Google changes hit Moneysupermarket

PRICE comparison website told investors yesterday that it had lost out recently in the battle for car insurance customers after changes by search engine Google.

The group said visitor numbers and revenues in the highly-competitive car insurance market slowed in June after Google changed “natural search algorithms” – pushing its website down the rankings in searches.

But Moneysupermarket added that it is working to climb the search rankings again, assuring investors that results for the six months to the end of June will be in line with its expectations. Underlying earnings are up 29 per cent to £40 million and revenues are 10 per cent higher at £112m.

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Google last year launched its own price comparison service, which appears high up during internet searches.

But Moneysupermarket said the slowdown in second-quarter trading was not due to tougher competition from Google’s new service, adding that the search engine giant regularly changes its algorithms.

It said: “As has happened in the past, now the algorithm changes have settled down we are working on regaining our positions in natural search in insurance.”

The company added its finances remain strong, with cash of £26m. It will pay a special dividend of £70m on 26 July. Shares closed down 3.5p or 1.7 per cent at 200.1p giving the group a market capitalisation of about £1.1 billion.

However, analyst Simon Davies at brokerage Canaccord Genuity said the results were modestly ahead of his expectations.

He noted: “Moneysupermarket has faced considerable headwinds in its first half, but has still managed to deliver 10 per cent revenue growth.”