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Post Blog: Never mind the meerkats

With Google unveiling its new car insurance comparison service, what can the other aggregators do to compete? Ben Gibson explains.

Meerkats

Google's mission is ‘to organise the world's information and make it universally acceptable and useful'. Its strategic planning and forecasting means that an ever-expanding web of apps, functions and services allows the company not only to ‘organise' the world's data but to create it.

Following the intelligent improvement of Google's general search engine functionality, and combined with the purchase of Beat That Quote in March 2011, it comes as no surprise that Google has continued to roll out its own comparison services.

After recent moves in travel with flight and hotel comparisons, the next key sector - finance - has seen the recent unveiling of Google Car Insurance.

Google Car Insurance is a comparative search app that rivals offerings from well-known companies such as Go Compare, Compare The Market, Confused and many other comparison sites.

Why did a company that already monopolises the majority of the online search market feel the need to expand into car insurance?

Search technology has to change with the times and Google recognises that a generic search engine no longer satisfies: near-purchase-ready users require specialist engines that provide more accurate answers, and marketers need to be able to provide this information in fewer clicks.

According to recent statistics, unsurprisingly, Google's share of the market for car-insurance related searched rocketed from 0% to 75% in its first day. A key contributor to this has to be that Google has given its Car Insurance app a dominant position on the page, above the first main organic listings.

This prime position will attract significant traffic and consequently draw traffic away from the existing comparison sites.

If existing sites are not already worried about the launch and competition from Google, they should be.

Google's app poses a challenge to the business models of these companies, and offers the real possibility that, in the same way that Google Shopping contributed to the decline of shopping comparison sites, Google's financial comparison services could do the same for the finance sector.

To survive, intermediaries need to catch a niche market which Google's catch-all doesn't sustain. However, if they are to contend in the general market, intermediaries must expand into new devices, opportunities and functionality, proving that their service is richer and quicker.

They should also secure partnerships and loyalty by starting membership and reward programmes.

That said, the current bug-bear of a specialist intermediary's specificity and expertise is going to be Google's ease of use. For consumers who are pressed for time and want a fast fix to their need, Google Car Insurance might just be the convenient place to go.

After all, we know how to work Google and we won't get any surprises with the layout of functions. Type ‘car insurance quote' into Google search and amid the many links stands a very simple toolbar.

What are consumers after when searching online for a quote? Surely something quick, convenient and simple; this is where Google is going to really excel.

For advertisers in the insurance market this will mean a greater dependence on one source for leads - Google - and less room for negotiation and competition for the rates for these leads.

If consumers already use and trust Google Maps, Google News, Google Play and Gmail, why not search for car insurance with Google too?

However, the real question is whether Google is hampering consumer choice.

Ben Gibson, managing director, The Search Agency UK

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