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30-second summary:

  • Adthena ranks SEM performance for companies across the credit card search landscape.
  • Each brand’s Search Intelligence Scores were calculated by averaging three categories of SEM success including market leadership, search excellence, and brand ownership. 
  • Bank of America top search results with a composite score of 94.
  • U.S. retailer Kroger, ties with American Express and Chase for 2nd spot on their list.
  • Major Credit card issuers struggle as U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and Discover miss out on the top 20. 

A recent study by Adthena ranked SEM performance for companies across the credit card search landscape. And while we would expect financial institutions to be leading the pack, this year many of the top brands also included retailers.

In order to compile the SEM rankings of 100 top brands, Adthena’s Search Intelligence Index benchmarked advertisers from August 6, 2019 through August 21 in a specific search market against their peers using its patented, AI-driven Whole Market View data model. 

Each brand’s Search Intelligence Scores were calculated by averaging three categories of SEM success including market leadership, search excellence, and brand ownership. 

The brands’ composite scores, along with their three dimension scores, fall between 0-100, with 50 being the average score across all competitors in a search market. Each dimension of the score was determined by underlying metrics that most directly benchmark companies against each other. 

The score analyzed more than 600,000 generic and brand terms across the Google search landscape to provide the most in-depth assessment of search performance in the credit card market. 

Content produced in collaboration with Adthena.

Bank of America tops search results

Intuition would hopefully say that financial institutions would be the most likely to top the list of credit card search results. Bank of America held true to that, coming in at number one with a composite score of 94. 

Besides Bank of America, however, two other major banks actually tied with an unlikely competitor: Kroger.

Kroger ties with AmEx and Chase

Kroger is the largest U.S. supermarket chain by revenue, and the store beat out all other retailers in the credit card search market. Notably, they also tied with American Express and Chase.

To keep customers loyal to their store, the company offers rewards cards with debit, credit, and prepaid options. And to make sure customers know about the value of those rewards cards, the supermarket’s ads and messages appeal directly to specific customers’ needs during different points in their buyer’s journey. 

According to the CEO of Kroger personal finance and corporate strategy integration lead, Gary Millerchip, Kroger’s SEM strategy is part of a greater move to raise awareness of the brand’s myriad payment options. “Kroger is redefining the customer experience by creating innovative ways to pay at our stores and online,” Millerchip says. 

Other retailers that made the top ten included supermarket chain Sam’s Club (#5), technology outlet Best Buy (#6), hotel chain Hilton (#9), and Home Depot (#10). 

Many credit giants missing

In 2018, 78% of active credit card accounts were enrolled in online portals, up from 55% in 2014, which should mean that major credit card companies are rushing to perfect their SEM strategies. 

However, of the eight largest credit card issuers in the U.S., three are noticeably absent from the forefront of the overall search landscape. 

U.S. Bank was surprising low on the index, coming in at number 89. Wells Fargo was near the middle at 49, and Discover just missed cracking the top 20. 

While these three banking behemoths rang up more than $418 billion in transactions last year, combined, they are falling short in the search market when compared to their biggest competitors like American Express, Chase, and Citibank. 

Their low rankings in the index indicate that these companies may not be prioritizing SEM as part of their overall marketing strategy. And given the fact that digital engagement is growing across all age groups and platform types, the failure of major credit institutions to seek out new opportunities to connect online seems like an oversight. 

Airlines are also absent

The airline industry seems to constantly make headlines for failing to turn a profit, but credit seems to be one area where airlines stand to both generate revenue and foster customer loyalty. 

A study by Financial Brand found that in 2018, 13 percent of credit card applications were for cards with airline miles rewards

Yet, Delta is the only airline represented at the top of the credit card search market. Interestingly, other popular airlines, like American, SkyWest, and JetBlue, were actually completely absent from the search landscape. 

While connecting with customers online should be a top priority for all brands, connecting with searchers actively seeking rewards seems like a smart way for struggling industries to win customer loyalty. 

To learn more about how top brands’ SEM strategies stack up, download the “CMO Search Intelligence Brief.”

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