Tuesday, August 7, 2007

How To Write The Perfect Reply Email - Part II



How To Write The Perfect Reply Email - Part II

Last month we talked about the importance of a good email "subject" title and how to make sure to keep updating the email subject line; as the content changes. We also discussed that every email from a company should use the company URL, and NOT the employees Hotmail or Yahoo or Gmail accounts.

We also mentioned that due to the thousands of dollars of potential for each customer, it is worth the time and effort to create a perfect reply email.

This month we will continue with the components to creating a perfect reply email. We also discussed UCLA basketball coach John Wooden sitting down with his players on the first day of practice and saying, "Today we are going to learn how to put our socks on correctly." In this way, no one misses practice due to blisters.

The Reply - HTML or Plain Text

The topic of whether to reply in HTML with graphics, special fonts, columns and other features available in HTML; versus using plain text, is a bit tougher decision. HTML email has many advantages over plain text email, especially in professional appearance. However, HTML emails can carry worms and viruses so some people prefer plain text email. Additionally, if you send an HTML email, and if your recipient's system is set up for plain text, then usually the recipient will see the email as an attachment or it will show all the HTML coding surrounding the words in the email, making it nearly impossible to read.

According to operators of newsletters, about 85% of subscribers select HTML over plain text. (I use HTML for my email, but I usually subscribe as text because I like to see the actual URL in a newsletter rather than "click here"). Other online sources indicate that over 90% of email readers use HTML. If your reply is more effective by using HTML, I would suggest that route.

The Reply - Trimming

Sometimes you may receive a long email or an email that has been forwarded to you from another employee at your mortgage company. Be sure to delete the unnecessary parts of the email when you reply so you don't clog up your response. So it doesn't show a graveyard of email addresses and irrelevant headers like a joke that has been forwarded 40 times to large groups of people. Be sure to retain enough of the original email so that the context can be easily understood if that email is reviewed a month from now.

The Reply - The Greeting & Tone

It is usually safer to address someone as Ms. Johnson or Mr. Brown; rather than assume a Robert probably wants a Bob; and a Katherine prefers Kathy. You can often get an indication of how people sign their emails as to what they prefer (Robert "Sparky" Brown), but if you have err, do so on the side of caution.

Try to make the letter as personal as possible, using words like "I", "You," and "Us" when possible. "Dear valued customer" is essentially like saying "Dear valued ex-customer."

Be careful about what you write about. Not everyone wants to know about your take on Desperate Housewives, the Soprano's ending or that political debate last night. Nor is everyone a fan of the Yankees, Bears or your daughter's soccer team.

The Reply - Content

Brevity, but completeness, should be the rule. "Brevity is the soul of wit" but also remember the adage, "A job worth doing is worth doing right." A reply should be thorough and must not only answer the customer's questions, it should answer them first. Most people prefer short emails, but some want all the details. By putting the answer first, then supplying more information, you can satisfy both parties.

Keep the first sentence and first paragraphs brief. No one wants to have to digest a massive passage of text, until they are ready.

If you are replying to a mortgage lead and the recipient doesn't know who you are, be sure to let them know you received their name from a mortgage leads company.

The first paragraph should focus on the benefits to your viewer. The way to get their attention is finding out what's in it for them. Point out how the features of your programs that will specifically benefit the reader. Don't expect the reader to figure out the benefits for themselves.

If you're replying to a number of questions, be sure to answer all of them. The questions may seem simple or easy to you, but if someone asks, you need to answer rather than leaving it unaddressed for people to figure out on their own.

If there is something to act on, be sure to put that item near the top of your email, so that the reader won't have an excuse to misread you. Use bullets if you have a list of items so that your requests are clear. If you have a main point; it is better to show it at the top of your email.

The Reply - Layout

Your job, especially when communicating via email, is to make it easy for your client to comprehend and understand. Here are a few ways to make your email easier to comprehend:

* Fonts: Don't use multi-varied fonts or sentences with multiple colors or a colored background. All of this makes the email hard to read. On rare occasion, you may need to ALL CAPS something or put a phrase in red for added emphasis, which is appropriate.
* Headings: With long emails, it's useful to include headings to break up sections.
* Bullets: Use bullets and numbering to help the reader to identify specific points. With plain text email, to ensure that the reader sees what you sent, insert bullets (use the asterisk character) and numbers manually, rather than relying on the formatting options in the email editor.
* Spacing: Double space between paragraphs.

The Reply - Structure

Many people consider email to be informal. But if it originates from your mortgage office, it needs to be professional. Poor writing makes a bad impression. Here are some items to watch for:

* Grammar: Watch for common mistakes like its versus it's.
* Spelling: Frequent errors include principle versus principal, their versus there, and be sure to spell their name correctly.
* Technical Terms: Just because you know what a Form CA-106 is, doesn't mean the recipient does, be sure to spell out and explain any terms as needed.
* Vocabulary. Even if you can complete the NY Times crossword puzzle in minutes, don't use obscure words for the sake of it. Short and common words help to make the email easy to understand.
* Internet Slang: IMHO (in my humble opinion) don't use Internet slang or abbreviations such as OMG (oh, my God) I have great news. Don't end your emails in TTYL (talk to you later) or BFN (bye for now) I know that for some it is a VBG (very big grin) but if you are not careful that customer could end up like the BSOD (blue screen of death).

Also, as a side note, if you use Microsoft Outlook, don't use Word as your email editor. If your recipient doesn't also use Word, then all the formatting will be lost or the email will be riddled with Microsoft Word HTML-like tags and the email will look terrible.

The Reply - Template

The best way to handle this is to have templates created for most situations, i.e., "I have bad credit, can you help me?" Your response should start out with the answer to the bad credit question. The same logic applies to questions like, "I am consigning for my daughter," or "I want to do a land lot split then get a loan."

By refining your templates, you can create responses that are friendly, helpful, thorough and appear to be custom crafted just for the viewer. A great way to test your template is send it to yourself, then send it to your parent, spouse or friend and see how they respond. Your mail must look worth the time and effort for the recipient to read it.

The Signature

You should always include a signature in your business emails. The components to ALWAYS include are:
* your full name
* your phone number
* your URL
* your address

Consider provide other links, if necessary, that make it easy for your recipient to visit specific portions of your site.

Additionally, as a service to your recipient, include contact details for other third parties (escrow, etc.), unless you know for sure that the recipient has this information.

Now you are not only ready to put on your internet socks, but also your the socks of your customer. A great business email reply will help you to provide the information your customer wants, which will lead to more closed loans, and thousands of dollars of extra business.

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How To Write The Perfect Reply Email - Part I



How To Write The Perfect Reply Email - Part I

A NAMB reader wrote us and said, "I am responding to all my online inquiries but not receiving many sales via email. What can I do?" Assuming it is not the interest rate you are offering; let's focus on how to reply to a business email inquiry.

An Email Is Worth A Thousand Dollars

A picture may be worth a thousand words; but an email can be worth a thousand dollars because any given email to a customer can result in a loan closing for your mortgage company. Due to the high value potential, it is worth the time and effort to create a perfect reply email.

Email is Easy - If Done Right

You do it maybe hundreds of times a day - to friends, to co-workers, to customers. You respond to email requests. You think it is simple, and it is, if it is performed correctly.

There is a famous example of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden sitting down with his players on the first day of practice and saying, "Today we are going to learn how to put our socks on correctly." The players all laugh and find it hard to believe, but he explains, by doing this simple task properly, they won't get blisters from their socks, and thus won't miss practice.

An Ounce of Prevention...

In this article we are going to discuss how to reply to a customer request by email. We will discuss what to say and what not to say or do. Of course there are a few famous examples of "what not to say" in emails:

Michael Brown (FEMA): right after Hurricane Katrina, when he should have been doing everything he could for the Gulf states, he emailed his staff asking if anyone knew a "good dog-sitter" for his dog.

Enron: Former Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Andrew Fastow claimed not to know about the company's illegal accounting practices. During the trial it was shown that not only was Enron aware of the practices, but that Enron used its email system to send Social Security numbers, wage packages, performance evaluations and also sent revealing messages about office romances, affairs and other personal content.

Martha Stewart: In 2004, the Martha Stewart trial reveals how even a single email message can influence a verdict. In an email from Stewart's investment broker, he informed Stewart that he had sold some of Stewart's stocks to offset capital gains taxes. Three days later, Bacanvoic sold Stewart's disputed ImClone stock, refuting his own testimony that the ImClone stocks, which were actually sold at a gain, had also been sold for tax purposes. This single email message resulted in a six month prison sentence for Stewart.

It Starts With a Subject

In five seconds or less, you have to have your informative and powerful subject line persuade your prospect to open your email and to keep reading. Your subject should be informative, personal and brief. I will discuss a few do's and do not's.

Here are a few examples of bad email subjects:

* The information you requested. (A common ploy by Spammers to get you to open their email)
* URGENT!!! THE INFORMATION YOU REQUESTED!!! (Using urgent or ALL CAPS usually means a Spammer)
* Your new home loan. (Not personalized at all, could be a Spammer)
* Re: Online submission form. (Often a potential customer uses a form submission and the mortgage company representative just hits reply - even if it is a bad subject line)
* "Hi!" or "Wazzup?" or worse, a blank subject line will kill your email. People love mysteries, just not in their in-box.

Remember, you only have a few words to grab your prospects attention, so choose them wisely. Here are a few examples of good email subjects:

* Robert Smith: your home loan inquiry from Texas Loan Company.
* Robert Smith: your 125 Apple Lane home loan inquiry.
* San Diego Mortgage proposal for Robert Smith of 125 Apple Lane.

Subject - Updating & Deadlines

As you progress through a series of emails with a client, the focus often changes and the subject that originally was "Robert Smith: your 125 Apple Lane home loan inquiry," may now need to be updated to read, "Robert, you sign your loan documents Monday at 4 pm." By staying current on the subject it makes it easier to search emails.

Also, when having multiple emails back and forth with you and a customer, be sure to trim the "Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:" out.

Email Address Poor "From" Email Settings

Often replies from mortgage companies to their clients have the "From" address constructed in a manner that appears Spammish. That is, the return address might read "Sales" or "Info" at your company name. Because many Spammers use "Sales" or "Info", you should avoid this. My sister recently sent me an email and my filters put it in the Spam folder. She had recently "updated" her email to read from, "Info" Info@HerCompany.com. The use of the word "Info" triggered a possible Spam alert.

Here is what we suggest as your return address: Full name, URL and case corrected email address, i.e., "Rob Smith - HisMortgageCompany.com" Rob@HisMortgageCompany.com

By showing his full name, and adding his web site address (URL), coupled with the easy to read case of his email address (i.e. not the hard to read, all lower case rob@hismortgagecompany.com), this makes it more probable that his email will not get pick off by a filter and will be easy to decipher by the recipient.

Unmatched Return Email Address

Some mortgage companies allow their staff to use whatever email address the representative wants. In example someone at our company should be using Kenzie@YourMortgageCompany.com, but she might use her personal email such as FishingIsMuchBetterThanWork@hotmail.com.

Any business correspondence from your company to a customer should always match the URL of your company. Two major problems occur when you fail to monitor return email addresses. The first problem is that your email may get filtered out as Spam, or it may not get read by the recipient as they were expecting an email from YourMortgageCompany.com, but not from FishingIsMuchBetterThanWork@hotmail.com.

The second problem is that you lose control of your customers. If Kenzie ever leaves the company, her leads will follow her as they have the email FishingIsMuchBetterThanWork@hotmail.com, not Kenzie@YourMortgageCompany.com. You can easily redirect her old company email address to her replacement. If you don't, the result is you lose business.

Email Address - To

If other recipients (escrow, loan officer, administrative assistant) need to be included in an email response, use the CC (carbon copy) feature in an email. This allows the customer to know everyone that is involved in their loan.

The Reply - Timeliness

The more prompt your reply, the more likely you are to get business. This is especially true when you are buying mortgage leads. Conversely, if you take more than 48 hours to reply, you can probably anticipate losing that person as a customer.

Attachments

Try not to include attachments. Many people won't open them fearing they are a virus. Others can't open them if you send a PDF file and they don't have Adobe reader installed. One work-around for this is to have the document they need online so they can click to the document and if it is a PDF file, there can be a link to download the Adobe program.

Other considerations include that your recipient may use a dial-up connection which makes large attachments painfully slow or they have email accounts that either 1) limit the amount of storage space or 2) refuse attachments over a certain size.

Next month we will discuss in Part II what to include in your content, whether to use HTML or plain text, which layout to use and how to structure your content for business reply emails.

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Is Your Mortgage Competitor Receiving More Business Than You?


Is Your Mortgage Competitor Receiving More Business Than You?

Ever wonder how that mortgage competitor of yours is doing? Curious about how you can find out how much traffic or how many sales they receive? Wondering if you can somehow find the web sites that link to them and also get these sites to link to you?

You can use the Internet to perform competitive intelligence on your competitors, and then take that information and use it to improve your site. By using these existing online Internet tools and social engineering queries, you can find out how much business your competitors are earning. You can run these tests on your own site.

Or if you are thinking about starting a new mortgage web site, you can "Test" the business by estimating how well it might do.

As a side note, the best way to test this is to try these techniques on your web site; to see if your competitors can determine how much business you are doing.

Let's start with the easiest methods and work upwards:

1. VISIBLE COUNTER
See if they have a visible stat counter - visit every day for a week and see how the counter changes. Then visit it weekly to watch for changes such as spikes around mortgage rate reductions, or if there is a news story related to a specific type of loan, or if it is time for college and people are examining a refi for their home; if any of that results in more traffic. If you look at sites like http://www.mortgages4u.com/ and http://www.mortgage-ams.com/ you can see their traffic counters. Of course, many people start their counters at 10,000 instead of at 0.

2. DO AN INQUIRY
For most online retail stores, one way to perform competitive intelligence on a competitor is to order something small and see what the invoice number is, then go back and order a week later and see how that invoice number changed. Repeat as often as your curiosity and bank balance allows you to. In the mortgage business, it is hard to keep taking out loans, but sometimes companies have reference numbers if you submit an inquiry. You can watch how that reference number changes.

3. ALEXA.COM
Alexa is a service that estimates traffic based on visitors to various sites using the Alexa toolbar. From the Alexa site, it says;

"How are Alexa's traffic rankings determined? Alexa's traffic rankings are based on the usage patterns of Alexa Toolbar users over a rolling 3 month period. A site's ranking is based on a combined measure of reach and page views. Reach is determined by the number of unique Alexa users who visit a site on a given day. Page views are the total number of Alexa user URL requests for a site. However, multiple requests for the same URL on the same day by the same user are counted as a single page view. The site with the highest combination of users and page views is ranked #1.

Alexa's traffic rankings are for top level domains only (e.g. domain.com). We do not provide separate rankings for subpages within a domain (e.g. www.domain.com/subpage.html) or subdomains (e.g. subdomain.domain.com) unless we are able to automatically identify them as personal home pages or blogs, like those hosted on Geocities and Tripod. If a site is identified as a personal home page or blog, its traffic ranking will have an asterisk (*) next to it: Personal Page Avg. Traffic Rank: 3,456*. Personal pages are ranked on the same scale as a regular domain, so a personal page ranked 3,456* is the 3,456th most popular page among Alexa users.

4. STATBRAIN.COM
Statbrain is another service to estimate the amount of traffic to a site. They say,"How accurate is Statbrain? Statbrain estimates the number of visits that a website has based on offsite factors like backlinks, Alexa Rank etc. Statbrain does not have access to log files or any counter information. The number of visits that Statbrain estimates gives you an idea of the number of visits that a website has, but not the exact visitor number."

I have tested it against some of our sites and I would say it is in the ballpark.

5. URLTRENDS.COM
UrlTrends was developed to allow Webmasters, search engine optimizers, and domain buyers to determine a websites (or a specific pages) rankings in the various search engines and directories. Based on this information you can make competitive analysis of any website with another website -- and from this you could possibly determine their traffic by the number of links to them.

UrlTrends offers a report which allows webmasters to view their linking trends for eight different search engines (including Google, Alexa, Yahoo!, MSN), as well as the PageRank and Alexa Rank. A recent addition also allows our users to view the number of end-users of a website that bookmarked the website using Furl or Del.icio.us.

6. YAHOO.COM & GOOGLE.COM
Use Yahoo & Google Search to determine who links to a particular site.

In the search box enter EACH of the following permutations, as even though they appear the same, they may produce different results

http://www.DomainName.com
http://DomainName.com
DomainName.com
link:http://DomainName.com
link:http://www.DomainName.com
link:DomainName.com
"http://www.DomainName.com" with the quote marks
"www.DomainName.com" with the quote marks
"DomainName.com" with the quote marks

Please note, that some of the above searches will return zero results, while others may return thousands of results.

7. WHOLINKS2ME.com
Use online link analysis resources to analyze competitors links, such as WhoLinks2Me.com.

8. SOCIAL ENGINEERING LOOK-UPS
Try asking by using "social engineering look-ups" and try and guess the admin page for the competitors stat program.

domainname.com/logs.htm
domainname.com/logs.html
domainname.com/stats.html
domainname.com/stats/
domainname.com/admin/
domainname.com/logs/

... not all these work, but you get the idea.

9. SOCIAL ENGINEERING SEARCHES
Try "social engineering searches" ie

"domainname.com" +logs
"domainname.com" +stats
"domainname.com" +"number of visitors"
"domainname.com "+visitors
"domainname.com "+"mortgage leads"

... not all these work, but you get the idea.

10. Try peeking at the HTML

Do a right click on your mouse and "View Source" and see if you can see a reference to a stat counter. Usually you can find the code for a stat program right before the closing body HTML code, ie /body

Sometimes domains use free stats counters I just randomly searched and found http://extremetracking.com/open;unique?login=tgrmn you can see their stats - about four visitors a day.

Also, if you look at the referring sites, such as I did at
http://extremetracking.com/open;ref1?login=loan2b
you can see which sites are linking to them, then you can approach that site and ask for a link as well.

First try these techniques on your site, then compare the results to your competitors sites. From their results, you may be able to find more ways to drive traffic to your site. And more targeted traffic…means more closed sales.

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How a Blog can Increase Traffic to your Web Site


How a Blog can Increase Traffic to your Web Site

"Why YOU Should Blog - You Can Receive More Traffic"


Normally, I save the punch line for the end of an article, but this time, the conclusion could impact your site is such a dramatic manner, I am including it up front -- you need to blog your site.

I wrote this article on blogging because many mortgage site owners can add valuable content to their site; but don't because they don't know HTML or because they think they don't have the time to do it. By using a blog you can add your views and comments to your site by simply going to your blog, typing in the entry box and then hit "submit." Yep, (once set up) it is that easy.

That's it - no FTP program, no HTML editor program and no special knowledge (hey, my mom is doing it and she calls me on the phone asking me how to spell a word). You type what you want to say and it is posted to the net. It is that fast and that easy. And a blog can be set up with a free host in minutes or routed to your own domain with just minutes more worth of work.

Of course, I am not talking about your site when I say that many corporate mortgage sites reek of content as if written by emotionless mannequins in a faraway place. The site content has a predictable, high school textbook like quality; somehow attempting to be knowledgeable yet officious, with the only result often achieved is a dull glazing of the eyes and a quick click of despair with the mouse. A blog gives you the opportunity to escape the veil of corporate protocol and drudgery and add a "human voice" to your site, to let your visitors know that there is actually something with a pulse behind the written words.

Now here is where it could get interesting for you. A well-written blog can bring additional traffic to your site, which in turn converts visitors to customers. You need to be blogging.

Just What is a Blog?

A blog is an online journal that is kept on the web. The term "blog" is derived from a blend of the words web and log (Web log) (sorta' like that old FedEx commercial when the actor spoke at 500 words a minute to illustrate how fast their service was). The activity of updating a blog by writing a "post" is called "blogging" and if you have a blog you are a "blogger." One of the reasons blogs are so popular is that you can post to your blog with little or no technical background as the software does all the work for you. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of most early blogs.

We even set up a blog to show the past seven years of articles we have written for NAMB magazine at MortgagePromote.com/articleslist.htm on everything from internet marketing to mortgage leads.

Some of the reasons people blog include:
* to be creative (some people are good writers and they blog because they can)
* to release stress or serve as a personal diary (I have a friend who recently became single and is blogging about dating in your 40's)
* to share news with friends (here is what is happening with the proposed park)
* to talk about a favorite item (wine or Chargers Football) or hobby (organic gardening or stained glass), and
* to attract business (that's you)

Can A Blog Increase Traffic To Your Site?

Well, yes, it can... but only for "good blogs." The same way that there are many mortgage sites; but generally web sites with quality and many links get ranked high, works the same way for blogs. You can receive traffic, but it is often related to the quality or appeal of your blog.

What To Blog on your Mortgage Site

You can take a few lessons from real estate agents who operate their own personal sites. Add links to local schools, reference news articles on how testing scores were for each grade, comment on how the new widening of the freeway, while a drag for the next two years, will actually make some communities benefit in the long run (which may subtlety help convince a potential buyer to purchase a home there, leading to a loan for you).

You can also discuss sites that make your life as a member of the community a bit easier. You might include a link to the online traffic report saying you always check that site before you leave for work and before you return home. If your company recycles, be sure to include that type of info in your blog, saying how you arranged with the local girl scout troop (add a picture if you can) to come in once a month and collect all your cans and bottles so they can raise monies for their projects.

You can pepper in a SMALL does of corporate advertising, but try and masquerade it somewhat either by using a testimonial format (John and Tami Smith recently closed a home loan with us and they said they really appreciated us sending our notary to their office) or "news-like" bulletins (Interests rates dropped today, and according to CNN, this appears to be the bottom of the market - possibly, a good time to reexamine your home refinancing needs).

Use a Human Voice

There is a scene from the movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the voice of the HAL 9000 computer, says, "It can only be attributable to human error." HAL says it with such remarkable efficiency and conviction, that it initially is hard to doubt the computer, except... that it is a computer.

Trust, charisma and credibility are precious traits, and they are difficult to convey via a blog. Your readers will appreciate empathy, compassion, authority, honesty and even humor. A little humility (umm, my wife suggested this after reading my first draft) in your blogging is also helpful.

In the same vein, don't write about your favorite Star Trek episode, what kind of car you just bought or how that vacation at the six star hotel on the remote South Pacific island is soooooo overrated. But, if you did happen to catch the largest trout in the last four years at Long Lake, you could probably mention that and get away with it.

And don't forget the little things to mention, such as if you sponsor a soccer team, you can add to your blog, "The mighty SoCal Loan Warriors won two of their last three games in convincing fashion in the tough 10-12 age category. Their next game is Saturday at noon, at Johnson's park. Be sure to arrive early as the game will probably sell out."

Next month we will talk about how to choose the right blog software for you (and more importantly which software not to use), the biggest mistakes companies make when they blog and, most importantly, the hidden secret to use in order to make your blog found, almost instantly, on the net.

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Internet Marketing Techniques: The Highway to Disaster - "Get In, Hold On, Shut Up"


"Get In, Hold On, Shut Up"

Internet Marketing Techniques: The Highway to Disaster

There is a bumper sticker that goes something like, "Get in, hold on, shut up." We frequently see mortgage sites try and apply this "Click In, Fill The Form & Shut Up" strategy to their valuable visitors. Visitors don't like it.

One of the most frequently asked question by our clients is quite simply, "How do I make my pay per click (PPC) program more effective?" Everyone is fighting to attract qualified visitors via the internet; but it is what you do with the visitor when they arrive that separates successful PPC efforts from those campaigns that merely cost money.

Keywords Are Not Magical. Content Is.

Internet users are becoming more sophisticated. You can no longer expect someone to show up to your site, blindly do whatever you want, then close a loan. Pay per click marketing is not some wu-wu magic that somehow takes a lost soul and converts them into a $500,000 mortgage loan customer. Undeniably, or is it unbelievably, PPC advertisers think that once you have paid for keywords, people will flow to your site and close loans. I have some very bad news for you... that is not going to happen if you have bad content.

Pay to Play

The fastest way to attract traffic to your site is quite simply to pay for it. By using both Google
http://adwords.google.com/ and Yahoo! (formerly Overture) http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com/ you can reach approximately 90% of the domestic US search market. Remember this is pay per click (PPC), so each time someone visits your site, it will cost you, whether they use your mortgage services or not.

Aren't All PPC Words Alike?

Let's assume you are based in Dallas and offer home loans and refinancing to Dallas area customers. If a potential customer searches for "Dallas home loan" at Yahoo < p="Dallas+home+loan"> you get two columns of results. A wide column of search results on your left, and a narrow column of results on your right. The results on the left and displayed according to what the Yahoo algorithm has perceived to be the most relevant findings. The results on your right are determined by what the advertiser will spend. Google is set up the same way with paid results on the right hand side of the screen.

How Much Are Your Competitors Spending For Your Keywords?

Yahoo has a feature where you can see all the bids for any keyword. Here are some comparative top three bids for the Yahoo! PPC.

Keyword Searched Bid #1 \ Bid #2 \ Bid #3

Dallas home loan $14.50 \ $6.50 \ $4.02
Dallas home mortgage $2.79 \ $2.78 \ $2.77
Dallas refi $0.63 \ $0.62 \ $0.35
Dallas refinance $14.50 \ $5.28 \ $5.27
Dallas home refinance $3.21 \ $3.21\ $2.10

As you can see from these recent results, that the top bidder for the term "Dallas home loan" is willing pay up $14.50 per click for visitors to their site. The second bidder pays up to $6.50 and the third will pay $4.02. That is quite a spread, with the top bidder willing to pay three times what the third bidder pays.

Mortgage company owners will bid to land in the top three rankings because these are the most likely links to be clicked.

Don't Waste Your Clicks!

At these prices, you must make sure your site is perfect and delivers exactly what the visitor is expecting (ie Dallas home loan information) because if your visitor clicks on your PPC keyword and you deliver information on anything else (i.e. history of your company, picture of your office, a page listing all the mortgage programs you provided), that visitor will leave. You will lose the money you spent to attract that visitor because you failed to precisely provide information on the keyword they selected, "Dallas home loans".

If you look at the second term "Dallas home mortgage" you see the top three bids are separated by pennies, and the bidders are paying about $2.75 per click. If you get 1000 visitors it will cost $2,750 to attract these highly targeted, potential customers.

You can also research how many monthly searches occur at Yahoo! for any search term. Looking at the keywords we searched for above, we find two words have about 1,000 searches a month; Dallas refinance and Dallas home loan.

Keyword Searched Bid #1 \ Bid #2 \ Bid #3 Monthly Searches at Yahoo!

Dallas home loan $14.50 \ $6.50 \ $4.02 1122
Dallas home mortgage $2.79 \ $2.78 \ $2.77 32
Dallas refi $0.63 \ $0.62 \ $0.35 0
Dallas refinance $14.50 \ $5.28 \ $5.27 1141
Dallas home refinance $3.21 \ $3.21\ $2.10 25

Some may wonder why a term like "Dallas refi," devoid of searches, has bids associated with it. The reason is because if anyone ever does type "Dallas refi" your click will cost just $0.63 which is a substantial savings over the similar keyword "Dallas refinance" with a $14.50 top click value.

Great PPC Keywords + Poor Content = No Sales

When creating a PPC campaign, most mortgage site owners focus upon keywords: keyword creation, keyword selection, keyword bidding, etc. There are many components to the PPC game, including: title creation, description content, keyword creation, keyword selection and keyword bidding.

The single most overlooked aspect of a PPC program is also the damaging and expensive aspect of the PPC process... your written content. Very simple things like: having a copyright at the bottom of your page which shows last year, making the visitor scroll down a page to find what they are searching for, making the visitor click on a link to find what they are seeking to not showing the current loan rates you offer on your site…all can lead to a lost visitor.

You Had Me at Hello

It is not like where Rene Zellwegger says to Tom Cruise (in the movie Jerry Maquire), "You had me at hello." Your visitors need to be wooed, courted, pampered, spoiled, cared for, and treated with respect in order to become a customer. There is a huge (financial) difference between getting customers to your site and keeping them there.

When the visitor arrives at your site, you must have the complementary sales wording in place to convert a marketing lead into a sales customer.

Driving Miss Daisy

If you want your PPC program to be successful, whether to attract home loans or mortgage leads, you must most do more than pick a few words and bid. You must step back and look at the entire process from key word formulation, to bidding strategies, to the customer expectation and experience once they arrive at your site. Make the visitors unknowingly enjoy the perfection that your content can deliver by providing exactly what they want, when they want it, and where they want it.

You must cater to your visitors; so you efficiently and nicely chauffeur them around your web site.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Internet Marketing is Like Marketing Sex


There is often a bit of confusion about the blurry line of distinction between sales and marketing.

For example, we recently received an email from a new client. We were sending him about 50+ mortgage leads a day. After a few days he wrote us saying, "I have received 250+ leads... but where are the sales?" To which we replied, "As we discussed, we do the Internet marketing and deliver the leads to your company. That is our job. We control the traffic flow to your web business. Once they arrive at your company, you do the sales. You control the sales with your staff."

Little Sizzle, a Dash Of Appeal, a Bit Of Allure

Internet marketing is a lot like marketing sex. You need a little sizzle, a dash of appeal, a bit of allure and something that meets and satisfies the user's desire.

There is a great illustration of the distinctions between marketing, branding, public relations, sales etc., it goes like this.

You see an attractive person at a party. You march across the room, go up to the person and say, in a matter of fact tone, "I'm fantastic in bed. How 'bout it?"" -- That's "Direct Marketing."

You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see an attractive person.
You give your friend ten dollars to approach the attractive person and they say, "Hi, my friend over there (pointing to you) is great in bed, how 'bout it?". -- That's "Advertising."

You see an attractive person at a party. You go up to them and get their telephone number. The next day you call and say, "Hi, I'm fantastic in bed." -- That's "Telemarketing."

You're at a party and see an attractive person. You give two of your friends ten bucks each to stand within earshot of the attractive person and point over to you and say, "I hear that person is fantastic in bed." Then they talk about what a great person you are. -- That's "Public Relations."

You're at a party and see an attractive person. That person immediately walks over to you and says, "Hi, I hear you're great in bed, how 'bout it?". -- That's "Brand Recognition."

You're at a party and see an attractive person. You talk them into
going home with your friend. -- That's a "Sales Rep."

Your friend can't satisfy them so the attractive person calls you. -- That's "Tech Support."

You're at a party when you realize that there are many attractive people in attendance. So you start at one corner of the room and go to each person you find attractive and shout at the top of your lungs, "I'm fantastic in bed!" Soon you are asked to leave the party.
That's "Spam” marketing.

Your Online Marketing Efforts

Now, how does all relate to your online marketing efforts? Are your visitors looking for something sexy, or are they seeking something more substantial?

Direct Marketing: Contact real estate offices and escrow companies and ask for a link from their web site to yours.

Advertising: Use pay-per-click efforts, buy keywords at various search portals, advertise in newsletters and opt-in ezines.

Telemarketing: Call online mortgage companies in other cities and states and offer to exchange leads for customers you cannot service.

Public Relations: Do postings in various newsgroups and moderated newsgroups providing helpful information. Also add a mortgage calculator to your web site that anyone can use without logging in our having to complete a sign-in process.

Brand Recognition: This is something that is earned.

Spam: Unsolicited emails can produce short term results, but the negative connotations and possible loss of your ISP or web site host can destroy your business.

Other Ways Sex Sells

A few other ways "sex sells" (or "sex doesn't sell") for your mortgage web site:

A Pretty Face: Make sure your web site is attractive and pleasant in appearance. No one likes to see a mortgage site constructed with a FrontPage 97 template and with 13 different color fonts.

A Tight Fitting Outfit: If you are selling mortgages, don't offer anything else. Links to Amazon, your favorite sites, the IRS, are detrimental to you. Customers are hard to get…keep them on your web site.

Scantily Clothed: Don't skimp on information on your web site. If a visitor has to search, or heaven-forbid, call for ANY reason other to complete an application, then you haven't done your job. ALL information on rates, procedures, about your company, should be on your site.

Movies Are For The Theaters: Do NOT make your customers watch a Flash introduction of spinning houses, swirling interest rate symbols, flying dollar bills and end up at some monolithic edifice that is your office building. Visitors want info, not entertainment.

Talking Dirty: Never bad-mouth the competition from your web site.

The Promise of More Than You Intend to Deliver: Don't blink and blast an interest rate of 3.95% on your site if it only applies to loans of less than $50,000 and incomes in excess of $400,000. Show ALL your rates, not just the eye-stoppers.

Tricks are for Dogs: Any traffic generating trick, such as creating a Pamela Lee Anderson worship page on your site, that works will stop working next week when everyone wise to what you are doing and no one will fall for it.

Romance: People like to treated nice, they like to be cared for -- so, do this for your visitors at your site. Make it easy to navigate your site, answer their questions before they have to ask them and be responsive when they email you.

Stepping Stones To Acquiring And Maintaining Customers

What mortgage site owners are really seeking, is the same outcome that often occurs via sex... a marriage. Mortgage web site owners want a relationship that is good for both parties to occur. The sex and romance, while an integral part in the courtship maze, are simply the stepping stones to acquiring and maintaining customers.

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Friday, April 6, 2007

The Hole In The Fire


It was August 1949, a bone dry day in Montana with near 100 degree heat. The lightning-caused blaze burned more than 3,000 acres and controlling it required the efforts of more than 400 firefighters.

Fifteen brave firefighters parachuted into remote Mann Gulch to fight an out of control forest fire. Shortly after the smokejumpers were on the ground the fire jumped across a ravine, flared up and trapped them between the flames and a steep slope.

The fifteen firefighters panicked and ran, trying to make it up a 76% grade in hopes of reaching a crest for safety. It was hopeless, but they all dropped their heavy gear and ran, except their commander. He knew the climb was too great and the fire too swift and knew that it wasn’t going to work. So he stopped, took out matches, and lit a fire in front of him in the tall dry grass that was between him and the slope.

His fire rapidly spread up the slope creating an area that was hot, but couldn't burn anymore as all the fuel had burned. He followed his burned trail and yelled for his crew to come to him for safety. The others were so panic stricken that they just continued running and climbing up the slope.

The commander went into the middle of the burned-out area and laid down. The turbulent Mann Gulch fire raged everywhere around him, except for where he was.

A Hole In The Fire

Just 90 minutes after the 15 smokejumpers had parachuted, 10 were dead, unable to out race the fire as they were consumed by a wall of 200 foot flames. Two others died the next day due to burns they received. The commander of the unit lived as he had created a safety spot, "a hole in the fire."

This concept became known as an “escape fire,” and it became part of forest fire training. This tragedy later spawned the 1952 Hollywood movie, "Red Skies of Montana."

What was interesting about this was that the commander had found a way to benefit everyone; he had yelled and offered sanctuary to his crew. Ultimately the Forest Service taught this technique to all forest fire fighters. This was something that would benefit the many.

This now brings us to the internet and how this can apply to your web site. I will discuss two applications from the "hole in the fire" story: one, the value of a story, and two, how the "hole in the fire" works in reverse on the Internet.

The Value Of Stories

Does your company have a good story to tell? Can you share something with your potential customers that converts you from a cold heartless stop on a journey of a thousand clicks; into a reason to pause on your site and cause the viewer to pause and say, "I think I will stay on this site and explore a little bit more?"

Across The Frozen Tundra...

I was watching an interview with the owners of NFL films. This is the company that films the NFL with lots of slow-motion action footage, crisp editing, a musical background best described as a Star Wars / 70's action movie / Classical marching mind-meld.They were also famous for using rich commentary behind the powerful narration by John Facenda: "The autumn wind is a pirate, blustering in relentlessly from the sea. These cold winds whisper of high hopes as helmet against helmet breaks the silence of the crisp day."

They could make even a 17-0 sleeper look like the most dramatic game in the history of organized sports. For example, in a Dallas Cowboys highlight film in 1967, it first described Green Bay's football field famously as "a frozen tundra" (across the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field), as they were showing the muddied and bloodied hands of lineman in their stance and cold frost forming as they breathed in and out.

Remember, Remember, Remember My Name...

When they interviewed Steve Sabol, one of the principals of NFL films, he was asked why have they been so successful given that Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC and ESPN all do essentially the same thing. He replied that they were different and then stated, "Tell me a fact and I'll remember. Tell me the truth and I'll believe. But tell me a story and I'll remember forever."

Fire In The Hole

If you have ever found your site ranked first for a "money" keyword or phrase (mortgage, San Diego home loans, refi), you find that you are absolutely besieged with visitors, questions, orders and sales, almost to the point where you are unable to handle the volume. It literally is a "fire in the hole." Often you are not quite sure what you have done to achieve the top ranking, and even if you knew, you would not tell anyone.

Unlike the "hole in the fire story" where what you have learned benefits everyone, when you have a "fire in the hole," situation, you just have no reason to share that information each person you benefit possibly has a negative impact on your site and rankings.

Confusion Can Lead to Positive Outcomes; or More Confusion

The confusion and lack of communication at the Mann Gulch fire prompted major changes in smokejumper training. It has resulted in greater safety and lives saved. What was learned during this tragedy has created a method that still works today - the back burn fire.

On the internet, there is a lot of confusion about what works, and what doesn't. Even when you find something that does work, it most likely has a short life span, due to frequently changing search engine algorithms.

An early example of a technique that once helped sites achieve top rankings was called keyword stuffing. If you had a site about, say, "Seattle home loans," you might have repeated the phrase "Seattle home loans" a hundred times on your site. This way the search engine would have surmised that, surprise, your site was more about "Seattle home loans" than any other site, so it would have ranked you first.

If you use keyword stuffing techniques today, you get banned from the search engines. And that would be a fatal fire you can't extinguish.


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MortgagePromote.com is a leading Internet marketing web site that provides hundreds of articles & information tips on web site promotion, search engine marketing and search engine optimization; to help loan officers & mortgage companies increase their online sales. Aries and Farris has been providing nationwide mortgage leads & Internet marketing services since 1998.
Web site:
MortgagePromote.com

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published April 2007.



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Hey, That's Smart Internet Marketing


It is hard to stand out among the tens, hundreds, thousands of internet companies available to potential mortgage customers. In this month's article, I am going to mention a few smart things that separate successful mortgage firms from their competitors.

I Should Be in Pictures

My business partner, Robert, is a Wall Street Journal junkie. He is always reading about how companies do business online, then we discuss his findings and see what we can do for ourselves and our clients, if anything. Robert recently read about a company that converts those thousands of snapshots you have around the house into digital images. One of the companies mentioned, ScanMyPhotos.com, had an all-you-can-put into a box for $99 special. I purchased their box, filled it with the about 2,000 snapshots, dropped it in the prepaid box they sent me. Then, just four days (that is smart doing such fast turnaround) later I got the box back with all my pictures plus a DVD with the digitized images. Apparently they have some high tech machine that takes a stack of regular photos and converts them to jpg images. Here is where it got real smart...

Hey, That's Me...

Out of all those images I included, they actually selected one that they guessed was my family, and took my family picture and put it onto a postcard coupon for 30% off. In fact, four postcard coupons, all with my family's picture, so I could send it to friends so they would receive a discount on their order. I even gave Robert a coupon since he actually found the company.

Flowers For Mom

This past Valentine's Day I ordered flowers online for my mother, as I always do. I typically buy from a company called GrowerFlowers.com because I first tried them quite a few years ago, and they always had performed.

There is a little lesson in this as well, as if your current customers had a good experience during their loan, they are far more likely to come back to you next time they need another loan.

Back to the GrowerFlowers.com story. As I was checking out, I remembered they always had a place where I could select what kind of card was to be included in the order and what I wanted the card to say. This year I noticed a few things different; and better. First, they had more cards to choose from and they had images of both the outside of the card and the inside text showing where what I typed would go. Second, they added a feature where I could select a digital picture from my hard drive, and upload it to be imprinted into the card. For a moment, as I was thinking that is a cool feature, I pondered sending that picture of my wife in that cute little negligee that I liked so much... but then I thought mom would prefer to see her granddaughter instead. After looking closer at the picture of my wife, it was probably a good call.

And GrowerFlowers.com does other smart things as well. They have "suggestions" as what to say in your card if you are creatively challenged. They offer a handy reminder feature. I could enter names, birthdays, anniversaries etc of people and then GrowerFlowers.com would send me an email a couple of weeks before so I could remember what to do... Try missing your anniversary -- that is not so smart.

I am sure a few other flower companies are doing this, but I am so pleased that I just keep going back... And, telling my friends.


Car Buying

I recently was buying a used car for my daughter and I wanted to try and find out about a car history so I ended up at VehicleIdentificationNumber.com. Normally pop-ups are a turn off, but this pop-up said, "VIN Number Available? If not, please leave us your email address and we will send you a reminder to you."

What was smart about this, is that many people don't have a car VIN number immediately available and this site sent an email reminder to me so I could easily return to the site when I had the VIN number from my car.

Best Enjoyed By

The book, "In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies" By Robert H. Waterman, Jr., Thomas J. Peters; contains one of my favorite examples of how to be smarter about the presentation of your business.

Words are a very powerful tool, especially online, where words are the way a potential customer judges you. The "In Search of Excellence" book has an example of two companies and how they state the expiration date on fruit drinks. One company prints, "Expires on 6-25-07" on their product while the others states, "Best enjoyed by 6-25-07". Now the difference is subtle, but the "best enjoyed" has better wording.

Searching Your Back Yard

Search engines are getting smarter too. Now when you do a search for something than is best served by a local provider (i.e. dry cleaning, donuts, real estate, home loans) the search engines are reading the origin of the request by using your internet protocol (IP) address. The search engine can tell your location with your IP and deliver results that best meet your needs.

This is especially evident with Google and if you actually create an account with them, which I do. I just searched for the single, generic term "plumber" and I got back all my results that specifically said "San Diego" in the Adwords ad (that is the little column on the left of your screen that are paid advertisements). Google knows that if I get better results with them that I will keep using them. And if my results are better then I end up using the companies that advertise with Google, so these companies benefit as well. That's smart.

How's Your Child?

For a number of years, some doctors' offices will call after a visit just to say they are following up on our visit and to see if we have any questions. Hmm, I always used to think that someone had a Porsche payment due... But, it makes good sense for marketing and patient relations and also helps with limiting malpractice exposure. Even our veterinary doctor (at least his staff) calls after visits to his clinic. (He should be providing us with kitty limousine service given how much we spend there.)

How's Your Car?

I did buy a car for my daughter and then I had several calls from the dealer. The first was from a person who specialized in answering questions such as how does cruise control work or where is the spare tire found. The second call was from the person that sold the car thanking me for purchasing the car and just making sure I was happy. These guys should call because if you think cats are expensive, you should try daughters...

Get Smart With Your Site

So, take a few minutes and look at your site. Go back to your site and re-read how you have your wording. Try to click through your site as a first time visitor would. Is it friendly, concise, compelling, helpful and informative? Does your wording get you customers, or does your wording cost you customers? As you go through your site ask yourself what would you want to see? How can the navigation be better?

If you do this, you will find that your web site results in more closed mortgage loans. Ahh, so smart.


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MortgagePromote.com is a leading Internet marketing web site that provides hundreds of articles & information tips on web site promotion, search engine marketing and search engine optimization; to help loan officers & mortgage companies increase their online sales. Aries and Farris has been providing nationwide mortgage leads & Internet marketing services since 1998.

Web site:
MortgagePromote.com

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published March 2007.

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Time For You To Update Your 1999 Web Site?


A few things have changed since you created your web site. There are probably many things that changed you wished hadn't: 9-11, dial-up, YouTube.com, the Google stock price, maybe your weight or even your spouse... Has your web site changed?

Maybe in 1999 you had a web site that you had created by your next door neighbor's kid. Hey, it's 2007 now, and even if you still have your site created by the kid next door, the site is bound to be better as kids are even smarter and the software is superior.

Party Like It's 1999

I remember as we were leaving 2006 (and every new year before) and getting close to 2007 that many radio stations were playing the Prince song, "1999." It was funny that Prince actually released that song 17 years before 1999. Now that we are on the other side of 1999, that song will probably get less and less play, as we move further away.

Is Your Web Site Getting Less Play?

Your mortgage web site is also well into 2007 and you should have had a chance to update your pages. The most common error we are still seeing is web pages that have copyright 2006 (or 2005 or 1999 or ...) at the bottom of the pages. When your visitor views your site and notices an out-of-date copyright year or time sensitive content in the body (Happy New Year) that is several months past its pull date, the visitor begins to suspect the quality of your site.

There have been many changes to the internet since 1999, and what used to work, may no longer be viable, or may now even get your web site penalized. Let's discuss a few of the changes.

Multiple Directory Listings

It is in your mortgage company's best interest to have high quality links directed to your site. Links vary in value, but generally a link from CNN.com is better than a link from AuntieSarahsBurgerJoint.com. And a link from MortgageLinkFarm.com may be detrimental.

DMOZ Directory

DMOZ (DMOZ.org) is great to be included in as it feeds the Google directory results. DMOZ is also very unorganized as most of the categories use volunteer editors who often are too busy to stay current, or they have their own listing in a directory and they reason they volunteer is to keep out competitors like you. Regardless, DMOZ has its value in the Google feed and it is free.

YAHOO Directory

To be included in the Yahoo directory, start with finding the RIGHT DIRECTORY category http://search.yahoo.com/dir you belong in and then look for the link at the top right of the page that states "Suggest a site." It will cost you $299 to recommend your own site, but it is $299 well spent.

WIKIPEDIA

Some companies will even use novel ways to gain additional links. Most people are not aware that you can easily create a Wikipedia page for your own business. In example, DiTech uses Wikipedia.org, the online encyclopedia, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ditech.com) to promote its DiTech site.

"Ditech.com is a lender, offering mortgages and lines of credit as a member of the General Motors family of companies, specifically General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC). Ditech.com is a business unit of GMAC Mortgage."

ABOUTUS.ORG

AboutUs.org is similar to Wikipedia, except that its purpose is for businesses to insert their listings. Creating a page for your business on this site will also tend to rank very well for your business name.

In-Bound Linking Strategies

The Official Google Webmaster Central Blog http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com offers tips from Google staff members and can be useful in finding out what to do and, as importantly, what not to do.

Google Ranking Algorithm Devaluing Exchanged Links

One of the ways sites would obtain high rankings in Google was to have many sites link to their site. The thinking was that if other sites were linking to a specific site, then that specific site must be valuable to the Google searchers. Over time this theory became abused with link farms (sites set up to do nothing but link), paid links (you pay for a link to your site) and bogus site links (companies create fictitious web sites with the sole purpose of linking to a specific site).

The Google staff has announced that they have "tremendously refined its link-weighting algorithms. We have more people working on Google's link-weighting for quality control and to correct issues we find. So nowadays, undermining the PageRank algorithm is likely to result in the loss of the ability of link-selling sites to pass on reputation via links to other sites." In short, don't use sneaky techniques for inbound links.

Link Baiting

Link baiting is a technique which typically takes advantage of Web 2.0 social content websites and visitor rewarded content sites like Digg.com. The way the bait works is that you create high content or useful information as the hook. Hooks can take on a variety of forms such as: news hooks (what is the latest interest rates), contrary hooks (why to use a variable interest rates when fixed rates are 2%), attack hooks (how the Fed Reserve is ruining the economy), resource hooks (historical average VA and FHA interest rates) and even humor hooks (10 ways to tell if your blind date is really a mortgage broker).

Some people link bait their reputation by building an authority through services such as http://answers.yahoo.com. In this example a person might answer all the questions posed at Yahoo Answers (Should I get a fixed or variable mortgage? I have bad credit, how do I get a loan?) and others viewing the answers might find that person useful and be inclined to utilize their mortgage services.

Site Verification

See if you site is in Google using their Site status wizard https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/sitestatus and it will also tell you the last time the Googlebot last visited your site. If you are not listed you will find a link on how to add your site map to Google. Both Google (https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/) and Yahoo (http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/) offer site verification and site mapping.A couple of advantages happen when you add your site, via your account, to Google and Yahoo. First, you are more likely to get indexed. Second, you have access to statistics and error information about your site.

Party Like It Is 2007

By the time you finish updating your site and submitting it to the various directories you will be ready to party... until it is time for the next round of updates.
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MortgagePromote.com is a leading Internet marketing web site that provides hundreds of articles & information tips on web site promotion, search engine marketing and search engine optimization; to help loan officers & mortgage companies increase their online sales. Aries and Farris has been providing nationwide mortgage leads & Internet marketing services since 1998.
Web site:
MortgagePromote.com

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published February 2007.

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The Donald Rumsfeld Manifesto and Search Engine Optimization


When clients ask my partner Robert about search engine optimization (SEO), he likes to quote former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who Robert claims is highly relevant to search engine marketing. Mr. Rumsfeld was quoted as saying, "There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns, that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know."

Then he tells the client that is how SEO works, whether Google, Yahoo!, MSN or any other engine. Search engines seem to more closely to the world of TV Star Trek than the real world. The engines have nonlinear boundaries, appear to operate in multiple dimensions, somehow contain all the information known to man and have unwritten rules that frequently change, without warning.


"There Are Known Knowns; There are Things We Know We Know."

Here is what we know... If you want to be found on the internet you need to be found in the databases of Google, Yahoo! and MSN. Other engines are nice to be found in as well, but these three will account for 98% of traffic.

"We Also Know There Are Known Unknowns, That Is To Say We Know There Are Some Things We Do Not Know."

Matt Cutts is a Google employee who states on his web site "Hi, I joined Google as a software engineer in January 2000. I'm currently the head of the Google's Webspam team. I sometimes blog about things, but please bear in mind my disclaimer that the views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer."

Here are some comments from MattCutts.com on some "known unknowns" about Google and ranking.

URL NAMING: Using dashes over underscores to delimit words in URLs is better. In example, MortgagePromote.com/mortgage-leads.html is better than MortgagePromote.com/mortgage_leads.html

SPAM STRATEGY: Overall Google's strategy is to not spend time on correcting individual spam cases, but to concentrate on creating a better algorithm which takes into account spamming. Having said that, Google will take action on specific cases of spam.

SITE MAPS: A site map won't necessarily get your site crawled. It is more important to have good quality links to your site to achieve a higher degree of full site indexing.

SELLING LINKS: In order to artificially create a sense of high quality links, many sites buy links to their own sites. If you sell links, you should mark them with the nofollow tag. Not doing so can affect your reputation in Google. Earned-links are earned and given by choice. Google does consider buying text links for PageRank purposes to be outside our quality guidelines. Google's is against selling/buying links, and Matt indicates they are good at spotting them - both algorithmically and manually. Sites that sell links can lose their trust in search engines.

EGO AND SPLASH PAGES: It's not only Googlebot who doesn't watch a 20 second video load before the home page comes into view. A lot of users don't either. Splash pages can negatively impact your Google indexing.

FLASH VS. HTML: If you use Flash, you create a HTML version as well. HTML is easier to index and improves your chances of getting indexed.

META TITLES: Each pages should have its own unique and descriptive tag and headings for every page. In example, if your company is called Mortgage Promote, then Mortgage Promote should not be the meta title on every page. Titles should reflect the page substance. If you page is about San Diego Home Loans, then that should be the meta title.

SAY WHAT YOU MEAN: If your site is about "San Diego home loans" but the visible content of your site says "Get your mortgage loan with us," you won't be found for San Diego home loans" because those words aren't visible to the visitor.

"But There Are Also Unknown Unknowns - The Ones We Don't Know We Don't Know."

RANKING PARAMETERS: Factors such as "Page Rank (Google tool bar)" and "inbound links (more is better)" and "trusted sites (colleges and major corporations)" and "age of domain (older is better)" and "keywords embedded in URL (ie HomeLoans.com vs JohnsonAssociatesAgency.com)" and "ownership (do you own too many similar type domains?)" and a plethora of other unknown unknowns all impact where your site appears in the Google rankings.

GOOGLE UPDATES: Google updates everything all at the same time, typically every three or six months. This is what causes massive changes in rankings.

CLICK FRAUD: Many people want to know how Google prevents click fraud, but Google isn't telling. Google's priority is to protect advertisers, so that means not disclosing any proprietary methods which would allow click fraud perpetrators to reverse-engineer our systems.

The Right Stuff

Achieving success is not about doing a few things 100% right, it is about doing hundreds of things, many of which you don't even know, 100% right. As you can see, Rumsfeld was in a can't win situation. He had do everything right, he even had to be right in things he didn't know about. He couldn't and that is how he lost his top ranking.Maybe we should update Rumsfeld's quote to reflect the uncertainty of the search engines. "There are right rights; there are things we know we do right. We also know there are wrong rights, that is to say we know there are some things we should not do if they are not right. But there are also unknown right and wrongs - the ones we don't know we don't know if they are right, or wrong."

Now if that makes sense... you can do the right thing and get your site highly ranked in the search engines.

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MortgagePromote.com is a leading Internet marketing web site that provides hundreds of articles & information tips on web site promotion, search engine marketing and search engine optimization; to help loan officers & mortgage companies increase their online sales. Aries and Farris has been providing nationwide mortgage leads & Internet marketing services since 1998.
Web site:
MortgagePromote.com

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published January 2007.


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The Long Tail of Mortgage Leads


Author Chris Anderson has a new book, "The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More." The Long Tail has implications for your online mortgage site and your source for online mortgage leads. And it can also impact the amount of revenue you generate.

As you are aware, the abnormally variable interest rates of a few years ago are creating another boom in securing new loans. Many people may be seeking a new variable or new fixed loan for their property. This trend presents a real opportunity for mortgage companies, especially those with web sites.


Gosh, You Mean The Internet Is Different From The Real World?

In the real world a dog is man's best friend, wagging their tail, every time they see you. On the web, a visitor is man's best friend, using a mouse instead of a tail to greet you.

Not surprisingly, there are many distinctions between generating customers in the real world versus online client generation. In Anderson's book he explains that in traditional retail, you have the 80/20 rule, with 20 percent of the products accounting for 80 percent of your revenue. He goes on to say that online it is different; completely different.

In example, the average Barnes & Noble store carries 130,000 titles, which is quite impressive for a real world store. But when you look at the online book retailer Amazon, over half of their book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles.


More Is, Well... More

At Barnes & Noble all it can earn is on the books in the store, but at Amazon, since they carry more titles, they can earn more, and they do.

We also see that more is better occasionally in the real world; that is why my daughter's favorite ice cream store is not called "Baskin & Robbins 2 Flavors"

Less is More Too

Essentially The Long Tail describes the ability of the Internet to service micromarkets. This is possible due to the delivery system of the Web provides. Take for example Ecast, a digital jukebox company providing service to bars. They find that 99% of their top 10,000 will play at least once per month.

This why the subtitle of his book is, "Why The Future of Business Is Selling Less of More."

Long Tail, Plus Lots of Music, Equals Lots of Money

Kevin Laws, a venture capitalist, states this about the music industry, "The biggest money is in the smallest sales." I am sure there are just enough sales of such classics as Tiny Tim's "Tiptoe Through The Tulips" and "William Shatner's "Spaced Out" CD to add a few extra dollars to the bottom line of online retailers. When you add those dollars to the thousands of other songs that have just a few sales each month, the overall effect can be staggering.

My Mother's Long Tail

My mother is English, but has lived in America since she was 20 years old. She still loves English humor. I bought her a NetFlix annual subscription for Christmas. She rents the most obscure English DVDs imaginable. She also contributes to the bottom line of NetFlix.

When The (Real World) Music's Over

Even Wal-Mart, the largest music seller in the world, is physically challenged. They place their music section in highly visible locations at low prices but they are limited to about 3,000 titles in 500 square feet. They concede the niche music or older titles to the online sellers.

If you have ever been to Tower Records, an 89-store music retailer, you might recall walking down the aisles seeing thousands of music titles, or searching through the bargain bin for that one favorite song you have forgotten about. While that may be fun, online searchable databases and price comparison web sites can help you find the hard-to-find version of "Respect" by Otis Redding, (although Aretha's version is far more popular), in less time than it takes you to get in your car and turn the ignition.

As I write this article, I have just read that Tower Records can be almost $100M in debt and is on the verge of closing. The company went through a prepackaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing. Sources site the advent of the internet, from Napster to iTunes, as the downfall of Tower Records.

So How Does This Information On Books And Music Impact Your Mortgage Leads?

