Thanks to information in LendingTree’s lawsuit (embedded below) against its rate-engine provider, Mortech (see note 1), which was picked up by the NY Times, then echoed across the Internet, Google appears to be looking at providing loan rate comparison/aggregation directly in its search results. The service appears to have been beta-tested in the UK more than a year ago (screenshots here).
It’s no surprise Google would make this move. It’s long worked on ways to help online shoppers compare products and services. For example, a search today on “air conditioner” displays the usual targeted text ads on the top and right, but also shows various “shopping results” in the middle of the page (see screenshot below). There are even catalogue-like thumbnails in the right-hand column, something I’d not noticed before.
Financial services, with heavy search volumes, are an obvious area for expansion by the search giant.
The LendingTree lawsuit says the service may launch within the next 30 days. Google says only that it is “currently working on a small ad unit test that will run against a limited number of mortgage-related search queries in the U.S.”
What it means to NetBankers: The service, if successful, could help users streamline their rate-research process by eliminating a visit to a loan-comparison site. But it’s not likely to have a material impact on banks, credit unions and other mortgage lenders. There will just be more advertising dollars ending up in Google’s pocket at the expense of other financial lead-gen sites such as BankRate.com, Interest.com and LendingTree, of course.
Search results for “air conditioner” (27 Aug 2009, 3 PM Pacific, from Seattle IP address)
1. LendingTree claims that Mortech, an info provider to LendingTree, would be in violation of its contract if it provided similar technology to Google. See LendingTree’s press release on the matter.