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Google Launches Compare For U.S. Car Insurance

     
11:02 am on Mar 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Google's latest move to become a comparison site took a step forward with Compare for car insurance in the U.S. Already operating a system in the UK for a few years, the roll out starts in the U.S. in California.

today we’re introducing Google Compare for car insurance in California, with more states to follow. This represents the newest addition to a suite of Google Compare products designed to help people make confident, more informed financial decisions.Google Launches Compare For U.S. Car Insurance [adwords.blogspot.com]
As Google Compare for car insurance rolls out to more states, we’ll also be introducing ratings and reviews, as well as local agent support for providers with agent networks. Participation in Google Compare is based on a flexible cost-per-acquisition (CPA) model, but payment isn’t a factor in ranking or eligibility.


Interestingly, the UK comparison sector, which is relatively mature, is becoming under greater scrutiny from lawmakers over the claims for savings and the ranking of the offers. Ranking, Google says is not purely based on payment. That is yet to be proven.

The comparison sector is a minefield for consumers, and I suspect this may only muddy the waters even more.
3:36 pm on Mar 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I bet American comparison sites are loving this news....
6:40 pm on Mar 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I bet American comparison sites are loving this news....

It's not just comparison sites. If it follows what happened with airlines, the insurance companies will now have to pay google to be listed in the tool. The tool that now occupies a spot that was once organic results.

Progressive, for example, used to rank well for terms that a searcher would use if they wanted to compare insurance prices.

Edit: I assume this is coming for other high CPC niches as well. Google did roll out a "compare mortgages" widget once, then pulled it back with no explanation. Maybe it will come back now.
8:53 pm on Mar 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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How greedy can a company become in this world? Are there limits?
11:45 pm on Mar 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Are there limits?

There are no limits and its the reason why we need regulations that are enforced. Without regulations, the only thing limiting Google is how much of the global economy they can consume. As Google continues their takeover of the internet, that will leave less choice for consumers at a higher price.
11:55 pm on Mar 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Are there limits?

No. They will stick their noses into every crack they could find and will pull out at will. It does not matter if it kills a niche, they could just replace it with TrustRank-ed sources later on if it does not pan out, and bleed the sites that actually have a clue thru AdWords.
1:45 am on Mar 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Are there limits?


I don't see any near-term limits. Since they don't pay investors a dividend, there's incredible pressure to maintain the same kind of growth that they've displayed in the past. Last year, I thought they were almost out of tricks to keep ad click growth outpacing traffic growth. I was wrong.

The long term limit would be either:

- How well all of this plays out, over time, with searchers. Is there a point where the average Joe finds google's search offering over commercialized?

or

- Once organic SERPS are mostly below the fold, the barrier of entry to compete with Google may be lower. Building a dynamic ad engine is cheaper than building a search engine :)

or

- Eventually, Google encroaches into some space that has deep enough pockets or deep enough influence to start some kind of MaBell-esque action.
6:11 am on Mar 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Are there limits?


Apparently so...they got called out for rich anchor text in the blog post they made by Barry Schwartz here: [seroundtable.com...]

and by Aaron Wall and others on twitter and then changed the original anchor text in the blog post. (see link above for the before and after screenshots)

It's beyond obvious now that they aren't just trying to organize the world's information. And no, I really don't see a limit on what space they will try to enter in the future. They've said they're not a search engine, they're a knowledge engine and now they're also a lead generation engine.
7:32 am on Mar 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I assume this is coming for other high CPC niches as well


I think you can safely assume that. We have had Google Flights, Google Hotels, Google Shopping and Google Wallet for some time already. Now we have car insurance comparisons which I suspect will soon be followed by:

Coogle Insurance (all non-automotive insurance comparisons)

Googe Real Estate (they have already bought sites in this sector)

Google Supermarket (online purchases of supermarket/grocery lines with orders being packeged by Google Robots (they have bought robot companies) and delivered in driverless cars and/or drones.

Google Finance (on online currency that has to be used for all purchasing of Google products and services and only recognized by Google Wallet)

Google Credit (a launch of Google's own credit card. If Richard Branson can do it so can Google..)

OK.... some of the above is purely unsubstantiated guesses.... but some is not. I suspect there is little doubt that Google is looking to dominate any form of online commerce which they think is big enough to give them a ROI.
12:01 pm on Mar 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Google Credit (a launch of Google's own credit card. If Richard Branson can do it so can Google..)


they already did that... and failed.

[support.google.com...]

but they still have the credit card compare up and running

[google.com...]


Anyone who still thinks google is their friendly supplier of free customers is a fool.