You can generate more business for your online mortgage web site by casting a wider net for mortgage leads. Take for example a relatively niched search like "San Diego Mortgage," and you will find the number of searches last month at Yahoo are as follows:

Search Number Keyword
2386 San Diego mortgage
1393 San Diego mortgage broker
986 San Diego mortgage company
857 San Diego mortgage lender
391 San Diego reverse mortgage
254 San Diego mortgage refinance
217 San Diego mortgage rate
146 San Diego mortgage loan
143 San Diego home equity mortgage
115 San Diego real estate mortgage
111 mortgage company in San Diego
109 2nd mortgage San Diego
90 second mortgage San Diego
45 mortgage broker in San Diego
45 mortgage in San Diego
42 adjustable rate mortgage San Diego
31 mortgage lead San Diego

Could You Use Even An Extra 500 Highly Targeted Mortgage Leads To Your Site Each Year?

There are few interesting facts about the above list. First is that I left off over half the related searches to save on space. Second, note that even something like "mortgage in San Diego" is searched 45 times per month, or over 500 times per year. Now assume there are about 60 keyword searches with similar annual search counts. That works out to over 30,000 extra visitors.

And, that is just for "San Diego Mortgage." A search for "San Diego Home Loan" found another 28,000 searches per year for related terms.

How To Apply The Long Tail To Your Site

You already might know what the top keyword searches are for your mortgage leads. Use those as a basis to create a list of keywords you might purchase at the various pay-per-click engines. Don't forget to add local communities in your keywords. For example, the town of Del Mar, with less than 5,000 in population, produces almost 1,000 searches a year for "Del Mar Mortgage."

Even the cheapest condos in Del Mar are in excess of $500,000 so you can imagine the revenue this could generate for your mortgage company. In San Diego, there are approximately 60 communities (Encinitas, La Jolla, El Cajon, Oceanside, etc.) Each of these communities can produce mortgage leads for you. If you assume just 500 searches per community times 60 communities, that is another 30,000 potential customers per year.

Wag The Tail

You can see in the physical world; sales are limited by physical space; so retail acts in the realm of scarcity. In the online world, it is full of abundance and only limited by your ability to service the type of loan inquiries you receive. You can use the internet to minimize your costs of acquisition.

If you create and then purchase a broad base of pay-per-click keywords, which, in turn, will result in additional traffic and mortgage leads to your site. At this point, you will be the one wagging your tail...

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MortgagePromote.com is a leading Internet marketing web site that provides hundreds of articles & information tips on web site promotion, search engine marketing and search engine optimization; to help loan officers & mortgage companies increase their online sales. Aries and Farris has been providing nationwide mortgage leads & Internet marketing services since 1998.

Web site: MortgagePromote.com


For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published December 2006.


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How To Fight Spam, Both Personal and From Your Web Site - Part 2


We will continue last month's discussion of how to control email Spam.

The Cost of Spam

In 2003, The Washington Post reported that Robert Mahowald, research manager for IDC, said his firm estimates that for a company with 14,000 employees, the annual cost to fight spam is $245,000. And, he said, "there's no end in sight."

By 2004 the cost of Spam was estimated to cost an average of $1,934 per employee a year based on lost productivity, according to a survey released Monday by Nucleus Research Inc.

In 2005, messaging market-research firm projected the cost of Spam to be $17 billion in the United States and $50 billion worldwide. These figures reflect the productivity loss to the diminishing number of business users without spam filters, the cost to purchase and administer anti-spam systems, and time wasted dealing with spam that gets through and with legitimate messages that have been misidentified as spam.

The above figures ignore viruses and spyware that often is attached to the Spam email. Consumer Reports estimates that American consumers spent almost $8 billion for computer repairs, parts and replacement over the past two years as a result of viruses and spyware alone. If you add the cost of phishing e-mail scams and the figure is probably double.

Obviously lost employee productivity dealing with Spam takes a toll of the profitability of mortgage web site owners as well.

Spam Control Via PC-Based Software Integrated With Your Email Program

Smaller companies can buy specific software like Cloudmark SpamNet or Qurb for Outlook, or Spamnix for Eudora, all of which integrates with your email program. You can then approve/deny email as it arrives. Once you block or allow (whitelist) someone, the rule will always apply.

For me, the result is 99% of all spam never gets into my in-box, and if it does, I add a filter, and if something gets kicked out for spam that shouldn't be, I add a filter to allow it to pass through all the above.

If you still use AOL for your email, there is a control panel to allow you to set the degree of email you receive and also to only allow emails you approve in advance to be received. I use this feature with my teenage daughter's account. If she receives an email from someone outside the whitelist, then that email never reaches her in-box. The only downside to this is that desired email from a friend will be blocked unless that email is pre-approved and added to her whitelist.

Gosh, That Sounds Like A Lot of Work

Some people initially have said that it seems like a lot of work to install software programs; then to manage the email you receive. Of course there is some work involved, I spent maybe 1-2 hours setting up the software then doing my initial whitelist, but now all I spend is about 10-20 minutes a week, adjusting filters when a client is added or a Spam email gets through.

And I now save at least 3-5 hours a week in no longer having to review so much Spam in my in-box, it has been a great return on investment, let alone a return on sanity and annoyance level.

Free Email Accounts Are Tacky

One more comment on the free email services such as AOL, Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail; NEVER use them for your business reply email. The use of a free email account is tacky and appears unprofessional. Generally people who use the free email services have to because they don't have their own business web site. If you have a business URL, use it. Why would you want to be LoanDude1986@hotmail.com when you can be Robert.Jones@MyMortgageCompanyName.com?

Also, many ISP email servers assign "Spam" points to the free email services as they are more likely to be from Spammers. This may impact how much of your mail gets through to your clients.

I want to repeat a comment from last month's article which probably can have the greatest impact on controlling Spam to your employees.


Spam Control Via Server

Ask your mail server provider if they have any Spam fighting software on your hosting account. In my case, Pair.com has highly effective filters (light to heavy duty), screening 99% of the email at the server so I don't end up having to download to my computer. Another feature they offer is to automatically insert the phrase **JUNK** in the subject line, before the subject line. You can set up an Outlook or Eudora filter that looks for **JUNK** and puts that in a Junk folder for easy review. If an email get labeled **JUNK** and it really isn't, I easily can go to the server control panel and "whitelist" the email address it came from and tell it not to insert **JUNK** in the subject.A tip: When reviewing a Junk folder sort the subject by alphabetical order, you can review just the subject lines, as many times the same subject line is used by several senders, and it speeds the review. Also if you sort by subject you never have to open the email - just look at the topic and delete.

Using a Family Domain Name

You can purchase a domain for the use of your family for about $8 per year and then, depending on where you purchase the domain, you can get multiple email accounts included with your purchase. This way you can have email addresses specific for each family member, i.e., Daughter@MyFamilyName.com, Son@MyFamilyName.com, Dad@MyFamilyName.com, Mom@MyFamilyName.com, etc.

Slow Conversion

If you do opt to acquire a new email name, be sure to keep your old email account active for at least six months to make sure everyone who emails you gets to you. Don't reply from your old account and when you do your announcement, send emails from both your old and new account saying that you have a new account.

Spam Forever?

Spam is not going away for awhile. As technology improves, so will the Spammers ability to evade technology. In the interim use common sense and implement anti-Spam safeguards as necessary, which should lower the cost to you and your mortgage business.


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MortgagePromote.com is a leading Internet marketing web site that provides hundreds of articles & information tips on web site promotion, search engine marketing and search engine optimization; to help loan officers & mortgage companies increase their online sales. Aries and Farris has been providing nationwide mortgage leads & Internet marketing services since 1998.
Web site:
MortgagePromote.com

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published November 2006.

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How to Fight Spam, Both Personal and From Your Web Site


I RECEIVE 50,000 - 60,000 EMAILS - EVERY DAY... AND SO CAN YOU.

Gosh, in one day I am asked to enhance my manhood, lose weight, gain muscle, get a college diploma, get out of debt now, log into my PayPal and eBay accounts, which have been compromised. OR one of my favorites, I have already been pre-qualified for a new loan on my home... all they need is my name, address and a few financial details to verify my prequalification.

Despite how it looks, I am not an email junkie. Of those 50,000 - 60,000 daily emails, 99% of it is unsolicited; the trick is receiving the 500 or so desired emails each day, while keeping the rest out of my in-box. Having had my primary domain since 1997, and still using my original email address (foolishly), spiders, spammers and whois harvester software bots have had lots of opportunities to get my email addresses, which they have. Additionally, our company owns hundreds of domains, so I offer a lot of avenues for spammers to send me their information.I went from a sprinkling of spam in 1999, to a drizzle in 2001, to a torrent of Spam in 2004 and 2005. I have become somewhat of an expert on handling unwanted email. Here are some ways you can control your email. If you don't take steps to control who has access to your in-box, you too can receive 50,000+ emails a day.

Practice Safe Email

A couple of simple precautions can dramatically reduce the amount of spam you get. Don't give your email address without protection, you never know where that other email has been.

Just Say No

Many emails come with an opt-out link at the bottom or ask you to reply to have your email removed. NEVER, EVER, NEVER reply to this unless it is from a major corporation you know and trust. If you reply you are confirming to the Spammer that you are a valid email address. Your email address will be sold immediately, because when you reply, your email address is worth even more because you actually read your email.

Disposable Email Addresses For You

When you sign up for a newsletter or a newsgroup, many people use their primary email address, and as a result, over time, that email starts to receive more and more Spam. A way to minimize this is to create a free email address. Yahoo, Hotmail and Google all offer accounts. Your newsletter account could be RodNewsletter@gmail.com while your purchasing email account for Amazon.com or Nordstrom.com could be RodPurchasing@gmail.com.If ever you start to receive to much Spam to an email account, you simply delete RodNewsletter@gmail.com and replace it with RodNewsletter2006@gmail.com, all the while protecting your primary email address.

Disposable Email Addresses For Your Web Site

You can even use disposable email addresses at your web site. In example your "email us" address can be InfoNovember@domain.com or InfoDecember@domain.com or you just make up names and rotate them, like, Annie@, Roger@, Sahil@, Thomas@ or Tiffany@. Just remember to make the temporary name viable and when your staff replies they reply with an address that you will be keeping, like sales@domain.com.

Make Spamming Difficult

If you have to show an email address in a forum or chat room, make it hard for your email to be harvested. You can write your email as RodNewsletter "@" gmail.com or RodNewsletter (at) gmail.com so it involves more work to find the email and then to reassemble it.

Don't Play With Matches

When you sign up for newsletters or purchase something online, frequently there is a box, already checked for you, that asks if you want to receive promotional mailings. Uncheck the box, because if you don't, that becomes the spark to ignite a barrage of emails.

Don't Be A Typhoid Mary

Mary Mallon was cook in the early 1900's. She was a very healthy woman, but she was a carrier of typhoid and caused typhoid outbreaks, unknown to her. She had no idea that she was infected with the disease which caused her work as a cook to infected many people.There can be an online version of "Typhoid Mary" - you. While many people can be "inadvertent carriers", AOL users are the worst... They forward a joke or chain letter and it has hundreds and hundreds of email addresses in the email from each time it was previously forwarded. A Spammer gets a copy of this and everyone on the list is now on a Spammer's list. Don't spread the disease.

When forwarding emails to groups of people, send them via the BCC field; this shields their address from others. Ask others to send emails to you this way, too.If you have to absolutely forward to everyone that picture of a dog with sunglasses wearing a shirt that says, "Dog spelled backwards is God," at least use the blind carbon copy (BCC) feature of your email to share your emails.

Buy Spam-Free

If you do receive something via Spam and you absolutely want it, don't buy it from the Spammer, just go to Amazon or the equivalent and buy it from a legitimate retailer.

Spam Control Via Server

Ask your mail server provider if they have any Spam fighting software on your server. In my case, Pair.com has highly effective filters (light to heavy duty), screening 99% of the email at the server so I don't end up having to download to my computer. Another feature they offer is to automatically insert the phrase **JUNK** in the subject line, before the subject line. You can set up an Outlook or Eudora filter that looks for **JUNK** and puts that in a Junk folder for easy review. If an email get labeled **JUNK** and it really isn't, I easily can go to the server control panel and "whitelist" the email address it came from and tell it not to insert **JUNK** in the subject.

A tip: When reviewing a Junk folder, sort the subject by alphabetical order, you can review just the subject lines, as many times the same subject line is used by several senders, and it speeds the review. Also if you sort by subject you never have to open the email - just look at the topic and delete.

In next month's column we will discuss additional techniques and discuss software solutions to help you control your unsolicited email. Gotta go, my in-box is telling me I just won the Canadian lottery, five times... Wow.

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MortgagePromote.com is a leading Internet marketing web site that provides hundreds of articles & information tips on web site promotion; to help loan officers & mortgage companies increase their online sales. Aries and Farris has been providing nationwide mortgage leads & Internet marketing services since 1998.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published October 2006.

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Internet Marketing Questions From Mortgage Web Site Owners


Over the past month we received numerous emails with regards to internet marketing for mortgage web sites. Here are a few of the questions from our readers:

How Can I Search My Competitors?

We are often asked how to conduct competitive intelligence on competitors. We use a free service from Google to monitor certain phrases and competitors. It is their "alert" system <>. Simply add your keywords and Google will send you an email update with new listings on that phrase.

More Important Than Searching Your Competitors Is Searching...

We suggest that you use the Google alert program to research your own company.

Be sure to use multiple versions of your company name to match the various ways a customer may write your name. In example, if your company is the Greater San Diego Loan Corporation. Be sure to enter alerts for other likely permutations of your name; San Diego Loan Corporation, Greater SD Loan or GSDLC. We also recommend that you use this service for your own personal name to see if there are any positive or negative postings about you or your organization.



I Use AdWords But I Am Not Receiving Clicks. Do Pay Per Click Ads Really Work?

Most often the answer to this question is one of two things: not buying enough keywords or not bidding high enough on a keyword to get found. May companies only buy 20-30 keywords - this is not enough. Buy also the communities around your city. In example, San Diego is surrounded by Del Mar, La Jolla, Chula Vista, La Costa, Encinitas etc. Each of these cities should have, at a minimum, "home loan", "mortgage loan" and "mortgage" associated with the keywords. In example, "Encinitas home loan", "Encinitas mortgage loan" and "Encinitas mortgage" should all be keywords that you buy.

Other mortgage owners simply bid a small amount in a competitive category. If you are listed at the bottom of a series of keywords all saying "Miami home loans" you will not receive many clicks.


And sometimes we asked the corollary to the above question...


I Use AdWords And I Am Receiving Too Many Clicks... Do Pay Per Click (PPC) Ads Really Work?

Many companies make the mistake of buying words that are only tangentially related to a mortgage. In example, the search term Seattle houses may be bought to try and attract home buyers to your site for a home loan. In reality it is probably an OK idea, but it is probably not an OK PPC idea. The information you provide can be helpful, but in a PPC strategy it is not the best choice of words to buy.

Another problem is sometimes buying too broad of a keyword phrase. You might supply northern Illinois with loan especially in the Chicago are so you buy the terms Illinois home loans and Illinois home montages. Then you find you have a number of people in southern Illinois clicking on your ads; but you can not service them. That can increase your costs dramatically.

Google's AdWords allows you target regional and local areas, so you can reach the prospects who are most appropriate for your mortgage business. Additionally, you can write ads that highlight special promotions or pricing based on geography.



Gosh, Didn't This Used To Be Called Red-Lining?

Google's site states, "You can select customized targeting if you want to define your own target area. Indicate your area by choosing a point and a surrounding radius or by picking points to define a border. The AdWords system may analyze a searcher's query (for example "London florist") to establish what location that person is searching for. The system may also take note of the person's Internet Protocol (IP) address to see where he or she is searching from."

It seems at one time this practice was referred to as red-lining.

Right Click, Wrong Page.

Another problem that can cause receiving click, but not many sales, is by delivering your PPC visitor to your home page not to the page specifically on what the customer wants. In example, if you offer farm land loans yet send the visitor to the main page so that visitor has to search your page to find the link to farm land; that can frustrate the user and cause them to click away instead of clicking further into your site. Make the PPC click advertisement link directly to the page about that PPC word. It takes a little longer; but the results are worth it.

Still other issues that can lead to a high number of visitors and few customers are your content ad appearance. If someone clicks on your PPC ad and they arrive at a "crummy" designed web site, they will leave. If the content you offer is uninformative they will leave.


How Can I Make My Pay Per Click Ad Better?

Create straightforward ads targeting your desired customer. In example, your add subject line might read: "Dallas home loan."

Here are the first five ads from Google's results of a search on "Dallas home loan".


Dallas Home Loan Company
Leading Mortgage Broker in Texas,
Pre-Apply Online & Get Free Info!


Dallas Home Loan
Get a Low Home Loan Rate from
Texas Lending and Save Today!


100% Home Loan Financing
for Good to Excellent Credit.
No PMI. No Lender Fees


Dallas Home Loans
Refinance today to consolidate
debt, lower payments & get cash out


Mortgages - Current Rates
Low mortgage loan rates from
lenders nationwide. Updated daily.


You can see the third and fifth ads don't mention Dallas, while the first, second and fourth specifically say "Dallas". As a customer, which ad are you most likely to select?

Test Multiple PPC Ads

One of the excellent features of the Yahoo and Google PPC programs is that you can change/add/delete PPC ads on the fly. You can experiment with different offers and utilize different keyword phrases to see what's most effective in attracting your potential customers. Once you find the right sequence of keywords; continue to monitor the number of customers generated.

Be sure to send us an email with any additional questions.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published September 2006.



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How is your Google IQ? If You Don't Pass, Your Income Suffers...


Google-Opoly

Sure there is Yahoo! and MSN and some other upstarts on the net, but Google is really the place to be found. It may not always be so, but for now, you need to have your site not only indexed by Google, but ranked high by Google. Let's test your Google IQ and see how you do.

Got PageRank?

PageRank is Google's formula that determines what other sites think of your site. PageRank tabulates the number of links coming to that site and the importance of those pages linking to it. Next PageRank assigns a one to ten ranking, to determine the site's position in specific results.

A site with a PageRank of ten is favored in results over a site with PageRank of seven. Most web pages are lucky to have a PageRank of even two or three. You can even have a negative PageRank which means Google knows who you are and they don't like you.

It Is Great to be Trusted

It used to be that Google looked for "great sites" to help anchor the PageRank index. Google now seems to have added the term "trusted sites" to the "great sites" factor. Here is why - "great sites" were abusing their privilege by selling links on their main page for $1,000 - 5,000 per month regardless of relevance.

You would find very busy and well-known software sites with links to mortgage companies and credit card offers at the bottom of their page. Thus, Google now not only looks for a "great site," but a "trusted site" in which the site provides only the "highest and best use" for their visitors.

You can download Google's tool bar so you can see your PageRank at http://www.google.com/downloads/ .


How Do The Terms Jagger, Florida and Big Daddy Affect Your Rankings?

Jagger, Florida and Big Daddy are the names given to the major Google index updates over the last two years. These updates can cause massive swings whereby smaller, less known sites show up, or drop, in the results. Each major index is an attempt by Google to create more accurate search results.

The latest update, Big Daddy, seems to be an entire rebuild of all results; as many companies have lost previously held top rankings.


Have You Been Googlized?

These periodic updates have caused multiple lawsuits against Google by companies that previously held high rankings, and subsequently lost them.

Google keeps its search ranking algorithms secret so that they can not be manipulated. Each update refines their proprietary algorithm. A drop from the top search result can mean the loss of thousands and thousands of dollars. Earlier this year, KinderStart.com sued Google because it lost it top ranking "without warning."

KinderStart said its traffic plunged; and Google accounted for up to 70 percent of its visitors. After Google dropped KinderStart, the number of visitors from Google was at 0.01%. At its peak, KinderStart's visitors viewed more than 10 million Web pages per month, according to the suit.

Of course, for every company like KinderStart that loses a substantial amount of business, there is a new top-ranked company that takes its places and receives that traffic, and revenue.

So How Do You Get A Top Ranked Site?

Google isn't divulging anything, but top search engine marketing companies theorize that Google is now assigning different weights for selected factors, including high quality links, the age of your domain (i.e,. when it was registered), the keywords embedded in your domain name, the quality of your content and the size of your site.

Also you need to avoid keyword stuffing on your site. A phrase like, "Our New York mortgage loan finance company has the lowest New York home loan interest rates for residents of New York and the New York area," would constitute keyword stuffing.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Google appears to selecting "trusted sites" and rewarding outbound links from those sites with an increased value. In example, a link from Stanford.edu is worth more than a link from StanfordsFamilyRestaurant.com

Your site can increase its ranking by having "trusted sites" link to your pages. Conversely if you have submitted your site to "link farms" (domains established solely to provide links), your site can be penalized for participating in that endeavor.

Once Blogged, now Bogged?

Also, some mortgage companies used special software to post to blog sites. The method was simple: Your software would locate a blog site and say something like, "Nice site. Thanks for having it," and then your signature (HeyThisIsMyMortgageCompany.com) would be added in the hopes that a blog would become a valuable site and a link from that blog to you would improve your Page Rank.

Google wised up, and now are penalizing these type of links. Links from high quality blogs or blogs that exhibit editorial control are still of value if they can demonstrate they police their postings for relevance.

Do You Provide Links To "Great and Trusted Sites?" Or Are You Reciprocating Links To Link Farms?

Google appears to review the quality of your outbound links.

There does appear to some additional value by having good (not trusted) sites link to you as well. In example, local banks, the chamber of commerce, escrow companies and other related, but neutral sites.

Are You In The Google "Sand Box"? Does It Even Exist?

Some search engine specialists theorize that any new site is placed in a "sand box" to sit (and play) while Google decides whether or not to include them in their index. This gives Google a chance to determine whether it is a valuable site or a "Spam" site that goes straight to purgatory. Other people suggest that the sand box doesn't exist, there just is a period of time between when a site is reviewed and added to the Google index.

Trust Me

Regardless, this much appears to be true: if you have a high value, good content site that contributes to the well-being of the Internet... (a site that your visitors can trust), you will get into the Google index. If not, you will never receive a single visitor from Google.



(Rod Aries and Robert Farris are co-founders of MortgagePromote.com, a leading Internet marketing provider to corporate mortgage clients.)

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published August 2006.

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How Google Earns 99% Of It's Revenue: From You!


Can You Earn 99% Of Your Revenue From Google?

The 80-20 Rule

In the real world we are all familiar with the Pareto Principle (also referred to as the 80-20 rule). Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, noticed that 80% of income in Italy was received by 20% of the Italian population. Soon this 80-20 rule was being applied to almost every business application, allowing business to focus on the 20% of items that result in 80% of the revenue.

The New 99% Rule

On the Internet, as things often are, the Pareto Principle gets amplified, as in the case of Google (and Yahoo!). Google earns 99% of its income from one source - pay per click revenue. That's it. Pay per click is the driving engine behind all of Google's frenzy, glory and revenues.

If you stick with me for just a bit, I can share with you how this impacts your mortgage web site...

Google's Pay Per Click Ads

When you use Google for a search, there are two main sections that appear in your results. First, and foremost, are the web results, which appear at the left of the page, and occupy about 80% of the page. The pay per click ads (called Google AdWords) show on the right hand side of the screen after you do a search query. These results are in a narrow column, with the words "Sponsored Links" above the column. Every ad in the "Sponsored Links" is paid to be there.

What is Google AdWords?

Google AdWords is how mortgage companies, and others, purchase highly targeted pay per click advertising. Such targeted keywords can include: San Diego Home Loans, Long Island Mortgages, Redmond Home Refinancing, Palm Springs Second Trust Deeds, etc. This type of targeting allows a mortgage company to receive exactly what they want... home loans but no subprime loans, refinances but no VA loans, commercial loans but no farm land.

So, just how do these targeted visitors (who want to be your customer) get to your company. Let's go back to Google.

58% plus 41% equals 99%

Investors.com reported that, "As of the end of the March quarter, Google derived 58% of its sales from paid search advertisements on its own Web sites. It generated another 41% from its distribution partners, which include content sites and other search engines." A quick math check shows the sum of 58% plus 41% equals 99%. In short, virtually every penny that Google earns comes from pay per click ads.

Google Distribution Partners

Google skillfully created their massive income by having advertisers (i.e. mortgage companies) pay for ads, and then besides showing the results at Google.com, they also use "distribution partners."

The Investors.com article further stated, "Excluding the payments Google makes to its content-distribution partners, revenue leaped 92% to $1.53 billion, above analysts' expectations of $1.47 billion." There is a hidden qualifier in that statement... "Excluding the payments Google makes to its content-distribution partners."

Targeted Local Traffic For Mortgage Companies

One of the reasons the Google Content-distribution program works so well for local mortgage companies, is that Google delivers "local ads." In example, if a site is about schools and real estate in San Diego, the Google bots have "indexed" the page and knows to deliver "San Diego Home Loan" ads, not "Dallas Home Loans." This highly targeted ad causes visitors to the sites to be more likely to click on the ad, thus benefiting not only the viewer, but the mortgage company and Google.

Even My Teenager Content-Distribution Partner Site Delivers Highly-Targeted Mortgage Leads

Content-distribution partners are the places where Google ads appear, besides the Google site. In example, my teenage daughter is a content-distribution partner for Google. Certain pages of her site are city specific and can result in real estate and mortgage leads being generated by her visitors. This also benefits my daughter as she has about 60,000 unique visitors a year and earns monies from Google for allowing her visitors to see, and click upon, the Google ads.

Besides the impact from my daughter’s site, Google also receives "sales" from content-distribution partners such as the Washington Post, Amazon, AOL, AT&T Worldnet, EarthLink and the New York Times.

Google Chief Financial Officer George Reyes states that the continued addition of new publishers participating in Google's AdSense for Content program was "significant" in driving sales growth.

Home Loans vs. Salads

The amount paid to be listed varies on the competitiveness and on the value of on the keyword. Generally, financial or money-related terms tend to generate higher bid amounts. In example, the top five bids for "Home Loan" currently range between $5.02 and $5.83 per click, while there are only a few bids for the term "Salad" and they are between $0.10 and $0.11 per click. Even a highly searched keyword like "Jessica Simpson" has a top bid of just $0.12 per click.

Furthermore, money related domains frequently have even higher bids for highly targeted searches. Again, the top five bids for "Home Loan" currently range between $5.02 and $5.83 per click, while the top five bids for "Nevada Home Loan" range between $5.99 and $7.01 per click. The top five bids for "New York Home Loan" currently range between $5.13 and $6.25 per click and for "Miami Home Loan" the range for the top five bids are from $5.00 and $6.88.

If a visitor clicks on one of the pay per click ads from the Google.com site, then Google keeps 100% of the amount of the click. If a visitor clicks on one of the pay per click ads from a distribution partner, then Google pays a portion of their earning to that partner as a commission.

What Does All This Mean For Your Mortgage Company?

Given the expense of advertising mortgage services, you can highly target which “exact visitors” you want to see your ad. And exclude all other visitors outside your geographical location or exclude those seeking a mortgage related service that you don't provide.

So Google may earn 99% of its earnings from companies like yours, but you in return can earn a substantial amount of your revenue from Google by buying pay per click ads for highly targeted keywords.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published July 2006.

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Your Customers Judge Your Web Site By Its' Cover


Assume you just acquired a new puppy. You walk into your local Barnes & Noble store (gosh, does anybody go into a bookstore anymore?) to look for a helpful book to learn about your dog. You go to the section showing the current top books. You are not sure which book to purchase.

"All credibility, all good conscience, all evidence of truth come only from the senses."
--Friedrich Nietzsche

You rapidly glance up and down the book rack and eventually one cover catches your attention. You reach out and grab the book to look more closely at the front and back of the book jacket. In the space of 15 to 60 seconds you have determined whether or not the book might be the book for you.

You are an expert at judging a book by its cover. In seconds your brain has determined if the book looks interesting, if it looks like it meets your needs and if it appears credible for what you want. This is a skill that everyone has honed over the years.

Credibility Is Critical

Credibility is essential in that which ever book you choose must meet your expectations of believability. Book title such as, "How to earn $34,898 showing your dog at dog shows," or "How to create the perfect life for your dog using peanut butter and a smile," or "How to train your dog in just 30 minutes," might not be credible in your estimation.

Credibility Occurs In Subjective Layers

The first layer of credibility is often visual appeal (is the book visually appealing?), followed by the organization of the book (is it easy to navigate?), followed by competent content (i.e., is the information useful?), and so on.

The same subjective criteria applies to your web site. If you want to earn money from your web site visitors you must create sequential layers trust in your company. When visitors come to your site they apply this same observational technique to your site. The visitor arrives and "judges your book by your cover." Their first analysis is pretty simple... Does your site look like a professional mortgage site?

How to Create Visual Credibility For Your Web Site

Are You Really A Dog?

There is a famous New Yorker magazine cartoon, by Peter Steiner (http://www.cartoonbank.com/assets/1/22230_m.gif ), about the web, showing two dogs at a monitor with a keyboard, and the caption reads, "On the internet, no one knows you are a dog."

You don't want your visitors to wonder if you are two teenagers in Poland trying to get you to apply online so they can take your information and sell it to identity theft bandits. You have to IMMEDIATELY demonstrate that you are a credible organization.

If you can show that your web site is for a "real" organization, this will remove doubt from your visitor and increase your site's credibility. The fastest way to do this is by listing a physical address and phone numbers. Increase your site's credibility is by making your contact information available on each page. That information should include your direct phone number, your toll free number, your physical address and your email address.

Provide direct links to organizations you are affiliated with, such as NAMB and your local chamber of commerce. Very few people will follow the links to external organizations, but by providing them, you give a higher degree of mental certainty, trust and comfort to your visitor.

Also include a staff directory and a list of your offices if you have multiple locations. If staff members have unique qualifications (Certified Financial Planner, 15 years in the industry, President of the county mortgage broker association) include that information as well.

In short, make it easy to verify who you are and the accuracy of the information on your site.

"To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful." --Edward R. Murrow

If you want to conduct commerce on the internet your web site must be credible and it must be accurate. If you show your interest rates (you would be foolish not to...), be sure to update them as soon as you change the percentage. You do not want a customer contacting you about that 3.5% start rate, when it is now 4.25%.

"To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs."
--Aldous Huxley

Your dog may love your web site unconditionally, but if your web site looks like it was created with FrontPage 98, by your next door neighbor's kid or by an employee who left years ago, well, then it is time to get a web-lift.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published June 2006.


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Pay-Per-Call Is Really Revenue-Per-Call


The internet continues to evolve in ways that will specifically benefit mortgage companies. Two recent developments will greatly enhance the quality of your inquiries: local search and pay-per-call. Let's briefly address local search first.

Monetizing Local Searches

Pay-per-call ads seem to really benefit local search. In example, if someone is searching for "Cleveland Home Loan" the search engines can return advertisers that offer Cleveland mortgages because they saw the term "Cleveland" in the query. The search engines also have the capability to recognize your IP address for your inquiry, and even if you type "home loan" they can tell that since you are in Phoenix, you really meant "Phoenix Home Loan" and return results targeted to your location. As you can see, local search is a rapidly developing market.

Voice Clicking

Just like sponsored pay-per-click listings where potential visitors click on a hyperlink, pay-per-call ads appear adjacent to organic search results. Pay-per-call ads work by offering the visitors your phone number instead of clicking.

Just Call Me

The pay-per-call model is good for any company with customers that ask lots of questions, or need to be guided through the decision making process.

Pay-per-call encourages potential visitors to pick up the phone and call advertisers instead of visiting their web sites. While typical companies may not want to have customers calling them, many mortgage companies welcome this option due to the high amount of skill sometimes required to answer questions. Other companies that are likely candidates include any service were there is either a high conversion rate (travel agents, lawyers, florists) or immediate need (tow trucks, plumbers, electricians), or both.

Most people still conduct their mortgage transactions by phone, so when a potential customer contacts you, they're not browsing, they are verifying their intent on using your service.

Costs More, But You Get More

Advertisers pay more for calls than clicks, but advertisers only pay AFTER a visitor dials the company's 800 number.

Pay-per-call ads cost more than pay-per-click fees, but you receive more for your money. When your potential visitor clicks on your Pay-per-call listing, they are transported to a more comprehensive "details" page offering additional information about your mortgage company. These details include such items as: your hours, any special offers, your rates, description of your products and service, promotional offers, your street address, a map and logo. Only after the visitor see this information, will they call, so you receive a "pre-screened" customer.

In addition to offering the click through hyperlink, a toll free phone number appears. When a potential customer dials that number, the advertiser is billed a fixed amount.

To feature their ads, advertisers need to bid on keywords for these ads, just as they do with pay-per-click ads.

Higher Close Rates

Most mortgage company owners will agree that a voice conversation will result in a higher rate of converting visitors to customers, than will clicks to a web site. It is important to note that you must have skilled telephone sales representatives or your internet efforts will be futile and costly.

Another advantage is that once you have a caller, you are preempting them from visiting a multitude of competitors' online sites.

Bonus Features

Some of the pay-per-call companies offer the ability to switch your listing on and off and/or forward calls to an after-hours number to suit your work schedule. In example, if your Seattle office is closed, but your Dallas office is open, rather than lose a Seattle customer at 7 a.m. local time, that caller would be routed to Dallas. Additionally, during holidays like July 4th or Martin Luther King's day, you can suspend your ad so you do not receive calls that you can not service.

Pay-per-call companies state that click-fraud will go away for pay-per-call clients, as more work is involved in dialing than clicking. Also the companies state that they employ other safeguards against fraud, such as not charging advertisers for unusually brief calls or repeated calls originating from the same source. In example, Miva.com states there are no extra charges for multiple calls from the same consumer made within a 10 day initial period.

You can set a maximum cap on the amount you want to be billed each month. In example, you could set a limit of $500 and when you have reached that value in calls, your pay-per-call ad is removed from the search results display, until the beginning of next month.

Pay-Per-Call Considerations

If you are a small brokerage and want to direct pay-per-calls to your cell phone, be sure that you have voice mail activated as if you are on the phone, or out of range, you will still be billed for the incoming call.

Just like with pay-per-click, advertisers bid on the maximum amount they will offer for pay-per-call listings. The higher the bid, the higher your ad will appear in the search display results.

Mortgage companies without a web site can even use the pay-per-call service.

Where to Get Pay-Per-Call

AOL and Miva.com (formerly FindWhat.com) offer pay-per-call services. We have also seen advertisers sneak their phone numbers into their Google pay-per-click campaigns.

Click or Call

We suggest using both pay-per-click and pay-per-call campaigns. You can tailor your efforts according to your products and personnel. If you have good "phone closers" then emphasize the pay-per-call program. If you want high productivity and let your web site do the work, allow pay-per-click to dominate your marketing efforts.

Many companies view advertising as an expense, but the better you design your web site to meet your customers needs, or the more skilled your "phone closers" can actually make your pay-per-call and pay-per-click really revenue-per-call and revenue-per-click.


(Rod Aries and Robert Farris are co-founders of MortgagePromote.com, a leading Internet marketing provider to corporate mortgage clients.)

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.


Originally published May 2006.



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What Google Wants... Google Gets


What We Want

Since 1999 we have been speakers at various internet marketing seminars. One of the first items we discuss is, "What does "www" (as in www.NAMB.org) mean?" Then we say that it doesn't mean "Wild, Wild West" nor does it mean "World Wide Web." We concluded that it really meant "What We Want," in that a web site has to be created for what your customers want.

What Google Wants

We have since updated the "www" component of our presentation to suggest that "www" should really be "wgw" - "What Google Wants." In this article we will discuss some do's and don'ts for your site as it relates to Google.

How & Why Google Ranks Your Site, and Why It Can Punish You.

Over the last few years many "tricks" have been tried to gain high search engine rankings. Some of the more popular "techniques" were:

Keyword Density - Old Way: The early search engine algorithms noted how often a web page used keywords and then assumed the higher the density of keywords, the more that page was "about" that keyword. In other words, a page that had 10% of its words as "mortgage" would be ranked higher than a page with only 5% of its words as mortgage.

Keyword Density - New Way: Google now has an unpublished percentage range that they consider relevant or excessive. In example, a page with "San Diego Home Loan" accounting for a 5.23% keyword density might rank high, while a page with 5.57% density would rank even higher, yet if the page had a 5.90% keyword density, it could be penalized for too much keyword density.

Hidden Text - Old Way: Someone would create a regular content page, and at the bottom of the page there would be a white font on a white background. A home loan company in Washington State might have used this technique to add words like Tacoma home loan, Olympia home loan, Spokane home loan, Seattle home loan, etc. to the page in an attempt to achieve ranking for these words. They would use hidden text because while the keywords were search engine friendly, they were not visitor friendly and cluttered the page.

Hidden Text - New Way: If Google catches hidden text they ban you. If the Google automated bots don't catch it (i.e., font color and background color equal the same) rest assured that one of your competitors will submit your site to their "search engine police".

Linking - Old Way: Google used a formula they called "PageRank" to help determine which sites would get highly ranked. A significant component determining the PageRank of your site was the number of sites linking to yours. The theory was that a site's "importance" was directly proportionate to the number of other sites linking to it. This gave way to link farms (automatic submission to a site for the sole purpose of a link), reciprocal link exchanges (I'll scratch yours if you scratch mine) and purchasing a link from a high PageRank site. Just a couple of years ago high PageRank sites sold links from their sites to yours for $1,000+ month.

Linking - New Way: Here is what Google now says about PageRank: "PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page's value". In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes or links a page receives: it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are, themselves, "important" carry more weight and are instrumental in making other pages "important".

"Important, high-quality sites receive a higher PageRank, which Google remembers each time it conducts a search. Of course, important pages mean nothing to you if they don't match your query. So, Google combines PageRank with sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important and relevant to your search."

The phrase they use, "...remembers each time," means that they monitor the increase in growth of the number of links to your sites. A red flag will be raised if you have 10 links one month, then the next month you have over 100 links. Their algorithm is looking for a natural, gradual increase in links to your site.

What this now means that if Google catches you using a link farm, or manipulating links to your site, they will ban your site.

This includes companies that would create "mini-nets." A mini-net is a series of domains, generally about the same topic, all linking to each other, all owned by the same person. An example of this is the web site owner who creates a site about "San Francisco home loans," another about "San Jose home loans," and yet another about "Oakland home loans." He then links between these sites in an attempt to manufacture PageRank.

The latest Google algorithm scans for factors such as the same owner name, the same DNS, the same registrar, the same phone number, the same date of domain registration, etc. Google will ban your site if you create a false linking system.

So What Does Google Want?

On the Google site it states, "In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages."

Google actually lists what they want on their web site. Here is some information from their "Design and Content Guidelines":
  • Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.

  • Offer a site map to your users with links that point to the important parts of your site. If the site map is larger than 100 or so links, you may want to break the site map into separate pages.

  • Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.

  • Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.


  • Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn't recognize text contained in images.

  • Make sure that your TITLE and ALT tags are descriptive and accurate.

  • Check for broken links and correct HTML.

  • If you decide to use dynamic pages (i.e., the URL contains a "?" character), be aware that not every search engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static pages. It helps to keep the parameters short and the number of them few.

  • Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number (fewer than 100).

A complete discussion of what Google wants can be found at http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html


If Google Gets What They Want...

If you can satisfy Google's suggested design and content requirements, thus giving Google what they want, you will get what you want... a high ranking site…and a large increase in online generated mortgage leads.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published April 2006.



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Is Your Site Serving Salad Bars or $1 Menu Items?


Fast food restaurants are really smart. They spend millions of dollars researching and verifying how smart they are. These companies listened to their customers who wanted healthier options; and thus salad bars were added and creative names were developed to garner attention. Fast food executives sat back and waited for the financial verification of how smart they are. They also waited for nutrition bashers to finally sing their praises while they anticipated skyrocketing fast food sales.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Salad Bar

Restaurants discovered that there was a major chasm between "what I say" and "what I do" with their customers. Customers had demanded healthier options and the fast food industry responded, spending millions of dollars developing exactly what they wanted.

Whatever Makes You Happy

I was standing in line at McDonald's and the parents behind me asked their daughter if she wanted to order a salad. "This is McDonald's. I don't want a salad." The parents gave in, adopting a "whatever makes you happy (meal)" attitude.

Have It Your Way?

I remember, such a time long ago, stepping up to the order counter and taking the salad plunge. I had to study the new menu (I had memorized the old menu) to determine which healthy salad would become my new "burger." I decided on the super nutritious healthy fruit salad. I silently congratulated myself on making such a great healthy eating choice.

I didn't really flinch at the $3.49 price. Gosh, I would have spent that on the three hamburgers I normally ordered. I felt it was my own personal "one small step for man" moment; ordering a salad in a meat and potatoes fast food restaurant. I half expected to hear the opening music from the movie “2001 Space Odyssey” and I opened my wallet to pay.


The Grapes of Wrath

I sat down, peered into my tiny, clear plastic container, and immediately thought that the restaurant shouldn't cut the green apples until they are served: and a tan patina had formed around the fleshy part of the apples. And, the grapes? Well, they were grapes, but I wonder if anyone had actually tasted a grape to make sure it was sweet and juicy. The grapes were just plain awful. At least the walnuts were good, though broken.

As I finished the salad in less than 10 bites, with a still hungry feeling, I glanced back up at the new menu to see if I should get another salad. I recall thinking, "How can salad cost more than a burger?" I opted to leave the restaurant a bit hungry, but full of the knowledge of what I would order next time... I always enjoy a good burger, or three.


The Two Percent Solution

McDonald's did earn acclaim for adding healthy menu items. They even touted that they sold more than 400 million premium salads during the first two years. At first glance, that seems like a rousing success, until you consider that McDonald's serves 23+ million people EACH day in the United States, which works out to about 17 billion customers during the same period. In short, just over two percent of their customers have ordered salads since they were added to the menu.
Burgers and Mortgages

So how do we apply all of this knowledge to a mortgage web site? First, you have to decide what potential customers are asking for, and what they really want.

You may think your customers want good ol' fashioned customer service (they do). You may think your customers want someone to meet with them and hold their hand through the process (they do). You may think your customers want to have you know their name and say how nice their home is (they do).

Smart Mortgage Site Owners

Mortgage web site owners are as smart as any fast food executive.

The Washington Post quoted several fast food executives:

Denny Post, the Chief Concept Officer for Burger King said, "The gap between what [diners] say and what they do is just huge. Therein lies the challenge for business, because there is simply not enough behavior shift to build a business around."

Richard Johnson, Ruby Tuesday's Senior Vice President said, "The first Ruby Tuesday opened in 1972. In those days, the number one item people ordered when they went out was a hamburger and french fries. Today, the number one items people order when they go out are a hamburger, french fries and chicken tenders."

Bill Whitman, McDonald's company spokesman said "The most popular item on our menu continues to be the double cheeseburger, hands down."

Why DiTech and eLoan Have Done so Well

A mortgage company knows that beyond customer service, beyond hand-holding, beyond everything else, the single most important factor is the interest rate. This explains why someone will ignore their local mortgage broker and select a company where their only interaction will be with a phone call with a company thousands of miles away.

If You Want Your Web Site to be More Successful

If you want your web site to be more successful, feature your best interest rates prominently, not only on your main page, but on each and every page.

Can Paris Hilton Help You Increase Your Business?

Just to cover all the bases, maybe it isn't the interest rate that customers really want. Maybe we could take a lesson from the Carl's Jr. fast food chain. They hypothesized that it really wasn't the burger (or salad) that was making people select their food, but maybe the commercial which featured a sexy individual, in this case Paris Hilton, as she danced (oops, I mean enjoyed... oops, I mean ate) a spicy BBQ burger, while apparently working at a car wash.

So maybe one of your staff (male or female) could be filmed doing a sexy dance with the mortgage loan papers prominently featured (showing lots of low interest rate cleavage). This possibly could be what your customers want.


(Rod Aries and Robert Farris are co-founders of MortgagePromote.com, a leading Internet marketing provider to corporate mortgage clients.)


For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published March 2006.

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When Good Web Sites Go Bad


This really isn't breaking news, but there are a substantial number of web sites that while they look great, the sites just don't generate much income for mortgage companies. Sometimes the owner will say, "This Internet thing, it just doesn't work." Generally the owner is wrong in their assumption.

We have been online since 1996. We have made our share of mistakes and most certainly we have marveled at mistakes that occur on other sites. Here is a list of mistakes "good" web sites can make.


Getting To "No"

Too often seemingly good web sites want to concentrate on getting a "Yes" out of the customer. Great web sites utilize a technique where the goal is learning how to get the customer to say "No."

As you are aware, a successful loan is a long series of steps, each of which must be completed perfectly, or the loan doesn't close.


You Prequalify the Customer, Why Not Prequalify the Visitor

Make your web site really work for you. Make your web site screen out potential inquiries that you can't service. In example, maybe you can only provide loans in California. Unless you have a mechanism for servicing loans from other states, do you really want your staff spending time on the phone with someone only to ultimately learn they are outside your service area? If you don't provide loans for land, co-ops or retail shopping centers, you should have a list of the loans you can provide, followed by a list that you can't offer.

Your goal is that if you are going to have a customer say "No," you want that to occur before you expend energy in processing. You want to find out if you are going to have problems up front, not 3 weeks into the adventure. You can word your web site to tactfully allow people who don't qualify, not to contact you. This allows you to receive inquiries from customers that you can help.


I Want! I Want! I Want!

One of the secrets to a successful business is often overlooked when having a web site: Give the customer what they want, and you will get what you want.

Seems simple, but so often we only look at our own site, through our own eyes, and not the customers. In example, if you are a provider of "sub prime loans" that term may accurately describe your business, but your customers are NOT typing in that term, because they don't know what that is and so they type "bad credit loan."

In effect you could have a good looking web site, that doesn't perform.

Here are a few common mistakes with regards to web sites:

  • Looking good? Always view your site on another machine. You will be surprised at how different your site looks on a machine with a bigger monitor or with an older version of Internet Explorer or with AOL or with an alternative browser such as Opera or Mozilla Firefox will make your site look.

  • A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a thousand pictures is not worth a million words. Some sites seems to add too many graphics in order to look nice, but they can be a hindrance to your site. Graphics should be like perfume; it should augment, not overpower.

  • Perform the hardest test on your site. Have your mother-in-law go to your site and listen to her feedback. You will discover how many obvious features to you, are not obvious to her.

  • Pay attention to the little stuff. Does your site still say "Copyright 2005" (or earlier)?

  • Your customer wants to know how they can benefit and save money by using your company instead of one of the thousands of other companies online.


  • Is your site consistent and easy to navigate?
Batting Leadoff?

Is your most important information on every page, at the TOP of the screen shot your customer sees? You have to keep your eyes on the prize. If you are trying to sell mortgages, then that information needs to be at the top of every page.

Don't provide extraneous information in prime real estate areas of your web page. We have seen sites that show how a mortgage company softball team is doing or a long rambling message from the owner on how it was to do mortgages in the 1980's. You can have that info, if you need to, but just don't let it get in the way on your primary objective of providing loans to customers.

Time to Think About Time

If you think your time is important. The customer is not really concerned with your time... they are very concerned with theirs. If you waste their time, you will not get their business. Keep these factors in mind when writing your content, and then displaying it on your web site.

Here are a few more tips to help keep your good site good.

With Quality You Only Pay Once

  • Hire winners. Just like in real life, you usually get what you pay for. If you constructed your web site by offering your neighbors kid a $100 bill, you may end up with a site that looks nice, but fails to have the proper HTML coding or meta tags that could actually cause your site to be banned by the search engine.

  • Use real email. If the name of your company is MortgagePromote.com, have each employee use an email address with MortgagePromote.com in it, ie, Robert@MortgagePromote.com. Don't use a hotmail.com or aol.com or yahoo.com or gmail.com or your-ISP-provider.com email. Your email may get tagged as spam and if it gets through, you will appear to be amateurish or unprofessional by using an email other than your own domain name.

  • Use quality software. If you are having difficulty managing contacts, use a PIM software such as ACT or Goldmine. If your email program isn't as productive as you want, try using Eudora. If your site is difficult to upkeep, try a program like FrontPage.
These Clicks Are Going To Walk All Over You

  • Don't be fooled by numbers. Not all website traffic is created equal. Just because you are receiving a substantial amount of traffic, doesn't mean that they are all relevant to your site. I know of a Nevada mortgage site, that bought hundreds and hundreds of pay per click (PPC) words, including the singular word "Las Vegas." They had substantial traffic for the term "Las Vegas" but these visitors weren't looking for loans. The result was an expensive lesson in PPC costs and untargeted audiences.

  • Poor PPC Conversions. If you are getting traffic, but not sales, then one of two things is wrong. Either you have high interest rates or you there is something wrong with your site such as bad content or it is difficult to contact you via your site.

The bad news is that truly good sites are hard to find. The good news is that there are mostly bad sites on the Internet. If you can improve your mortgage site just a bit, you can make a good site into a great site.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published February 2006.

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How a Fruitcake Can Increase Your Mortgage Site Sales


How a Fruitcake Can Increase Your Mortgage Site Sales
(A fruitcake tells all)

Kill The Fruitcake

There were probably many lucky recipients of a fruitcake during the holidays. Some of those proud owners immediately started to consider various ways to "kill the fruitcake." Some are thinking of re-gifting it to that "favorite aunt" or even to a "nosy neighbor," while others are wondering if the fruitcake would really work as a doorstop or an anchor for your fishing boat.

I have to admit, I became a fruitcake owner.

But All Mortgage Web Site Owners Are Smart

As we all know, mortgage web site owners tend to be a bit smarter than regular people. If you are like me, you too would probably be looking at that fruitcake and asking, in a soft and inquisitive voice, what you can learn about how to increase your mortgage sales from this tasty culinary treat.

I had just finished reading an article on Internet marketing by Robert Bly and Sandy Franks, and it just happened to be discussing fruitcakes. I may have had a holiday drink or two as I read the article. I felt that I was slowly drifting off.

As I looked into those big brown date and raisin eyes of the fruitcake, I could almost hear it plead with me, promising to tell me a story of its heritage, and also promising me a valuable secret. I had a few minutes available, and I am always willing to learn, so I told the cute little fruitcake to proceed.

First a Little History

The fruitcake begins with a story. "Let me tell you about our rich history. Fruitcakes are typically holiday cakes which have, surprise, a very heavy fruit content. The history of fruitcakes dates back to Roman times. Our original recipes included pine nuts and raisins that were mixed into barley mash. Later, honey, spices and preserved fruits were incorporated. During the 1700's, Europeans created a celebratory fruitcake at the end of the nut harvest to be saved and eaten the next year to celebrate the beginning of the next harvest. As of late, people have been adding, yum, rum or whiskey to fruitcakes. We like that.

The fruitcake went on to say, "Sadly, though, we fruitcakes have fallen out of favor (but not flavor), and we are the target of many jokes. I was sitting in this closet - oh, it must have been, maybe, 1988. My owner would watch Johnny Carson every night. I loved to listen to his jokes, but I heard Johnny-boy say, 'The worst gift is a fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.' I have to tell you I was glad when Carson retired."

The fruitcake could tell that, while I was listening, I was really waiting for the secret.

The Secret of the Fruitcake

"Alright, alright," said the fruitcake, "I will tell you a little secret that will help you."

I remember thinking that either this fruitcake had a lot of rum in it, or I did. I wasn't quite sure which.

"I want to tell you the story of how one of our fruitcake brethren helped their owners increase their sales of fruitcakes. And the way that they did it, can certainly help you and your business."

Hmm, I perked up a bit.

"There is this bakery in Texas, the Collin Street Bakery, which was struggling to sell our fruitcakes. The owners knew that we were delicious. But the word 'fruitcake' had a negative image. They also knew that one of the reasons their Texan fruitcakes tasted so good is they are made with pecans grown on the Texas river banks."

"Before I go any further, let me ask you a few questions," said the fruitcake. "Fish eggs or caviar?"

"What?" I asked.

"When you go to a restaurant, would you pay $75 for 'a scoop of fish eggs?'"

Before I could respond, the fruitcake went on to say, "Would you pay $75 for this at a restaurant? 'We maintain our reputation as the premier restaurant by offering only the finest Beluga caviar available, flown in each night from the Caspian Sea. Our four star chefs then hand select only the finest caviar from each catch. These Beluga pearls are the most delicate and have a mild buttery flavor. You will absolutely love this caviar."

"Is this a trick question?" I respond.

"Nope, it's really a matter of semantics. How powerfully do you write your words to influence buyers?"

"Wow," I thought, "There must be really a lot of rum in this fruitcake."

The fruitcake went on, "Which sounds better? A hamburger or a free-range sirloin burger grown on the Argentine pampus? A salad? Or fresh organic lettuce, with organic hot-house tomatoes, with a sprig of mint?"

"This brings me back to the Collin Street Bakery. They used words to reposition our lowly stature as a fruitcake, and rechristened us the 'Native Texas Pecan Cake.' Sales took off."

The fruitcake explained, "This simple change of words, from fruitcake to 'Native Texas Pecan Cake' resulted in direct mail response rates increasing by sixty percent. The promotion was so successful, that the bakery sent 12 million pieces of mail. My fellow fruitcakes are everywhere."

Applying the Fruitcake Secret

"Ahh, I get it," I said. "All I have to do is go back and use more compelling content, and use words that clearly communicate how the mortgages I provide can help and benefit my visitors."

"Yep," said the fruitcake, "That is pretty good for a human."

Save The Fruitcakes...

So now you know that while many people want to "kill the fruitcake"… that really isn't what is best for you. Once you learn and listen what a fruitcake can teach you, you may start your own grassroots group to "save the fruitcakes."

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published January 2006.



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The Supreme Court, Google Software, Viagra and Mortgages?


Often a seemingly irrelevant activity can have a profound impact on an apparently unrelated and disjointed event. While some of these may affect your life, other activities can impact your web site, or even your mortgage business.

What do the following have in common?

  • A Supreme Court decision and crime rates.
  • The male ego and endangered animals.
  • Free Google software and archaeology.
  • Globalization and mortgages.
  • A Supreme Court Decision and Crime Rates
What factors have led to an overall decrease in crime? We often hear that better crime-fighting techniques, a stronger economy, a morally - adjusted society and increased spending to fight crime all lead to a drop in the crime rate.

In his book "Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything," authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner draw an interesting conclusion as to why there has been a drop in violent crime rates. While many people still speculate that crime decreases under improved economic conditions or more success by law enforcement agencies, Levitt concludes that there has actually been a decrease in the number of violent criminals: that is, there are less crooks among us.

Upon further analysis, Levitt determines that the Roe v. Wade decision is the genesis lower crime rates. He speculates that by allowing women to have the legal option of determining whether or not to have a child has resulted in decreasing the number of people who would otherwise be born into poverty and hardship. The result: a lower number of criminals being born.


The Male Ego and Endangered Animals

Can the demand for male impotence drugs result in less risk for endangered animals?

Traditional Chinese medicine utilizes many elements and compounds found in nature, such as dried seaweed, powdered bark and various animal parts. And, in a seemingly unrelated event, scientists from around the world have pleasantly discovered that endangered species are not vanishing quite as rapidly as before.

Two scientists, Alaskan brothers Bill and Frank von Hippel, speculate that the growing popularity of prescription impotence drugs has had a positive correlation to threatened or endangered species by reducing the demand for these animals' body parts.

Their journal "Environmental Conservation," essentially states that people who were using traditional Chinese medicine remedies such as deer antler felt or sea lion and tiger genitalia are now turning to Western-created treatments and drugs that are more effective. This shift to Western medicine has allowed endangered animals to have a greater chance at thriving.


Free Google Software and Archaeology

How has the search for ancient ruins become easier due to a new free Google technology?

Google recently implemented a free service called Google Earth. Essentially the software allows people to view parts of the earth using satellite photos.

An Italian computer programmer recently made an archaeological discovery when he used the Google Earth geographic imaging program to look at satellite photos of his home in Sorbolo. As he located his home and then zoomed in, he noticed an odd oval-shaded form about 1,500 feet long plus strange rectangular shadows.

He contacted archaeologists who examined the site more closely and found ceramic pieces that showed it was a Roman villa built some time just before the birth of Christ.


The Supreme Court, Google Software, Viagra and Mortgages?

Now you may be wondering what Google Software, Viagra and the Supreme Court decision have to do with your mortgage site...

Your ability to survive financially is based upon not only your ability to recognize both direct and tangential changes in your world; but also to correctly adjust to these factors. Let's start with an easy example.

The Internet and Online Mortgage Sites - Phase 1: The Internet was a source of information first. Later the net became a conduit for conducting online business transactions. Before too long mortgage web sites were scrambling to create an Internet presence.

