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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   October 2016

Search Engine Optimization 101

Learn the basics of SEO to improve your website ranking

Search Engine Optimization 101For many mortgage professionals, search engine optimization (SEO) is a foreign concept — something you hire a vendor to handle for your company. Like anything else in business, however, you’re better off if you know the basics. You have seen the power of SEO when you search for products on the web.

Normally the top and bottom few results returned from a search have the word “Ad.” Those companies paid to appear in those prime spots. All of the other results are where SEO comes into play. Simply put, SEO answers the question: How do I get on page one of Google or Bing — without paying — when people look for my type of business?

Search engines constantly scan or “crawl” websites to check their presence on the internet and determine where they rank. To find out how highly Google ranks your website, you can use the Google Search Console or one of the many SEO site-analysis tools available online. To increase your ranking, you need to optimize your website to improve those qualities that search engines value. SEO typically has two parts: On-page optimization and off-page optimization.

On-page optimization

To optimize your website, make sure your website is not cluttered and people can easily find the information they searched for when they land on your page. If a borrower found your site by searching for “residential loans in New York,” for example, then talk about residential loans in New York and not commercial loans in Michigan. Even if you offer all types of loans in all states, the main information on the page must be about the original search.

To further improve the experience visitors have on your page and increase your SEO, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your page load fast enough? Ideally, it should not take more than three seconds.
  • What components are loading? It is important to check how long it takes for each piece to load.
  • Is there a call to action? Your site should encourage visitors to engage with you. “Call us,” “click for a demo,” or “watch a how-to video,” for example.
  • Is your site mobile friendly? Does it look good on your phone or do you have to zoom in to read it? An easy way to make sure your site is mobile friendly is to buy a template from a place such as templatemonster.com.
  • Do all of your links work? Broken links on your site will hurt your ranking for sure.

Off-page optimization

To improve off-page optimization, you want high-quality backlinks, which are links on other websites that connect back to your site. The more reputable the sites are that link back to your site, the better for SEO purposes. Don’t buy backlinks. Yes, they sell them. Bad idea. Google sees right through those.

Another part of off-page optimization is your social networking presence. A lot of “likes” on your social platform posts and numerous “shares” of your content will help improve your off-page optimization. This shows search engines that you are posting valuable content because people are choosing to share it.

In addition, having a blog that you update regularly — at least once a week — will show that you are adding content that will bring traffic to your website. Sending out press releases also is a great way to get a lot of eyeballs on your company and website. Remember, the name of the game is finding ways to bring traffic to your website without paying.

Improving keywords

To improve your SEO, the content of your page has to be structured in a way that search engines want. And what they want are keywords, which are special tags embedded in the HTML (the programming language used by browsers).

To optimize your keywords, you need to know what borrowers search for to get to your page. If you don’t know what keywords to optimize, view the source code on your competitors’ websites. Right-click anywhere on the page and click “View Page Source.” Look for a line that reads “meta name=keywords” and all the keywords will be listed there.

After you make changes to your site to optimize the keywords, you can use a keyword-tracking tool to monitor your progress on the search engines. Wait at least 30 days for the search engines to crawl your page and update your ranking. After 30 days, if your changes did not help your ranking, then you should make additional changes, like adding more text to your page that includes the keywords you are optimizing or removing text to focus more on those keywords.

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Could you be doing SEO and not realize it? Sure. If your site already appears on page one of Google — and not as a paid ad — then chances are you are sharing awesome content in a blog, interacting with your customers on social media, getting your content shared regularly, and providing a very organic experience on your site. If not, then you may have some work ahead of you.


 


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