Get your customers before google does or suffer the consequences.
1:05 pm on Mar 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It's good to see that people in the USA are now starting to realise what we in Europe have known for years. Google needs reigning in. The problem is that practically every case against them in their home country has failed. Google's deep pockets have, of course, got nothing to do with that. Perhaps now your legislators will realise what a Googzilla they have nurtured.
4:59 pm on Mar 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It's beyond obvious now that they aren't just trying to organize the world's information.


Google's mission statement includes the phrase "and make it universally accessible and useful." Price comparisons certainly fit under that heading.

Evolution happens. Sometimes it's painful, as vendors of system utilities learned when Microsoft and Apple began including networking drivers, defraggers, text editors, and other goodies in their operating systems. Many of us would love it if Google, Bing, and other search engines went back to "10 [unadorned] blue links." But, as the old saying goes, "You can't stop progress"--and from a searcher's perspective, a search engine's insurance-rate comparison tool is progress.
5:53 pm on Mar 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It's good to see that people in the USA are now starting to realise what we in Europe have known for years.

I think even Google executives realize it too. It would explain the many executive departures, Brin and Page simultaneously selling off many of their shares and solid growth in good marketing channels outside of Google (Facebook, etc.).

Google is a greed driven company and is attempting to take too much of the pie. I liken them to a TV station during the rabbit ears days. There would be a lot of complaints if one of three TV stations, who had the most viewed shows, ran commercials for mostly companies that they owned. Or during the big bell days telephone companies listing other companies they owned first in the yellow pages. By all accounts this is criminal and abuse of their dominance. But as long as you pull the politicians strings, there's not much to stand in their way.

If Google is taking too much of your pie, try a different flavor because it might just be good. I've reallocated my marketing budget accordingly and would encourage others to abandon Google in the same way they have abandoned small businesses.
8:14 pm on Mar 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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You can't stop progress"--and from a searcher's perspective, a search engine's insurance-rate comparison tool is progress.


There are already a lot of well-evolved car insurance comparison sites, particularly here in the UK where they are tightly regulated. Can you please explain to me, in simple terms, just what exactly is 'progress', and where is the benefit to the searcher, when Google plants it's own un-evolved offering right on top of everybody else's?
11:25 pm on Mar 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Can you please explain to me, in simple terms, just what exactly is 'progress', and where is the benefit to the searcher, when Google plants it's own un-evolved offering right on top of everybody else's?


Surely those "well-evolved car insurance comparison sites" are able to attract traffic on their own, not just through third-party search engines.
1:45 am on Mar 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Surely those "well-evolved car insurance comparison sites" are able to attract traffic on their own, not just through third-party search engines.

So that's the litmus test?

Well if Google's service is held to that same "editorial" line of thinking, they'll get traffic to their offering without hardcoding it at the top of the organic search results - unlike their comparison offerings for flights, credit cards, hotel booking ads, etc.
2:43 am on Mar 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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But they have a right to hard-code their offering at the top of their SERPs. (At least, in the U.S. they do, and we're talking about a rate-comparison tool for the U.S. market.)
4:30 am on Mar 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Some arguments always work, my 9-yo nephews play similar games in a sandbox ;) 'Have a right' is usually second to last; the last one is: 'if you don't like it, move on.'
2:24 pm on Mar 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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What's to argue about? You may not like the fact that Google is launching a U.S. insurance-rate comparison site, but they get to do it, and they're going to do it. Complaining that search engines are horning in other people's territory (with rate comparators, answer boxes, or whatever) is like complaining that supermarkets and discount stores are hurting small druggists by having pharmacy departments, or that big gas-station chains are hurting the independent grocer by offering food. It may be therapeutic, but it's pointless (at least in the U.S., where antitrust law is intended to protect consumers, not businesses that want to keep the status quo).
2:39 pm on Mar 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Some arguments always work, my 9-yo nephews play similar games in a sandbox ;)

Very true. Yet others are so biased or self-absorbed by their own personal interests that they have only an argument to argue about.
4:32 am on Mar 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The comparison tool doesn't magically show up there after someone does a search. It's an abuse of power and greed. End of story.
4:27 pm on Mar 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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at least in the U.S., where antitrust law is intended to protect consumers


There's certainly two schools of thought on this. You're clearly in the "it's their business and they can do what they want" camp.

The opposing opinion is that Google is a monopoly, and thus, bound by some legal constraints within the U.S.

That brings up two high level points.

1. Is Google a monopoly? There's room for debate on this, of course, but even Google knows there's a potential issue here:


Senator Herb Kohl "But you do recognize that in the words that are used and antitrust kind of oversight, your market share constitutes monopoly, dominant -- special power dominant for a monopoly firm. You recognize you're in that area?"

Eric Schmidt "I would agree, sir, that we’re in that area....I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding of monopoly findings is this is a judicial process."


