet’s ad (screenshot 3) or the affiliate deals. Going to the site through those options earns you a $50 bonus (screenshot 4), and in the case of the Google ad, an additional $50 qualified satisfaction guarantee (screenshot 5). 

1. PerkStreet perks page (link; 2 Dec 2009)

image

2. Standard homepage with no offer, emphasizing free

image

3. Google search for “PerkStreet Financial” (2 Dec 2009, 5:30 PM Pacific from Seattle IP address)

image

4. PerkStreet homepage accessed via affiliate (Doughroller link)
$50 bonus with $25 opening deposit and three months of activity

image

5. Landing page offer (link, 2 Dec 2009)
$50 bonus now with direct deposit, and $50 more if not satisfied within eight months.
To qualify as not satisfied, you must have set up direct deposit within 60 days of account opening, made 10 or more debit transactions per month for six straight months, and have closed your account within eight months of opening.

image

Notes:
1. According to the fine print disclosures on PerkStreet’s homepage, 17% of debit cards provide rewards with an average value of 0.23% of spending (source cited: BAI/Hitachi 2008 Study of Consumer Payment Preferences).
2. The account has a monthly fee ($4.50) only if there is no activity.

What Does Google’s Possible Entry in to Mortgage & Loan-Rate Aggregation Mean for Banks?

image Thanks to information in LendingTree’s lawsuit (embedded below) against its rate-engine provider, Mortech (see note 1), which was picked up by the NY Times, then echoed across the Internet, Google appears to be looking at providing loan rate comparison/aggregation directly in its search results. The service appears to have been beta-tested in the UK more than a year ago (screenshots here).

It’s no surprise Google would make this move. It’s long worked on ways to help online shoppers compare products and services. For example, a search today on “air conditioner” displays the usual targeted text ads on the top and right, but also shows various “shopping results” in the middle of the page (see screenshot below). There are even catalogue-like thumbnails in the right-hand column, something I’d not noticed before.

Financial services, with heavy search volumes, are an obvious area for expansion by the search giant.

The LendingTree lawsuit says the service may launch within the next 30 days. Google says only that it is “currently working on a small ad unit test that will run against a limited number of mortgage-related search queries in the U.S.”

What it means to NetBankers: The service, if successful, could help users streamline their rate-research process by eliminating a visit to a loan-comparison site. But it’s not likely to have a material impact on banks, credit unions and other mortgage lenders. There will just be more advertising dollars ending up in Google’s pocket at the expense of other financial lead-gen sites such as BankRate.com, Interest.com and LendingTree, of course.

LendingTree complaint


Search results for “air conditioner”
(27 Aug 2009, 3 PM Pacific, from Seattle IP address)

image

Note:
1. LendingTree claims that Mortech, an info provider to LendingTree, would be in violation of its contract if it provided similar technology to Google. See LendingTree’s press release on the matter.

Chase Bank Targets WaMu Overdrafters in Google Search Ads

image Someone’s getting creative on Chase’s search-engine marketing team. Look at the ad they placed on the RSS feed of a recent Payments News article (see first screenshot below, note 1). Using Google AdSense, the bank cleverly placed an ad against a story about Wells Fargo’s same-day bill pay service.

Chase probably figures consumers reading about same-day payment capabilities might also have experienced problems with overdrafts in the past. But, I’m not sure why Chase used a call-to-action aimed at driving prospects to a branch:

Wamu Overdraft Forgiveness 
Help Take Control of your Finances. Find a Chase Branch Near You Today! (emphasis added)

Prospects that clicked through on the first ad landed on a microsite with a large branch finder at the bottom. This is a good microsite, although it doesn’t directly mention taking control of your finances (see second screenshot).

Over at the main Google site, Chase used a pitch that seemed more likely to induce clicks (see third screenshot): 

Welcome to Chase
Chase Checking Alerts Help You Avoid Fees. Learn More Today!

These search ads were not displayed in searches today, so perhaps they were pulled after performing poorly.

