Google & Yahoo Square Off On Wall St

    December 12, 2006

Google Finance unrolled a healthy offering of new features today, aimed at positioning the tool as a stronger competitor to the more widely visited Yahoo! Finance website, which offers a wide range of financial resources and services to its users.

Google & Yahoo Square Off On Wall St
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When you see Google mentioned in the news, the company is usually the object of praise and media adoration, lauding the its successes in search technology and online marketing.

Google Finance, however, has been one of the company’s less impressive ventures, and is often left out of the conversation altogether.

There aren’t a lot of categories in which Yahoo! can boast complete and utter dominance over Google, but when it comes to Finance, it’s clear that Yahoo! Finance holds a decided advantage in both functionality and range of services.

A blogger writing for Ant & Sons documents the gap:

“Google Finance, however, has yet to pose a real threat to Yahoo Finance, the so-called behemoth of the online financial sites, as it currently offers a wealth of financial resources that Google still lacks, and an untouched following of thirty million unique visitors.”

Om Malik is quoted in a Search Engine Journal article with this to say as well:

“It [Google Finance] has failed to crack the top twenty financial destinations, as calculated by both Comscore and Nielsen Net Ratings. Its contribution to the overall Google traffic is minuscule, as data from HitWise reveals. Interestingly the shuttering Google Answers and Google Finance are still in the same ballpark, which makes us feel that the next upgrade is critical.”

Today is the critical mass of which Om speaks. Google substantially overhauled its Finance site, adding a cornucopia of new features and aesthetic changes that the company hopes will give it a measure of legitimacy in the arena of financial information, metrics, and analysis.

Here are the upgrades that Google rolled out today:

New Home Page – We’re always trying to improve access to financial information, and so we’ve updated the Google Finance homepage to include more data in an easy to read format. Now, in addition to recent quotes and today’s news, your Google Finance homepage includes a more detailed market summary, market performance, and top movers modules.

Market summary – The new market summary module includes performance information from the Dow, NASDAQ, S&P 500 as well as currency and exchange rate information. You can now see on the front page of Google Finance how leading currencies (USD, GBP, Yen, Euro) are performing. To see more information about a particular currency, simply click on the link provided and you’ll see a chart for currency performance along with relevant news and a converter for calculating major currencies.

Sector summary – See at a glance how major sectors are performing in the U.S. financial market today. Scroll over the bar charts provided to get more detailed information about what percentage increase and decrease for a given sector. For more information on a particular sector, simply click on the name and you’ll see how it performed compared to the S&P 500.

Top movers – Now you can easily see which companies are moving by price, market cap, volume, dollar volume traded and popularity-as defined by our very own Google Trends. What better way to get a glance of the market than by what people are increasingly searching for.

Category Pages – You can now see at a glance, how major sectors are performing in the US financial markets. Scroll over the bar charts provided to get more detailed information about what percentage increase and decrease for a given sector. For more information on a sector, simply click on the name and you will see how that particular sector performed compared to the S&P 500.

Enhanced Portfolios – Google Finance portfolios now include transactional support and functionality such as field for purchase date, commission, and a notes section for you to keep better track of your investments. In addition, you can now view your portfolio how you choose. We’ve included a snapshot of the Edit portfolio view below:

40 years of historical stock data – We know how important understanding stock’s performance over time is. Now you can see up to 40 years of historical stock data on a chart for US stocks.

Comparison Charts – We know you’ve been itching to compare your stocks in charts. Now, whenever you view a stock chart on a company page, you can easily plot it against any other stock.

Stock Splits and Dividends Charted – You’ll never miss another stock split or dividend action when you’re looking at a stock chart.

Personalized Chart Settings – Every investor is different. Whether you’re focused on the long term, the short term, or anyplace in between, you can choose default settings for your charts that match your investment style.

Portfolio Importing – Want to see your existing portfolio on Google Finance? No problem – try the new portfolio import feature on your Google Finance portfolio page, where you can easily copy and paste your current portfolio and have another home for your investment tracking.

Multiple Portfolios – We want to help those of you who are particularly busy investors to keep track of all your stocks as effectively as possible. Multiple portfolios can help you carve up a large portfolio into a group of more easily trackable, smaller portfolios.

Portfolio and Industry News – News is important and so are portfolios, so why not combine the two? Done.

Inline News Scrolling – When it comes to investing, information is always a good thing. So we’ve added the ability to scroll for more news on the company page.

Autosuggest – Unless you’re blessed with a photographic memory, remembering stock symbols can be cumbersome. So we now offer Autosuggest. Whenever you type in a company name or a stock symbol, we’ll instantly suggest what you might be looking for.

It’s a lengthy list, to be sure, which seems to indicate that Google is approaching the service with an intentionally focused purpose of implementing wholesale changes to make the service more attractive and relevant. But will these changes actually make a difference?

So far, it’s been a mixed reaction at best. This blogger’s reaction is pretty telling:

The new layout much cleaner and presentable as the page is divided into three columns. Recent quotes, stored using browser cookies, has been moved from the top right corner to the lower left corner. General news and corporate news of the recent quotes are featured in the center column. Most links on the page will bring you to a different page, except the top movers on the lower right.

However, the individual stock pages have not changed. 😐

Overall looks pretty, but I have a few suggestions:

•   Dynamically refresh each section using individual settings (they do change now, which is really cool)

•   Display summary or beginning of news articles when mouseover links

•   Background colour-code recent quotes with their related news

•   Include stock historical prices and options

It’s a synopsis with which I am inclined to agree. Aesthetically, the improvements are a slam-dunk. Three quarters of the battle, when it comes to retaining user interest, is presenting a crisp, sleek looking product that is easy on the eyes. I believe Google has accomplished this with the new site layout.

Functionality is improved, but still lacks some important detail. The blogger analysis above hit on a great point in that the pages for individual stocks haven’t received any attention whatsoever. Perhaps that plan is in the works, but for now it creates an odd sense of dysfunction when transitioning from the new look layout to the old look stock pages.

The real question-du-jour, however, is whether or not the site can now compete with Yahoo! Finance. My gut answer isn’t a flat out “no way”- but falls more along the lines of not yet.

The latest round of upgrades is a step in the right direction, to be sure. With continued focus on providing the utmost of detail to the user, Google could eventually give Yahoo! a run for its money (pardon the pun) when it comes to financial services.

But at least for now, Yahoo! still holds the advantage.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.