This article was specifically written using the mortgage industry as an example, but it applies to all industries.
internet marketing, search engine submission and web page ranking software
Selecting A Good Domain Name
We all know it. We all do it. Our customers know it too. We all use the power of the Internet search engines to make our life easier. Whenever a typical web user needs to find something on the Internet, that person will almost always go to one of the top search engines (i.e. Infoseek, Alta Vista, Hot Bot, Excite, etc) and run a search. Then he or she usually only look at the first 30 search results returned, hardly every looking beyond that. If nothing looks relevant, they will run another search using a variation of the keywords they used on the first search. If they still find nothing of interest, they may switch to a different search engine and repeat the process.
Believe or not, this is the typical web behavior of at least 90% of the 150 million Internet users. The question is: Does your mortgage web site capitalize on this Internet behavior to market itself and originate more loans? Can your web site even be found in the first 30 search engine results?
For almost all mortgage sites, answer is no. Very few mortgage web sites capitalize on this powerful way of Internet marketing. Where else can you market your mortgage services to millions of Internet users? Where else can you get highly targeted customers that are actually “looking,” right now, for your mortgage services?
This is an extremely profitable way of marketing; to use the power of the internet to your advantage. Highly targeted customers are coming to your web site because they want to... they have an immediate need. Internet search engine positioning will help effectively market and promote your mortgage services to millions of people.
Common Web Site Marketing Problems
A common web site question problem I receive from mortgage clients is, “Our company has spent xx dollars to design and submit our web site to the search engines. We really expected to start getting more Internet business, but we haven’t. What are we doing wrong?"
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 submit a site, poorly designed for search engine relevancy, the only thing you are doing is ensuring you will be listed near the bottom of the 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; the way your source code is presented to harness the power of the internet.
Just “showing up" on the Internet with your corporate web site doesn't translate to being successful. Many mortgage companies mistakenly believe that simply having a web site will yield additional business. They believe the old adage, “Build it, and they shall come.”
This is simply not true on the Internet, no more than it is in the real world. Your company has to properly market themselves in this new Internet age. A productive Internet presence requires several key elements. If any are missing or deficient, your company will not receive many loan originations from the Internet.
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 customers primarily find information through the use of search engines and directories (not annoying banner ads).
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 thousands of new web sites being submitted every month; and there is an estimated 800 million web pages currently active on the net. 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 keyword phrase which you have searched. For example, let’s take the keywords "mortgage loans." I checked Infoseek in July 1999 and found approximately 3.7 million pages with the words "mortgage loans.” 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 "mortgage loans".
So You Want Your Web Site To Be Found?
Your company has already 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 experts in Internet marketing and promotion ... 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.
Essential Web Site Elements
What many online businesses 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; hyper text mark-up 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.
Current research reveals that over 90% of Internet users do not go past the first 30 search engine results. In other words, if you are not highly ranked... no customers will ever find you.
Another important and overlooked way customers will remember (and be able to promote) your web site is by securing a professional sounding and memorable internet domain name. In order to fully harness the marketing power of your unique domain name, there are few important factors a company has to consider.
Internet 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 to effectively compete or you will continue losing market share to the major Internet lenders. According to the Wall Street Journal, Internet mortgage originations was $4 billion in 1998 and is projected to explode to $250 billion by 2003. And within these 4 years, over 25% of all mortgage transactions are anticipated to be completed over the Internet. Current research indicates there are currently 150 million Internet users with an average family income of $60,000. The growth of the Internet is exploding and is expected to double to 300 million Internet users by the end of year 2000.
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 dollars 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.
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, how to spell your domain name, you have lost your effectiveness.
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 spent thousands of dollars to develop and promote your mortgage web site. And now with just a little Internet confusion, potential customers are going to other mortgage web sites 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.
Why Not A Free Domain Name?
Some companies take advantage of no cost domain names, using free hosting from their Internet service provider (ISP). The name you receive is usually a subdomain, meaning your hosting company name goes first, then your name (i.e.
Which do you think is more memorable and professional? If both of the following domain names are listed as the result of a search, which is more likely to be‘clicked’ on?
www.really-cheap-hosting.com/californialoans/mortgages.htm versus something like
www.californiahomeloan.com. The subdomain can be a cheap solution and save you a few dollars each month. Unfortunately many potential mortgage customers will also think you are cheap and unprofessional as well ... don’t do
Clickability Of Your Domain Name
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 you have 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.
I am 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 mortgagehomeloans.com versus mortgage-home-loans.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.
Try to leave out abbreviations if possible. If your company is California Home Loans, make sure you get the complete spelling. If you just put 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
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.
We are now coming along quite well. Your company now has a professional sounding and easily remembered domain name. But that is only one part of the recipe. Effective internet promotion and marketing still involves one major (and very difficult) factor ...getting prospective customers to your web site. Your mortgage company needs to drive large amounts of web traffic to translate into profitable sales.
How To Drive Traffic To Your Web Site?
It is critical to properly “optimize” the structure of your mortgage web site for maximizing search engine relevancy. If you do not optimize your site, your web site might be sitting at at the bottom of the search engine results with no customers visiting. No customers visiting means...no new business. Your web site must be at the top of the search engine listings so potential mortgage clients can find you.
Now back again to your mortgage site. Once created, your web site design company has probably “submitted your site to over 500 various search engines”. (Remember by just “submitting,” you will not get a top ranking). These search engines then visit (also called “spider”) 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 a proprietary 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, domain name, alt tags, meta description and HTML content. Each search engine has its own technical algorithms for analyzing these components. (Unfortunately these algorithms are constantly changing, sometimes weekly or monthly). 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 #15 versus being ranked #15,000 on the search engine results page. You can imagine the revenue differential just between a listing in the top 30 and a listing at #15,000.
In sum, the Internet is growing more important to your business every day. Your company has to compete with thousands of other Internet mortgage companies and not continue losing market share. Design your web presence not only to be visually appealing and user friendly, but also able to be favorably indexed by the search engines. Make it easy for your potential customers to find you by harnessing the power of the search engines and by having powerful domain name. If you correctly use the marketing power of the net, you will find the Internet will become your most cost-effective salesperson.
Please call Robert Farris at
1.877.944.6100 for information on our internet marketing programs.
internet marketing, search engine submission and web page ranking software