After two years of development, a teaser beta in the UK last year, and a potential lawsuit seeking to derail its US release, Google’s internally groundbreaking initiative that allows (for now) mortgage banks to buy not just clicks but a request for contact has launched. Called Google Comparison Ads, the product signals a huge directional shift inside of Google (one towards vertical development of their core search monetization) and a potential huge disruption to the online lead generation world.
In classic Google style, the announcement came via one lone blogger and their Inside AdWords blog. I’m still convinced that posts for the Inside AdWords blog are re-written by a specially trained team in Japanese culture who know how to say one thing but mean something very different. Taken at face value, the words sound pleasant, almost complimentary, but translated into their real meaning, they would come across quite differently. The Comparison Ads announcement is no exception. The post, like almost any focusing on improvements to the algorithm speak about value to the user and a more qualified lead for the advertiser. What they are really saying is that the vast majority of those spending money today don’t do a good job. Not surprisingly, those within the online lead generation space have had a lot to say, and the voices represent some of Google’s longest, biggest spenders who can tell you that it was hard enough to spend effectively on Google without actually having to compete with them. Both sides, not surprisingly, have many valid points.
(Photo credit: DoublePositive Blog)
Google Comparison Ads for mortgage is what every mortgage lead generator should have built but didn’t. (Read excellent non-partisan overview of the product from Nick Hedges of Leads360, who like LeadCritic, has hands-on mortgage industry experience.) And, it is because they didn’t build it that Google did. Saying that they should have built it doesn’t tell the whole side of the story. Should doesn’t mean could, and could is what separates Google from the aggregators whose results they displace. Dealing with Google is like dealing with the IRS. If they want something done, it gets done. Ignore the complexities involved with the actual quoting, and let’s focus on the buyers of the leads. Want lenders to buy anonymous leads, e.g., ones without the user’s real phone number? Want lead buyers to be ok with that phone number being tracked and the number deactivated after a while? Good luck being any other company who tries the same. It takes a Google to do it. Comparing others to Google or having them held to Google’s standards is itself a slight double standard.
Concerns about Google’s global positioning aside, we have an immense amount of respect for what was built, because it forces everyone to elevate their game and keep delivering a better product. This will cause some pain now but that Google speaks about leads is only a long-term benefit for lead generation. And not only do we respect the product, but we really respect the people who built it as they have lead generation and mortgage lead generation in their DNA. First choice for many would be to not have Google enter, but since they did, at least the product was created by someone any in the industry would trust.
As Google (indirectly) said in their announcement post this is just the beginning. Here are our takeaways on what Comparison Ads means:
- This is not about mortgages – a point we made when covering the Moretech / Lending Tree suit which blew the lid off the Google lead gen product, mortgages is the first vertical. But, it’s not even about verticals so much as Google’s stance on the way form-based lead generation is conducted today. There is a reason a landing page with a form can never get a 10 quality score. Forms themselves aren’t bad, but Google doesn’t like them to be the first and only goal. The user doesn’t click on an ad for “Compare Rates” because they want to see a simple thank you page and hear the phone ring. They want information, and if we can’t do it, Google will.
- It still has to monetize – Google can’t lose money on their inventory just because they want to deliver a certain experience. If Google Comparison Ads do not help Google make more money, they will not continue to receive the premium placement. The same holds true for the lead buyers. They don’t hate the current ecosystem and so long as they spend money, don’t count out the current aggregation marketplaces.
- It won’t work for everything – comparison ads work for things that can be compared; it requires standardized data and a more of a commodity product. Loans in general are a great fit as are credit cards and insurance. We weren’t the first to say or think that Bankrate got lucky by being taken private. Almost all verticals can use improvement, but the type of game changer created for mortgage isn’t as applicable to many service based industries.
- Lead generation is not Google’s DNA – this platform works amazingly well for mortgages and financial products. But, not only is it no sure thing for many others, outside of a really small team, Google doesn’t get lead generation. The companies who do, and those who can add a marketing services + aggregation function, still have lots of growth ahead. Buyers aren’t going to stop wanting face to face meetings, hand holding, and golf outings. Comparison Ads is a game changer but not a category killer.
- It’s just one spot – Google can’t capture every click and every conversion. They won’t stop taking money from others, and they aren’t marketers. That leaves many chances for others to continue to spend and capture those users who, as we all know, don’t actually want to do any work. They just want to fill out a form.