Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) require some degree of both industry-based and tool-based expertise before keyword research can be fruitful. Without that background, selecting ETF-related keywords can be difficult. PayPerClick (PPC) keyword selection for your ETF is ultimately about search volume, keyword difficulty, keyword cost and, most importantly, level in the funnel or proximity to the Zero Moment of Truth. It also helps to understand how your budget may warrant delving into longtail keywords and broad-match rather than exact-match for top-tier terms. Without taking all of these into consideration, PPC will be a costly experiment destined to be restarted from scratch — or worse, abandoned in premature despair.

It’s imperative that your business understand the right approach to PPC keyword research. In this post, we’ll cover the methods to use and the reasons why failing to do your due diligence can mean false feedback on your campaigns.

ETF Marketing Tips: Table of Contents

What’s the difference between SEO keywords and PPC keywords for New ETFs?

For starters, an SEO campaign is based upon content, variations of semantic phrasings and the current rules of keyword density versus semantic variations. PPC keywords depend upon a broad-heavy, exact-match starting point and generally work their way toward the longtail phrases that match known competition in Google Ads.

From the funnel perspective, SEO keywords are about the top-of-funnel questions that start the customer journey, while PPC tends to focus on the bottom-of-funnel purchase-ready traffic who already knows (or think they know) what they’re looking to purchase. Intent is the key, with PPC having a knack for inserting the ETF in front of the prospect at the exact right moment before the purchase, while SEO (organic) keyword optimization is trying to guide the research process that leads up to that moment, using the known search volume of the keywords for your new ETF as your guide.

Even a display ad (which may use keywords in choosing the right site pages to display on) involves a cost element for either clicks or impressions. Either way, when performing SEO for ETFs, your SEO keywords can afford to be more expansive and inclusive of all aspects of your funnel, while PPC keywords tend to be restricted to just those keywords with traffic that are more assuredly targeted and worth the per-click cost.

What are search terms versus keywords?

Search terms can include the actual search query elements used for tens to millions of searches per month, while keywords typically refer to the most common “key” words within that search that keep appearing in all of those individual search queries. So while one autosuggested search query in the Google search box may recommend a total query with individual terms, only some of those terms become valuable keywords over time as they keep appearing across user search queries.

The basis for these suggested queries is latent semantic indexing (LSI). That’s just a technical way of saying that Google can interpret the possible questions or phrases that may be related to what you’ve typed so far in the search box. Some parts of those queries may include often-used keywords, while other parts of the same query may not include a lot of traffic in this version. Some tools out there use LSI data on the Web to propose help with things like content titles (but that’s fodder for another blog post).

Where should you begin the keyword research process?

What kind of audience are you trying to attract? If you’re looking for top-of-funnel, that’s a more expensive proposition via Google and Bing (the two main platforms). This method involves  broad-match or exact-match and is typically going to involve a larger number of keyword variations and ads, unless you focus very narrowly.

If you’re aiming at strictly bottom-of-funnel traffic, this is typically done via exact-match and is still expensive, but the traffic is more reliable when the budget is properly throttled to the number of keywords you can afford to properly pursue.

What’s a good keyword?

It depends on what your budget is and how well you understand your campaign goals. If your budget is unlimited, your task may be ultimately easier and the difficult part comes mainly in managing the scaling up of your budget to match your campaign and creative successes.

Having said that, your landing page impacts your ad’s ultimate quality score, which is the main internal metric Google uses to determine the priority to use in showing your ad in certain circumstances (such as the optimized automated display settings).

So while a good keyword is one that fits your budget and target audience, it’s also one that is not impossible to match up with your landing page in terms of user intent, what they came for via your ad copy and structure. Your search terms need to align with user intent and vice-versa for the ad to do well. The keyword is just one side of the equation.

What can go wrong with the wrong keywords?

confused woman doing facepalm gesture

Well, for one, you could attract the wrong audience. So if you sell an ETF in one sector or niche, but your keyword can be taken as referring to another sector or niche, you have a problem. So even if you manage to align your landing page with your keyword intent, if there are more than one context for your search terms, not only is your traffic going to be mixed and potentially unreliable, but the bounce rate (the rate of visitors immediately leaving the page) could be extremely high as people realize it’s not that kind of ETF. All of this, again, can impact quality scores, which can force you to pay more for that keyword.

How do I know what keywords are trending?

Depending on the research tool, trending search terms are not only part of Google’s new search box paradigm, but part of the tools we’ve mentioned earlier. This means that you can factor in trending terms that are so new that they don’t really have a monthly search volume as of yet. Using these trends may effectively be something like gambling on their possible relevance, but it’s up to the campaign manager to determine whether they qualify to be recommended for approval to the campaign owner.