2. Assuming Google is a monopoly, what kinds of things does that restrict them from doing?

There's three big areas of coverage. The Sherman Act, the Clayton Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act. The Sherman Act seems the one most likely to be used against Google at some point in the future. There are at least some superficial comparisons you can make between "Microsoft Browser Bundling" and "Google steering traffic to their own benefit".

There are certainly strong opinions on both sides as to whether this argument has any merit. Trying to dismiss either point of view, out of hand, though, is just silly. There are compelling arguments on both sides.
5:06 pm on Mar 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I've seen some reports that speculate Google is entering the auto insurance industry so that they can eventually underwrite policies for their driverless cars. Will Google buy some oil companies, refineries, tire companies and auto repair facilities next to service these vehicles?

I don't really see any good in a search engine expanding into other markets. Yes, Google does use their search engine to promote other businesses they are involved in, which places everyone else in those industries at a major disadvantage. For example, Progressive Insurance Company invested heavily into offering consumers comparison services. I'm not surprised Progressive has not joined Google's comparison service yet nor would I blame them if they don't. However, because of Google's entrance into that market Progressive will likely have to join, pay and pass on those costs to their customers. Unlike other websites that offer comparisons, I think that once Google rolls this out across the United States their service will not be ranked organically but above everything else. That preferred treatment for Google's own services is something that should be investigated by the appropriate regulators.
6:55 pm on Mar 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Side note: all the various niche comparison sites that Google competes with are, generally speaking, large companies that pushed out smaller comparison sites to become what they are.

In the end, consumers will use what works the best for them, which a lot of times is going to come from companies with the resources to do more marketing, create better interfaces and write smarter back end code. It's unfortunate that this results in consolidation of so many online markets but it's been moving slowly in that direction since the beginning, subtract any big company from the equation and the space will be filled by another one.

There is almost no (non behemoth) online business with any kind of reasonable expectation of future security with their existing business model (whatever it may be). That is the reality of the internet. My advice: accept it and keep innovating as opposed to complaining about it.
12:09 pm on Mar 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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In the end, consumers will use what works the best for them

advice: accept it and keep innovating as opposed to complaining about it.


the problem there is how will we know about the new innovating products if google hard code their comparison engine to the top of the search results.

this move by google will crush innovation.
4:53 am on Mar 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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That is the reality of the internet. My advice: accept it and keep innovating as opposed to complaining about it.


That is an easy viewpoint to understand... but...

How much better off are we going to be when Main Street has no more travel agents, the real estate agents are gone, supermarkets have become packers of on-line orders, the car yards have gone, white goods and electonics are all purchased via Google Shopping and Amazon etc etc... and all those employees no longer have jobs?

Think I'm joking? At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, Google has the potential to wreak untold havoc on a bricks and mortar society that is not able to adapt at the same speed as Google at its technology.
6:06 am on Mar 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Whether or not we'll be better off is debatable. In any case there's no stopping it. Middlemen are becoming obsolete. A lot of jobs are going way, and a lot of new ones are being created.

It's not just Google, it's the digital world as a whole. The emerging collaborative economy (Uber, Airbnb, Zillow, Flexicar, etc.) is what's going to hurt brick and mortar. That and companies like Amazon that are able to do retail more efficiently, with less middlemen taking a cut.

Google's mission statement threatens information based online businesses. Business that organize information rather than create something unique.

Insurance comparison as an online industry was always doomed, of course it was going to get rolled into search. It makes sense for it to be. Same is true for a variety of other tools.

If Bing had any talent for innovation they'd have done it first. They definitely would have gotten around to it given time.
2:57 pm on Mar 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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How much better off are we going to be when Main Street has no more travel agents, the real estate agents are gone, (etc.)


Not everybody is going to buy insurance by using a rate-comparison tool, just as not everyone buys groceries, clothes, or prescription eyeglasses by comparing prices at online vendors. Some people will, but let's face it: Times change. My wife's grandfather sold life insurance door to door, collecting premiums in weekly dribs and drabs. You don't see too much of that these days.

Still, the relative benefits (or non-benefits) of internet price transparency vs. brick-and-mortar retailing are beyond the scope of this thread. Insurance-rate comparison tools aren't new, and Google isn't reinventing the world of insurance sales.
7:52 pm on Mar 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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By the way, The Economist has just published an article in its March 14th issue that should be required reading for anyone who wants to talk about insurance and the Internet (It mentions Google's comparison tool, which grew out of Google's purchase of BeatThatQuote.com in 2011):

RISK AND REWARD:
Data and technology are starting to up-end the insurance business

[economist.com...]
11:24 pm on Mar 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Interesting article. The conclusion seems to be that price comparison is doomed anyway. The money will go to whichever company utilises new technology in the best way. Google perhaps?