If questions lingered about Google's commitment to lead gen, the world's most popular search engine answered them this week with the launch of Google Compare for mortgages.

The service, which helps consumers shop for a mortgage from multiple lenders, was announced earlier this year and is now available in California. Google plans to launch in other states soon.

With Google Compare for mortgages, mortgage lenders can market themselves to potential customers on a cost-per-lead (CPL) basis, not the cost-per-click (CPC) model that earns Google billions of dollars a year.

The CPC model can be particularly expensive for mortgage lenders. According to WordStream, mortgage-related search terms are among the most expensive to advertise against on AdWords, with a top cost-per-click (CPC) of over $47.

Google Compare for mortgages matches consumers to lenders based on the type of loans consumers are looking for. As Nicolas Wk, Google Compare's Director of Product Management, explained in a pitch to potential advertisers:

...people searching for mortgages on their smartphone or desktop computer can now find you, along with a real-time, apples-to-apples comparison of rate quotes from other lenders — all in as little as a minute.

Borrowers can also see ratings and read helpful reviews, and enter relevant information — like loan amount, estimated credit score, or home value — to receive rate quotes that match their needs.

They can then visit your website to apply directly online or over the phone through one of your agents or loan officers.

Unlike AdWords, Google Compare advertisers cannot pay for better placement. "Payment isn't a factor in ranking or eligibility," Wk says.

Ironic timing

It's no surprise that Google Compare has targeted some of the most lucrative and competitive online markets, including insurance and credit cards, but Google Compare is not the only product through which the search giant is expanding beyond search and creating angst among competitors that rely on Google for traffic. 

In fact, how Google manages its core product – search – is still a sore spot for many.

Ironically, some of the company's most outspoken competitors, Yelp and TripAdvisor, have in the past week called Google out for pushing their results under Google's for navigational search queries on mobile devices.

In some cases, the brands associated with the navigational search query were essentially buried in the SERPs.

According to Google, a bug associated with "a recent code push" was responsible for the behavior reported, and was in the process of being fixed, but some of those affected aren't buying Google's explanation.

As Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman sees it, "Far from a glitch, this is a pattern of behavior by Google."

Embracing Google as a frenemy

Concerns about potential conflicts of interest are bound to increase as Google launches products like Google Compare for mortgages, but not all of the companies that could be negatively affected by Google's behavior and new initiatives are publicly up in arms. Instead, some seem to be embracing Google.

Case in point: Zillow and LendingTree, which themselves offer mortgage shopping tools, partnered with Google on Google Compare for mortgages. 

Doug Lebda, LendingTree's CEO, sung the praises of Google's new offering.

"We're thrilled to be a part of Google Compare, further helping to connect prospective borrowers with qualified mortgage providers as the transition to online lending accelerates," he stated in a press release.

While one might suspect that behind closed doors Google's frenemies are less thrilled about the situation, it is clear that Google's footprint will only continue to expand and the growing number of companies that could find their businesses disrupted by Google will have to make a choice: find ways to embrace Google and its new offerings or hope against hope that regulators will eventually reign it in. 

Patricio Robles

Published 25 November, 2015 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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