In today's digital age, mortgage companies rely heavily on their websites to connect with potential borrowers and provide them with the information they need to make informed decisions. However, the mortgage industry is heavily regulated, and failing to comply with its ever-changing regulations can result in serious consequences. To ensure compliance and maximize their online presence, mortgage companies must be careful to follow best practices and utilize SEO effectively within their websites.
Before diving into best practices, it's crucial to have a basic understanding of the key mortgage regulations that websites must comply with. In the United States, mortgage regulations are primarily governed by federal laws such as the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), among others. Additionally, individual states may have additional laws or rules on the books that work alongside these acts.
Key compliance areas that mortgage companies must critically and regularly evaluate include:
With the above in mind, there are many responsibilities that lenders take upon themselves when creating, maintaining, and evaluating their website for compliance. The sometimes-gray area of general online best practices stands in sharp contrast to what can – and what cannot – be included in a properly constructed mortgage site. If a website for a water park is poorly created and maintained, it may scare off potential customers and contribute to poor attendance; if a mortgage website is similarly constructed, it could potentially lead to regulatory penalties, or worse.
Now that we’ve touched upon the appropriate industry regulations, and what could happen if they aren’t taken seriously, which aspects of a website must be critically examined to ensure that a lender’s online footprint remains in compliance?
As with any other mortgage materials, mortgage websites should provide clear and transparent information about loan products, terms, and costs. This includes:
Regulations and mortgage laws can change over time. Mortgage websites should regularly update their content to reflect the most current information and regulations. This not only ensures compliance but also demonstrates the website's commitment to accuracy and transparency.
To protect borrowers' sensitive information, mortgage websites must implement robust security measures. This includes using SSL encryption, regularly auditing security protocols, and complying with relevant data protection laws. Displaying trust badges or certifications can also reassure visitors about the security of their data.
Ensure your website is accessible to individuals with disabilities. This includes providing alternative text for images, using accessible fonts and colors, and ensuring compatibility with screen readers. Compliance with ADA guidelines is essential to avoid legal issues.
With the increasing use of mobile devices, mortgage websites should be optimized for mobile users. Many transactions occur on-the-go in today’s fast-paced world, and a website or app that cannot be properly accessed outside of the home will give the impression to customers that a lender is behind the times. A responsive design ensures that the website functions seamlessly on smartphones and tablets, enhancing the user experience.
A well-organized and intuitive navigation structure makes it easy for visitors to find the information they need. Clear menus, a search function, and logical page layouts contribute to a positive user experience.
Incorporating careful and thoughtful SEO into mortgage website strategy will not only assist a lender’s compliance efforts, but also with increasing online visibility and attracting potential borrowers. Here are some ways that you can use SEO to your advantage:
Identify relevant keywords related to mortgage services, regulations, and local markets. Incorporate these keywords naturally, and frequently, into your website's content, headings, and meta descriptions. This will help your website rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) for relevant queries.
Produce informative and valuable content related to mortgages and homeownership. Blog posts, articles, and guides can establish your website as a trusted resource and an ‘expert in the field,’ attracting both visitors and search engine attention. Ensure that your content is up-to-date and accurate to maintain compliance.
For mortgage companies targeting specific geographic areas, local SEO is essential. Optimize your website for local search by including location-specific keywords being searched often by potential customers in your area. Create a Google My Business profile, keep it up to date with accurate information and regular updates, and obtain online reviews from satisfied customers to boost your Google Review score.
A mobile-friendly website is not only a compliance best practice but also a ranking factor for search engines. Google prioritizes mobile-responsive websites in its mobile search results, so optimizing for mobile can boost your SEO performance, while not optimizing it can harm your overall Google search ranking and make it more difficult for potential customers to find your site and learn about your business.
Build high-quality backlinks from reputable sources and ensure that your business information (name, address, phone number) is consistent across online directories and citations. These factors can positively impact your SEO rankings.
Pay attention to behind the scenes ‘nuts and bolts’ aspects of your website like site speed, XML sitemaps, and schema markup. A technically sound website is more likely to rank well in search results. Regular audits of your site can uncover hidden errors that may be bogging down your website, like broken links or unnecessarily large images or files that are causing pages to load too slowly. Customers have short attention spans and if your website takes a long time to appear, they may decide to move on without seeing what you have to offer.
Setting Your Site Up for Success
Mortgage websites have a more difficult road ahead than most online sites. Maximizing their online presence is only half the battle - they must also navigate a complex regulatory landscape at the same time. However, by following best practices for compliance and implementing effective SEO strategies, mortgage companies can achieve both goals of providing valuable information to borrowers while also increasing their visibility in the digital realm. In today’s highly competitive market, compliance and SEO go hand in hand, and proper application of both can ensure a successful online presence for any mortgage business.
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