OPINION: How can financial marketers use AI to enhance PPC campaigns?

Kate Horsington

Kate Horsington, Founder and PPC Expert at D3, discusses using AI technology to enhance PPC campaigns within a Financial Services context, alongside key pitfalls for consideration among those who are introducing this tech for the first time.

Pay-per-click advertising, or PPC, is a powerful tool that can effectively boost digital advertising efforts in the financial services industry. In the last 18 months, AI technology has fast become one of the most discussed and oft misused tools within that sphere.  PPC advertising has shifted and developed over the years, but perhaps never more so than in recent months, when artificial intelligence (AI) has been integrated so deeply into the way we plan, write and evaluate our campaigns.

This evolving technology allows advertisers to conduct faster ad tests, identify complex patterns that may not be easily detectable by humans, and make real-time adjustments to bidding strategies using vast amounts of data.

And of course, automation has for a long time been part and parcel of the pay-per-click market, with platforms relying heavily on sophisticated algorithms and machine learning to make campaigns as streamlined as possible. These tools are integral to PPC and control real-time bidding strategies, taking into consideration audience signals, device, time of day, and other factors when making bidding decisions.

For this reason, we’ve become very used to the concept of automation in digital marketing, and when a new, fast developing technology enters the picture it can be all too easy to jump in headfirst without considering how best it should be used, and to what extent.

Many companies in the financial services industry are encouraging their teams to harness the latest AI tools. However, given the heavily regulated nature of the industry, it is important to approach AI opportunities in a thoughtful and considered manner, taking into account existing rules, restrictions, and guidelines. Here are some of the most important factors to consider:

  • Your financial messaging must comply with FCA regulations and guidelines. Checking your internal processes and involving compliance for review and sign off is essential. If any messaging, including AI-generated content, fails to meet compliance standards or FCA guidance your business could face a hefty fine.

Google Ads offers auto-generated content in its platform which essentially saves you time in writing compelling ad copy. However, when it comes to financial services, my advice would always be to keep this turned off. This doesn’t mean you can’t still utilise AI for content generation to gather ideas, but always make sure they are reviewed, edited and seen by compliance.

  • Poor quality, auto-generated copy can harm your brand. Something we’re seeing more and more of is unfinished sentences making their way into AI-written ads and extensions, which can be damaging to your brand reputation if a potential customer notices this on their search results page. Careless ad copy can give off an impression of negligence, which is the last thing any financial services business wants to portray.

It’s important to make sure you’re remaining vigilant when using AI tools and new technology – the benefits they offer can still be enjoyed, but always ensure the contents make sense in the context of a search engine results page. Check all your ad previews to ensure that copy is succinct, and visible.

  • AI struggles to meet tight character limits, which is particularly problematic for PPC ads. ChatGPT and Bard are examples of prediction engines that determine the ‘next most likely word’ based on their training data. However, they lack comprehension, which can be an issue while writing ad copy. It becomes difficult to convey a message, include a call-to-action, and remain compliant within a limited number of characters.

Using carefully crafted prompts in tools like Bard can help with idea generation and improving workflow. Just remember to check character limits before you begin, as even when including the limit in an AI prompt, headlines and descriptions may still exceed them without you noticing.

The financial services industry is understandably subject to strict regulations, which does make it a challenging environment for marketers who want to take full advantage of new, compelling tools. However, with due diligence and a careful eye, the latest advancements in AI technology can heavily streamline workflows and increase efficiency.

Platforms that help with product, keyword, audience, and persona research are game-changers, therefore, and help reduce the risk of poor copy getting out there into the ether. By leveraging these automation tools with a measured approach, financial services businesses can speed up time-consuming and labour-intensive tasks, freeing up valuable resource and enabling staff to focus on delivering high-quality services to clients and customers.

Overall, digital marketing strategies still rely on human thinking and problem-solving. AI isn’t perfect and it can make mistakes, but the most effective advertising campaigns can be delivered by learning how to best use AI for your most resource-intensive tasks, giving you the time to focus more on the things that matter.

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