Whatever financial services products you are looking for; mortgages, loans, insurance, credit cards, current accounts, savings, financial planning or help with debt problems, the internet is an extremely valuable source of information. UK price-comparison sites allow you to search and apply for products, across the vastness of financial services, all under one roof, saving you time…and money.
But what makes a price-comparison site a good price-comparison site? Taking into account the huge range of products available within the financial services industry, can you really search and apply for the most competitive products and be sure they are right for your needs? Which sites just give you information and which give advice? Pointing you in the direction of a “competitive” deal is one thing but how do you know if a price comparison site is truly independent and representative of the whole market?
A quick tell-tale sign that can determine what type of service a price comparison site offers is if they are registered with the Financial Services Authority or not. With the FSA’s regulation of mortgages, insurance and investment products in the UK, companies must disclose on their websites what products they offer, whether they offer those products from the whole market or a limited panel of providers and whether they give advice or not. This information can be found in their terms of business/ initial disclosure document which they are required to provide you with prior to you applying for any products.
If a price comparison site does not have FSA permissions it is likely they are only allowed to provide information services and will certainly not have access to the whole market nor be able to provide you with advice.
For other products such as current accounts, savings, loans and debt solutions, it is usually harder to tell exactly how independent a website is, as many are able to use affiliate programs where the website advertises a certain provider’s products and then receives a small revenue if a visitor to their site clicks on the advert. It is up to you to make the assessment as to whether the site is offering a comprehensive service, and going back to the point about FSA permissions; if a company has gone to the trouble of gaining FSA permissions for mortgages, insurance and investment products then it is likely they will be putting the same efforts into providing their customers with a comprehensive service throughout all the products on their website.
The same tell tales signs apply to a price comparison site’s overall rankings on search engines. When you search for financial products online the results that are returned on Google for example are a mixture of organic listings and pay per click (sponsored listings) It is always advisable to stick to the organic listings for price comparison sites rather than the PPC listings as this demonstrates that the company has put a lot of time and effort into making their price comparison site search engine friendly and shows they have commitment to providing long term service rather than a quick hit using PPC.
The ranking of a price comparison site on a particular search engine also demonstrates it’s “relevance.” If it is ranking highly on the listings, it is because the site has relevant content corresponding to your search and that the site has a healthy amount of inbound links (other sites linking to it) showing that other website users found it useful to use.
When you want to search and apply for a financial services product online obviously you want to be sure you are getting a quality service, a competitive deal and a fair representation of what products are available on the market at any one time. By paying attention to the two “rules” above you can be pretty sure that the price comparison site you happen to choose will be giving you exactly that…quality service, competitive deals and fair representation of the market.