Google has acquired the UK financial price comparison site BeatThatQuote for £37.7m.

The acquisition, which took place yesterday, suggests Google’s desire to strengthen its position in the financial services market. Previously, it has tested mortgage Comparison ads in the UK, allowing searchers to use Google itself in order to compare mortgage rates.

BeatThatQuote, which was founded in 2005, offers loan, mortgage, credit card and insurance comparison services and is in direct competition with major aggregator sites such as Confused.com, Moneysupermarket.com and Gocompare.com.

This development must be worrying for UK financial comparison sites – made up of some of the biggest and most successful sites in the UK – who may be concerned that Google could promote BeatThatQuote’s or its own stature on its search engine, with a greater bias over competing sites. Although Google has most likely acquired the comparison site for its software, which it can then use and fine-tune to better its own Comparison Ads, The Guardian reports that Google may continue to run BTQ as a “standalone brand,” before steering the comparison site towards “increasing tie-ups with the search engine itself.”

Perhaps one of the more interesting and unusual aspects of the acquisition are the observations made by Aaron Wall of SEO Book, who – through conducting some SEO and link analysis – has identified that BeatThatQuote is actually currently violating Google’s guidelines, through grey and black-hat SEO techniques, including buying links that pass PageRank. Was Google aware of this before the acquisition? Will it now penalise its own site? Only time will tell.

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