Think back to the last time you were frustrated by a search engine. You typed in the little box and
clicked “Search” in the hopes that the information that had been eluding you will would appear
before you as the web page unfolds. But the information did not appear. This is the same
experience that most users have. Yet, how often does the right information appear, really? Do
you instead find irrelevant results or ones that appear so cryptic you’re unsure what to even click
You aren’t alone. In fact, your own customers may be sharing those same feelings of
aggravation— about your company and website. The search box on your homepage may be
causing you to lose business because of customer dissatisfaction or, simply, customers’ inability
to find the products and services they’re looking for online. In building web sites for leading
financial services companies, I’ve seen even the industry leaders stumble over this issue.
To illustrate this point, Espenschied-Bachmann Group (EBG) looked at the websites of the top 24
residential mortgage lenders in the United States. Of these 24, only 11, or a little under half, had
search functionality on their homepage and, thus, became part of the study.
We then sought a commonly used search word or phrase specifically related to the lenders’ main
product—mortgages. We then went to Overture to find, the most frequently searched mortgage-
related words. Overture is a cost-per-click directory service that reaches 85% of active US Internet
users at portals including Yahoo!, MSN, and AltaVista, Mortgage Calculator was the second most
searched keyword after mortgage itself. These results were then confirmed by WordTracker, a
search consulting firm that tracks the top 200 keywords used in the largest metacrawlers over the
past 60 days. Mortgage Calculator was the top mortgage-related search.
We then typed mortgage calculator into the search box of the eleven top originators to see what
would appear. How did the top companies fare? 64%