Search Engine Optimization. We know what you’re thinking: “Sounds scary.”
Yes, to fully grasp what search engines like Google and Bing! want to see from you requires a doctoral thesis (which would be immediately outdated). The complex algorithms used by these search giants are constantly transforming in their effort to provide a quality experience for their users.
Still, there are ridiculously good reasons why understanding the so-far-unchanged basic tenants of SEO is valuable to any business owner, including loan originators, if they want to be found organically on the web.
- There are more than 6.5 BILLION searches a day worldwide. This figure has been increasing year-over-year.
- A website’s organic traffic directly correlates to it’s ranking position on a search engine results page (SERP).
Numerous studies have been done to analyze the extent to which search ranking affects the percentage of people who click on a website in the results. True consensus is lacking, but even the rounded averages are staggering:
- Over 50% of all clicks will go to the top-ranked organic search result.
- Roughly 70% of all clicks will go to the top 3 ranked organic search results.
- People are more likely to try a different search than they are to click on Page 2 or 3 result.
Basic Steps That Will Make Your Homepage More Visible in SERPs
The localized structure of a loan officer’s business has some inherent advantages in SEO over other consumer industries. First, most non-branded searches in this space will focus on local results, thus immediately reducing competition for rankings. Second, this helps inform the keywords and search terms that a loan originator should focus on.
Understanding what potential clients are searching for is a huge factor that will determine the success of your SEO strategy. Popular SEO sites such as Moz and SEMRush provide semi-free tools (2 lookups per day for free on Moz with no account; 10 lookups per day on SEMRush with a free account) for conducting keyword research.
This research shows a number of things such as suggested keywords, how difficult it will be to rank for the term, how often people are clicking on the organic results for the term, and what the competition looks like.
A good place to start is by searching for variations of loan officer/mortgage broker/mortgages/etc. + your location. This will let you survey the landscape in those all-important local results and give you ideas for further keyword exploration.
Here’s an example of results we received from a SEMRush keyword lookup:
Meta Title and Description
Setting the meta tags for your homepage is the first step in actually telling search engines what your website is about, and why it should be relevant to search results. The two most fundamentally important items to tackle are your meta title and meta description. In addition to being important ranking signals these two pieces of data will also tell search engines exactly what to say about you on the results page, and inform social media sites when a link posts to your site as well.
We used our search example from above (“mortgage broker Denver”) to initiate a search on Google. The first organic results were from Yelp! and Zillow due to their high domain authority (hello positive reviews!) but when you take a look at the next result, you’ll see why it ranks on page one.
The meta title, marked by the red box, contains two of the three words from our search term. The meta description, marked by the blue box, contains all three of the words from our search term, and Google even went as far as to bold them to prove to us that this is a relevant result.
This is why doing keyword research first is so important. You can’t cover all possible search terms, so you should leverage your research to determine the best keywords for you to focus on in your meta tags.
Be mindful of the length of your meta tags. Titles will become truncated after 55 characters, and descriptions will do the same after 150 characters.
For a larger introduction to titles and descriptions, take a look at this beginner’s write-up from the folks at Moz.
Having a well-constructed meta title and detailed descriptions for your homepage goes a long way. These aspects are a logical first step in any SEO undertaking. But more importantly, they inform search engines about the general purpose of your site.
On-page SEO is also important, but is more about the actual content on your homepage and making sure it aligns in a way that makes it easy for search engines to “crawl” and understand what you’re about.
For example, if there are images on your website, but a prospect’s browser can’t render them, how can they understand it? Well, if your images have alt-tags attached to them, there is a small amount of text to explain the images. It becomes even juicier for search engines when the alt-tags for the images are relevant to the overall content. Using the same example from above, a logical alt-tag for your business portrait might be “Denver mortgage broker (name)”. Not only is it relevant, but it also includes the same keywords we want to rank for.
Search engines care about these details. Nailing the little things, like having your on-page title match your meta title, go a long way in this process.
Another factor to consider is your mobile-friendliness and page load speed. Potential prospects do not have patience when it comes to waiting for a page to load. Often, they will leave before it loads at all if it’s slow. However, search engines also factor in load speed to your rankings.
If you’re interested in learning about how Google views your page speed, and what suggestions they would have to improve it, check out their PageSpeed Insights tool.
As technology continues to affect the way consumers find products and professionals, an SEO strategy is imperative to long-term success. The higher you rank for the most relevant terms, the more likely prospects will find you. Start by incorporating the basic suggestions above into your site’s homepage to become more visible on the web.