The Internet and Online Mortgage Sites - Phase 2 - Computer Gaming And Mortgages: As the Internet continues to evolve, so must the sophistication of a mortgage web site. When I was growing up, all the "smart" kids could get good summer jobs working on cars because they understood carburetors and transmissions.

The rest of us were fortunate to find jobs picking strawberries, working at construction sites or if we were real lucky -- we were able to get a job at Dairy Queen. Nowadays, the smart kids are doing HTML, PHP and Perl programming... and, for the most part, the not-so-smart kids are the ones working on cars.

Because this generation is so computer literate, there will be an increasingly higher percentage of business conducted online. Your company will have to adapt to accommodate this changing marketplace.

By the way, if you're reading this and you're not online, you might want to start exploring vocational colleges to see if they offer auto repair classes.


Ephedra & 8-Tracks

Another trick to understanding what can impact your mortgage business is learning how to recognize short-term fads versus long-term trends. You can look at a wide range of products that were once popular, but now are either on the way out or have been entirely replaced by a better product. Examples of this include Ephedra, 8-track cartridges, Thalidomide, buggy whips and VHS tapes. (If you don't think VHS tapes are dead, then you might have a problem anticipating future trends).


Globalization and Mortgages

One area that should be of concern to mortgage company owners of is that of continued globalization of the world's economy. The same way that call centers are outsourced to India for the Philippines, that furniture and automobile manufacturing now occurs in Mexico and toys, clothes and electronics are now made in China should be an alert that financial services, such as mortgages, might soon follow suit.

If the globalization of mortgages comes to pass that old adage, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," should become part of your strategy. Mortgage companies should be alert to the possibility of potential relationships with European and Asian financial institutions. Of course, this may be early in the game, but by remaining aware of changes in the marketplace you can ensure that your mortgage company won't become an endangered species.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published December 2005.


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Should You Yahoo!?


Should You Yahoo!?

We are frequently asked by our mortgage company clients if they should spend the money to list their business in the Yahoo! Directory. This month's article will examine a case study for spending $299 per year for what, at first glance, appears to be a dying Internet resource.

Yahoo! and Google: Two Giants

According to Media Metrix figures for the second quarter of 2005, Google responded to 5.65 billion U.S. search queries, or 37.6 percent of all queries. Yahoo! was second with 4.65 billion queries and 30.4 percent market share. After that MSN has approximately a 15.6 percent market share followed by AOL/Time Warner with 9.2 percent and Ask Jeeves with 6.1 percent of all search engine queries.

If you combine the market share numbers, Google and Yahoo! control just under 70% of all the searches on the Internet. It is important to have a presence in both major search engines if you expect to earn revenues from the net.

Receiving Traffic from Yahoo!

There are several ways to promote your business utilizing Yahoo! The first way is to become involved with their Pay Per Click (PPC) program called Yahoo! Sponsored Search. We've discussed various aspects of PPC advertising several times in recent articles, so we won't go into detail here (you can visit our web site for all past magazine articles at MortgagePromote.com). The other prominent method to allow you to promote your business is to be included in the Yahoo! Directory. Additionally, you may receive traffic from "natural search rankings," i.e. your site is top ranked for various terms, without paying for the ranking.

The Yahoo! Directory has been in place since the beginning of Yahoo! With the emergence of Google, coupled with the Yahoo!'s Pay Per Click program, fewer and fewer visitors are finding their way into the directory in order to being able to see your company's directory listing. At first glance, it appears that the Yahoo! directory has outlived its business usefulness. Furthermore, the Yahoo! directory costs $299 to submit your site to Yahoo!, with no guarantee that you will be approved for inclusion, and then an additional $299 per year to stay within the directory once you are approved.

Case Study: Disappointing Results from The Yahoo! Directory

One of our clients recently shared with us their logs of visitors from Yahoo! This mortgage company examined a period of about four months and found approximately 12,000 visitors which were referred from Yahoo! Upon closer examination they discovered that less than one percent of their Yahoo! visitors actually came from the Yahoo! directory. The bulk of Yahoo! visitors were obtained from their PPC keyword listings and natural search results. The owner of the company was very disappointed and was ready to cancel the Yahoo! listing.

The owner was under the belief that the $299 annual fee no longer had value or merit. She further speculated that because this fee was so small, that for many companies it was under the radar; that companies just paid it. She speculated that Yahoo! knew it was dying but continued to bill it as it proved to be an ongoing source of revenue. She had concluded that she did not want to automatically pay this nominal fee.

In Search Of Links

We actually went and looked up exactly where this company was listed within the thousands and thousands of subdirectories that make up the Yahoo! listings. We experienced a little trouble finding her company's link, which further convinced the owner to cease paying the $299 annual fee.

Part of her rationale was based on the fact that it was so hard to find her own company. How were people who didn't know who he was going to find her company in the directory?

The Default Search Parameter Is Not the Directory

We went about performing typical searches for related keywords such as home loans and mortgages. The owner pointed out that the default search was not a directory search, but a web search, which further convinced her that it was futile to pay for the directory inclusion.

A representative directory category listing looks like this

http://dir.yahoo.com/Business_and_Economy/
Shopping_and_Services/Real_Estate/Financing/Brokerages/

As you can see, this is not something a typical user would type in. The owner was further exacerbated when I pointed out that the top listings on the directory page, were also paid for. In other words, the companies listed first were paying an additional fee per month to be ranked ahead of all of their alphabetical listings in the Yahoo! directory.

Based on all this information the mortgage site owner affirmed her conclusion to not renew her Yahoo! directory listing.

Wait... There Is More.

I pointed out that the seemingly expensive Yahoo! Directory listing has one, often unseen, major benefit for her website -- linking. The Yahoo! Directory listing is the most valuable text link that an online company can acquire. The single Yahoo! Directory link can even influence your Google ranking due to the PageRank scoring system Google employs to determine who gets ranked first and who gets ranked last.

The Variable Value of Links

Not all links have the same value. Imagine comparing the amount of business you would receive from a link from your Aunt Betsy's restaurant web site compared to having a link from the Fannie Mae web site. Google and Yahoo! recognize this fact that some links are just better than others and this greatly influences their rankings of your site.

Coupled with the fact that not everyone who applies to the Yahoo! Directory is approved, so this exclusiveness makes a Yahoo! link quite valuable.

$299 Is A Deal

After exploring the linking value of a Yahoo! Directory listing, the mortgage web site owner agreed that the tangential impact is worth the $299 annual fee, especially when considering the value of just one extra closed loan.

In short, while the obvious value to a Yahoo! Directory listing is the anticipation of direct traffic clicks, often the more valuable aspect is to provide a substantial and quality link to your site, with the result an increase in the ranking of your site.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.


Originally published November 2005.


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Are You Banned In Google And Yahoo!? You May Not Know It


Are You Banned In Google And Yahoo!? You May Not Know It

The search engines Yahoo! and Google account for over 90% of all search inquiries on the Internet. So it is extremely important that your web site be found in the Yahoo! and Google directories.

Google Directory: Hard To Get In, Easy To Get Out

Most people know how hard it is to get listed in Google, but few people realize how easy it is to get their site delisted (banned) by Google. In this article we are going to discuss why Google or Yahoo! would ban your site from their search engine. For ease of discussion when we talk about Google, we will be referring to both the Google and Yahoo! search engines.

How to Get Listed By Google

You can submit your web site to Google via their "add URL" feature. This method does not always work, as Google states that they do not have to accept your site. In fact, Google tends to index sites that are linked from other sites before they add sites submitted via their "add URL" feature. Their logic seems to be that if another site has determined your site to be worthy enough to link to, then it might be worthwhile for them to visit your site and index your content.

Linking can increase your Google rankings. The rough rule of thumb is that the more sites that link to you, the higher ranking you'll obtain in Google. Furthermore, high-quality sites that link to you, are worth more than low-quality sites. An example is if the US government's VA loan program links you, that is more valuable than a link from a one person mortgage office, which is more valuable than a link from a site on burrito recipes or a site about leather belts. Google looks for links from high quality sites which are relevant, to rank your web site.

Link Farms

Since search engine marketers know that links to your site can increase your ranking, many marketers have created link farms. Link farms are essentially web sites with a sole purpose to provide links to other web sites. It is possible to create hundreds and hundreds of links to your site in with just a few keystrokes.

"The people who cast votes don't decide an election... the people who count votes do."
--Joseph Stalin

Because of the importance of links, and the subsequent impact upon your rankings, some mortgage site owners attempt to manipulate the number of links in order to appear higher in the search engine results. Google is aware of this and has implemented software algorithms to prevent this from occurring.

Josef Stalin knew how to achieve "good election results" -- he simply created them. Google works the same way, you may have a lot of links to your site but Google weighs the importance of each link with its proprietary algorithm and only counts the links they deem of value.

Sometimes it is easier to state, what not to do than what to do. Here's a list of "commandments" of what not to do, as stated by the search engine rules.

Thou Shall Not Receive Links From Link Farms

Many of us are aware that certain banks, in the past, would "red line" various neighborhoods. Essentially a lending institution would take a red felt pen and outline certain neighborhoods in the city, where they would not provide loans, thus the term "red lining." The red lined areas are essentially to be denied due to high risk investments or any other perceived factor that would be detrimental to the bank's bottom line.

Google essentially has the same practice, where they identify bad neighborhoods (i.e. link farms) and determine that link farms are detrimental to Google's accuracy. If Google determines you have links from a link farm, they can either penalize you or remove you from their directory

Thou Shall Not Redirect

Pages dedicated to directing the user to another page such as doorway or gateway pages will cause you to get banned. Doorway pages as they are solely built to achieve high-rankings then cause the visitor to have to click on a link to actually arrive at a page of substance.

Thou Shall Not Repeat, Repeat, Repeat...

If a search engine finds the exact same content among different web sites, they may ban you. This means if your mortgage company offers an affiliate program you are at risk. Since many of your affiliates may simply copy your main site onto their own URL, your site and the affiliate site could get banned.

Thou Shall Not Spoof

Spoof pages our pages automatically produced in great quantity with minimal content or of little value. Spoof pages either focus on a single phrase such as "refinance Denver home loan" or "find equity line of credit Dallas" in order to show up for such a specific and narrow search. Alternatively, spoofed pages can occur when search engine Spammers and go out and copy search engine results and include those results on their web page in an attempt to look like they are a comprehensive site. While this technique may work for short period of time, competitors will usually turn these type of sites into the search engines; who in turn will ban the sites from their results.

Thou Shall Not Hide Text

Some mortgage companies will place hundreds of keywords on a web site and make the content so small that it is hard to read. They do this in an attempt to cram as many keywords as possible so that they may show higher in results. Other techniques include hiding keywords using a "white on white" technique. Basically, this is where a web site owner will take a massive list of keywords and paste these keywords onto a white background, then make the font of the keywords white. When a visitor arrives the page looks normal. Either of these techniques will get you banned from the search engines.

Thou Shall Not Take Competitors to Names In Vain

Web sites that attempt to use a competitor's or brand name (eLoan or Ditech) in an attempt to redirect traffic to their site will get banned. They hope that the usage of a trademarked name from a well-known competitor will result in misdirecting visitors to their site.

You Want What Search Engines Want

Yahoo! states on their web site, "Yahoo's Search Submit program strives to provide the best search experience on the Web by directing searchers to high-quality and relevant Web content in response to a search query. Yahoo! designed its Search Submit programs to improve the quality of its search databases and thereby enhance the search user experience."

If you follow the simple plan of the giving quality content to your visitors, without employing any link farms spoofing or other Spamming techniques, your web site will stay indexed in the major search engines. If not, you run the risk of having your entire web site banned from either Google or Yahoo!

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published October 2005.


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Increase Your Revenue with Secret Military Intelligence


Long before laptops went wireless, before Dell could sell powerful PC's for less than $500 and before success was measured by Google rankings, programmers were developing highly sophisticated, secret software applications to bolster the defense of our nation. These developers created complex techniques to train a very select number of our military forces. This technology can help increase the effectiveness of your site.

In this month's article we will discuss how secret military technology can direct you where to place your highest revenue-producing content, what matadors and bulls have to do with your web site visitors and how to determine if your images or content are being used without your permission.

Is Your Site "Top Gun"?

Many of the military training software programs that were designed in the late 90's ultimately became the video software games of today. Programs that cost hundreds of thousands for the military now can be bought for $50 at your local computer store. Even more amazing is that the games of today are better than the earlier programs developed for the military.

One of the other technological advancements developed by the military used eye tracking sensors to monitor the eye movements by our Top Gun fighter pilots. This was done initially to optimize the instrument lay out in the jets, and later to possibly allow eye movements or blinking to initiate various aviation functions, such as firing weapons or evading radar.

This technology has now been used by several companies to monitor the eye movements of visitors to web sites. The web site visitors wear headsets and the software tracks their eye-movement to quantify what they read, what they don't read, what they glance at, what they skip, and what they never even see.

One company, Enquiro, tracked visitor eye movements at Google. They found that the most frequently viewed components were the sponsored ads at the top of Google's results pages. The study also found that the natural results were viewed for approximately 3 seconds and sponsored ads (Pay Per Click - PPC) at the top of the Google page received about 1.5 seconds of attention. The sponsored ads on the right side of the page, which are also PPC, were looked at for just over one second.

When the results were illustrated via an image, they indicated the "hot spot" was the top left corner of the web page. It received the majority of initial and subsequent eye attention.

So, What Does This Mean To Your Mortgage Web Site?

You should put your most important information in the top left of your web page. Sites with large, non-revenue producing space at the top of their sites or using drop down boxes or non-standard navigation designs could be negatively impacting the visitor's convenience and thus resulting in fewer sales.

Ole' Marketing?

When matadors engage bulls in the ring they use a bright red cape to attract the bull. Obviously each matador stands to the side of the cape, and when the bull charges the cape has nothing behind it. The crowd in attendance shout, "Ole'" with their approval.

Quite a few mortgage web site owners use this same Ole' Marketing technique with their PPC keyword campaigns. For example, a mortgage company may offer VA loans and FHA loans in addition to refinances and new home loans. Not surprisingly the company buys clicks for all of these keywords. The problem occurs when the company directs all of its keyword buys to the home page of the mortgage web site, even though the information about a VA loan is actually contained within the site. This causes an "Ole' moment," where the charging visitor arrives expecting to find full information on VA loans, only to be surprised, and dismayed, that he has to search the page for a link to the page that has VA loan info.

Are Your Competitors Stealing Your Site?

Successful sites -- typically costing thousand of dollars in time and expense -- may fall prey to individuals who simply copy the design or wording to a competitor site. Most mortgage web site owners don't even know it is occurring. A few years ago, we had a mortgage site with a built-in mortgage calculator. We noticed a substantial amount of traffic on that page and upon inspecting our logs, we found that someone had copied our code to their site. The only problem was that our code wouldn't work because it was PHP enabled, so they actually used the full URL to our site. It turned out to be a bonus for us because when visitors to that site used the calculator, they were redirected to our site when results were displayed.

A very simple way to test if your images or content is being "borrowed" is to take a unique phrasing of words from your site, maybe four to six words total, and place that phrase in quote marks while doing a search. For example I took the phrase "these customers are entrusting your company" from our MortgagePromote.com site and searched at Google. The only page that came up was ours.

If you have unique names for your images you can also do a search for the image to see if anyone is using it. Assume that you have an you may need to be a bit more creative by searching for two images top.jpg +left.jpg, or searching for the image plus a related keyword like top.jpg +"mortgage loan."

In short, you can use previously secret military intelligence, which cost millions of dollars to develop, and apply those findings to make your site a "Top Gun." Furthermore, you can protect your own "site intelligence" by using search engines to check for competitor infringements.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published September 2005.

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The Future of Small Mortgage Companies


The Future of Small Mortgage Companies... Globalization and Cowboys

When we were growing up, our mothers and fathers taught us many lessons that were true - one of which is that the earth is round. It was easy to believe and understand. We could see pictures from outer space and every class room had a globe. We in turn, taught our children that...

The World Is Round... Or Is It?

At first, humans believed the world was flat, because everything they saw was flat. If the world was round, one would most certainly fall off. Then, after Columbus and Magellan, man learned the world is round, and this information was handed down through the generations. While we believe the world is round, should we really be teaching our children this?

And Now, We Find The World Is Flat Again.

Thomas Friedman, a globalization expert, writes in his new book "The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century" that world is no longer round. Here is why.

We Be Smart, Ain't We?

It used to be that America was smart and other countries (especially third world countries) quite frankly we not so smart. A high school drop-out on welfare would earn more money than almost anyone else in the world. Overseas labor was cheap, but it was too far away.

Now countries like China and India produce more engineers per year than America. Our "advantage" over these countries is rapidly decreasing.

Cheap Labor Is Now One Day Away

There are two ends to the income spectrum. First, there are over 2.5 billion people living in China, India and Indonesia. This is about 41% of the world's population. The vast majority of these people have an average per capita income in the $1,000 - $4,000 range. At the other end are the countries like the U.S., Japan, Germany, France, Canada and the UK. This group totals over 500 million people and, depending on the country, has an average income in excess of $11,500.

Geography is becoming less of an issue as we can either put a document in an overnight delivery pouch and have it seamlessly delivered anywhere in the world for less than $30, or we can wire funds to an overseas bank in minutes. Ships carrying container trucks flow from Asia as easily as we drive from the suburbs to downtown. This is further demonstrated by looking at Wal-mart. It has over 6,000 suppliers. Of those 6,000 suppliers, 5,000 are in China.

How a Flat World Impacts Your Mortgage Business

A flat world means that your mortgage business is open game to competition. The same way in which call centers, engineering projects, IRS tax preparation and living trust documents have been out-sourced to offshore companies indicates it is only a matter of time before foreign corporations come into the mortgage market by establishing a domestic presence, while doing all the processing out of, say, India. It is hard for a mortgage owner who pays a receptionist $14,000 - $20,000 a year to compete when the ENTIRE staffing costs of an overseas mortgage entity can be subsidized for the same amount.

Of course the U.S. branch office of an overseas company will employ a facade of Americans as the "in-office" salespeople. But all of the processing work (and probably customer service) will be handled by more cost effective labor alternatives.

Small Mortgage Companies Will Be Hurt Most

Due to economies of scale, smaller mortgage companies will likely be the first to feel the impact of globalization. Historically, highly fragmented mom-and-pop businesses like donut stores (Dunkin Donuts) and corner markets (7-11) were consolidated or franchised into more efficient business identities. And we have witnessed the constant consumption of small local banks firms merging with and being consumed by larger regional banks. The economies of scale coupled with the inexpensive cost of overseas labor will cause small mortgage companies to fall by the wayside. Yes... this could mean you.

Not Me!!!

I know, I know... I can hear you now. You are saying, "I have customers who have been with me for years, they will never leave me." These were the dying last words uttered by small hardware store owners as Home Depot swooped into their town. Are there small hardware stores left? Sure, but not very many, and their owners are not earning as much. Do you really believe customers will buy from you if there is a significant price differential? When was the last time most people paid attention (when they bought their cell phone) as to where it was made? They didn't. Price was the primary consideration when purchasing this commodity.

Like it or not, the mortgage industry has moved from a customer based service to a commodity of interest rates.

How A Flat World Impacts Your Children

Your children will be impacted as well. First, if you have ever envisioned handing your company over to your grown children when you retire, there just might not be much left to give them. Second, assuming your child wants to become an engineer, they will no longer be competing with only U.S. students to get a good education. Your child is also now competing with international children who are attending college and becoming engineers in overseas countries. American companies looking to hire engineers have the option of hiring a $30,000+ freshly graduated U.S. college student or a $10,000 experienced engineer from China or India.

"Mama, 'Do' Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys"

So what jobs are safe for your children? According to Friedman, jobs that require a physical presence, such as: physicians, car mechanics, grocery workers, coaches, negotiators and the like. Teachers as well, until distant learning and tele-classes cause them to fall to the globalization wave.

There is a country song that says, "Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys." But because being a cowboy requires an actual physical presence with the cows, it could be a safe job... until even more countries grow their own cattle and export meat to the U.S.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published August 2005.



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Internet Marketing Techniques: The Highway to Disaster


"Get In, Hold On, Shut Up"
Internet Marketing Techniques: The Highway to Disaster

There is a bumper sticker that goes something like, "Get in, hold on, shut up." We frequently see mortgage sites try and apply this "Click In, Fill The Form & Shut Up" strategy to their valuable visitors. Visitors don't like it.

One of the most frequently asked question by our clients is quite simply, "How do I make my pay per click (PPC) program more effective?" Everyone is fighting to attract qualified visitors via the internet; but it is what you do with the visitor when they arrive that separates successful PPC efforts from those campaigns that merely cost money.

Keywords Are Not Magical. Content Is.

Internet users are becoming more sophisticated. You can no longer expect someone to show up to your site, blindly do whatever you want, then close a loan. Pay per click marketing is not some wu-wu magic that somehow takes a lost soul and converts them into a $400,000 mortgage loan customer. Undeniably, or is it unbelievably, PPC advertisers think that once you have paid for keywords, people will flow to your site and close loans. I have some very bad news for you... that is not going to happen if you have bad content.

Pay to Play

The fastest way to attract traffic to your site is quite simply to pay for it. By using both Googlehttps://adwords.google.com/ and Yahoo! (formerly Overture) http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com/ you can reach approximately 90% of the domestic US search market. Remember this is pay per click (PPC), so each time someone visits your site, it will cost you, whether they use your mortgage services or not.

Aren't All PPC Words Alike?

Let's assume you are based in Dallas and offer home loans and refinancing to Dallas area customers. If a potential customer searches for "Dallas home loan" at Yahoo
< p="Dallas+home+loan"> you get two columns of results. A wide column of search results on your left, and a narrow column of results on your right. The results on the left and displayed according to what the Yahoo algorithm has perceived to be the most relevant findings. The results on your right are determined by what the advertiser will spend. Google is set up the same way with paid results on the right hand side of the screen.

How Much Are Your Competitors Spending For Your Keywords?

Yahoo has a feature where you can see all the bids for any keyword. Here are some comparative top three bids for the Yahoo! PPC.





Keyword Searched
Bid#1Bid #2Bid #3
Dallas home loan$14.50$6.50$4.02
Dallas home mortgage$2.79$2.78$2.77
Dallas refi$0.63$0.62$0.35
Dallas refinance$14.50$5.28$5.27
Dallas home refinance$3.21$3.21$2.10

As you can see from these results taken in May 2005, that the top bidder for the term "Dallas home loan" is willing pay up $14.50 per click for visitors to their site. The second bidder pays up to $6.50 and the third will pay $4.02. That is quite a spread, with the top bidder willing to pay three times what the third bidder pays.

Mortgage company owners will bid to land in the top three rankings because these are the most likely links to be clicked.

Don't Waste Your Clicks!

At these prices, you must make sure your site is perfect and delivers exactly what the visitor is expecting (ie Dallas home loan information) because if your visitor clicks on your PPC keyword and you deliver information on anything else (i.e. history of your company, picture of your office, a page listing all the mortgage programs you provided), that visitor will leave. You will lose the money you spent to attract that visitor because you failed to precisely provide information on the keyword they selected, "Dallas home loans".

If you look at the second term "Dallas home mortgage" you see the top three bids are separated by pennies, and the bidders are paying about $2.75 per click. If you get 1000 visitors it will cost $2,750 to attract these highly targeted, potential customers.

You can also research how many monthly searches occur at Yahoo! for any search term. Looking at the keywords we searched for above, we find two words have about 1,000 searches a month; Dallas refinance and Dallas home loan.










































Keyword Searched
Bid #1Bid #2Bid #3Monthly
Searches
at Yahoo!

Dallas home loan$14.50$4.02$6.501122
Dallas home mortgage$2.79$2.78$2.7732
Dallas refi$0.63$0.62$0.350
Dallas refinance$14.50$5.28$5.271141
Dallas home refinance$3.21$3.21$2.1025

Some may wonder why a term like "Dallas refi," devoid of searches, has bids associated with it. The reason is because if anyone ever does type "Dallas refi" your click will cost just $0.63 which is a substantial savings over the similar keyword "Dallas refinance" with a $14.50 top click value.


Great PPC Keywords + Poor Content = No Sales

When creating a PPC campaign, most mortgage site owners focus upon keywords: keyword creation, keyword selection, keyword bidding, etc. There are many components to the PPC game, including: title creation, description content, keyword creation, keyword selection and keyword bidding.

The single most overlooked aspect of a PPC program is also the damaging and expensive aspect of the PPC process... your content. Very simple things like: having a copyright at the bottom of your page which shows last year, making the visitor scroll down a page to find what they are searching for, making the visitor click on a link to find what they are seeking to not showing the current loan rats you offer on your site all can lead to a lost visitor.

You Had Me at Hello

It is not like where Rene Zellwegger says to Tom Cruise (in the movie Jerry Maquire), "You had me at hello." Your visitors need to be wooed, courted, pampered, spoiled, cared for, and treated with respect in order to become a customer. There is a huge (financial) difference between getting customers to your site and keeping them there.

You must realize that your PPC campaign is just a tool as the marketing aspect of your business. When the visitor arrives at your site, you must have the complementary sales wording in place to convert a marketing lead into a sales customer.

Driving Miss Daisy

If you want your PPC program to be successful, you must most do more than pick a few words and bid. You must step back and look at the entire process from key word formulation, to bidding strategies, to the customer expectation and experience once they arrive at your site. Make the visitors unknowingly enjoy the perfection that your content can deliver by providing exactly what they want, when they want it, and where they want it.

You must cater to your visitors; so you efficiently and nicely chauffeur them around your site.


For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published July 2005.



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The Secret Lives of Internet Marketers


At first glance an Internet Marketer looks like anyone else you might see sitting at a computer. But if you were to watch them in action you would soon learn that they analyze sites and utilize the net in a different way that most web users. Internet Marketers know what makes a web page successful, or unsuccessful. They even know more about your site than you do.

Pssst... Want To Know A Secret?

In this article we will discuss how Internet Marketers are different and some of the secret tools they use to become experts on web sites so they can achieve high rankings.

Internet Marketers Understand the Impact Of Syntax

Internet Marketers pay attention to their words and how the words are ordered. Small and subtle changes can create a dramatic impact. Look at the following three lines, each with the same three words:

Man Eating Shark
Shark Eating Man
Man-Eating Shark

While at first glance they appear the same, upon closer review, the first line might occur at your favorite restaurant while the last two lines would occur at the shark's favorite restaurant... the ocean.

Internet Marketers Use the RIGHT Words

Word subtleties exist on your web site and can dramatically impact your effectiveness. Internet Marketers understand that the choice of words can greatly influence how much business you will generate. Good web sites try to avoid comments that will alienate visitors and instead use words that will cause visitors to take positive actions. Wording that can result in lost visitors include:

  • Sexist orientation: Don't use the words he, his, him or other masculine pronouns unless the site applies only to men. Instead use phrasing like yours, your family and your home to be more friendly.

  • Over-bluntness: If you offer bad credit loans, be careful about using words such as crummy, poor, high-risk, etc. These potential applicants already know what they are and they don't need to be beaten down anymore. You can use phrases such as, "We can help you with a fresh-start loan."
Internet Marketers Use Words That Compel

Wording that can result in additional clients include:

  • Calls to action: Subtle word phrasing can compel visitors to venture deeper into your site. If you compare the two phrases; "Visit our online application form" and "Apply now using our easy 30-second application form" you find the second statement is not only more direct, but more "clickable." The use of the word "now" is essentially a polite command to take action. The removal of a fear factor is accomplished by saying "easy 30-second application form." (By the way if your form takes longer than 30 seconds to complete, you are asking too much information for an initial application.)

  • Use smart hyperlinks: The wording you use to hyperlink to other pages within your site is critical to causing your visitors to click. A link that simply says "next page" is not as effective as "mortgage rate information" or "home loan FAQ's." The command statement "click here" is often used, but Internet Marketers know that search engines provide extra points for hyperlinked phrases. A much more effective hyperlink might read "click here for low home loan interest rates."
Internet Marketers Use Stealth Techniques to Study Your Site

It is very difficult to tell how busy a site is when you visit it. Internet Marketers use several tools and tricks to analyze the performance of web sites so they can determine which aspects to incorporate in their marketing efforts. Armed with this information, they then start a comprehensive study on why a site, your site, and attempt to mimic any success factors.

Internet Marketers Use Your Information

Many sites incorporate numeric counters at the bottom of their main page. Some web owners will start their counter at 10,000 or 100,000 so that visitors will not know how many real people have arrived. Regardless of the amount, Internet Marketers record the value of the counter on a specific day, and then visit the site at regular intervals (every day, every week) to see how many visitors have been attracted. If the counter on the first day was 10,250 and then a week later was 12,251, then the Internet Marketer knows that site is receiving about 8,000 visitors a month.

Internet Marketers Use Google (Part 1)

Google offers toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com/googlebar.html) that has a feature which shows you the "Page Rank" of any web site. Google created Page Rank (PR) as a method to determine the value and relevancy of a site and, in turn, uses the PR value as a key factor in determine where your site appears in a search. The maximum PR you can achieve is 10 and any PR over three is actually pretty good. Rarely does a site have a PR of eight or higher.

NAMB vs. The Big Boys (oops, make that Big Companies)

A well-advertised company like Ditech has PR of six, eLoan.com has a PR of seven and little-known NAMB has a PR of six. When you consider how much Ditech and eLoan spend on marketing; you might find it confusing that NAMB is comparable with such a high PR. The reason why is that the PR formula actually sifts out advertising and brand recognition because PR is determines by a multitude of factors, one of which is the number of links to your site and another is the quality of the links. An example of "quality" would be that a link from Yahoo to your site has better "quality" than a link from Betty-Bob's home kitchen cooking web site.

Another example of a quality link would be a link from a mortgage web site to another mortgage related web site, but not to sports page or a bowling alley.

Not many mortgage sites link to Ditech or eLoan.com because they are competitors, but many mortgage sites (thus higher quality) link to NAMB because they offer "community value" and Google rewards NAMB with a respectable PR of six.

Internet Marketers Use Google (Part 2)

Internet Marketers also use Google to see who is linking to sites. By examining the number of links, and, again, more importantly, the quality of the link, an Internet Marketer can determine why a site is ranked high. In example, if you put link:http://www.ditech.com/ into the Google search box you find there are 322 sites linking to Ditech. Additionally you discover that a site such as eLoan has over 2,500 links to it and NAMB.org has 2,500 as well. Google adjusts for Spam pages and adds value for certain types of links (which we won't discuss here) and you then find out how NAMB receives a Google PR comparable to Ditech and eLoan.com

Internet Marketers Use Alexa

Alexa (Alexa.com) is a free service that involves the installation of a toolbar that, "Simply by using the toolbar each member contributes valuable information about the web, how it is used, what is important and what is not. This information is returned to the community as Related Links, Traffic Rankings and more."

In short, you can see statistics on how many visitors go to various sites, including your own, and how many people link to a site. Remember that each of these services uses their own data sources so factors such as number of links will vary. Let's compare the Alexa data for Ditech, eLoan.com and NAMB:

Stats for Ditech.com:
* Traffic Rank: 19,891
* Sites that link to this site: 108

Site Stats eLoan.com:
* Traffic Rank: 13,587
* Sites that link to this site: 747

Site Stats for NAMB.org:
* Traffic Rank: 133,064
* Sites that link to this site: 133

In traffic ranking, the lower the number the better and any traffic ranking less than 1M-3M is actually quite respectable.

By using these secret data sources, Internet Marketers can determine specific key information about your site, including how successful you are, and how much traffic you receive…in just minutes. Then they can begin to construct a marketing program to gain higher rankings based on this data.

How do they do achieve higher rankings? That is another secret...

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published June 2005.

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Mortgage Haiku


I Am Customer
My Time Precious, Your's Not
Be Good, Or I Leave

Some have forgotten what a Haiku really is; but once you know, it is easy to understand. This is similar to doing what is right on your web site; once you know, it is easy too.

The Haiku is a form of poetry popular in Japan. It has its own metric beat and is composed of 3 lines with 17 syllables. The haiku has five syllables in the first line, seven in the second and five syllables in the third line. Haiku's typically register a moment, indicate a sensation, capture an impression, or dramatize an event. It's almost like a photo of some specific moment in time. Some Haiku's can make you smile.

Here are some Haiku's that could have been written by visitors to mortgage web sites, who don't like the pages that they have found.

I Visit Your Site
Looking For Information
Finding None, I Leave

Over the past six years we have been writing for NAMB. And the one factor we emphasize again and again is to make the web site according to what your visitor wants. Many mortgage sites design their sites according to what the mortgage company owner or the mortgage company owner's spouse or the web designer think they want.

Spouse Approved Web Site
Visitors Cast Their Cruel Votes
Bad Design, I Leave

Remember your site is for the convenience and service of your customers, not to show off your office headquarters or have an expansive president's message on the main page. Give your visitor what they want and make it easy to find.

Seeking Low Cost Rates
I Click On Your Web Pages
Form Appears, I Leave


Some mortgage sites still believe that visitors want to take the time to register in order to receive information on mortgage rates. Visitors don't like forms or other barriers to entry and we loosely estimate that for every form on your site, you lose up to 70% of your potential customers.

Your Mortgage Web Page
Flashing Banners Distract Me
Too Confused, I Leave

Probably the primary reason people come to your site, especially if they don't know of your company, is first to find your interest rates. They also want to know whether they will qualify for a loan that they desire. If your web site has too many distracting images or banners from non-mortgage related advertisers, you dilute your message and appeal. The net result is people leave without searching further.

You Have Paid For Clicks
Silly You, No Info Found
Wasted Click, I Leave.

We have bought thousands and thousands of pay per click (PPC) keywords over the years. The single factor which costs mortgage web site owners the most money in wasted advertising, are paid clicks that lead to pages that are not related to the keyword bought. In example, say you are paying for the keyword phrase "VA Mortgage." Your research has shown at least 3,500 searches each month for this phrase at Overture.com/Yahoo! With this amount of searches, you know there is a demand for what you have to offer.


Additionally, you see that as of March 2005, the top five bidders are paying between $4.54 and $5.01 per click. You decide to enter the top at roughly $5 per click, yet when a potential customer selects the phrase "VA Mortgage" and costs you $5 to visit you site, you deliver them to your home page (instead of sending them to a page about VA Mortgages). This is a huge mistake as rarely does your main page have the specific information for all your offerings.

You Want My Business
Yet Your Site Is Poorly Planned
No Business, I Leave


Your visitor now must find your navigational area and determine, which link goes to info about VA loans. Every click you require of your visitors causes them to leave. You must deliver your "VA Mortgage" paid visitor directly to a specific web page about "VA Mortgages". If you don't, you are wasting your PPC funds.

I Want To Talk Now
Finding No Phone Number
I Sigh, Then I Leave

Some mortgage web sites have tried to over-automate their business so all inquiries must come via the net. They go as far as to only offer an email address in order to inquire about a loan. As you are aware, obtaining a loan is a highly personalized endeavor and your customers want to speak with you. Be sure to include a phone number, and also make sure you have a toll free number immediately adjacent to the direct phone number. With toll free rates in the sub five cent range, you can easily afford this customer convenience.

Another value of a toll free number is that some people may search for a new loan while they are at their work (surprise). They may not be able to make a long distance call on their company system, but they can call toll free.

I Seek a Home Loan
Not Tricky Spelling Contest
Bad Domain, I Leave


If you have a long or hard to remember domain name (HiddenValleyMortgageLoanBrokers.com) it causes a problem for your customers to recall you. If you have a difficult to spell domain (look at all the "l's" Odonellloans.com which could be typed as Odonelloans.com or Odoneloans.com) you are losing type-in traffic. You can keep your main domain name, but also consider buying a descriptive domain so your customers can easily remember you (SanDiegoLoans.com or EasyLoan.com) that redirects to your main site.

I Email For Loan
And Wait For Timely Response
No More Wait, I Leave

When we conduct an analysis of the top visitor problems, the most common problem is the response time between customer inquiry and mortgage web site response. For every 12 hours delay you wait, we estimate you lose 10-15% of your potential customer base. After two days, you will lose over 50% as they have now contacted other mortgage companies.

Having Fixed Problems
Your Web Site Is Now Perfect
Thank You For Reading.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published May 2005.

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Your Mortgage Emails May Not Be Reaching Your Customers!


Frequently, we hear from mortgage companies complaining about poor response rates to their emails. A typical company will say, "Potential clients will email our agents and then we respond promptly, as our revenue depends upon internet customers. But it seems like we can't get any more replies from the person... why not?"

The main reason we find for potential customers not responding to you (besides interest rates that are too high) is that your email gets deleted by your customer's Spam filters.

There are many reasons why a Spam filter might tag your email:

You Are Blacklisted

You have been blacklisted by one of the major blacklist organizations that keep track of Spammers and exploitable servers. You can tell if you have been entered onto this list by checking the domain you use to send email. Go to http://www.whois.sc and enter your domain.

Another Company Is Blacklisted

Some web hosting firms have virtual servers which allows many different companies to share a single IP address (An IP address is like a license plate, it accompanies your email and tells them where you are from.) It is possible that a company that is sharing an IP address with you is Spamming and they have been blacklisted, meaning you too are on this list, as you both have the same IP address.

Your Customer Is Blacklisted

Your potential client may have been blacklisted. In example if you enter the company buydomains.com http://www.whois.sc/buydomains.com you will see that under "Blacklist Status" they are listed. In essence, if your mail server subscribes to this blacklist, any emails from buydomains.com will be filtered out and deleted before you ever see them.

In example, a receptionist might be seeking a loan and email you using her company email address, which is blacklisted. In this case, if your mail server uses a blacklist check, her email will not reach you. She will probably assume you don't want her business and simply contact the next mortgage company.

How do you get un-blacklisted? You don't. Your best bet is to buy a new domain and get a new IP address that is not on a blacklist.

Poor "From" Email Settings

Often replies from mortgage companies to their clients have the "from" address constructed in a manner that appears Spammish. That is, the return address might read "Sales" or "Info" at your company name. Because many Spammers use "Sales" or "Info", you should avoid this. My sister recently sent me an email and my filters put it in the Spam folder. She had recently "updated" her email to read from, "Info" info@1stchineseherbs.com. The use of the word "Info" triggered a possible Spam alert.

My partner incorporates the following in his return address: Full name, clickable URL and case corrected email address, i.e., "Robert Farris - http://www.mortgagepromote.com/" Robert@MortgagePromote.com.

By showing his full name, and adding a clickable URL link for customer convenience, coupled with the easy to read case of his email address (i.e. not the hard to read, all lower case robert@mortgagepromote.com), Robert makes it more probable that his email will not get pick off by a filter and will be easy to decipher by the recipient.

Mortgage Related Words

Because there is so much unsolicited email today, with a fair amount of it centering on mortgages, it is possible that your valid email is picked up by a Spam filter because of the word mortgage or home loan. You don't have a lot of control over this and it is a major problem for ethical companies sending emails on the net.

Unmatched Return Email Address

Some mortgage companies allow their staff to use whatever email address the representative wants. In example someone at our company should be using Kenzie@MortgagePromote.com, but she might use her personal email such as FishingIsBetterThanWork@hotmail.com.

Any business correspondence from your company to a customer should always match the URL of your company. Two major problems occur when you fail to monitor return email addresses. The first problem is that your email may get filtered out as Spam, or it may not get read by the recipient as they were expecting an email from MortgagePromote.com, but not from FishingIsBetterThanWork@hotmail.com.

The second problem is that you lose control of your customers. If Kenzie ever leaves the company, her leads will follow her as they have the email FishingIsBetterThanWork@hotmail.com, not Kenzie@MortgagePromote.com. You can easily redirect her old company email address to here replacement. If you don't, the result is you lose business.

Major ISP Spam Filters

Major providers of internet access are now installing their own proprietary filters. Large companies such as MSN, Earthlink and AOL are routinely adding thousands of banned email addresses every day. If you offer a newsletter to your customer base, and mass send emails to one of these major providers with the words "mortgage" and "interest rate" in the subject or body, you will likely get flagged as a Spammer.

Difficult or Long Url

If you have a hard to spell or exceptionally long domain name, this could be impacting your business if potential customers are mistyping the URL. Examples might be: tatummortgages.com (the two "m's" together) or SanFranciscoValleyMortgageBrokerage.com (too long to easily remembered).

Sometimes the plural, or singular, version of your domain name might be more memorable to different customers. In example, if your company is called SanClementeHomeLoans.com and you see that SanClementeHomeLoan.com is available, you might buy the domain and redirect it to your main domain. In this way if your visitors mistype your URL, they still end up where they wanted to go.


A Final Suggestion

On our MortgagePromote.com web site, we switched from allowing clickable "email us" links to a form based method to contact us. This accomplished two goals; first it removed our email address from getting "spidered and collected" by Spammers and second it allowed us to be sure that we get email from all that wanted to contact us.

One other trick we did with the form was to make the "from email address" default to a special email address (something like Forms@MortgagePromote.com) and then all email from that address would automatically be accepted, not filtered, and put into a special filter. The person's email address is contained in the body of our form.

Using these ideas, you can make email a revenue producing aspect of your online mortgage business.

For more information on these programs, please visit: http://www.MortgagePromote.com/logsoftware.htm

(Rod Aries and Robert Farris are co-founders of MortgagePromote.com, a leading Internet marketing provider to corporate mortgage clients. On request, they conduct nationwide training seminars covering Internet marketing strategies, lead generation, web site development techniques and more.)

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published April 2005.


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Can Linking Increase the Number of Visitors to Your Site?


Many mortgage web site owners email us and ask, "Should I be linking to other site in order to get links back to my site?" They ask this question because; 1) inbound links can provide much needed traffic and 2) there is some evidence that indicates Google will rank you higher if you have good high-quality links to your web site.

How Do Links Impact The Ranking Of My Site?

Links are an important, but a little known commodity of the internet. Links aren't cash, but they can be more valuable than cash. Google has a secret algorithm called PageRank(tm). PageRank(tm) is their method of determining who gets ranked first for a search on "home loans" and who gets ranked last. Quite simply PageRank(tm) is a value assigned to your web page based on a number of factors; including the number of sites that link to you.

Furthermore, you will get higher PageRank(tm) if other sites with higher PageRank(tm) link to you. If you had just three links from, say, FreddieMac, The Wall Street Journal and the US Government all linking to your site, your site would rank much higher than if you had 100 links to your site from your church, your fantasy baseball league and your teenagers "Things I hate" web page.

Your goal is to seek highly focused links from quality and high PageRank(tm) sites.

How Do You Know What The PageRank(tm) Rating Is From Google?

You can go to Google and install their toolbar. One of the options on the tool bar is a PageRank(tm) indicator which gives the value of every site you visit. Any site at 5 or above is considered to have a good PageRank(tm), with 10 being the perfect score.

Why Should I Offer Links Away From My Site?

There are two answers to this question. One answer is for mortgage site owners and the other is for everybody else.

First, the "Everybody else" answer. Inbound links and reciprocal links are a great way of increasing your ranking and being of service to your visitors.

For mortgage sites, this may not apply since it is so hard, and so expensive, to attract mortgage seeking customers to your site. Some mortgage site owners said that they would link off-site to a mortgage calculator site for the convenience of their visitors. We would tell them if you really want to be convenient; install your own mortgage calculator on your site.

Should You Link If You Run A Pay Per Click Campaign?

In a word, no.

Here is an option to consider. Have two web sites, your main site and a site just for informational purposes (and linking). You can run your Pay Per Click campaigns to your main site, say ThisIsMyMainMortgageSite.com and have your link site as This-Is-My-Main-Mortgage-Site.com.

Reciprocal Link Campaigns

Some firms create an extensive reciprocal link campaign. They email other sites and say, "Link to us, and we will link to you. In this way we all win."

If you decide to do this, here are some guidelines:
  1. Link to relevant and related sites. This means linking to real estate company or escrow, but not linking to Blockbuster or Starbucks or a Viagra site. Sure you can link to your kid's school or to your bowling league stats page, but links like this tend to give the impression that maybe your site isn't all business and could have a negative impact on your PageRank(tm).

  2. Get your reciprocal links with keywords in the link. You do not want a links that says something like but you do want a link that says Google also evaluates what the link says in addition to the URL that it actually lists.

  3. Don't link to competitors. Enough said.

  4. Put all the links onto a single links page and make your links page buried somewhat within your site. Ideally you would receive a link from the main page of someone's site and you would give a link from your link page. There is evidence to suggest that links off of the index page seem to carry more weight with the Google PageRank(tm) algorithm.

  5. Don't have so many links that you look like a link farm. Link farms are sites that solely exist to create links to other sites. Link farms are a major source of search engine Spamming and can negatively impact your ranking. The Google PageRank(tm) algorithm is smart enough to recognize link farms and give you a negative score for using them.

  6. Just say no. You don't have to link to everyone who asks to link to you. You don't want to dilute the quality of linking page with dubious links.
Please note that some cross-linkers may take offense to you if you decline them. Be sure to watch for people who may create attack links (worst mortgage site on the net). Typically these people have email signatures that contain a reference to Star Wars (May the net be with you), the Matrix (Machine god: "What If You Fail?" Neo: "I won't") or provide a Klingon quote (Act and you shall have dinner. Think and you shall be dinner); worse yet, if they write it in the Klingon language.

It is very, very hard to conduct a successful reciprocal link campaign. Most sites don't want to, don't have time, think your email is Spam, don't understand what is it in for them, etc. High end sites like FannieMae.com just won't link to you at all.

Having said that, your site traffic can improve if you have high quality links to your site. And with a mortgage site, just one extra mortgage loan per month goes a long way to offsetting the effort of creating a links program.

You Can Link To Me But I Am Not Going To Link To You

Some sites accept inbound links, but won't link to anyone else. There is nothing wrong with this, except for the most part this strategy won't get you many links.

In short, links are good to have. They are a precious commodity of ranking. Collect all the links you can and be judicious in the links you give out. Great links can lead to a substantial number of extra mortgage visitors and increase your revenue.

Best of all, with the proper, and right number of links, you can gain an endlessly supply of free visitors... as Scotty would say, "I am giving you everything I've got, Captain."

(Rod Aries and Robert Farris are co-founders of MortgagePromote.com, a leading Internet marketing provider to corporate mortgage clients.)

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published March 2005.


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Been Phishing Lately?


Phishing is the attempt by an unknown, devious party to get you to give your personal information, such as user, password, social security number, credit card number, etc. You are probably saying, "I would never do that, I am not that dumb." You may not be dumb, but phishers are pretty smart. You probably have seen their emails. Many have a subject that reads like this:

  • Your eBay account has been suspended.
  • Paypal has a gift for you for updating your information.
  • Citibank would like you to update your account.
  • Bank of America security notice - your account has been compromised.
  • Your credit card has been stolen; log-in to your account immediately.

The subject of the email might read as follows (taken from emails I actually received):

  • Your account will be suspended unless you immediately update your information to conform with the company's new anti-fraud measures.

  • We believe someone has been forwarding money to terrorists from your account. Please log-in immediately.

  • A small portion of our database was corrupted, including possibly your account information, please visit our web site to make your data is correct.

  • Your checking account is frozen until you update your account with the most current information. Failure to do so will result in closing your account. Respond in 24 hours.

  • Thank you for taking the time to update your account. As our thank you, we will credit $10 to your account when you are finished. Thanks for trusting us and guarding the security of your account.

Then the body of the email has the logo and address of eBay or the corresponding bank.

Even the link might say "ebay.com/security.html" yet the actual URL is an IP address of numbers (something like 216.25.89.06), which goes to an overseas web site. When you click on the link and arrive at the site, you will find that the fraud perpetrators have copied the eBay or bank site exactly, EXCEPT it is on the server of the phishers. So when you go to log in, they get your user name and password. Then you assume you have successfully logged in as you are directed to an "Update your account information" whereby you might enter your mother's maiden name, social security number, and other sensitive data. You do this thinking, because it looks like the bank site, that you are actually on the real site.

Next thing you know, you are getting calls from your bank and credit card company about excessive charges, credit lines being applied for and wire transfers. You've been phished!!

If you think it can't happen to you, it can. My neighbors both are professionals with college degrees, yet they unknowingly responded to what they believe was an inquiry from their bank. They entered a substantial amount of personal information and two days later had an urgent call from their bank detailing a massive amount of action in their account.

Could Phishing Get Any Worse?

For my neighbors, it actually got worse... Apparently when they went to the phish-site, a key logging program was secretly uploaded and installed on their computer. All of their keystrokes were being captured and sent to the phishers. The keystroke software is designed to recognize a credit card sequence of numbers, so even though the neighbors never gave their credit card numbers to the phish web site, they subsequently bought something online using entered their credit card. The credit card numbers, complete with expiration date and address, were sent to the phishers as well. Within minutes the phishers were using my neighbor's credit card and ordering items to be sent to small cities in Poland and Russia.

In some cases the phishers gain access to your email account and re-route your email to them so they can remove any alerts, then resend the emails to you so you don't know your email has been compromised.

How Phishing Hurts Your Online Mortgage Business.

Now how does this relate to your mortgage web site? As more people learn about phishing, they become less trustful of sites asking for sensitive personal information, such as the specific data your mortgage company might require. It may cause potential applicants to not want to complete comprehensive online forms, especially if the form in not secure (a secure page starts with https://). If a customer feels unsure about your site, they might just leave.

We are suggesting that our clients install basic forms with just enough information to allow the initial contact from the customer to the company. We then suggest a follow-up call or email from the company to help assess the customer’s specific needs. Once the confidence level is established, you can email your comprehensive online form URL and have a greater probability that the customer will complete it.

There is another advantage to initially offering a short form: you will get more potential customers to apply. It is easy, fast and poses a minimum amount of risk for the visitor.

Has Your Computer Been Compromised?

It is possible that you have had key logging or adware (spyware) software installed on your home or business computer without your knowledge. Some possible signs that you have been compromised:
  • Your computer is running slower than normal.

  • You have pop-up blocker software, yet you still get pop-ups.

  • Your normal home page when you open your browser has changed, without you changing it.

  • You have an additional toolbar showing at the top of your browser allowing you to search the net.

  • Mysterious search results appear that are unrelated to what you searched for, i.e. casino or sex related sites.

What Can You Do To Check Your Computer?

In addition to your anti-spam program for your email, you can install anti-spy software. We run two sets on anti-spy software on our company computers. One is a top-rated program and the other is by one of the largest software companies in the world. Surprisingly, (maybe not so surprisingly) they each has found spyware that the other failed to find. Both of these programs are being updated almost weekly to keep pace with the spyware programs. We have both programs auto-run every night at 3 a.m. to check for new additions.

We also switched over all of our browsers to Mozilla FireFox as most of the spyware programs exploits flaws in the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser.

I suggest that you do NOT do a search for anti-spy software at a search engine because many phishing companies create fake anti-spy sites so when you go there they can upload spy software to your computer. Instead, find the online versions of computer magazines and read reviews to determine which software is best for you.

By understanding the problems that face your potential customers and their internet experiences, you can better design your web site and respond to their concerns. In this way you can land the big one without being phished.

Rod Aries and Robert Farris are co-founders of MortgagePromote.com, a leading Internet marketing provider to corporate mortgage clients.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published February 2005.


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Google and Yahoo Marketing Tips for Your Mortgage Web Site


Just about every phone call or email we receive focuses on one topic - How do I get more visitors to my web site from Google and Yahoo? There are literally hundreds of steps you must do, each perfectly, to obtain a high ranking. In this article we are going to share a few tips on how you can receive more visitors and monitor the visitors you already have.


Should I pay someone to submit my site to the Google search engine? To all search engines?

In a word... no. It is a waste of your money.

All the major search engines have gone to the Pay-Per-Click (PPC) model, except Google. While Google has a free submission at http://www.google.com/addurl.html there is considerable evidence that self-submitting your site does little good. Google seems to readily index those sites that are found as links on existing indexed sites. In effect Google is saying that if a site we have already indexed considers your site good enough to link to, we will index your site. If you have to submit your own site, it is not as high of a priority.


How can I tell if I am included in the Google directory?

Simply go to Google.com and type in your name, ie MortgagePromote.com and the www version, (i.e. www.MortgagePromote.com). Your site will show if it has been indexed. Type both versions to make sure you are indexed both for the www and without the www. Google also has a list of why your pages may not be listed, including: pages that are dynamically generated, if you use doorway pages or if your site uses frames. Read more at http://www.google.com/webmasters/2.html


How can I tell if I am included in the Yahoo directory?

Simply go to Yahoo.com and type in both versions of your name, (i.e. www.MortgagePromote.com and MortgagePromote.com). Additionally, Yahoo will show how many results there are for your site. In our case, Yahoo states there are 332 references to MortgagePromote.com (Results 1 - 10 of about 332 for MortgagePromote.com).


I keep hearing I should do PPC advertising with Overture. Just what is Overture?

Overture is the PPC source that returns results in Yahoo, and many other places. By advertising in Overture as a PPC alternative, your ads are displayed to Yahoo. You can sign up for Overture at www.MortgagePromote.com/overture


I think my PPC bill is too high. Are my competitors clicking on my ads to drive my costs up?

The PPC bids for many mortgage related keywords range from $1-10 per click. If you assume you are bidding a $3/click keyword and have just five clicks a day that are fraud, it will cost you $5,500 per year in bad clicks.

The major PPC companies (Overture and Google) have sophisticated click-fraud software. This software looks at the IP address (each user has a unique IP address, just like a license plate of a car) of the person clicking, and how many times the PPC link was clicked on by that IP address and how long the interval was between clicks. In example, if someone visited saw your PPC ad in the morning and clicked on it, then an hour later clicked on it again, it would be considered a valid visit. On the other hand, if there are 30 clicks in 90 seconds all from the same IP address, the click-fraud software should remove those clicks from your billing.


Additionally you can perform your own analysis. Simply access your site logs and look for high repetition of clicks. Also you can look for other possible signs such as average duration on your site on the number of pages viewed per visited. In example if you find that a typical visitor spends 2.5 minutes and visits three pages (both are averages for successful sites), and then find a substantial number of five second, only one page viewed visitors, there may be a problem.

Another way to help fight click-fraud is to install cookies. Discuss this option with your web master.


I already spend money at the Google and Overture PPC programs, what other PPC options should I consider?

There are lesser PPC search engines such as FindWhat.com and 7Search.com. It has been our experience that results from these two options have been substantially less impressive than Google or Overture. After these four PPC search engines, there are very few financially viable options.


How do I get ranked higher in Google?

Inbound linking to your mortgage site can dramatically increase your Google ranking. In short, the more sites that link to you, the higher you generally will be ranked. Google likes to see links from other sites to your sites. Furthermore, Google really likes to see links from "well-respected" sites to your site. In example, a link from a free hosting of Geocities.com or from your teenagers site to your site is not very impressive. But a link from FreddieMac.com or ConsumerReports.org will be worth more than a 500 links from poor to average sites.


How do I get links to my site from other sites?

You ask for links. You find sites that may have a reason to link to you, such as a title or escrow company, or even a trade organization, and offer to exchange links. Ideally if you exchange links, you want your link on their main page and your reciprocal link should be on a page buried deep in your site. You want traffic coming to you, but you don't want your traffic leaving.

When you get a link please note that a link to your site that says something highly descriptive such as "Kansas Home Loans" or "Boise Mortgages" has far greater impact than a link to you that says your company name. The reason why is that Google not only looks at the link to your site, but it considers what the links says. In effect a link with the phrase "home loan" is much better than a link that says "Big John's Brokerage".

Before you go wild on this strategy, please note that Google has implemented penalties for using Spam-like linking techniques such as using a link farm, web rings or blogs. Google will de-list your site if you attempt to use methods that are inconsistent with their terms of service. If you are wondering how Google will find out if you are doing something wrong, rest assured that your competitors will turn you into the Google abuse department so Google technicians can physically visit your site to see if you should be removed.

On Google's site they state, "Google's order of results is automatically determined by more than 100 factors, including our PageRank algorithm."

If you start with the topics listed in this article it should help you begin to get your site found more often in Google and Yahoo.

Rod Aries and Robert Farris are co-founders of MortgagePromote.com, a leading Internet marketing provider to corporate mortgage clients.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published January 2005.

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Spyware, Search Engines, and Meta Tags


Times are changing. In this month's article we will examine factors impacting you and your online business: which browser to consider when designing, spyware, keyword density for Google and keyword meta tags.


Should My Site Be Designed For More Than Just Internet Explorer Viewing?

