A few months ago we took a snapshot of about 350 mortgage broker websites and analysed them for a a specific group of performance markers. To get a broader idea of current trends, we went back through some of those sites to assess how (and if) brokers were integrating essential high-converting features into their online presence. The results were overwhelmingly disappointing. Based on our experience, this article discusses just a few (of many) points that website practitioners in the mortgage space might consider.
If you couldn't be bothered reading any further, understand that a mortgage broker should always have a high converting website that does its best to present itself in a manner that adds trust to a digital relationship. A bad website experience is a massive roadblock in the marketing funnel journey.
Depending on what survey you choose to believe, up to eighty-five percent of online prospects conduct online research before they make a purchase, just over ninety-percent begin by using a search engine, and 70 percent will read product reviews before making any decision. On average, a consumer will visit three competitors before making any contact with you, and 48% won't even consider doing business with you if your website doesn't (or shouldn't) exist. So, if you're actively marketing for clients, there's a good chance your potential clients will visit your website, and if you've attracted a cold visitor to your business your website serves as their first impression. A hard cold fact that most of our peers fail to acknowledge is that a bad website experience translates to fewer conversions.
Unlike those of our clients that have online stores, mortgage brokers and financial planners must provide easy access to only very limited information. Generally speaking, your visitor is after a home loan, refinancing, first home purchase, reverse mortgage, investment loan, construction loan, and possibly equipment finance or a car loan. For each of those products there's only a few primary points that must be addressed. Additionally, the end conversion goal of your website is also simple to define - a phone call.
When dealing with a broker in our early qualification period I'll ask them what their website conversion is and what loan product is searched more often than any other. Very few (if any) provide a reasonable response. The answer to this question plays a vital role in how your front page presents to your online audience. Does your website entry page provide immediate access to the information your traffic is most likely looking for?
We have determined that website conversions in the finance space average less than 1%. We've seen conversions of around 30% using our techniques.
Since 90% of consumers start their search with a search engine, I'll ask three questions relevant to local brokers.
- What Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategies do you have in place, and how often is your search presence assessed and/or website altered?
- If a visitor makes their way to your website from a search engine, what is the first message they see on your entry page?
- What local SEO strategies are in place to position you favorably compared to your competitors?
Far too often (read: almost always) we'll hear from those that consider themselves competition diminishing the relevance of a website in favour of paid promotion. Your website is at the heart and soul of your unpaid traffic and should never be ignored; it's as important now as it ever has been.
There are numerous SEO considerations but the questions (above) are the first three I'll usually ask. While paid promotion, advertising, and social play a crucial role in your growth, with the exception of social they shouldn't even be considered until you have a high-converting website in place.
Before I continue it's important to understand one of the biggest problems with WordPress websites (and website design in general). Most web designers are competent in populating a WordPress theme but lack the necessary insight to create a lead-generating machine. Since WordPress themes provide example content upon purchase (that imports a complete demo website), most designers simply work on those elements rendered to the demo page without discriminating against those elements that don't belong. Theme developers will usually include as many elements on the page as possible to make their theme attractive and make a sale... but they don't necessarily expect all of them to be used. Just because website features are available doesn't mean that you should use them. Point in case:
We'll see the progress bars over and over when they offer no value whatsoever. In most cases, they're used to return make-believe business claims that are usually fabrications hardcoded into the HTML. If you insist upon having social counters on your page you should search our website for code that'll return up-to-date social and other data as plain text; it'll fit nicely hidden into a footer.
The Entry Top Half
The top of of your entry page should clearly convey the unique selling point (USP) for your service, and focus on one call to action (in the case of mobile brokers, a download, subscription, or phone call). For reason unknown to us, many brokers use fluffy messages that do next to nothing in terms of adding value to their business. Consider the following screenshot (I was asked to review the offending website just yesterday).
Adding insult to the design is that the image is part of a slider. Again, just because your WP theme is packaged with a slider doesn't mean that you should use it. They have their place... but rarely serve a converting purpose.
If you were to land on the above page via Google search (and you wouldn't, the SEO was awful), would you have any idea what the business even was given the riddle they choose to splash over the most important area of screen real-estate? For brokers, this area should always be something that makes it clear what you do, and it should always offer a conversion. Note the lack of phone number. While the contact page is present, its' another click for the most important feature on any entry page. This poor entry design is something that repeats itself with a monotony that keeps me up at night; it's a practice that's completely contradictory to best-practice and needs to stop.
What Our Competitors Are Doing
Pictured is a website screenshot from a broker that happens to be married to an individual that considers himself our competition. It's one of the worst broker websites that we've ever critiqued.
I'm comfortable using the above page as an example because I'm familiar with the websites operated by some of this gentlemen's existing clients. Sadly, a Facebook campaign is used by the same broker - we consider implementing a Facebook campaign to be grossly unethical if the website itself isn't optimised (both aesthetically and technically) to be high converting.
