|Many mortgage companies use their Web sites to attract new business. The text on the site’s pages and the way it is organized can make a significant difference in generating more prospects — and even help those prospects get further along in the mortgage process before the initial contact.
Web sites serve different purposes for different lending organizations.
They play a big roll with loan servicers — who can now offer borrowers detailed and current account information 24 hours a day with no employee involvement.
The established mortgage originator, whose fundings might be the result of high quality referrals from consistent referral sources, will likely provide features that cater more to committed prospects. He or she might use a Web site to boost the level of customer service offered.
For instance, contact information, office location and directions, and standard forms might help applicants who have already made the decision to follow the advice of their real estate agent to go with a particular lender.
Mortgage companies using their Web sites as a lead generation tool need to remember that Internet-generated prospects expect immediacy. Internet users are accustomed to instantaneous results; if an individual loan originator or small mortgage company is to successfully compete against major online lenders, the prospective loan applicant needs to be able to obtain useful information during the first visit to the site.
The best possible result from a first visit to a mortgage site would be a loan approval. In addition to providing the originator with a fully qualified lead, the loan prospect has already invested time in the process — which will be lost if another lender is selected.
While smaller mortgage companies may not be able to implement their own automated underwriting system, some companies — such as Data-vision — offer technology that enables the smaller organization to provide the automated approval of a bigger organization on their own Web site.
Every page of a mortgage Web site should enable a user to easily make a close.
If a close means that a borrower’s name and phone number is obtained, then every page on the site should have an obvious link that the user can click to submit that information. If a close means that a loan application is submitted, then each Web page should prominently display a link to “submit an application.” If the objective of the mortgage company is to utilize their Web site to generate complete automated approvals, then it should be apparent to the prospective borrower on every page that they can get instant online approval by clicking a particular link.
Because each prospect has a different level of comfort with the online process, it would be ideal if all of these options could be made available on all the pages of the site. Additionally, if salespeople are available by phone, then the company’s phone number — or a prominent link to the page that contains contact information — should be put on every Web page. Listing the phone number gives an option to users that for some reason don’t want to continue the online process.
Lenders seeking prospects from search engines can take simple steps to enhance the position of their Web sites in search engine results. While none of these steps individually will provide significantly better positioning over the hundreds of thousands of Web sites serving prospective loan applicants, collectively they can make a difference.
The first step is to maintain freshness. Search engines consider how recently a Web page was last updated, how often it’s been updated, and how long regular updates have been occurring.
An example of maintaining freshness is updating mortgage rates at least daily. A mortgage rate feed, which requires no changes to your Web page, will not work in this situation.
The next step is provide lots of description about your organization. The Internet is a collection of billions of words, and words make up a Web site.
Try to describe as many aspects of your company as possible.
For instance, on the page “About This Company,” the most successful aspects of your company should be described.
On the page describing your programs, give prominence (and additional descriptions) to those programs that you already do well with — but also make sure to mention all of the specific products you offer (i.e., FHA 203k loans).
Geographic coverage is very important. If you want borrowers in Stepford County, then the phrase “Stepford County” should be regularly listed on your Web pages.
Salespeople and comments about them should also be featured on the site.
The key is to give the search engines that much more text on your site to consider when providing keyword search results to users.
For instance, let’s say John Doe is a loan originator at your firm. If his name is not listed anywhere on your Web pages, then a user searching for “mortgage by John Doe in Stepford County” would have no chance of finding your firm’s Web site in the search results for him (but might get the last company he worked for).
While there is no guaranty your site will be listed prominently when someone searches for “FHA 203k loans in Stepford County,” you can be assured your Web site will not be among the search results if the text “FHA 203k” and “Stepford County” is not found somewhere on your pages.
The descriptive language should not necessarily clutter your home page, but it should be organized on other pages which can be accessed from the home page. It’s not much expense to maintain Web pages — so its relatively easy to add lots of pages.
Another step is to ensure that the title to each of your site’s Web pages is descriptive. In addition to enhancing search engine results, a descriptive title — the first text users see in each search result — helps quickly confirm the relevance of the page.
A good site will see prominent search engine results on a broad number of its pages, not just the home page. So even though other sites may rank higher for a popular search phrase, a site rich with text will see an increased number of its pages wind up on the results of more-detailed searches.
One last tip — don’t try to fool the search engines. Creating pages that provide no user value — but serve only to help artificially enhance the site’s listings on search results — can end up causing your site to be delisted from the search engines.
Sam Garcia has been in mortgage lending since 1980, and is publisher of MortgageDaily.com and MortgageChronicle.com.