For con­sumers and per­for­mance mar­keters who may not be aware of Google Com­par­i­son Ads (GCA), it’s a prod­uct that enables users to com­pare mul­ti­ple and rel­e­vant offers from var­i­ous adver­tis­ers. Google Com­par­i­son Ads orig­i­nated in the UK mar­ket­place with the mort­gage ver­ti­cal and was first brought to the US in Octo­ber 2009. After pos­i­tive user and adver­tiser feed­back, Google expanded the offer­ing to credit card and bank­ing prod­ucts (CDs, sav­ings and check­ing accounts) in late 2010. Thus far the mort­gage prod­uct has already entered the paid model, but credit cards/banking prod­ucts are still in an ‘alpha’ free trial period for advertisers.

As always, Google is lead­ing the way in look­ing for inno­v­a­tive ways to pro­vide more rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion to the con­sumer mar­ket­place, which should in turn help per­for­mance mar­keters reach prospects who are most inter­ested in their prod­ucts and ser­vices. At first glance, GCA brings speed, trans­parency, usabil­ity and pri­vacy to the PPC (Pay per click) ecosys­tem. But is this com­ple­men­tary to reg­u­lar paid search or is it in fact com­pet­ing? Let’s take a deeper look at the pros and cons of this extension. 

How GCAs are a marketer’s “friend”

Cus­tomiza­tion and stan­dard­iza­tion. Google has opted to stan­dard­ize the way infor­ma­tion is pre­sented and the type of mate­r­ial adver­tis­ers are able to pro­vide within a prod­uct schema. This min­i­mizes clut­ter, bait and switch offers and gives a fair assess­ment of each major brand. Google has also made this prod­uct for direct mar­keters only; no list­ing sites/aggregators are part of the cur­rent pro­gram. Out­side of clean and con­cise infor­ma­tion, mar­keters are able to cre­ate cus­tom offers based on their goals and objec­tives to find the cus­tomers who will pro­vide the great­est life­time value to their busi­ness. Adver­tis­ers cre­ate ‘rules’ for spe­cific card/customer cri­te­ria and if these inputs are met, they will bid the max­i­mum lead price they are will­ing to pay to cap­ture that customer. 

1Tar­get­ing and Con­ver­sion Rates. Not only are direct mar­keters able to cus­tomize their offers, but this allows them to tar­get users at a much more gran­u­lar level. Prospects have a vari­ety of inputs to ‘pre-define’ what they are look­ing for and their cred­it­wor­thi­ness. Giv­ing users the abil­ity to search on a num­ber of rel­e­vant attrib­utes allows Google to serve up more tar­geted ads. This fun­nels more valu­able leads to adver­tis­ers based on how users have ‘pre-qualified’ them­selves. It’s a win-win sit­u­a­tion as users receive an offer that matches their spe­cific needs and increases the propen­sity for an instant ‘approval’.

Using inter­nal Effi­cient Fron­tier data thus far, a major finan­cial ser­vices client has seen an approx­i­mate lift of 120% in qual­ity of con­ver­sion in com­par­i­son to reg­u­lar Paid Search: 


Vis­i­bil­ity and Cus­tom UI. For adver­tis­ers who opt into GCA, there is a sep­a­rate dash­board sim­i­lar to that of Google AdWords. Like set­ting up a typ­i­cal account, it is straight­for­ward, pain­less and intu­itive, and your Google Account Man­age­ment team can facil­i­tate this. Mar­keters can also set up a prod­uct feed via FTP to ensure that prod­uct offers are rel­e­vant and up-to-date with accu­rate finan­cial cre­den­tials. Most impor­tantly, you can use the toolset to cre­ate cam­paigns, rules, bids, etc. The work­flow is imi­ta­tive again of AdWords – it is easy to view a list of prod­uct offer­ings, set rules and con­di­tions and of course review your lead infor­ma­tion. Using track­ing and lead IDs per prod­uct, Google not only iden­ti­fies dupli­cate leads, but also only charges you once within that ses­sion upon ‘click­ing out’ on the “apply now” but­ton. Lastly, they allow third-party pig­gy­back cer­ti­fied track­ing to fol­low users through the entire con­ver­sion funnel. 

