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Search Engine Queries and What they Say about Financial Services Today

Adam Rust's picture

Posted April 23, 2015

The search query "paper statement" shows a gradual increase over time. There is also a cyclicality to the interest, with spikes in late spring and the fall. April and November are the most popular times. Paper statements are of most interest in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and in the Carolinas. 

There has been a steady increase in "How to write a check." Every year, curiosity about checks peaks in September.  Interest is greatest in the Northeast and the Far West. 

While on the upswing, queries for "prepaid debit card" are not as rapid. Interest peaks in January or February and tends to be most common in the Southeastern United States. More people search for NetSpend than they do for Green Dot or Amex Serve. But online interest in Green Dot is far more consistent throughout the calendar year. Queries for Netspend spike dramatically at the beginning of tax time. Hardly anyone searches for Amex Serve. In 2011, lots of people were searching for "MoneyPak." Since then, those counts have declined ninefold. 

"Mortgage" peaked in January 2009. Today, the most common origins of interest are in DC and Maryland. 

People still search for "refund anticipation loan," but it peaked back in 2011 and 2012. Each year, interest in this topic surges during the month of January.

More individuals are searching for savings account compared to a payday loan. But peaks in interest with the former tends to consistently precede curiosity in the latter, usually by about two months.  For those who want to get the latter, the most common states of search origin are Louisiana, Nevada, Texas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Alabama. As these are states where storefront payday lending is legal, this would seem to suggest that the presence of a store correlates to online search. Often people say that the loss of access to storefront lending only pushes those consumers to more expensive and usually illegal online businesses. But the reverse appears to be the case. It is a case of "out of sight, out of mind." Once the payday lenders close their doors, online demand falls off.