Lesson: There’s a lot of attention in the press these days about overdraft fees (see NY Times editorial today). If you have good tools to avoid them, especially mobile alerts, it might be an effective way to attract new customers.

And even though these particular ads may not have worked, it demonstrates that Chase is being creative in its search engine marketing efforts. The only way you can find what works in your market is by continuous trials (note 2).

Google ad on Payments News RSS feed (29 July 2009)

image

Chase landing page from ad shown above (link, 29 July 2009)

 image

Google AdWords ad for “Wamu overdraft forgiveness” (29 July, 12 PM Pacific, from Seattle IP address)

image

Notes:
1. Viewed in a soon-to-be-defunct NewsGator reader.
2. For more info on search engine marketing, see Online Banking Report: Searching for Customers 3.0 (March 2008).

Wells Fargo Supports "Retire Secure" Radio Buy with Search Engine Marketing

image I don't know if Wells Fargo has saturated the entire Seattle market, or just the radio station I listen to, but I've heard its ad for a web-based retirement tool a dozen times in the past week or so.

I like the radio spot. It takes a complicated subject and creates interest by asking, "What is your RSI score?" Then, sending listeners to the Web to take the bank's Retire Secure Index test. It's interactive, it's timely and it makes good use of a multi-media approach. 

And Wells Fargo uses search engine marketing masterfully to ensure that interested prospects find their way to the bank's retirement landing page. The bank has purchased Google AdWords for various retirement terms (see first screenshot below) and created a unique landing page (second screenshot) and URL <wellsfargo.retiresecureindex.com> that has quickly moved to the top of the organic search results (see note 1).

Retirement tool
The tool itself is good. It's not easy to make a retirement savings worksheet compelling, but the bank does about as good a job as you can expect. After a 60-second intro by the friendly virtual spokeswomen (see second screenshot), the user completes a short form that takes about two minutes. The on-screen spokesperson talks you through it, but I tuned her out since it's relatively straightforward stuff (note 2). 

After a few seconds of calculation, and a clever drum roll, Wells delivers an RSI number (see third screenshot), which is the number of years you can maintain your desired income level after retiring. It's a good way to present the results, focusing on the positive. Users can go back and change the inputs or go into advanced mode to add home equity, business equity and/or part-time employment.

At the end, users are encouraged to contact the bank through a branch or toll-free telephone number to talk to an investment rep. There is also a link to open an IRA online. All in all, it's a good effort to engage users with a difficult topic.

Overall scores:

  • Radio advertising: A+
  • Search engine marketing: A
  • Retirement tool: B+
    Provide an option to continue without the virtual spokesperson (see note 3)

1. Google results for "wells fargo retire secure" (10 March 2008, noon)

Google results for "Wells Fargo retire secure"

 2. Wells Fargo Retire Secure Index Landing page

Wells Fargo Retire Secure index landing page

3. Call to action

Wells Fargo RSI score and call to action

Notes:
1. For more information on search engine marketing for financial institutions, see our latest Online Banking Report (here). 

2. The audio can be turned off, but the spokesperson cannot be made to sit down or go away (see note 3).

3. The first option on the original landing page is to choose "dial-up" or "high speed" versions of the tool. The dial-up version does away with the audio/video track and just presents the static form.

New Issue of Online Banking Report Published Today

obr_cover_oct07We just finished the latest from our Online Banking Report, entitled Searching for Customers 3.0 (see note 1). The report takes a fresh look at search engine marketing for financial institutions including local search, financial keyword selection, how to leverage social media such as blogs to improve your organic results, and more.

It’s 36 pages long with 11,000 words and 28 tables. The report includes overall search marketing trends and metrics. We also dive deep into the most popular financial search terms and to help you uncover new ideas for your own search marketing tactics.

Online Banking Report subscribers may download the report here. All other may purchase it for US$245 (single user) here. The abstract is available here.

Note:

1. The “3.0” in the report title means it’s the third time we’ve covered this subject during the 13-year history of Online Banking Report. We also looked at search in April 2003 (OBR 95) and June 2001 (OBR 69) when Google AdWords was just getting rolling.