Super-charging your online image

Mortgage industry vet Mikel Erdman, founder of MySmartBlog, talks about how to make your online presence shine

Super-charging your online image

In today’s world, a business simply must have an online presence if it expects to be taken seriously by consumers. But a bad online presence may actually do more damage than no online presence at all. So how can mortgage originators make sure they project a professional image online?

Mikel Erdman, founder of MySmartBlog, said there are a few tips and tricks that originators can utilize to burnish their online image. Erdman, who spent about 15 years in the mortgage industry before founding MySmartBlog, said his experience in the mortgage business informed the creation of his new company.

“All the technology that we promote is derived from actually doing loans – being in the relationship business,” Erdman said. “We really focus a lot on repeat and referral business.”

MySmartBlog is a service that builds, hosts and maintains high-quality websites for businesses, then writes and publishes high-quality, industry-relevant content for those sites, as well as putting that content out on the business’s social media accounts. It also offers automated email newsletter systems, retargeting campaigns, rating-and-review software, and more.

All of those features, Erdman said, are tailored to dovetail with how customers actually interact with technology.

“We’re like the anti-technology technology company,” he said. “Technology is really important – but what do human beings actually use technology for? How do they use it in their decision-making process? And how do you leverage that to make your company look credible – to validate that referral and give them the confidence to pick up the phone and do business with you?”

The answer, Erdman said, is to make sure that your online presence closes what he calls “the online credibility gap” – that it helps your prospects to know, like, and trust you. One of the most important factors in closing that gap, he said, is making sure your website projects a professional image.

One of the most vital aspects of maintaining a professional online presence, Erdman said, is making sure you’re keeping up with the ways in which customers access your site.

“One of the most important things about professional presence, especially now, is mobile responsiveness,” he said. “Eighty percent of web traffic now is from handheld devices. That’s really critical that you use a software product that’s built to work well with that. Technology only works because of how human beings interact with it, so you have to make it as easy to interact with as possible.”

There’s also the simple question of whether your website is modern-looking and pleasing to the eye, Erdman said. Sites that look clunky, or look as if they were designed on Geocities in 1995, don’t inspire a lot of confidence in consumers.

“When people go to websites … they make these incredibly quick decisions about credibility,” Erdman said. “That all comes down to aesthetics. There are a ton of studies out there that show how people visually interact with the web, or with technology, and instantly make snap decisions on whether they can trust that particular site – or that product or business.”

One way to help consumers make that decision on your favor, Erdman said, is to use what he called “affinity images” – images of things that are easily identifiable by your customer base. If you were marketing to Seattle customers, for instance, your website might feature a picture of the Space Needle.

“The instant they come to the site, they see things they recognize,” Erdman said. “That subconsciously builds credibility because they feel like they’re home. So you use images on your website to make people instantly feel like they’ve connected with the right person.”

Another way to project professionalism – and build consumer confidence – is to remember the subgroups and niche markets you care about.

“I’m a veteran, so if I’m marketing, that’s one of the groups I’m going to market to,” Erdman said. “I’m going to let them know that I care about veterans, that I want to help veterans out. Organizations that you support – put those logos on your website, so that people in those subgroups automatically feel that instant connection. They say, ‘Hey, I’m like this person, so clearly we should be working together.’ That’s one more step toward that bridge of trust.”

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