Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Why Your Customers Can't Find You Online



Many mortgage site owners look lovingly at their site and think, "My site is beautiful. How can I not be listed 1st in the search engines?" And if they are listed 1st in the search engines; this will then cause potential mortgage customers to flow endlessly to their web site.

It doesn't take long to determine that (in reality) your web site probably won't be listed at the top of the search portals... probably not even in the top 100 listings. In many cases, mortgage owners are stunned to find out they are not even indexed by many search portals. And if your potential mortgage customers can't find your web site…you will not receive much Internet business.

A couple of quick definitions to help understand this article:

Search portals: Includes engines and directories such as Yahoo!, AltaVista, HotBot, Google, Northern Light etc.

Spider / Robot / Index: The process of a search portal sending a probe to your site to "read" the content of your site so it can then "rank" it.

Here are reasons why your site might not be listed in a search portal:

Hey! Over Here! Look at Me!

Let's start at the beginning. Did you submit your site? Did you submit your site to every search portal?

Many webmasters think that search portals will actively go out to the net and ferret out every site, including yours. It just doesn't happen that way. You must go to each 'add url' page and tell the search portal to come to your site and spider (index) your web pages.

You have to accurately (and more importantly…properly) submit to each search engine and search directory. Each portal has specific requirements on the information you must provide.

For example Yahoo! states the following: your site must support multiple browsers; be in the English language, must be up and running 24 hours a day, seven days a week; have no parts of the site under construction; all links on the site must work and the site must contain substantively unique content that is not already accessible from the Yahoo!

Leave A Trail of Breadcrumbs

You must leave a trail of breadcrumbs for the search engine spider to travel your site. Most often links from the main page are followed which allows the rest of your site to be indexed.

Here are the most common barriers to NOT getting additional pages in your web site indexed:

  • Use of frames. Some spiders cannot follow links on framed sites. You should have an "include links" tag inside your NOFRAMES tag.
  • Image map links. Some spiders don't recognize links in image maps.
  • Absence of links: Many web sites have a "splash page" which only has an "Enter Here" button.
Server Failed To Serve

While many Web host companies promise 99.9% uptime per month, that still works out to about an hour a month they can be down. Numerous studies show that 22-46% (depending on the study) experience 'prolonged downtimes' last year. And if your site is down when a spider visits, the spider won't return and will mark you down as a dead site.
And if your site was already indexed by a search portal and the spider returns to update its records and finds a "down site," you can be delisted.The easiest solution is to buy quality hosting. You can use a program like NetWhistle.com to monitor your sites uptime 24 hours per day and alert you to problems.

You Didn't Feed The Spider What It Wanted

Some search spiders won't index dynamically generated asp, cgi or other pages containing a question mark (?) in the url. This means if you have a page that brings up toady's interest rates from a database, you may not get included.

Since most search engines robots can only index static pages you may need to create a static page so the spider can actually read and index the content.

Trickery, Spoofing & Fooling

If you have mistakenly or intentionally included elements in your site that is deemed as "Spam" by the search portals you will not get listed; or worse you could get blacklisted. Examples are the excessive repetition of words (home loan, home loan, home loan) or attempting to hide additional text by using black text on a black background.

Splash, Flash, Crash

Many web designer firms like to show their ability to create beautiful sites and may use software such as Flash. One problem with web sites created with Flash is that these sites do not contain links that can be followed by most spiders, so the spider finds no content and no links (i.e. you will not get indexed).

Buried Treasure

You may have a wealth of information on your site and you may have had an overly organized web designer that has created subfolders for everything such as 'our company,' 'rates,' 'location' and 'loan application.' The problem is that some search portal algorithms have determined that the most relevant and important information is kept in your root directory and not in subfolders; so they don't spider subfolders.

Oops, They Dropped The Ball

Sometimes search portals have a glitch and just drop sites. Sometimes search portals look at the date your web site was last modified and deem it is "out of date" and delist you to make room for more pertinent and "up to date" sites.

Are We There Yet?

Be patient. Most search portals indicate they will index your site within 2-6 weeks after you submit it, but in reality it sometimes takes months before the spider actually visits. Some search portals may go even 2-6 months without adding new sites as they tweak their algorithms or attempt to find additional funding. There is also a tremendous backlog of sites and thousands and thousands of sites are requesting indexing every day.

You can test to see if your site has been indexed by going to each search portal and typing your domain name in various ways, including: domain.name, url:domainname.com, site:www.domain.name and http://www.domain.name. Each search engine searches differently so you must test each version.

And Now The Race Really Begins To Reach Your Customers...

Assuming you have done everything "correctly" and your web site is indexed; you have now earned the privilege of competing with hundreds of thousands of web pages that contain the words "home loans" or "mortgages." The Internet is a competitive business world, but it also can become very financially rewarding if you market your corporate web site "correctly" to the search engines.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published March 2001


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