When you help the public with their hard-earned money, there are a special set of rules to follow. You have an internal compliance team responsible for ensuring that all marketing materials accurately portray the products and services you offer. When it comes to Google Ads and search platforms, it’s important to understand how to apply the rules of finance marketing within the platforms. This ensures that you are compliant with federal and state guidelines as well as the desires of your internal compliance department.

Let’s take a look at the 5 must-follow rules for finance companies. We use finance companies to encompass banks (regional banks and local banks), credit unions, and any institution that offers financial services to the public.

Rule #1: Geographic targeting (it isn’t just about what the platform limits).

In the past, platforms such as Google allowed financial institutions to use zip code targeting. Google has now updated its policy so that financial institutions cannot use zip code targeting. This policy was, according to Google, to better protect user’s privacy and prevent discrimination in financial product offerings.

All finance marketers know redlining is something they never want to do. The DOJ is further scrutinizing banks on practices, especially those related to mortgages, and how banks do their lending.

You might be reading this going, “I am fully aware of this and haven’t allowed my search teams to do zip code targeting for years”. That’s terrific, and we agree. The challenge we have seen by well-meaning institutions is their implementation of radius targeting.

Say a financial institution has 23 branches spread across a geographic area. Each of these geographic areas is likely to have different economic environments. A bank could also have data that suggests that in certain branches people drive farther to get to their bank than other densely populated areas. They could then choose to use different radius targeting around those branches. 

We would advise against using different radius targeting as it could be seen, unintentionally, as favoring one area over another. We would recommend consistent radius targeting. You might select 3 miles, 5 miles, or 10 miles based on business decisions. Consistency is key, so that you treat all areas and individuals within that area the same.

Rule #2: Ad personalization based on status.

Google updated its policy at the end of February 2024 to prohibit targeting on what Google refers to as “sensitive interest categories.” Most financial markets would already avoid targeting special categories such as age, gender, and zip code.

One personalization that financial marketers would want to dig into with their search teams, and other platforms for that matter, is marital status. There may have been ads that had this category as an audience type of target vs observation where they could have been more inclined to take out a mortgage or maybe open a joint account.

We recommend evaluating your audience set-ups within the Google Ads platform and all search platforms to make sure you are compliant.

Rule #3: “Compliance-proof” your account.

When we say “compliance-proof” your account, we want to stress that the goal is to build an account that complies with standards set by your compliance team. It should also be set up in a manner that if compliance has a question, you can answer the question within one business day.

We recommend that you take the following steps to start:

  • Verify that all ads within your account are labeled with the date of the approved ad copy file.
  • If using multiple platforms, such as SA360 & Google Ads, make sure that labels are consistent on both platforms.
  • All ad copy must be stored in a place with the date and time of approval.
  • All team members must be aware of the location of all files.
  • Compliance has reviewed the settings of the account or has been provided with a screenshot of the settings (such as geographic settings).
  • Team members keep a log of changes to the account, such as geographic location, with why they are changing it, and who provided them approval.

While the above is not a complete list of items, it is a good place to start.

Rule #4: Know which product you are marketing and get the customer to that part of your site.

This is best practice for all paid search efforts: however, the nuances of financial products offerings can be confusing to the customer. 

For example, if you had the following queries:

  • “Bank Name”
  • “Bank Name Checking”
  • “Bank Name HELOC”
  • “Bank Name small business loan”

There are financial institutions that may send all of this traffic to the homepage of their website, but that isn’t a complete user journey for your targeted audience.

Instead, we recommend this approach: 

QueryRecommended Landing Page
“Bank Name”Home page
“Bank Name Checking”Page which outlines checking options
“Bank Name HELOC”Page which says what a HELOC is & how to apply
“Bank Name small business loan”Small business area of the website

When you know what the prospect is looking for, help them with their journey by allowing them to land as close to the information as possible.

Rule #5: Monitor your account for being flagged for product types.

This sounds obvious, but there are times when Google incorrectly flags a product. We have had financial services clients in the past who launched a new product and it was incorrectly flagged by Google. When Google flags a set of keywords, ads, or landing pages, it limits the reach and also puts the entire account into a place where it could face a more severe violation (such as having the account turned off).

Products, such as personal loans, are closely monitored by Google. This is because there are companies that, in the past, have been predatory in how they treat their customers. It’s paramount that financial services companies developing a new product or service communicate plainly to clients.

Next Step for Financial Marketers

The next step is to have a conversation with your search team to make sure there are checks and balances in place to keep your account performing at capacity. You can also reach out to us here at Mindgruve and one of our team members who specializes in financial services will be happy to help and evaluate the current status of your Google Ads account.
Interested in learning more? Get in touch with our Thought Leaders today.