Google makes fuzzy commitment to comparison-based search

Comparison may be the next paradigm in search, but it’s unclear is search giant Google is committed to the new search method.

While they’re not yet available in Canada, several Google services could point to the future development direction of the company whose name has become a very synonymous with finding things online. They fall under the banner of Google Advisor.

In the U.S., it includes a comprehensive comparison engine featuring details on over 50 credit cards. Users can set preferences such as rewards, interest, annual fees and card types, and narrow down the list to the cards that fit their specific criteria, comparing different characteristics side by side. You can find cards that cater to those with poor credit, and search for personal and business cards, as well as those that cater to students.

And in the U.K., Google Advisor has recently entered the mortgage comparison space, allowing users to compare 5,000 different mortgage deals currently available directly from lenders and via brokers. It adds to the credit card and car insurance comparison tools already available through Google for the U.K. market.

Google Advisor lets you compare business credit cards – if you’re based in the U.S.

They could be potentially powerful tools for consumers but British digital marketing agency Greenlight said it expects the impact of the mortgage service to be minimal. It said the other Google Advisor services haven’t had much uptake yet, results aren’t included in Google’s classic web searches, and it’s not a service people readily associate with Google so they don’t go looking for it.

“Research from Greenlight shows that Google’s entry into both credit cards and car insurance had less than a one per cent impact on what people clicked on when they searched Google for those products,” said Greenlight COO Andreas Pouros, in a statement. “Google is as yet not a brand consumers immediately connect or associate with financial-related services and has some way to go before it achieves that status.”

And indeed, Google has already retrenched form some of its original Advisor services. When it initially launches the platform in the U.S. last year, it includes comparisons for mortgages, certificates of deposit, checking and savings accounts. Today, in the U.S. only the credit card tool is available, and mortgages have only been brought back to the U.S.

Google hasn’t explained why it reduced the services, or its future plans for advisor. One theory is that, while the services may be popular with users, they’re difficult to monetize under Google’s existing models. If Google doesn’t find a way and embrace comparative search though, someone else likely will.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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