In The Beginning, There Was Netscape...

Long, long ago (maybe 1997-1999), in an internet far, far away, there existed a browser called Netscape. Netscape was everywhere and you had to make sure your web page looked good in Netscape. Netscape was free and was good.


The Evil Invaders From The North...

Microsoft, like a cold wind from Mongolia, then invaded the browser market with its various PC and Apple computer permutations. During this time we designed web sites for almost all the options as you just didn't know what your browser your visitor would be using. It was time consuming and expensive to create these subtle variations on web pages. A page that was perfect on a PC browser, looked like the writing on a pin head for a Mac machine.

Over the course of a couple of years (at least a decade in net time) Microsoft took the overwhelming market share from Netscape, to the point where we stopped designing for "lesser" browsers. The rational was that if the visitor was using such an old browser, it was probably an old machine, and thus probably not a "real viable" client.


Mozilla?

While Microsoft based Internet Explorer browsers are now even more dominant, something is beginning to occur. We are starting to see in our logs a slight shift away from Internet Explorer. In fact, our office switched away from Internet Explorer to Mozilla FireFox. We are frequently asked why.


I Spy, And You Don't Even Know It...

We installed several Anti-Spyware programs on our office machines and found EVERY one of our 23 stations was infected with spyware. Most Spyware was the pop-up kind, where we simply see unwanted ads. Some of the software would hijack our browser and make their home page or results appear. A common example is that competitor’s mortgage ads could appear when people come to your site.

Also we found a very malicious spyware, software that captures keystrokes and sends those keystrokes back to the person group that installed the spyware. Those keystrokes can include password and user names, they can also include credit card numbers, all sent without you even knowing it. My 14 year old daughter, using the parental control version of AOL, plus cable access for her browser, averages about a Spyware program a day on her machine.


How Did The Spyware Get On My Computer?

Frequently the spyware is installed, without your permission or knowledge, when you visit a web site and the program exploits a flaw in the Internet Explorer program. Microsoft has released fixes to combat this problem, but the bad guys continue to find and exploit holes.

As a result, we switched over most of our office machines to Mozilla. The Spyware hackers know that Microsoft is the major player for the browser market and thus make their software exploit Internet Explorer. Lesser companies like Opera and Mozilla typically fly under the radar. Using this logic, we also use Eudora, not Outlook, for all our email.

All of this brings us back to which browser should you design for when creating new sites. We think more companies will start to mandate an alternative to Internet Explorer until the Spyware issues are under control. We suggest you monitor your logs and note how which browsers are being used to view your site. This will help you decide which browsers to test when designing your sites.


Keyword Density for Google

Oh, That Is Too Little...

We are often asked how often we should repeat a keyword on a web page to somehow solve the mystical formula that makes up the Google ranking algorithm. There are various levels to the answer of this riddle. The first is easy, you must have a keyword you expect to be found for, included in the visible content of your page. In example if you expected to be found for both Fort Worth and Ft. Worth mortgages, but only have Fort Worth on your web page, you will not be found for Ft. Worth. The same goes for Los Angeles Home Loan versus LA Home Loan. On a larger level, if you only have the keywords "home loan" but not "home mortgage" you will NOT be found for home mortgages in a search.


Oh, That Is Too Much...

As far as how many times to repeat a keyword on your page, there is another easy answer and that is, "Not too many times." Sometimes, with good intentions you accidentally fly to close the Google sun, and your wings are melted because you have used a keyword eight times with a 3.87% keyword density and, hypothetically, they only allow a 3.72% density. On the far end of the spectrum, if the Google spider visits your site and finds you have repeated the word "Phoenix Home Loan" 46 times on a page with 200 words, you are likely to be deemed "keyword spamming" and your site will probably only be found after they discover the location of Jimmy Hoffa's body.


Ah, That Is Just Right... Or Is It?

So far we have been a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, where Goldi is trying to find the "just right" amount of keyword density. Unfortunately, that is difficult to decipher as keyword density is just one component of the Google ranking algorithm. Once you think you have found a way to cut through the Gordian Knot of this formula, you simply find you have gone to the next step which is a 144-squares per side Rubik's Cube. We suggest using keywords no more than 2-4% of the time on any given page.


Meta Tags: Should They Stay Or Should They Go?

Meta tags are the little bit of HTML coding that doesn't show in the visible text of your web page, but was originally designed to contain keywords relevant to your site. Many web masters abused meta tags by including a set of keywords that might read as follows: Chicago Home loan, Illinois home mortgage, Pamela Lee Anderson. Before too long so many irrelevant keywords were crammed into the meta tags creating a Thanksgiving turkey overflowing with Paris Hilton, sex, download music, Survivor, MTV and MP3 stuffing. Because of this most search engines began to downplay the weight of meta tags.

We recommend the continued use of meta tags, but only a single keyword or keyword phrase per page.

In a few years we will be writing an article starting off with long, long ago, in an internet far, far away, and be talking about when spyware was prevalent, when Google was king, how HTML used to be the language of choice and how there was this thing called the "first internet" in late 2004. Times are changing.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published December 2004.

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Has Your Web Site Done Anything Foolish Lately?


OK, we all make mistakes... I have a long list to prove it. The purpose of this article is to help you avoid the mistakes that other mortgage web sites have made.

"Mistakes are the usual bridge between inexperience and wisdom."
--Phyllis Therous

Domain Name Change

Not only do small companies make big mistakes, but big companies can make the mistakes. Recently the package and overnight delivery company DHL bought their competitor Airborne Express. Not surprisingly, the domain for Airborne Express was airborneexpress.com. Whether by design or by mistake, DHL failed to renew the domain name airborneexpress.com and thus it was on the open market and bought by someone unrelated to either DHL or Airborne Express. The moral of this story is that if you ever buy a new domain name for your mortgage company, be sure to keep the original domain and forward that url to your new domain.

Don't Equate Good Web Design with Good Sex

Occasionally we find a mortgage web site that utilizes young females with plunging necklines, long blond hair and generally are not old enough to qualify for a home loan. The owners of these web sites failed to consider that many applicants are female or that male visitors are unlikely to be impressed with the twenty-something buxom spokesperson renting a $325/month studio.

Never Assume

Mortgage web site owners sometimes allow excess latitude for their Web designers. This leeway can include the overuse of software that has to be already installed on your visitor’s computer. Examples of this include Adobe *.pdf files, Flash software and heavy JavaScript.

I Want a Loan, Not a Movie

Does your site makes a visitor watch some extended (or even short) animated show before they can enter your web site? If so, you're losing customers. Your visitors want loans, not dancing loan officers.

I Want a Loan, Not a Song

You don't see iTunes.com selling mortgages, so do not play, or offer to play, any music on your site. If your customer wants music, they will go to a music site.

What's The Password?

There are a few mortgage web sites that use the "assumptive close" technique in an effort to gain control over web site visitors. Their rationale is that if the person takes the time to register on the site and receive a user name and password that they may be more likely to apply for a loan. The fault with this logic is that most visitors are not going to take the time to register, and if some people are naive enough to register, is that really a customer that you want?


"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof was to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools."
--Douglas Adams - Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Pop, Pop Goes the Web Site

There was a time when utilizing pop-ups on a web site was a handy feature. These pop-up windows could contain useful information such as financial definitions or mortgage calculators so that the visitor could benefit. Currently you will find pop-up blockers on most user computers so when you're visitor wants to access the pop-up mortgage calculator the calculator doesn't pop. This leads to have your visitor think there something wrong with your site and they depart to go find a site that doesn't have any errors. Frequently when we should bring this to the attention of our clients they will say, "Well, everyone knows if you hold the control key down the pop-up will work."

At this point in time, we usually run an informal survey and ask for five to ten people in their office to tell us how to get around a pop-up locker. Rarely will more than 40% be able to adequately answer this question.

They Are Not Hits, They Are People - Treat Them As Such

Many mortgage web sites write their content in some sort of perceived corporate-speak where the site has to be dogmatic in its delivery and lacking in human touch. We find that sites that fully engage their visitors with professional yet friendly wording, tend to have a much higher average length of stay per visitor. In other words, be nice and write as you would speak to customer.

Say What You Mean; or Don't Get Ranked

The most frequent error we find on mortgage web sites is a failure to fully present keywords that will allow Google.com to properly index and thus rank the mortgage site. When Google.com spiders your site it searches for words that help tell its algorithm what your site is all about. If it sees words like Rolex, Timex, watch, Bulova, Seiko etc., Google might determine your site is about wristwatches.

Take this statement, found on a mortgage web site; "We promise to work hard for you and provide the best service that we can."

Now, if you look closely at the above statement you will see that there are no keywords which provide any indication that this web site is about home loans or mortgages or refinancing. That site could be about landscaping or car repair or just about anything else.

Now, take a look at this statement: "Our home loan officers promise to find the right mortgage, at the lowest interest rates, while providing the best service of any mortgage loan company."

If you compare statement one to statement two, you find that the second statement contains specific keywords directly related to the mortgage industry, and it would be far more likely that a Web page with the second statement would be ranked higher than the web site with the first statement.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

The primary function of your web site is not to entertain your visitor, it is not about the history of home loans, nor is it intended to be a mini ego statement about your CEO. The primary function of your site is to bring additional business and revenue to your company.

"Don't do anything foolish and no one will get hurt."
--Al Capone

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published November 2004.


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How to Make Your Mortgage Web Site More Successful


We all know that success leaves clues; you just have to know where to look. Ever read about an elite professional athlete who is at the top of their game, yet they are the ones staying after the game to study the game film, shoot free throws or take extra batting practice? All the while other athletes who are good, but not great, are on their way home to relax? The elite athletes become even better, and further widen the margin between their ability and those are almost as good. Elite athletes are successful because they constantly improve and learn. You can do the same for your web site by studying successful web sites do and then implement that onto your web pages.

In this article we are going to cover a number of different factors that can lead to an increased success rate for your web site.


"I Find That The Harder I Work, The More Luck I Seem To Have." --Thomas Jefferson

Successful web sites constantly improve themselves. Successful web sites constantly evolve. They add more features or enhance usability or write more creative content so they can better be of service to their potential clients.

Just as the top athletes in the various sports earn the highest salaries, it's true in your industry; the top mortgage web sites are those that write the most loans.


"If At First You Don't Succeed, Redefine Success."

Often those web sites that don't perform very well subscribe to the adage, "If at first you don't succeed, redefine success." In other words, they lower their expectations and simply declare that the Internet doesn't work very well. As verification of their beliefs these sites receive very few leads from their site.


Having A Successful Web Site Is Not Doing One Thing Right, It Is Doing A Hundred Things Right.

Success typically is the result of a cascade of perfectly executed events. It is even more difficult for mortgage web sites because customers view you as a commodity.

Customers often equate finding a loan as the same way they see themselves having to buy butter or bread. Pretty much any butter or bread is going to suffice as long as it is available and reasonably priced. And if your mortgage web site meets their needs it will suffice as well.

You need to present your web site in a manner that distinguishes your site with value and competence; rather than as a commodity. In order to do so, you must do hundreds of things correctly. Such items include:


  • Say it nicely and succinctly: Offer intelligent, well-written content that is neither mindless or drone-like.

  • Have “good looks”: Your site must be professional in appearance as customers will judge your book by your cover.

  • Show your stuff: Prominently feature your rates on every page, as this is the most important feature for most visitors.

  • Clear Sailing: Your navigation must be easy, well-thought-out, and consistent from page to page.

  • Respond now: The main complaint we hear from customers is the time it takes for the mortgage company to respond to a request. You need to respond within, at the very most, 24 hours. If you respond within an hour, your chance of securing a client increases dramatically.

  • Have a nice garden: Remember to weed your site, just like you would a home garden. If you ignore your garden it gets out-of-control with overgrowth and weeds and becomes a mess. Over time, as you add new pages to your web site, you may need to weed and prune your outdated web pages.

This list can go on for quite a while, but it is a good place to start.


"Ask Not What Your Visitors Can Do For You, But What You Can Do For Your Visitors" --JFK Mortgage Broker

Successful mortgage sites understand you have to give to get. Giving includes offering many ways to contact you including a toll free number and an email address. You also need to offer extra features such as mortgage calculators and information on how to use a home equity loan to buy a car or to help finance college. Successful sites are always of service to their visitors.


Do you listen to your customer’s station, WIIFM?

We all know the basic mantra of your customer: WIIFM - what's in it for me? Customers don't arrive at your site, saying, "Oh, I have all day to find what I want." They arrive at your site saying, "Can this site solve my problem... fast?"


Minimal Information Equals High Success

Upon first glance it seems counterintuitive that by gathering only basic information that you could actually achieve a higher close rate. But due to the nature of the net, people want to give as little as possible as fast as they can and then place the burden on you to provide them with what they want. Remember that the information collected should be based on the customer's perception not some optimistic full-wallet biopsy requirement to get everything you can on the first visit. It is a little bit like Goldilocks and the three Bears. Some information is way too much and just collecting a name plus an e-mail address is way too little... and somewhere in between is just right. Ideally, you would like to extract every bit of potential customer information that you can, right down to the social system security number and a copy of last months pay stub.

Realistically, this is not going to happen and any online applicant is not going to take the time to present you with all the information that you want.


Mortgage Sites Should Market, Not Sell

Successful web sites don't sell, they market. Your web site is not so much a sales tool like an online florist where an instant sale can occur. For mortgage companies, your site is a marketing tool to gather potential leads. Don't expect your site to close loans, you still need a human touch. You should treat your web site as a source of leads that arrive to your staff and at that time, your staff can begin to perform the sales function.


Moment Of Truth

Successful sites make the moment of truth occur as early as possible, during the customers visit. What the 'moment of truth' is that point in time, when the visitor decides that you are worthy of their full attention and they are ready to conduct business with you. To make the moment of truth happen you must determine what your visitor really wants and present that information as soon as possible. Often you can examine your logs and statistics in an attempt to see where the conversion occurred from visitor to customer. The best place to decipher this information is to see which page leads to your online application. By examining the information contained on that page you can determine what made that page so successful.

Creating a successful web site doesn't happen overnight. For many people it can be a long and arduous road. There is good news in that you can find shortcuts to success by seeing what other successful web sites are doing, and then modeling those traits.


"Failure doesn't mean you are a failure... it just means you haven't succeeded yet." --Robert H. Schuller


Rod Aries and Robert Farris are co-founders of MortgagePromote.com, a leading Internet marketing provider to corporate mortgage clients. On request, they conduct nationwide training seminars covering Internet marketing strategies, lead generation, web site development techniques and more. Web site: http://www.mortgagepromote.com/

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published October 2004.


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Converting PPC Visitors Into Customers


Last month we started off by stating, "If you are reading this article while having a glass of wine (a beer or even a cup of coffee) you can be sure that the store where you purchased the wine knows how many bottles are left on their shelves and how many bottles you have purchased, via your membership or club card.

Do you know with the same precision, where each of your Pay Per Click (PPC) keywords ended up and which resulted in revenue for your company?" In this months article we will continue the discussion on why to optimize your web pages for each of your PPC keywords, which will result in increased revenue for your site.


Fine Wine and Your Keywords

Imagine a store that sells fine wines. The store manager decides to offer half-off on her favorite premium Chardonnay. She expects to sell many bottles of this wine because it is such a good value for a quality wine. Her wine store is extremely large and literally offers hundreds and hundreds of different types of wines.

The premium wines are all found in a special section near the back of the store. The store manager assumes that new and existing customers will find their way back to Chardonnay location. Unknown to her, after the ad runs many customers come in look about the store and cannot find this sale item and rather than ask they simply leave or pick-up something else.

The store manager might not even know that many people have had a hard time finding the sale item because when she looks at her inventory report it shows that there have been quite a few additional Chardonnay sales as some people have found the wine. Then one day, as the manager is walking near the checkout lanes. She overhears a customer who has bought a bottle of red wine, saying that, "I came to buy a case of that Chardonnay but I couldn't find it so I picked this Merlot for tonight." The store manager walks over to this customer and replies, "It is where it has always been, and then points to the location of the Chardonnay." The customer thanks the manager (thinks to herself, "How am I suppose to know where it is located?") but responds, "Oh thank you. I don't have time right now, maybe next time I am here..."

The store manager recognizes a lost sale.


Make It Easy For Customers

Immediately the store manager begins to correct this error and decides to "tune-up" the store by moving the featured Chardonnay to the front of the store and adds a display sign. Now as the customers walk in they can easily find the special sale. The manager notes that while the sales of the Chardonnay were good when it was in its normal location; that the sales actually tripled when the Chardonnay was moved to the front of the store.

Now what does this story have to do with your web site? The same way the store manager moved her Chardonnay to a convenient, visible location, is what you should be doing with your PPC keywords.


Is Your Special Item at The Front Of Your Store?

Between search engine rankings and PPC entry pages, every web page on your site is a front door. Visitors can enter at any page as their first page so you must have every page tuned and optimized. When your customers arrive at your web site you need to make sure that they find EXACTLY what they're searching for on the page they first see AND they do not have to click to answer their basic questions. You are paying a premium for keywords and getting customers to come inside your store. Yet, if you make it difficult for them to find what they are looking for, they will leave without what they want, and your advertising money has been wasted.

One of the most common mistakes we see is mortgage companies make all their PPC keywords go to their loan application page. If someone is searching for "Florida VA loan" or for "Idaho mortgage" they are seeking information on that product before they go your application form. Make sure each PPC keyword links to a specific page on your site relevant to the customer selected keyword.


Six Clicks of Separation

You can use your web site statistic logs to see if you are really meeting your customer's expectations. In example, you can determine that a visitor typed in the keyword "Portland home loans" and arrived at the main index page (click one), then clicked on the map of the US to arrive at the Oregon rate information web page (click two). Then the visitor visited the page "Portland home loans" (click three). Subsequently the visitor next went back to the Oregon page (click four), then to the homepage (click five) and then clicked on the application form (click six) because there was no link to the application page on any page except the main page.

By following a customer's path through your site, you can gain an understanding of what your visitor is seeking and if your web site is easily providing that information.


One Degree of Separation

Six clicks on a site is a recipe for poor sales. All these clicks are more than most customers will endure at a mortgage company site. As you are aware, it takes just one click to visit your site and one click to leave. Your site should offer exactly what your visitor expected when they click on the PPC keyword.

If you look at your log reports and focus on the "Exit Page" report, you may be surprised to see which pages actually is the last page a visitor views before they depart. By reviewing these exit pages, you can rework the content and information and attempt to convert a departing visitor into a customer.

Many sophisticated mortgage companies are performing an in-depth path analysis of visitor flow to better understand the expense, and revenues, associated with their PPC campaigns. This allows companies to actually spend $5-10 per click and make MORE money per visitor because they have provided the exact content sought by the visitor.

We will discuss this topic in next months article, "Converting Pay Per Click Into Revenue Per Click."

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published September 2004.

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How To Control Your Rising Pay Per Click Expenses


How To Control Your Rising Pay Per Click Expenses
(And They Are Going To Rise Dramatically)

If you are reading this article while having a cup of coffee or glass of wine, you can be sure that the store you purchased the coffee or wine from knows how much (via your membership card) you bought and when you purchased it. Do you know with the same precision, which of your Pay Per Click (PPC) keywords resulted in revenue for your mortgage company?

If you currently purchase PPC keywords, you have noticed an increase in costs. There has been a constant upward spiral of keyword costs. Will the trend continue resulting in certain PPC keywords approach $100 per bid? Many mortgage company owners are in for shock and will look back to these days of bidding just $5-$15 per keyword as a true bargain.


PPC & NYSE

Purchasing PPC keywords is becoming similar to buying stocks on the New York Stock Exchange. Each PPC keyword, much like a stock, has its own valuation; in example, the current top bid ($9.51) for the keyword "Illinois mortgage" is not the same as the top bid ($5.50) for "Illinois home loan".

One major difference between PPC and NYSE pricing is that when you buy a stock, say IBM or Microsoft or General Motors, you lock in a price, but that stock will fluctuate. It may go up a couple of points this week, and then go down a couple points next week; and then maybe go up or down 20 points over the course of a year or two.

Now compare that to the new world of buying Pay Per Click keywords from the two major vendors for the Pay Per Click bidding: Google.com and Overture.com, the prices essentially go up, and up; and you have not locked in a price.


Buy High, Then Buy Higher Again

Because the Pay Per Click industry is so new there hasn't been a full market correction yet. So for keywords such as "Portland home loans" or "Seattle mortgage" or "Kansas home loan" as recently as two years ago, may have been around $0.25 to $0.60 per click. They are now generally between $4 and $12 per click, and climbing. Unlike a stock that you purchased at a fixed price and enjoy the benefits, when the stock price increases, you must constantly repurchase your keywords at the current price in today's market or lose your ranking at the search engine.


PPC Bids Will Continue To Increase

The currently market for bidding on PPC keywords will continue to escalate. Undoubtedly, you will find a market cap at which point the cost of the keywords exceed the value of the lead, but, as we are all aware, the tremendous amount of monies to be earned per closed loan dictates that we have additional market growth until we meet that PPC saturation point.


Will Bidding Hit $100?

Many dominant players in the mortgage PPC niche are reporting current expenses between $30 and $60 in keyword bid costs per generated lead application. We predict that, for selected keywords, bidding will approach $125-150 per click.


Why Mortgage Companies Will GLADLY Pay $100+ Per Keyword

As the price per keyword continues to increase; many mortgage companies will no longer bid, because they will say that a keyword, "Is not worth that much". Yet more sophisticated mortgage companies will continue to bid higher and higher rates, and they will do so gladly, having mastered the technique of optimizing their web site so that they are earning more revenue than it is costing them in advertising expense.

Many companies initially ignored the consumer usability aspect of their web site and simply loaded information that they felt to was indicative of what they offered, ignoring two critical factors: the consumer needs and how their web site responds to each searched keyword.

Sophisticated and knowledgeable mortgage companies have learned how to not only two properly manage their keyword bidding, but, more importantly, how to integrate each specific PPC keyword and then how to manage and optimize the entire sales process around that keyword while meeting the visitors needs.


Converting PPC Expenses Into Revenue

As the total costs expended to secure a lead increase, many mortgage companies are performing two major activities: PPC keyword tracking per lead and the integration of PPC, consumer expectations and enhancing the optimization of the sales process via the web site. The end result is that sophisticated advertisers view their monthly expenses, not as a cost, but as a revenue source due to their ability to generate leads.


PPC Keyword Tracking

Most high-end mortgage companies (those spending over $25k/month on the various PPC search engines) are uniquely tracking the origin of each lead. For example, they are determining whether or not, the lead they received online was generated by the keyword "home loans" or "Miami home mortgage" or "Miami mortgage broker" or "Florida home equity loan."

The escalating cost of root keywords such as "home loans" and "mortgages" can result in creating a substantial monthly cost yet sometimes not produce the quality of leads found in a more narrow, and less searched, PPC keyword. In example the number of searches for "Denver home loans" is less than searches for "Colorado home loans" but may prove to result in a higher number of applications due to how specific the keyword is.

Your ability to follow a keyword from entry point on your site to your application form is important. By using keyword tracking, you can accurately track the revenue by specifically matching each keyword to the amount of revenue it produced.


Which Keywords Perform... And Which Keywords Don't

Also note that tracking the keywords that do NOT result in applications is as important of a cost control tool. Many mortgage company owners no longer bid on the all-encompassing keywords such as "home loan" or "mortgages," especially when they only offer loans in 15 states. The high number of searches for "home loan" and "mortgages" often can create a substantial PPC bill. By focusing on which keywords perform, you can bid higher amounts on those words which result in increased revenue.

By analyzing your PPC keyword costs and associating each keyword with revenue unique to that keyword, you will be able to increase the number of your leads and save money. This should enable you to buy more of your favorite coffee or wine.

In next month's article, we will discuss how optimizing each specific PPC keyword and performing usability analysis on your site can yield even more revenue per click.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published August 2004.

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Generating Customers: Pay Per Click or Pay Per Lead?


All mortgage web site owners have come to realize that the Internet is not free, especially in the competitive industry of home loans and mortgages. For the most part, mortgage companies are going to have to invest in Internet advertising in order to receive mortgage leads. The two most common alternatives for the acquisition of new customers, are via a Pay Per Click (PPC) program or via a Pay Per Lead (PPL) program.


Pay Per Click Considerations

Many mortgage web site owners are evaluating whether or not to invest in, and manage, a Pay Per Click campaign in order to acquire visitors with the hope of converting them into customers.

In most scenarios, except for mortgages, the Pay Per Click program typically outperforms the Pay Per Lead program. However, due to the high cost of clicks at various Pay Per Click services such as Overture.com, the Pay Per Lead option is generally a more cost effective alternative.

For example: if a normal product acquisition, such as cell phones or books, has a cost per click of $0.40 and it takes 10 clicks to produce a customer, then the cost per lead is $4.00. With cost per click typically running anywhere from $2-$15 per click (at both Overture.com and Google.com) having to generate 10 visitors before you produce a lead can result in a cost per acquisition of $20 - $150 per lead.


Current Pay Per Click Bids

Here are current Pay Per Click amounts for selected keywords:

California home loan:
$7.98 to $8.13 for the top eight bidders

Dallas mortgage:
$4.00 to $6.03 for the top six bidders

Exclusive mortgage lead:
$4.13 to $5.10 for the top four bidders

Texas home loan:
$5.20 to $6.02 for the top four bidders

Chicago mortgage:
$2.00 to $5.00 for the top four bidders

Denver mortgage:
$4.00 to $6.97 for the top four bidders

Florida home loan:
$10.20 to $10.45 for the top five bidders


$50-$100 Per Lead via Pay Per Click?

As you can see the top bidders for key mortgage related words are in generally between $5 and $10 per click. If it takes 10 visitors to produce a lead, then it is costing you $50-$100 per lead for major keyword combinations. You should compare this to your Pay Per Lead program options.


Also, as you might expect, bids after the top three to five spots drop in price, but also it has been demonstrated that listings below the number five position are about 5% as likely to clicked on as the first position. In short, you get what you pay for.


Just One Keyword Equals $2M+ Per Month In Expense

Additionally, please note that the top 11 bidders for the generic term "home loans" each pay over $3.00 per click. And knowing that there are almost 350,000 monthly searches for the term "home loans" at Overture.com, you can see how bidding on this keyword is arguably a $1 million per month revenue generator for this major Pay Per Click engine, generated predominantly by the mortgage lending industry. We can expect another $1 million is spent using the Google.com Pay Per Click program.


Cost Effective Pay Per Lead?

For the mortgage industry, due to the high cost of Pay Per Click programs, the Pay Per Lead often proves to be more cost-effective, allowing your staff to focus predominantly on lead servicing rather than lead generation.

Currently most shared mortgage lead programs cost approximately $25-$35 per lead. For an exclusive mortgage lead the cost can run between $50 and $75. Many mortgage owners realize that just a year ago that the costs for a shared lead was in the $15-$25 range and the cost for an exclusive mortgage lead was in the $40-$50 range. Unfortunately, we anticipate that the cost per lead will continue to increase due to the high worth of each closed mortgage.

When evaluating your own Internet marketing strategy and determining whether or not Pay Per Click is an effective method it to acquire new customers, be sure to factor in the total Pay Per Click campaign cost (the costs of the bids plus the labor factor of managing your bids) to achieve an actual cost per lead.


Factors To Consider When Buying Leads

Expires on: Just like milk, mortgage leads have a relatively short life span. Be sure that leads are fresh from the time that they are secured until the time they are delivered to you. The delivery mechanism is critical to your success. The mortgage leads should be delivered in a prompt format; never later than 24 hours after the lead has been received. Ideally the mortgage leads should be delivered either instantly via a confirming e-mail or in some type of spreadsheet format so that they can be integrated into your database.

Have it your way: Any good Pay Per Lead company should be able to filter and prescreen for various factors, i.e., only bad credit loans or only loans from people in Wisconsin.

Bounty: Some Pay Per Lead providers charge an additional fee has a bonus in the event the lead turns into a closed sale.

Do you know where the lead has been generated? What is the source and origin of your lead? Was the lead gathered off of a web site or via a phone call or via unsolicited e-mail? There are many horror stories of people filling out Spam email inquiries just to find out your company name, then trying to hack your site in retaliation.

Incentive leads: Take the time to confirm that the lead is the true lead and not part of a method just to generate an expense for you. Many incentive web sites will use a reward system in order to have their members complete various forms, including mortgage applications, to generate revenue.

Close Enough: The accuracy of the lead, specifically how much information is obtained; and whether or not any of that information is verified needs to be considered. Be sure you obtain an accurate phone number and accurate e-mail address. You should expect to have at least an 85% accuracy of data received for leads.

Lead Returned Policy: Negotiate up front as to what constitutes a bad lead, and whether you are credited money or additional leads for bad leads. If bad leads account for greater than 10% of total leads; you are probably going to have a problem with the mortgage lead provider.


“You Get What You Pay For”

The free lunch on the Internet ended a few years ago. It now costs marketing dollars to generate new business. And the old saying still goes, “You get what you pay for”. This quote is especially true when buying mortgage leads. But remember that all leads are not the same. Each lead generation company has different response rates, based upon the way they generate their leads. Just make sure you spending your hard earned marketing dollars at the right company.

Rod Aries and Robert Farris are co-founders of MortgagePromote.com, a leading Internet marketing provider to corporate mortgage clients. On request, they conduct nationwide training seminars covering Internet marketing strategies, lead generation, web site development techniques and more. Web site:
www.mortgagepromote.com

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published July 2004.

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Thursday, April 5, 2007

Is Your Web Site Lying to Your Visitors?


The judge’s question was, "How do you plead to counts 1 and 2?"

The adamant reply was, " Absolutely, positively, 100% not guilty." by OJ Simpson.

More on Mr. Simpson later….

When a visitor arrives at your web site you must communicate not only what you offer, but that you are trustworthy.


Pictures Are Cute, But Words Sell

"A picture is worth a thousand words," goes the famous adage. But if pictures were really that effective, wouldn't your entire web site be pictures? The picture is the "cover to your book" -- it is how your visitors judge initially judge you to see if you "look professional" enough to merit their investment of time in your site.

Your words (i.e. your content) are the tools you use to communicate information about your business and what you offer. Y words are what determine if you convert a visitor into a customer.


What Are You Communicating With Your Words?

The way you utilize your words; directly impacts your revenue. Assuming you have comparable interest rates, if you are masterful with your wording, you will receive substantial revenues. If your wording is poor and fails to convey information about you (i.e. your company and your rates), you will have poor results.


What Makes These Famous Quotes Memorable?

"I have earned every cent. And in all of my years of public life I have never obstructed justice. People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got." --President Richard Nixon

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky. I never told anyone to lie. Not a single time. Never. These allegations are false. I need to go back to work." --President Bill Clinton

What these comments, including OJ's, have in common is that they all are the start of a complex argument to convince others that they are "innocent." Notice I said "convince," not convey.


Convince Or Convey?

Many lie detector experts and law enforcement officers purport that you can tell when someone is lying if they try to convince you that they are not lying rather than convey the truth. Also they indicate that when the person answering the questions goes off on a tangent and fails to directly respond to the question can show intent to deceive.

Here is an example of convincing vs. conveying: A wife surprises her husband by meeting him in the parking lot at his work at 5pm and says, "I thought you said you were going to work late. Where are you going?" He replies, "I have to go a clients office." She screams, "Are you having an affair?" He looks away and says, "Now baby, you know I wouldn't do that. We have a beautiful child, a wonderful home and your mother is such a joy around the house." (Well, maybe not the mother-in-law part unless he really is lying).

You can see how the husband was 1)not directly answering the question directly with a yes or no; and 2)convincing her that he wasn't fooling around. A conveying answer might have been, "No, I am not. I am sorry that you would feel that you would have to ask me that. But anyways, come with me to meet the client."


Which Brings Us to Your Web Site

When people arrive at your web site, at the very top of EACH AND EVERY web page, you need to convey, succinctly what that specific page is about and how you can benefit your visitor. In example, if you have a VA mortgage page, you might convey the following, "We offer VA mortgages to eligible veterans (and we can help you determine your eligibility). If you have looked around for a VA mortgage you probably have found out that every company offers the same rate, so you should look to customer service and experience to help you finance your new home. We have closed over 1,000 VA mortgages in the past three years and we are here to serve you."

Was OJ Convincing Or Conveying?

Back to Mr. Simpson. Author Gerry Spence in his book 'OJ The Last Word' writes about a discussion he had with OJ: "'And I just wanted you to know that I am innocent. Absolutely innocent. There is nothing about what they say that's true. I loved Nicole. I wouldn't do anything to the mother of my children. You got to believe that.' And then he went on about how he had never done anything to harm her. They'd had their beefs like other married people, but he loved her, they were trying to get back together."

Note that he doesn't say, "I did not kill her", but he says, "And I just wanted you to know that I am innocent." And he tries to do a whole lot of convincing.

If you now go to your site and read your words with the same scrutiny you just read OJ's comments, you might find a few areas that could be converted to more accurately convey who you are and what you do to your visitors.


What You Can Do To Convey

Here is a quick check list of items you should include on your web site to convey who you are and what you can do for your visitors:

  • Show your rates, not only for good credit customers but for bad credit risks as well.
  • Have information on your company.
  • Show a real address, not a PO Box.
  • Include both the main business number and your toll free number.
  • Use an email address that matches your domain name, i.e., not MortgageGal@hotmail.com, but Robert@MortgagePromote.com


Was OJ Innocent?

Even though OJ was found "not guilty" by the jury, many people believe he was guilty. His words and actions to some; indicate that he was not being truthful.

It is the same with your web site, you must convey exactly who you are and what you can do for your visitors in an open and complete manner. The jury may let OJ off, but I doubt that your visitors will be so kind if they don't believe the message in your content.

Rod Aries and Robert Farris are co-founders of MortgagePromote.com, a leading Internet marketing provider to corporate mortgage clients. On request, they conduct nationwide training seminars covering Internet marketing strategies, lead generation, web site development techniques and more. Web site:
www.mortgagepromote.com

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published June 2004.



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Pay Per Click Campaign Strategy


Clicks used to be free. In case you haven't noticed, ever since the dotcom implosion, the net has rapidly been converting from a free-for-all to a pay per click (PPC) model. In short, if you want to be ranked first for a keyword look-up; you pay the most per click. In order to be ranked second, you pay the second most. Virtually every search engine lists the highest bidders for a keyword at the top of the returned results.

The only partial exception currently is Google, which is about 50% PPC. Google lists algorithm-generated results when a search is performed, but it lists PPC results in the right hand column, adjacent to the algorithm. With their pending IPO, we anticipate a major shift to more PPC results.

Frequently we have consulted for various clients with existing PPC campaigns and we have found most were paying too much for their PPC programs. What is most interesting is that the clients found many different ways to overpay; here are just a few "overpaying techniques" we have found:

Save Time For Yourself: Many PPC advertisers save themselves a heap of time by making all the titles and descriptions the same. This saves you time, but costs you money, as this does not adequately convey the uniqueness of each PPC keyword.

Crummy Title: The first thing your potential visitor reads is the description. Just like the cover of a book, people will judge you by your title. In example, we found some PPC ads that had just, "Online Mortgage Application" when I searched for home loan and various state names. Be more exact: if you are buying the keyword "California Home Loan" make sure your title includes the phrase "California Home Loan".

Crummy Description: If your potential visitor likes your title, they may read further; be sure to give them something worthwhile to read. Here is one we found, "We are in the money saving business." Another description read, even though it was found under "California Home Loan," which was, "We compare and review credit card products and find the one that's right for you." A weak description results in lost revenue.

Landing Page Destination: Another shortcut PPC advertisers use is to send all visitors to the main page of the site, and then expect the visitor to navigate to another page that really has what they want (i.e., Utah home loan, VA home loan). Each click you require your visitor to perform gives them a reason to leave.

Landing Page Content: Quite often we see various keywords purchased, like "Chicago Home Loans," yet when we click on the PPC link, we arrive at a page that talks about Missouri home loans (where the advertiser was based), and about how they serve the "entire" Midwest. This is not very comforting to a visitor when they arrive and the very thing they are seeking is not overtly discussed on your web page.

Assumptive Close: Some PPC advertisers skip all the courtship and dating by getting right down to business via serving up the online application form. There are no rate quotes, no information, just the form. Customers like to be courted before they kiss.

Bidding Too Much: Some mortgage companies that serve only 15-25 states bid the term "Home Loan" even though there are a lot of visitors they will attract that they can't service. As of this writing, the top bid was $7.99 for the keyword "Home Loan."

Not Bidding Enough: Some frugal advertisers feel by bidding the minimum bid (currently 10 cents at Overture, that they are saving money. A "Home Loan" search shows that a ten cent bid would place you at #157. The probability that you will get a customer at #157 is about the same probability that this strategy is working.

Not Understanding How Bids Work: While a full explanation is beyond the scope of this article, please note due to the various programming quirks and rules of PPC search engines that if you had the following bids for positions one to four, $10.09, $9.99, $9.98 and $3.60, the actually charged bids would be, for positions one to four, $10.00, $9.99, $3.61 and $3.60. Many of your competitors know how to play this game and actually bid not only to gain customers, but structure their bids to inflict maximum financial burden on your PPC campaign, while actually being charged a lower fee for their own bids.

Not Monitoring Your Bids: A search for "Florida Home Mortgage" shows the top bidder paying $11.99 at Overture, the number two bidder at $6.05 and the number three bidder at $5.60. A search for "Texas Home Loan" starts off better with the top bid at $10.03, followed by $10.00 and $9.99. Bids four through six are at, $5.53, $4.35 and $4.34, respectively. From the top two bids to bid #four there is an approximately $4.50 gap. Just 10 clicks a day will cost you an extra $16,000 in annual extra PPC fees.

Bidding With Your Ego: If your ego chants "I have to be number one, number one, number one..." Pretty soon you will be number one... the number one spender. In fact, there are many advantages to bidding number three, or five, due to how the results are displayed on some search engines.

Bid Words That Don't Relate To Your Business: Assume you offer FHA or VA home loans. While the terms "FHA home loans" or "VA home loans" make sense, bidding on terms like VA or FHA don't make sense, because you will get everything from veterans looking for hospitals to someone trying to find the phone number for the FHA with just the single terms.

Failing To Look At Stats: Even worse, failing to have traffic statistics on your site so you can monitor the effectiveness of each keyword from click to submitted application.

Underestimating The Time Required To Do It Right: Many mortgage company owners wrongly assume they can create a quality PPC campaign in just a few hours. You can't. Well, you can, but it will be awfully flimsy.

Underestimate The Time Required To Continually Monitor: Once the PPC campaign is implemented, often a secretary or administrative assistant is assigned the task of monitoring and updating bids. We did this in 1999, and it was a disaster. We overspent and underperformed by trying to accomplish this task between other tasks. We have since installed proprietary software to update our bids 24 hours a day.

Use Autoreplenish The First 3-4 Weeks: A rookie mistake is to assume you are perfect in your keyword assessment and the resulting bids you placed. To make life easier for you, you have signed up for auto-replenish so you are automatically billed every time you run low on funds. We provided consulting analysis to one client and found that they spent $14,000 in the first two months on three terms that produced no revenue.

If you are starting a PPC campaign, take the time to properly prepare the keywords and associated bids make financial sense for you. Use titles and descriptions that make sense to your visitors.

If you have a PPC program, be sure to quantify which keywords are revenue generating; and which keywords just cost money. Often you will find the correct bid is more lucrative than the highest bid.

Clicks may cost money now, but if you properly structure your PPC campaign, each click will earn you money...


For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published April 2004.

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How to Prevent the Coming Mortgage Drought


Your Internet marketing costs are going up. A lot.

You know this, but you just don't how bad it is going to be.

Imagine you have in your hands a stack of $1 bills. Actually, make that a stack of $5 bills. Now imagine that every time a new visitor comes to your site you hear a ding sound from your computer. And every time you hear that ding, you take a $5 bill and put in the trash can by your desk. Every once in a while you miss the trash can and a $5 bill lands on the floor. You get to pick that up and put it back in your hand and you can use that $5 bill again to aim for the trash can.

That is what is happening to many mortgage web site owners and they don't even know it. Most of their marketing dollars are flowing like a waterfall into the trash. More on this in a bit...

Why Your Costs Are Going To Increase?

Three separate, seemingly-unrelated, factors have occurred over the past few months which will severely impact your online advertising expenses.

Dialing For Dollars

1)The Do-Not-call Registry. No longer can you, or services on your behalf, cold-call individuals to generate mortgage leads. The end of telemarketing means the expense normally allocated to cold-calling, will now be directed elsewhere: most likely to direct mail and online marketing.

"The rain may never fall till after sundown.
By eight, the morning fog must disappear."
--Camelot Lyrics

2)The monetization of the net. No longer can you call a colleague and boast, "Hey, I am ranked number one for the term "California Home Loans" and I am getting more FREE traffic than I can handle."

The idyllic days of Camelot are over where even small dogs could rule the pack. Search engine algorithms at every major search engine have been replaced with a 100% pay-per-click (PPC) model. In case you have been living under a mouse pad for the last year, the model is pretty simple: if you want to be ranked 1st; you pay the most per click.

Only Google, which is about 50% pay-per-click, has any assemblance of a "you can get ranked first" hope left. Undoubtedly with Google's pending Initial Public Offering (IPO), where pressure from the investor community will convert the Camelotesque search results to monetarily driven PPC links.

Additionally, in January 2004, Yahoo reported a 62% increase in fourth quarter profits. Did there visitor volume go up? No. Their visitor counts held steady, but there online PPC advertising dramatically increased.

As further indication, we monitor several PPC bid keywords and noticed a 25% increase in the amount bids in just under three months. It is going to keep climbing.

The net effect of the monetization of the net, is that advertisers like you are paying companies so they can deliver visitors to your web site.

The Coming Death of Spam

3) Do-Not-Spam laws. Recent laws by the US Government have banned unsolicited email, which was a source of mortgage leads for some companies. While this option is not dead yet, it is dying. The effect will be to shift the monies formerly applied to bulk email to other venues: online advertising and direct mail.

All three of the above items previously generated a majority of the mortgage leads, and now each option is ceasing to be a viable alternative. The adverse effect on your marketing budget is that there will be more dollars competing for top ranked PPC results.

Pay To Play

This brings us to the pay-per-click market. If you want to be found via an Internet search, you have to pay to play. How much you ask? Probably substantially more than you planned to budget.

In a pure market we would anticipate that the total internet marketing costs associated with a closed loan will translate to at least a $70 per lead over the short term.

Here is an example: As of January 2004, the top four PPC bidders for "Wisconsin Mortgages" were paying over $19.00 per click, not per lead, per click. How many clicks does it take to convert to a lead. If that answer is five clicks, you are paying almost $100 for just the lead.

Dollars Flowing Like Water

Imagine a summer in Seattle and playing in the backyard spraying the garden hose water everywhere. If the hose is left running a few minutes extra, well, that is all right. Now imagine Southern California, during the summer, with drought conditions. The same water coming out of the garden hose is suddenly very precious as the cost per gallon increases as an incentive to prevent waste.

It is the same with your mortgage leads. They may have been like cheap and abundant water, but that is drying up, to your detriment.

Xeriscaping Your Mortgage Leads

In Southern California a whole industry has been created by the occasional water shortages - Xeriscaping. Xeriscape is the use of low water plants for landscaping.

Now here is the tricky part... You have to be more efficient because you are paying for the water, but your potential visitors get to use the water for free, as you are paying for each click they have that drives them to your site. And as the clicks become more and more expensive you are highly cognizant of that costs, but since your customers aren't paying for the click, they can run up your PPC costs in a short period. That sound you hear is all those $5 bills filling up your trash can.

Marketing Means Solving Customer Problems

Depending on the keyword, many unknowledgeable companies are spending $1 - $20 a click and driving the potential customer to a web page that makes absolutely no sense to the visitor, i.e. an "application page" or an "about us" page. In effect, you could be throwing about $5+ away for every PPC visitor.

There Goes Another $5

Another way of how to make PPC visitors more efficient is to weed out what you don't do. In example, if you find yourself receiving many bad credit inquiries and you do not service those type of loans, possibly consider adding the phrase "Good credit only," to your PPC ads.

With the cost of mortgage leads increasing, and expected to continue the upward trend, you will need to become more efficient with your web site and each lead you receive. You must have the information your customer is seeking or they will simply leave.

Money Down The Drain

With the cost per lead increasing, it is astounding at how many mortgage companies we test to see how they respond to customers and how long it takes to follow-up (if at all) and how poorly the response from the mortgage company can be. We suggest testing your own web site to see what you will find.

Preventing The Drought

The first step to preventing wasted water is to review where it is going. Analyze where you are spending your marketing money, choose keywords more wisely, and test your web site to determine how effective your content is. Strive to answer all customer questions on your web pages so that they will either apply or call you. If you do everything right, you can get your visitors to go with the flow, leading directly to a closed loan.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published March 2004.

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Can Words Cure Your Web Site?


I recently went to my local pharmacy to look for something for athlete's foot. There were about five options, each with quite an array of packaging and various headline banners screaming at me plus each product had its own "team" colors. I narrowed down my purchase to two boxes.

One said, "Relieve Athlete's Foot Symptoms Fast" and the other said "Cures Athletes Foot." I picked up each box and read the active ingredients and they were different; I assumed both worked or they wouldn't be touting their claims. I ended up buying the product that "Cures Athletes Foot" because while I wanted the symptoms to go away, what I really wanted was to be cured.

Now what does athlete's foot have to do with your mortgage web site? Each person arrives at your site with an itch; a problem that they are looking for you, or your competitor, to fix. And because most mortgage loan companies look essentially the same, visitors have to use your "packaging" and "words" to determine which web site will cure their problem.

Your words determine if the visitor becomes a customer. There is an example from the Tom Peters "In Search of Excellence" book which compares the expiration dates on fruit drinks. One company prints, "Expires on 1-25-04" on their product while the others states, "Best enjoyed by 1-25-04". Now the difference is subtle, but the "best enjoyed" has better wording.

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Gets Going

If you make it hard for your customers to use your web site through layout design, navigational issues or barriers to entry, you will lose them. They will simply leave.

Many loan companies create a tremendous obstacle to overcome before using their web site in earnest, "To begin your loan application process your must first create a user account."

Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try. - Yoda

This Yoda saying can teach us a little about reaching our visitors and converting them into customers. Don't try and be of service to your visitors, take the extra time to just be of service. Use the correct words to communicate this to your visitors.

Which sounds better? One web site, which will remain nameless, states, "Click here to fill out the form and then we will contact you." Eloan.com says, "Click here to receive your loan. It takes just 4 minutes, get a decision in 90 seconds, and get a call back in 15 minutes." DiTech.com says, "Our online application is quick and easy. Why wait?" See how the more successful companies take the time to sculpt their wording?

Which sounds better? "We try to do our best for each and every customer," or "Our Guarantee -- Our loan consultants will help you: Get the lowest rates, points, and fees; close on-time and avoid closing costs surprises or you get $500 back when you fund your loan with us" Eloan.com, says the latter.

Which sounds better? "Get your loan here," or "It is easy to get a loan with us, simply apply online, schedule a convenient time for us to call you or call us now at 1-800-THIS IS EASY."
Freddiemac.com has a tart, not-too-friendly comment, "Do Business with Us: Go directly to our forms and premier web-based applications to transact business."

Are you making those subtle wording differences at your web site? Make your web site friendly, easy, convenient, helpful and professional; and use content wording that answers the questions that the visitor is seeking.

Give To Get

People are like banks, you must make deposits before you make withdrawals. You must give your visitor what they want; to get what you want. Here are some examples:

LendingTree.com says, "Calculate how much you can borrow. If you're still renting, use our renting vs. buying calculator to see the benefits of buying a home with today's low rates. More calculators... "

They also say, "Let LendingTree help make your dream home a reality. Completing your loan request should take about 15-20 minutes. See a checklist of information you will need to complete your form."

Be helpful to your visitors. It is as important to tell your customers what you don't do; as to what you do. Here is a sample off of a web site illustrating this.

Loan Types Not Offered:
  • Multi-unit rental properties with more than 4 units
  • Manufactured homes (pre-built)
  • Mobile homes
  • Refinancing properties listed for sale
  • Construction loans
  • Land loans
  • Bridge loans
  • FHA/VA loans
  • Commercial property
  • Condos over 4 stories
Other Helpful Phrases

Many successful sites use the following wording to communicate how they solve the customer’s problems:
  • Use our calculator to determine if you should refinance.
  • Consider your refinancing options.
  • How to understand rates and costs.
  • Home loans unbiased advice.
  • One-on-one service.
  • Zero down & money back.
  • Call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are at your service.
  • Our fixed fee structure will never change during your loan process.
  • No fees prior to closing and no cancellation charges give you the freedom to choose with no obligations.
Oh, that athlete's foot? The "Cures Athletes Foot" took care of it. The wording on the box answered my question and then did what it said it would do. Your web site should do the same.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published February 2004.

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25 Ways To Lose Business From Your Web Site


When many mortgage firms have their web sites built, they get excited whey they hear that business is just a "click away." These mortgage companies wonder how much money they will earn from their web site. In reality, these companies should be asking how much lost opportunity revenue they are losing from their site, because, unfortunately, for many owners, they are right... visitors do just "click away."

Internet users do "judge a book by its cover." They have seen hundreds, or thousands, of web sites and they know what they want and they expect your site to INSTANTLY communicate that you have what they want, or they simply leave.

All Visitors Love My Web Site... Don't They?

If you could hover above your web site and watch as visitors enter, hear what they are thinking, watch how their mouse moves, time how long they stay on your page, and follow them how they flow, if at all, through your site, most site owners would be very, very, very, very disappointed.
You would be asking yourself questions such as: "Why did they leave after just a few seconds?", "Could they have really read all my wonderful information on my main page in seven seconds?", "My web site is so perfect, how could they not go to the 'About Us' page?", "What is wrong with these people, can't they find the online application, it is right in front of them?"

We have performed numerous usability studies on client sites. And in this article we are going to share with you what visitors are thinking when they visit your site.

How Much Business Are You Losing From Your Web Site?

Your web site is costing you closed loans (much more than you think possible) and you don't even know it.

To get a visitor to the "Closed Loan" stage, it is a series of perfectly executed "Moments Of Truth" steps. If you break the sequence, you will not get the loan. Here are ways mortgage owners break the chain and lose loans -- from the visitor’s perspective:

Their Time Is Your Money

We have heard all heard truism, "Time is money." When you own a web site, you have to alter this axiom to "Their time is your money." Your visitors value their time, more than they value your content and information. Make it easy for your prospective customer and you will get a call or an online application; make it hard and you have just lost the opportunity for $2-5,000 in profits.

Read the following comments, and try to understand them from a visitor’s perspective, and apply them to your site and see how many potential customers will "Click Away."

After watching the word "Mortgage" spin and gyrate with exploding "Loan" words, the visitor thinks, "Why would I want to watch a "movie show" on a home page when I came to get a loan? And this music just sucks. Don't these guys value my time?"

Upon arriving at home page that says "Click HERE to enter the site" on your home page, the visitor says, "Why should I have to click again to see what I want? Bye."

"I didn't come to a mortgage site to download Flash (or Adobe to read a .pdf file) software to my computer."

Having typed the url http://MyHomeLoanCompanySite.com the visitor gets a "page not found" error. Little did the visitor know that your site only works if you have the full URL, ie with the www. included - http://www.MyHomeLoanCompanySite.com. Try it on your site, you will be surprised at how many sites are not "www - enabled".

"Where is the interest rate, that is all I want to see. I am not going to scroll or go to another page to find your rate. Everyone else shows today’s rates at the top of the page."

"I clicked on this "California Home Loan" at this Pay Per Click site seeing the mortgage company is spending $0.80 for that term and they send me to their main page, instead of the "California Home Loan" page I really wanted to see. Gawd, I wonder how much that move is costing them a month?"

"I am looking for loan info on the home page, not a president’s message about customer service."

"Why can't I easily find the toll free phone number or contact email?"

"I want a quote, not an autopsy, these chumps want me to register just to receive a loan quote... NO WAY!"

"This loan form looks like it will take longer than a minute to fill out. Why is all this required just to get started?"

"I wonder if they will sell my email address? Don't they have a privacy statement?"

"Look at that, 'Copyright 2002.' If they can't even keep their site current what about their rates?"

"I think I first saw that mailbox graphic that opens and closes over and over in 1997. I can't believe it is still in use."

"What is this pop-over window doing on top of this mortgage page?"
"Geez, this is a slow site. Next..."

"I bookmarked the application form, but the home page comes up and I can't easily find the form. How am I supposed to know this site had frames."

"Look at all those colors and fonts and different sizes and bolds and italics and small print... I have eye strain."

"Wow, I am visitor number 2,109. Why would this mortgage company tell the world that no one comes to their site. Idiots."

"I wonder if the link I really need is in one of those drop down boxes? They expect me to go to each drop down? Guess I will never know."

"What does this banner at the top of the page have to do with a loan site?"

"This top graphic is so big, I have to scroll down to get to content."

"It seems everything that is underlined is not hyperlinked, and the links on the pages that are not underlined are hyperlinked. Pretty dumb."

"Look at this page, the navigation is totally different than the last page I was on. Guess they want me to relearn their navigation every time I click."

"Why is this site set up in the order they think is important, instead of the order that I think is important?"

Just A Click Away

After reading this article, and making the necessary changes to your site, a visitor arrives at your site and thinks, "Hmm, CaliforniaHomeLoan.com sounds like they do what I need. Fast loading. Ahh, there is the interest rate, a little less than I thought, and look at this arrow, it says, 'Free online application, complete the form in less than a minute.' And they say, 'We respect your privacy, we will not share your information with anyone.' Look, I can go from the main page to the application in a single click. I will fill out this form."

Ahh, success can be just a "Click Away" if you make it easy to click.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published January 2004.


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A Guide To Internet Mortgage Leads


With the Do Not Call Registry apparently upheld by the courts, many mortgage companies are turning to the Internet to generate timely and targeted leads. This article will provide an overview on how to buy mortgage leads via the Internet.

Lead Generation Methods

There are just five major sources for leads generated on the Internet, with the first three listed below accounting for about 90% of the total leads created:

1. Search Engine Marketing & Optimization
2. Pay Per Click Rankings
3. Email
4. Affiliate Programs
5. Banners - Site Advertising - Newsletters

"Seek and Ye Shall Find"

Search Engine Marketing & Optimization: Potential customers who type in a phrase like "Houston home loan" and follow the links provided by a search engine are the most ideal lead generation source. They are self-directed individuals seeking something specific and you are offering it. These types of leads tend to have a very high close rates.

Long, long ago (1998-2001) most search engines used algorithms to determine the matching of a page to a user's search terms. If the keyword density, titles and meta description were in correct proportions then a site could be ranked at the top of search engine. Most search engines have moved away from true validity-based ranking techniques to a pay per click ranking method (next section). However there still is one major engine, Google, that continues to utilize index and matching formulas to rank its results. Google is one of the most visited sites on the Internet and a high ranking will lead to substantial amount of traffic.

"If You've Got The Dime, I Have The Time."

Pay Per Click Rankings: The monetization of the Internet continues to be the most dynamic change. Almost every search engine now lists results not on algorithm matching, but on who pays the most to be ranked first. As of mid-October here are the bids per click (not per lead at Overture.com for the key word: home loans.

  • The top 34 bidders each paid at least $1+ per click

  • The top 23 bidders paid at least $2+ a click

  • The top 13 bidders paid $3+ a click

  • The top 11 pay $4+ a click

  • The top 7 pay $5+ a click, and

  • The top two pay $10+ per click.

  • Even a search portal like Google, now lists pay per click results just to right of their algorithm results. It is inevitable that over the next year, virtually every top result will be driven by the bid on that keyword, not by an algorithm determined relevancy.

    "Don't Put That In Your Mouth, You Don't Know Where It Has Been."

    Email - Spam: Sometimes small kids will pick something up from the floor or in a store and put the item in their mouth. As parents we are protective of germs and try to prevent our child from getting sick.

    It is the same with Internet leads, not all leads are created equally; some leads are clean and some are potentially dirty. The most feared lead is one generated via unsolicited bulk email. There are some highly talented programmers who dislike Spam and sometimes will complete a lead just to see where it came from, and then after seeing your web site, proceed to hack it until it shuts down.

    "Share The Wealth?"

    Affiliate Programs: You can establish a network of affiliates by paying a bonus per lead. Be aware that this method of lead generation can be expensive to establish, expensive to administer and require a significant man-hour requirement.

