If you are intent on growing your mortgage business, you likely know the value of digital marketing in all its various forms. It’s a crowded space with a lot of competition, and you don’t want to waste a lot of time and money on strategies that don’t work. 

On the one hand, there’s search engine optimization (SEO)—ostensibly an organic “free” method of driving traffic to your website through search engine results. On the other, there’s paid search, also known as pay-per-click (PPC).

Does paid search or SEO get the better result?

Unfortunately, it’s not a simple either/or situation. And while each method has its strengths and limitations, applying both strategies is essential to the short and long term health of your mortgage business. Your results won’t be nearly as good if you choose one method over the other. In other words, paid search and SEO thrive in a symbiotic environment.

Let’s have a look at each strategy and talk about what that means.

What is Paid Search?

Paid search is a way to serve your website to search engine users via paid ad campaigns. You’ll set up ads through an ad server (like Google Ads, for example), bid on specific keywords and phrases, and drive traffic back to your website. 

It sounds super-easy. The challenge is that you’re up against hundreds of other mortgage brokers trying to do exactly the same thing. You risk losing search volume to larger companies because they can afford to bid higher for the same keywords. 

The bottom line is, the cost can be high, though you should see some results right away. So initially, at least, it’s hard to measure the ROI of your campaigns. If you have the time and resources and can test, tweak, and adjust your ads to improve performance, PPC can work very well. 

However, if you’re new to running paid ads, it’s easy to spend a lot of money and get lackluster results. Now, it’s easy to see there are a lot of “cons” with paid search. But hear us out. There are ways to make it work for you. You just have to realize it’s not something you can dive into without a little (or a lot of) preparation.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization is a practice you apply to your website’s content, but it also extends to web design and user experience. 

On-page SEO involves keywords, content, images, website structure, navigation, page load speed, and following various SEO best practice principles on the front end.

Off-page SEO refers to things that happen off your site that help to improve your search engine rank. This primarily refers to backlinks—in other words, links that drive traffic back to your site. Backlinks lend authority, which will push you higher in search engines. The more authority you gain, the more likely you are to show up in the local pack (Google’s search results that shows the local business related to your search) or the featured snippets (short Q&As that appear at the top of Google’s search results in order to quickly answer a searcher’s query).  

Technical SEO applies to your website’s back-end code and any technical strategy you use to improve your search engine rank.


In essence, PPC is paid, while SEO is free–sort of. You do need to spend time on SEO, and your time is valuable, so while you’re not out of pocket, it requires resources. 

It also bears noting that neither practice is “one and done.” You need to stay on top of your analytics or ad performance and make adjustments as soon as you notice any changes. 

In SEO, the risk is that Google might change an algorithm, and your amazing page one status will suddenly go away. 

There is even more risk with PPC as you can spend a lot of money and have very little to show for it. Ultimately, the goal is to get exclusive quality leads and clicks that have the potential to convert. Many things could tank your results here, including click fraud, so it pays to work with an experienced company that can steer your campaigns in the right direction. 

Probably the most significant risk with PPC is that you’re driving traffic to your website, but your landing pages are not optimized to convert. If a user clicks on your ad and can’t find the information they need when they land on your site, they will bounce, 100%.

Hopefully now you can see how critical it is to get both practices right.

SEO Best Practices That Support SEM

We know that Search Engine Marketing is a great way to expand your reach and build your mortgage business. We also know that good Search Engine Optimization is a critical practice that improves SEM results. Before you engage a reputable PPC expert to help you build your campaigns, make sure your SEO is up to snuff.

8 things you can do to boost your SEO and supercharge your SEM:

  1. Mobile-friendly design. Google prioritizes mobile-friendly websites. Plus, more than 60% of all searches today are done on mobile devices—and you want to capture that business.
  2. Use the right keywords and rank for local. The mortgage space is highly competitive, but you have one advantage! Most people looking for a mortgage look first in their local area. Beyond the typical keyword spotting (KWS) you’d apply to mortgage-focused content, rank for local search terms too.
  3. Design your landing pages to convert! What does a customer see when they click on your ad? Do you have different ads running, or are you targeting different kws for each? Landing pages should do a few key things. They should deliver the information the ad promises, answer top user questions, and invite the user to stick around and explore your site. Make your content compelling, concise, and put the most important information right up front.
  4. Make sure to include a great “call to action”. Tell your visitors and readers what to do and why to do it.
  5. Provide value. Your ad gets users to your site, and once they’re there, you need to engage them. Try including a mortgage calculator, links to download free tip sheets, or other content, as well as a CTA to apply now, fill out an application or book an appointment. Don’t mess aroundpeople on your site are generally ready to act, so you want to capture that emotion. Give them all the tools they need to take the next step. 
  6. Use the right title tags and headers. Title tags and headers are essential features that search engines pick up on. Divide text blocks with concisely worded H2 and H3 headers so your pages will index. Also be sure to include your keywords in those headings.
  7. Design and optimize for user experience (UX). UX is (indirectly, at least) a significant rank factor as it contributes to bounce rate and dwell time. If your site is easy and pleasant to navigate, people will stay longer and take the actions you want them to take.
  8. Create amazing content. Great content builds authority and helps you establish yourself as a valuable ally. Tip sheets, how-to’s, seasonal checklists, design tips, financial tips—anything a homeowner might be interested in is a good idea. Content helps you in myriad ways. You can post it on your social pages to drive traffic to your website or offer it in exchange for an email for lead generation. You can also point SEM ads to your content, extending the value. 

We get it.

As a loan officer, your primary focus should be closing loans. The time and commitment it takes to make SEO really work now and in the future can seem daunting. If you don’t have the time or headspace to spare, we recommend you outsource or hire someone to take this on

To answer the question this article poses—if you’re trying to decide between SEO and paid search, stop right there. If you want to maximize your paid search ROI and succeed in building your bottom line, you need both.

Once you’ve got your SEO well in hand, you’ll have strong foundations to ensure your paid search campaigns succeed. 

If you need help making the most of your mortgage marketing, book a live demo and see what Empower LO can provide. 

Thanks for reading. 

See you at the top!

The Empower Team

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