As a general rule in digital, it seems that when Google and Yahoo get involved in something it is a pretty good sign that it is important.

After many years of skirting around the fringes of performance marketing, recent product launches from these two online advertising behemoths leave no doubt that Online lead generation is finally ready to step out of the shadows and into the limelight.

Over the course of the last 18 months, Google have made a few clear moves into the world of online lead generation as they look to carve out new income streams beyond the click. 

First there was the launch of Google Advisor in the US for personal finance and then earlier this year Google launched a new lead generation style ad extension.

Earlier this year there was also the acquisition of UK lead generation site for almost £40m. Although the sum involved is Google’s equivalent of finding some change down the back of the sofa, the intent was clear: online lead generaiton is important and will be part of a wider strategy in the coming years. 

And over the last few weeks we have finally learned what Google had spent all its coppers on. It promptly shut down the lead selling arm of and launched a mortgage comparison lead generation product across the UK. 

Any user that goes to Google and searches for very generic mortgage related keywords such as “mortgage quote” or “mortgage comparison” (which coincidentally are some of the highest traffic keywords in the UK) will see a link to a Google branded mortgage comparison search.

I will let you judge for yourselves as to the virtues (or not) of the consumer experience but again one thing is clear, online lead generation is big news at Google HQ.

Speaking of coincidences, it also surfaced this week that Google is not the only company interested in online lead generation.  

A post on Seach Engine Land last week revealed that Yahoo is also at it. It has launched a new ad unit called “Cost Per Lead for Search” (I wonder how they came up with that name?).

This allows advertisers to capture up to six fields of information from interested consumers and Yahoo charges them only for “verified submitted user data” on a Cost Per Lead basis.

Again, the merits of these programmes and whether they will be successful will only be realised over the course of the next few months but one thing is clear: online lead generation has hit the big time.