As published in Scotsman Guide's Residential Edition, October 2007.
Nearly everything can take place online these days, and shopping for homes is no exception. A 2006 National Association of Realtors study found that almost 80 percent of homebuyers use the Internet to help their search.
It's great to know that so many potential clients are out there on the Internet -- but how do you get them to end up at your Web site? One technique brokers are using to direct prospects their way is called search-engine optimization. The first step to this is selecting the right keywords and placing those keywords in the right places.
What are keywords? Simply put, they are the terms people type into search engines when they are looking for more information about a topic. In this case, keywords are the terms potential borrowers use when they are researching mortgage companies or actively looking for a loan. Some examples are "first-time homebuyer" or "financing investment properties Atlanta."
The goal is for qualified prospects to find your Web site on the first page of results when using the major search engines. When search engines look for sites to pull up for keyword-search results, they often seek ones that employ these certain keywords. The keywords can be used on your site in a blog, articles, links or meta tags -- aka keywords built into a site's foundation to help search engines find the page.
When you choose the right keywords -- ones that relate to the services you offer -- and implement them in your search-engine marketing, they can draw qualified prospects to your mortgage Web site.
Get some ideas
Effective keyword selection is more of an art than a science. It involves a mixture of intuition and technical know-how and is a skill that gets better with practice. It also can be time-consuming. But effective keyword selection is well within the reach of any mortgage professional.
Follow these steps to start the process:
Brainstorm: Think about the words or phrases potential borrowers might type into a search engine. Write down whatever comes to mind, and keep writing until you run out of ideas.
Channel their purpose: Think of what customers will search for when they are actively looking for your services, as well as when they are in the broader market for services you offer. There is a subtle difference. If you are a Cleveland-based mortgage broker who offers hard-equity loans, for example, potential borrowers may search for "hard-equity loan Cleveland" or "hard-money loan Cleveland" when they seek your services. They may, however, search for "loss mitigation" or "deed in lieu of foreclosure" when they are in the market for your services.
Use your customers' lingo: One frequent mistake mortgage professionals make when brainstorming keywords is using language they know, as opposed to their customers' language. If average users have no idea what a "mortgage planner" or "certified mortgage specialist" is, they are not likely to search for those terms. Consider whether customers use a term before adding it to your list.
Don't neglect your niche: A key part of brainstorming the right keywords is getting into the minds of people who are in your niche. The more focused your niche, the better. If one of your niche markets is investors, for example, your brainstorming process should involve thinking of what terms investors might enter in the search engines when they are looking for mortgages.
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