Beat That Quote, Car insurance Aggregator!

by rishil on March 16, 2011


Beat the Quote - Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sidelong/1908434227/

Beat the Quote - Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sidelong/1908434227/

Is Google screwing about with UK Car Insurance Autocomplete (or Suggest as we know it) results?

Maybe. And I have data to suggest it.

In my last post, I demonstrated how it is in fact possible to Manipulate Google suggest. I also pointed out that it is possible to do this for a number of reasons, one of them being increasing conversions by driving people to the right landing page by forcing autocomplete to suggest a Brand+Long Tail Result.

This may not sound so amazing to a number of people, but those working on big brands, this may make massive changes in increase revenue from the SERPs. I know cause I consult for big brands all the time. In fact, after brand suggest results change, often the second or third keyphrase highlighted ends up becoming the biggest referrer to a site. So there is a slight importance when it comes to Google suggest results.


Let me take it to a tangent, We know that google just bought an aggregator, Beat the Quote. Then promptly banned them in the SERPs for shady SEO practices. In fact I love the fact that when beating the quote, my two fav SEOs are ranking 1st and 2nd for the brand search :P

Can you smell conspiracy theory cooking? Yes? Still interested? Read on.

UK Ranks for Car Insurance

Car Insurance -  Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wysz/65251172/

Car Insurance - Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wysz/65251172/

Lets take the top 15 UK Results for Car Insurance. At the time of checking they were, in order:

  1. www.elephant.co.uk
  2. www.moneysupermarket.com
  3. www.co-operativeinsurance.co.uk
  4. www.morethan.com
  5. www.confused.com
  6. www.admiral.com
  7. www.kwik-fitinsurance.com
  8. www.swiftcover.com
  9. www.directline.com
  10. www.churchill.com
  11. www.sheilaswheels.com
  12. www.esure.com
  13. www.gocompare.com
  14. www.uswitch.com
  15. www.privilege.com

Got that? OK. They ALL Rank for car insurance. And apart from Kwik Fit, ALL have run some seriously large TV campaigns. So all BIG brands when it comes to car insurance. I guarantee they ALL receive huge volumes of brand search AS WELL AS traffic for “Car Insurance”.

Why is that important to emphasise? Well, I am trying to build a plausible relationship between these brands and the phrase, “car insurance”.

Google Autocomplete For UK Car Insurance Brands

Swift Cover - Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/glenscott/3206069688/

Swift Cover - Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/glenscott/3206069688/

By now you may know what I am hinting at, but bear with me, let me explain.

Like any SEO that plays with the SERPs, I and a bunch of others keep an eye on shifting SERPs and even the smallest interesting tit bits. A couple of people in my circle pointed out that they have been looking at Google Suggest a bit more after reading my post. And that they noticed something very strange. A number of the Brands in the Car Insurance niche they were monitoring, have lost (yes LOST!) the autocomplete “car insurance” addition to their brand search.

Unfortunately none had screenshots, but all swear that it did exist. So I decided to go on an investigative journey. First I checked the brands in suggest and whether the appended phrase existed:

  • www.elephant.co.uk NO
  • www.moneysupermarket.com/ NO (*)
  • www.co-operativeinsurance.co.uk NO
  • www.morethan.com NO
  • www.confused.com NO (*)
  • www.admiral.com/ NO
  • www.kwik-fitinsurance.com NO
  • www.swiftcover.com NO (*)
  • www.directline.com YES
  • www.churchill.com YES
  • www.sheilaswheels.com NO (*)
  • www.esure.com YES
  • www.gocompare.com NO
  • www.uswitch.com NO (*)
  • www.privilege.com NO

Before you go off and verify, wait for me to finish. Only 3 of the 15 have the words “Car insurance” appended to the brand – instead ALL have the words “insurance” appended.

The (*) notes are certain special cases which I will come back to.

So Where’s the Proof of Removal of “Car Insurance”?

Well I ignored “Elephant” as I saw it as too generic, and could have a genuine reason for non appendage. Similarly More Than and Compare the market run TV campaigns that translate their brands into different names, “More Than Freeman” and Compare the Meerkat”. Confused is also a generic that may have variations. However, I did use publicly available data to look at search volumes for two variants of each:

Brand + Insurance

Brand +Car Insurance


A few are showing the same trend:

Go Compare Car Insurance Variance

Go Compare Car Insurance Variance

See how both phrases follow the same trend up to the poinnt I have indicated with the arrow – which now shows variance in behaviour – that one is moving up, while the other isnt.

The variance indicated may be the date from when the “Car insurance” appendages were taken out. These variances in volume suggest to me that the search volume for the brand that see it, have dropped volume for “Brand + Car Insurance”. Why would this sudden dip be?

I propose that my mad hat theory of dropping the appendage from Google Autocomplete play a big role.

Another Verification

So I pinged some people. Asked them to look into Hitwise data for the sites I noticed the dips for. As far as we can see, the change happened between 15th Feb to 18th Feb. About TWO WEEKS before the official announcement of the purchase of Beat the Quote. This is the timeframe potentially when the decision to buy them happened.

