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Market Analysis: Another Great Story

*Another Great Story*
**By Tony Garritano**

***I like to spotlight companies in our space that are giving back. I think community service is important. This time PROGRESS in Lending has learned that Ellie Mae has said that its volunteer, employee-run community outreach program, EllieCares, continued to grow stronger in 2011 and will be expanded to its regional offices in 2012. Here’s the scoop:

****EllieCares is run entirely by Ellie Mae employee-volunteers. A committee of Ellie Mae employees selects both local and national organizations that will be beneficiaries of the employees’ fundraising and outreach activities. Ellie Mae supports EllieCares by giving employees time off with pay for participating in these volunteer activities and matching employee-raised contributions.

****Some of EllieCares’ initiatives in the past three years have included:

****>> Fulfilling the holiday wishes of needy children through the Family Giving Tree;

****>> Hosting the annual Ellie Mae Marketplace fundraiser for the Alameda County Community Food Bank, as well as supporting food drives and volunteer workdays during the year;

****>> Building homes with Habitat for Humanity East Bay;

****>> Helping to staff the Walk for Wishes fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Bay Area Chapter, in California;

****>> Preparing and serving meals to homeless and needy members of the community with City Team Oakland;

****>> Painting transitional housing for families for the Family Emergency Shelter Coalition;

****>> Giving blood donations to the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter;

****>> Creating and selling earthquake-preparedness kits to raise money for the American Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund.

****“Giving back is part of our heritage and our culture. Ellie Mae team members are passionate about helping people in need and making a difference in our community,” said Sig Anderman, Chief Executive Officer of Ellie Mae. “In the past few years, our volunteers have raised thousands of dollars for worthy charities and brightened the holidays for many children in our community. I am proud of the success of EllieCares and am excited to see it do even more in 2012.”

****Kudos to Ellie Mae and others in our space that take the time to give back.

Tony Garritano

Tony Garritano is chairman and founder at PROGRESS in Lending Association. As a speaker Tony has worked hard to inform executives about how technology should be a tool used to further business objectives. For over 10 years he has worked as a journalist, researcher and speaker in the mortgage technology space. Starting this association was the next step for someone like Tony, who has dedicated his career to providing mortgage executives with the information needed to make informed technology decisions. He can be reached via e-mail at tony@progressinlending.com.

Default Management: Innovation At Work: Marketing REO Properties: A Holistic Approach

*Marketing REO Properties: A Holistic Approach*
**By Joseph Badalamenti**

***Effective marketing is critical to successful REO asset disposition. However, to be consistently effective, REO Marketing is best understood as part of the overall asset management process, not a substitute for it.

****Disposition Alternatives

****With today’s inflated REO inventories, not all properties are suited for sale through traditional channels. Alternate strategies ? particularly for low-value, high-risk properties ? must be identified, assessed and implemented, as appropriate. REO asset management providers with strong field service networks can be highly effective partners in helping to leverage these opportunities, whether large-scale bulk transactions, transfers to development agencies or public auction. That said, property-by-property marketing continues to represent the most effective alternative for the majority of REO assets.

****Property-by-property optimization of REO assets requires independent process management and localized control. What’s needed is an REO asset management partner who knows the property and its pre-sale history, can plan and execute property preservation/enhancement services, understands municipal ordinances and code compliance issue, and can objectively assess, select and manage local brokers.

****The Right Marketing Partner

****With in-depth, experience-based knowledge acquired before a property becomes part of the client’s REO portfolio, asset management companies offering both pre- and post-sale services are uniquely positioned to create and apply the right marketing approach for each REO property. This includes recommending auction or traditional sales methods and preparing a detailed property/market analysis, as well as providing turnkey auction management or assigning and managing a broker, as appropriate

****The right REO service provider can deliver maximum REO results in minimum time. Qualified providers offering direct local execution and oversight can mount complete marketing campaigns and property-by-property follow up, including ongoing detailed progress reports. Most important, they can assume full responsibility for individual broker monitoring/evaluation, a distinct advantage over the arms-length broker relationships characteristic of many REO asset disposition programs. Successful REO asset disposition means, first, knowing the property and tailoring a marketing strategy to match; and second, being able to apply independent, on-the-ground monitoring of the disposition process. Integrated REO asset management companies with strong field service networks are uniquely qualified on both fronts.

