When it comes to Mortgage Brokers, there really are two kinds: those that consistently write in excess of 100 million dollars a year (and their business is growing), and those that struggle for 15 million while, at the same time, fail to see significant business growth. The massive gap between the two groups tends to support the 80/20 split rule (with the 20% writing well over 80% of the business)… and based on our ongoing discussions with various business development managers and banks, their staff tend to focus on that high performing group almost every day – usually at the expense of others.
We’ve worked with hundreds of brokers and there’s a few commonalities with those that are deemed by banks and/or aggregators to be “high performers”. Those indicators include, but are far from limited to, the following:
- Brokers have a good advertising program in place, and they have strategic email campaigns that are intrinsically connected to their sales and marketing processes (with landing pages, email chains, splash pages, SMS reminders etc).
- Formal and digitised systems are established to support a structured and disciplined referrer and lead-generation program (web, phone, email, SMS etc).
- Standard operating procedures that includes broad marketing efforts and social are used internally.
- The company (or broker) website is curated to attract good organic traffic and search rankings.
Of course there’s the issues associated with compliance, business management, and training etc., all that are slightly outside the realm of the digital efforts discussed here. This article seeks to take a general snapshot of how Sydney mortgage brokers are performing with regard to their basic SEO compliance.
The bread and butter of the mortgage business (or any business) is their website. In an effort to get an SEO snapshot of mortgage broker websites we recently ran some automated tests to determine the quality of the sites that represented the industry. We were looking for the ‘staples’ of SEO – good title, object graph descriptions, SSL compliance, sitemaps, and so on. We didn’t physically look at the sites so we can’t comment on how well they might convert on the front-end… although the back-end (code) tends to be consistent with the front-end experience.
This article seeks to do nothing other than provide a snapshot of how 355 websites are structured in a very basic sense (we did start with 400 websites but 45 no longer exist). We didn’t look at whether your website showcases one of those ridiculous and grossly inappropriate sliders, we didn’t check to see if you had a lead (relationship) offer or product download above the fold, and nor did we engage with your email experience. In essence, the checks we made represents around 10% of the more comprehensive SEO analysis we make when we start working with a client.
We’ve excluded our own clients and from the results because they’re already ‘online top performers’, and their results tend to give credibility to the aggregate results where they aren’t deserved.
SSL Security Certificate
The single most concerning statistics returned was the lack of brokers that had an SSL certificate installed on their website. Apart from the fact Google now use a valid SSL certificate as a SEO ranking signal (the Security Certificate provides browsing encryption, indicated by a green https:// in the address bar), the SSL certificate adds a trust value to your website. As a financial provider that potentially accepts online applications and other personal information, your website must be secure.
Pictured: Nearly 77% of broker websites don't have a valid SSL.
We were reluctant to accept the 77% figure as accurate until we compared it against our Brisbane data. Our northern brethren aren’t doing much better with a score of 73%. Either way, the industry as a whole – and as an industry that is compelled by legislation to do all that is reasonable to protect user privacy – is well behind the aggregate average of around 50%.
Backlinko analyzing 1 million search results and found “that HTTPS correlated with higher rankings on Google’s first page”. If you’re looking to improve upon your organic SEO rank and you’re not SSL compliant, your efforts will likely go unrewarded.
Image: Percentage of pages loaded over HTTPS (November, 2016). Source: Google .
Eventually, Chrome will show a Not Secure warning for all pages served over HTTP, regardless of whether or not the page contains sensitive input fields. If you’re one of the 75%, contact your web host and make the SSL change now.
A sitemap is a search-engine friendly collection of all the pages associated with your website.
We looked for over 30 different variations of the sitemap to ensure we returned accurate results. Sydney broker websites did a little better than they did with SSL certificates, with over 62% of all sites hosting the essential SEO sitemap on their server.
The effectiveness of the sitemap is limited unless it’s submitted to Google via Webmaster Tools and verified. However, only 19% of surveyed websites were showing a verified sitemap.
When we evaluated inclusion of Bing, Yandex, Yahoo, and Alexa verifications, no results were returned. However, 5% had verified with Bing, less than 1% with the Russian Yandex and Yahoo, and less than half a percent with Alexa. No service should be ignored; validate with with them all.
The website generator is the tool or software used to create a website. WordPress, the most ubiquitous content management system (CMS) in use online, powers over 25 percent of all sites across the web (source: W3Techs). We resolved over half of our pool of URLs (a number couldn’t be determined) and found that WordPress powers at least 62% of all Sydney broker websites. However, the concerning factor was that those using a WP website, only half of were running the most up-to-date WP version.
If you’re one of the 11% using WIX, you need to seriously rethink your life choices. Using WIX is like giving your girlfriend her dream wedding at McDonald’s.
We found that over 12% of all websites were running WordPress installations that were over a year old. While a current installation of WordPress won’t affect SEO, it severely compromises on site security and may break plugin features that rely upon the current platform. We didn’t break down the version of Slider Revolution (also WP websites), but only a few sites were hosting the most up-to-date version. About 5 websites are still running a version of Slider Revolution that allows hackers direct access to your website (and secure database information).
