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Google Closes Mortgage Rate Search

FEB 1, 2012 6:06pm ET
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After significantly reducing its geographic footprint in November, Google “discontinued” its mortgage rate advertising platform Wednesday, just two years after the search engine entered the online rate search and lead generation market.

The platform, originally called “AdWords Comparison Ads,” and was later, “Google Advisor Mortgage,” once it was rolled into Google’s suite of financial services search products, was shut down due to poor performance, according to a prepared statement from the search engine company.

"We’ve been prioritizing our product efforts across Google, which means taking a hard look at products that haven’t been as successful as we would have hoped,” spokeswoman Winnie King said in an email. “To that end, we’ve closed down the mortgage search feature of Google Advisor and are focused on building continued improvements into the rest of the product.”

In a follow-up call, King said the decision was limited to the mortgage search platform and doesn’t impact the other Google Advisor product searches, which include credit cards, certificates of deposit and checking and savings accounts. King could not say whether the U.K. version of the mortgage search platform would continue.

In November, Google shut down Google Advisor Mortgage in all but Alabama, Alaska, California, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. At the time, both lenders who paid to advertise their rates on the platform, as well as mortgage technology vendors who were integrating product and pricing engines into Google’s platform, believed the closure was a temporary suspension of the platform, rather than a precursor to its ultimate demise.

“It was explained to me as being a temporary transition to allow them to better focus in on a smaller market and then once they’ve proven out the enhancements that they want to make, they want to thoughtfully broaden it back to the stage where it is national again,” said Bruce Backer, president of Appleton, Wis.-based PPE vendor LoanSifter, in a December interview with Mortgage Technology.

Since Mortgage Technology first reported on Google’s wavering involvement in the mortgage rate search market, lenders and vendors say they’ve been strong-armed into not speaking publicly about the platform.

Multiple lender advertisers and PPE vendors declined to speak to Mortgage Technology for this story, citing pressure from Google.

One lender, who spoke to MT on condition of anonymity, said his company was still advertising its rates on the site on Tuesday, but when he tried to log on to the system Wednesday, he received a message that the platform was shut down.

Lenders didn’t receive prior notice of the shutdown and when they tried to reach Google representatives, the lender said he received an automated message warning of slow response times due to the flood of inquiries. The lender believes the small scope of the rate search product may have contributed to its decline.

“It could be that it was too small for them to deal with,” the lender said, adding “mortgage is also kind of a dirty word across the industry.”

The rate search platform’s closure comes a year after Google disabled a feature that let users search for sale and rental properties on Google Maps.

Advertising representatives for real estate listing portal Zillow, which runs a competing mortgage rate search platform called the Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, jumped on the news, alerting lenders via email of the demise of Google’s platform.

Word of Google’s plans to create a mortgage rate search product first surfaced in August 2009, when LendingTree, which offers its own mortgage rate search product, sued Mortech, alleging the Lincoln, Neb.-based PPE vendor was violating a noncompete agreement by helping Google launch its rate search platform. The federal lawsuit was later settled out of court.

In an October 2009 post to its Inside AdWords blog, Google first openly discussed the rate search platform. Google formally launched the rate search portal in January 2010.

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