    Banners - Site Advertising -Newsletters: Internet users have become desensitized to banners and the click-through percentages are generally horrific. On very high volume (Yahoo), or highly niche sites (i.e. a site on relocating to San Diego) you may obtain a few leads, but the days of just throw a banner on any site and it works, are long over. As with banners, newsletter advertising can work, but only if something unusual (i.e. rates at all-time low) or if the recipients are targeted (i.e. a foreclosure newsletter).

    "Enough is Enough"

    Use Short Lead Forms: One of the most common lead generation errors we see is the over-collection of data. Many web sites require a comprehensive two or three page form to be filled out just to talk to the mortgage company. With every field you add, you lose a percentage of people who would have completed your form. We suggest gathering just enough key information to allow your loan officers to contact the customer and begin the sales process.

    "It's All Mine."

    Exclusivity of Leads: One of the most common misunderstandings between a lead provider and a mortgage company is over how many different companies receive the lead. An exclusive lead only goes to one company, and as such, costs more per lead. A shared lead is often sent to two-four mortgage companies, and while costing less, has more direct competition.

    Filtering & Targeting: Because of the varied needs by mortgage companies, some lead providers can filter based on a number of variables, such as: state, loan amount, purchase, refinance, debt consolidation, home improvement, credit status, loan amounts, LTV, credit rating, etc. The per lead pricing will be higher for extra filtering, but the additional cost is generally offset by a more targeted lead.

    "Wine May Become Finer With Time; Mortgage Leads Don't."

    Fast Delivery: Demand real time delivery of leads as this will allow you a prompt response back to your potential customer. One of the most common mortgage-deal-killers is mortgage companies that take more than eight hours to reply an inquiry.

    Buying Internet mortgage leads is one of the most cost effective means to acquire targeted customers. Expect to pay about $25-35 for an exclusive lead with normal filtering parameters (less for semi-exclusive leads).

    With the impact of the recent Do Not Call Registry, there is larger demand for the current supply of available high closing leads. Because of this larger demand, per lead fees have been increasing at a steady pace across the entire industry. And we suggest to you (exactly what you suggest to your own customers) is that you "lock in" your rates now to purchase mortgage leads before prices go even higher.


    Originally published December 2003.

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    Neanderthal Marketing Techniques?


    It used to be your mortgage company could create a web site and then hit your visitors over the head and drag them off to your mortgage cave in order to obtain a lead.

    The Internet has changed a bit. The speed of Internet time is more like mouse years than human years. What worked to achieve a top search engine ranking six months ago; won't make a dent in the top 1,000 rankings now. And what worked in Year 2000 (the Neanderthal age of the Internet) can make your site as hard to find as a living woolly mammoth.

    The Monetization of the Net

    The moral here is the Internet is constantly changing. Not only is it changing, but it evolves much faster than the real world. The net is changing from a huge, free garage sale into a highly organized and highly efficient pay-per-click model.

    MY WEB => BANNER ADS => PAY PER CLICK => PAY PER LEAD => REVENUE PER LEAD

    Vast changes have occurred in the ways you can attract mortgage leads via the net. Over the last 2+ years we have witnessed the evolution in difficulty in obtaining quality mortgage leads.

    MY WEB: The days of a customer stumbling across your site and somehow being mystically transformed into a "mortgage lead" are pretty much history... unless you are a mortgage company with substantial name recognition (DiTech or eLoan) and a marketing budget to match.

    Continued explosive market saturation is an issue. Every time we think that there can't possibly be any more web sites on home loans, we find that there has been a 20% increase in the number of results returned for home loans. In example, when we simply type in the phrase home loan at Google.com we find 3.6M results. The phrase home loans returns 3.8M results, home mortgage finds 3.2M pages and home mortgages reveals only 1.9M pages. Even the typo home “mortage” returns almost 100,000 pages. You have about the same odds of winning the lottery as obtaining the top ranking.

    BANNER ADS: As gaining top rankings via search engine optimization became difficult due to the sheer number of web pages competing for your customers, many mortgage companies turned to banner ads. Consumers have been so numbed to the endless 468x60 banners flashing "Look at me! Look at me!" that eyes have been trained to ignore banner ads.

    Also, pop-up ads, an evolutionary offshoot of banner ads, have lost much of their effectiveness due to the pop-up killer software options.

    PAY PER CLICK: Mortgage companies next went to pay per click (PPC) marketing efforts. A number of problems occurred or mistakes were made by PPC advertisers, including:

    1) The Rambo Mentality: When we engage clients with a PPC campaign, we found little attention was paid to the efficacy of their keyword selection as most companies have just jumped-in with six-guns a blazing, shooting up the bids.

    2) Competitive fraud. In some cases we found a competitor clicking on the client's $4 cost per click over and over (this problem has been corrected by most PPC providers).

    3) Poor keyword selection. In their haste to be "number 1" in every category, companies have bid on keywords that are not always truly relevant to their specific online mortgage site. The best example of this we have seen, many times, are companies that may be regional in nature (serving Oregon, Washington, Nevada, California & Oregon) and yet bidding to the top spot for the term "home loans". The result was that even though they were top listed for home loan, many clicks were worthless because they were from people looking for loans outside the west coast.

    4) PPC management. We also find that the management of the PPC bids was almost as important as the keywords themselves. We frequently found that companies generally had the money to spend on PPC campaigns, but failed to allocate management resources proportionate to their investment. Many companies just bid and never adjust the bid, in effect they had a $1.50 bid for a keyword, yet the bid just beneath them was $0.80, so they were bidding $0.69 too much. At a 1,000 clicks per month, this equates to over-spending by almost $700 for just a single keyword.

    A hidden cost of PPC campaigns are the human costs. We often have witnessed a clerical staff doing a daily, manual adjustment of their PPC bids, only to be outbid seconds later by the automated PPC management software programs.

    One of the major tenets of our company is to "Let no human do what software can." PPC advertisers can actually save human capital by automating much of the PPC bidding process via software.

    PAY PER LEAD: Mortgage companies next changed to the pay per lead model, which worked fairly well. Under this model your company pays a per lead fee. A recent study found that exclusive leads ranged from $25 and upward per submitted lead. Shared leads, with each lead sent to three to four mortgage companies, ranges between $12 and $35.

    REVENUE PER LEAD: We have participated in all of the above adventures from search engine optimization thru pay per lead. We have come to the realization that "Revenue Per Lead" is the next metric originating out of Internet marketing evolutionary line.

    "Half my advertising is wasted. I just don't know which half."
    --John Wanamaker

    With the Web and the advent of highly sophisticated tracking software, online marketers can finally say, "I know which half."

    When we first took on a client we found that many companies didn't, or couldn't:

    1) Track their keyword bid from PPC to actual sale (if there was one) and thus they used an overall analysis of their "success" by guessing that if they had more revenue than it cost them.

    2) Most companies failed to realize that expensive root words - like home loans or real estate, while good for the ego, generally don't always result in the highest rate of return.

    3) Most clients also had difficulty in monitoring and tracking mortgage leads by referral source so they couldn't really tell that even though web site "A" was sending 300 leads per month, 20 were closing, while web site "B" was sending 30 leads per month, 15 were closing.

    By using software to track your highly productive lead generation sites, you can focus on generating even more leads from your top producers. Generally, we find you can have your top producers send even more quality leads by paying them at even a higher rate per lead.

    Evolve Or Die

    So, if your web site is still receiving traffic via the non-PPC search engines, that is good, but your future is probably limited. If you look at the latest indicators of the monetization of the Internet, ie, Adwords by Google, the acquisition of Oingo (essentially a PPC feed program) by Google (Google's press release is even entitled "Google Expands Advertising Monetization Program for Websites - June 18, 2003"), and Yahoo! buying Overture, you can see you are nearing your evolutionary fork in the road - and you can choose with your principals or you can decide with your wallet.

    And if you decide with your wallet, you must be able to not only track the expenses associated with your efforts, but also track the revenues that flow with each expense.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published October 2003.


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    "Do Not Call" equals "Do Not Close Loans"



    A Thousand Visitors Per Second!

    A thousand visitors to a web site each second! Wouldn't you love to be that web site with this tremendous traffic coming to the site with the sole intention of signing up for your mortgage services.

    You Just Lost Thousands and Thousands of Closed Loans

    Unfortunately, that web site is the National Do Not Call Registry, DoNotCall.gov, and consumers are signing up to prevent telemarketers from calling them. After four days, over 12.5M people submitted their home, fax, cell and business numbers (even though business numbers are not covered) to DoNotCall.gov. It would have been more, but for the first week, only the western part of the nation could sign up, the Eastern US started a week later.

    Another 14 million phone numbers were automatically transferred to the National Do Not Call Registry from the "do not call" lists of 27 states.

    Can You Call Your Own Customers?

    According to DoNotCall.gov, a telemarketer or seller may call a consumer with whom it has an established business relationship for up to 18 months after the consumer's last purchase, delivery, or payment - even if the consumer's number is on the National Do Not Call Registry. In addition, a company may call a consumer for up to three months after the consumer makes an inquiry or submits an application to the company.

    The problem is that, generally, mortgage customers do not require another loan within 18 months.

    Don't Call Me, I Will Call You

    The program takes effect Oct. 1, when telemarketers who ring those on the list could be fined as much as $11,000 per call. The DoNotCall.gov tells consumers, "If you register by August 31, 2003, you will start receiving fewer telemarketing calls by October 1, 2003."

    8-Track Tapes, Slide Rules And Doctor's House Calls

    Once a consumer signs up, their phone number will remain on the registry for five years. Essentially, telemarketing for mortgage leads has gone the way of 8-track tapes, slide rules and doctor's house calls.

    What Can Mortgage Companies Do To Keep Leads Coming?

    Several alternatives exist: Media advertising (newspaper, radio, TV), direct mail, direct email (Spam), web based lead generation, search engine marketing and there is always door-to-door campaigning. Let's discuss a few options.

    Direct mail: expensive and time consuming, plus by the time the mailer is completed and mailed, the interest rates may have changed.

    Direct email: More and more states are passing legislation banning Spam and applying financial penalties. Also, there are the negative connotations with mass email marketing as customers don't like it.

    Search Engine Marketing: With thousands of new web sites added every day to the Internet, it is increasingly extremely difficult to achieve, and maintain a high ranking in any algorithm based search engine.

    Internet Lead Generation: Many mortgage web sites are turning to lead generation services, but there are some pitfalls to make sure you work with the best company.

    Positives and Negatives with Internet Lead Generation

    I just got off the phone yesterday with a potential client and he commented how he thought mortgage generated leads were a “scam”. He just purchased over $4k worth of mortgage leads from several other “lead companies” and not even a single lead turned into closed business. In fact, one particular lead prospect threatened to report the mortgage broker to the State Attorney General for spamming his email.

    So you can understand why this particular mortgage broker thought ALL mortgage leads were poor. I explained to him that buying mortgage leads is something that involves a lot of research and it is critical to work together with a reputable company.

    Many lead generation companies today are fly-by-night outfits that are trying to earn a quick buck and do not seriously care about client loan response rates. To stay in business, an Internet lead generation company needs to provide excellent leads at a fair/competitive price.

    Factors to evaluate when selecting a lead generation company include the following:

    Exclusive or Shared Leads: Many mortgage companies seek ways to lower their lead generation costs and often examine sharing leads between 2-4 other mortgage companies. If your rates and programs are very similar to your competitors, shared leads may work, IF you are first to contact the potential customer.

    Lead Generation Source: The manner which leads are generated typically dictate the quality of the lead. Leads produced via newsletters or direct email typically are less attractive as the customer was not seeking you, but received an email and decide to “check it out.” Leads generated via a web site that presents mortgage rate information and invites the customer to receive more information tend to have a higher close rate.

    Lead Formatting: Many lead generation companies just email a lead, or worse, fax a lead to the mortgage company. It is advantageous to receive leads in database format (comma delimited, tab delimited, Excel, etc) so the leads can be assigned according to type of inquiry and the data can be easily transferred into your company database and/or loan origination system (LOS).

    Lead Timeliness: Fresh real time leads offer a higher probability of acquiring a customer. The faster your lead generation company forwards a lead to you; the more likely a lead is to convert into a customer. Please note: it is just as important for your company to reply in a prompt manner. Typically, the percentage conversion decreases if your company takes more than four hours to respond. Other drop-off milestones are the next day and after 48 hours.

    Do Not Call Really Works

    The most viable (and profitable) method for creating closed loans is when the potential customer CALLS YOU, instead of you calling them. The Internet allows people who are seeking a loan to easily find and contact you, thus you really have implemented your own do not call program.

    Next Months Column Article

    Our next month’s column article will include a detailed checklist on what a mortgage company should be looking for when buying Internet mortgage leads. We will discuss the typical pitfalls and how to tell if a lead company is reputable.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published September 2003.

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    Are You Getting The "Word" Out?


    Has a mortgage broker ever said to you, "All my business is by word of mouth." and been very proud about it? If so, we will show you how this perspective can be very shortsighted and have an adverse impact on your earnings.

    In this Internet marketing article, we will examine a few of the myths associated with "word of mouth."

    First Things First

    Let's take a brief test, which usually occurs first? Planning or results? Work - payoff? Hard work - luck? Satisfied customers - word of mouth?

    We think you passed. You have to invest effort before you reap the rewards. You have to have satisfied customers who will tell their friends about you. And if you extrapolate a bit, a lot of satisfied customers telling their friends is much better than a few customers telling their friends.

    Myth: Word Of Mouth Is An Easy Way For Sales

    First, we agree that "word-of-mouth" is great way to sell, but we always shudder when we think about how short-sighted, or lacking in comprehension, the "word-of-mouth" comment really is... Almost always when we hear that comment, we find that it originates from:

    1. Someone who is cash strapped.

    2. Someone who expects business to come to them.

    3. Someone who has the money but is tight-fisted.

    4. Someone who doesn't understand where to market, so they don't.

    5. Someone who doesn't understand marketing and its correlation on revenue. They typically perceive marketing as an expense, not as an investment.

    6. Again, word of mouth is a great way to generate business; it is just that not everyone applies it correctly.

    Myth: Word Of Mouth Doesn't Cost A Fortune

    Let return to the mortgage broker (let's call her Josie) who is actually achieving her business via "word-of-mouth." Josie is busy, but could actually handle more customers, and she knows if she became exceptionally busier, she could add a couple of assistants, and still earn higher income after the additional expense.

    Josie looks back and notices that a client she had in January refers another client in May to her. Then she sees that the customer in May, referred a customer in December to her. She sees that trend occurring several times, and is proud of her good work - and rightfully so.

    After The Harvest, Comes The Food

    But upon further review, Josie realizes that if she had marketed more, instead of a couple of clients referring additional business throughout the year, she could have had 15-20 clients each referring new business. She sits back and discovers that only relying on word of mouth, has cost her additional business. If she had invested in additional marketing efforts, she could have created a larger source of satisfied customers referring new customers to her.

    In effect, Josie saved on marketing costs, but paid for that in less overall revenue.

    Essentially, "word-of-mouth" is an avenue of marketing, but it occurs AFTER you have clients, so it can take a long time to develop if you have a slow acquisition rate of new customers. Ideally, you shorten the time cycle so this can occur sooner rather than later.

    Sales Versus Marketing

    Just a quick review: marketing sends traffic to your site, sales is what you do after traffic arrives. Once potential customers arrive, you need to "sell" them on your services and once they agree to use your mortgage company, you must "satisfy" them in order to receive word of mouth referrals.

    How To Jump Start Your Word Of Mouth Program

    Start your own word of mouth program by attracting customers to your web site. Invest now, receive rewards later. Use pay per click advertising (discussed in next month's article) to drive traffic to your site.

    NOTE: We are not advocating you spend/waste unreasonable sums of money or enter into a race to grow a company to 1,000 employees, what we are advocating is that if you have capacity in your company, be it a one-man show or larger, you need to market to get business, in a responsible, cost-effective, yet aggressive way. The faster you get business, the faster you reach the capacity you want, and with "word-of-mouth" you will be able to sustain that income. And ultimately, if you don't want to grow, you will be able to pick and choose from prospective clients.

    Now a word about your web site.

    Ask For The Referral

    One of the most overlooked methods of gaining word of mouth referrals is utilizing your existing database. Extract a sample of closed loans and send them a thank you email. Be sure the subject you use and your email return address present themselves in a way as not to look like Spam.

    Throw In A Bonus

    Additionally, you can experiment with offering anything from free movie tickets to someone who refers a friend, to a dinner for two if a transaction closes.

    By using email, you can quickly test which offers draw the most responses.

    The moral of the story: In order for "word-of-mouth" to work, you need clients to spread the word, and if you want to shorten the "word-of-mouth" time cycle to get those clients, you need to front-load the number of clients you have. Of course besides marketing you have to do quality work and keep your customers happy so they will spread the…word.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published July 2003.


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    Internet Marketing is Not Sales


    There is often a bit of confusion about the blurry line of distinction between sales and marketing.

    For example, we recently received an email from a brand new client. We were sending his company about 100+ mortgage leads a day. After a few days he wrote us saying, "I have received 500+ leads... but our sales are not very high?" To which we replied, "As we discussed, we do the Internet marketing and deliver the leads to your company. That is our job. We control the traffic flow to your web business. Once they arrive at your company, you do the sales. You control the sales with your staff."

    Let’s talk a little about Internet marketing and what it entails.

    Little Sizzle, a Dash Of Appeal, a Bit Of Allure

    Internet marketing is a lot like marketing low interest rates. You need a little sizzle, a dash of appeal, a bit of allure and something that meets and satisfies the user's desire.

    Here is an illustration of the distinctions between marketing, branding, public relations, sales etc… it goes like this:

    You see prospective borrower at a party. You march across the room, go up to the person and say, in a matter of fact tone, "I have the lowest home loan rates in town. Want to sign up now?"" -- That's "Direct Marketing."

    You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see a prospective borrower.

    You give your friend ten dollars to approach the borrower and they say, "Hi, my friend over there (pointing to you) has the lowest home loan rates, want to sign up now?”-- That's "Advertising."

    You see a prospective borrower at a party. You go up to them and get their telephone number. The next day you call and say, "Hi, I have the lowest home loan rates in town." -- That's "Telemarketing."

    You're at a party and see a prospective borrower. You give two of your friends ten bucks each to stand within earshot of the attractive person and point over to you and say, "I hear that person has fantastic home loan rates." Then they talk about what a great person you are. -- That's "Public Relations."

    You're at a party and see a prospective borrower. That person immediately walks over to you and says, "Hi, I hear you have the lowest rates in town, I want to complete a loan application now". -- That's "Brand Recognition."

    You're at a party and see a prospective borrower. You talk them into getting a loan with your friend. -- That's a "Sales Rep."

    Your friend can't satisfy them so the borrower calls you. -- That's "Tech Support."

    You're at a party when you realize that there are so many prospective borrowers in attendance that you can’t possibly give each your total and undivided attention. So you start at one corner of the room and go to each person you find attractive and shout at the top of your lungs, "I HAVE THE LOWEST HOME LOAN RATES!" Soon you are asked to leave the party. -- That's "Spam” marketing.

    Your Online Marketing Efforts

    Now, how does all relate to your online marketing efforts? Are your visitors looking for something sexy, or are they seeking something more substantial?

    Direct Marketing: Contact real estate offices and escrow companies and ask for a link from their web site to yours.

    Advertising: Use pay-per-click efforts, buy keywords at various search portals, advertise in newsletters and opt-in ezines.

    Telemarketing: Call online mortgage companies in other cities and states and offer to exchange leads for customers you cannot service.

    Public Relations: Do postings in various newsgroups and moderated newsgroups providing helpful information. Also add a mortgage calculator to your web site that anyone can use without logging in our having to complete a sign-in process.

    Brand Recognition: This is something that is earned.

    Spam: Unsolicited emails can produce short term results, but the negative connotations and possible loss of your ISP or web site host can destroy your business.

    Other Ways To Sell

    A few other ways to improve sales for your mortgage web site:

    A Pretty Face: Make sure your web site is attractive and pleasant in appearance. No one likes to see a mortgage site constructed with a FrontPage 97 template and with 13 different color fonts.

    If you are selling mortgages, don't offer anything else. Links to Amazon, your favorite sites, the IRS, are detrimental to you. Customers are hard to get…keep them on your web site.

    Don't skimp on information on your web site. If a visitor has to search, or heaven-forbid, call for ANY reason other to complete an application, then you haven't done your job. ALL information on rates, procedures, about your company, should be on your site.

    Movies Are For The Theaters: Do NOT make your customers watch a Flash introduction of spinning houses, swirling interest rate symbols, flying dollar bills and end up at some monolithic edifice that is your office building. Visitors want info, not entertainment.

    Never bad-mouth the competition from your web site.

    The Promise of More Than You Intend to Deliver: Don't blink and blast an interest rate of 3.95% on your site if it only applies to loans of less than $50,000 and incomes in excess of $400,000. Show ALL your rates, not just the eye-stoppers.

    Tricks are for Dogs: Any traffic generating trick, such as creating a Pamela Lee Anderson worship page on your site, that works will stop working next week when everyone wise to what you are doing and no one will fall for it.

    Romance: People like to treated nice, they like to be cared for -- so, do this for your visitors at your site. Make it easy to navigate your site, answer their questions before they have to ask them and be responsive when they email you.

    Stepping Stones To Acquiring And Maintaining Customers

    What mortgage site owners are really seeking, is the same outcome that often occurs via a marriage. Mortgage web site owners want a relationship that is good for both parties to occur. The sex and romance, while an integral part in the courtship maze, are simply the stepping stones to acquiring and maintaining customers.


    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.


    Originally published June 2003.


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    Duct Tape Is Good Enough & Other Internet Myths


    Duct Tape - The Mystical Force


    Myth: Duct tape is good enough.

    Truth: If you are like me (umm, for your sake - hopefully not), the most complicated tool I use is a stapler. We live on the California coast and a wild storm knocked over a light on our entrance gate. I quickly identified the solution as five quick wraps of duct tape, and, sure enough, the wayward light had returned to its original and upright position. I was quite proud of my almost mystical abilities and the fact that my wife was somewhat impressed (surprised) that I 'fixed' it. The storm continued through the day and within a few hours, the light was knocked over again; my ego took a fall as well.

    Have you ever applied a similar same quick fix to your web site? Have you had a graphic that was nice, but slow loading? Or do you have an "About Our Company" page that says "Under Construction"? This costs you customers and if you are guilty you have learned one of the many lessons of the net:

    Truism: Good enough is just not good enough.

    If you expect your web site to produce revenue, your site needs to be perfect, perfect, perfect. If you have applied a quick "duct tape wrap" fix to a problem, you are losing revenue - it is that simple.

    Myth: Customers have their finger on their mouse and want to use it to explore your site.

    Truth: Visitors are hard to attract and they value their time, far more than they value your web site. As they QUICKLY glance at your site, just one red flag will act as an exit indicator and will cause your visitor to leave.

    These exit indicators can be:

    • A copyright date of only 2001 or 2002

    • An email that doesn't match the domain name, something like mortgagegal@hotmail.com, superbroker@juno.com or lovesdogs@yahoo.com

    • A navigational linking structure that changes from page to page
    Truism: Customers have their finger on the trigger and they will use it to leave at the first red flag.

    Cherilyn Sarkisian?

    Myth: Everybody knows who we are.

    Truth: In the mortgage business, people only seek you out once every 4-20 years, which means you are about as memorable as the name of the best actress in 1987. Even if someone vaguely recalls your company name, say, North Coast Mortgage Associates, how are they to know you took the domain NCMortgageAsc.com. We recommend to all our clients that no matter how "famous" they are, to get a short, keyword laden domain name.

    Truism: You may not know who Cherilyn Sarkisian is, or even be able to spell it, but you know who Cher is, even if you don't remember she won an Oscar for Best Actress in Moonstruck in 1987.

    If You Pay With Peanuts…

    Myth: "The net is free. I don't have to pay for customers."

    Truth: There are many similar, possibly once true, truths, the earth is flat, 8-tracks are here forever, fins on cars are cool and if you build it, they will come.

    Once people got over the "peace, love and anti-corporateness" of the net and determined it needed to be monetized in order to survive.

    Truism: If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. And, if you pay nothing, you starve.

    You Get What You Pay For…

    Myth: Money doesn't influence rankings.

    Truth: A major conversion has occurred within the net from the "it's free" to a pay per click (PPC) model. The PPC strategy is quite simple: Whoever pays the most is listed first.

    In example, for the term "home loans" as of this date, the top five bidders at Overture all pay over $2.75 per click, not per sign-up, but per click. The top bidder is at $3.86. If you want to become the first ranked site, you would bid $3.87. Then it is bid up until your cost tolerance threshold is met.

    Numerous studies have proven top 3 listings receive as many as 50 times more clicks that listings after number 10.

    You can learn more about pay per click strategies from
    http://www.mortgagepromote.com/overture.html

    Short & Secure

    Myth: I will create a form with the info "I NEED" to serve the customer.

    Truth: Customers don't care that you want a wallet biopsy complete with social security, mother's maiden name and VIN number of your car. They want to give you the basic information and you respond with whether or not you can, or can not, do the deal. We have found that the percentage of application completions decreases by 5% for every three questions you ask.

    In the event you have a form that requires the collection of sensitive data, such as social security numbers, make sure that web page is secure and has an https:// not an http:// at the beginning.

    Truism: Keep it short and unless you are secure, your customers are insecure and they will not fill out your forms.

    Am I Hot?

    Myth: A well-designed site means a nice looking site.

    Truth: It used to be that a site had to look "pretty" and you were happy. Soon, mortgage site owners found out a pretty Corvette is pretty-much worthless when you find out it has VW Bug motor for an engine, if any motor at all.

    Truism: Companies have slowly realized that pretty is just the veneer, as in the real world, and it is what lies underneath that drives the machine.

    Hey, My Site Is Usable!

    Myth: Mortgage site owners think their site is perfect.

    Truth: When we perform comprehensive usability and revenue studies for clients, we almost always find at least a dozen problems, each maybe minor in appearance, but when added together we wonder how the site is producing any revenue at all, and how many clients the site has lost.

    At a minimum the following items need to review and optimized:

  • Call To Action Considerations

  • Performance Usability Flow

  • Web Site Continuity

  • Internal Link Strategies

  • Content Effectiveness

  • Navigational Management & Control

  • Visitor Comprehension Analysis

  • Customer Acquisition Strategies

  • Performance Monitoring


  • Truism: Usability used to mean that visitors could "click" from one part of your site to another. Now usability is defined a site that seamlessly and transparently escorts your visitors to your form and makes the customer want to fill it out.

    In closing,

    Duct tape is like the force. It has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the universe together.
    --Carl Zwanzig

    but - it won't hold your web site together.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published May 2003.

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    Does Your Web Site Require a Premortem


    A postmortem is conducted after your web site has died. Management gathers, wrings their hands and wonders what went wrong. In a premortem, you simply imagine a date in the future and accept that your web site has failed. Next you analyze "what happened". Could it have been design, not enough traffic, high interest rates, poor customer service or a combination of factors.

    When doing the premortem exercise, it is necessary to drop all your assumptions and attempt to envision the unthinkable. Here is a premortem checklist:

    Site Design: Is your web site professional in design and appearance? Internet visitors are quick to judge your site by how your page appears to them. Their initial impression will determine whether to explore your site or go to your competitors.

    Owner Ego: Does your web site start off with a message from the President touting customer service, commitment to excellence and integrity? While these are all important, they are not what a customer wants to see initially. Your visitor may ultimately want to get "warm and fuzzy" by reading information on your company, but initially they want information on rates and programs.

    Designer Ego: Do you have a Flash-animated introduction spelling out your mortgage company name or showing image after image of homes, percentage marks and dollar signs? Worse yet, is there a "Repeat Intro" at the end of the Flash animation? Visitors want to get directly to the information they desire, not watch the equivalent a movie trailer preview.

    Irrelevant & Off-Site Links: Does your site have links to Netscape, Microsoft Explorer, your web designer, your Internet host? Do you link to trade organizations, the association of Realtors or an off-site loan calculator page? Unless these links generate revenue for you, get rid of them. Focus entirely on links that benefit your company and your clients. It is exceptionally difficult to attract traffic and many mortgage companies make it very easy to leave the site.

    Navigation: Virtually every site on the net is unique in their own way. While this allows a mortgage site owner to provide its own personality on their web pages, it also poses problems for the visitor, as they have to learn how to use a web site every time they visit. To make this easier on the customer we suggest a left hand side, or top, navigational structure. The navigation bar should be consistent on every web page and, when possible, avoid drop down boxes or java script driven menu's. Not all your visitors surmise that there are 30 additional links hidden under a single word like "Rates"

    Content: Do not underestimate the power of the word. Pictures and graphics are nice, but words sell your site. Words are the key to unlocking your customer's interest in your site.

    Clickability: Make all your links easy to find. The easiest way to do this is make a hyperlink in red or blue and underline. This allows your visitor to know where they can get more information. Some designers will argue that a web page looks "cleaner" by being all the same color and no underlines, but "cleaner" doesn't lead to sales.

    Unique Selling Proposition (USP): Imagine a web site as a newspaper. People look at your site and they want easily determine if your web site meets their needs. In example, if you provide bad credit loans, your USP, at the top of the web page, might read - "Bad Credit Loans for People With Less Than Perfect Credit."

    You must state your USP at the top of every web page. At the top of your loan calculators page it could state, "Mortgage Loan Calculators for Bad Credit Home Loans." If your visitor doesn't see what they want, they will leave.

    Domain Name: When potential customers visits a search engine and types something like "San Diego home loans" and the first listing is MMC-Corp.com, the second is SecondTrustDeedsInCA.com and the third is SanDiegoHomeLoans.com, which do you think is most likely to be clicked upon?

    Make sure your domain name is descriptive. If your company name isn't descriptive enough, then buy an additional domain that will confirm the nature of your site to your visitor.

    Death By Killer App: We have seen many mortgage companies that allow their Internet customer service reps to respond to emails using their own personal email, like: loanlady@aol.com, WallyBear@hotmail.com, BornToBoogie@msn.com or hotloans4you@yahoo.com. All your correspondence must be with your domain name. Two problems occur when you don't use the company domain name in replying: 1) It is unprofessional in appearance, and 2) If your employee leaves, the customer still has your employees address and not your company email address - you could lose customers.

    Poor Customer Response: Customers expect their emails to be answered promptly. While the time frame of "promptly" varies with the individual's perception, we find that mortgage companies that answer within one hour tend to have greater success on the net. Conversely we see that companies that take longer than 24 hours to respond have poor results.

    Internet Advertising: A common cause of web site death is still believing that the "Internet is free." It is not... it has been highly commercialized and in most of the search portals, the top bids are influenced by how much the web site paid to be listed.

    Black Sheep Syndrome: Some mortgage site owners don't "get the net" and have a web site simply because they feel they must. They spend little time and effort on the site and thus it does not perform.

    Contact Info: Provide contact information on EVERY page. The contact information should, at a minimum include: company name (hyperlinked back to the main page), address, toll free number, direct line with area code (because if a client is overseas, but moving back to the US, the toll free won't work), email address(es), hours of operation (including time zone, i.e. EST).

    There are hundreds of ways a web site can die. If you spend just a bit of time on providing preventive health programs, your web site can live a long and prosperous life.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published February 2003.

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    Mortgage Design: Brother-in-Law or Professional?


    You've got a mortgage company and you think you need a web site. At least you want to try it out the "Net" and see what happens. But you don't have a big budget. Maybe you could do it yourself. Or, better yet, you've got a relative or friend who knows a lot about computers -- why don't you ask one of them?

    This is a typical scenario for many mortgage companies that don't have big marketing budgets. The owners of these businesses are savvy enough to know that they need an online presence to provide information to potential customers, but many have turned to a family member or friend to design their web site.

    This may work for some first-generation web sites, but small companies, just like big ones, need to move on to the next generation of web site design. And that's when it's time to stop having your brother-in-law design your mortgage web site.

    CEO Designed His Own Web Site

    I was amazed recently to find out when a larger mortgage company called (25 offices throughout the USA) and the CEO had actually designed the company web site. The site looks like it was designed by by preschool daughter. And I was surprised that he took it upon himself to design it when he could have paid a professional to do it...for much less than the cost of his time.

    Now we all know that sophisticated web sites with fancy graphics and powerful back end programming can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop. But when your purpose is to inform and educate, rather than to entertain or impress visitors, it doesn't have to cost a lot of money to create a decent web site.

    In fact, custom designed web sites with 5 to 10 pages can be created for around $5,000 - $10,000. Which is about as much as closing around 3 to 6 mortgage loans.

    Less Expensive Options

    There are some decent "template type" of web site services that cost significantly less than custom designed web sites. But unfortunately, your company will look like numerous other mortgage companies.

    The other drawback to these "template type" of web sites is that there is not much room for custom features. But it is definitely an inexpensive short term solution for a mortgage company.
    What's more, the site doesn't look like it was designed by a relative or friend.

    Pay Now or Pay Later

    So why is it that most small-business people don't take it upon themselves or get amateurs to design their company newsletters or brochures, but they do for their web sites? Maybe it's because most of us are self-taught when it comes to computers. But learning how to type copy in a Word document or compose an email is very different from designing a web site.

    Perhaps it's that many small-business owners don't realize the potential of their web site as a marketing tool, or they've decided it's better to have some web presence than nothing at all. Maybe they like having family members involved in their business. Whatever the reason, in the end, when it comes to web site design, most mortgage companies come to the realization that it is time to hire a professional.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published January 2003.

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    Fast & Easy Competitive Intelligence


    Fast & Easy Competitive Intelligence On Your Web Site

    You have spent monies to develop and create your web site. Then you found out that you have to spend additional funds to market your site and to drive traffic. Most mortgage site owners have a number of questions:
    • You know your web site is active, but does anybody else?

    • How do you know if your efforts are cost effective?

    • What are others saying about your web site?

    • How do you determine which advertising venues are resulting in sales?

    • How do customers find your site?

    The Internet allows you to monitor competitive intelligence in a very precise manner. You can find out who is linking to you, where you are ranked in the search engines, what web sites have your name on their site, what people typed in a search engine to find your site, which customers you emailed actually opened your email and more...

    Where Are You Ranked In The Engines?

    Most mortgage site owners go the major engines (Google, Yahoo!, MSN etc) and simply type in something that they assume customers are typing, like; Atlanta home loans or bad credit mortgages. Many mortgage companies are surprised when they don't appear at the number one position, or at least in the top 10. In example, Google finds the phrase “Atlanta home loans” has 144,000 pages found with that term and “bad credit mortgage” has 401,000 web pages. You can see it is difficult to occupy a top ranked position.

    A handy search engine is
    Vivisimo.com, which will provide you the top rankings for many search engines on just one page.

    You can also buy modestly priced software such as WebPosition to accurately track your rankings and report any changes. Links to all these sites can be found at the end of this article.


    Page Ranking Tools

    There are two free page ranking tools: Alexa.com and Google's Page Rank

    With the
    Alexa.com Toolbar you can determine how much traffic a web site gets in comparison to others. Most mortgage site owners are shocked to find out how poorly their web site performs.

    The
    Google Toolbar offers a feature called PageRank which allows you to see Google's ranking of the currently viewed page.


    Who Is Linking To You? And Why?

    Sometimes you will be surprised at who is linking to your site. Frequently we will see a competitor with the strategy of linking to your site in an effort to sometimes circumvent traffic from going to you. The competitor hopes that their link with your name will rank higher than your site in a search for your name, and thus receive traffic intended for you.

    You can go to the major engines and typically type in link:http://www.YourDomainName.com into the search box and see how is linking to you. This works for most of the major search portals including,
    Google, Yahoo!, AltaVista and MSN.

    If you find your own domain shows up linking to your self, making it hard to read the results, you can tell the search portals to omit your domain by typing in the following:


    link:http://www.YourDomainName.com -host:YourDomainName.com

    We recommend that you visit the sites linking to your site and read what they're saying about your site. Hopefully these other web sites say, "Great home loan rates!" You may also find customer complaints such as, "Don't get your loan from these guys."

    Now that you found out about links, and links are nice, but much more important is a link that is actually sending visitors to you.


    Hit Log Analysis - What Links Are Sending Traffic?

    When visitors arrive at your site, they come with a trail of Internet code showing how they found you. The trail is captured by your statistic logs (assuming they are installed) and can reveal if your customer found you in Yahoo! or typed in your URL or clicked on a link in email.

    By examining which search terms were entered in the search engines (and subsequently brought your visitor to your site) your can determine what your customers are really seeking. For example, if you have a home loan site, but find a substantial number of visitors arriving after typing "VA loans," you may decide to place more emphasis on Veteran's Administration loans.

    Please see the
    January 2001 issue of National Mortgage Broker for a more comprehensive article on how to use logs to increase your traffic and understand how traffic arrives at your site.

    If your server does not offer logs, there are a number of third party programs you can install to monitor your traffic. Among these log programs are
    WebTrends, HitsLink, AccessWatch and Dynamic Site Stats. These programs can tell you things like, visitors by country, top requested files, monthly statistics, and server errors. Links to all these sites can be found at the end of this article.

    Research & Automated Competitive Intelligence

    If you're looking for ways to track changes to search engines and other web site, the Internet can assist you with this as well.

    Tracerlock.com is an automated online service, which scans thousands of articles published on news sites, online trade journals and e-zines looking for new matches for your information requests. You receive an email report whenever the keywords (usually your company name and your company URL) appear anywhere on the Net. Of course you can also monitor your competitors as well.

    A comprehensive source is found at
    Hoovers.


    Monitoring News Groups and Mailing Lists

    Google Groups (groups.google.com - formerly DejaNews) is the most famous news group searching tool. Simply type in your company name, your URL, your personal name or whatever and Google Groups will search over 100,000 newsgroups.

    This is an excellent source of competitive intelligence, as typically you will find posting such as, "Can anyone recommend a lender in San Diego for a condo?" The reply might say, "I used YourDomain.com and they were great," or conversely say, "I used YourDomain.com and they couldn't close the loan."

    By performing competitive intelligence on your own site, you can learn what others think about your site. And you can use this information to correct any deficiencies and to increase the traffic to your site.

    To access clickable links to the web sites discussed above please visit:
    www.MortgagePromote.com/links.htm

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published December 2002.



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    Is Your Domain Name Costing You Money?


    Your company needs every Internet promotion and marketing technique to allow potential customers to easily find your web site. One powerful way to help stand out from the thousands of other mortgage web sites is to have a professional sounding and easily remembered Internet domain name. The wrong domain name selection can cost your company thousands of dollars in lost commissions everyday.

    Buying a domain name is not as simple as it sounds. If you buy the right name, Internet users will be able to find your site with ease. If you buy the wrong domain, your customers will be confused, and you'll lose mortgage customers.

    Extensions

    There are many domain name extensions available today. Before we get too far, let me say up-front that .com is the extension of choice, as most of you already know. If you are not one of these people, let me explain. Most Web users automatically type in .com when they're not sure of a domain name. So, if your domain name is mydomain.net, users might remember "mydomain" but not the .net extension. In effect, the .net name is sending traffic to the .com domain.

    It's a common problem -- and people will automatically type in .com most of the time. Forget about all the other extensions, like .net, org, .biz, .info, etc. Get the .com name and forget about getting another extension.

    Prefixes

    Many sites use prefixes in their main domain name. The most popular ones are “i" and “e”, but you might also have seen “v”, “z” and “x” with some frequency. I suppose that pretty much every letter can be a prefix, and they don't usually stand for anything. Of course, they don't necessarily have to stand for anything, either, but “i" is most commonly for "Internet”, " e” for "electronic" and “v” for "virtual."

    I stick with “i" and “e” for the most part, as their success has been proven, which is why they're the most respected of all of the prefixes. If you can get a great domain name without a prefix, don't hesitate. However, if you find a perfect name that starts with an “i”i" or “e”, it may be a wise purchase.

    Hyphens

    We are frequently asked, "Should I hyphenate my domain name? It will make it easier to read." Well, the answer is usually no. Look at the domain mortgagehomeloan.com versus mortgage-home-loan.com. Which domain name is easier to explain?

    Hyphens cause you to have to explain your name, and one more place for a potential visitor to make an error. If you have to explain it, you have lost your effectiveness. Make is easy for customers to find your web site.

    Finally, how many major web sites use a dash in their domain name? Not many, and again, this is no coincidence.

    Abbreviations

    Try to leave out abbreviations if possible. If your company is California Home Loans, make sure you get the complete spelling. If you have just califhomeloans.com, you are just making it more difficult for customers to find you. This is even more important if you want past customers to refer people to your web site.

    Which domain name is your customer going to better remember? If your customer can't remember, they won't be able to refer your mortgage services. Another Each lost customer is worth thousands of dollars to your competitors.

    Spelling

    Don't fool around when it comes to spelling. Some people try to play games in this area they'll only confuse people. Don't try to spell something phonetically (the way it sounds when spoken).

    Spelling the domain name correctly ensures that people will find your Web site a lot more easily, and your URL will confuse as few people as possible. Spell it right and move on.

    Trademarks

    You should be aware of trademarks while selecting a domain name. If you register a domain name that an established company has trademarked, you may find yourself in legal trouble. You may be forced to give the domain name to the company, and possibly be required to pay them some sort of compensation.

    Save yourself the trouble -- do a trademark search and stay away from names that would directly violate the law. If you registered a domain name before a company trademarked that name, you probably won't be in any trouble. And if you do find that you registered a domain name that was previously trademarked, just admit your mistake, rectify it, and move on

    Move Quickly or Else

    We had a corporate client that was thinking of registering a perfect domain name for his company. We advised him to register that name immediately. Unfortunately, he did not take our advice. Two days later another company registered the same name.

    My high school English teacher had a great quote that I remember to this day, “You snooze, you lose”. Don’t snooze…and purchase your company domain name right now.

    If the domain name you desire is not available, you may be able to purchase the domain name from the existing owner. Use http://www.whois-search.com to look up domain ownership.

    Technology and marketing promotion on the Internet is constantly changing. You need every Internet promotion technique in your favor to help drive more business to your web site. Stake the odds in your favor by registering a good sounding and well-remembered domain name. And, three years from now when 25% of all mortgages will be transacted over the Internet, your company will be well positioned in having a strong Internet presence.

    Using Your Domain Name

    Whether in print ads or on the Internnet, we suggest to omit the http:// and the www. and just use the domain name. It saves space and increases comprehension. To add to readability, capitalize the first letter of each word in the domain. Capitalizing the first letter is especially important when the last letter of the previous word is the same as the first letter of the next word, i.e. californiahomeloan.com vs CaliforniaHomeLoan.com.

    If you follow the Tips.com above, your DomainName.com will help generate Revenue.com for your web site. GoodLuck.com.


    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published November 2002.

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    Can Your Customers Drive The Speed Limit?


    Are you losing mortgage customers (and money) because your web site is too slow?

    Is There a Traffic Jam at your Site?

    Most web sites are very slow loading and need to be speeded up. If fact, most of our mortgage clients have no idea how slow their web site is until they try viewing their web site on a 56k modem. In fact, almost 90-95% of Internet users are still using slow dial up modems (not DSL or cable).

    The Internet is just like driving on the freeway. If your customers cannot drive the speed limit, they will just speed pass your site and visit your online mortgage competitors.

    You need to add some horsepower to your website to ensure the following:

    • Your web pages load very quick

    • Your customers stay on your site

    • Your visitor-to-customer conversion rate improves

    Sports Car or ‘68 VW Bus?

    Most people try to put everything (including the kitchen sink) on the homepage. One client of ours had 65 graphics on the home page and it took over 2.5 minutes to load on a 56k modem.

    As a general rule, try to lay out your homepage so that the visitor can view all the information on it without paging down. This is called in real world terms "above the fold".

    Pages beyond the homepage can be two or three times its size, especially if the content is comprised of text and not graphics. Keep in mind that although many of your mortgage customers are still plodding along with 56 kbs modems. These users are not likely to wait longer than 10-15 seconds for your mortgage homepage to download.

    Many HTML editors, such as Microsoft’s Front Page have a load time feature built in to their program. You simply create a page then it tells you how long the page takes to load on a 28.8, 56, Cable, T-1, etc. You can then adjust your images and content to ensure your page loads fast. Additional resources are at the end of this article.


    Quick Loading Graphics

    With graphics and digital images, there is always some trade-off between quality and the size of the graphic. There are many software programs out there that will reduce the size of your graphics.

    Use graphics only if they help customers understand what they are looking for or if they convey information that cannot be conveyed effectively through text. And keep graphics as simple and as small as possible; so they load quickly.

    On the Internet, mortgage customers first look for relevant text, not graphics. Make sure you have clear well written text available straight away. That will keep your customers interested while the graphics load.


    Keep Your HTML Concise

    As a web developer works on your web site by updates and changing code; the overall HTML code becomes cluttered with empty and redundant html.

    Most HTML editors offer an option to clean up your HTML by eliminating unneeded code. This not only cleans up your code for appearance purposes, but makes your pages loads quicker, as there is less code to process.


    Cache Friendly Graphics

    When a visitor to your site first enters your homepage, their browser downloads all the graphics on that page. When they continue on to pages deeper in your mortgage website, many browsers will store (or "cache") the graphics from the homepage and use them again on each page on which they're encountered. This saves the same graphics from being downloaded on each and every page of your website.

    In order to take advantage of caching, your site needs to use common graphics on each page. For example, we try to use a consistent top navigation graphic for the entire web site. The first time this top graphic is encountered, it will be downloaded. Each succeeding time it is encountered, the browser will use the cached copy of the graphic, which saves a significant amount of download time.


    Tune-up Your Site

    Here are a few suggestions for tools to help speed your web site.

    GifWizard.com: Offers services to check your web site for “bloating” and shows how your web site looks while loading at 56k, even if you are on a faster connection.

    HTMLValidator.com: A free service that will correct the majority of basic HTML problems.

    W3.org: Several programs are offered including, Style Sheet Validator, HTML Validator (different version), HTML Tidy, Link Checker and more.


    Don’t Get a Speeding Ticket

    Following these suggestions will help you create fast loading content; one of the most important elements of an effective website. Remember that old saying, that the three most important things in real estate is location, location, and location?

    Well, the three most important things in Internet marketing is speed, speed, and speed. Speed will get customers past your homepage, keep them on your site, and encourage them to use your mortgage services.

    Once your visitors can drive the speed limit to your site, you will be ready for the next step content that compels your visitor to become your customer. More on that in next month’s article.


    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published October 2002.



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    Testimonials Equals More Profits


    We get emails everyday from our mortgage clients asking for additional help on their web sites. These companies want to increase their loan response rates and most are missing a very simple (but very powerful) marketing aspect. It is the one thing that is virtually guaranteed to increase your loan business...testimonials.

    To understand why testimonials are so powerful and profitable, we must first look at the basic perceptions of our audience.

    Typical Online Attitude

    Here's how "Mary Jones" (a typical mortgage customer) might describe her online perceptions:

    "In addition to making me an enticing offer, you must prove to me that you are ok to do business with. You must eliminate any fear that I have about doing business with you. Everyday the newspapers are revealing another major breech of ethics by companies. Dishonesty is becoming commonplace. So why, in the face of all this negative experience, should I believe your advertising claims?"

    Eliminating Fear

    What our fictitious Mary Jones has stated is the normal online conditions in which mortgage companies are operating. It is then easy to understand why customers are tempering their buying decision with caution. They don't want to lose money (and more importantly) they don't want to feel foolish. Eliminating this built-in fear and skepticism is the job that testimonials do best.

    The reason is simple: If you say you are an ethical company, people will ignore your self-serving comments. But when others say you are trusting...it's credible. This goes to the very heart of why testimonials are so powerful...they give a mortgage company credibility and believability.

    When you deliver a good compelling offer that is both credible and believable, your sales and profits will increase.

    What Makes a Good Customer Testimonial?

    To maximize the selling power of testimonials, you should keep a few ideas in mind:

    #1 Be Specific

    Testimonials phrased in specific terms pull more weight than more general statements. For example...

    "I saved over $350 per month by refinancing my high interest loan!" is a lot more effective than..

    "I enjoy working with ABC Mortgages."

    #2 Cite Complete References

    "Ms. Mary Jones, President, Jones Inc. Boston, MA
    rather than " M. Jones, Boston"

    The more detailed the reference, the more believable the testimonial.

    #3 Use Photos of the Testimonial Writer

    You will triple the believability and selling power if you print a photo along with the words. Photographs of the person (along with their happy family) work the best.

    #4 Use Customer Terminology and Phrasing

    Resist any temptation to rephrase you customer’s words. You'll generally lower the believability factor.

    Types of Testimonials

    There are three different types of testimonials.

    1. Customers: By far the strongest category of testimonial is the satisfied customer. Through the use of good customer testimonials, increased loan response rates of 20% or more is not unusual.

    2. Celebrities: Celebrities are not as believable as customers. They are not credible because they are paid. They generally increase awareness, but it may not be the awareness you want. And also, most small to medium sized mortgage companies cannot afford a celebrity to pitch their loan business.

    3. Organizations: A local newspaper, trade association, a magazine in your field, a chamber of commerce, a newsletter, etc. Organizations carry a lot of weight because people believe that their opinion cannot be bought.

    How to Collect Testimonials

    Collecting powerful and compelling testimonials should be an on-going marketing function for any mortgage company. It is usually something that is done “when you have time”. Collecting testimonials is a marketing aspect that every top level online mortgage lender needs to be doing on a consistent basis.

    1. Read your in-coming emails carefully and keep a file of customer comments. Follow-up on these potential testimonials and ask the sender if you can use their comments.

    2. Analyze your customer list and carefully craft an email to a select list "Asking for their help". Suggest to them what you are looking for in the way of comments and then let them provide you with their material. The important lesson here: You can't sit casually back and hope for testimonials to come your way. You have to go out and get them.

    Powerful Testimonials = More Profits

    Many mortgage companies are spending a significant amount of marketing dollars getting visitors to their web sites. And just a slight increase in your response rates, can a huge effect on your bottom-line. The time your company spends nurturing your testimonial program will result in increased sales, an improved image of your company, more sales leads, lower sales costs, and overall more profits.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published September 2002.

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    Make Customers Want to click!!

    Everyone should remember from his or her Marketing 101 class the abbreviation AIDA. If you don't remember, then this article will be an "eye opening experience". If you have heard about AIDA before, then you need to ask yourself...are you actually using these time proven marketing essentials. AIDA is especially important on the Internet, where your "words" are what sells.

    All mortgage companies are not created equal. And all mortgage companies also have different marketing programs. But if you are currently marketing on the Internet, then AIDA becomes especially important to compel your prospects to take "action". Without "action", your hard spent online advertising dollars are just clicking away.

    To create a compelling action you need follow these four essential AIDA basics.

    - Attention(A)

    - Interest(I)

    - Desire(D)

    - Action(A)

    If your web site doesn't contain all of these critical items; then it is not a compelling web site!

    Attention (A)

    You must first capture your readers' attention. Picture the web surfer flipping through the Yellow pages containing hundreds of ads, of which your ad is just another. The ad that attracts the reader's gaze has a title that speaks to them personally.

    It says, "what's in it for me". It does NOT say, "what's in it for the mortgage company".

    Spend a good portion of your time on your web site title or the reading process may end rather than start there. To generate attention, consider the flash value of the words in your web site title. A great site will cause the prospect to stop and to investigate your mortgage services.

    Interest (I)

    The body of your ad must have appeal. It must make enough good sense, to be worthy of a visit to your site. Use the description of your site to state the benefits or features your service holds in store for the prospect.

    There are general and specific reader interests. We all want to make a smart mortgage purchase. And Internet customers will be especially interested in buying from a proven mortgage company that can satisfy their needs at the best possible pricing.

    Always look for the unique features of your mortgage services that is not being offered by your competitors. This is your market niche.

    After making logical sense to the reader, you will then need to turn interest into a desire for your services.

    Desire (D)

    Interest alone is not enough. A great web site compels the prospect toward desire. While interest can generally be obtained by highlighting the practical properties of your mortgage services, your words will need to move the prospect further in order to produce desire.

    Is there something else that makes the reader feel happy, confident, secure, hopeful or powerful? You need to convey the emotional appeal of your services to the prospect.

    All human actions result from our desire to either experience pleasure or to avoid pain. Desire is created when your mortgage prospect experiences either an anticipation of pleasure; or expectation of avoiding pain or problems from the use or purchase of your mortgage services. The influence that this physiological and psychological fact has on prospects cannot be overly stated.

    Contrary to popular belief, we don't really desire money. We may desire the pleasure we believe money can bring. We may desire to not experience the pain that might result from not having money. The word "money" only triggers the feelings and desires (within us) which we seek... whether they are happy, secure, or powerful desires, based upon our personal value system and past experience.

    There are always good, better and best words. The right words for creating desire are the ones that elicit biological emotional responses in the prospect. Emotional responses bypass the cognitive process and cause us to experience; rather than merely read words.

    Action (A)

    If your prospect does not take action, there is no sale. How do you get your prospect to act?

    Ironically, not asking for the sale is the single most repeated mistake that stops prospect desire from leading to prospect action. To take action, your web site needs to simply say: "Call this number now", "Email us for details", "Fill out this quick form", et

    If the first three ingredients (attention, interest, and desire) have been well done, and the prospect is a qualified prospect.... this mortgage customer will more than likely take the action you direct them to take.

    Develop your web site with the above marketing principals in mind and check your site to see that the four AIDA basics have been met. You will then have a compelling web site that will start your prospects clicking…and you start making more sales.

    First published April 2003.

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    Controlling the Mouse Button


    • Is your mortgage web site producing very little business?
    • Do you know the top reasons why some sites are successful?
    The Internet can be very profitable and also very discouraging. The 80/20 business rule applies on the Net, just like in the real world. 80% of all web sites we analyze have critical errors that are costing a mortgage company lost business. And 20% of the remaining mortgage sites are making a ton of money.

    The difference between success and failure on the Net is controlling the mouse button.
    KISS Me

    Answer this critical question: "What exactly do you want your visitors to do?" Simple, isn't it? But it doesn't seem that way with the many web sites. The KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) is immensely important on the Net. An effective web site must have a specific goal. It should have a clear objective that will lead to a specific action or outcome.

    For our mortgage clients, the main objective is to have a customer contact them for a loan. This contact can be by email, application, or by good old-fashioned telephone. And surprising enough, a telephone call is usually the best way to capture a new customer.

    Always Be Professional

    They say that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Your home page is the first impression that a prospective customer has of your company. You need to have a professional impact when a customer first visits.

    Your home page is where the selling process actually begins. Presenting a professional image on the web is crucial since the computer screen is often the only thing that separates you from the visitor. Design, color, navigation, and content are probably the four most important elements of a top revenue producing web site.

    The front page must be clean, concise, and clear (the three C's). It must appeal to your audience by using a language that they can easily understand. Visitors often react with negatively to a web site whose message or design confuses them.

    Getting the Customer to do Nothing

    Visitors can only do one thing at a time. If they have to do too many things on the home page, they will do nothing. If you want to offer a variety of different options, then try to focus on one alone and create other pages that are each related to a particular action. In essence, keep your message focused. Use one major theme and revolve your message around it.

    Top Placement

    In fact, most people only read the top section of a web site. It is like reading a newspaper during breakfast (most people call it "above the fold"). Web sites are no different. Therefore, the home page of your web site should be treated like the front page of a newspaper.

    It should entice mortgage clients to navigate further into your web site and lead them to take action right then and there. Focus on your site's major benefits and keep your wording to the point. Use bold, attention-grabbing headlines to emphasize the core benefits that your web site offers.

    List all your benefits:

    Why should a visitor do business with your site?
    What's in it for him/her?
    What makes your company so different from everyone else?

    In other words, communicate to the visitor the reasons why they should do business with you. What is your unique selling position (USP)? A good technique is to use a bulleted and bolded list of benefits (such as when it follows the words "with this site, you get," "in this site, you will find," or "by visiting this site, you will learn".

    30 Seconds To Glory

    Unlike TV or radio, computers are still not considered household items. The computer as well as the Internet are really still in their infancy. Older computers, less capable browsers, and slower modems are still the norm. As a result, frames, plug-ins, and memory-intensive graphics may work against you. Many potential sales are lost due to a slow-loading web site.

