On May 11, 2016, Google announced it would be banning all paid advertisements for payday loans as of July 16, to protect customers from potentially harmful financial services. They took similar measures last year - banning over 750 million ads related to everything from weight loss scams to unregulated pharmaceuticals.
Payday loans refer to short term loans, typically utilized when people need cash quickly. In the US, any loans where repayment must be made within 60 days, or has an APR upwards of 36% will be penalized by Google’s measure.
Google intends to eliminate these ads, citing a concern for consumers financial well being, as payday loan companies are in an advantageous position. How much is Google’s ethical stance costing them?
Paid advertisements for the keywords “payday loans” can generate more than $6 million in click fees per quarter, according to PEW Trusts research. Although that’s a drop in the bucket for Google, who made $16 billion in ad revenue in three months in 2015, this change has a big impact for companies that generate the majority of their business through AdWords.
What should payday loan companies do to combat this reduced visibility in Google?
Put time, money, and resources towards organic search. With paid ads on Google disappearing, payday loan companies need to place additional emphasis on their SEO strategies.
To learn which domains currently get the most visibility in organic search, we pulled a list of the top 500 non-branded organic search terms related to payday loans. We ran these keywords through rank-checking software to determine the top 50 ranking URLs for each term.
Next, we established the relative importance of each domain by looking at average ranking overall for these terms, number of occurrences in the top 50, and occurrences on page 1 for this keyword set.
Check out the results in the chart below, showing the top 20 domains appearing on page 1 of non-branded keyword search related to payday loans:
These domains are regularly appearing when consumers are in the “research” stage, trying to figure out which company they should get a payday loan from.
These sites fall into a few categories: lenders, payday loan alternatives, financial experts, comparison sites, review sites, and, oddly, a shuttle service.
How can payday loan companies take advantage of these commonly appearing domains, and improve their organic reach?
To win at organic search you either need to be one of the top dogs (domains with high visibility), or you need to up your visibility on sites that already have high traffic.
1. Grow your presence on comparison and review sites.
Larger lenders, such as LendUp, Ace Cash Express, and Personal Money Store, are already ranking highly in organic search.
Payday loan companies that aren’t frequently appearing in payday loan searches should grow their presence on aggregator and community sites that already have high visibility and are used for comparison shopping and validating brand trust.
Payday Loans Review, ConsumerAffairs.com, Trustpilot, and Top Consumer Reviews all appear in the top 20 domains, and allow customers to research before converting as a payday loan customer.
By proactively getting customer reviews on these sites, payday loan providers (especially smaller ones) can build their reputation in organic search, and offset the reduced visibility from Google’s Adwords ban.
2. Collaborate with a high ranking news or personal finance advice website.
NerdWallet, NPR, and Business News Daily all ranked in the top 35 domains in our list, as experts in the Financial sector.
When prospects are surveying payday loan providers, they want an authoritative opinion. All of the above are independent blogs and news sources, so customers can trust they are getting a more neutral opinion.
Working with one of these sites to do a story, profile, or post on your company could improve your brand reputation and organic reach.
3. Optimize marketing channels
After losing paid ads on Google, it’s necessary to optimize all other paid and organic marketing efforts. Make sure that your money is invested in alternative channels, and that you have tweaked and tested the marketing materials to optimal levels.
Continue focusing on building credibility. Especially as Google has marked payday loan companies as potentially predatory, these providers need to make prospects feel safe and secure using their services. Supplement your marketing channels with trust signals.
Share consumer reviews, garnered ratings, and earned badges and awards (for example, the Better Business Bureau). Use every verified, third-party resource available to share your integrity as a company, and encourage customer confidence.
4. Use customers’ language to improve organic ranking
Mine the prolific amount of feedback coming from payday loan prospects to come up with your content strategy. Search trending keywords, long tail searches, and digital communities to find out what these customers are searching for, and how they’re saying it. Payday loan businesses can then create content directly addressing these recurring concerns.
Say, for example, you find that the phrase “application is quick and easy” keeps cropping up in your reviews. You research, and find that a common Google search is “payday loan with quick app.”
Now that you know what customers are looking for, incorporate this “natural language” (language your customers use) into a blog post on your website, explaining how your company has a “payday loan with quick application.” Add the keywords to your display url. Once your content addresses current searches, you can drive that organic traffic to your site, and educate prospects on your excellent service.
Long tail searches are key. Long tail keywords refer to phrases longer than three or four keywords, and are particular to your service. These are especially effective because if a user is looking for specifically what you’re offering, they are deep in the conversion funnel. There also tends to be less competition for long tail searches, so it’s a viable option for smaller payday loan businesses.
Ultimately, this is a straightforward process.
Research the content people are saying about you, find out if there’s a high enough volume around those terms in Google, check internal analytics to see if people are searching those keywords, and if the metrics justify it - use the information to drive your content strategy. Build your brand reputation, grow your audience and increase conversions organically.
As Google’s paid ads are eliminated, payday loan providers have the opportunity, nay, the imperative, to improve their organic search visibility via comparison and review sites, news profiles, and optimized marketing channels.