If there’s one experience common to all potential home buyers, it’s using Google. And why not? Google is not only convenient and dependable, it’s also everywhere. For better or worse, Google’s search engine has completely changed the way consumers choose to inform themselves. They have learned that typing a question into Google will generally provide them with the information they’re looking for, and they carry those expectations with them when they venture to other websites.
By not providing the same smooth and informative search experience for the customers who land on their sites, mortgage companies run the risk of losing customers to companies that do.
“Over 50 percent of the traffic is getting to your site from search. All of a sudden, they get to your website and it isn’t important?” wonders Shane Closser, head of industry and general manager for financial services at Yext. “Our view on this is consumers are using Google and other search engines to get to these sites. We should continue that experience on these sites so consumers aren’t having to go back to other places to find those answers.”
COVID-19 created a blizzard of new queries among consumers – around forbearance, around changing rules, around declining rates and tightening lending criteria – and lenders are still figuring out how to respond to them. By providing the answers borrowers are looking for through an engaging and thoughtful search platform, lenders can build trust with their clients and keep their staff focused on more lucrative activities than answering questions whose answers should be easily located on their company’s website.
Closser suggests three strategies mortgage companies can implement if they want to deliver a more engaging, informative search experience to their clients.
1. Understand the questions consumers are asking
Analyzing what clients are actually interested in is critical to providing a useful search experience, yet Closser says an alarming proportion of companies aren’t even looking at the searches consumers are making on their websites. Digging into a site’s search history can teach a company what their customers want to know and whether or not their site is up to the task of answering those questions. It can also show what kind of actions people are taking after using a company’s search platform, which can turn out to be an invaluable data point.
“Right now, most companies aren’t even looking at the searches that consumers are making to figure out which ones can and can’t be answered,” he says.
2. Put that data to use
Once a company pops the hood of its search engine to find out what’s working and what’s not, it must use the collected information to shape its content strategy.
“There is a lot of content that people are creating that consumers don’t even care about, so there’s a lot of waste that’s happening as a result of that,” Closser says.
Mortgage companies are highly reactive to changes in the market. They should learn to be similarly responsive to changes in search behavior. Closser says certain Yext clients who evaluated their data and created a search experience more in line with customer needs saw a “400 percent lift in questions and a 200 percent lift” in actions taken by clients after having their questions answered.
3. Google-ize it
Google is more than just a question answering machine. It’s also what people think of when they picture the modern search experience. Closser says mortgage companies should follow Google’s lead and put search front and center on their websites. That little magnifying glass up in the top righthand corner isn’t going to cut it in 2020.
“When you move it to the center of the page, like Google has done, that’s where you really start to see a lot of the magic happen,” Closser says. “When you do that, you see that lift, you see that engagement.”
People use Google because it works. And because it works, they keep using it. If mortgage providers hope to achieve the same level of loyalty from their online visitors that Google does, they need to deliver a winning search experience.