For “hot” ETFs on a tear, of course trends are important to factor into consideration, provided the latest news including those terms is still good. If not, then they’d be best left out. Market conditions can fluctuate greatly from one day to the next. Being ready to take advantage when there is sudden demand on a highly relevant keyword is mission-critical to ETF marketing in search

Are there ways to organize your keywords?

keyword research tool

There are. The best way is to use a keyword research tool like Google Ad Planner, Ahrefs or SEMRUSH. The former is platform-specific and may leave out vast swathes of desirable traffic, especially if you want to include Bing, for example, at a later stage. The latter are all-inclusive and include benchmark data not limited to Google alone.

Next, you’ll want to use your tool to organize keyword lists by ETF theme, then conceptually by the funnel step and finally into concrete ad groups within the Google Ads campaign. This keeps your ad ordered by inclusion in the proper ad group while keeping your ad groups within an orderly schema of intent. You can track your ad groups in terms of their intent by simply including a tag in the name of the ad group. You can also literally tag your ad groups in other ways. We recommend both methods to keep them 100% clear to all involved.

If you need help executing any elements of your PPC campaign or ETF launch, get in touch now (before a competitor does)! Our team of financial marketing digital experts would love to help you with your digital campaigns or launches to market your new ETF or reinvigorate AUM growth for a previously launched fund.

Setting up a PPC campaign for your ETF Keywords: A 9-Step Plan

What follows are the best tips toward selecting the right keywords for your financial ETF campaign, as well as all the background considerations that will guide you to a higher likelihood of success.

  1. Use discernment in which search engine you go after first. While Bing is a substantial player for paid search, it’s a more traditional and conservative approach to tackle optimizing your Google campaigns first, then tackling Bing by starting with a duplicate version of your Google campaign. The next step is to customize the campaign for Bing’s own distinctive traffic patterns, as well as your own Bing analytics. Why is this listed first? Because this decision impacts everything to follow.
  2. Use care in setting your language and location/geotarget settings. These will pre-determine who will see your ads and where they will be seen.
  3. Implement your relevant analytics methods before starting your campaign. The reason for doing this is that once your campaign is started, you’ll want to understand as much as possible about the value of your traffic via Goals and Events in Google Analytics (if using GA – which makes sense for Google Ads). Make sure you understand how to attribute traffic to the campaign versus other incoming sources via the attribution tab in GA.
  4. In your ongoing periodic ETF-related PPC keyword research, you’ll need to have a sound starting point. Use an appropriate research tool like SEMRUSH, Moz, SimilarWeb or Ahrefs to best understand your PPC competitors. After carefully vetting these, you’ll probably want to filter out those within your sample group which don’t align with your own business model and any that don’t appear to have a large amount of traffic and other positive signals coming in. Not everyone who shows up for your keywords are in the same niche as you.
  5. Compare the keyword saturation of your true competitors against your own company website. When you have these locked into a useful comparison, you’ll be able to determine how each competitor is utilizing paid traffic from the various search engines as well as how they’re using display campaigns to their advantage.
  6. Create tightly targeted ad groups for your ETF keywords. Whether using SEMRUSH or using Google’s own Keyword Planner, this keyword list can have multiple versions. The key to remember here is that SEMRUSH allows you to play around more easily with its own keyword filtering tools than will Google Keyword Planner, which can seem a bit more like a mixing board than a user-friendly tool. As we stated before in this post, be sure to corral ads into definitive ad groups and be sure to label and tag both ads and their ad groups by the funnel stage addressed by the ad. Dispensing with this step probably has little to no real value given how easy it will be to tag it all.
  7. Use negative keywords to avoid confusion and bounces. Research which keywords are in the wrong context or are so mixed in their contexts as to warrant excluding them from triggering your ad.
  8. Develop ad copy that’s relevant to your offer and the best keywords for the offer. Make sure you get these approved by an internal compliance process or team to ensure best practices are followed. Compare it against that of your competitors. Try to stand out from the crowd, not blend in. Distinguish your brand value within the ad copy itself.
  9. Review and adjust your campaign weekly, biweekly or monthly. Your ad costs could go up unexpectedly, and your quality score for your more important ads could be flagged for attention. Stay on top of the campaign daily for all such emergencies and schedule-in consistent ongoing optimization.