    Your site should download fast. According to current telephone research, it found that people start hanging up their telephones when put on hold for more than 30 seconds. The Internet is no different. If your potential customers have to wait for more than 30 seconds for your web page to load, visitors will leave. In short, if they have to wait, they won't.

    The ability to retrieve information quickly is critical for a customer. Therefore, anything that slows their ability down (such as by having a front page over 30-40 kilobytes in size), especially when compared to quicker-loading competitor sites, will cost you in lost sales. Always keep in mind that you are allowed but a brief moment to capture your customer’s attention before they leave.

    WWW

    In the mortgage marketing business, WWW does not mean World Wide Web. It actually means, "What We Want". You need to give potential customers 'what they want'. And you need to give them this information very quickly, professionally, and compelling.

    After spending thousands of marketing dollars getting a customer to your web site, you need to compel them to take action. If you don't accomplish the above noted critical items, this potential customer will leave.

    And guess where these unsatisfied mortgage customers are going? They are clicking on one of your competitors web sites.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published June 2002.


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    Search Engine Myths


    85% of Internet users utilize the search engines to find and research goods/services. So it is no secret that search engine marketing can drive significant amounts of highly qualified traffic to a web site. The problem for many mortgage companies is the difficulty to sift through conflicting information. Here is our list of the top 4 search engine myths that need to be put to rest.

    Myth 1

    "Search engine leads are not as good as those that originate from other forms of traditional marketing (telemarketing, print, direct mail, PR, etc.)"

    This is absolutely incorrect. The truth is many advertising firms don't have a clue about search engine marketing; so they push their mortgage clients to ignore this form of advertising. They simply don't want to recommend anything they don't understand, or utilize an interactive marketing vehicle that requires a blend of very specialized technology and processes.

    We have found just the opposite when comparing search engine leads to other types of leads for our clients. Search engine traffic can be much more targeted, as it is comprised of individuals who are actively seeking info; not just people whose curiosity has been piqued by an eye-catching publication ad or press release. And when we have analyzed the data by tracking search engine leads, we have discovered that CPL (Cost Per Lead) numbers are much lower for search engine generated leads; than from other more traditional marketing methods.

    Myth 2

    "Effective search engine marketing can be done in-house."

    This is rarely the case. The sheer complexity and online competition for high rankings makes this extremely difficult for most mortgage companies. Most companies delegate the search engine submissions to the webmaster or website development staff, who simply don't have the time to understand the daunting complexities required to generate top rankings. Nor do they have the capacity to stay abreast of the shifting submissions and algorithm criteria standards, which are modified continuously by top search engines.
    And in many companies, the search engine marketing process is added to the over-worked webmaster's tasks purely as an afterthought -- as opposed to being addressed formally by the marketing department, with dedicated personnel and a budget.

    Myth 3

    "Off-the-shelf software that submits a mortgage site to thousands of web sites can do it all."

    Nothing could be further from the truth! It takes a tremendous amount of labor and time to identify keyword sets, optimize the content for these keywords, and submit the web pages correctly. Then there is the continual analysis of rankings and campaign tweaking that is required to maintain and drive rankings.

    Software can certainly help to automate some facets of the process and may be used for back end analysis. But you can't expect any application to make the job easy -- there's too much inherent complexity in the processes. And competition for keyword sets is fierce -- as there are an estimated 28 million registered domains (the numbers vary widely) with 60,000 new domains being registered every day.

    Myth 4

    "Any search engine listing will help to drive traffic to a web site."

    This is another misconception. If you aren't achieving top 30 rankings, then you're wasting a great deal of time and resources. Most people never drill down below the first couple of search pages. In fact, after most companies have no idea where their company ranks in the major search engines. After our company does a comprehensive analysis, the mortgage company is usually very surprised when they are ranked #600 out of 2.5 million web pages.

    Moral of the Story...

    Don't believe everything you hear. These are the key myths that abound in the field of search engine marketing today. Don't believe the hype because high level mortgage lead generation from the Internet takes specialized skills, time, and effort. But it's well worth the investment!

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published April 2002.

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    Kiss Your Customers


    The word "kiss" has many meanings, depending on the context. In my family life, the primary meaning is when my little daughter goes to bed, I always give her a big kiss good night.

    In my Internet life, the other important meaning pertains to web sites... yes, your web site. Because "kiss" also means "keep it simple, stupid."

    The best web sites don't assume the client is an expert computer user. Technology is a wonderful thing, but most people are years behind the technical types. Therefore, your web site should be simple.

    And "kiss" is a very critical concept when developing your web site.

    Designing for Simplicity is Not Simple

    The key to a highly successful web site isn't sophistication... it is simplicity. Just take a look at Yahoo. Your customers want to be able to find what they want, quickly, without having to wade through complex graphics and difficult navigation.

    Now here is the hard part; designing for simplicity is anything but simple. But well thought-out simplicity is what can make your successful web site profitable.

    Want Your Site to Have KISS Appeal?

    Most people still use the Net at speeds under 56K and have their monitors set for 800 x 600 resolution. So the best web sites load in about 10 seconds at 28.8 K. Your web designers may have DSL or cable modems; but 95% of your customers do not. And the bottom line is that nobody is going to wait more than 10 to 15 seconds for your web site to appear.

    Content Sells... Graphics Do Not

    On the Internet, mortgage customers first look for relevant text, not graphics. Make sure you have clear well written text available straight away. That will keep your customers interested while the graphics load. Use graphics only if they help customers understand what they are looking for or if they convey information that can not be conveyed effectively through text. And keep graphics as simple and as small as possible; so they load quickly.

    The best sites have simple and consistent navigation. Your average loan customer might view 2 to 3 pages before leaving. So at best, you are 2-3 clicks away from being dead in the water unless you help them get where they want to go...quickly.

    The Obvious Sells

    Make everything obvious. First and foremost, help your customers easily see the information -- white backgrounds are quick to download and help information stand out. Use alt tags (the labeling of images) and easy to read headlines in your content area. Offer concise explanations, with the ability to have your visitor click if they desire more in-depth information.

    I Fell Down and I Can't Get Up

    Provide clear navigation from anywhere; and do it on every page so that you never leave your prospect stranded anywhere on your site.

    Respect Internet protocol. Blue underlined text means hyperlink, or "Click Here". And don't confuse your customers. A confused customer is lost profits. Also avoid underlining or using blue text for anything else. Place your navigation on the top or left of every page; and offer contact information at the bottom of every web page.

    Nah, Nah, Hey, Hey, Goodbye

    A very simple strategy, often overlooked, is to keep all your navigation links within your web site. Unless you want to encourage your customers to leave, don't offer them hyperlinks to any other site. Any trip to the menu bar is an opportunity for your prospect to kiss you goodbye.

    Simple is as Simple Does

    Never make a customer download plug-ins. Average customers do not know how to download. And even if they do, why take them away from the loan process and force them to do something else because some web designer thought it would be cool? Your customers won't say, "Wow!" -- they'll leave your web site.

    If you can't design it into your web site and still have it load quickly; leave it out. And give your customers simple instructions and helpful tools to guide them through the loan process.

    Simple Forms are Completed

    Another simple tactic is to have very simple forms on your site that require just the basic information so you can "hook" your prospective visitor. We have run numerous experiments with the amount of information a customer is willing to give you and we find that more than 10 items will cause the completion rate to plummet. Long questionnaires about the exact balance of the second trust deed and the phone number of your current lender result in about a 70-80% drop off rate.

    And when a Social Security number is asked for up front, many people quit filling out the form in mid-stream. Part of the reason customers don't like to provide extensive information is the issue of trust.

    Do Customers Trust You?

    Keep in mind: Visitors are looking for a reason not to trust you. Use of sites with non-related pop-up windows, P.O. boxes for your address and outdated copyright dates are just a few reasons to cause doubt with a potential customer.

    Pay attention to the details: Check for typos, grammatical errors, screen error messages, images that don't open, browser compatibility problems, functions that don't work -- everything. Then have someone else check again, from a different machine (i.e. if you used a PC with Internet Explorer to create the site; check your site with a Mac using Netscape).

    The best web sites build their brands by creating a great user experience and by making it simple to use their site.

    KISS - "Keep it simple, stupid." Here's what the top web sites have in common:

  • Fast download times

  • Put what the customer wants at the top of the page

  • Few graphics

  • Compelling content

  • Consistent navigation

  • No frames

  • Links in traditional blue (underlined text)

  • No background images

  • No splash page

  • Simple and easy-to-understand

  • So you need to ask yourself, was your web site designed to kiss your customers in the right way. If not designed correctly, you will just be kissing your online profits goodbye.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published November 2001




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    Designed for Show or Designed for Dough?


    If you want to increase your online mortgage sales; you have to begin at the very beginning.

    Your home page is literally 90 percent of the sales battle. If your home page doesn't perform; your visitors won't be enticed to venture deeper into your site - and you will make very few mortgage sales.

    Having a poorly designed home page is a disaster because there is no sale. And that means that the marketing budget, creative effort, and time you invested to get those visitors is wasted. We advise our corporate clients strongly NOT to drive visitors to their home page; until their site is ready for commerce.

    Download Fast... And Earn Quick Cash

    So what are the key things your home page has to do to "do it right"? First and foremost, it has to download fast. How fast? Eight to ten seconds is ideal. More than that and your visitors start to leave from impatience. Beyond 20 seconds and you have turned your web site into a conduit leading directly to your competitor's site. Web Designers might be very talented people and typically live in a world of high speed connections (DSL, Cable, T1) and large monitors. What they may not know is that only around 5% of Internet users have high speed access. The big reality is that most customers surf at 56k or LESS. And the majority of people (roughly 60%) -- still surf at only 28.8k; on 15" or smaller monitors.

    So when we are talking 8-10 seconds, we mean at 28.8k. Yahoo and Amazon do it; as do many other top sites. This means your entire home page should be around 35K or less in size.

    True, most home pages are bigger -- a lot bigger. But that's precisely the problem. More specifically, your problem. These web sites take so long to load that the visitor is gone long before the designer's creative talent can even be seen.

    If you want to maximize sales (as opposed to having a beautiful design showcase that actually discourages sales) then the web designer's challenge is to develop a great 'look and feel' within the constraints of a fast loading site.

    Titanic or the Love Boat?

    Fast download times are just the tip of iceberg. You do not want your site to sink before you even leave the harbor. Equally important is what the visitor will view after the page has loaded.

    You want your visitor to fall in love with your sites. And to do so; here are some of the more critical elements to also follow:

    • Is your unique selling proposition (USP) clearly stated and strong? (If you do not even know what is a USP, then you might want to stay away from the Net entirely).
    • Is your site navigation clear and simple? (You confuse... you lose).
    • Is your web site professional looking (i.e. a million dollar look)? (Many mortgage sites look like the summer intern designed them).
    • Do your graphics integrate well with the entire site? (No flashing mailbox graphics or scrolling text).
    • Does the home page utilize expert sales wording (i.e. compelling content) that encourages a buying decision?
    • Does the home page inspire trust and build rapport? (Be aware that security is more of an emotional issue than a technology one.)Is your contact information easy to find (1-800, address, email, hours of operation)?Are the smallest details (such as fonts and colors) chosen to maximize sales?
    • Does the home page compel your visitors to go deeper into the site?
    • Does your navigation or wording actually compel your visitors to want your product?
    • Does your web site view on all browsers?

    • AIDA - Tropical Disease or Marketing Acronym?

    I'd like to share a powerful tool from the "real world" of sales because it is just as powerful in the virtual world -- and perhaps even more so. It's known by the acronym throughout all marketing textbooks as "AIDA" (attention, interest, desire, and action).

    Every successful sale incorporates these critical elements at every step. These steps drive the process of turning visitors into buyers. So apply the AIDA test to your own home page and analyze your results:

    1. Does your home page grab visitors' attention -- in about eight seconds?

    2. Does your home page stimulate customer interest and reinforce that they are at the correct web site?

    3. Does your home page inspire the desire to take the action of clicking deeper toward a sale?

    4. Is "how to take action" obvious and easy?Once you've tested for AIDA on your home page, test every other page on your site. Are your visitors moving comfortably from your home page, through your entire site, and to your application form?

    If you can't answer yes to all four questions; then you've got some work to do. But taking this extra time to do it "right"; will make your web site one of the few that makes money on the Net.
    And just like investing your Internet marketing dollars (dough) into achieving high search engine rankings. You also need to invest some dollars (and time) into a well designed/researched home page.

    The Net is a powerful opportunity to make mortgage sales, you just have to do the "right" things in the "right" sequence.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published October 2001


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    Spam, Hamburger or Filet Mignon


    Everyday we open our email "inbox" expecting something to satisfy us, yet it seems to be filled with more unsolicited electronic junk mail, also called bulk email (or Spam, as it is called by most people). How much time do you spend everyday purging all this Spam? How many messages a day do you get that start out "Get Rich Quick...." or "Lose Weight Fast..." or even “Interest Rates Have Dropped.”

    Additionally, Spam email often contains a sentence that states that all you have to do to get off the list is reply with "Remove" in the subject line. Do not reply to a Spam email, because now the Spammer will know that your email is actually a real live email address and will start sending you MORE Spam and sell your email address as a “fresh” email address for an even greater barrage.

    Very few people like Spam. And most people HATE it. We have talked with quite a few mortgage companies that have considered using unsolicited email as a form of Internet marketing. Before you take the plunge into Spamland, you need to evaluate the risks you are taking with Spam marketing and here are just a few of them:

    • Will you lose your web hosting provider or ISP connection because of all the complaints?
    • How many potential customers will get upset because of the Spam approach you are taking?
    • Is there a chance you might wind up in some legal trouble (i.e. Federal Court)?
    • Are you buying mortgage leads from an email marketing company which utilizes Spam?


    No Web Host…No Business

    Web hosting providers hate companies that use their email servers for bulk email. The reason is because it uses up valuable bandwidth, disrupts their non-Spamming customers, and your provider receives threatening letters from their wholesale bandwidth companies.

    Banned: These web hosting providers can also get their entire email servers completely banned so not only will you be closed down, so will all of their customers. No one will be able to send emails to AOL customers, Hotmail customers and others.

    Shut Down: Hosting and ISP providers to protect their business, (and to keep their customers happy) can immediately delete your web hosting account and ask questions later. In effect, you have no web site and therefore no online mortgage business. All the bulk emails responses reply to a “dead” email address or web site and simply go on to the next provider of loans. Your time, efforts, money and now your web site are all wasted.

    Disgruntled Customers

    After being deluged with numerous Spam emails everyday, do you honesty think a customer that actually responds to a Spam solicitation will be a “good lead”. Most Spam leads have very poor loan close rates and in fact you will spend more time trying to placate unhappy Spammed people than closing loans.

    In fact, some sophisticated computer hackers get so mad with Spam being sent to them that they will actually hack into your company web site. Hackers have been known to shut down web sites, steal customer information and publish words/graphics that deface your web site.

    State and Federal Laws

    Anytime there is something that makes millions of people complain, it will get the attention of State/Federal lawmakers. You should be surprised that there has been a lot of activity both on the Federal/State levels to put a stop to unsolicited email. There have been a number of bills proposed in Washington, one State bill was passed and several other States have bills pending.

    There is precedence for this; the U.S. Congress passed a Bill in 1991 called the “Telephone Consumer Protection Act” which made it illegal to send unsolicited junk fax mail. It was passed after everyone started complaining about junk faxes.

    Several other bills are pending at the Federal level. One bill would require that the word "Advertisement" or “ADV” appear at the top of the message and that the sender be fully identified by name, email address and telephone number. Another bill would outlaw false headers and return addresses for unsolicited email advertisements and require mailers to honor removal requests.

    Only one state as far has actually passed a bill regarding unsolicited email. That is the State of Nevada. The law requires that such email messages have proper sender identification and that they include "opt out" or removal instructions.

    What is Opt-in Email?

    What is permission based or opt-in email, and how is it distinguished from Spam? Opt-in or permission based email (the terms are interchangeable) means recipients have confirmed their interest in receiving email and have signed up (hence the term opt-in) to receive communications about a subject of their interest. The recipient is also given the opportunity to unsubscribe from the list at any time, and all email messages are clearly identified as coming from a specific and approved vendor or source. Opt-in email is considered an acceptable Internet marketing technique, but still only a step above Spam, essentially “hamburger” as it is still invasive in nature.

    Email Marketers or Spammers?

    As most mortgage companies do not have the technical resources to start their own opt-in email marketing campaign, many companies engage an outside company to fulfill their opt-in marketing and mortgage lead requirements. Unfortunately this can cause mortgage companies to still have problems as some marketing companies are actually selling Spam leads (and not Opt-in email leads as promised).

    Among the 80 Spam emails I receive each day about 10-20+ Spam emails a day soliciting “lower my interest rates”, “refinance before rates go up”, “consolidate my debt” and more. In fact, I get another 5-10 Spam emails from actual Opt-in marketing companies that are trying to sell their mortgage leads. Isn’t that ironic when an Opt-in marketing company Spams me to sell leads and states they do NOT do bulk email to generate their mortgage leads.

    I Spam Therefore I Am Spam

    So you are probably thinking, “Well, we are legally OK because we are not really the people spamming. The U.S. Federal Courts have a funny legal precedent that says in law that says “Ignorance is not bliss”. So if your marketing company gets caught doing email spamming, your mortgage company is also possible legally responsible for their actions.

    Is There A Filet Mignon Option?

    The best most viable Internet leads are not those you solicit, but those that come to your web site seeking loans. Driving traffic to your site can be accomplished via traditional “real-world” marketing (Countrywide), heavy banner usage (E-loan) or by high rankings in the search engines.

    A customer who self selects to visit your site is of higher quality and more likely to become a customer. Now, that should satisfy you…and your customers.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.


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    Compelling Customers To Take Action



    Efforts to sell your mortgage products begin with a headline. It may be in a title of a web page or a top listing in a search engine. Its purpose is to grab the customer's attention and to compel them to take action. The purpose of compelling written content is to cause the customer to take an action; such as filling out an application or contacting your company.

    Apart from increased marketing efforts, there are really only two other ways to increase sales:

    • Improve the major elements that lead to your web site (search engine listings, banner ads, opt-in emails, etc).

    • Improve the effectiveness of your web site in bringing a sale (compelling content, headlines, etc).

    The online mortgage company can fine tune these elements far more easily (and with greater effectiveness) than can be done offline.

    Meta Tags and Titles

    The testing of ads before launching a sales campaign is well documented. But a listing in a search engine is also an ad and is often overlooked. The title tag is the headline that causes the reader to read the description tag. And the latter must bring a click to your site, or else the "ad" fails.

    Since many search engines use these tags to create the listing; improving these meta tags can bring improved results. In short, create an attention gabbing headline that compels the reader to read the listing. Then create a description that compels the reader to click to your site.


    Home Page Testing

    You need to have your web hosting company show you how to view your site statistics. Then look only at unique visitors and page views. This will give you baseline to analyze your web site changes.Also focus initially on above-the-fold, this is the area where the customer first reads your compelling headline. Put your best information first, just a newspaper puts its best articles on the first page.

    The task is to make a content change, then see what effect it had on your page views. If page views increase, then assume the change is positive and keep the new content.

    If there is a decrease in page views, it is then negative and reverse the change. If there is little or no change, nothing has been shown so hold the change or reverse it.

    Keep accurate records about your content changes and what works (and what doesn't). These past records are invaluable in providing hints for later changes.

    No Interference

    Make no other changes in your web site during a testing period. Doing so can distort the results and bring bad decisions. Let the site run with the noted changes until you have a good analysis of your web site traffic


    What To Change?

    Site colors? Images? The page layout? While written content is the most important element on the site, all that supports it should be tested. Try what works the best for you, but in the end it is your content that makes or breaks your site.


    How Much To Change?

    How much to change on your web site is really a judgment call. The headline on the home page is very important, so changing only this one item may be as far as you want to go. There is a lot of guessing to be done and hunches to be analyzed.


    The Bottom Line is Sales

    In the end, it does not matter what you think about your web site. It is really only your opinion.

    When you statistically analyze your own site, opinions are replaced with facts. And the behavior of your visitors is the only real factor and the bottom line is more mortgage loans.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published September 2001



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    What Customers Really Want



    Many Internet mortgage companies view their web site as another vehicle for advertising. It is not. And because of this erroneous belief, their corporate web site does not perform as well as it could.

    It's Not Your Web Site

    The Internet is different from other mass mediums, in that the web is interactive, and the customer controls how the interaction occurs. The customer is in charge of what they want to read; not the web site owner.

    Here Is What Customers Want

    The most successful web sites give the customer 'what they want'. Your web site is for your customer, so design your site to please your customer (not your webmaster or yourself).

    Customers want what you want. When customers go to web sites: they want content, they want information they are seeking, they want information that they were not seeking but is beneficial to them, they want pricing, they want it easy to find and they want it fast and on their terms.

    Give It To Me, Now!

    If customers generally are coming to your web site for one thing - interest rates - be sure to display your rates and terms on the top on your main page. Don't put a picture of your corporate headquarters or staff there. Your customers will get to that information, if they want. But first things first, they want to know your rates.

    Customers Know Fluff

    Web site owners cannot just add a couple of flashy graphics and expect to conduct commerce. That is like taking a '68 VW bug and painting racing flames on the body, thinking that will make it go faster; it won't. And your site won't produce more customers with extra fluff.

    You Tell Me, I Won't Tell You

    Potential mortgage customers want to easily find information on rates and plans. They do not want to have to register or submit their email in order to access the material they seek.

    My Name Is Mine, Not Yours

    Your customers demand privacy and want full disclosure to any and all information you have stored on them. This includes any historical, proprietary, transactional, or confidential information. And don't sell your customer's information to any outside source.

    I Like My Browser, It Should Work On Your Site

    Mortgage companies should do their best and test their web site on as many different browsers as possible. The current browser war can cause major differences in how web pages appear. Often a site can look great in Netscape 6.0, but have problems with Netscape 4.7. Your web developer needs to make sure your site views correctly in all different browsers.

    Zoom, Zoom

    Web developers like to use cutting edge technology. But often, in order for your customer to view your site in all its glory, your customer may be asked to download and install a plug-in component of software. Customers don't like this.

    Don't Ask For A DNA Sample

    One problem with many mortgage sites is that they request a complete history, biography, social security and DNA sample before they give quotes to potential customers. Make it easy for the customer to do business with you by only collecting the critical information to get started. If you are both interested in going forward; then more information can be requested.

    I'm Your Neighbor, Your Friend, Your Customer

    Make your page not only factual but interesting to read. Treat your customer as a guest, and "talk" to them as a friend. Your customer is not a mindless drone, they are normal people. So don't try a deliver your web content in a boring, corporate monotony.

    Speed, Or Lack Of, Kills

    Make sure your pages load fast and your potential customer will at least stay to see your logo and first bit of information. If your site must use graphics and pictures, optimize the images assuming that your customer is accessing with a 56k modem; not DSL or cable.

    One Site, One Map

    Customers like familiarity so be consistent with your site look and site navigation. Don't offer entire new looks or colors for different sections of your site. Your navigation should be first either at the top or on the left. Rarely should navigation be at the bottom of your page and never on the right hand side of your page.

    Don't get too cute with trying to be different. Customers like to see hyperlinks that are blue and underlined.

    Visual Road Markers

    Make it easy to review your web site. Use headings and boldface to allow your visitor to scan your page and find what they want (like we did with this article). Avoid italics and do not use multiple fonts on your page; as they are harder to read.

    You Are The Weakest Link

    Test your hyperlinks either from a computer at home or using a link checking software program. Broken links will cause customers to leave and go on to a competitor site.

    Phone, E-mail, Fax

    Some mortgage companies try and hide behind their web site; only allowing the customer to contact them via email. With our clients, we find about half of all potential customers actually call the 1-800 number. And the other half either fill out a form or use email to request additional information. So be sure to offer toll free numbers, e-mail addresses, fax numbers and real world street addresses (no PO Boxes).

    Customers Are Like Banks

    Customers are like banks - you have to make a deposit, before you can make a withdrawal. The "deposits" you can make are giving the customer what they want - information. Allow them to use online calculators to examine 15 year versus 30 year financing. Offer information on the pro's and con's of higher points and lower interest rates or an explanation of what title insurance does for them.

    Here Is What You Get

    If you give your visitors what they want, you will get what you want… customers.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published August 2001

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    Old Lessons For The New Economy



    The new economy has revealed the potential for explosive growth in acquiring and processing online mortgage loans. Unfortunately many lenders have tried the new economy way to "buy" market share and ended up with an expensive learning experience.

    There are many lessons from the "real world" that can be applied to the Internet, here are a few to keep in mind.

    The Two Evils Of Business

    Those who own a mortgage company can fully comprehended the two major evils of the real business world (labor intensive and capital intensive). They undoubtedly have been sucked into that whirling, endless, cyclic vat of meetings, layoffs, expansion, stock options, shareholders, employee relations, vendor outages, leases, politics, capital calls, legal documents, sour deals et al and probably do not like it... at all. "If only labor and capital expenses could be controlled, it would be a perfect world," they say.

    The Net To The Rescue

    Then they probably noticed this 'net' thing and noticed the potential to possibly reduce the 'employee aspect' (labor) and related needs for physical support items (capital) such as buildings and computers, but weren't sure exactly how to achieve this reduction.

    "Labor Intensive" Savings

    Then they have decided to actually build their own web site as they could clearly comprehend some of the "labor intensive" advantages of having a site: the reduction of sales forces as the traffic is inbound from people who actually want loans.

    Where's The "Capital Intensive" Savings?

    Once these mortgage companies decide to actually build a web site (and determining that they don't want it constructed with a wild array of tacky images) they discover that an online loan presence is more expensive to create than other types of web sites. A mortgage web site requires mortgage calculators, secure servers, frequent rate updates, etc. Thousands of dollars later, they finally have a web site.

    Where's The Traffic?

    Many loan companies (after their web site has been working for six months) find that simply 'being on the Net' doesn't insure business and they say, "We are player in our industry/region, we spent $10,000-$100,000 on our site and we don't get nearly the business we had planned on, in fact we don't get much at all." Many online mortgage companies began to advertise heavily in an attempt to find new customers. Shortly thereafter, fears of creating a new 'capital intensive' expense occur as a new economy marketing plan is discussed and formulated.

    Top Line -- Bottom Line

    In the old economy, there was more of a balance between expense control and revenue generation. In the new economy, start-up Internet mortgage companies, in an effort to demonstrate immediate viability to investors or shareholders, focused on the top line - sales. Advertising was heavy and incentive laden, with some companies even offering one free month of mortgage payments.

    Flat Line

    While sales are the bloodline for any organization, failure to control expenses, and the bottom line hemorrhaging blood faster than it comes in, results in losses. The end result… many online only mortgage companies went out of business using the new economy way of marketing.

    Here are a few old economy lessons to help you with your existing web site.

    Eliminate Minimal Revenue Creation Events

    Banner ads continue to achieve lower and lower click-through rates, resulting in higher customer acquisition costs. Search engines continue to be the most cost effective lead generation alternative for most online loan companies.

    Lead, Communicate, Take Action, Commit, Understand

    We find the most successful loan web sites are those where the CEO or owner is web savvy. They 'get' the net, they understand the net and they use it as a tool. If you want your web site to become successful, take the time to become Internet proficient yourself: there are no short cuts here.

    Don't Pollute

    Stick to your expertise and focus on what you offer - loans. In the old economy you did one thing, and did it well. In the new economy many companies try and squeeze every penny from a web site by linking to non-related sites. Do not have links to Amazon.com, your web designer's home page, Microsoft or other links that in effect divert your customers' attention away from your site, and towards something else. That $20 Amazon affiliate commission check you receive is just not worth it to lose a $2,000 commission from a loan customer.

    If You Must Make Mistakes, Then Learn

    If your site is not working, then fix it. If you have traffic and you are not receive applications for loans, then something is wrong with your site, not with your visitors. Perform a review on your site appearance, the written content and the rates. As usually the problem for poor sales is one (or more) of these three items.

    Feed On Feedback

    Read the emails from your customers. Are they complaining about how hard it is to find information, that you require too much information on your forms or that your rates are just too high? Are you even getting email?

    Talk To Your Customers Like, Umm, Customers.

    The Net tends be more depersonalized than the real world. Many of our clients have us perform competitive intelligence on other sites. We are constantly amazed at how insensitive, uncaring, inept, non-question answering and incomplete the email responses are to our inquiries.

    Don't use heavy corporate dictate type emails. Emails are a one-to-one experience, and while you should be professional, also be friendly, and, umm, a bit more human in your responses. If you provide old economy service to your new economy customers, they will be more likely to use your service.

    New Rules + Old Ways = Cash

    You will probably never totally control your labor and capital evils, but by using the new economy Internet and applying 'old economy' controls and customer service you can create a handsome offspring…profits.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published June 2001


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    Can Your Web Site Pass This Marketing Test?


    This month we are going to offer you a quick and easy test to determine if your web site is structured to maximize your revenues from your marketing efforts.

    All Roads Lead To Rome

    Does your web site pass the 'www-enabled' test?

    [] Yes [] No

    Visitors can type http://www.mydomainhere.com and arrive at my site.

    [] Yes [] No

    Visitors can type mydomainhere.com and arrive at my site.

    This is an easy test - but don't just answer the question. Actually type in your domain name in your web browser; you may be unpleasantly surprised.

    You want to make it easy for your visitors to easily type in your domain name and arrive at your web site. Simply type your domain name as http://www.mydomainhere.com and as mydomainhere.com, without the http://www

    It is estimated that 3-5% of all new web sites are not able to display webpages in both modes. If you are not fully www-enabled, your customers won't see your web site and will then go to one of your competitor's sites. A simple call to your web host can make your site www-enabled.

    Look Over Here… Over Here… Hey, You - Over Here!

    Do you know how effective banner ads are?

    Click-through percentages: [] 0.5-2% [] 2.5-4% [] 5-6% [] 7+%

    We have all seen the banner ads that flash, jump, twinkle, shout and beg for attention. Many loan companies (given the potential value of a closed loan) use banners to market their site. Various studies have shown a steady decline in the click-through rates, with most findings in the 0.5% to 2% range. The NPD Group, a research organization specializing in consumer purchasing and behavior, found that users were 20-40 times more likely to click on a link via a search engine versus a banner ad. Something to think about when starting an Internet based marketing campaign.

    Who Goes There?

    Which customers that arrive from search engines; do they actually fill out a form and receive a loan?

    Which search keywords typed by your visitors and who actually closed a loan: [] I know [] I don't know [] What?

    There are several ways to decide the effectiveness of your Internet marketing campaigns. Many marketing managers give the vague, "I know this search engine ranking is sending us a lot of leads," or "This banner is really producing." But few companies actually have the programming to accurately determine the very source of EACH lead and then follow it to see if it resulted in a closed loan.

    If you are spending any amount of significant money on Internet marketing you need to install programming to monitor the specific effectiveness of your banner ads and search engine ranking efforts.

    Who Goes There? Part II

    How do your customers (who close loans) get to your site?

    Percentage of visitors resulting in sales from search engines: [] 25% [] 35% [] 45% [] 55%

    The NPD Group study also found that traffic arriving from search listings resulted in 55% of all Internet purchases which was six times more sales from banners ads.

    Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

    Do you actually have the keywords on your web pages for which you want to be found?

    A search for "home loan" and "home loans" will return the same results in any search engine: [] Yes [] No

    For example, if you do VA loans and a potential visitor types in "VA loans" in a search engine, there is a chance you will be found. Search engines are absolute in their results and if the visitor types in "Veteran's Administration loans" in a search engine and you don't have "Veteran's Administration loans" anywhere on your site; you won't be ranked. In fact most search engines will consider "VA loans" and "VA loan" as different as "VA loans" and "dandelions."

    Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say - Part II

    Can your visitor tell what you are offering in 5 seconds or less?

    Each and every page starts off (without scrolling) with a compelling statement of what that webpage is about: [] Yes [] No

    Don't make your visitors have to scroll down, or worse - sideways, to find what your web page offers for them. For example, if the web page offers information on jumbo loans then at the top of your page it should state, "We offer Jumbo Loans for single family homes." Sounds simple, but many web sites do not do this.

    I Look Great, Don't I?

    Did you know that different browsers can show your web page differently?

    Have you tested your web site with: [] Internet Explorer (IE) 5.x [] IE 4.x [] Netscape Navigator(NN) 6.x [] NN 4.x [] AOL [] Mac based [] Web TV [] Opera

    While Internet Explorer commands the market share for browsers, there still are a myriad of browsers and platforms net surfers use to browse your site. If you aren't checking your pages under different browsers and computers combinations, you are potentially writing off business with anyone not using your specific computer configuration.

    Other considerations include screen size and fonts. There are many different screen resolutions at which your monitor can be set. Roughly half of all users choose the 800 x 600 pixel screen size. Approximately 40% set their screen size to 1024 x 768 and 10% use a 640 x 480 size. Each of these resolutions can change the layout of your page by increasing or decreasing its size.
    On occasion a web site owner will select a unique font that looks great on their site. The only problem is that if the viewer does not have that font installed on their computer and their computer will default to an entirely different font. This means your web site might view very differently for this customer.

    Let's Get Together

    Can your easily customers contact you?

    On every page, I have: [] e-mail address [] company address [] company name [] direct dial number

    Seems like a simple enough question, but you would be surprised at how many web site owners think they need all their contact information (email, address - no PO boxes, phone numbers) on their main page but not on other pages inside their site. Make it easy for customers and have your critical company information on EVERY page.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published June 2001

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    Is Your 'Killer App' Killing Your Business?


    There are many killer app's on the Net, one of the more powerful applications remains email; especially requested email. Email is a cost effective customer-service application and is the single most efficient method available to a mortgage company.

    So why are so many mortgage companies 'killing' themselves with poor emails?

    Just like everything else on the Net, these companies were never told the "right" way or the "wrong" way.

    Email Is So Simple a Child Could Do It

    Anyone can send an email -- just look at your inbox. The real management issue is how to send a compelling email in response to a customer inquiry. An email that will meet the needs of your potential customer and will result in increased business for your company. Let's review a few of the elements required to make your email responses result in success.

    Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

    Focus. Focus. Focus. The mortgage web sites that produce the most business tends to be focused; plus offer attractive pricing. We still see a few sites that have links to Amazon or to life insurance sites or wherever. Don’t dilute your site with these banners or distracting ads as your business is loans. And a loan is worth more money than you will ever make from Amazon in a lifetime.

    If you offer FHA loans, your site should have everything people ‘need to know’ as they are searching for information and seeking an expert. It is not enough to say, “Hey, we do FHA.” If your site is void of substance, you won’t receive email because…

    The Journey of a Thousand Sites Begins with a Single Click

    Before we discuss email, let’s focus on your site; where customers go before they send email. Searching for information on the net can be a grueling process, but ultimately people find what they want (or give up). Your key to success is offering the information that people want...on your site. If you do a good job at this, the only emails you will receive are from customers ready to proceed.

    Don't Break My Heart

    Online (as in the real world) you must have a continuous set of UNBROKEN events that culminates in a closed loan...and a happy customer. If just one sequential item breaks, the loan does not go through. It can break your heart (and your cash flow) when you don’t close as many loans as possible. So let’s examine the email process.

    I Am Spam, Spam I Am, Am I Spam?

    The subject line of your response is critical.

    You don't want to sound like a Dr. Suess book.

    By replying with just the words in the subject line: "mortgage loans" you can fool the client into thinking it is possibly an unsolicited email. The subject line should be much more descriptive so the customer knows it is not spam and the email is an important reply from your company.

    We would suggest a subject line that says "Response to your loan inquiry - XYZ Mortgage" or better yet, “Alicia, this is in response to home loan inquiry from XYZ Mortgage."

    Measure Twice, Cut Once

    We suggest that our clients compose template responses to emails. Most companies will require 5-10 standard responses such as: “Our current interest rates are,” or “Here are the loan application steps.” When constructing your emails be sure NOT TO SHOUT (all caps) and don’t use excessive punctuation like this!!!!!!

    One of the problems with visitor created email is that they generally don’t know everything to ask, i.e. “I asked for this, but I really meant...” By developing a comprehensive FAQ list and incorporating the FAQ’s into your email (and onto your web site) you can be of great service to your customers.

    Up Front and Personal

    There is a joke that goes as follows: “My spouse keeps complaining that I never listen, or something like that.”

    When a potential customer visits your web site and requests information; are you really sending what they requested? The critical aspect to using a template response is to place the answer to the customer’s question first and at the top of your email reply. Even though the answer to the customer’s inquiry is embedded in your comprehensive FAQ; copy and paste the answer and place it at the top of the email so they customer can easily find it.

    The moral of the story is to answer the customer’s question FIRST. If not, all your efforts to build a web site, drive customers, and to convince the visitor to give you information...is lost.

    I'm Late, I'm Late. For a Very Important Date.

    Your response time to a customer inquiry is crucial. If you expect to gain additional business from the Internet you need to respond in a very timely manner. And in Internet time, that generally means within a few hours.

    I Be Professional. Iz You Guys?

    A professional appearance is vital so your customers feel comfortable working and completing their loan with your organization. Your email response must be free of typos and utilize proper grammar. Items such as missing punctuation, layout problems, and capitalization of words, should be corrected before sending to the customer.

    Leave a Trail For Your Customers

    One of the most overlooked aspects of a great email response is the "signature" at the end of the email. It should comprehensive so the person can contact your company via email or phone or so they can go back to the web site with a click of the mouse.

    The elements of an effective signature are:

  • name, title


  • mailing address


  • email address


  • direct, fax & toll free numbers


  • hyperlink back to your web site


  • Competitive Intelligence

    And finally, you may want to consider a little competitive intelligence work and visit those sites that offer the same mortgage services as you. Complete their application forms (using a Hotmail or AOL address) and receive their email responses. You may be surprised at what you find.

    You are in a very competitive business (some say cut throat), so by using the full power of your follow-up email's, you can make a 'killing.'

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published May 2001


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    The Internet Cake Recipe for Success


    As all web site owners eventually find out, an effective Internet presence is more than a snappy design or a page full of spinning graphics. It is not enough just to produce a site; you have to produce a site that produces results.

    First, as in the real world, you must realize your mortgage company does not exist to sell just mortgages; it exists to solve problems for your customers. And if you solve their problems…you will sell mortgages. If your mortgage site does not provide solutions for your prospective customer, you will not receive business from that customer.

    Four Cups Of Flour, Two Eggs, Bake…

    Effective web sites are created much like a cake recipe. If you leave out any ingredient (flour, eggs, water/milk) or a certain step (baking), the cake will not turn out as you planned. Our company has developed numerous web sites and in that process we have fine-tuned many of the required business model elements in order to produce successful web sites. There are at least ten simple elements necessary for your mortgage Internet business to be effective.

    And as with a cake recipe, if ANY element is missing, you will NOT have an effective Internet presence.

    Here are at a minimum, the elements required for a successful mortgage site:

  • Product - Service

  • Design - Appearance

  • Convenience - Layout - Navigation

  • USP - Competitive Advantage

  • Data - Information - Knowledge

  • Content - Trust

  • Price - Quality - Value

  • Traffic - Marketing

  • Sales - Profit

  • Customer Relationship Management


  • Product Service: You must clearly state (at the top of each page) what you are offering to your customers. Examples of products can be VA home loans or home equity loans. Examples of service would be loan servicing or escrow.

    Additionally you must have a viable product or service. We always tell our clients that “if you can’t sell it in the real world, it won’t sell on the net”.


    Design Appearance: A common misconception is that a “wow” site will result in more business. That really isn’t true. We find that the appearance of your site is usually scored as a “pass fail” by your visitors: if you have a nice site you pass, and they will stay. But a site that is drab and unprofessional you fail, and it will cost you business, as your potential customers will leave…and go to one of your competitors.

    Convenience Layout Navigation: Once your visitor decides to stay on your web site you must offer an easy way to navigate your web pages. By placing your most important information at the top of your page and having a well-defined navigational menu, you become convenient to your visitor and save them time. Your layout should be consistent throughout your site. So if you have your navigational menu on the left, keep on the left on every page.

    USP Competitive Advantage: You have to position yourself as an expert in your niche. You must state your USP (unique selling position) at the top of every web page so that visitors know they are at the “right site.” Examples of USP’s are: We close fast on FHA loans. We specialize in problem credit loans.

    Data Information Knowledge: Data is simply factual information. Average sites provide data to their customers and the customer processes the data.

    Information is data that is organized so it can be used to process who, what, why, where and what questions. Good web sites organize the data to provide information to their customers.

    Knowledge is the application of data and information into understanding. Great web sites provide knowledge for their customers; ie instead of just a home equity loan, take out an entirely new home loan as your monthly costs will be lower than what you would have paid with your existing first loan plus the home equity loan.

    A great mortgage site that emphasizes knowledge allows your visitors to use your web site as a tool, thus increasing the utility of your site and causing visitors to find value and trust with your company.

    Content Trust: It is not only the information on your site, but how your content is delivered. You must sculpt the words on your web site to convey your image, your style and your message in a professional and compelling manner. Since the Internet predominantly uses the written word, your ability to communicate with the content of your site, will determine the success of your site. A well-written site will convey trust…and trust will lead to sales.

    Price Quality Value: Because your customer can quickly and easily search the web, the price and quality of your product or service (coupled with the customer’s perceived value of your site) is important in the customer's decision-making process.

    Traffic Marketing: What good is it if you built a web site and nobody came? Traffic building is probably the most difficult aspect of the following elements. With hundreds of thousands of competing web sites, you must target the type of customers you can best serve.

    Sales Profit: You cannot give your product or service away. Sure there are loss leaders, but ultimately you must generate a profit; after the day to day operating costs plus the long term cost of capital. And you need sales to keep your business afloat. If you are “just 1-2 points” higher than other sites, you will not receive loans from the Internet.

    Customer Relationship Management: While this is the current business buzzword, very few web sites practice the online version of this concept. Make it easy to call you (put your toll free number and e-mail hyperlink at the top and bottom of every page) and include information about your company. Respond back to emails within hours and return all your phone calls.

    The Internet Cake Recipe

    You now have the necessary ingredients to produce a successful web site. Simply provide a quality product or service at a reasonable price, write compelling content, with an effective design, plus an easy to follow layout, and then market your site to the net, which results in a constant stream of targeted traffic and visitors directly to your web site, then by offering great customer service you will achieve sales.

    It will be the best cake you ever had; if you do it right…

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published April 2001


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    Wednesday, April 4, 2007

    Why Your Customers Can't Find You Online



    Many mortgage site owners look lovingly at their site and think, "My site is beautiful. How can I not be listed 1st in the search engines?" And if they are listed 1st in the search engines; this will then cause potential mortgage customers to flow endlessly to their web site.

    It doesn't take long to determine that (in reality) your web site probably won't be listed at the top of the search portals... probably not even in the top 100 listings. In many cases, mortgage owners are stunned to find out they are not even indexed by many search portals. And if your potential mortgage customers can't find your web site…you will not receive much Internet business.

    A couple of quick definitions to help understand this article:

    Search portals: Includes engines and directories such as Yahoo!, AltaVista, HotBot, Google, Northern Light etc.

    Spider / Robot / Index: The process of a search portal sending a probe to your site to "read" the content of your site so it can then "rank" it.

    Here are reasons why your site might not be listed in a search portal:

    Hey! Over Here! Look at Me!

    Let's start at the beginning. Did you submit your site? Did you submit your site to every search portal?

    Many webmasters think that search portals will actively go out to the net and ferret out every site, including yours. It just doesn't happen that way. You must go to each 'add url' page and tell the search portal to come to your site and spider (index) your web pages.

    You have to accurately (and more importantly…properly) submit to each search engine and search directory. Each portal has specific requirements on the information you must provide.

    For example Yahoo! states the following: your site must support multiple browsers; be in the English language, must be up and running 24 hours a day, seven days a week; have no parts of the site under construction; all links on the site must work and the site must contain substantively unique content that is not already accessible from the Yahoo!

    Leave A Trail of Breadcrumbs

    You must leave a trail of breadcrumbs for the search engine spider to travel your site. Most often links from the main page are followed which allows the rest of your site to be indexed.

    Here are the most common barriers to NOT getting additional pages in your web site indexed:

    • Use of frames. Some spiders cannot follow links on framed sites. You should have an "include links" tag inside your NOFRAMES tag.
    • Image map links. Some spiders don't recognize links in image maps.
    • Absence of links: Many web sites have a "splash page" which only has an "Enter Here" button.
    Server Failed To Serve

    While many Web host companies promise 99.9% uptime per month, that still works out to about an hour a month they can be down. Numerous studies show that 22-46% (depending on the study) experience 'prolonged downtimes' last year. And if your site is down when a spider visits, the spider won't return and will mark you down as a dead site.
    And if your site was already indexed by a search portal and the spider returns to update its records and finds a "down site," you can be delisted.The easiest solution is to buy quality hosting. You can use a program like NetWhistle.com to monitor your sites uptime 24 hours per day and alert you to problems.

    You Didn't Feed The Spider What It Wanted

    Some search spiders won't index dynamically generated asp, cgi or other pages containing a question mark (?) in the url. This means if you have a page that brings up toady's interest rates from a database, you may not get included.

    Since most search engines robots can only index static pages you may need to create a static page so the spider can actually read and index the content.

    Trickery, Spoofing & Fooling

    If you have mistakenly or intentionally included elements in your site that is deemed as "Spam" by the search portals you will not get listed; or worse you could get blacklisted. Examples are the excessive repetition of words (home loan, home loan, home loan) or attempting to hide additional text by using black text on a black background.

    Splash, Flash, Crash

    Many web designer firms like to show their ability to create beautiful sites and may use software such as Flash. One problem with web sites created with Flash is that these sites do not contain links that can be followed by most spiders, so the spider finds no content and no links (i.e. you will not get indexed).

    Buried Treasure

    You may have a wealth of information on your site and you may have had an overly organized web designer that has created subfolders for everything such as 'our company,' 'rates,' 'location' and 'loan application.' The problem is that some search portal algorithms have determined that the most relevant and important information is kept in your root directory and not in subfolders; so they don't spider subfolders.

    Oops, They Dropped The Ball

    Sometimes search portals have a glitch and just drop sites. Sometimes search portals look at the date your web site was last modified and deem it is "out of date" and delist you to make room for more pertinent and "up to date" sites.

    Are We There Yet?

    Be patient. Most search portals indicate they will index your site within 2-6 weeks after you submit it, but in reality it sometimes takes months before the spider actually visits. Some search portals may go even 2-6 months without adding new sites as they tweak their algorithms or attempt to find additional funding. There is also a tremendous backlog of sites and thousands and thousands of sites are requesting indexing every day.

    You can test to see if your site has been indexed by going to each search portal and typing your domain name in various ways, including: domain.name, url:domainname.com, site:www.domain.name and http://www.domain.name. Each search engine searches differently so you must test each version.

    And Now The Race Really Begins To Reach Your Customers...

    Assuming you have done everything "correctly" and your web site is indexed; you have now earned the privilege of competing with hundreds of thousands of web pages that contain the words "home loans" or "mortgages." The Internet is a competitive business world, but it also can become very financially rewarding if you market your corporate web site "correctly" to the search engines.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published March 2001


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    Tune Up Your Mortgage Web Site


    Your web site can always use a "tune-up." Web sites are more fickle than cars and require more attention to keep them running in top shape. In this article we are going to discuss online resources that can help you improve your traffic, many of which are free.

    According to CyberAtlas.com the average Internet user stays less than 50 seconds on a typical web page. Given this short period of opportunity, everything has to be correct to entice your potential customer to stay longer. A simple web site error, if not easily corrected, can cost you thousands of dollars in lost loans. Let's examine how to 'get your motor running' with your mortgage web site.

    Are You Compatible With Your Customers?


    You will need to run a browser compatibility test in order to verify that your web site will adequately display in different browsers and versions. While there are only two major browsers, Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), your customers' viewing results can vary widely. According to WebSnapshot.com IE 5.x is the dominant browser.

    One of the major problems (often surprising site owners and webmasters alike) is discovering that your web site looks different with different browsers. You must ensure that your web pages can be viewed in both Netscape, which has 13.6% of the market, and Internet Explorer (IE) with 85.6% market share (and the remaining small percentage are browsers like Opera).

    Many a 'stunned owner' has opened their site at a client's location to find the browser used doesn't show the site correctly. To further complicate proper viewing of your site, there are multiple versions of each browser. In example IE 5.x has at 3 major least versions; while Netscape 4.5 has at least nine release versions. Each version has quirks that can result in viewing problems.

    There are several "tests" to perform here… the simplest is to upload your site then view it with many different computers, including at least one computer that runs the AOL browser. Of course when you start inserting other variables, such an Apple computer or old versions of browsers, viewing can become even more interesting.

    There are online resources such as NetMechanic.com, WebWiteGarage.com and Browser Tester (vnet.webprovider.com/tools/restester.htm) can help you with your browser compatibility. If you really have to know how each HTML tag varies between IE and Netscape visit: blooberry.com/indexdot/html/tagindex/a.htm.

    Ready For Your Screen Test?

    Screen resolution is another often overlooked issue. We have this "debate" with 90% of our clients. A site may look perfect on your webmasters 19" monitor, but when viewed with a laptop or 14" screen, you may find yourself having to scroll horizontally to see the entire content. This annoys your potential customers; so don't do it.

    According to WebSnapshot.com, about 6.8% of your visitors still have 640x480 resolution.

    Other web statistics estimate as high as 11% use the 640x480 screen size. In essence, you are causing approximately one out of ten visitors to your site to have to scroll to view your entire site. It is not worth doing this as many customers will elect to "click away" from your site; rather than scroll.

    Mortgage Promote.com suggests you build your web site at 600 pixels, which will accommodate a 14" screen and easily print on an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper.

    Do You Want Your Customers To Get The Really Big Picture?

    Many mortgage web site owners want to provide many features to customers, such as calculators, online applications and interest rate monitoring, and have images for each element. Images are an integral component of almost all web sites. Unfortunately sometime the file size of an image, or the total number of images, can be so large that it takes longer to load the image(s), than your entire web site. Most good graphic artists understand how to optimize image size using a program like Adobe's PhotoShop.

    With your mortgage site, you have to be sensitive to both file size and overall image display size. Very large graphics, or too many graphics, can take excessive time to load. Often, you can improve load time by scaling them down. An online resource to minimize your image size can be found at NetMechanic, GifWizard.com or at GifOptimizer.com. All of these sites allow you to upload your image and then they will automatically reduce the size of the image to allow it load faster.

    Are Your Links Solid?

    Another common problem with evolving mortgage sites is that as web pages are added, updated and deleted, sometimes not all hyperlinks are updated as well. At JimTools.com you will find a handy link checker to easily identify dead links. GifWizard.com also offers a link check utility. We suggest you run this tool every time you upload new pages.

    HTML Validation

    There are many online programs that will check the validity of your HTML. Among them are WebSiteGarage.com, JimTools.com, NetMechanic.com, Doctor HTML (drhtml.imagiware.com) .

    HTML validators find common HTML code errors, suggests appropriate fixes for most errors, and often generates a repaired file for you to upload. One problem with most of the validation programs are the hundreds of lines of errors they will find when encountering proprietary tags used by programs such as Cold Fusion (Allaire.com) or FrontPage 2000 (Microsoft.com).

    He Ain't Heavy, He's My Web Page

    There are numerous opinions as to how large a web page should be, with most opinions agreeing that the total file size (images and content) should not be larger than 30k-60k. If your pages are greater than this (especially for those still using 28k modems) may cause visitors to leave because your page just takes too long to load.

    If you find you have web pages that take too long to load, consider creating multiple web pages rather than one large page, to minimize the load burden. WebSiteGarage.com offers the following analysis of load times: Excellent <10>30 seconds. NetMechanic.com and
    WebSiteGarage.com both offer a load time checker.

    Chek Yur Speling

    There are numerous online sites that will check the spelling on your site, including bCentral (siteowner.bcentral.com) and JimTools.com. Additionally many HTML editors such as NoteTab (NoteTab.com) or FrontPage have spell checking capabilities built into their software.

    Vroom! Vroom!

    In short, there are many excellent software programs, online utilities and helpful web sites to aid you in tuning your site. Once you have utilized these many online resources; your web site should run perfectly.

    Originally published February 2001

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    How To Really Monitor The Effectiveness Of Your Site



    Understanding your web sites performance is more than just reviewing how many 'hits' you have had in a day. Do you really know from where your site is receiving traffic? How effective is your online marketing program? How in depth are your visitors going into your site? How long does a typical visitor stay on your site? What is the most frequent entry page? What is the most frequent exit page? If you don't know the answers to these questions, your mortgage web site is probably not performing as well as it can.

    Knock, Knock.

    When visitors 'knock' on your web site door, most mortgage owners don't know the exact reason why the potential is there. It could be for refinance, new home loan, or a home equity loan. We will examine a way to learn more about your visitors.

    Just What Are Hits?

    Before we get too far, just a quick primer on the term "hits." Some counters call a "hit" every time any file is accessed. So if you have a web page with one picture (say a logo) that is placed on a web page. Every time it is accessed; that is two hits (the page plus the picture). And if you have a web page with 10 pictures, that totals eleven hits (the page, plus the 10 pictures). As you can see, when someone says he is getting 1,000 hits a day, it could really be only a 100 visitors... so if use a counter, make sure it counts visitors, not hits.

    You Are Visitor Number…

    'Visitor counters' allow you to tell how many 'unique visitors' (not hits) you have on a monthly basis. Unfortunately using visitor counter data is an ineffective way to manage and understand your web site. Using a visitor counter is like driving with your rear window covered - you can tell your going forward, but can only use your side mirrors to see where you have been.

    I Will Show You Mine. You Don't Have To Show Me Yours.

    Assume you have installed a visible visitor counter (one you can see - typically at the bottom of the page) on your web page and it states, "You are the 54th (or 54,000th) visitor." In most cases, assuming you started the counter at zero, your visible counter is now providing your competitor with vital proprietary information. If your competitor sees you have had 54,000 visitors; they may copy your content. Conversely, if a potential customer arrives and finds they are visitor number 54 they may ask why they are at such an unsuccessful site. You can't win with visible hit counters, so don't use them. Use log analysis software instead.

    What Is Log Analysis?

    Hit counters function like headlines; giving you just a bit of the story. While log software performs an in-depth analysis of 'your headlines' complete with details of each movement of your visitor. Logs are the software tools that let you see through the back window AND ahead to where you are going. Log software captures vital data about your visitors including such factors as…

    What Are The Top Entry Pages To My Site?

    Most people believe everyone comes in through the front door, (i.e. the main page of your web site). In analyzing hundreds of web sites, we find that for a typical site as much as 50% of the traffic actually enters via a web page other than your main page. Here is an example: assume you have home loans as your main business but also offer home equity loans. The home equity loans web page is rich with relevant 'home equity' keywords and thus more likely to get ranked higher in the search engines than your main page (which is emphasizing home loans). Since this page is ranked higher, it is more likely someone will enter on this page…instead of your main page.

    When you analyze your logs, if you see you had 5,000 unique visitors and 1,000 came in through the home equity loan page, you may want to emphasize home equity loans.

    What Are The Top Exit Pages To My Site?

    Log software will also let you know which page is the most likely exit page. For example, if you have a "contact us" page and find that 40% of your people leaving the site; you may need to examine this closely. Maybe this "contact us" page is not secure or you are asking for too much information. Whatever the reason, by knowing this is a top exit page, you can edit this page until it is more customer friendly.

    How Long Are Visitors Really Staying On My Loan Site?

    According to the latest studies, the typical web surfer spends 51 seconds on a site. Sites that earn the most revenue average over 3 minutes per visitor. This would generally indicate that better performing sites have quality content and information and customers are staying to learn more before purchasing.

    If you find your average visitor to your site spends less than three minutes on your site, you need to rework your content.

    What Are My Visitors Looking For?

    By examining which search terms were entered in the search engines (and subsequently brought your visitor to your site) your can determine what your customers are really seeking. For example, if you have a home loan site, but find a substantial number of visitors arriving after typing "VA loans," you may decide to place more emphasis on Veteran's Administration loans.

    How Many Visitors Really Read My "President's Greeting"?

    Often when a web site owner creates a web page, they think, "This page will be read by everyone." When you examine your logs, you can see how many people really visit certain pages. We find that for loan sites, only about 1.5% of all visitors ever go to the "Privacy Information" page.

    What Log Software Can I Use To Analyze My Marketing Effectiveness?

