As of January 9th, 2017 Match Media is now Blue 449

Google’s Mortgage Calculator: A Step Towards Financial Domination?

It’s well-established that one of Google’s primary objectives is to create the ultimate user experience for all of its customers.

By customer, we mean any Google-user. That could be an Android device user, a Chrome Book owner, YouTube video watcher, AdWords manager or, simply, a Google search engine user.

In relation to the search engine, Google asks its users to imagine that every time they perform a search on Google, they are purchasing a product directly from them – that product is the search engine results page (SERP).

Combine Google’s wish to provide every customer (searcher) with the best customer experience from buying their product (a SERP) and it becomes clear as to why, over the years, Google have been expanding and developing the SERP to become an all-encompassing information hub.

Additions including the Knowledge Graph, local and geographical-based results and rich snippets – despite many types of rich snippet results now obsolete – all show progression by Google and their desire to give the user precisely the answer they are searching for, whether that is by adding or removing elements of the SERP.

The image below, for the search query “bread”, shows these SERP additions in action. The knowledge graph provides images, descriptions and nutritional information about bread. There are results based on current location, showing Sydney-based bread bars, recipes, including their ratings, and recent bread-related news and videos.

Google search result page for bread

However, can these SERP and product expansions become a step too far in terms of monopolising consumer’s internet usage? Despite Google wanting to provide the best experience for users every time they perform a search, their perception of what is better for the user is going to be biased if they manufacture their own products.

The Impact for Financial Companies

Take one of their latest integrated product for example.

The first week of February saw the launch of Google’s integrated mortgage and interest calculator, which is instantly returned to the SERP when keywords such as “loan interest calculator” are entered in countries like the UK and USA.

Google's integrated Mortgage Calculator

This is likely to take traffic away from external, expert financial websites and keep users on Google if the user is looking to perform a simple calculation.

Financial websites often like to capitalise on keywords surrounding calculators, financial planning and advice, as it gives them an opportunity to reinforce their brand with website users, meaning in the future the brand is recognised and at the forefront of a user’s mind when they come to make a decision on purchasing a product if they have already used their calculator.

By not using a recognised financial expert’s website the door is open for Google to position themselves as financial experts by providing quick and easy-to-read answers to your financial questions.

Although Google may not claim to be financial experts, they already have a working relationship with mortgage advisers – you can complete a form on Google’s mortgage comparison section to have an independent mortgage adviser contact you – and Google provides a comparison engine for financial products including mortgages, car insurance, credit cards and travel insurance.

Search Result Page for Mortgage Calculator

Google in Finance in Years to Come?

Looking beyond 2015, could this be Google weighing up interest by its customers in purchasing financial products through Google? Or is Google happy to sit back on a small percentage of commission from their referrals to external financial products?

In 2014 Google’s revenues were over US$66b, so there is no shortfall of capital behind the online powerhouse to provide their own extremely competitive financial products. Maybe Google Bank branches will suddenly start to appear on our high streets with incomparable interest rates and, undoubtedly, an ingeniously simple, yet futuristic-feeling, method of handling personal finances.

They have already tried to make inroads into the financial markets with Google Wallet, however that particular product hasn’t been the success they would have hoped for, as PayPal is still the digital wallet frontrunner.

Tim Bajarin discussed why Google Wallet has been a failure due to its poor business model, banks not agreeing to feed back user’s personal data for targeted advertising purposes and, ultimately, consumers feeling uneasy that Google can have access to a whole lot more personal information, including sensitive financial data and spending habits.

Perhaps Google are satisfied with their position in the financial market and their existing share of mobile payment users and current offering in the SERPs is enough penetration to focus on other areas such as producing hardware offerings.

Knowing Google and following their expansion and growth over the past years it wouldn’t surprise me if they were plotting some innovative method of taking the financial industry by storm and shaking up the way many of us perform our financial management.

Not for Australians

Unfortunately, as with many of Google’s integrated products, the calculators are only available in specific countries. In fact, they are barely available anywhere else in the world other than the USA and the UK.

Maybe there isn’t the demand for such a product in other countries. Maybe Google feel the market size in Australia and similar countries doesn’t merit such investment and they won’t see the necessary ROI.

Perhaps Google don’t think the public perception of their brand is strong enough to be able to persuade their users that they are a dependable and reliable source to provide input on people’s financial decisions – after all, Google’s just a search engine, right?

Why it Matters to Match Media

At Match we’re the experts at Search and Digital. Anything and everything to do with Google developments is very important to us and to our clients. It means we can read between the lines about particular product launches to determine the full scale of impact it will have on our client’s websites and their industry.

With financial industry innovations and transformations, Match has a vested interest in keeping up with, and ahead of, the game, particularly from a Search perspective. We work alongside some extremely prestigious financial corporations, who all provide various calculators for their visitors.

Regardless of Google products being launched in Australia or not, every update and release is still crucial for us to understand. When the time comes for that product to be rolled out to Australia we can quickly and efficiently implement any necessary changes and strategies to minimise potential negative implications and make full use of the tools available to us in order to maximise client’s ROI before any of their competitors.