Campaign strategy: How to manage keywords post-launch

campaign strategy

Strategically, the first thing you’ll want to do is to align the management of the budget with business goals. Next, divide ad groups into the 3 main parts of a typical buyer’s journey:

  • Top-of-funnel
  • Middle-of-funnel
  • Bottom-of-funnel

This tripartite division allows you to better visualize and think about how your ad groups are working together to answer questions regarding a need for an ETF like yours, address concerns about this type of ETF and the ETF itself, or greet those already looking to invest in that particular ETF or that type of ETF.

Next, you’ll need to discover which funnel sections, ad groups and individual ads are initially performing versus those that are simply not there yet. Raise the budget for those that perform well and are somewhat efficient, while pulling the reins on those that need refinement or possibly have structural problems inherent to the conversion strategy. There are a myriad of ways to do this. SKAGs (single keyword ad groups) is probably one of the best however setting these up could be cumbersome and time-intensive, but it will yield you the most granular results.

Continually optimize the campaign strategy. This may involve a learning curve inherent to the medium of search marketing. Part of the challenge is staying true to your business goals!

In most industries, campaign managers can gauge success by the quality score of the ad as well as the click-through rate (CTR) and the cost per acquisition (CPA) for the ad. Good CPA data is only available on campaigns that have run for sufficiently long enough and have displayed across a large enough sample of impressions and conversions to qualify. In the ETF space, however, this has proven challenging due to the inability to attribute dollars invested from marketing activity to the final sale of an ETF.

All hope is not lost. Some have adapted their models and are tracking “soft conversions” based on on-site behavior. But absent CPA or specific conversion goals, how can you manage the campaigns?

Focus on the conversion types suited to the nature of ETFs — things like an email opt-in, hitting key pages, following key sections of an onsite funnel, downloading whitepapers, etc.

Factor business goals as well as campaign metrics for ETF campaigns. Business goals trump campaign results and metrics every time. There is not much more that needs to be said about that if the business goals are strategically important and well-founded. The only thing is campaign metrics, results and insight should flow upstream to further inform additional strategic decisions.

The market giveth and the market taketh away. If certain funds are seeing AUM increases due to performance or new fund flows, it is important to remain attentive to these shifts to properly balance and manage campaign budgets for certain keywords. Then in combination with ad group or keyword level metrics, we would take into consideration the ad and ad group performance and adjust accordingly.

Sometimes fluctuations may tempt you to change your campaigns and vice-versa. These times can require careful discussions on whether the changes are warranted before implementing changes to your actual search campaigns, which need time to ramp up and show their true potential.

Tracking your campaign is about both marketing and business goals. Use business metrics in combination with the campaign or keyword performance as your yardstick. Make decisions based on business goals whenever in doubt.

Pro tip: Campaign Keyword Management – Budget via Your True Business Goals

For instance, since budgets can be limited, we start out giving each campaign a fairly equal budget but will then observe results and after a couple weeks, start tweaking budgets so that we’re pushing more budget toward the higher CTR/lower CPC campaigns, and less budget toward the lower CTR/higher CPC campaigns.

We filter out the poorly-performing traffic in favor of better-performing keywords. Basically this kind of campaign review is about trying to get as much of that “good” highly engaged traffic as possible within our budget. Sometimes, we’d do the opposite and push more budget toward lower performing keywords if higher performing campaigns are underspending their daily budgets. Another situation where this makes sense is when we purposely want to go more aggressive on top of funnel (brand awareness) type campaigns. In the end, this all has to balance with the business goal and our main objective since this dictates everything.

In conclusion – 3 ETF Marketing Keyword Management Recommendations

marketing and business goals

It’s helpful to remember that there are three specific aspects we’ve recommended here.

Selecting ETF keywords is about context and audience. Even with the right setup, without a thorough SEO and PPC keyword-selection process, as well as an ear to your true business interests via performance-based filtering, your campaign is prone to distortion and misdirection of campaign funds which may mount faster than expected.

Organizing your keywords is a creative act based on data and intent. Without understanding and reevaluating prospect intent as an ongoing consideration, your ETF campaigns could fail to garner new AUM and land you in a budgeting deficit — or worse needing to close, delist and liquidate, which as we know no one wants due to the negative tax consequences and reputation risk (but that’s for another day and article).

Managing your campaigns will depend upon performance as well as your site-resident analytics. Without an organized and easy-to-understand schematic for campaign-relevant metrics — both in the campaign management tool and on your site metrics tool — you won’t have a solid match-up of intent with your marketing goals and your business goals that underlie them.

If you need help executing any elements of your PPC campaign or ETF launch, get in touch now (before a competitor does)! Our team of financial marketing digital experts would love to help you with your digital campaigns or launches to market your new ETF or reinvigorate AUM growth for a previously launched fund.