Google is aiming to take on the big boys in the Price Comparison website war, having acquired BeatThatQuote last year, the search engine behemoth has now begun to compare prices across the markets, integrated within the main search engine platform. Jon Beeston, director of new product innovation at Adobe offers his response to the development.
Google’s price comparison ad unit going live has created a lot of speculation about what it means for the marketplace – whether it is an abuse of Google’s marketing position is open to debate; a credit card provider might not think so, but a comparison website certainly would. It’s certainly promoting its own product in a way that competing sites can’t with theirs. Regulators have the power to stop this from happening, but it is a slow, considered process (as it should be) when the government decides to get involved in business practices. As for advertisers, whether they can do anything about it depends on the company – clearly some brands, like Barclaycard and Nationwide, want to be involved in this, otherwise Google wouldn’t have launched this new unit. Concerns may be raised that Google is risking annoying its customers with the use of images alongside the ads, but I think the more pressing question will be whether it’s annoying its users - essentially a search on ‘compare credit cards’ will deliver a page full of adverts on most screen resolutions.
Google sees the flow of ad money from credit card brands to comparison sites, some of which comes to Google via Adwords. Clearly if it can disintermediate in that process, there’s more money to be made. The comparison services at the moment include travel and financial products, but it’s quite possible this could easily extend into other industries. Under the Larry Page era, Google has shown itself to be much bolder in trying and pushing new things and killing stuff that isn’t working, but travel and finance are the titans when it comes to comparison and I think Google has a long way to go before it can say they’ve mastered them. My hunch is they will continue to focus on them before going after other verticals.