According to Experian Hitwise's Global Search Indicators Report, Americans are readying "to put one foot back in the housing markets",... and according to SEW's chats with a few observers, Google is best placed to profit on the trend.
Let me explain...
On the one hand, Experian Hitwise's latest report shows a 32 percent year-on-year rise in online searches for real estate and, logically enough, online mortgage searches soared a hefty 43 percent in the first quarter compared to the same period a year ago.
This sunny prediction echoes Efrontier's Q1 2010 findings that the US may be creeping out of recession. They reported strong growth of queries in the automotive and retail sectors.
The consensus is that search data is worth counting on as Justin Merickel, Efficient Frontier's VP of marketing, told SEW that "the macro economic picture translates in search activity and we have found that economic slowdown generally hits search marketers faster. We believe the reverse is also true, and increases in search queries could be taken as a signal of recovery."
Bill Tancer, general manager of global research, Experian Hitwise corroborated these thoughts in today's press release statement "Search volume of terms related to an economic indicator can help us predict future market trends and movement... The uptick in 'home for sale' searches indicates a refreshed interest on the part of consumers to enter, or move within, the real estate market."
On the other hand, Google comparison ads seem to be by far in a better position than most (namely the top of search results!) to profit from this blue sky patch in the real-estate market.
Comparison ads for mortgages are U.S.-based only and work with a handful of selected advertisers. So if you cannot see the US SERPs for a search on "mortgage" or "mortgage rates" on Google, we've included a screenshot below for your benefit:
These ads deviate from the classical 'classified' style and take on a have a form based format. This was a shock for one blogger who wrote up his fears that Google had entered the mortgage business.
Bad news for affiliate marketers?
The Global Search Indicators Report also said that top searches in the first quarter of 2010 included terms centered on first-time home buyers - which has always been a great market for affiliate marketers, who cashed in big in the first property boom of the early noughties. With Google comparison ads, it looks like affiliates will find it harder to strike gold a second time around.
At these early stages of economic recovery, the evidence we have seen from Efrontier's State of Search report on the finance sector suggest the same. A depression hit search market in the finance sector sees soaring clickthrough rates (CTRs), indicating higher trust factors at play in SERPs, and diving cost-per-clicks (CPCs), indicating less competition, which all add up to suggest a 'cleaner market' comprised of established players and a less robust market for aggregators.
Merickel, commenting on the data said, "appetite for leads is waning and large finance players have finally adopted search as a core marketing activity to build a trusted brand."
If you are hoping to win big this year or next on the emerging upturn, your either have to buy Google, join the trusted brand club or embark on broad and deep search marketing strategy RIGHT NOW.