Customer Journey of people searching for HELOC in 2023

February 21, 2024 by Tim Whitley

Introduction

This in-depth white paper, spearheaded by MHP/Team SI, a Google Premier Partner, delves into the evolving digital landscape for researching and applying for a HELOC mortgage loan. This paper provides actionable insights for businesses and marketers within the banking industry by examining the customer journey from research to apply, focusing on their online search habits.

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    Methodology

    As a Google Premier Partner, Google provides MHP/Team SI  with exclusive data that gives us deep insights into these fields. 

    First, let’s define the key performance metrics extracted from Google’s search index: 

    • Queries: Only total searches conducted by users related ONLY to HELOC.
    • Ad Depth: The number of ads shown per search query.
    • Impressions: The frequency of ad displays in response to these queries.
    • Clicks: The number of times users engaged with ads or organic search results.

    To reiterate, all data provided is pulled from the HELOC search terms when a user searches for a new HELOC. It is also a Year-Over-Year (YoY) analysis showcasing how the customer journey changed in just 12 months.

    Findings and Analysis

    Search Query Trends

    Search Growth: In 2023, most mobile device research and decisions were made. Mobile search accounted for 64% of all search activity for HELOC.

    • Mobile has predominantly been the gateway for search activity in this industry since 2016. In 2023, we saw yet another increase of 19%
    • In the last few years, search activity on computers increased by 9% but only made up 35% of the total volume of searches, YoY
    • The number of Tablet searches increased by 10% and only made up 1% of the total volume of searches YoY

    The total number of searches for HELOC increased by 15% in 2023 vs 2022. Queries go from broad to precise terms within the customer journey.

    Ad Depth and Market Competition

    Competition decreased by 13% YoY inside the customer journey within Google.

    • Competition Intensity on Mobile: Mobile searches faced 3.9 competitors, more than tablet and computer searches, emphasizing the competitive digital environment for HELOC.

      • Even though there are fewer searches on tablets, we saw the Ad Depth decrease by 9%, resulting in customers viewing 4.1 competitors within their customer journey on tablets.

      • Computers saw a decrease in the number of advertisers by 27%, resulting in only 3.8 competitors within their customer journey on computers.

    • Understanding the Ad Depth and Market Competition increases the need for relevant ad copy and destination pages. It also underscores the importance of delivering the right message to this audience on their first query while researching services and products. In 2023, we saw an increase of 34% with higher click-through rates for competitive offerings and value to customers’ needs. 

    • Increasing Ad Depth: Ad depth (number of competitors) has decreased by 9% YoY, allowing advertisers to capture this audience without much competition

    Clicks and Engagement Patterns

    Clicks on paid and organic searches increased by 37% on mobile YoY. This indicates that more research is being conducted within the customer journey. An increase of 15% in total queries but an increase of clicks of 34% indicates an increase in the depth of the customer journey process, clicking on more links within the search page after a query is made. There is a caveat. Impressions were down 3% YOY, indicating that the rising interest rates impacted customer journey length. 

    • Mobile encompassed 72% of all clicks on organic and paid searches within the customer journey; this is a rise of 37% YoY within just the HELOC sub-category of the banking industry.

    • With only 2% of total clicks, Tablet had an increase of 29% YoY within their 1% query market share for organic and paid searches.

    • The computer jumped a 27% increase in clicks on paid and organic listings for HELOC information, but remember; this only makes up 35% of the query market share.

    The overall click growth was 34%. Mobile was up 37%, encompassing 64% of all queries and where leads are generated, making it the most critical metric. 

    The impression share was down 3% overall, with the most significant decrease in computers at a 24% decrease YOY. This indicates that the consumers are hitting a roadblock due to high interest rates and are not going any further with their investigations with HELOC.

    Seasonal Patterns

    There is a seasonal pattern with HELOC searches. Queries, Impressions and Clicks all showcase this seasonality.

    • In all Queries, Impressions, and Clicks categories, July and August from 2021-2023 will be the season potential customers are researching HELOC. 

    • Anomaly in February 2023: There was an increase in searches (queries), impressions, and clicks versus 2022 and 2021. In the first half of 2023, HELOC interest rates were influenced by rising mortgage rates, with the average rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) increasing by nearly 2 percentage points, averaging 6.44% compared to the same period in 2022. This increase in mortgage rates, reflective of broader interest rate trends, likely impacted HELOC rates as well. The spike in queries in February was most likely due to rising interest rates and the need to secure rates as early as possible. 

    • Considering the anomaly, there is a steady increase in queries, impressions, and clicks from January – July, hitting peak activity in July and August and then a steady decrease over the rest of the year in queries, impressions and clicks.

