Thursday, April 5, 2007

Fast & Easy Competitive Intelligence


Fast & Easy Competitive Intelligence On Your Web Site

You have spent monies to develop and create your web site. Then you found out that you have to spend additional funds to market your site and to drive traffic. Most mortgage site owners have a number of questions:
  • You know your web site is active, but does anybody else?

  • How do you know if your efforts are cost effective?

  • What are others saying about your web site?

  • How do you determine which advertising venues are resulting in sales?

  • How do customers find your site?

The Internet allows you to monitor competitive intelligence in a very precise manner. You can find out who is linking to you, where you are ranked in the search engines, what web sites have your name on their site, what people typed in a search engine to find your site, which customers you emailed actually opened your email and more...

Where Are You Ranked In The Engines?

Most mortgage site owners go the major engines (Google, Yahoo!, MSN etc) and simply type in something that they assume customers are typing, like; Atlanta home loans or bad credit mortgages. Many mortgage companies are surprised when they don't appear at the number one position, or at least in the top 10. In example, Google finds the phrase “Atlanta home loans” has 144,000 pages found with that term and “bad credit mortgage” has 401,000 web pages. You can see it is difficult to occupy a top ranked position.

A handy search engine is
Vivisimo.com, which will provide you the top rankings for many search engines on just one page.

You can also buy modestly priced software such as WebPosition to accurately track your rankings and report any changes. Links to all these sites can be found at the end of this article.


Page Ranking Tools

There are two free page ranking tools: Alexa.com and Google's Page Rank

With the
Alexa.com Toolbar you can determine how much traffic a web site gets in comparison to others. Most mortgage site owners are shocked to find out how poorly their web site performs.

The
Google Toolbar offers a feature called PageRank which allows you to see Google's ranking of the currently viewed page.


Who Is Linking To You? And Why?

Sometimes you will be surprised at who is linking to your site. Frequently we will see a competitor with the strategy of linking to your site in an effort to sometimes circumvent traffic from going to you. The competitor hopes that their link with your name will rank higher than your site in a search for your name, and thus receive traffic intended for you.

You can go to the major engines and typically type in link:http://www.YourDomainName.com into the search box and see how is linking to you. This works for most of the major search portals including,
Google, Yahoo!, AltaVista and MSN.

If you find your own domain shows up linking to your self, making it hard to read the results, you can tell the search portals to omit your domain by typing in the following:


link:http://www.YourDomainName.com -host:YourDomainName.com

We recommend that you visit the sites linking to your site and read what they're saying about your site. Hopefully these other web sites say, "Great home loan rates!" You may also find customer complaints such as, "Don't get your loan from these guys."

Now that you found out about links, and links are nice, but much more important is a link that is actually sending visitors to you.


Hit Log Analysis - What Links Are Sending Traffic?

When visitors arrive at your site, they come with a trail of Internet code showing how they found you. The trail is captured by your statistic logs (assuming they are installed) and can reveal if your customer found you in Yahoo! or typed in your URL or clicked on a link in email.

By examining which search terms were entered in the search engines (and subsequently brought your visitor to your site) your can determine what your customers are really seeking. For example, if you have a home loan site, but find a substantial number of visitors arriving after typing "VA loans," you may decide to place more emphasis on Veteran's Administration loans.

Please see the
January 2001 issue of National Mortgage Broker for a more comprehensive article on how to use logs to increase your traffic and understand how traffic arrives at your site.

If your server does not offer logs, there are a number of third party programs you can install to monitor your traffic. Among these log programs are
WebTrends, HitsLink, AccessWatch and Dynamic Site Stats. These programs can tell you things like, visitors by country, top requested files, monthly statistics, and server errors. Links to all these sites can be found at the end of this article.

Research & Automated Competitive Intelligence

If you're looking for ways to track changes to search engines and other web site, the Internet can assist you with this as well.

Tracerlock.com is an automated online service, which scans thousands of articles published on news sites, online trade journals and e-zines looking for new matches for your information requests. You receive an email report whenever the keywords (usually your company name and your company URL) appear anywhere on the Net. Of course you can also monitor your competitors as well.

A comprehensive source is found at
Hoovers.


Monitoring News Groups and Mailing Lists

Google Groups (groups.google.com - formerly DejaNews) is the most famous news group searching tool. Simply type in your company name, your URL, your personal name or whatever and Google Groups will search over 100,000 newsgroups.

This is an excellent source of competitive intelligence, as typically you will find posting such as, "Can anyone recommend a lender in San Diego for a condo?" The reply might say, "I used YourDomain.com and they were great," or conversely say, "I used YourDomain.com and they couldn't close the loan."

By performing competitive intelligence on your own site, you can learn what others think about your site. And you can use this information to correct any deficiencies and to increase the traffic to your site.

To access clickable links to the web sites discussed above please visit:
www.MortgagePromote.com/links.htm

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published December 2002.



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