Google closes its financial comparison service Google Compare

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Google is to shut down Google Compare, its financial comparison service, from March 23. The service will be closed in both the UK and US. 

On the face of it, the news will have competing comparison sites jumping for joy, as Google Compare constituted a major threat to their own business models, and their visibility in the search engines.

When Google introduced the service, there was plenty of concern from existing players in the market that it was a conflict of interest.

This is because, as well as taking money from comparison sites for PPC ads, it was promoting its own comparison service, often more prominently.

We can see this below, with a screenshot taken today for a very high value search term.

Google compare serps

According to a letter obtained by Search Engine Land, Google told Compare Partners that “the Google Compare service itself hasn’t driven the success we hoped for.”

In addition:

“…we’ve decided that focusing more intently on AdWords and future innovations will enable us to provide fresh, comprehensive answers to Google users, and to provide our financial services partners with the best return on investment.”

I asked Digital Consultant Carl Hendy for his thoughts on the news.

I also spoke to Heledd Jones, Head of Retention Marketing for insurance comparison site confused.com:

Why do you think Google is closing Compare?

Carl Hendy: 

Its a little too early to know why they shut down Google Compare and we shall probably never find the real reason why.

It would be nice to think that Google decided that it was unfair to favour its own products in the search results and pressure of ‘unfair advantage’ from various country governments resulted in Google backing down.

However the cynic in me and the coincidental timing of the new Four Adwords listings for commercial queries makes me believe that Google will financially be better off whilst at the same time keeping those large financial and travel Adwords spenders happy.

Heledd Jones: 

In the UK they’ve probably found it more difficult to compete against four big price comparison brands than they thought they would, as we all have high brand awareness, and years of expertise in the area.

Will other insurance sites/competitors be opening the champagne today? Or will Google have other plans?

Carl: 

I wouldn’t open the champagne too soon. Google has a habit of misdirecting everyone.

It has collected vast amounts of data through these compare tools and I can’t see Google not monetising that data.

Everyone celebrated when Google penalised the acquisition of BeatThatQuote (a site which does not exist anymore) only for Google to then release its own comparison tools fairly soon afterwards.

Heledd: 

Obviously we hope that we’ll see a positive impact, but competition can be a good thing. In fact, over the years by Google operating in the price comparison market they have arguably helped grow and develop the marketplace.

So it will be interesting to see what impact it has, especially as the Adwords listing order will be changing around the same time.

How much of an impact did Google Compare have on your business while it was running?  

Heledd: 

They have had very little impact on us as we were already well established before they came along.

As I said earlier, competing with four big brands – they really needed to invest in brand advertising if they’d wanted to have a bigger impact.

 

In summary

The news will be welcome for some, in the short-term at least. For one thing, we may see a little more of the organic results in this vertical.

However, I imagine that Google has only made this move as it believes more can be made through ads than its own comparison service. It also avoids any scrutiny over unfair competition.

This post was originally published on Search Engine Watch

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