Big news in the online lead generation world—Google is no longer selling mortgage rate advertising to lenders in all but four states and the District of Columbia.
The unexpected move caught many lender advertisers off guard just days before Thanksgiving, and left them scrambling to fill the gap created by no longer being able to rely on the Google Comparison Ads platform for borrower leads.
The reasons for the shutdown are unclear, as Google isn’t returning media requests for comment. An anonymously written post on a lead gen blog claims Google shut down the platform because it was facing regulator scrutiny over licensing issues—that post was likely the genesis of rampant rumors among lenders that regulations shut down the site.
That argument doesn’t pass muster, given that Google isn’t a lender and only sells advertising and leads on its platform—not to mention the information that consumers provide on the platform is very basic and doesn’t even include Social Security numbers.
In fact, Zillow, which operates a similar rate search table it calls the Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, confirmed that it doesn’t need or hold any licenses for selling rate ads.
As Bruce Backer, president of LoanSifter, explained in the article, the shutdown allowed Google to take a step back and reevaluate the platform. The company has some “enhancements” it will roll out on the platform, first in the states that still list rates, and then nationally when the service comes back online.
What those enhancements could be is anyone’s guess. As I uncovered in a promotional video that Google shows prospective lender advertisers, the ranking system used to list rates has been on the company’s radar since at least the summer of 2010.
What do you think? Lenders: are there features or functions on Comparison Ads that you’d like to see improved? What are the best and worst parts of the platform? Does Google’s abrupt shut down make you rethink whether to invest your marketing budget with its rate table?