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Digital Advertising for Banking - Why You Should Be Doing It

Digital Marketing

Digital Advertising for Banking - Why You Should Be Doing It

(The Top Questions We Get Asked)

Eric Cook by Eric Cook

Chief Digital Strategist

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Full biography

Eric considers himself a “recovering banker” of 15 years, who for the past eleven years has focused his efforts as a digital strategist, helping his clients (mostly community banks) better understand and leverage the power of the Internet as a strategic business tool. An award-winning web designer with WSI, the world’s largest digital agency network, Eric is a two-time contributing author to the best-selling book Digital Minds – 12 Things Every Business Needs to Know About Digital Marketing. Consistently rated in the top five digital marketing books on Amazon, the book is in its second edition and available in three languages.

A sought-after, nationally-recognized speaker in the financial services industry, Eric is a member of the National Speakers Association and loves sharing his knowledge to help educate and inspire others. He is the co-creator of a weekly webinar show called Free Webinar Wednesdays, founder of the Banker Education Series webinar series, and serves as a faculty member at several banking schools around the country where he teaches bankers about digital strategy, online marketing and social media. He is a WSI Certified LinkedIn Professional and holds undergraduate degrees in business administration and psychology. While working full-time as a community banker, Eric earned his MBA and completed the three-year Graduate School of Banking program in Madison, WI in 2003.

Professionally, Eric helps his clients in all areas of digital marketing, which includes mobile-responsive web development, search engine marketing and optimization, social media strategies, e-mail communication, and “big-picture” digital strategic planning. He’s the co-founder of, a service created to help businesses understand their risk when it comes to operating in today’s digital world. When he’s not helping his clients succeed online, he can typically be found on one of his many bicycles training for his next mountain bike/triathlon race or spending time with his wife and two (very spoiled) golden retrievers.



Here at WSI, we have refined the art of digital marketing and love putting our superpowers to work for banks. I know it’s not that simple for every bank though, and that’s why we’re here to help. Many banks want to know what types of advertising are available to them. They also ask specific questions about what types of online advertising they should be doing. Here are some of the top questions I get asked about strategic marketing and advertising for banks!

Why Should My Bank Invest in Advertising? 

Building organic visibility online (that’s where SEO comes into play) is what everyone strives for, but that takes time - and a lot of work producing content. But advertising is a quick and efficient way to help increases consumer awareness of your brand. You need to get your bank name out there somehow, and advertising is a great way to do it in a controllable (and measurable) way. Ultimately, you want any type of awareness to help create customers who will want to apply for a loan or open a bank account online (or come to one of your branches if you don’t offer online application capability yet).

What are the Different Types of Digital Advertising?

Online advertising is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase awareness of your bank, with consumers spending more time than ever online. With over 90 percent of Americans having access to the Internet, and 276.8 million of them access the Internet on their phones, there’s certainly an audience for your message online. 

To get your message in front of this audience, there are several types of digital advertising. Each type can be used to increase brand awareness and lead consumers to learn more about you (and hopefully open accounts). Below are some of the different types of advertising you can use. 

What is a Display Ad?

Display ads present your message graphically (via an online image or video) with the intent of getting the viewer to click and end up on a landing page back on your bank’s website. That landing page is designed (or at least it should be) to focus on a key conversion goal with a clear and conspicuous CTA (call to action). That action could be to sign up for your monthly e-newsletter, schedule an appointment with a commercial lender, or start an online mortgage application.

Since they are primarily focused on generating awareness for your bank, most display campaigns are charged on a cost-per-thousand impression (CPM) basis. That CPM is based on the target audience you’re going after, and the more layers of demographic data you use to narrow down the relevancy of your audience, the more expensive the cost - but the more valuable it can be!. 

Display ads are also great for retargeting and encouraging viewers to return to your website after they engaged with the ad previously. Often thought of as “deja-vu”, your target audience (who’s previously engaged with your ad) will see more of your ads in other areas of the Internet, further increasing the odds they will come back and take action. 

What is a Text Ad?

Text ads allow you to present ads above and below Google search results to a target audience based on your keyword bidding strategy. Text ads have three main components: a headline, a display URL, and description text and are charged on a CPC, or cost-per-click basis. The more competitive the term, the more expensive the click. 

Side Note: Did you know that the search term “mortgage” is the third most used keyword in Google, with an average CPC of over $47?! The only two keywords that are more expensive are “insurance” at the top of the list at $54.91 per click and “gas/electric” costing $54.62 per click.  