We looked at the favicon simply because it’s a performance indicator. Those that look after the finer details usually make more effort when it comes to the bigger picture. While nearly 62% of all websites hosted a favicon of some kind, we were more concerned about mobile device support and compatibility. Of the 62% of websites that hosted a favicon, 57% had just one, 7% had 5 or more, and 2% had 10 or more. No website referenced what we would consider a complete ‘set’. The good news is that you may create the icon sets yourself via our free online tool at Icofav and then include them into your WP website with the code provided here.
Pictured: Favicon generation at favicon.com (also available in our client area).
In taking a holistic approach to SEO, a full compliment of favicons is essential.
Title & Description
Another area of serious Search Engine Optimisation concern was the lack of effort that went into the basics of SEO – an effective title and description. We evaluated three ares of each; whether they existed, their keyword content, and their length. In our own SEO plugin we limit the title character count to 70 and the description count to 160 (we recommend a title length of between 50 and 60 characters since this is what Google typically displays in search results, and we suggest a description length of between 135 and 140/160 characters). It’s our recommended lengths that we used to measure the ‘score’ of each.
Over 70% of all websites had a title tag ranging between 4 and 1148 characters in length (the two sites with 4 characters simply used ‘Home’ and might as well fit into the ‘doesn’t exist’ category). Of those that had a title tag, only 17% rendered what we considered the ideal length (incidentally, they’re the same group that typically performed well in other areas, suggesting that they took care and/or sought SEO guidance). Of the nearly 60% that showed a site description, only 36% rendered the ideal character length.
Object Graph Tags
Object graph tags are those used to represent your website or articles on Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others. While it doesn’t effect your site SEO, necessarily, their strategic use is essential. They fit into the category of ‘holistic SEO’. The absolute minimum tags that might be considered necessary are
og:image. Of the 355 sites we looked at, only 57, or 12.5%, included these necessary tags. If we consider what we deem the ideal character length for these tags, the total reduces to less than half a percent – one single result. If we widen the parameters a little and include results that include tags that are generally acceptable, we return 25 total results (7%).
When we query the graph tags our own SEO plugin provides, no results were returned.
If we query Twitter-specific tags provided by our plugin, and those we encourage our clients to use, no results are returned. If we omit the single tag of
twitter:image:alt, 6 results are returned (the image alt tags provide either an image hint or, in the case of Twitter, provides a caption for the vision impaired).
Our own SEO plugin provides for at least 5 Facebook meta tags (
fb:profile_id). Because of the low usage, the results aren’t worth sharing. However, we did look for a Facebook Pixel in each website to determine if they’re using the analytics and marketing features Facebook provides. In total, only 29 positive results were returned. If you’ve heard our presentations on Facebook marketing you’ll understand why it’s this 8% of businesses that are growing fast.
We queried each page for 40 markers that could be achieved with automation. While it’s a little pointless sharing all the data, following are just a few of the results:
- Only 13% of surveyed websites had Google Analytics installed. This doesn’t mean, however, other sites weren’t using another analytics platform. In reality, you’ll want analytics, heatmap, and screen recording tools on your website if you’re interested in critiquing your user experience (we provide all to clients).
- We found Twitter social links or widgets on 101 sites (28.5%). In checking the activity associated with each account we determined that only a few accounts were actively used.
- As expected, Facebook was the social platform of choice with 165 brokers (36%) linking to their company page from their front page.
An SEO snapshot is hard to achieve with just an automated visit to a website… and the effectiveness of a website from a conversion point-of-view is sometimes unrelated. However, from what we’ve seen, only a few brokers enjoy a high performing online position. Even those companies that have clearly sought the guidance of ‘professionals’ are lacking in multiple areas.
There’s a clear correlation between the high-scoring websites and the volume those businesses write – clearly no accident. It’s also these higher-performing websites that generally have funnel-based and strategic email campaigns in place. Are you one of them?
We were totally underwhelmed by those websites we did visit. The area above the fold was often wasted on generic stock images with a silly “we’ll save you” style of caption – often as part of an under-performing slider tool. The call-to-action was missing in the majority of cases and the lead magnets – if offered (which was a rarity) – were of poor quality. A user will visit your website for one reason, and only a few websites were designed to convert on that basis.
Of all the pages we visited, only a few provided the necessary in-page markup necessary to provide enhanced results in various search engines. For an industry that enjoys a massive markup with huge volumes, the general website experience was quite poor.
We’re happy to discuss the results with you without any obligation whatsoever. Call us on 1300 235 433 (1300 BELIEF) and talk to one of our experts. If you’re looking for marketing representation we’ll be happy to talk about what measures you should take to explode your online conversions. If you’re interested in our services, the SEO service is part of the feature-rich Broker Growth Program, although we can be contracted to provide our SEO expertise as a standalone package.
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