Proof – The Data Charts below are ALL from Hitwise for the volume of traffic to these brands for the term “Brand + Car Insurance”:

Compare the Market Hitwise

Compare the Market Hitwise

Confused Hitwise

Go Compare Hitwise

Go Compare Hitwise

Money Supermarket Hitwise

Money Supermarket Hitwise

How cool is that? Still think that Google Suggest / Autocomplete isnt a big deal?

Lets look at Go Compare, whose data variance I showed to you via Google trends.

Go Compare Hitwise Variance

Go Compare Hitwise Variance

See the fall in volume of traffic for “go compare car insurance” and the sudden increase of traffic for “go compare insurance”? This my friends is the power of Google Suggest.

The Special Cases Marked (*)

I haven’t forgotten those. They may or may not add to my theory that these appendages have been somehow manually been taken off.

Let’s look at Money Supermarket:

Money Super Market Car Insurance

Money Super Market Car Insurance

So type in two words Money Supermarket, and NO Car Insurance. Type in three words, Money Super Market, and you get Car Insurance. Looks like someone forgot to take THAT out of the mix :P .

Now Swift Cover:

Swift Cover Car Insurance

Swift Cover Car Insurance

If you add a space to Swift Cover (indictating that the results shown arent enough) THEN you get the car insurance appended.

Sheilas Wheels:

sheilas wheels car insurance

sheilas wheels car insurance

Interesting right? In this case two words AND a space triggers the car insurance phrase.

Now let’s look at Confused:

Confused Van Insurance

Confused Van Insurance

Van Insurance? How popular is that for confused? It’s so low that Google trends does NOT show it.

What does this all mean?

Well I dont know. Make your own conclusions. Does it prove some sort of intervention? Yes. Oh and check this out:

Beat the Quote Car Insurance

Beat the Quote Car Insurance

Beat the Quote Car Insurance trends

Beat the Quote Car Insurance trends

Finally…

Dave Naylor said my last RSS button was difficult to find, so here is an easier one – feel free to subscribe to my lunacy:

Click to Subscribe!

Click to Subscribe!

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Rishi Lakhani is an independent Online Marketing Consultant specialising in SEO, PPC, Affiliate Marketing and Social Media. Explicitly.Me is his Blog. Google Profile

{ 4 trackbacks }

SearchCap: The Day In Search, March 16, 2011
March 16, 2011 at 8:59 pm
Beat That Quote - er, I mean Ranking! | Hobo
March 17, 2011 at 1:41 pm
How Long Does a Google Penalty for Bad Links Last?
March 22, 2011 at 9:38 am
Nine Ways to be a Competitive SEO
September 21, 2011 at 1:05 pm

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

James March 16, 2011 at 9:56 am

Something is very odd there, looking at the HW data for gocompare for instance it is very different to Google trends and still gives you no idea how they could ommit the term gocompare car insurance unless something dodgy has been going on.

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Nichola Stott March 16, 2011 at 10:01 am

Seriously interesting stuff.

One thing that could be interesting to test (more as a rule out than anything) would be to look at all possible permutations of [brandname]+ “car insurance” to check the hitwise volume data per term.

As an example if I type in “moneysu” (that’s as much as I need to) then moneysupermarket car insurance is the fifth suggested term.Moneysupermarket (all one word) is the correct brand name, so it might be interesting to consider if there was some reassignation of auto-suggested terms by brand name. I.e. did “Moneysupermarket car insurance” see a growth in volume at the same time as the decline in volume seen above on the term “money supermarket car insurance”?

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Matt March 16, 2011 at 10:02 am

The dip you see from hitwise for these brands at the moment is how it looked when Google Instant first went live (Sept 10 – Nov 10). Nov 10 until the end of Jan 11 showed more visibility for the keywords with brand as you’ve mentioned, I think it’s a coincidence it’s happened with the timing of beat that quote.

This is only really noticeable from the PPC side :)

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David Iwanow March 16, 2011 at 10:28 am

Sorry to say that it looks like it’s a UK impact at this stage as Google.com.au continues to offer auto suggest with “car insurance” for the major players. The bigger point of concern is that Beat that Quote operates off a .com domain so you can expect the platform to go global soon as they can get some more local partners….

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Tyler March 16, 2011 at 10:30 am

You’ve managed to really outdo yourself with this one! Totally conspiracy theory! Whatever happened to ‘don’t be evil’? Organic search just lost a lot of its authenticity.

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Brent Nau March 16, 2011 at 11:03 am

I checked a few US insurance companies that rank one the first page for “car insurance” and none triggered brand + “car insurance”. However some did trigger brand + “auto insurance” (which is 5X less traffic).

