Saturday, October 31, 2009

Google Comparison Ads: A product review

buzz this
After a few minutes of playing around with Google Comparison Ads one thing is very clear. It is the slickest, most user-friendly consumer mortgage-quoting product on the market by a considerable margin. Regardless of whether or not Google has the ability to push more traffic towards their product based on the dominance of their search engine, this would be a winner. It is really that good. Because Google does have a means of directing a large chunk of the Internet’s traffic to this product overnight I believe that this is one of the first products that Google has developed that has revenue potential approaching that of Adwords and Adsense.

So what aspects of Google Comparison Ads do I think are so great?

  1. The way that quotes are delivered is different from anything else I have ever seen. As one changes one’s quote criteria, the quotes presented to me change on-the-fly. For instance, if I change my credit rating from “Very good” to “Poor”, in less than a second the list of quotes that I am eligible for changes.

  2. The interface is extremely well thought out. Everything I need is on one page. The left hand quarter of the page is my form and the right hand three quarters is the mortgage results. In other words, to get what I am looking for I can stay on the same page. If I want a Purchase quote versus a Refi, I check a radio button and the form updates. I am not pushed to a new page. In fact, there are only two times that I am presented with a new page in the entire process. First, if I ask to see the “Loan details”, which is another extremely clear and well-designed page that makes it clear to me what the mortgage involves. Second, if I am eligible for more than 10 mortgage products, like in search, the results will be displayed on multiple pages. Although the user decides how the results are sorted i.e. by APR, Interest Rate, Monthly Payment, Lender fees or Name.

  3. The “help” provided is comprehensive and intuitive. If I want to do a refi and I’m unsure of the value of my home I simply click on a “Get a quick estimate” link which pops up an ajax bi-modal window on my screen in which I can enter my Street address and Zip code and get an instantaneous estimate and range on the value of my home. For my home the estimate seemed very accurate, more so than Zillow’s.

  4. There are two choices for getting in contact with a lender. You can call them directly or you can fill out your info in a two-field pop up box and they will contact you. This choice is important to most consumers; as is the fact that they are not passing information to companies that they don’t know; unlike the case for most of today's lead providers.

OK, so this is an incredibly slick product but what does it mean? I believe that the outstanding execution of this product has a few implications:

  1. As I’ve said before. Google Adwords is now a less viable option for mortgage lead providers. Most lead providers will not want to advertise next to a service that is superior to theirs.

  2. Mortgage brokers are going to struggle in a world where consumers can get instantaneous mortgage quotes online. Assuming that all of the lenders jump on this bandwagon, which I think they will need to, then I believe consumers will gravitate to this way of finding a lender versus going through a broker.

  3. In the long term this cannot be great news for mortgage pricing and product eligibility engines, especially the ones that focus on auto-quoting for brokers like Moretech and LoanSifter. Once Comparison Ads gets momentum, most lenders will quickly realize that to be successful they will need to provide real-time feeds of their mortgage rates. That will likely spawn other applications for the data. I think there is a business model associated with getting real-time quotes on your iPhone that someone should be developing, if Google isn’t already.

  4. As many have said, this might not stop at mortgage. Whether it is Google or someone else; this type of service and the way it has been executed could and probably should become the dominant method by which consumers connect with most financial services.

  5. Prices will come down. As we’ve seen for consumer goods when they are available on the Internet, the retail costs are lower and competition is much more fierce on price. As a consequence once lenders are stripped of some of the broker network I think the costs of mortgages (and other financial products) will come down considerably.

What google is doing as many people have commented is not completely new. It is an evolution of LendingTree’s model, has similarities to products that Bankrate offers and is going after exactly the same opportunity that Zillow’s mortgage marketplace is pursuing. However, I still think that Google’s product will be more successful and disruptive than many industry insiders would like to admit. Google may not have the first mover advantage here however time and again the company that wins in a new business category is the one who has first executer advantage. LendingTree, Bankrate and Zillow all have fantastic products, however Google’s first iteration seems to me executionally close to perfection.


  1. You might want to do a quick "google" on Mortech and Google. It looks like Mortech is providing the quotes for Google leads and LendingTree isn't happy about it.

  2. Anonymous,

    Yes, I do know all about Google and Mortech's alliance. I do think that Google Comparison Ads will put a nail in Moretech's coffin (although I also think it is a doomed business anyway). Who needs to use a quoting engine when all the information is provided by Google like this, if we're being honest, in this scenario brokers are less relevant too. The pricing engines that service lenders like NYLX and Optimal Blue that mainly serve lenders versus those that predominantly service brokers like Mortech should be much more resilient.

    I think that the bet that a company like Mortech must be making (if they thought this through strategically) is that they can get lots of customers to sign up with them to get access to Google leads and they will then sell them other software as the pricing engine business goes when Google can access to the rates directly from lenders. For Mortech this would only be a good strategic move if 1) Google worked more or less exclusively with Mortech (like LendingTree did), which Google has a history of not doing in the marketplace i.e. they don't usually single-partner because it distorts the market and has less value to Google to do so; or 2) Moretech had good software to offer alongside their pricing engine such as a robust lead management platform. Thus far Moretech's lead management software has been extremely basic and inadequate for any company who actually wants to manage leads properly, so I'm not sure that they will be able to transition a large customer base to this software and keep them either.

    Just my opinion, but I work for the industry's largest and best lead management platform so I am biased ;-)