Headline text is the first thing that users see and is normally in large, blue text. For this reason, you should include the keywords that people may have searched for - and make sure it captures the reader's attention in a way that makes them want to read more (and hopefully click). The ad consists of three headlines where you can enter up to 30 characters (including spaces) each.

Next, the display URL (usually in green) shows your web address. The URL helps people get a better idea of where they’ll be taken when they click your ad but doesn’t necessarily need to be the exact URL of the landing page where the visitor will end up when they click it. 

Finally, the description fields should highlight details about your offer. Your description section should include CTAs, product details, and any other information that will entice the reader to want to click and take action. Here are some suggestions: “Open a new account online today,” or “Find out more about mortgage options and speak with a home loan expert.” You’ll get two lines worth of descriptions and can be up to 90 characters (yup, including spaces) each.

Note: starting June 30, 2022, you’ll no longer be able to create or edit expanded text ads. The ones you created before that date will still be up and running. You will still receive reports and be able to pause and resume or remove them. Google is encouraging businesses to transition to responsive search ads. 

What is a Responsive Search Ad?

Google has found that advertisers who switch from expanded text ads to responsive text ads see more conversions. Responsive text advertisers see an average of 7% more conversions at a similar cost per conversion (Google internal data, Global, 6/3/2021 - 6/12/2021). What does this mean for you? More bang for your buck!

Responsive search ads allow you to create an ad that adapts to the search behavior. This enables you to show more relevant messages to your audience. To create a responsive search ad, you’ll need to enter multiple headlines and descriptions. Google Ads will automatically test different combinations to learn which ones perform best. Adapt your ad content to more closely match user’s search terms using responsive search ads. It could improve your campaign’s performance.

To get the most out of responsive ads, focus on the following areas:

  • Repurposed high-performing content with a focus on ad strength. Improving ad strength from “Poor” to “Excellent” can increase your conversions by 9% on average (Google internal data, Global, 7/18/2020 - 8/1/2020). 
  • Visit your account Recommendations page. Using the customized suggestion can help improve your responsive search ads. 
  • Pin specific headlines and descriptions you want to keep. If you have messages that always need to be shown, pins can come in handy. Try to pin 2-3 options to a position if you can, though. 
  • Vary your ads. Using ad variations can help test different versions. You can review their performance across multiple campaigns.
  • Evaluate your ad success differently. Responsive search ads help you qualify for more auctions. Checking ad-level performance and metrics might not show your ad’s full performance. For example, clickthrough and conversion rates won’t show the full picture. Instead, focus on incremental impressions. Focus on clicks and conversions that your ad groups and campaigns receive. 

What is a Facebook Ad?

I talk a lot about Facebook Ads, but that’s because they’re so effective! One of the coolest things about Facebook Ads is that you can create a variety of different audience types to ensure that you’re targeting the right audience. For example, Custom Audiences allow you to advertise to a specific group of people - and really define your target market. This means your advertising dollars are better spent than on other advertising options. 

Another great thing about Custom Audiences is you can use them to create Lookalike Audiences. With Lookalike Audiences, Facebook finds other potential customers for you based on your Custom Audience. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of advertising for you and frees you up to be able to spend more time on doing what matters - providing great service to your banking customers!

And if the various audience targeting options aren’t enough to get you excited, you’ve got six different ad formats to pick from to get your message across! These include Photo, Video, Stories, Messenger, Carousel, Slideshow, Collection, and Playables. Each of these presents its own unique opportunity to carry your message to the desired target audience.


Maybe You Could Use Some Help?

When I left the bank and started our digital agency, it was all about finding ways to help banks build and improve their digital presence. I love creating blog articles, presenting at conferences, and teaching at banking schools to show bankers how they can take better control of their digital efforts and put these strategies to work for their banks. However, I also know that bank marketers are a busy bunch, and (as you can tell from what I’ve shared above), there’s a LOT to advertising online. Heck, we didn’t even touch on video ads and ways to leverage YouTube - but that’s for another day!

So if you’re reading this and saying to yourself “Yeah, I really should be doing this but I just don’t know when I’ll find the time to learn it all,” that’s what we’re here for. Here at WSI, we specialize in partnering with banks since we’ve taken the time to learn it all (and keep on top of things) and would love to be your secret weapon in generating online visibility for the bank. If you’d like to learn more, please contact us for additional information on how we can help put online advertising to work for your bank. We’d love to hear from you!


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