E-brokers ‘hoodwinking’ mortgage lenders

The UK’s major mortgage providers are losing millions of pounds every year through their failure to invest enough in search engine marketing, according to new research.

As a result, consumers are effectively being diverted to specialist intermediary and broker sites, with any sales made through these sites subject to commission.

Even when consumers did eventually find mortgage lenders’ sites, many were baffled by jargon, poor product information and the way content was presented.

Tom Wood, managing partner at online sales consultancy Foolproof, publisher of the research, says: “It could be argued that brokers and intermediaries are levying a stupidity tax on those mortgage providers that haven’t woken up to the realities of search engine marketing.”

Foolproof was set up in 1992 by Wood, former head of advertising at Virgin Money, and Peter Ballard, Virgin Money’s ex-marketing director. Clients include Royal Bank of Scotland, BSkyB, Alliance & Leicester and Virgin Group.

Online polling company YouGov studied 1,500 UK internet shoppers who were looking to buy mortgages, and Foolproof conducted 40 hours of face-to-face qualitative research with a random selection of these individuals. The results showed that 70 per cent of consumers using the Web to gather information about mortgages just wanted to find the mortgage lenders’ own websites. But those who relied on search engines to find the relevant sites often ended up going to broker or affiliate sites rather than the brand owners’ sites. In the face-to-face interviews, a significant number of consumers called the sites they were first directed to “spam sites” and complained about their lack of relevancy.

Google accounted for 62 per cent of searches covered by the study, Ask Jeeves 12 per cent, and Yahoo! ten per cent. Wood says the general message of the research seems to be that, for marketers in the UK mortgage industry at least, “search isn’t working”.

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