by Rick Grant
SAN Diego? It has begun to become clear that mortgage firms must be on the Internet to remain competitive. But with everyone jumping into cyberspace, how can you be sure that your potential clients can find you.
That was a problem Robert W Farris and his partner Rod Aries had when they started their Internet business back in 1996. In the process of learning to promote themselves, they learned about the power of using Internet search engines to lure prospects to their site. After they sold the company, their phones began to ring.
"We had people coming to us, especially a lot of mortgage companies," Mr. Farris said. "They were asking us, 'How do we get high rankings? How can we get new business?."
The partners went back into business by starting MortgagePromote.com here.
"On the Internet, there are only two ways of actually marketing. You have banner ads and you have search engines," he said. "Unfortunately, with the banner ads right now big companies have already developed long? term contracts with the big portals. The smaller guys have to figure out some way of competing'
Additionally, Mr. Farris says, the rate of web users clicking on banner ads continues to drop. "It used to be something like 2-5% click- throughs. Now the statistics show that you're getting about half a percent, which is very, very low."
The answer for lenders according to MortgagePromote.com, is to be where web users expect to find you, in the search engines.
"People will go to the newspaper and they'll probably listen a little bir to the radio, but when they want to check rates
and find out who the up and coming lenders are, they're going to go to the 'Net. "
But with millions of potential websites all vying for the top 30 or so spots on each search engine (the maximum number of results the average surfer looks at before choosing a site to surf to), how can a mortgage firm be sure their address will pop up during a search?
The key is the keyword. When users initiate a search on any of the major search engines, they are asked for a number 


Robert Farris

of key words that describe what they are looking for 1he search engine then checks its database to return the sites that have those keywords listed in their html code or in the first few paragraphs of text.
The company has software that can determine exactly where a particular site is fisted on a given search engine. By refining the keywords and understanding the Algorithm the search engine uses to rank the sites it finds, MortgagePromote.com claims it can put a lender into the top ten results returned. 
"It's like having a fun? page Yellow Page ad in every single Yellow Page book in your entire state. That's pretty much the way the Internet is "Mr. Farris says.
Getting a good ranking can mean the difference between success on the Internet and failure when a company is competing with potentially millions of other sites out there. During our interview with Mr Farris, we used one of the major search engines to do a search for mortgage loans here in San Diego. The engine returned over 32 million pages. One of MortgagePromote.com's clients was in the top ten.

"If you can get up in those engines, you can do very, very well," Mr. Farris said. 
For a site to get a high ranking, MortgagePromote.com tries to think like an Internet user searching for a mortgage would think.
"We do all the different combinations of all the different words," Mr. Farris said. "We even do when mortgage is misspelled. If you can get one client that comes to your site by making a mistake like that, that's a $3,000 commission."
Since the major search engines are case sensitive, it adds to the number of possible keywords that might be encountered by a search engine.
To make the task even harder the search engines will periodically change the Algorithm they use to rank the sites in their database, so MortgagePromote.corn must go back and reindex their clients.
The company tracks all of its clients' sites to find out how well they're doing. Apparently it makes a difference, as the company reports it has never lost a client.
" It gets very sophisticated. We can tell you who comes to your site, how long they stayed, what search engine they came from, what keywords they typed in, what pages they went to, we can tell you when they left your site and when they came back to it. We've all these statistics and it's really powerful," he said.
But just like a great site with a poor search engine ranking is doomed to be lost in the fray, Mr. Farris points out that getting customers to your website is just the first step.
"You've got to look as good as the big guys. You've got about six to eight seconds to catch their eye. if you don't catch their eye, they're gone."

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