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David Fairhurst March 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Great research! Since we all got the admission from Google that infact they ‘can’ manually change the SERPS (which any sensible person would have thought Google could have done anyway – they wrote the algorithms after all) I’ve been waiting for this sort of thing to rear it’s ugly head.
I don’t like knocking Google… infact I wholeheartedly appreciate what they have done for the online community with all those free apps, Gmail, Analytics, maps etc and I always look forward to viewing Mr. Cutts’ videos (he’s a great speaker) but this sort of fiddling with SERPS makes my blood boil… If you’re trying to make your customers’ websites successful then it’s starting to seem like an uphill battle and not nice knowing when and if you are going to be a victim of these sorts of tactics! If I was promoting insurance websites as some of my friends are then I’d be getting slightly paranoid right now!

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Adrian March 16, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Very smart research. Thanks for sharing the results. As always, I guess we’re never really know what G is up to but watch out for a video from Mr Cutts at some point soon.

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Toni Voutilainen March 16, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Great post! Keep it up.

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Simon Walley March 16, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Excellent post great insight and data. Highlights the power on search volume that auto suggest and instant have.

I would be extremely interested to hear your thoughts on whether you think they may have altered the auto suggest before to their own gain. In light of the recent disappearance of ‘Car Insurance Quotes’ from the auto suggest path of ‘car insurance’. One theory is that by removing the ‘Car Insurance Quotes’ suggestion more traffic will flow through the highly competitive ‘Car Insurance’ term and drive higher revenue per impression for Google.

I would also like to point out that Google have within their power the ability to affect price of Beat That Quote and then purchase them at a reduced price. For Example:

If Google set their search police to look for illegitimate SEO activity for company X and found some and then remove them from the index or reduce their ranking until they improve their tactics. Company X would then suffer large declines in highly profitable SEO traffic. If the reduction lasts any length of time the company in question could suffer a large reduction in value. Google then could purchase company X at a reduced price and who better to improve the SEO tactics of company X than Google. It wouldn’t take the likes of Google long to get company X back to a high profit making company and thus increase the value of company x beyond the purchase price.

Apologies if I have dragged on but nice to have an opportunity to discuss my thoughts

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roey March 16, 2011 at 6:56 pm

wow
great job!

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Harvey March 16, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Lakhani! I would put this post right up there with some of the best analysis I’ve seen in a long time. Conclusions:

Auto complete effects both seo and ppc. We all know that google only makes money from ppc clicks. we should also know that finance is THE most aggressive ppc vertical with brands going tooth and nail at a very short list of keywords. Users are also very happy to refine their searches regularly with p2c being very long indeed.

Could it be that goog’s reasons for instant/suggest arent just to get users off their site as quickly as possible but also to encourage more searches per user? After all what’s a couple more searches between friends?

Clearly this is all speculation and it could be totally innocent…worth looking at other finance keywords.

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Roie March 17, 2011 at 10:55 am

There is one variable it think is missing from this comparison: the action of buying (and therefore) searching car insurance is tightly integrated with the actual car market, and perhaps it somewhat seasonal and numbers could level – it may need a longer time period of inspection – but a great analysis nonetheless

Reply

dmd March 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Dmd said

I think you guys need to look a little deeper into who beat that quote partners with is this just coincidence that an American company called QuoteyQuotey.com are set to be a huge new player in the comparison industry taking on go compare and compare the market and have recently aired a new brand commercial on ITV in the midlands – oh and look who its powered by Beat That Quote ??The frog character also appears in Googles colours.

Mr clued up

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Dmd March 18, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Have you seen this – an American company
Quotey Quotey launch a new price comparison site on TV check out the Commercial the frog is in googles colours – guess who they are partened with Beatthatquote !!!!!!!

Reply

Carl Hendy March 21, 2011 at 11:54 am

Interesting post and great use of multiple sources of data.

I have noticed a few of them have [car insurance] appended to them now.

I dont think this change has anything to do with the sale of BTQ at all. Its more of a case of Google testing, tweaking or messing something up.

Your post has definitely made me pay more attention to autosuggest now :)

Not that relevant to the post but…

I know from trusted sources that the sale of BTQ has been going on for months & months, so why has Google only penalised them after the purchase? Google would have done their due diligence on the books, technology and the website, where rankings and traffic would have been flagged, so why wait so long? Just all seems a little shady.

Google and BTQ are not concerned about ranking loss as they never had any in the first place.

On another note, well done BTQ, lots of hard work would have been put in for the sale to happen.

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Neil Yeomans March 21, 2011 at 11:55 am

Hi Rishi, wonder how much traffic you’re getting for your #1 Google UK ranking for “Beat That Quote”. Nice bit of QDF + heavy social signals pushing your position?!

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rishil March 21, 2011 at 12:05 pm
iDCx March 22, 2011 at 11:34 am

help – I cant find the rss button!

Reply

rishil March 22, 2011 at 11:40 am

lol. Stop spamming :P

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Martin Ramsey February 8, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Hi Rishil
Very interesting. Although I was looking for beat that quote in relation to their energy switching service.
The odd thing, it appears beat that quote is not a popular search term (based on your honesty with your analytics) I was following up a phone call which I received from Beat that Quote, by checking out their website via a Google search. Now I understand why they are not ranking high in Google. There has got to be a ploy here somewhere!

Reply

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