    Implications for Marketing Strategies

    Strategic Focus on Mobile Platforms: Given the significant customer reliance on mobile devices, businesses must develop mobile-centric platforms and marketing strategies. Ensuring your HELOC application is mobile-friendly is imperative for increasing your applications. 

    • If your application is not mobile friendly, encourage them to “start the application” with a simple form that will go to your customer service, where they can take the lift to convert them into an application/customer.

    • Campaigns are always on: Due to no seasonality, you must be on with your marketing campaigns 12 months out of the year. Budget fluctuations will be needed as queries grow from July to December.

    Recommendations for Future Strategy

    • Ensure your copy for paid search and organic meta tags relates to the potential customer; you are surrounded by competitors who might be messaging better with better offers and hit the potential customer’s pain points better than you.

    • Data-Driven Marketing Initiatives: Utilize analytics to tailor marketing efforts, aligning them with observed consumer behavior patterns.

    • The customer journey is only interrupted by 3.1 competitors. This gives you a leg up on capturing this audience and standing out from the competition who are NOT in the customer journey. Capture this audience with your mobile-friendly application or a call or short form on your website.

    • Increased Consumer Demand for Stability: In the current economic climate, consumers are showing a preference for financial stability and security. Savings accounts and Certificates of Deposit (CDs) cater to this demand by offering guaranteed returns and FDIC insurance, making them attractive alternatives to more volatile investment options.

    • Adapting to Consumer Financial Behavior: With the observed decline in HELOC interest and the general hesitancy towards major purchases, financial institutions can capitalize on the shift by promoting CDs and savings accounts, which are perceived as safer havens for consumers’ funds.

    • Leveraging Digital Engagement Trends: The insights from digital behavior analysis around HELOC can be repurposed to enhance the marketing of CDs and savings accounts. By understanding the peak engagement periods and device-specific trends, institutions can tailor their digital strategies to reach potential savers effectively.

    • Strategic Response to Lower Market Activity in Real Estate: Given the reduced activity in the real estate market and associated sectors, there’s a strategic opportunity for banks and credit unions to pivot towards offering products that do not require large upfront investments, such as CDs and savings accounts, aligning with current consumer spending caution.

    • The transition from traditional keyword-centric approaches to a focus on subject-matter expertise for the new Google Generative AI Search Algorithm. Content strategy for banks must now prioritize depth and quality of information.

    • Paid Search Recommendations: Better ads mean better Ad Rank

      • Every time someone does a search that triggers an ad that’s competing in an auction, Google calculates an Ad Rank. This calculation incorporates your bid and auction-time measurements of expected CTR, ad relevance, and landing page experience, among other factors. To determine the auction-time quality components, Google weighs many different factors. By improving the following factors, we can help improve the quality components of your Ad Rank:

        • Your ad’s expected clickthrough rate: This is partly based on your ad’s historical clicks and impressions (adjusting for factors such as assets and other formats that may have affected the visibility of an ad that someone previously clicked)

        • Your ad’s relevance to the search: How relevant your ad is to what a person searches for

        • The quality of your landing page: How relevant, transparent and easy to navigate your page is

    • Why ad quality matters

      • The quality components of Ad Rank are used in several different ways and can affect the following things:

        • Ad auction eligibility: Google’s measures of ad quality help determine the Ad Rank thresholds for your ad and whether your ad is qualified to appear at all.

        • Your actual cost-per-click (CPC): Higher-quality ads often lead to lower CPCs. That means you pay less per click when your ads are of higher quality.

        • Eligibility for ad assets and other ad formats: Ad Rank determines whether or not your ad is eligible to be displayed with ad assets and other ad formats, such as site links.

        • Overall, higher-quality ads typically lead to lower costs and more advertising success. The Google Ads system works best for everybody when the ads shown are relevant and closely match what customers are searching for.

    Conclusion

    The digital journey of HELOC consumers is increasingly shaped by their interactions with online platforms, mainly through mobile devices. For businesses selling HELOC, adapting to these digital trends is crucial. Emphasizing mobile optimization and strategic ad placements are essential to effectively reaching and engaging your target audience.

    About MHP/Team SI Banking

    MHP/Team SI has emerged as a “game changer” in the field of banking and financial services. As a Google Premier Partner, we are able to develop a results-focused performance marketing mix to promote banking and financial products to the right customers with measurable ROI.

    We seamlessly integrate traditional and digital marketing techniques to reach your potential customers where they live, work, and play. We use an FLA-compliant, data-driven approach to create personas, find the correct target audience, and leverage the correct channels.

    MHP/Team SI tailors our banking and financial marketing efforts to grow our client’s digital presence through content marketing, search engine marketing, and optimization.

    We target your message online, on smartphones, on Connected TV, and on HHID addresses by reaching customers at the household level. This allows us to meet customers at every stage of life with high intent to procure banking products and services.  We put you in the right place at the right time.