It seems that the more active the searcher, the more likely they are to use online financial tools and applications. A recent study from Compete and Forrester Research found that nearly 20% of online mortgage applicants used search, compared with only 7% of prospects.

The study, "Online Mortgage Shoppers’ Paths To Purchase: Navigational And Survey Data Uncovers How Prospects Use Sites," tracked the search behavior of more than 2 million consumers in Compete’s panel, then interviewed 283 consumers who recently conducted research online and applied for a mortgage.

The most important factor for 75% of those searchers was finding information on rates and fees. However, traditional lenders such as banks are losing out to aggregator sites, which received 72% of all prospect visits, at least 6 million monthly visitors, the Compete/Forrester study found. Traditional lenders received just 19% of visits, and online lenders accounted for the remaining 9% of prospects.

"We found that in an average month, 9.4 million consumers are shopping across the studied sites. There are more than 1 million consumers who research online and apply online or offline, and represent $450 million in business opportunity each month. In order to take advantage of this trend, mortgage sites must seek ways to make it easier to apply online."
–Mike Bailey, managing director of Compete’s financial services practice.

Aggregators receive 75% of the applications submitted online each month, Compete and Forrester reported. Not surprisingly, search keywords in the mortgage area are among the most expensive on the Internet, according to data from Fathom Online. Bid prices for keywords in the mortgage area, excluding brand names, went for $3.67 in November and $3.30 in December 2005. Those prices were actually a bargain, compared to early 2005 when the real estate market was booming. Between September 2004 and June 2005, mortgage marketers paid between $3.17 and $6.49 for coveted keywords.

Although credit cards are the most searched-for financial product online, according to a recent report on US financial searchers from Reverse Direct Marketing, mortgage keywords carry higher value. Unlike credit cards, a mortgage involves a much longer time commitment and relationship on each party’s part – perhaps 15 to 30 years, barring foreclosure or refinancing with another institution.

More here.