The above website has no appeal, no navigation, woeful design, no SEO, and no incentive to convert (and it's typical of what many brokers might be using). One of the most important messages you're trying to convey on a website landing page is one of trust. Designed in WIX (something you really shouldn't use), this website sends the opposite message to that which we assume is intended. Additionally, the individual's Facebook advertising is poor, and they link to an lpages landing page. While outside the scope of this article, you should never, ever use third party 'click funnel' style websites if you have the capacity to take ownership of your traffic and direct them to your own website.
Sadly, as the broker marketing field becomes saturated with those that aren't technically proficient, data-driven, or marketing-savvy, we're seeing the industry abandon best practice for nothing shy of mediocrity. If a high return on investment is important to you, one should always optimise each step of the conversion process to illicit the highest return. A bad website is a serious roadblock in having your online traffic convert into a phone call. A good website experience translates to trust, a good search rank, subject authority, and higher conversions. Those that tout the "you'll only need to advertise for leads" group of marketers are patently wrong.
Why You Shouldn't Build A Website
In some cases we'll advocate that a business doesn't immediately build a website. If a business hasn't identified their ideal market, it's occasionally acceptable to redirect a website to a Facebook page or similar where the 'coming soon' message is best addressed (even better is a single landing page). We make this point known because this is how the above website would be best served (a trained monkey could multiply the conversion-value of the above website overnight). A Facebook page will convert better than an offensive website. That said, brokers rarely have to take this approach.
Every Page Is A Landing Page
Understand that every page on your website is a potential entry page and, ipso facto, a landing page. Every single page on your website should follow the same basic conversion principles as (only partially) described above. The top of the fold should address the issue that'll answer an immediate need, and possibly include a lead magnet, giveaway, or other opt-in opportunity. If you have heatmap software installed it will provide a visual indication of how the majority of page activity always takes place in this premium screen real-estate.
Note: we install heatmap software and screen recording software on all our client websites. Playing back a screen recording of the interactions a visitor has with your website, and reviewing heatmap snapshots, is essential if you're serious about providing an enhanced user experience.
While we'll address the issue of funnel-style websites in another article, understand that a serious marketing effort should never employ the services of third-party websites. You should always build your sales routines into your own fully branded websites and take ownership of the pages, traffic, data, and responsibility.
An Email Subscription Is A Conversion Opportunity
We always advocate self-hosted email solutions if possible. While the issue of branding is crucial, taking ownership of your systems is an important means of establishing trust. Another one of the issues we encounter over and over is that of the perceived technical proficiency required to create a simple email subscription form. To address this, we created an extremely simple means for clients to create and manage their email presence via a WordPress email plugin that makes creation of email shortcodes a breeze.
Note: Our email plugin is currency undergoing an overhaul to support additional email subscription formatting options such as full-screen modal popups. Stay tuned.
One of the features of our email plugin is based on what happens after the subscription is complete. While you have the options of simply replacing the subscription box with a success message or similar, we also provide a redirect option. This redirect provides another opportunity to convert and build trust by redirecting the user to another page. This other page becomes another sequenced step in your sales funnel and provides a mechanism to further edge your prospect up the funnel and further qualify them for contact.
The idea of qualifying leads by asking for financial details before you try and make an appointment converts far lower than just making contact. A phone call is your opportunity to further qualify a lead, text or email them a fact-finding questionnaire, make a booking, or simply start the process. This said, we do provide a booking option into one of your landing page that sends you a calendar file (and optionally synchronises to your primary calendar) once a lead nominates their preferred contact time. When we send the lead an email (also with an iCal file) we also include a link (and SMS) to an optional fact-finding questionnaire (the optional component mitigates the dangers of scaring off those that don't want to share such information early in a relationship).
Bottom line: An email subscription form is more than just getting an individual "on your list". This warm "buy now" traffic are looking for answers and you must engage in a relentless program to have them make contact or schedule an appointment.
According to a 2011 study by the nnGroup , "[u]sers often leave webpages in 10–20 seconds, but pages with a clear value proposition can hold people's attention for much longer. To gain several minutes of user attention, you must clearly communicate your value proposition within 10 seconds." While it's an older analysis, the premise holds true today. In our critique of a broad range of broker websites only a few were designed to draw people in an engage them with clear value.
We have a mandatory checklist of over 100 points we use to ensure each website we work with is designed for an optimised user experience, and to ensure that the features on the page will rank with authority (only a few of the big-ticket issues were discussed above). Simply because you currently have active Facebook campaigns (or similar) is not a licence to ignore your website; Facebook campaigns will covert far higher when you have a sound website presence. Despite the fact that we have the highest converting Facebook, Google, and other marketing campaigns in the industry, we remain massive advocates for a holistic approach to your digital marketing efforts which dictates that all areas of an online presence be optimised.
We've now integrated website design into some of our growth options (website optimisation and SEO is a standard inclusion). Call us on 1300 BELIEF (1300 235 433) to learn more.