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Online searches drive growth

Online Searches Drive Business Growth

The internet has transformed how people buy products and services, including mortgages

An internet search is one of the most effective ways for mortgage brokers to grow their origination volume. Searches allow brokers to target and connect with prospective borrowers who are actively looking for a mortgage to meet their immediate needs.

When originators combine the right keywords with geographic qualifiers like the name of their city or state, a search becomes a powerful marketing and lead-generation tool. A small investment in time and money can help originators compete effectively against larger competitors, leveling out the playing field.

Most mortgage originators have enough industry experience to intuitively know what types of questions borrowers ask when they seek financing to purchase a home or investment property. Although experience is the key to closing a loan once you’re communicating face to face with a borrower, it doesn’t help you attract them.

Your experience is useless if potential borrowers don’t know you have it. Integrating content-development and internet-search strategies allows originators to communicate their expertise and drive qualified borrowers to their website.

Targeted leads

In today’s digitally driven world, internet search engines have entirely changed the way people look for products and services. No other marketing channel, past or present, provides the targeting capabilities, scalability and quality of leads. Unfortunately, few originators are familiar with digital advertising channels such as organic and paid searches. Most are intimidated by this method. Those who continue to ignore it will suffer, but those who learn to use it will significantly grow their origination business.

Most everyone uses an internet search engine daily. Google reportedly receives more than 63,000 searches per second on any given day. Think of a question you want an answer to, type it into a search bar and see the responses to your question seconds later. Because of this, search often drives the most qualified traffic to your website and typically converts to qualified leads at a higher rate than all other media channels. Today, a business that doesn’t use search as a lead-generation tool isn’t really in business.

Unfortunately, many mortgage originators are confused and often intimidated when it comes to developing their internet-search strategy. In reality, it boils down to three simple steps.

One, identify the search terms that borrowers use to find a mortgage. Next, incorporate these search terms into your website to increase its search engine rankings. Last, use the search terms in paid “ads” to target and communicate with potential borrowers at the precise time they need a mortgage. When combined, these three tactics will allow you to drive more qualified traffic to your website and remarket to them regularly to maintain top-of-mind awareness.

Keyword lists

How people search the internet for information about a particular topic doesn’t always match the way they think or talk. The best way to start developing a keyword list is to consider the types of questions that borrowers ask when they initially speak to you about a loan. Type these questions into a search engine and view the results. If they align with the mortgage programs you offer, you’re probably on the right track.

You also should consider how the questions they ask might differ when they are in different stages of the real estate purchase process. For example, someone at the top of the funnel typically conducts searches for general information about companies that finance the type of loan they need. For example, “investment-property loans.” Those at the bottom of the sales funnel who are closer to applying for a mortgage tend to ask more specific questions about the interest rate, loan terms and closing fees. For example, “investment-property loans + low rates.”

Originators who do business on a more regional level should develop keyword combinations that include the areas they serve. For example, “top mortgage brokers in Indiana.” Large mortgage companies, direct lenders and big banks most likely handle search engine optimization (SEO) at a corporate level. That may make it hard for them to compete in local markets.

Creating target keywords that include the markets you serve and incorporating them on your website elevates your position against larger competitors. For example, a webpage that contains the words “recently named one of the top mortgage lenders in Indiana by the National Association of …” increases the likelihood that Google will view your content as relevant to the user. That equates to higher website traffic and more potential leads.

Search predictions

The simplest, cost-free way to identify the highest-ranked search terms is to go to Google in a web browser and take advantage of the search engine’s autocomplete feature. As you start to type your search terms into the search box, Google attempts to make a “search prediction” about what you are typing.

This prediction isn’t a random list or guess, but rather a list of the most common searches by people who typed the same words you did. It’s important to note that Google learns about your search preferences over time and that influences the results it provides through the autocomplete feature. To avoid this, open a new browsing session in an “incognito window” if you are using Google Chrome or a “private window” if you are using Safari.

There also are free and paid subscription-based keyword planners available if you’re looking for more keyword insights. Just enter “keyword planning tools” into your search browser to find them.

Optimized rankings

Organic search listings appear immediately below the paid search ads usually found at the top of a search engine results page. A paid search ad always contains a small box with the word “Ad” in it. Organic search snippets do not.

Search engine algorithms rank the placement of these organic search results by calculating a value for your website’s individual pages based on their relevance to the keywords entered by a user. Once you have your keyword list, you’ll want to add content to your website that is centered around the keyword and answers the search query entered by a user to increase its page rank.

If you’re a beginner at search engine optimization and developing content for a WordPress website, consider using Yoast SEO. With Yoast, you enter your keyword before writing your copy. Yoast analyzes the page title, text, images and links on your webpage. It then determines if you are using your target keyword with the right frequency to increase your page rankings. It also helps you to optimize the actual snippets that appear on the search engine results page. Here are a few things to consider when optimizing your website content and search snippets.

  • Page titles are the most visible part of an organic search snippet. They must attract attention. Keep titles across your website as unique and descriptive as possible. Maximize their impact without stuffing them with keywords. Titles should be less than 60 characters.
  • Page descriptions have roughly 155-160 characters to tell users what to expect if they click. Be as descriptive as possible without needlessly filling space. Make page descriptions easy to read and understand. Like titles, each page description should be unique.
  • If you leave a title or page description blank, or don’t follow the guidelines, your titles and descriptions may be truncated by Google with other content on your page, or omitted altogether.

Hypertarget audiences

It will take time for your organic search optimizations to impact your business. To achieve faster results, utilize paid search advertising like Google Ads, a cost-per-click advertising solution. Here, you only pay for an ad when someone clicks on it. All the keyword research you do, plus the effort you put into writing titles and descriptions, have the added benefit of helping you with paid search advertising.

You can utilize similar copy and keywords to save time when setting up paid search ads. There are similar constraints to the length of titles and descriptions, although Google Ads allows up to three headlines (titles) of up to 30 characters each, as well as two descriptions of up to 90 characters each. Google may show only the first headline and description, or some combination of them, but this gives you a lot more space to play with when describing your business or products.

Many features and capabilities within Google Ads allow you to hypertarget audiences and outmaneuver your competition. Google Ads also suggests additional keywords to consider, providing feedback for your SEO strategy. Over time, you may decide which keywords you want to bid on in paid search, based on whether you rank highly for those keywords in organic search results.

Remember, the key to business success in an internet-driven world is to have an online presence so that people in need of your products or services can find you at the right time. For mortgage originators, organic and paid search are critical to achieving this goal.

This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Scotsman Guide Magazine.