Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Banner Advertising vs. Search Engines

One of the other common calls I receive from mortgage clients is, "We are currently spending a large portion of our advertising budget on Internet banner ads to increase our business. But we are finding the actual number of new customers to be very small. What are we doing wrong?"

What Can Be "Wrong" With Banner Ads

Internet users are very educated and affluent customers. These same users are also constantly deluged with banner advertisements from almost every web site they visit. Most potential customers are just "plain tired" from being bombarded by annoying banner ads. Do you think this is a good way to get new clients? (In fact many Internet users now download specialized software that prevents banner ads from being seen on the users screen…)

I sometimes turn the tables on my corporate clients. I ask my clients if they actually click on banner ads themselves when they visit a web site. The great majority of time the answer is "no way, those banner ads are annoying". I then ask... why then does your company spend thousands of advertising dollars on ineffective banner ads? The answer I usually get is, "Banner ads are the only way our mortgage company knows how to advertise on the Internet."

Another potential problem with banner ads is most popular web sites have already developed long term agreements with various online mortgage companies. In other words, you couldn’t place a banner ad if you wanted to. These mortgage companies have gotten in early to stop your company from competing with them.

Many banner ads also work on a "cost-per-click" basis. You pay for a certain number of visitors to your web site. When you reach your budgeted number of visitors, the banner company deletes your banner and replaces it with another company’s banner. In other words no more advertising until you pay more money. And the worst thing is when one of your major competitors takes over your previous banner position.

Some banner ad companies are even more sly. They charge per "page impression". What this means in plain English is that you are being charged even if the internet user does not even click on your banner ad. You are charged just for the "possibility" of an Internet user clicking on your banner ad. Not too fair if you ask me.

Fortunately, there is a more effective method, and better way to increase your business....and that is using the Internet search engines.

Someone who sees your banner ad has most likely already gone to a search engine, typed in their keywords, and arrived at the domain hosting your banner. By using the search engines, your potential customers can bypass the middleman (i.e. the banner ad hosts) and go directly to your site.

Do banners work? They can, when used appropriately. Are banners the right marketing vehicle to drive the most traffic? There are better and more cost effective alternatives.

As my partner likes to say, "Banner ads are for online mortgage companies that don’t know how to market their web site by the search engines."

Before we continue, let us review how your potential customers actually find a 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. Marketing statistics also reveal that Internet users primarily find web site information through the use of search engines (not banner ads or mortgage directories).

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 100,000+ new web sites being submitted every month. As you may conclude, achieving and retaining a highly ranked web 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.

Most web design companies will submit your web site to numerous search engines. Unfortunately these web design companies are not experts in Internet search engine marketing... in getting your web site highly ranked. If you have a web site with poorly structured HTML code for search engine relevancy, the only thing you are doing is ensuring you will be listed at the bottom of the search engines.

Let us now see how important having a highly ranked Internet web site will be in the future...

The Future Of The Internet Mortgage Market

The Internet is exploding with growth. There are over one BILLION web pages indexed and logged in the search engines right now and the Internet is still growing. Most mortgage companies mistakenly believe that simply having a web site will yield additional business. Your company has to know how to effectively market themselves in this new Internet age.

According to the Wall Street Journal, internet mortgage origination was $4 billion in 1998 and is projected to explode to $250 billion by 2003. And within 4 years over 25% of all mortgage transactions are anticipated to be completed over the Internet.

The trend for consumers going direct to the Internet has already been demonstrated in the world of stocks: e-trade.com, Charles Schwab, and a host of other brokers that have fundamentally changed the way people buy and sell stocks. This is also currently happening to the entire mortgage market.

Current research indicates there are currently 150 million Internet users with an average family income of $60,000. Are any of these your potential customers? The growth of the Internet is exploding and is expected to double to 300 million Internet users by the end of the year 2000.

The top Internet mortgage companies are quickly following the way of Internet success stories like Dell and Gateway. Online mortgage companies are taking away market share from traditional companies. The large online companies have huge advertising budgets that can expose their mortgage services by nationwide newspaper & magazine ads, television & radio commercials, including expensive banner advertising. If your company is a medium to large sized corporate mortgage provider, you need a more cost effective way to compete and not continuing losing market share.

What Is "Right" With The Search Engines

One of the most efficient ways to reach a large number of potential new customers is by optimal positioning in the Internet search engines (Excite, Infoseek, Lycos, Hot Bot, AltaVista, etc). Search engines can produce highly customized and targeted customers for your company. Better rankings in the top search engines simply means and an increase in sales with more potential customers viewing your offerings.

The wonderful marketing aspect about the search engines is that customers are actually "looking" for your mortgage services; RIGHT NOW! In other words, they are coming to your web site because they want to; they have an immediate need. These customers are typing in specific key words to find your mortgage web site. This is the first time in marketing history that customers can actually come to you; 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The search engines level the playing field: when someone types in "mortgages" someone has to be ranked #1 and someone has to be ranked #100,000. You can imagine the revenue potential just between a listing on the first page and a listing at #500. A top ranking drives potential customers to your site. Do you know where is your company is ranked right now?

Should Our Company Continue Traditional Marketing?

At this point in time, I still suggest to our clients to continue using traditional advertising methods including print advertising, telemarketing and direct mail. You don’t want to strictly depend upon the Internet for all your marketing. There are still many people who are not computer literate and will not access the Internet. Just like anything in life, moderation is the key.

I also strongly suggest to our clients to start extensively marketing their web sites - right now! The Internet is getting larger everyday and once you lose market share, it is very difficult to regain it back. The competition on the Internet is fierce and it is getting more competitive everyday. Make sure your mortgage company has a strong Internet presence, and you will find the Internet will become your most "cost effective salesperson".

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.



Originally published July 1999.

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