****Many Pieces, One Solution

****The fact is, disposition of REO assets is a multi-front affair. Success means winning a series of small but important battles: It takes knowledge of the property and local market awareness to critically assess BPOs and the brokers who provide them. It takes experience and follow through evaluate and monitor property marketing activities. It takes strong field presence to assure the grass is cut, trash is removed, interiors aren’t gutted or vandalized, the HOA isn’t ready to enforce a lien, and fines for municipal code violations aren’t accruing. It takes people, skills and know-how to negotiate cash for keys.

****Integrated REO asset management providers with proven pre-sale and post-sale capabilities are in the strongest position to help lenders/servicers address these and other needs critical to REO asset marketing success.

Joseph Badalamenti (Joe Bada) got his start in the default management industry in 1967 as a HUD contractor. Now, 43 years and over 5 million inspections later, Joe has built Five Brothers into a highly successful and respected industry leader offering a full range of default management services and technology solutions. His strong belief in client-centered partnering has spawned a nationwide network of highly effective customer and field service professionals. Advanced technology solutions created under his leadership the industry’s first web-based workflow management system, FiveOnline, a complete document management and processing system (MARS), state-of-the-art loss mitigation software (MOTZ), which allows quick and efficient loan modifications according to FDIC and HAMP guidelines, automated document storage/workflow management software (IntelliStorage) and HUD claims processing system (ClaimSys). Joe remains an advocate of client-specific business solutions, an approach he believes is Five Brothers’ most important competitive advantage.

Market Analysis: An Interesting Trend

*An Interesting Trend*
**By Tony Garritano**

***People tell me a lot of things. I have a lot of close friends in this industry. And when I can I try to share it with you. Today I heard that Mortech, a mortgage technology software company specializing in solutions for mortgage bankers and secondary market teams, have identified a trend involving more mid-tier lending institutions moving into the correspondent lending channel and seeking out suitable automation to make their new divisions profitable from day one. Here’s what they are seeing:

****“With some of the nation’s largest banks exiting the correspondent lending business, there is more opportunity for lenders of all sizes, but many don’t have the technology,” said Don Kracl, president of Mortech. “Those firms that can come up to speed quickly and have an opportunity to gain significant market share in the first quarter of 2012, but they have to take action before others move in to fill the gap.”

****Mortech executives became aware of the trend when inquiries for the firm’s MarksmanLMP ticked up in the wake of Bank of America’s announcement to discontinue its correspondent channel. MarksmanLMP offers a Channel Manager product for mortgage bankers with third party origination businesses. Mortgage professionals can use the Channel Manager service to distribute correspondent pricing to their clients, deliver fully-adjusted rates, use as a locking platform and several other features. Numerous correspondent lenders already count on Mortech software for lending automation.

****“Our most recent build added new features designed for ease-of-use and seamless interactions between lenders and their correspondents,” said Kracl. “We are excited for our clients and are standing by with the technology they need to capitalize on these new opportunities.”

Tony Garritano

Tony Garritano is chairman and founder at PROGRESS in Lending Association. As a speaker Tony has worked hard to inform executives about how technology should be a tool used to further business objectives. For over 10 years he has worked as a journalist, researcher and speaker in the mortgage technology space. Starting this association was the next step for someone like Tony, who has dedicated his career to providing mortgage executives with the information needed to make informed technology decisions. He can be reached via e-mail at tony@progressinlending.com.

Time To eVolve: Digging Up The Dirt On Locked PDF

*Digging Up The Dirt On Locked PDF*
**By Nancy Alley**

***Every March, I look forward to a few events that let me know spring has sprung—the sun comes out; the flowers bloom; and the annual Mortgage Technology conference unveils a landscape of new technology and tools. Let’s take a minute to examine what our industry’s garden looks like today.

****What’s Blooming

****This year, as I prepare for Ft. Lauderdale, many buzzwords and acronyms are on my mind—UCDP (Uniform Collateral Data Portal), MISMO 2.6, UMDP (Uniform Mortgage Data Program), UAD (Uniform Appraisal Data) and transparency, to name a few. And, with these new appraisal data and delivery requirements, I will definitely be on the lookout for how lenders and vendors plant seeds for these initiatives.

