Consumers Searching for Mortgages Skew Toward High Income Groups

An analysis of search keyword activity, using the recently released comScore Media Metrix qSearch system, revealed that 1.86 million consumers conducted approximately five million mortgage-related searches in March 2003. The qSearch analysis also found that Internet users who searched for mortgage-related terms were 32% more likely than the average Internet user to have annual household incomes exceeding $100,000.

The comScore analysis of qSearch data revealed that "mortgage calculator" was the most popular single mortgage-related query in March, with 194,000 searches. And although the plural and singular forms of "mortgage" were searched for nearly 250,000 times in March, these searches accounted for only 5.1% of total mortgage-related queries. The degree to which search behavior is fragmented highlights the need for mortgage lenders and other marketers to have a detailed and accurate understanding of consumer search activity to remain competitive.

"All-time low mortgage rates continue to fuel home buying and financing activity, and consumers are flocking to search engines to find resources and support for this important process," noted Lynn Bolger, executive vice president of agency development at comScore Media Metrix. "But consumer search patterns are extremely diverse. A detailed understanding of these complex dynamics can clearly make the difference between winning and losing valuable customers."

"Fortunately, qSearch delivers an accurate, unbiased view of this behavior," continued Ms. Bolger. "This insight helps make search engine marketing less of a specialized skill set, and more of an intuitive business process for marketers and the agency professionals that support them."

A detailed review of mortgage-related queries by search site revealed that Google and MSN had an underdeveloped share of mortgage searches relative to their share of total searches. Conversely, Teoma had a greater than fair share of mortgage-related searches, with 3.2% of all mortgage searches versus just 0.1% of total searches.

The comScore Media Metrix qSearch system uniquely reports the demographic characteristics of consumers conducting specific search activity. An analysis of these data revealed significant skews in annual household income among Internet users who conducted a mortgage-related search in March. Notably, the proportion of such mortgage searchers with a household income exceeding $100,000 was more than 30% higher than the proportion of this income group in the total U.S. Internet population. The data also found a comparable skew among mortgage searchers toward a household income of $50,000 to $74,999.

comScore Media Metrix qSearch transcends the limited view of server logs of any single search engine or other Web site, revealing the true consumer impact of search engine marketing across the Internet at the consumer level. For example, qSearch can report the complete Web-wide visiting and buying behavior of Internet users who searched for a given set of keywords.

An analysis of sites visited by mortgage searchers revealed that and were the two most popular mortgage-related sites among mortgage searchers. The data also found that Wells Fargo, the only brand among the top ten mortgage queries, was the highest-ranking bank site within this consumer segment.

"Whether researching a home loan, applying for online banking or making investment decisions, consumers clearly rely on the Internet as an important information channel for personal finance," said Chris Britt, vice president of comScore Financial Services Solutions. "By delivering a clear picture of consumer activity, qSearch helps comScore's financial services clients more effectively engage and acquire profitable customers early in their consideration process."

"Media planners need a clear understanding of how consumers searching for specific keywords ultimately interact with brands and content across the Internet," explained Ms. Bolger. "qSearch meets this need, by linking consumers' search activity to their Web-wide behavior and demographic profiles. qSearch provides important insight to help marketers improve the effectiveness of search engine marketing programs as well as a powerful new means for planners to target and reach their key consumer segments."

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