    Today, you have access to a wide range of analytical software. Some of the software is free like ExtremeTracking (http://www.extreme-dm.com/tracking/), but it allows everyone, including your competitors to see your data. Other software is far more sophisticated such as WebTrends Live (http://www.webtrendslive.com/), Super Stats (http://www.superstats.com/), Live Stat (http://www.livestat.com/) or the BellaCoola Web Hound (http://www.bellacoola.com/).The higher end software offers a wide range of reports, which will identify web visitor trends, untapped market segments and help evaluate the success of your various marketing campaigns.

    I Know Who's There!

    After implementing log software, when customers now knock on your door, you will know who's there. You will be able to help customers understand your site better, because you understand your customer better.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

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    Everything I Needed to Know About Web Sites I Learned by Listening to the Radio


    You can learn a lot about what to do, and what not to do, by listening to the radio. Here are a few songs you can listen to "On The Radio" (Donna Summer) that can also help you with your web site. And you don't even have to play them backwards to learn the lesson available from each tune. And now the TOP 10 songs…

    "What's Going On?" (Marvin Gaye)

    There was a time, not too long ago, when we first started to hear about the internet and we wondered what it was and if it could apply to us.

    Music lesson: Of course our clients know what is going on and are using the internet, so you must have a web site.

    "Stairway To Heaven" (Led Zeppelin)

    Initially, when starting we first decide to build a web site, we believed it will lead to the land of riches for our loan company; but soon we find out that there are a lot of other groups we are competing against.

    Music lesson: As in the real world, hard work, marketing, good rates and a bit of luck can lead to success.

    "My Way" (Frank Sinatra)

    One of the more important lessons we learn form the radio is about the content we provide on our site. At first, many loan companies put up a 'corporate brochure' site, complete with the President's greeting and message to shareholders.

    Unfortunately, the shareholders aren't our audience and our customers don't really care as much as about what the President has to say as compared to what interest rates the President has to offer.

    Music lesson: It is not what the President wants, it is what the consumer wants.

    "I Want To Hold Your Hand" (Beatles)

    Many sites attempt a nonconformist design method by doing such things as putting the navigation bar on the right or using drop-down java script boxes to allow visitors to find their way around your site. Your visitors are not searching for the answer to "what happened to Elvis"; they are attempting to find information about your rates and your company.

    Music lesson: Make it easy to navigate and your visitors will stay longer. Use left hand navigation or top navigation with words that are easy to understand.

    "Respect" (Aretha Franklin)

    Aretha knows a little bit about Internet marketing to your loan customers. When designing your site, respect what your customer wants, and respect their time, by placing your most important information first.

    Music lesson: Aretha knows what your customer wants - you should too.

    "I Am Woman" (Helen Reddy)

    Once there was a time when Internet users were predominantly males, complete with pocket protectors, who listened to tinny sounding radio music from their home-made crystal radio set courtesy of Radio Shack. The latest studies now show between 50 and 53% of all US Internet users are female.

    Music lesson: Use nonsexist language in your content and appeal to both men and women.

    "What's Love Got To Do With It?" (Tina Turner)
    "Let's Stay Together" (Al Green)

    Long, long ago customers would come back to your loan company because you were local, they were loyal and you loved each other. In the more recent past, the 'local area' has expanded as your customers grab the yellow pages and call a couple of local loan brokers to find the 'best' rate for them. Rarely would these customers check with companies outside your city.

    Due to the internet, the 'local area' is now worldwide. Now, in about the same time it used to take to call mortgage clients can find the rates for dozens and dozens of mortgage providers.

    Music lesson: Loyalty, localism and love have been replaced by rates, information and global competition. If you want to gain the customers fleeting allegiance show your best rates and give them the best deal without forcing them to hunt your site.

    "Whole Lot Of Shakin' Going On" (Jerry Lee Lewis)

    Another problem with many early sites is the use of "Side B" animated images. These images are typically poor quality clipart and often are the mailbox opening and closing, opening and closing, opening and closing over and over. At one time these tacky images were done simply because your graphic designer could do it, but this eye candy distracts from the real message of your site - your rates and your company.

    Recently, the degree of sophistication has improved with programs such as Flash by Macromedia. Flash is a very nice program producing sometimes stunning effects, except there can be one little problem - it requires your visitor to download a special program to view your site. If your site is done with Flash, and your visitor has to take the time to download this program in order to see the content of your site, they may leave.

    Music lesson: Design for show, content for dough.

    "Time Is On My Side" (Rolling Stones)

    Various internet studies reveal that the average visitor to a site spends less than a minute, including load times. Be sure to have a fast loading host with graphics and content that will appear quickly.

    Music lesson: While some people may still enjoy hearing the long version of "In-a-gadda-da-vida" or" Rapper's Delight," most people are looking first for fast information. Be sure to also provide the full version for those who need all the information.

    "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" (Crystal Gayle)

    At some time, for all loan sites, there will come the revelation that you are not getting as much traffic as you want. You have spent much time and money on your site. Furthermore you find out that loan sites are a lot like one hit wonders ("Ice, Ice Baby" - Vanilla Ice), as most loan sites do not receive a lot of repeat visitors.

    Music lesson: Make your site informative, lay it out in a manner convenient for your visitors and put all your best information up front to benefit your customers.

    And when you do, you, and James Brown, will be singing "I Feel Good."

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

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    Everything I Needed To Know About Web Sites I Learned At The Movies



    Movies can provide a bit of fantasy and adventure in our lives and sometimes even educate us a bit. And as you already know, not everything that happens in the movies is true or really occurs in the real world.

    We have all heard the line, "If you build it, he (they) will come," from the Field of Dreams. And we have all found it not to be true. Here are a few more movie quotes that can also apply to your web site.

    "We're on a mission from God." (The Blues Brothers)

    Initially, when starting to build your first web site, the entire company becomes immobilized and becomes obsessed with the web design… nothing can stop you from 'getting on the net.'

    "It's Alive! It's Alive!" (Frankenstein)

    When a mortgage site is finished, and then uploaded to the net, we feel an empowering sense of creation. We have created our own monster... or so we hope.

    "Do you feel lucky?" (Dirty Harry)

    The next problem presenting itself is getting found by our potential customers. The most common method is via the search engines and directories. If we don't achieve a top ranking, we will not be very lucky.

    "You're shaggidelic, baby!" (Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery)

    Once our web site is on the net (and being found), we expect our potential customers to all be very impressed; to be swept up in our visual prowess and easily submit applications to us. The problem is that often our web site can be easily compared with hundreds of other mortgage sites in just one click. If our site isn't 'shaggidelic' then with the next click our customer will be gone.

    "Are you talking to ME?" (Taxi Driver)

    Total personalization ('Welcome back, Mr. Farris') can't always be accomplished until after people register at our site. But mortgage sites need to be written in a friendly, informative, casual tone that makes our guest feel at home; as if we are actually chatting directly with our visitor.

    Web sites that are composed by stiff corporate drones just don't do well. Try and put a little personality into your content and 'talk' to your potential customer.

    "I will NOT be ignored!" (Glen Close in Fatal Attraction)

    Sometimes we do things that make it hard to ignore our site, like putting flashing, twirling, spinning or glowing graphics pulsating everywhere. But much like the Glen Close character, customers do their best to ignore them and try and get away. Don't overpower your visitors with too much pizzazz; they are at your web site for information,…not exploding fireworks.

    "Take me to bed or lose me forever." (Charlie to Maverick in Top Gun)

    You have about 10-15 seconds to impress your first time visitor. Your site needs to load fast, be visually appealing (and within the very first screen view) state "what is in it" for the visitor.

    You can not just put an application form on a site and expect people to fill it out. Customers like to be romanced a bit; with quality information, great rates, and hand holding customer service.

    "I do wish we could chat longer, but I'm having an old friend for dinner." (Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs)

    If you have site statistics on your web site, be sure to review how long your visitors stay on your site. A rough rule of thumb is if you average less than two and half minutes per visitor, then you either have uncompetitive interest rates or written content that does not meet your customer's expectations.

    "I'll be back..." (Terminator)

    Furthermore, most mortgage site owners think that people will somehow be compelled to return... again and again. If your site is CNN or Disney, the customer will be back. If you have a mortgage site, you only get one chance to impress your potential customer. They are not coming back. Because once they find a new loan, they won't need you for quite a few years.

    "In (net)space no one can hear you scream." (Promo for Alien)

    Many mortgage site owners find it hard to figure out why they are not getting the business they anticipate. You have spent considerable time and money and yet visitors and closed loans just aren't occurring as fast as you anticipate.

    "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse." (Marlon Brando, The Godfather)

    When a homeowner visits a mortgage site, the single fact most are seeking is the interest rate. These rates need to be easily found and predominantly featured on your site.

    "Well, I don't think there is any question about it. It can only be attributable to human error." (HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey)

    The sad reality is when a web site doesn't perform well it is management's problem. Upper management must then correct and improve the web site so it meets the expectations and needs of their customers.

    "I see dead people..." (Sixth Sense)

    In the movie the Sixth Sense Bruce Willis is told a secret by his 10 year old patient; "I see dead people... they are everywhere." It seems the dead people just didn't know they were dead. It is the same on the net. Everywhere you look, you can see dead mortgage sites. They just don't know they are dead.

    The Box Office

    As you can see there are many similarities between the movies and the Internet. However, many current mortgage web sites are living in a fantasy world and will never make a profit. Don't expect big profits without a cost-effective Internet marketing budget. It costs money to capture new customers, just like at the box office.

    Next month we will turn our ears to the radio for more tips on mortgage web sites. When we asked Spock what he thought about this article, he replied,

    "Fascinating," (The Search for Spock).

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

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    Survivor's Lessons For Your Mortgage Web Site



    Well, now that we have survived the Survivor series, let's take a few minutes to review what we have learned from the 'real world' and how it applies to your digital mortgage web site.

    Have A Strategy

    "Begin with the end in mind," is an often repeated strategy. Most of the survivor castaways showed up on the island without a strategy and they were kicked off early. Some survivors 'winged it' and created a strategy as they went along; but the winner appeared to have a strategy from the onset. You need to have a strategy as well; and you need it before you start your web site to truly succeed.

    Get A Name Easy To Remember… And Spell

    The Survivors were divided into two teams with names something like 'Pagong' and 'Tagi' and 'Rattana' (is that two "t's" and one "n" or vice versa). Some say these were 'cool' names. But if these were web sites you would have to spell those for most of your customers. The same holds true for your domain name. If you get a name that is hard to remember or hard to spell, then you lose some customers who can't find you. Conversely, the web site, survivor.com - a software development firm was inundated with hundreds of thousands people looking for information on the Survivor show. I guess they have an easy-to-remember name.

    Have The Right Tools

    The Survivors had very few tools and could only create basic shelter. If they had more tools they would have built something more elaborate and safer. It is the same with your web site - quality software is easy to find; use it. Don't design an unprofessional looking web site.

    You Have To Fish For Food - It Takes Viewers To Be Successful

    When your web site first opens for business, often (always) you are not receiving the traffic you expected. The most common misperception we hear from our clients is that visitors are going to flock to their web site. If you want clients, you have to go get them. The fish didn't jump on the fire in Survivor; someone went and caught them. You have to market effectively and bring potential clients (fish) to your web site.

    Sometimes You Have To Eat Grubs

    At the inception of most sites, you will find you have to eat a few grubs, if you are going to stay in the race. Include a little extra 'staying power' in your web budget. And you may not always get those "A paper" clients, but it is better to eat a little sting ray than to go hungry.

    Make It Personal (First Names) How Many Last Names Do You Know On The Show?

    Any interesting occurrence on the TV show was that most of America ONLY knew the first names of the Survivors, but not the last name. If you have online loan applications, you may want to ask your customers how they preferred to be addressed: Mr. Farris, Robbie, Robert etc.

    A Good Mud Bath Is Good For The Team

    It takes a lot of effort, coordination, and talent to build great web sites. The politics from the various departments of your mortgage company often create stressed situations. The PR department wants 'wu-wu' graphics, the marketing wants to capture the email of each visitor, the IT department wants a fast loading site, and the owner wants a site that will generates profits.

    When tensions get high, it may be good to assemble all the 'competing' parties together for a "mud bath,' where they have a chance to interact together.

    A Tribal Council Occurs With Every Visitor; And You Don't Have A Vote

    One of the more compelling features of the Survivor series was the 'Tribal Council' where at the end of every show, someone was voted off… oh, the suspense. A form of 'Tribal Council' occurs with every visitor to your web site. Your potential customer votes with their mouse click - and they vote within minutes of meeting you. Either they stay and fill out a form, send an e-mail, pick up the phone and call you, or they leave. At least in the Survivor show, those 'voted off' got to get a hot meal and shower…you don't get anything.

    Moral of the story: give people what they want (interest rates, content, information), and they may vote for you.

    If You Ask For Feedback, You May Not Like The Results

    On the last Survivor show, Sue gave Kelly a bit of feedback. Kelly didn't like it or agree with all of it; but she may have become more aware of some of her traits.

    Many web sites have customer feedback forms. Take the time to read the remarks you receive and re-evaluate your web site, especially if you have comments such as:

    • Takes too long to load
    • Hard to navigate
    • I am not giving you my name and address until AFTER I see the interest rates
    • Your interest rates are out of date
    • I can get the same loan a half point cheaper at a hundred other web sites.

    If You Win The Game, There Is A Big Prize

    Survivor was called a 'reality' show. Here is another bit of reality… there are thousands of home loan web sites on the net. It is likely that only a few are going to be very successful. Some will do well but most mortgage sites are going to struggle. However, if you have a professional looking web site, obtain optimal rankings in the search engines, have a marketing strategy that works, great customer service, competitive rates…you could win the game. The survivors in the virtual world receive a substantial number of closed loans.

    Can Your Company Survive On The Net?

    Too many mortgage companies contact us with a lackluster attitude like, "We just want to see if this Internet thing will work". These uncommitted companies will never be successful on the Net.

    It is one thing to 'survive' the Survivor show. It is another (more grueling task) to 'survive' the future of online mortgage lending.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published October 2000

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    Building Trust With Your Web Site



    Linda (a potential client) and I were chatting about what makes a quality web site. We were having a difficult time quantifying 'quality,' until I asked her what was the last web site that met all of her needs.

    With that thought, Linda was off and running. Linda told me she was recently searching for a hot tub to purchase and said, "This particular web site includes testimonials from credible sources, a professional picture of the factory along with photographs of the staff. They also offered a comprehensive FAQ information page. They had extensive information on how their hot tubs are constructed and why they are a better value than others. Additionally they provided a checklist of items to consider before I buy so there would be no problems."

    "It looked like I could trust them; so I ordered from them." Linda then paused and said, "And I also told my friends."

    Got Trust?

    "Great testimonial," I replied. "It sounds like your degree of trust and the content of the site influenced your decision to buy. Now let's look at your mortgage web site and see how many of these qualities you have present." I could tell by the silence that Linda just realized that her web site was missing most of these key components.

    60% Of Buyers Buy Within 30 Minutes!
    80% Of Buyers Buy Within A Day!

    eMarketer.com recently had a very compelling article somewhat related to trusting a web site:

    CLICKS TO CONVERSION HAPPEN QUICKLY: According to the new Q2 2000 Online Advertising Report from AdKnowledge, most conversions of click-throughs into sales happen very quickly. Sixty percent of conversions for first time customers occur within the first half hour. After that, the share that will click-through diminishes rapidly. Another 9% will convert before an hour is up. Within a day, 80% have converted. Only 1% will of click-throughs will happen at the end of 30 days."

    Love At First Site

    If someone is going to buy, 60% of them buy in the first 30 minutes, 70% within an hour of visiting your site and 80% that same day. I believe you can assume that many visitors must have made up their minds with the first screen view of your web site: the 'love at first site' syndrome. That first screen view has to be good.

    A Good Design Is Not Enough

    A mortgage web site is entrusted with the largest financial transaction most people will ever make. Of course you need great rates and customer service; but your site must communicate professionalism, competency and trust.

    A web site full of 'graphic wu-wu,' and 'animated testosterone' alone won't do it. It is the written content that is your sales tool. It is your content that builds trust. It is your content that educates, informs, comforts, cuddles, tickles, persuades and entices your visitors to become clients. To paraphrase an En Vogue song title, you "Gotta give them something they can feel."

    Instant Trust Leads To Internet Sales!

    I shared with Linda that you not only need to 'sell trust' on your web site; you also need to create 'instant trust,' the same way she instantly trusted that hot tub site. The best way to create 'instant trust', is to 'Design for show, content for dough.'

    Visitors have come to expect a minimum degree of aesthetic competency when visiting a site. In order to get your visitors to read your content, you must create a web site that (on a visual pass/fail scale) will muster at least a 'passing grade.' If your site looks crummy, visitors are less likely to read your content.

    Internet Marketing Is Only The Beginning

    We conduct corporate training & mortgage seminars where we emphasize that the sales on your web site do not conclude when Internet marketing efforts drop visitors at the front door…it only begins there. While it is very important to deliver visitors to your site; it is 'what you say' and 'how you say it' once a customer arrives that is even more important. This is what determines if a visitor turns into a client.

    Elements Of Trust

    A successful web sites meets the expectations of the visitor. At a minimum, the following elements need to be included on your web site in order to communicate trustworthiness:
    • Your company name, phone number and email contact on every web page.
    • Testimonials from past customers.
    • Photo of current employees.
    • An information page about your company so that people can learn about you (ie. people buy from people they know and like).
    • Interest rates that are current…as of today.
    • An overview of all the type of loans you offer.
    • A consistent navigational bar so people can conveniently roam your site.
    • A professional appearance in which the theme is carried out through your entire web site.
    • Clean, crisp graphics. No animated graphics.
    • Provide not only concise, easy to find information; but also provide more elaborate details for those who 'really have to know."
    • Friendly, easy to read, and understand content.
    • Bonus information: provide content that differentiates your company from others. Examples might be articles on how to save money by having a 15 year loan or why it may be more cost effective to pay a point or two extra to get a lower interest rate.

    Linda agreed to include all these elements in her site, as I asked her, "Now, who are you going to trust with your mortgage web site?"

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published September 2000

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    Mortgage Web Site Myths



    Confusion exists on the Internet, because it is so new. Conjecture, once quoted, becomes folklore. These factors lead to misperceptions on the Internet such as:

    • The Internet is one big brochure.
    • I must have a 'fresh' site.
    • Visitors will take the time to read my site.
    • Customers will easily find me.
    • I will test the net first to see if it really works.
    • I need some of those whirling, twirling graphics on my site.
    • I must submit to every known search engine in the universe.
    • I must provide outbound links for my clients.
    • If my site is good, my visitors won't mind waiting just a bit.
    • A .net domain is just as good as a .com domain.
    • Only large sites succeed.

    So if you don't want your site to be recalled only via tribal memory from stories told by your web master; you need to be aware of the following. Here are a few Internet myths that impact companies specializing in mortgage loans.

    "I Put My Brochure Up On The Net."

    The letters www used to stand for 'world wide web'; now it stands for 'what we want'. Mortgage sites can no longer put up what they want to tell the customer, they have to include information as to what the clients are seeking.

    Moral: What works in the real world, doesn't work on the net.

    Fresh Mortgage Site

    Many web site owners feel they have to keep the information 'fresh' on their site, constantly updating content. Well, if you are CNN or a stock quote site this makes sense. But for most mortgage sites you only get one shot at a visitor. Your potential customer is not returning time and time again to your site. You need to put your best information on your site and leave it alone until you have better information.

    Tip: The only item that requires 'fresh' content are your mortgage rates.

    Fire All Of Your Guns At Once, And Explode Into Netspace.

    Your web site may have hundreds of pages, great information and fantastic rates, but your customer has little time to read your site. An April 2000 study by Nielsen/NetRatings found that people spent as little as two minutes on the most successful movie web sites. This is for an entertainment, so you would expect a visitor to take their time and have a leisurely stroll through the movie site. Now imagine how long visitors will spend on your site. You have about 30 seconds to convince the user to stay and go deeper.

    In the first paragraph have an entire overview of your site. An example might read: This web site provides new home loans and refinancing starting at 6.5%. Additionally VA and FHA loans are available. Bad credit loans and second trust deeds are currently not available from our company. You can email us at info@thisdomain.com or call our toll free number 800-OUR-RATES.

    Moral: fire all of your guns at once. Put your most important message first…at the top of the page.

    "People Will Easily Find Me."

    A quick check of a major search engine, AltaVista.com shows 1.5 million web pages with the word "loans" on them and 115,000 web pages with the specific phrase "home loans". It is a competitive with over 300,000 new web pages added every day, many of them in financial services.

    Moral: Marketing on the net is harder than the real world, but can be more productive.

    "I Will Dip My Toe In The Water First…"

    I can get by with a low cost site. A poorly designed site communicates a less professional company to your potential customers. With the opportunity to earn $1,000 to $5,000 in commissions per loan, be sure not cut corners in your appearance.

    Design For Show, Content For Dough

    A study by the Stanford Poynter Project (using the same technological gear to track internet user eye movements that the Air Force uses to monitor pilot eye movements) found the following:

    Web Page Element % Viewing Element

    Article text 92%
    Article summaries 82%
    Photographs 64%
    Graphics 22%

    Moral: Content is what people are seeking. Keep your headlines simple and to the point. Have nice graphics…but don't overdo it.

    If Submission To One Search Engine Is Good, Submission To 1,000 Is Great.

    The major search portals (Yahoo, HotBot, Lycos etc.) will account for 99% of your search engine traffic.

    Moral: Submissions to hundreds of lesser engines will account for 99% of your inbound spam email.

    It Pays To Be Popular

    Several major search portals, including Google.com (which now supplies Yahoo with findings) and Snap.com use link popularity as an indicator of how 'important' a site is. The greater number of quality links to your site, the higher your rankings will be in these engines.

    Moral: spend time getting quality links as part of your marketing effort.

    They Check In But They Don't Check Out

    Once your customer arrives at your site, you do not want to make other sites 'popular'. You do not want to make an easy way for your potential clients to leave you so eliminate or minimize links to sites that don't benefit your site directly. Common examples of this include links to Netscape or Internet Explorer; links to nonprofit associations, etc.

    Moral: Keep your customers on your web site; do not let them check out.

    Fine Wine Gets Better With Waiting, But Not Your Customers

    Your web designer says that this introduction is "worth the wait". It whirls and twirls and plays cool music. Mortgage customers are coming for mortgage information, not entertainment.

    Moral: Flashy stuff builds the ego of web designers. It does not create income for mortgage web site owners

    Is A .Net Domain Good Just As Good As .Com?

    A few domain facts:

    Over 75% of all domain names registered end in*.com.

    About 14 million domains names have been registered to date (meaning if you are looking for a good domain name, you are probably too late).

    For the first quarter of 2000 about 5 million domains were taken; that is about 39 domains a minute are acquired.

    With these facts, many look to 'lesser' extensions (*.net, *.org etc.) in hopes of getting a decent descriptive domain name. The problem is that with so many *.com names, people assume your name is *.com, even if you tell them it is myloandomain.net. They will actually hear myloandomain.com and go visit your competitor.

    Moral: a *.com name is the best option. You may have to examine buying a domain name from a domain broker to get the correct descriptive name for your site.

    Only Large Sites Succeed.

    You can create your own success story and dispel the myth that only large sites succeed if you budget both the needed monies and time to have a strong Internet presence. But just like the real world, the Internet is a competitive arena; especially for mortgage companies.

    Tip: Give your customers what they want: information on rates and programs. Eliminate confusion on your web site. A clean, effective, and content rich web page produces more business than flash and whirls. A mortgage company specializing and focusing on their niche can outperform much larger companies due to the power of the net.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published August 2000

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    How to LOSE Business on the Net


    Large Graphics

    You have to remember that only about 5% of all Americans have high-speed Internet access. The other 95% are still using 56k or less dial-up modems. So do you market toward only 5% of the US population? The answer is no!!

    Web surfers have the need for speed. Yet far too many home pages open with graphically heavy home pages that load slowly and make no contribution to the effectiveness of the page. In most cases, your home page should be 20K or less in file size - including graphics. Spinning globes, scrolling text, large company logos, etc., all take up precious real estate that could be better utilized for benefit-related information.

    "Welcome to My Site"

    This is also another killer of web sites…the famous "Welcome to My Site". Phrases like this, repetition of your company name and other self-serving statements only cloud your main message. Remember you are selling loans…keep this in mind. Your home page and virtually every other page on your site should begin with a compelling, stimulating, interest-generating, headline or opening equivalent that tells your viewers what's in it for them.

    External Links

    This is equivalent to having an office door that leads to a choice of doors that go to other businesses. When a potential customer arrives, why give that person an immediate opportunity to leave and never return? If you must link externally, do it on a page that can only be accessed after viewing the important pages on your site. It costs thousands of marketing dollars to get a new customer to your web site, why send them to Amazon.com to buy a book (and you make $2.00 in commission).

    Scrolling Marquees, Counters, etc.

    There was a time when these things were new and unusual. They are now like having "bell bottom pants" (they were once hip…but now they are passé). And in many cases, they are very distracting and annoying. Counters especially have lost their usefulness. They are self-serving devices that have no purpose because most visitors really don't care how many alleged hits your site has gotten. If it doesn't help sell mortgage loans…leave it off.

    Typos or Grammatical Errors

    Seems obvious, yet many web pages contain common spelling and grammatical errors. Your written page is a reflection of your professionalism (or lack of it), your attention to detail (or lack of it) and your commitment to excellence (or lack of it). Why give visitors any reason to doubt you? Use spelling and grammar checkers to make sure your copy is first-rate.

    Framed Pages

    If you don't know what they are, then ask your web master or designer. Many older web browsers do not support frames. Many search engines do not index them properly. Many frames require scrolling to read the text and activate links. Frame scrolling bars also take up precious real estate. Frames don't bookmark properly. Enough said?

    Don't use frames. And the funny thing is about 90% of mortgage web sites we review USE frames. Now you wonder why these companies do not get much Internet business.

    "Site Under Construction "

    What good does a web page that is not finished do for your visitors? It just wastes their time and could possibly frustrate or annoy them. Every page on your site should have a purpose or reason why it's there. Every page should also have a call to action - what you want the visitor to do after reading the information.

    Broken Links

    How many times have you clicked on a hyperlink and the page went nowhere? What did you think of that web site. Unprofessional, lacking in detail, does not check their work; these are all the things you do NOT want a prospective loan customer to think about your company.

    Broken links means broken (lost business). One broken link can cost your company a prospective customer…worth thousands of dollars.

    Missing Graphics

    This should also be obvious, but missing graphics are all over the Web - even on professional sites whose owners should know better.

    Same thing goes as broken links. CHECK YOUR WORK. The Internet is extremely competitive and you need every item stacked in your favor.

    Incomplete Contact Information

    It's amazing how many companies try to remain anonymous and then expect people to do business with them. This is even more important when you trying help someone with the largest financial transition in their lives. Remember this is not like buying a book Amazon.com. To maximize your credibility and believability, you need a 1-800 phone number on every web page.

    Someone is NOT going to fill out a loan application for $300,000 without talking to someone…would you?? Do not expect your customers to do something you would not do.

    Plug-Ins/JavaScript Pop-Up Windows

    We have all experienced these pop-up windows and some of the top mortgage sites use them. Why? I have no idea because they are annoying and confusing. It is like having a billboard pop up in front of your face. And the worst pop-up windows are the ones that KEEP popping up every time you revisit the Home page. Why make it unpleasant for visitors to see what you offer?

    Plug-ins are another major error many people put on their web sites. Most people will not take the time to load plug-ins to view or do something at your site unless you give them a great reason to do so. They'll just click away. Plug-ins will discussed in detail in another article.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published July 2000

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    Tracking Your Internet Customers



    Do you understand who your Internet visitors are? If you don't, then you really don't know the quality of your traffic. And, if you're not getting the quality you need, then your sales, leads, etc., aren't where they should be.

    Website traffic analysis may be the single most important key to getting better results from your web site. The main problem is very few companies actually review or know how to interpret their Internet traffic results. Understanding the traffic at your web site and making change are critical to getting profitable results from your corporate mortgage web site.

    Focus on the goals for your site and analyze the number of qualified visitors you get by analyzing your traffic results. Here are some tips to help.

    Boost Web Site Results

    Develop quantifiable goals for your site, such as numbers of online sales, qualified leads, 1-800 inquires, etc. Your log files are the key to understanding the number of unique visitors, how they use your site, and results. Tracking your visitors in terms of how long they stay at your site, how they move around, and whether they do what you want at your site is the key to fine tuning your site to make it generate the results you want.

    Most traffic tracking programs are located on your hosting company servers (WebTrends.com is the most used, but there are many other good programs). The top hosting providers provide this traffic information at no additional cost per month. The low-cost hosting providers do not provide this traffic service. And just like everything in life…you get what you pay for.

    Check carefully the written content of our most popular web pages and the less popular pages. What do these popular pages have in common, if anything? What do the less popular pages have in common? Is there a content problem or a navigation problem? Pinpoint exactly what's happening and take action to adjust your content to draw more visitors to these less popular pages. Or replace with content that's more compelling.

    "What's In It For Me?"

    Remember the main customer credo for all types of marketing,"What's in it for me". The customer wants to know how YOUR web site will satisfy THEIR wants/needs. If your written content does not compel your customer to take action (i.e. contact your company for a loan); you are just wasting your time on the Net.

    Take note of how updates or changes to the site affect visitor activity. More specifically, note if these changes affect only the number of visitors. Or do you see changes relative to increased number of sales leads, applications, etc.? Measure changes in terms of the goals of the site, not just absolute numbers of visitors or hits.

    Read between the lines to better understand your visitors. For example, time of day your site is accessed will help identify if visitors are at home or at work. Many home users use a 28.8k or 56k modem speed (over 90% of all Americans have low-speed modem access). If your visits are short, you need to reduce heavy graphics on your web site (remember the "10 seconds to glory rule" that we have discussed in previous articles). Also make sure your web-hosting server responds quickly. Having a slow hosting provider can be costing your company lost customers…everyday. No one is going to wait over 30+ seconds for your web page to load.

    Your Target Customer

    You may be surprised at how much you can improve your site results by understanding more about your visitor actions at your corporate web site. Develop a profile of your visitors. Understand not only who visits your site, but also why they visit. What pages do they view? Where do they come from? Make changes accordingly in terms of the loan products you offer.

    Is this the "target customer" you're after? If not, why not and what changes can be made to get your target customer to visit? Find out how each buyer or lead found your site. You can ask this on your order or lead generation form. But, if they don't tell you, you can check your tracking program for this information.

    Test Advertising Sources

    Understanding your traffic results from real world advertising (i.e. newspapers, radio, television, etc) is very important. Figure out what publicity or marketing efforts generate the desired activity at your site rather than just what increases hits.

    Analyze your traffic to see what places are working best for advertising. Find out which advertisers sent traffic and what traffic became business. In fact, if you're not tracking your advertising results, you're wasting your Internet marketing dollars.

    And isn't generating new business the main reason why your company is on the Internet in the first place??

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published June 2000

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    How NOT To Internet Your Mortgage Web Site



    Web Site Marketing And Promotion

    Sometimes it is easier to inform people as to what not to do, rather than what to do… Don’t play in the street, don’t touch that and don’t take up smoking... It is just so much simpler to say, “No, don’t do that,” than to state all the reasons behind the “don’t” statement. The person saying “don’t” usually has more experience and has witnessed an adverse outcome of the event. They just know that you ‘shouldn’t do it’. And whether you like it or not, they are willing to share their expertise with you.This is the fourth in a series of articles on “How NOT To Internet Your Mortgage Web Site.”

    • Web site planning phase (first article)
    • Web design and development second article)
    • Writing effective and compelling content (last month’s article)
    • Web site marketing and promotion. (this article)
    • And other Internet tips and hints.

    These articles will help your mortgage company learn from the mistakes of other web sites. You will see what your on-line competitors have done correctly and incorrectly. You will see what you can do to prevent these same mistakes from occurring to your company, including…

    Don’t Forget The Cheshire Cat Lesson

    Just what does the Cheshire Cat know about Internet marketing that many web site owners do not? In the book Alice in Wonderland, Alice is lost and comes across the Cheshire Cat to help provide direction.

    The Cheshire Cat only grinned when he saw Alice. "Cheshire Puss," she began, rather timidly, as the cat only grinned a little wider.

    "He's pleased so far," thought Alice, and she went on.

    "Would you tell me, please dear Cheshire Puss, which way I ought to go from here?"

    "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.

    "I don't much care where" said Alice.

    "Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.

    This is how most mortgage company owners market on the Net... they create a web site and hope they go in the correct direction, not really knowing where they are going.

    * Having a web site does not guarantee receiving customers.

    * And Internet marketing is not real like real world marketing.


    So, Just What Is Internet Marketing?

    Internet marketing is about understanding why consumers come to your web site then creating a web site that offers what your customers want. The most commonly cited reasons as to why consumers shop your mortgage web site are: convenience, price, vendor information, ‘no sales pressure’ and time savings.

    Your web site must offer as many of these factors to your customers as possible, as your customers know where they are going.

    Internet marketing is communicating with qualified prospects in the most effective way possible and creating 'buy now' reactions. Internet marketing is about driving targeted traffic directly to your web site and having compelling content to cause a “sale” to occur.

    Don’t Break The Chain

    Internet marketing controls the interaction between the five key elements of a successful web site:

    Products - Service
    Price - Quality
    Design - Layout
    Information - Content
    Traffic - Marketing

    It takes a series of events to even have a chance of having a successful web site. Offering the service or product that your customers want; having a notable price and good quality; create the web site ‘look and feel’ while providing easy to use navigation; creating compelling content by including the information your visitor needs and using Internet market to drive traffic to your mortgage site.

    If just one of these critical items are missing; your site will not be productive. Online marketing is part art, part science, part technique with a good dose of 'the right words at the right time' thrown in… Internet marketing is about reaching out on a one-to-one basis and influencing each customer during each visit. It is also important to note…What Internet Marketing Isn’tInternet marketing is really not about banners or offline advertising or linking strategies... those may have some importance, but Internet marketing is the ability to make people click onto your web site. Banners have dreadful click-through ratios. Offline advertising efforts such as including your web and e-mail address on all business cards, brochures, print, radio, TV, letterhead, trade show booths, press releases and other promotional activities; still requires that your customer remember your web address and then visit at a later date. Linking strategies often involve reciprocal linking, causing you to lose as many customers as you received.

    For many companies, Internet marketing is about the ability to obtain high rankings in the search engines and directories.

    Don’t Assume Search Engines Will Find You

    We have a good friend, Jeff, who is a mortgage broker. He has had his web site up for nine months. Jeff told me that the only people visiting his site were a couple of customers he told and his own staff. He wondered when the search engines would list his site. I asked if he submitted his site to the search engines; he paused and said, “You have to tell them? They just don’t find you?”

    Nope… You have to go to each of the search engines and directories and use the “add URL” link to submit your web site. Each search engine will take 1-6 weeks to automatically index your site. Search directories, which review your site with humans, can range from 2 weeks to 6 months before they review your site.

    So, Which Way Are You Going?

    When you correctly design your web site and properly create your web marketing plan, you may even find the Cheshire Cat asking you for directions on the Net.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published May 2000

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    Design For Show... Content For Dough



    Are you looking to create more revenue from your web site? Then read on...

    Most people initially think web sites are about visual design the ol’ “A picture is worth a thousand words” quote. It’s not.

    If you have been on the Net more than three months, you have seen enough spinning mortgage logo’s; endured 2.5 minute, multi-page introduction with the song “We are the champions” blaring over your speaker; and if you see one more “e-mail me” mail box opening and closing and opening and closing you are just going to

    Here Is A Little Secret

    People come to your mortgage site, because they want information about mortgages. If they wanted music, they would go to a music site. If they wanted to be entertained, they would go to Disney. Give your customer what they want information on mortgages; and they will give you what you want more closed transactions.

    Design For Show... Content For Dough

    Your design gets customers to read your site; your words get people to "buy" your site. If your design is obnoxious, people will leave and not read your content.

    Hey, Here Is Another Little Secret

    Writing for the net is umm, different. That is why you have to write umm, different.

    If you have a mortgage site, and it looks and reads, like all the thousands of other mortgage sites; then you are going to find it hard to compel clients to use your loan services.

    Delivering Your Net Message: One-To-One

    While your goal may be to cause thousands of potential customers to come to your mortgage web site, remember every visit is one-to-one (a unique experience) so present yourself in an amiable manner, using a friendly tone in your writing, that speaks to each customer. And, when each of those thousands of potential customers, needs reasons to stay on your site those reasons are friendly content and the desired information.

    I Will Show You Mine

    One of the advantages of the Internet for the customer is that they can see ‘yours’ before you can see ‘theirs.’ So ‘yours’ better be pretty good. So, here is mine.

    This section addresses the content of your web site: how you write your words, how it is different from real world advertising, how to deliver your Internet message, what style to use in your Internet prose and how to build rapport with your potential customers).

    What Do Your Mortgage Customers Want?

    This is an easy answer they want everything. Your job is to provide short concise information and then allow more detailed information; should they desire more information. ‘Hook-em’ with the easy to read benefits, and then impress them with scope of your offer. Write the top of your page with the ‘easy to read’ information, but offer your customer a link to receive all the information they could possibly need. Your goal is to educate your customer to the point that they are ready to complete a loan application. By providing complete information, you will weed out those not interested; so the only calls you will receive are highly interested customers. Pretty powerful marketing if I say so myself.

    R-E-S-P-E-C-T: What Aretha Knows About Marketing

    Your customers' priorities must become your priorities when you design and write your web site. Two of your customers' major concerns are time and information.

    Respect their priority of time and they will stay with you; providing you have relevant information.

    Fire All Of Your Guns At Once, And Explode Into - Netspace

    Your customers are seeking specific information and it must be delivered fast: both in loading time and in how easy it is to locate. Don’t coax, persuade, bait or cajole your customer in your opening paragraph. Deliver your benefit straight and fast. Show them what you have for them, and show it first. Read the first three lines on this page for an example of this.

    Above The Fold

    Wait, there is more. Remember, your customers are searching for information they want. You need to give them your information 'above the fold,' in the first viewable part of the screen, not at the bottom of the viewable screen. The same way a newspaper places its headlines 'above the fold,' you must place your headlines at the top of the viewing screen.

    Write in a “top down” manner, offering an executive summary at the top of your page, followed by more content, should they decide they need more.

    You And Your Mortgage Client Are Gonna Be Friends

    People not only buy what they want, they buy from people they like Your new visitors are looking for someone like you so give them a reason to like you. Of course you have to offer competitive interest rates or a fast close.

    Your customer has found your web site using a search engine. Let your customer kick off their shoes, get comfortable and stay awhile. Make them feel at home.

    Oh Yeah, One More Thing

    Once you write your perfect prose go back and add a few headlines. This also respects the ‘time’ factor of your customer, so they can skim and find the sections that most appeal to them. Not only add headlines that are informative but make them interesting; give your customer a reason to read your content.

    OK, One Last Thing. (Well, Maybe Two, Or Three)

    Writing content is much, much, much harder than design. It is hard to do and will take you a long time to ‘get it right’ (or is it ‘get it write’?). With all due respect to all the wonderful, award winning web designers out there and often receive a quality web design. The same does not hold true for net copywriters. Most people, even those skilled copywriters in the real world, have a difficult time writing for the Net.

    All Of This? It Is Just The Beginning

    Well, there are just a few of the things you must do: to create compelling copy, to build trust, to entertain, to convey your message, to communicate your service and to allow people to like your web site.

    Well, I Have Shown You Mine

    If you have made it this far, did it feel as if “we were talking” (yep, just you and me)? If so, then this was effective as that is what we wanted to accomplish. This is what you want to accomplish. You want to engage your mortgage customer, to compel them to take action.

    A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a thousand words can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published March 2000


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    Navigating the High C's


    Successful mortgage web sites just don’t happen. In fact success rarely happens if these nine important web elements are not followed. There are thousands of mortgage of web sites, most of which have the company CEO wondering, “Does this Internet thing really work?" In order to have a web site that is of service to your customers and actually produces revenue, you need to organize your web site development, at every stage, from creation through commerce.

    Here Are The Necessary C’s To Success
    • Company
    • Concept
    • Customer
    • *.com
    • Creative
    • Content
    • Contact
    • Commerce
    • Critique
    A successful web site starts with your company’s products or services. In the real world, price and service are important. On the Net, your price (interest rate) is exceptionally important because your customers can shop numerous mortgage sites in a single session.

      Concept

      What is do you want from your web site? Your vision for a web site begins in a conception stage. This is where the ‘blueprints’ for your site will be developed. A poorly planned web site is a burden on manpower and financial resources. You need to analyze what makes your company so different and unique from your competition (what is your unique selling position?).

      Concentrate

      Are you specializing in construction loans or VA loans? Then make all the necessary loan information available, because if you don’t, your customers will find the information elsewhere on the Net. Do not be too broad in your scope unless you can fully service each area. On the Net, niche sites that concentrate on their specialty tend to perform better than generic sites that try to sell everything to everyone.

      Commitment

      A successful web site initially starts with the president or owner of the company. Top management commitment to a strong web site presence is needed. A CEO needs to recognize the myriad of web site elements required for success and then weaving these competing and seemingly disjointed departments together.

      The Internet is here to stay and will become a more and more important way to conduct mortgage business over the Net. Top management needs to a long-term perspective to effectively compete on the Internet. It is not, “we have a web site, where is all the new business?"

      Customer

      Too many web sites are created with the mortgage company in mind. You must spend time first in customer analysis, then in competitor analysis.

      Customer Analysis

      Many mortgage firms think ‘WWW’ stand for ‘world wide web.’ It doesn’t; it stands for ‘what we want.’ And you better deliver what the customer wants. Your potential mortgage customer controls the mouse, and they decide if they will visit you or not, how long they will stay and if they will buy. You must have information the user wants; in a way the user finds easy to navigate and written in a manner to allow cause your customer to take action.

      Competitor Analysis

      Some of your competitors are very smart and talented. Visit their sites, learn from what they have done, to determine what to do, and more importantly what not to do.

      What to do: An example, has a competitor installed a ‘mortgage rate watch’ to automatically email customers when interest rates hit a certain level?

      What not to do: Has your competitor placed a full picture of your building on your main page and the company’s mission statement on the first page? Don’t do this; your customers are looking for loans, not ego’s.

      *.com

      Selecting your domain name is probably the most overlooked aspect of the Internet marketing process and certainly one of the most important components of obtaining rankings and creating an easy to spell, easy to remember name that customers can type in. A mistake in name selection can cost a company hundreds of thousands of lost revenues.

      You must have a *.com domain name because if you say I am lowcosthomemortages.net, your customer may type lowcosthomemortages.com, sending business to your competitor.

      Create

      The creation of your web site is the most visible aspect of your effort. This is what your customer views and it should include the following design elements.

      Conform

      Web surfers have come to expect certain elements in a web site. If you have a navigational bar, it needs to be at the top or on the left hand side; not on the right hand side.

      Clarity

      Clear navigation is a must for a successful site. If you confuse, you lose.

      Clean

      Do not have flashing images or inconsistent looks.

      Content

      Your ability to create compelling content is what will cause your customers to use your service. No matter how pretty your site looks or no matter how many dancing graphics you have, it is your content and your skill in communicating the written word that will determine the success of your site.

      Confidence

      Your potential client must have confidence in your company in order. A poorly written site with sparse information will cause your visitor to go your competitors.

      Comprehensive

      Your site must be comprehensive and answer the questions your viewers want to know.

      Clear

      The content of your site must be clear and communicate what it is you have to offer.

      Contact

      Provide numerous ways for your customers to reach you; e-mail, fax, address, direct dial phone number and toll-free phone number.

      Commerce

      Mortgage companies that create a web presence do so to engage in commerce. This is what allows the company to be of service to the clients and thus earn revenue. In order to conduct commerce, you need clicks and customers.

      Clicks

      Your online and real world marketing efforts will determine how many clicks you receive to your site. High rankings in the search engines are a tremendously valuable source of leads, as well as any media advertising you do to drive traffic.

      Customers

      Customers are what happens when you have done everything right. Create a clean design with compelling content and a good product and you will capture customers.

      Critique

      Having a highly functioning web site is a never-ending project. You must constantly critique your web site and keep it current and competitive. Your best source of critique is from customer e-mail’s and phone calls. If you receive many customer questions such as, “Do you do loans for people with bad credit?” Then you must include this information on your site, whether you do or don’t. It will save you and your customer time.

      And once you have accomplished all the above, that will make your web site very, very.... Cool

      For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

      Originally published February 2000


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      Paving The Road Less Traveled...




      The Journey of a Thousand Visitors (a day)…

      OK, it was Michael’s mortgage company, he built it, he blazed the trail when interest rates were 15% and no one said he could make it -- but Mike did make it, and he still makes the all the decisions in his company. His business has grown to the point where he owned a two-story brick building and had grown to occupy both floors. Mike also had developed a great word-of-mouth client base. His company volume had stabilized over the last few years. And this year, it looked like volume might actually be off a bit; and Mike had noticed that decline.

      But for whatever reason, maybe because he was busy with the mortgage business, Michael had been oblivious to the IBM ‘net’ commercials, barely noticed the transition from 800 numbers to the dot com web address in print ads and other than using $2.50 worth of time of his $20 AOL account to get stock prices, he just didn’t think this net thing was for real.

      That was because Michael didn’t understand the net… yet. His journey was just beginning.

      From The Mouth Of Babes

      That changed about three months ago when his daughter, Kenzie, was ‘online’ with her girlfriend. She was giggling and Michael casually said, “Kenz, why don’t you just call her?” Feverishly typing, without looking up, she said, “Dad, you are so… umm… so… 80’s... fer sure.” Hmm, at 44, Mike is probably more 70’s than 80’s, so that really stung, especially coming from a 13 year old. Then Kenzie sent the real zinger, “Dad, you don’t even have a domain name, I don’t have one, all my friends have one…”

      Trying to make the best of a rapidly deteriorating conversation, Mike remembered how he spent his entire lunchtime looking for a favorite Peter Drucker book at the bookstore, but it wasn’t there. He challenged Kenzie to find the book by saying, “If the net is so powerful, find Drucker on Management.” She opened a new browser window, (“Hmm, how did she do that?” he wondered) went to Amazon.com, and while it was loading, asked her dad how to spell it. Kenzie then alt-tabbed back to her conversation browser with her friend. Four minutes later, she not only had the book Mike was seeking, but a list of every book Drucker ever wrote.

      Time, Waits For No One

      “Gawd, four minutes… just four minutes” Mike said to himself, “I spent 10 times that amount looking at lunch and didn’t find it.” And then he thought, “I bet it works the same way for mortgages.”

      Mike noticed the book is out of print but saw there was a special search feature to look for copies. Silently, Michael was impressed. His most precious business commodity, time, and his daughter just saved him a fistful. Mike almost was ready to ask Kenz to do the out-of-print search, but she is back into the conversation.

      All Aboard

      That was the turning point. And Mike was always a man of action, so he broke down and thought he would start a new path... and ride the Internet wave to riches. So Mike spent a few bucks, well -- more than a few bucks, on one those guys with a pocket protector he ridiculed in high school and the geek built Mike’s new web site. It was pretty and colorful, had a mortgage calculator, an online application, even a cute little ‘cha-ching’ sound every time a web page opened, and, even better…

      Mike’s wife approved. Plus the geek designer has said he won several design awards, and this site surely would win an award as well. Mike, started spending more time with his AOL account and soon realized the increased efficiency and sales production that a new web site could provide. He thought that this should allow him to finally layoff his sales manager, who hasn't sold a thing since the day Mike put him on salary. “Boy, this net really is worth it,” he mused to himself. Mike even stopped referring to the web designer as ‘geek’ and started calling him the ‘award winner.’

      The site went up in less than 20 days. Then a week goes by... and no traffic. A month goes by... and not much traffic. “Hey, if I could build a company when interest rates were high, this should be simple,” he said to himself.

      The counter on the site crept up to 87… Mike considered increasing Kenzie’s allowance just to click on his mortgage site, over and over, to increase the counter total so he is not so embarrassed in case anyone actually visits.

      California Dreamin’

      In Mike’s best, newfound netspeak he wondered, "Does the net suck?" or is it some sort of Karmic payback from the geek, for all the grief Mike gave him, and others like him, that is causing his site to flounder.

      It was Monday morning and on Mike’s way to the coffee room he could overhear the new 20-something, Gen-X employee from the document processing and Mary, his cute, but closer to 40 than 20, executive secretary talking. The X-er was trying to impress Mary by attempting to use music to reach across the generation says, "Mary, have you seen our web site? I look it this weekend, and it is one of those California Dreamin' sites.”

      “California dreamin’?” she replies.

      “Yeah, you know, the only way you will get visitors to that site is to ‘get down on your knees and begin to pray...’”

      Mary laughs and says, “What were you doing on the site?”

      “My sister owns a company that specializes in creating Internet traffic. So we looked at it, she said the site really sucks and it would be nearly impossible to get visitors to the site from the search engines. Customers just won’t be able to find the site, the way it is structured now. Plus that ‘cha-ching’ sound has got to go."

      Mary responded, “Mike wanted that sound on there so people could think they are saving when they visit our site, but the only ‘cha-ching’ is what we paid to the geek. As far as getting found, you are telling me the only award it could win is the ‘Where's Waldo’ advanced version?”

      Having heard enough, and softly remembering the line, ‘All the skies are grey,’ Mike startled them both as he came around the corner. X-er left, Mary tried to, but Mike wouldn’t let her go.Mike didn’t like what he heard, he was frustrated and a bit impatient, but always had good business judgment, and said, “OK, Mary, ask his sister to come in and see me. We’ll see how good she is.” Mike was committed to making this site go; to creating an online presence.

      An Interview With A Geek…

      Two days later, Linda came to Mike’s office.

      Linda didn’t look like too geekish, but once she opened her mouth, well, Mike knew that she knew what she was talking about.

      “Michael, I don’t usually travel to clients offices, most of my consultations are in netspace; but you are in town, and my brother said you could really use the help... and I agree. Plus, I haven’t had to wear anything but shorts and t-shirts for the last three months, so this is a good change of pace for me.” Linda said.

      She looked over Mike’s shoulder and saw the picture of his family, and books, lots of books… management books; and books on presidents, Nixon, FDR, Kennedy… Linda was probably close to Mike’s age, but dressed like a net person, polo shirt with her company’s logo, no brief case, and a casual approach. “Well, I could beat around the bush, but I looked at your site” she said, “and while it does look nice, it... it … umm, well, it sucks.”

      “At least it looks nice…” Mike replied, thinking that ‘sucks’ really is a net word.

      From Bricks To Clicks…

      With that Linda politely smiled and went into a full-on geek/net/cyber dialogue, make that monologue.

      “You know that web sites end in dot com? That .com doesn’t stand for communication, or commerce. It stands for competition, your competition. All the companies are trying to do what you are doing - attempting to convert from ‘bricks to clicks.’ Trying to leave the physical limitations behind and go electronic. Replacing clerical staff, replacing sales staff.”

      “Yes!! Replace! Replace! Replace!” Michael said to himself, sounding a bit like that robot in Lost in Space.

      Linda continued, “If you don't have a domain name, you don't exist. People think you are out-of-it. And you are losing your customers, because they are online - accessing your competitors.”

      "Only about 7% of users really go beyond the first three pages of results," Linda said, “and I checked Infoseek this morning and it had 425,000 pages with ‘loans.’ And AltaVista has 680,000 pages with ‘loans.’ The search engine have proprietary algorithms that rank each page, and because your existing page is so graphic intensive, there isn’t much the search engines can grab onto to rank your page. I would guess, as nice as your site looks, you would be ranked around the bottom of this list, maybe number 416,000th… at best.” She was serious.

      "And that is your major problem,” she said, “We have to get ‘eyeballs’ to your site. You have a site that is not going to generate traffic search engines. It is an Internet site, and you should attempt to use the Internet as the medium to deliver visitors. Sure, you can spend thousands of dollars off-line, but why not use the power of the Internet, to deliver targeted visitors, immediately, to your web page?”

      Long Train Runnin…

      “Michael, we have to pave the road less traveled.” Linda continued. “Let me give you an example.”

      “Imagine you have a small town, isolated in the middle of nowhere, and off in the distance, 20 miles away, are train tracks and an occasional train. Your town needs tourism to survive. How much traffic are you going to get to your town from that train?”

      Mike laughs, “Not much.” And he begins to see the similarity between this small town and his site.

      “Ok, now imagine that this train now stops, 20 miles away, but there is a bus that people can catch from the train station to your city. There is a chance that some may get off the train, catch a bus, and visit your town. On the net, this is like using banner ads, and you may get some traffic, but still not much traffic.”

      … Just A Click Away

      Linda continues, “Now imagine, waking up one day, and finding not only does the train go right through your town, but it stops at your town. And then discovering not only is there one track, but 8-10 tracks that now come across the empty plains and stop at your town. Each one of these tracks in a search engine and can deliver hundreds or thousands visitors every day. That is what happens when you get ranked in the search engines. The ‘railroad tracks’ are electronic, and can appear instantly. The road leading to your site is now paved, guiding visitors to your site.

      When you get ranked in the engines, you are just a click away from a highly targeted visitor, coming down the track to stop at your domain. That is what optimizing a web site can do for business.”

      Count Me In. Oops, Make That, Count Me Out.

      “Let me address some other issues with your site. You know that counter, the one that says 91 (“Whoa, I am up to 91,” thought Mike, then he remembered he told his mother about the site as she just got online), that is pretty low. What is sad is that the 91 count probably is just you, your employees, probably even your mother (How did she know? Mike wondered).”

      I Know What You Did Last Session…

      “Get rid of the counter. If it is low, your visitor is going to wonder what they are doing there, and if it is high, your competitors are going to copy your site. There are better ways to monitor your visitors - they are logs, but we can discuss that later.”

      Are You Sure You’re Secure?

      “And your secure server, where you allow people to fill out the online application… you have to tell people that you have a secure site. It used to be only your psychiatrist would ask you if you are ‘secure’ now the whole world wants to know, so you better tell them your site in encrypted and they can safely give you the information you need.”

      Animated Gifs Out Of Control

      "Let me comment on your graphics as well. Most of your graphics are nice, except for that little animated mailbox image that opens and closes, and opens and closes and opens and… Animated gifs are a ‘right of passage,’ sort of like Chicken Pox for a kid; you have it and then move on. It is when those animated gifs stick around and then these graphics become the Energizer Bunnies of the net, afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome; yelling at you, screaming at you, begging you to notice the graphic, detracting the viewers eyes from the content of your site, the real reason why they visited. Get rid of the animated mail box, today.”

      Sounds Like…

      “While I am on the topic of things that may be annoying to your visitors, you know that little “cha-ching” sound you have that you probably think tells people they are saving money? Well, some people might interpret that as you are making money every time they open one of your web pages. Your web site should be what like what parents sometimes say to kids, ‘they are better to be seen not heard.’ So, the rule for music or sound effects, unless you are MTV or sell music, don't have music, or sounds, on your site. It gets worse when somebody tries to put what they like on a site, thinking everybody will like their music tastes -- nobody wants to listen to your niece tap dance the drum solo from In-a-gadda-da-vida... the long version, nor hear your parrot whistle the theme song from Gilligan's Island... you may like it, your visitors don't. Take the sound off, today."

      Linda hadn’t so much paused for a breath during her insightful, cutting analysis. Michael wondered what else could she say; the site was only 15 pages.

      These Fingers Are Made For Clicking…

      Linda paused, realizing she had been a bit harsh, and looked at Mike’s books again; looked for a bit of levity. “You know what JFK would say about a web site, about your web site?” Mike just shook his head ‘No.”

      “He would say, ‘Ask not what your customer can do for you, but what you can do for your customer.’” Mike, wanted to roll his eyes, but he got the message.

      With a joke to break up her delivery, Linda got back into the heavy analysis role, “I would venture that the person who designed your site was male.” Linda said. “It is a nice site, but the color scheme the graphics you used, well they reeked of old male chauvinism, especially that line you used which said, ‘As hard as you work to provide for your family, your wife, your children, you want the best for them.’ The latest Internet studies now put females at 50% of all users, and those nail polish coated fingers do a whole lot of clicking. You need to design a site that is appealing to both sexes.”

      “Alright, I get the idea. I need to make a few changes. Let’s go back to the trainloads of people, this paving the road less traveled. How do we do that?” Michael asked.