How GCAs can be a marketer’s “foe”:

Pay­ment Model. Credit cards and bank prod­ucts are cur­rently in beta trial, in which all gen­er­ated leads are pro­vided free-of-charge to par­tic­i­pat­ing adver­tis­ers. Although that is delight­ful in the short-term, Google is rapidly approach­ing the paid envi­ron­ment. From what we know cur­rently, posi­tion and place­ment is arbi­trar­ily deter­mined by a vari­ety of hier­ar­chi­cal inputs, using credit cards as an exam­ple: APR, Period and Bid Price. With the ‘pay­ment model,’ adver­tis­ers will need to bid above a floor price to enter the auc­tion. The prod­uct that makes the auc­tion will appear based upon the user’s inputted cri­te­ria and sort pref­er­ence. Some per­for­mance mar­keters might find this counter-intuitive to bid­ding a pre­mium for top place­ment, for if a user changes the fil­ters and or sort­ing options, they may in fact be try­ing to achieve posi­tion 1, but in real­ity, secure posi­tion 3. Google has been urg­ing adver­tis­ers to not look at Com­par­i­son Ads as a way to pay to be in top posi­tion, but instead to look at the bid­ding method­ol­ogy as pay­ing for what the lead is worth and thus they should be happy with the qual­ity of the lead.  

Opti­miza­tion. Another major con­cern for adver­tis­ers and a jus­ti­fied one at that is the lack of Qual­ity Score in the paid prod­uct. Google Project Man­agers have said that they will def­i­nitely be look­ing into this down the road, but there are no cur­rent plans in the imme­di­ate pipeline. Thus with no Qual­ity Score com­po­nent, larger mar­keters may have more lever­age (invest­ment) to inflate the mar­ket­place and increase the min­i­mum reserve CPC to obtain a par­tic­u­lar posi­tion. Cur­rently, Google is choos­ing not to pass crit­i­cal ‘value para­me­ters’ via the API to plat­forms and nec­es­sary key­word infor­ma­tion for mod­el­ing and bid­ding appro­pri­ately based on con­ver­sion data. As a net result, it is imper­a­tive that agen­cies and per­for­mance mar­keters col­lab­o­ra­tively work together to inter­pret con­ver­sion data and pat­terns to effi­ciently and effec­tively bid in a rules-based environment.

Google Com­par­i­son Ads Posi­tion 1 and CPCs. At this point in time, Google is only serv­ing Com­par­i­son Ads against a lim­ited num­ber of upper fun­nel generic terms (i.e. “credit cards”, “mort­gages”, “cer­tifi­cate of deposit” etc.). When a user phys­i­cally enters this query, one will notice that Google auto­mat­i­cally sup­plants itself in the first posi­tion, which pushes down the rest of the spon­sored ads. 

Although this does not arbi­trar­ily inflate CPCs in the spon­sored auc­tion, adver­tis­ers are los­ing real estate on the SERP and poten­tially a qual­i­fied prospect to a com­peti­tor via Com­par­i­son Ads. Yes, the prod­uct was cre­ated to improve the user expe­ri­ence and pro­vide valu­able leads to per­for­mance mar­keters, but it is crit­i­cal for agen­cies to mon­i­tor the SOV gained and or lost by the intro­duc­tion of this tool. And of course, with­out the auc­tion con­trol of QS, and lim­ited vis­i­bil­ity to opti­mize bids, will that poten­tial prospect via GCA be more or less expen­sive than a stan­dard paid search event? The other uniden­ti­fied vari­able is how many key­words Google will decide to include in the list to enable Com­par­i­son Ads.

Like any new prod­uct, there is still a large amount of mys­tery about Google Com­par­i­son Ads. Google has been a bit ambigu­ous about pro­vid­ing trans­par­ent details on the auc­tion mar­ket­place in GCA and causal­ity within the spon­sored results. To be fair, any prod­uct will con­tinue to evolve over time to adapt to a cap­i­tal­is­tic mar­ket­place. Effi­cient Fron­tier is proac­tively div­ing into our client data, so look for future blogs on this topic as we bet­ter under­stand the finer points of this Google product.

–Mike Fog­a­rty
Account Manager