      What We Want

      “You know, Michael, ‘www’ doesn’t stand for World Wide Web, it stands for ‘what we want.’ Your customers can now comparison shop hundreds of sites in one session. If you don’t have what they want, you won’t get what you want.

      I Can See Clearly Now

      “Delivering targeted traffic is extremely difficult. You have to a have a clear vision of what you are providing either as a service or a product, then you have to speculate as to what your potential visitors are looking for, and then you have to design web pages to communicate your message, in a manner agreeable to the search engines, so people can find you. They are a potential user of your services right now, right this minute, whether 2 a.m. on a Saturday night or on their lunch break while at work, they want what they want, right now.”

      “I noticed on your site you say ‘home loan’ this and ‘home loan’ that, but you don’t say home mortgage. Why is that?”

      Mike responded, finally an answer he knew, “Well, in this state, there are no mortgages, so I didn’t use the word mortgage.” It felt good to Michael to deliver the right information.

      Sorta, Kinda, Approximately… Absolutely

      “OK, but it is not what you think, it is what your clients think. And if they type ‘home mortgages,’ when looking for ‘home loans,’ you better have ‘home mortgages,’ because that is what they want. And, to add to the equation here, search engines are absolute in their searches. If someone types ‘home mortgages,’ that is what the engine is going to look for, not ‘home loans.’

      It is the same way as if you were going to buy the latest CD by your favorite group, and the clerk gives you the CD that was their first album. It is not what you were looking for. In fact, some searches are so absolute, that if you type ‘home loan,’ only pages with ‘home loan’ not ‘home loans’ will appear. Other engines are case sensitive so if someone searches for ‘HOME LOANS’ the phrase ‘home loan’ is not a match.”

      Not Just A Pretty Face

      Mike thought for a moment, “So you are telling me there is a whole lot more than just having a web site that looks good?”

      “Yep.” Linda replied, as concisely as she had been all day.

      On The Road Again…

      Mike, satisfied with what he had learned, and a staff meeting pending, said, “OK, I will change my web site. Let’s try and pave that road… Can we meet again?”

      For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

      Originally published January 2000

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      The Marketing Power of Domain Names



      Domain Names

      Each and every month over 175,000 Internet domain names are reserved. That is almost 6,000 names per day, every day. How do you go about making sure your company's web site name is recognized and found from the millions of domain names already in existence?

      Your company needs every Internet promotion and marketing technique to allow potential customers to easily find your web site. One powerful way to help stand out from the thousands of other mortgage web sites is to have a professional sounding and easily remembered Internet domain name. The wrong domain name selection can cost your company thousands of lost commissions everyday.

      How To Select An Unique Domain Name

      Let us analyze what is happening in the "real world". Domain names have their own social class built into place. There are the most desired extension (*.com); and then there are all the other extensions (*.net, *.org, *.cc). Validation of this is evidenced by the newer versions of Internet browsers.

      Just type any word, "mortgages" for example, and the latest Netscape and Internet Explorer versions will complete the address by automatically adding the ".com" if you don't type it in the full address. If you currently have a "*.net" or "*.org" domain name, you already have one strike against you (i.e. potential lost business).

      The dot com names are the most preferred and desirable. The dot com names can be compared to a having a toll free 1-800 number. It is much better to have a 1-800 number, instead of a 1-888 number. People will automatically assume a dot com at the end of domain name (not *.net or *.org). As you can see, securing a "good sounding" domain name can get quite confusing ... if you don't know what to do.

      Assume you meet a perfect mortgage client at a social event and they want to contact you. If you tell this person your phone number is 1-800-HOMELOAN, then they have a good chance of remembering you. If you tell her your company's phone is 1-888-HOMELOAN, then there is a chance that she might confuse your phone number and possible dial your competitors toll free number (i.e. 1-800-HOMELOAN). Just because of some Internet confusion, you have possibly lost another mortgage client.

      Searching For A Name

      Let us assume you have a mortgage company and you wanted the domain name mortgage.com. You check it and see it is gone, so you say, "Well, I will just take loans.com" gone too, as is almost every other single and multiple word combinations dealing with loans. After going through two and three word permutations such as mortgagebroker.com, mortgagehomeloan.com, and then off to more permutations mortgagehomeloans.com, you remember that 175,000 domains names are taken every month. (Hmm, I bet many of the "good names" are gone.) So you start checking the *.net and *.org availability and soon find out many of the "good" names are no longer available here either.

      Finally after days of searching, you find a domain name "loans-4-u.net" available. Finally, an identity! This is where marketing problems occur. If you have to explain your domain name, or how to spell your domain name, you have lost your effectiveness.

      Name Recognition

      Now back to "you meet the perfect mortgage customer at a social event" and they want to contact you. You proudly tell her that your domain name is loans-4-u.net and she claims she will visit your site tonight. Assuming this perfect client does look for you site, does she type in loansforyou.com, loanz-4-you.com, loansforu.net, loanzforyou.org, loans-for-ewe.com… well, you get the idea.

      You have now spent thousands of dollars to develop and promote your mortgage web site. And with just a little Internet confusion, potential customers are going to a competitor web site just because they are confused on how to spell your domain name. This might happen numerous times a day, and it will cost you thousands of dollars in new loan originations. You don't want to give away business to your competitors by having a "confusing" domain name.

      Moral of the story, all things being equal, get an easy to remember or simple or descriptive dot com name.

      Clickability

      Your domain name is like the lead headline of a newspaper. It can immediately tell potential customers that your domain specifically addresses what they are seeking. If a potential customer does a search engine query for "low interest mortgage loans" and the first three domains presented are, loanz-4-awhile.com, bluepacificshores.com and lowinterestmortgages.com. Which name are you more likely to select?

      This potential customer will review the domain name addresses listed and see if any domains sound professional and relevant. If your company has a professional sounding domain name, this potential customer may be more likely to "click" on YOUR web site to see what mortgage services are offered. More "clicks" on your mortgage web site means more potential business.

      If you miss even one potential customer, you have lost a potential commission of thousands of dollars. After spending thousands of dollars promoting and marketing your web site, this is an expensive way to lose business.

      H-Y-P-H-E-N-S

      We are frequently asked, "Should I hyphenate my domain name? It will make it easier to read." Well, the answer is usually no. Look at the domain mortgage-home-loan.com. Which domain name is easier to explain?

      Hyphens cause you to have to explain your name, and one more place for a potential visitor to make an error. If you have to explain it, you have lost your effectiveness. Make is easy for customers to find your web site.

      Abbreviations

      Try to leave out abbreviations if possible. If your company is California Home Loan, make sure you get the complete spelling. If you have just califhomeloan.com, you are just making it more difficult for customers to find you. This is even more important if you want past customers to refer people to your web site. Can you imagine some customer telling a friend your mortgage web site is califhomeloan.com or cahomeloan.com instead of californiahomeloan.com?

      Which domain name is your customer going to better remember? If your customer can't remember, they won't be able to refer your mortgage services. Another lost customer worth thousands of dollars.

      You Have To Move Quickly

      We had a corporate client that was thinking of registering a perfect domain name for his company. We advised him to register that name immediately. Unfortunately, he did not take our advice. Two days later another company registered the same name. The old saying goes, “you snooze, you lose”. This is especially important on the Internet. A time line of 6 months on the net is like 2 years in the real world.

      Technology and marketing promotion on the Internet is constantly changing. You need every Internet promotion technique in your favor to help drive more business to your web site. Stake the odds in your favor by registering a good sounding and well-remembered domain name. And, three years from now when 25% of all mortgages will be transacted over the Internet, your company will be well positioned in having a strong Internet presence.

      Remember -- domains are going fast… in the five minutes it took you to read this article, over 20 domain names were registered ... some by your competitors.

      For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

      Originally published November 1999


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      How Much For That Web Site In The Window


      How Much For That Web Site

      "How much for a web site?" Asks the potential client. Seems simple enough. Seems to be a reasonable question.

      This question, "How much for a web site?" is also one of the biggest mistakes asked by mortgage companies and any designer that answers that question (addressing only cost) is probably not a web designer you want.

      A mortgage company on the Internet is on the web to conduct business and generate revenue. A business should not be on the net to just 'be on the net.' Short term thinking just focusing on expenses should be replaced with long term analysis of web site revenue and Internet market share. While the expense of a web site is an important consideration, two major considerations should control your decision: the revenue a web site can generate and the market share and brand name awareness your site can create.

      How Much For A Web Site? Last Year.

      Here is a typical scenario from a year or two ago:

      Potential Client: "You design web sites?"

      Web Designer: "Yes."

      Potential Client: "How much?"

      eb Designer: "How many pages?"

      Potential Client: "Oh, 10-20 pages I guess. Information on our company, a list of our loan products and a page on how to contact us."

      Web Designer: "Ok, that will be $x."

      Potential Client: answers - select one or more of the following…

      1. "Well, our in-house MIS guy said he could design a web site in his sleep."

      2. "My neighbor's kid just took a web design class, let me get a quote from him…"

      3. "But we have seen complete web site pricing for less than $1000"

      4. Client thinks, "I think I could do it myself cheaper," and says, "I will get back to you."

      With web sites costing from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars, here is what is wrong with the question, "How much for a web site?" The real question you need to ask, your designer, MIS guy, neighbor's kid, is "How much web traffic (i.e. how many closed loans) do you think we could generate with a well designed web site?" The question your management team needs to ask is, "How much market share are we going to lose by not being found on the Internet?"

      How Much For A Web Site? This Year.

      Here is how a conversation with your Web Manager should progress.

      Potential Client: "You design web sites?"

      Web Designer: "Well, yes, while the actual design aspect is very important; that is just one component of the overall success for your mortgage web site. But a web site is worthless…"

      Potential Client: politely interrupting… "Worthless? What do you mean?"

      Web Designer: "Let me show you how. This is how most web page designers design a web site. You tell them what you want, show them your logo, tell them your favorite color, and the web page designer brings back a few nifty graphic layouts. Your spouse gets involved, your secretary, your mother-in-law, your MIS professional, and you finally pick an award winning design. Then you build your web site. End result - a nice looking site..."

      "But that is like creating a wonderful television commercial. The TV ad is worthless... unless potential customers see it; unless you get the commercial in front of people. It is the same with web sites. You can spend thousands of dollars designing a web site, but if no one sees it; your site is actually worthless. It will not be generating new mortgage customers."

      For a web site to be effective, you need to get 'eye balls' to your site. You may have competitive interest rates and great loan programs, but if no one knows your web site exists... your online mortgage business will be non-existent. You will be missing a huge marketing opportunity."

      "Do you know what 'www' stands for?"

      Potential Client: "Of course… world wide web."

      Web Manager: "Yes, that used to be true. But with the vast numbers of consumers using the Internet to find information and to conduct business, 'www' now stands for 'what we want.' You need potential mortgage customers to find your web site and you need to give your visitors what they want."

      "The old adage still stands, 'What's in it for me?' This is vital to remember when designing your web site. What makes your web site unique from the thousands of competing mortgage web sites? You have about 5-10 seconds to catch a customers attention to stay on your web site; so make sure you tell these customers, "What's in it for them."

      Potential Client: "Yes, you have to give the customer what they want."

      Web Manager: "Here is how a web management company builds successful web pages. Internet studies show that unless you are a company like E-loan (who spends thousands of dollars on banner advertising),most people will find your web site on the net by going to a search engine and typing in key words to find what they want.(i.e. 'home loans,' 'mortgage loans' or 'mortgage broker'). So we first work with our clients to determine which key words we will build their web site around."

      "Because information presented on the net is not the same information as presented in a real world brochure, we next determine what information to provide to your current and potential customers. People will arrive at your site looking EXACTLY for what they are seeking. So unlike a TV commercial that interrupts your favorite show, a web site is a 'TV commercial' that someone has asked to see and wants to visit. You have that 5-10 seconds to entice them to stay... to make them your customer. If you don't ...there are thousands of other web sites that can."

      After we do that, we complete the web page layout and graphics...Subtle? Yes. Difference? HUGE! End result - a web page that produces results. Can we make people purchase a mortgage from your company? No, but we can design your web site to deliver them to your site... for your company to do your job."

      "That is how we turn a worthless web site into a valuable site. That is why a well designed and managed web site doesn't cost anything; it generates revenue.

      Potential Client: "So the question is not how much does a web site cost, but how much revenue will that site produce. I have to analyze the amount of revenue each closed loan is worth; and how much I am currently spending on traditional marketing sources (including labor) to get new customers; versus the savings I can have from this 'TV commercial' playing 24 hours a day on the net AND being seen."

      Web Manager: "Yes, a well designed web site costs you nothing, it makes you money. You will quickly find out that a poorly designed web site is actually 'costing your company money' instead of generating revenue each month."

      Client: Let us now forget about my first question, 'How much does a web site cost?' Just tell me the best way to properly design and market my mortgage web site.

      Next month we will discuss "What is wrong with your web site."

      For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

      Originally published September 1999

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      How To Compete Against 51 Million Pages On The Net



      My potential mortgage site client, Stephen, was breathing hard on the phone, slightly exasperated, slightly excited; He wanted to go right to the ‘bottom line.’ Even though he wouldn’t say it, this ‘net stuff’ was new to him and he had questions about how successful his web site could be in bringing new loan business.I could almost hear Stephen pounding his fist on the desk, saying, "What is my return on investment (ROI) if I do this web site? What do I get back? I have a successful business now, do I really need to do this internet thing?"

      I have heard it before from many clients... trying to apply real world thinking and analysis to the virtual world of the net -- it just doesn't always perfectly translate across the two worlds. My client was trying to know the final score of the game, before it even started. His return of investment (ROI) question was the easy part. We hadn't even got to the comment where Stephen would say his web site should be ranked in the top 10…

      Search Engines And Web Pages

      "Let me take a look at Infoseek and see how often your most desired word ‘home mortgages,’ is found," I said typing on my keyboard. "OK, for today, this 1st of July, 1999, for your phrase…" I said waiting for the cable modem to show the results, "Ahh, interesting, Infoseek shows only 51,735,822 web pages relevant to home mortgages."I didn’t see it, but I could hear his jaw open in amazement.

      "51 million pages?" Stephen said, with the words ‘51 million’ echoing on the phone line. "On the net? Is that all?"

      "Yep, that is today’s count," I replied. And there was more. "Infoseek, Stephen," I went on to say, "has only one third of all known pages indexed, so the real number is probably closer to 150 million pages."

      Stephen slowly said, "How do I compete against that?" I am sure he was thinking about how he had built up his New York mortgage company through hard work, networking, getting to know people and good service. But this was different; the net has its own set of rules to play.

      I was getting ahead of myself, so I said. "Let's talk about real world examples and how the Internet can be your ‘best salesperson’ and possibly bring you hundreds of clients each month." I paused because I know he can be a two-edged sword, "Of course by failing to properly design and promote your web site, the net can be your foe, and your competitor can get those customers instead."

      "How do I compete?" Stephen reiterated, and I was surprised he did. Here was a man who ran his company with an iron fist, knew exactly what he wanted and how to get it in the real world, and he was asking for a bit of help.

      How To Compete Against 51 Million Pages

      "Well, by doing everything right." I quickly rattled off a checklist of basic factors. "Clean layout, easy to read, easy to navigate, fast loading images, pages that work in all browsers, and content that is valuable to your customer." I pause to catch my breath, "And there a few things you don’t want: pulsating – gyrating – exploding images that detract and distract from your site; links off your site that allow your hard earned customers to leave with a simple click, non-uniform layouts..."

      Stephen cut me off, "I just wanted a web page."

      "Well, there are just 51+ million web pages for your keyword in Infoseek. What you really want is a web site, that will get found, that works for your customers."

      "Um, right." He replied. Stephen, was beginning to realize that it might take a different knowledge base to compete on the net. "OK, so I have to do all that?"

      "Yep." I smiled and continued, "And those are just the human factors. In order to get humans to your site, you have to go through the search engines." I then listed additional search engine considerations.

      "Stephen, for the search engines you have to optimize your HTML source code: meta titles, meta keywords, meta descriptions, alt-tags, word counts, search engine submissions, web page ranking analysis…"

      How Search Engines Work

      I could tell by the silence that this techno list was not really reaching him, so I tried a different approach. "Let me explain it a different way. Here is how search engines work. Once you have created your site, you need a method to communicate what you do and where you are. This is where search engines come into play. They are like the giant ‘Yellow Pages’ of the net (there are 8-10 major engines and 100's of lesser engines). What makes search engines powerful is that Internet users can go to the search engine site, type in a few key words, and the search engine will produce a list of web pages that most closely match the keywords searched -- hopefully yours. (Latest statistics indicate that 86% of web page owners claim that search engines are the primary means that caused a viewer to find their site.)"

      "The great news is that the search engines are FREE to list your web page and they are FREE for the Internet viewers to use. The bad news is that there are now 140,000+, oops, now 170,000, new internet domain names every month (that is up 40,000/month from January 1998). That is two and a half-new domains names every minute, every day, each with numerous web pages, competing against your site."

      "If your site talks about ‘hummingbirds,’ and someone searches for ‘hummingbirds,’ your site will be compared against all the other web pages containing ‘hummingbirds.’"

      "I don’t care about hummingbirds, I want home mortgage customers!" Stephen said.

      I went on, "OK, but you have to know that the engines are absolute in their analysis and ranking of your site. So if you have on your page, ‘home mortgages’ this, and ‘home mortgages’ that and someone looks for ‘home mortgages,’ you have a chance of being found. You can greatly improve your rankings by preparing and writing your site in a manner that makes it easy for the search engines to understand your site and thus, score your site."

      "Now here is where it gets a bit tricky," I continued. Assume your site has ‘home mortgages’ all over it, and your perfect client goes to a search engine and types instead the words ‘home loans.’ Well, your site is ‘home mortgages’ and the customer is looking for ‘home loans,’ so there is NO match.

      Even though you have what the customer is looking for, you WILL NOT be found. This costs web site owners thousands and thousands of dollars in lost business." Stephen was comprehending, "OK, so I will have ‘home loans’ and ‘home mortgages’ on my site."

      "Yes, you have to have what people are seeking," I replied. "But, it gets even trickier… Some search engines are so absolute that the exact word has to match, so if you have ‘home mortgages’ on your site and your potential visitor types the singular version ‘home mortgage,’ you WILL NOT match. Some search engines are case sensitive, so if a customer types HOME LOAN, or Home Loans, or home loan, you will get entirely different results."

      "OK, you worry about that," Stephen said, "let’s get back to my return on investment."

      Return On Investment

      "Let me address your return on investment (ROI) question." I said, trying to tie it all together.

      "Let me give you an example. I had a client come to me with the same set of questions you have, except her company had already spent a considerable amount of time and money (about $12,000) designing her mortgage web site. The only problem was... a major problem. She wasn’t getting any business."

      "I am not sure if the internet works,’ she said. ‘I just spent $100 for a company to submit my web site to every search engine out there… and nothing, no business.’ I told Stephen, that is poor ROI - $12,000 spent and nothing returned, and $100 spent and nothing returned."

      "She went on and said , ‘I have a great site and nobody signs up for loans.’ She mistakenly believed that simply having a web site would yield additional business. She believed in the internet myth, Build it and they shall come. Unfortunately this was not true, no more than it is in the real world. The only people who are going to come is your mother and a couple of employees, nobody else is going to know you even exist ... buried in 50 million other pages. To succeed on the net, your company has to effectively market themselves in this new media."

      I continued by saying, "After many weeks of hard work, we helped redesign her entire web site. We finally got this corporate mortgage client ranked at the top of many of the major search engines. It just so happens that as soon as we obtained our first ranking, a perfect customer was looking for a home construction loan on the Internet. We were at the right place, at the right time."

      "Her potential loan customer went to a search engine and typed in a key word phrase and up popped her web site, ranked within the top 10 out of 4.7 million web pages. This customer liked what he saw and contacted our mortgage client via their tollfree number. Within 30 minutes of talking with a loan officer, this customer had given his financial information over the telephone and a credit check had been completed."

      "To put the icing on the cake, this deal has now closed and the construction loan amount was $860,000 (commission of 1.5%, $12,900) and the take-out loan is $1.85M (commission of 1.5%, $27,750). For a total commission of $40,650."

      Stephen commented. "OK, I understand that. I know I can make money by providing good service to my clients. I just need to get a web site going."

      Site Design

      "Well," I said, "to compete on the net, your corporate web site must convey a professional appearance and you should have your own unique appearance. The "cookie cutter" approach to web site design maybe worked a year ago, but not now. Mortgage customers are a very sophisticated crowd (current statistics show average income $60,000++, and university level education)."

      "These customers are going to review various top-ranked web sites before they make a decision. Your have 20 seconds to make your impression: about 10 seconds for the download and another 10 seconds for what shows on your page. You have one chance to do this. If you don’t catch their eye immediately, they will just ‘click off’ and go to one of your competitor sites. You have now just lost a potential commission of thousands of dollars."

      "If your site design looks like your brother-in-law (who has some computer experience and does web design part-time) put it together, you have one strike already against you. Your web site will seem cheap and fail to promote confidence in your mortgage services. The potential customer might not willing to take a chance with a mortgage company for one of the largest financial decisions of their lives. You need to build trust and confidence by your web site design."

      "It goes back to old school of marketing. You first need a prospective Internet customer (web site promotion). Then you need a professional looking web site that will build trust and confidence (web site design). Of course you need competitive interest rates and a wide selection of loan programs. And to follow up, your company needs loan officers and customer service people that will oversee the loan process until closing. As you can see, having a web site is just one facet to help increase your mortgage business. If you don’t market your company effectively, you won’t attract any new customers."

      "Look, son," Stephen said, "I know a lot about marketing, I built this company from scratch. You don’t need to give me pointers on how to sell my service."

      Marketing And Promotion: Web Style

      I didn’t want to annoy Stephen, but I did want to show him how marketing on the net is different without offending him. "As you know, with any marketing or promotion plan, it involves many specific and technical aspects.

      It is somewhat like telemarketing, you just don’t start calling people and saying when they answer the phone,‘Would you like a home loan?’

      It is the same way on the net, you simply need a game plan, a road map to help you guide you through the maze of successful Internet marketing."

      "Let’s talk about web design. You spend $500 on a cheap looking design for your web site and you get no business. On the other hand, if your company spends say, $10,000 for a professional looking web site design and you get even one additional client (like our construction loan client for over $40,000). Your return on investment is over 400%. Now that is ROI.""And the power of the Internet is that this web site is working for you 24 hours/day, 7 days a week to a massive audience—over 150 million Internet users and growing. The internet can be your best salesperson. What if you had one $40K customer like this per month? Per week? Per day?"

      Now Stephen may not be proficient yet on the net, but he knows his money…

      "Well," Stephen said, "I think I have got it. Fifty-one million web pages with my keyword. And of course I want my web site to rank in the top 10…"

      For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

      Originally published August 1999

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      Banner Advertising vs. Search Engines

      One of the other common calls I receive from mortgage clients is, "We are currently spending a large portion of our advertising budget on Internet banner ads to increase our business. But we are finding the actual number of new customers to be very small. What are we doing wrong?"

      What Can Be "Wrong" With Banner Ads

      Internet users are very educated and affluent customers. These same users are also constantly deluged with banner advertisements from almost every web site they visit. Most potential customers are just "plain tired" from being bombarded by annoying banner ads. Do you think this is a good way to get new clients? (In fact many Internet users now download specialized software that prevents banner ads from being seen on the users screen…)

      I sometimes turn the tables on my corporate clients. I ask my clients if they actually click on banner ads themselves when they visit a web site. The great majority of time the answer is "no way, those banner ads are annoying". I then ask... why then does your company spend thousands of advertising dollars on ineffective banner ads? The answer I usually get is, "Banner ads are the only way our mortgage company knows how to advertise on the Internet."

      Another potential problem with banner ads is most popular web sites have already developed long term agreements with various online mortgage companies. In other words, you couldn’t place a banner ad if you wanted to. These mortgage companies have gotten in early to stop your company from competing with them.

      Many banner ads also work on a "cost-per-click" basis. You pay for a certain number of visitors to your web site. When you reach your budgeted number of visitors, the banner company deletes your banner and replaces it with another company’s banner. In other words no more advertising until you pay more money. And the worst thing is when one of your major competitors takes over your previous banner position.Some banner ad companies are even more sly. They charge per "page impression". What this means in plain English is that you are being charged even if the internet user does not even click on your banner ad. You are charged just for the "possibility" of an Internet user clicking on your banner ad. Not too fair if you ask me.

      Fortunately, there is a more effective method, and better way to increase your business....and that is using the Internet search engines.Someone who sees your banner ad has most likely already gone to a search engine, typed in their keywords, and arrived at the domain hosting your banner. By using the search engines, your potential customers can bypass the middleman (i.e. the banner ad hosts) and go directly to your site.

      Do banners work? They can, when used appropriately. Are banners the right marketing vehicle to drive the most traffic? There are better and more cost effective alternatives.

      As my partner likes to say, "Banner ads are for online mortgage companies that don’t know how to market their web site by the search engines."

      Before we continue, let us review how your potential customers actually find a web site

      Search Engines - The 'Yellow Pages' Of The Internet

      Once an Internet design company has created your web site, your company needs a method to communicate what mortgage services you have to offer. This is where search engines come into play. Search engines are the "yellow pages" of the Internet (there are 8-10 major engines and 100’s of smaller engines). What makes search engines powerful is that Internet users can go to the search engine site, type in a few key words, and the search engine will produce a list of web pages that most closely match the keywords searched -- hopefully your web site. Marketing statistics also reveal that Internet users primarily find web site information through the use of search engines (not banner ads or mortgage directories).

      The great news is that the search engines are free to list your web site and they are free for the Internet viewers to use. The bad news is that there are now 100,000+ new web sites being submitted every month. As you may conclude, achieving and retaining a highly ranked web site is going to get more and more difficult as the Internet gets bigger and bigger; and it is going to become more valuable in having a top ranked site.

      Most web design companies will submit your web site to numerous search engines. Unfortunately these web design companies are not experts in Internet search engine marketing... in getting your web site highly ranked. If you have a web site with poorly structured HTML code for search engine relevancy, the only thing you are doing is ensuring you will be listed at the bottom of the search engines.

      Let us now see how important having a highly ranked Internet web site will be in the future...

      The Future Of The Internet Mortgage Market

      The Internet is exploding with growth. There are over one BILLION web pages indexed and logged in the search engines right now and the Internet is still growing. Most mortgage companies mistakenly believe that simply having a web site will yield additional business. Your company has to know how to effectively market themselves in this new Internet age.

      According to the Wall Street Journal, internet mortgage origination was $4 billion in 1998 and is projected to explode to $250 billion by 2003. And within 4 years over 25% of all mortgage transactions are anticipated to be completed over the Internet.

      The trend for consumers going direct to the Internet has already been demonstrated in the world of stocks: e-trade.com, Charles Schwab, and a host of other brokers that have fundamentally changed the way people buy and sell stocks. This is also currently happening to the entire mortgage market.

      Current research indicates there are currently 150 million Internet users with an average family income of $60,000. Are any of these your potential customers? The growth of the Internet is exploding and is expected to double to 300 million Internet users by the end of the year 2000.

      The top Internet mortgage companies are quickly following the way of Internet success stories like Dell and Gateway. Online mortgage companies are taking away market share from traditional companies. The large online companies have huge advertising budgets that can expose their mortgage services by nationwide newspaper & magazine ads, television & radio commercials, including expensive banner advertising. If your company is a medium to large sized corporate mortgage provider, you need a more cost effective way to compete and not continuing losing market share.

      What Is "Right" With The Search Engines

      One of the most efficient ways to reach a large number of potential new customers is by optimal positioning in the Internet search engines (Excite, Infoseek, Lycos, Hot Bot, AltaVista, etc). Search engines can produce highly customized and targeted customers for your company. Better rankings in the top search engines simply means and an increase in sales with more potential customers viewing your offerings.

      The wonderful marketing aspect about the search engines is that customers are actually "looking" for your mortgage services; RIGHT NOW! In other words, they are coming to your web site because they want to; they have an immediate need. These customers are typing in specific key words to find your mortgage web site. This is the first time in marketing history that customers can actually come to you; 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

      The search engines level the playing field: when someone types in "mortgages" someone has to be ranked #1 and someone has to be ranked #100,000. You can imagine the revenue potential just between a listing on the first page and a listing at #500. A top ranking drives potential customers to your site. Do you know where is your company is ranked right now?

      Should Our Company Continue Traditional Marketing?

      At this point in time, I still suggest to our clients to continue using traditional advertising methods including print advertising, telemarketing and direct mail. You don’t want to strictly depend upon the Internet for all your marketing. There are still many people who are not computer literate and will not access the Internet. Just like anything in life, moderation is the key.

      I also strongly suggest to our clients to start extensively marketing their web sites - right now! The Internet is getting larger everyday and once you lose market share, it is very difficult to regain it back. The competition on the Internet is fierce and it is getting more competitive everyday. Make sure your mortgage company has a strong Internet presence, and you will find the Internet will become your most "cost effective salesperson".

      For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

      Originally published July 1999.


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      Does Your Web Site Need A Shot Of Viagra?



      One of the most common e-mails I receive from mortgage clients is, "We’ve paid xx dollars to submit our web site to over 500 search engines. Our company really expected to start getting more Internet business, but it hasn’t."

      Well, just because a web site is submitted to the search engines doesn't mean it is going to be ranked or even found. We all know the computer adage, "Garbage in, garbage out." If you have a poorly designed site for search engine relevancy, the only thing you are doing is ensuring you will be listed near the bottom of 500+ search engines. There is no magic in submitting your site to the engines; the magic is in the way your web site is structurally designed.

      Just "showing up" on the Internet with your corporate web site doesn't translate to being successful. A productive Internet presence requires several key elements. If any are missing or deficient you will hear the familiar cry…

      "I built it, but they didn't come."

      Before we continue, let's review how people actually find your mortgage web site…

      Search Engines - The 'Yellow Pages' Of The Internet

      Once an Internet design company has created your web site, your company needs a method to communicate what mortgage services you have to offer. This is where search engines come into play. Search engines are the yellow pages of the Internet (there are 8-10 major engines and 100’s of smaller engines). What makes search engines powerful is that Internet users can go to the search engine site, type in a few key words, and the search engine will produce a list of web pages that most closely match the keywords searched -- hopefully your web site. Internet statistics reveal that 86% of all their customers primarily find their site through the use of search engines (not banner ads or mortgage directories).

      The great news is that the search engines are free to list your web site and they are free for the Internet viewers to use. The bad news is that there are now 100,000+ new web sites being submitted every month.

      As you may conclude, achieving and retaining a highly ranked site is going to get more and more difficult as the Internet gets bigger and bigger; and it is going to become more valuable in having a top ranked site.

      If you do a search on a major search engine like Infoseek, this engine will return the number of web pages that contain the key phrase which you have searched. For example, let’s take the keyword "mortgages." I checked Infoseek in May 1999 and found there were approximately 1.7 million pages with the word "mortgages". Every one of those mortgage companies thinks that their web site is so unique that they should at least be ranked in the top 30 in a search for "mortgages." Do the math: 30 ¸ 1,700,000 yields a 0.00002 chance that your mortgage site would be listed in the top 30 if all web sites were equal. All web sites are not equal.

      So You Want Your Web Site To Be Found?

      If you are going to pay a search engine "submission service" to do this for you. I have some bad news for you. It won't work in almost all cases!

      The best analogy I can think of is a cake. You want a perfect cake but have never made one. Do you mix the flour with the icing first, do you add baking powder or baking soda, is it a tablespoon or teaspoon of salt? If you don't assemble the cake just right in the correct order, you won't get a cake. It is the same way when you submit an unoptimized web site. You severely limit your chance of being "edible" by the search engines.

      Your company has probably paid a lot of money to have a professional Internet design company build your web site. You should also remember that while these companies are very good at designing a mortgage site, they are not usually experts in Internet marketing; in getting your web site highly ranked.

      Your mortgage web site may have snazzy graphics, online calculators, even a nice online application form. But the number of visitors to your site isn't very high and sales are even worse. "What’s wrong?" you ask.

      After thinking about it for a while you simply conclude, "The Internet really doesn't work." After all, you have a great site -- why wouldn't people want to come?Good analysis of problem - determining there is something wrong, but you have reached an incorrect conclusion. You need to have access to a few tips with regards to being found by the search engines -- the "structure" of your web page is more important than the visual aspect of your site.

      There Are Two Essential Elements To Every Well-Designed Web Site

      What many people don't realize is that there are two essential designs to every properly functioning web site. First the art and visual components which is the work that everybody sees when they visit your site. And second, the web structure and underlying layout that supports your visual design which allows your Internet visitors to find you via the search engines. This structural component is not entirely visible as much of it lies in the coding of your web sites language (HTML).

      Your visual element is what makes your Internet presence unique. It is what conveys the image you are attempting to communicate to mortgage clients. You have spent a great deal of time and money creating the perfect site; but probably haven't spent much time ensuring your web page is found. Here is an important tip: every visual web design requires strong structural design features or to put more succinctly, you don't want to build a Corvette and then give it a Yugo engine.

      How Can Your Company Improve Their Search Engine Ranking? (Give It More Viagra)

      It is critical to properly optimize the "structure" of your web site for maximizing search engine relevancy. If you do not optimize your site, you will have that beautiful Corvette sitting there with the wrong motor, and worse yet, you don’t have any gas.

      Now back to your mortgage site. Once created, your web site design company has probably "submitted your site to over 500 various search engines". These search engines then visit (spiders) your web site and indexes your information so it will "know" what your site is about.

      Herein lies the problem. The search engines don't look at your beautiful web site design or the ways you have designed your online application forms. Mortgage customers look at these items, but search engines don't. Search engines look at the way your page is written, the underlying HTML source code used to create your page, and then apply an algorithm to rank your mortgage web page.

      Search engines look at the "structure" of your site. This leads us back to…

      The Structural Design Of Your Web Site.

      In order to get your web site found, you have to create a web site structure that the search engines can read and understand. There are several basic ways to accomplishing this: the title, meta tags, alt tags, meta description and HTML content. Each search engine has its own algorithm for analyzing these components. (Unfortunately, these algorithms are not only proprietary, they are changing constantly). The better you design the underlying "structure" the higher ranking your web site will receive when someone searches for your mortgage services. It is literally the difference being ranked #20 versus being ranked #20,000 on the search engine results page. You can imagine the revenue differential between a listing on the first page and a listing at #200.

      Now you have the basic ingredients to work on your site, if you leave out one part, it can adversely impact your web site. It is somewhat like having the flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and baking soda sitting on a counter to make your cake. As you know, the trick is not necessarily having all the ingredients but knowing how to put them together... it is even more difficult when you don’t have all the ingredients to complete your recipe.

      For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

      Originally published June 1999.

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      The Internet Is My Friend And Other Half Truths



      The following story is true, this same scenario has happened to several of our clients…

      This story begins like hundreds of other dreams each month, but it doesn’t end the same.

      Ted had grown their mortgage business up to 75 employees over the past 8 years. His wife (Lisa) was a former lending VP for a local bank. They were both Internet savvy and spent time looking at competitors. One day Lisa turned to Ted and said, “Me and the internet, I think we are going to be the best of friends. We should put our business online.” And so the Internet relationship began…

      They went online about a year ago with mixed results. They had attracted a few leads off of their web site, and while excited about the leads, they were also disappointed. They had spent over $40,000 ‘designing’ the site and felt it should be producing more than a lead every ten days; and a closed loan about once a month.

      Ted and Lisa knew they had good interest rates, a specific market niche, and the expertise to produce more, much more… They were wondering, “Does this Net thing really work. I know it should, but does it?”

      Just Four Months Later...

      Here is how Ted and Lisa turned their web site from an ego site, stating, “Hey, we are on the net,” into a highly functioning, revenue generating asset, with loan originations averaging $250,000 - $1,000,000+ per day, every day.

      But First, How The Web Site Began

      Lisa took the initiative for web site. She had a bit more time available and she was far more Internet proficient. Lisa interviewed quite a few companies before selecting their first ‘web designer’. Summer (the ‘web designer’) did what she was supposed to do she created a nice web site. Ted and Lisa had said, “We are ready to get onto the Net. What can you do for us?” Then the ‘web designer’ followed the normal process.

      They initially showed the “web designer” their logo, explained the history of the corporate colors, and then Summer brought back a few nifty graphic layouts. Ted and Lisa showed their secretary, the head of sales, and their father-in-law and finally decided on a web design. Then the web site was built. End result - a “pretty” web site...

      They site had the full ‘wu-wu’: music, animated graphics, interactive forms and the latest flashy software.

      They thought their web site was pretty cool. But then again, their site didn’t work. It wasn’t generating many new loans.

      How Their Web Site Should Have Been Constructed

      Lisa became friends with one of her loan clients. This client owned an insurance business and told Lisa they had a very successful web site. She asked just what successful meant to them, and they said about 100-300 targeted visitors per day. Lisa was lucky to get 100-300 visitors per month.

      Lisa found out who designed the insurance site and arranged a meeting with Rell, the ‘new web designer’.

      How To Really Design A Web Site

      Rell was a bit different than Summer; she had an entirely different perspective on the ‘web design.’

      The ‘new web designer’ stated that before she looks at a potential clients’ site, she wants to understand a bit about the client and the clients business. No logo’s, no team colors just about what the business does and what they expect to achieve on the Net.

      Rell said that she had a little secret she uses when designing a web site. She said most designers ‘design around designs’, and that she ‘designs around words’.

      More Than A Pretty Face

      Rell went on to say, “We use the keywords your customers type into the search engines.

      Gosh, I know that this makes sense... but if you look at most web sites they are nice looking. But these sites do not have the keywords they want to offer to their clients. So, the most cost-effective method to direct targeted traffic to your web site is via top rankings in the search engines.”

      Subtle? Yes. Difference? HUGE! End result - a nice looking web page... that produces tremendous results. Designers may design, but we create highly effective pages intended to market your web site. Lisa was sold on this truth. Rell made other comments to the effect that the only sites that should have music are sites that sell music; and that using the latest software actually can cause problems for visitors who don’t have these ‘plug-ins.’

      Lisa and Ted tossed aside the $40,000 web site they initially built, and built their site around words and the customer.

      Within A Month, Visits Increased

      The new design was great and highly functional. And due to the way Rell structured the HTML (underlying computer code), quite a few search engine rankings were obtained. Traffic was up to 50 people a day. And within another 30 days, close to 200 highly targeted customers visited the new site every day. 200 potential customers that are actively looking for a mortgage loan.

      An Interesting By-Product From The Success Of The Site

      Not only were Ted and Lisa now averaging closed origination loan amounts of $250,000 - $1,000,000+ per day, every day. But their web site was substantially outperforming the 12 person, in-house telemarketing department.

      Lisa made the tough decision to layoff the entire telemarketing staff. A savings of about $28,000 per person annually or over $330,000 additional expenses were removed.

      The Sales Staff Commission Was Lowered, But They Made More Money

      Next, Ted and Lisa reduced the overall commissions for the sales staff. As you can imagine, there were more than a few protests from their loan officers. Except now with higher quality leads (more of them) (and even with a lower commission), the sales staff was actually earning more money in commissions.

      Life at the office actually seemed less stressed. Lisa turned to her husband and said, “I told you so.”

      Ted replied, “What?”

      “The internet is our friend…”


      For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

      The Internet is My Friend - and Other Half-Truths

      Originally published December 1999

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      Thursday, March 22, 2007

      Spam, Hamburger or Filet Mignon


      Everyday we open our email "inbox" expecting something to satisfy us, yet it seems to be filled with more unsolicited electronic junk mail, also called bulk email (or Spam, as it is called by most people). How much time do you spend everyday purging all this Spam? How many messages a day do you get that start out "Get Rich Quick...." or "Lose Weight Fast..." or even “Interest Rates Have Dropped.”


      Additionally, Spam email often contains a sentence that states that all you have to do to get off the list is reply with "Remove" in the subject line. Do not reply to a Spam email, because now the Spammer will know that your email is actually a real live email address and will start sending you MORE Spam and sell your email address as a “fresh” email address for an even greater barrage.

      Very few people like Spam. And most people HATE it. We have talked with quite a few mortgage companies that have considered using unsolicited email as a form of Internet marketing. Before you take the plunge into Spamland, you need to evaluate the risks you are taking with Spam marketing and here are just a few of them:

      * Will you lose your web hosting provider or ISP connection because of all the complaints?
      * How many potential customers will get upset because of the Spam approach you are taking?
      * Is there a chance you might wind up in some legal trouble (i.e. Federal Court)?
      * Are you buying mortgage leads from an email marketing company which utilizes Spam?

      No Web Host…No Business

      Web hosting providers hate companies that use their email servers for bulk email. The reason is because it uses up valuable bandwidth, disrupts their non-Spamming customers, and your provider receives threatening letters from their wholesale bandwidth companies.

      Banned: These web hosting providers can also get their entire email servers completely banned so not only will you be closed down, so will all of their customers. No one will be able to send emails to AOL customers, Hotmail customers and others.

      Shut Down: Hosting and ISP providers to protect their business, (and to keep their customers happy) can immediately delete your web hosting account and ask questions later. In effect, you have no web site and therefore no online mortgage business. All the bulk emails responses reply to a “dead” email address or web site and simply go on to the next provider of loans. Your time, efforts, money and now your web site are all wasted.

      Disgruntled Customers

      After being deluged with numerous Spam emails everyday, do you honesty think a customer that actually responds to a Spam solicitation will be a “good lead”. Most Spam leads have very poor loan close rates and in fact you will spend more time trying to placate unhappy Spammed people than closing loans.

      In fact, some sophisticated computer hackers get so mad with Spam being sent to them that they will actually hack into your company web site. Hackers have been known to shut down web sites, steal customer information and publish words/graphics that deface your web site.

      State and Federal Laws

      Anytime there is something that makes millions of people complain, it will get the attention of State/Federal lawmakers. You should be surprised that there has been a lot of activity both on the Federal/State levels to put a stop to unsolicited email. There have been a number of bills proposed in Washington, one State bill was passed and several other States have bills pending.

      There is precedence for this; the U.S. Congress passed a Bill in 1991 called the “Telephone Consumer Protection Act” which made it illegal to send unsolicited junk fax mail. It was passed after everyone started complaining about junk faxes.

      Several other bills are pending at the Federal level. One bill would require that the word "Advertisement" or “ADV” appear at the top of the message and that the sender be fully identified by name, email address and telephone number. Another bill would outlaw false headers and return addresses for unsolicited email advertisements and require mailers to honor removal requests.

      Only one state as far has actually passed a bill regarding unsolicited email. That is the State of Nevada. The law requires that such email messages have proper sender identification and that they include "opt out" or removal instructions.

      What is Opt-in Email?

      What is permission based or opt-in email, and how is it distinguished from Spam? Opt-in or permission based email (the terms are interchangeable) means recipients have confirmed their interest in receiving email and have signed up (hence the term opt-in) to receive communications about a subject of their interest. The recipient is also given the opportunity to unsubscribe from the list at any time, and all email messages are clearly identified as coming from a specific and approved vendor or source. Opt-in email is considered an acceptable Internet marketing technique, but still only a step above Spam, essentially “hamburger” as it is still invasive in nature.

      Email Marketers or Spammers?

      As most mortgage companies do not have the technical resources to start their own opt-in email marketing campaign, many companies engage an outside company to fulfill their opt-in marketing and mortgage lead requirements. Unfortunately this can cause mortgage companies to still have problems as some marketing companies are actually selling Spam leads (and not Opt-in email leads as promised).

      Among the 80 Spam emails I receive each day about 10-20+ Spam emails a day soliciting “lower my interest rates”, “refinance before rates go up”, “consolidate my debt” and more. In fact, I get another 5-10 Spam emails from actual Opt-in marketing companies that are trying to sell their mortgage leads. Isn’t that ironic when an Opt-in marketing company Spams me to sell leads and states they do NOT do bulk email to generate their mortgage leads.

      I Spam Therefore I Am Spam

      So you are probably thinking, “Well, we are legally OK because we are not really the people spamming. The U.S. Federal Courts have a funny legal precedent that says in law that says “Ignorance is not bliss”. So if your marketing company gets caught doing email spamming, your mortgage company is also possible legally responsible for their actions.

      Is There A Filet Mignon Option?

      The best most viable Internet leads are not those you solicit, but those that come to your web site seeking loans. Driving traffic to your site can be accomplished via traditional “real-world” marketing (Countrywide), heavy banner usage (E-loan) or by high rankings in the search engines.

      A customer who self selects to visit your site is of higher quality and more likely to become a customer. Now, that should satisfy you…and your customers.



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      Compelling Customers To Take Action

      Efforts to sell your mortgage products begin with a headline. It may be in a title of a web page or a top listing in a search engine. Its purpose is to grab the customer's attention and to compel them to take action. The purpose of compelling written content is to cause the customer to take an action; such as filling out an application or contacting your company.

      Apart from increased marketing efforts, there are really only two other ways to increase sales:

      • Improve the major elements that lead to your web site (search engine listings, banner ads, opt-in emails, etc).

      • Improve the effectiveness of your web site in bringing a sale (compelling content, headlines, etc).


      The online mortgage company can fine tune these elements far more easily (and with greater effectiveness) than can be done offline.

      Meta Tags and Titles

      The testing of ads before launching a sales campaign is well documented. But a listing in a search engine is also an ad and is often overlooked. The title tag is the headline that causes the reader to read the description tag. And the latter must bring a click to your site, or else the "ad" fails.

      Since many search engines use these tags to create the listing; improving these meta tags can bring improved results. In short, create an attention gabbing headline that compels the reader to read the listing. Then create a description that compels the reader to click to your site.

      Home Page Testing

      You need to have your web hosting company show you how to view your site statistics. Then look only at unique visitors and page views. This will give you baseline to analyze your web site changes.

      Also focus initially on above-the-fold, this is the area where the customer first reads your compelling headline. Put your best information first, just a newspaper puts its best articles on the first page


      The task is to make a content change, then see what effect it had on your page views. If page views increase, then assume the change is positive and keep the new content.

      If there is a decrease in page views, it is then negative and reverse the change. If there is little or no change, nothing has been shown so hold the change or reverse it.

      Keep accurate records about your content changes and what works (and what doesn't). These past records are invaluable in providing hints for later changes.

      No Interference

      Make no other changes in your web site during a testing period. Doing so can distort the results and bring bad decisions. Let the site run with the noted changes until you have a good analysis of your web site traffic

      What To Change?

      Site colors? Images? The page layout? While written content is the most important element on the site, all that supports it should be tested. Try what works the best for you, but in the end it is your content that makes or breaks your site.

      How Much To Change?

      How much to change on your web site is really a judgment call. The headline on the home page is very important, so changing only this one item may be as far as you want to go. There is a lot of guessing to be done and hunches to be analyzed.

      The Bottom Line is Sales

      In the end, it does not matter what you think about your web site. It is really only your opinion. When you statistically analyze your own site, opinions are replaced with facts. And the behavior of your visitors is the only real factor and the bottom line is more mortgage loans.

      For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

      Originally published December 2001

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      Kiss Your Customers

      The word "kiss" has many meanings, depending on the context. In my family life, the primary meaning is when my little daughter goes to bed, I always give her a big kiss good night.

      In my Internet life, the other important meaning pertains to web sites... yes, your web site. Because "kiss" also means "keep it simple, stupid."

      The best web sites don't assume the client is an expert computer user. Technology is a wonderful thing, but most people are years behind the technical types. Therefore, your web site should be simple.

      And "kiss" is a very critical concept when developing your web site.

      Designing for Simplicity is Not Simple

      The key to a highly successful web site isn't sophistication... it is simplicity. Just take a look at Yahoo. Your customers want to be able to find what they want, quickly, without having to wade through complex graphics and difficult navigation.

      Now here is the hard part; designing for simplicity is anything but simple. But well thought-out simplicity is what can make your successful web site profitable.

      Want Your Site to Have KISS Appeal?

      Most people still use the Net at speeds under 56K and have their monitors set for 800 x 600 resolution. So the best web sites load in about 10 seconds at 28.8 K. Your web designers may have DSL or cable modems; but 95% of your customers do not. And the bottom line is that nobody is going to wait more than 10 to 15 seconds for your web site to appear.

      Content Sells... Graphics Do Not

      On the Internet, mortgage customers first look for relevant text, not graphics. Make sure you have clear well written text available straight away. That will keep your customers interested while the graphics load. Use graphics only if they help customers understand what they are looking for or if they convey information that can not be conveyed effectively through text. And keep graphics as simple and as small as possible; so they load quickly.

      The best sites have simple and consistent navigation. Your average loan customer might view 2 to 3 pages before leaving. So at best, you are 2-3 clicks away from being dead in the water unless you help them get where they want to go...quickly.

      The Obvious Sells

      Make everything obvious. First and foremost, help your customers easily see the information -- white backgrounds are quick to download and help information stand out. Use alt tags (the labeling of images) and easy to read headlines in your content area. Offer concise explanations, with the ability to have your visitor click if they desire more in-depth information.

      I Fell Down and I Can't Get Up

      Provide clear navigation from anywhere; and do it on every page so that you never leave your prospect stranded anywhere on your site.

      Respect Internet protocol. Blue underlined text means hyperlink, or "Click Here". And don't confuse your customers. A confused customer is lost profits. Also avoid underlining or using blue text for anything else. Place your navigation on the top or left of every page; and offer contact information at the bottom of every web page.

      Nah, Nah, Hey, Hey, Goodbye

      A very simple strategy, often overlooked, is to keep all your navigation links within your web site. Unless you want to encourage your customers to leave, don't offer them hyperlinks to any other site. Any trip to the menu bar is an opportunity for your prospect to kiss you goodbye.

      Simple is as Simple Does

      Never make a customer download plug-ins. Average customers do not know how to download. And even if they do, why take them away from the loan process and force them to do something else because some web designer thought it would be cool? Your customers won't say, "Wow!" -- they'll leave your web site.

      If you can't design it into your web site and still have it load quickly; leave it out. And give your customers simple instructions and helpful tools to guide them through the loan process.

      Simple Forms are Completed

      Another simple tactic is to have very simple forms on your site that require just the basic information so you can "hook" your prospective visitor. We have run numerous experiments with the amount of information a customer is willing to give you and we find that more than 10 items will cause the completion rate to plummet. Long questionnaires about the exact balance of the second trust deed and the phone number of your current lender result in about a 70-80% drop off rate.

      And when a Social Security number is asked for up front, many people quit filling out the form in mid-stream. Part of the reason customers don't like to provide extensive information is the issue of trust.

      Do Customers Trust You?

      Keep in mind: Visitors are looking for a reason not to trust you. Use of sites with non-related pop-up windows, P.O. boxes for your address and outdated copyright dates are just a few reasons to cause doubt with a potential customer.

      Pay attention to the details: Check for typos, grammatical errors, screen error messages, images that don't open, browser compatibility problems, functions that don't work -- everything. Then have someone else check again, from a different machine (i.e. if you used a PC with Internet Explorer to create the site; check your site with a Mac using Netscape).

      The best web sites build their brands by creating a great user experience and by making it simple to use their site.

      KISS - "Keep it simple, stupid." Here's what the top web sites have in common:

      • Fast download times

      • Put what the customer wants at the top of the page

      • Few graphics

      • Compelling content

      • Consistent navigation

      • No frames

      • Links in traditional blue (underlined text)

      • No background images

      • No splash page

      • Simple and easy-to-understand

      So you need to ask yourself, was your web site designed to kiss your customers in the right way. If not designed correctly, you will just be kissing your online profits goodbye.

      For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

      Originally published November 2001

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      Designed for Show or Designed for Dough?

      If you want to increase your online mortgage sales; you have to begin at the very beginning. Your home page is literally 90 percent of the sales battle. If your home page doesn't perform; your visitors won't be enticed to venture deeper into your site - and you will make very few mortgage sales.
      Having a poorly designed home page is a disaster because there is no sale. And that means that the marketing budget, creative effort, and time you invested to get those visitors is wasted. We advise our corporate clients strongly NOT to drive visitors to their home page; until their site is ready for commerce.
      Download Fast... And Earn Quick Cash

      So what are the key things your home page has to do to "do it right"? First and foremost, it has to download fast. How fast? Eight to ten seconds is ideal. More than that and your visitors start to leave from impatience. Beyond 20 seconds and you have turned your web site into a conduit leading directly to your competitor's site.

      Web Designers might be very talented people and typically live in a world of high speed connections (DSL, Cable, T1) and large monitors. What they may not know is that only around 5% of Internet users have high speed access. The big reality is that most customers surf at 56k or LESS. And the majority of people (roughly 60%) -- still surf at only 28.8k; on 15" or smaller monitors.

      So when we are talking 8-10 seconds, we mean at 28.8k. Yahoo and Amazon do it; as do many other top sites. This means your entire home page should be around 35K or less in size.

      True, most home pages are bigger -- a lot bigger. But that's precisely the problem. More specifically, your problem. These web sites take so long to load that the visitor is gone long before the designer's creative talent can even be seen.

      If you want to maximize sales (as opposed to having a beautiful design showcase that actually discourages sales) then the web designer's challenge is to develop a great 'look and feel' within the constraints of a fast loading site.

      Titanic or the Love Boat?

      Fast download times are just the tip of iceberg. You do not want your site to sink before you even leave the harbor. Equally important is what the visitor will view after the page has loaded. You want your visitor to fall in love with your sites. And to do so; here are some of the more critical elements to also follow:

      Is your unique selling proposition (USP) clearly stated and strong? (If you do not even know what is a USP, then you might want to stay away from the Net entirely).

      Is your site navigation clear and simple? (You confuse... you lose).

      Is your web site professional looking (i.e. a million dollar look)? (Many mortgage sites look like the summer intern designed them).

      Do your graphics integrate well with the entire site? (No flashing mailbox graphics or scrolling text).

      Does the home page utilize expert sales wording (i.e. compelling content) that encourages a buying decision?

      Does the home page inspire trust and build rapport? (Be aware that security is more of an emotional issue than a technology one.)

      Is your contact information easy to find (1-800, address, email, hours of operation)?

      Are the smallest details (such as fonts and colors) chosen to maximize sales?


      Does the home page compel your visitors to go deeper into the site? Does your navigation or wording actually compel your visitors to want your product?

      Does your web site view on all browsers?


      AIDA - Tropical Disease or Marketing Acronym?

      I'd like to share a powerful tool from the "real world" of sales because it is just as powerful in the virtual world -- and perhaps even more so. It's known by the acronym throughout all marketing textbooks as "AIDA" (attention, interest, desire, and action).


      Every successful sale incorporates these critical elements at every step. These steps drive the process of turning visitors into buyers. So apply the AIDA test to your own home page and analyze your results:

      1. Does your home page grab visitors' attention -- in about eight seconds?


      2. Does your home page stimulate customer interest and reinforce that they are at the correct web site?

      3. Does your home page inspire the desire to take the action of clicking deeper toward a sale?


      4. Is "how to take action" obvious and easy?

      Once you've tested for AIDA on your home page, test every other page on your site. Are your visitors moving comfortably from your home page, through your entire site, and to your application form?


      If you can't answer yes to all four questions; then you've got some work to do. But taking this extra time to do it "right"; will make your web site one of the few that makes money on the Net.

      And just like investing your Internet marketing dollars (dough) into achieving high search engine rankings. You also need to invest some dollars (and time) into a well designed/researched home page. The Net is a powerful opportunity to make mortgage sales, you just have to do the "right" things in the "right" sequence.


      For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

      Originally published October 2001

      Compelling Customers To Take Action

      Efforts to sell your mortgage products begin with a headline. It may be in a title of a web page or a top listing in a search engine. Its purpose is to grab the customer's attention and to compel them to take action. The purpose of compelling written content is to cause the customer to take an action; such as filling out an application or contacting your company.

      Apart from increased marketing efforts, there are really only two other ways to increase sales:

      • Improve the major elements that lead to your web site (search engine listings, banner ads, opt-in emails, etc).

      • Improve the effectiveness of your web site in bringing a sale (compelling content, headlines, etc).


      The online mortgage company can fine tune these elements far more easily (and with greater effectiveness) than can be done offline.

      Meta Tags and Titles

      The testing of ads before launching a sales campaign is well documented. But a listing in a search engine is also an ad and is often overlooked. The title tag is the headline that causes the reader to read the description tag. And the latter must bri