****The great news—I’ve already heard rumblings that many vendors are supporting these new requirements. For instance, appraisal software and technology platforms are already furiously building connectivity to the UCDP and also ensuring they can output the correct XML data. As this connection is cultivated, transparency will begin to bloom.

****The Weeds

****But, while seeds are being planted to support this initiative, there are some weeds in our garden. The most noticeable to me are locked PDF documents. I blogged about this previously but then the issue seemed to go dormant; however, it has sprouted up again.

****Some documents are locked for viewing; others are locked for printing and editing. The users or systems trying to process these documents are stopped in their tracks if they don’t have the necessary passwords. On a weekly basis, I have customers frustrated over the fact that their appraisers and originators are sending them secured PDFs yet their investors are refusing to take them. Some lenders are accepting the locked PDFs and are utilizing print drivers and other conversion tactics to “unlock” them prior to sending them to investors. Others aren’t even catching them until an investor rejects their delivery. Regardless, these locked documents are weeds in our spring garden and require someone to manually pluck them.

****Watering The Soil

****And like any gardener knows, weeds can grow out of control. When I think about where we are trying to head, I am worried about these pesky weeds that keep sprouting up. What will happen next spring when lenders are required to submit to the UCDP? Just like investor systems, the UCDP won’t be able to process certain locked documents. Are the lenders comfortable that their appraisals will either be able to be ingested by the UCDP or have the necessary XML from their appraisals to submit to the UCDP? Today, these documents are causing issues for investors. Tomorrow, will they be causing issues to our appraisal data initiatives?

****If our industry wants to keep an orderly garden, we need to unearth some of today’s issues. While appraisers continue to feel it is necessary to lock documents, this has the potential to create headaches for fellow participants downstream. While this seems like a minor issue, I would argue that we need to address the issues of today so we can enjoy the beauty of our garden’s perennial blooms tomorrow.

Nancy Alley is VP, Strategic Planning at Simplifile. She brings more than 24 years of financial services and mortgage industry experience to her role as the Vice President of Strategic Planning at Simplifile. She has dedicated her career to driving innovation and leveraging technology in the mortgage industry. As a Co-Chair of the eMortgage workgroup at the Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization (MISMO), Nancy is actively involved in driving adoption of industry standards.

Market Analysis: Look At The Landscape

*Look At The Landscape*
**By Tony Garritano**

***Excuse me today my friends. I’m a bit tired. I was up until 3 a.m. waiting for the results of the Iowa Caucus. My friends know that I’m a political junkie. What happened yesterday in my view was amazing. A conservative state voted for a candidate that didn’t match their ideals absolutely. Why did they do that? Because Iowans realized that it’s not about who is the most conservative, it’s about who can save our country from the failed policies of this White House. Kudos to Iowans for reassessing the landscape and taking a second look to pick the most electable, and competent, candidate. Similarly, prominent mortgage technology vendors are always reassessing the best way to serve this ever-changing mortgage market. For example, PROGRESS in Lending has learned that Franklin, Tenn.-based Wipro Gallagher Solutions has redefined its fulfillment offerings to more clearly meet the demands of loan originators and servicers for middle- and top-tier lenders. What does that mean? Here’s the scoop:

****For originators, WGS has revised its BPO offerings depending on the lender’s volume of originations and service offerings. WGS now offers originators its services through the following packages:

****>> Platform BPO Fulfillment Solution– offers an end-to-end mortgage origination fulfillment solution including all services from the point of application. Utilizing shared resources and technology based out of the Nashville Delivery Center.

****>> Integrated BPO Solution– tailored to meet the client’s specific needs and is inclusive of support-functions in the areas of loan processing, loan underwriting analysis, closing, funding coordination and post-closing delivery. The delivery staff works within the client’s existing technology and workflow process.

****>> Traditional BPO Solution – provides support for lenders on full functions within the loan process such as processing or post closing or sub-functions of these roles. Clients provide the standard loan lifecycle processing functions while WGS’ global team provides integrated back-office support. Work is performed based upon client-specific processes and procedures.

****For loan servicers, WGS now offers the following product suites tailored to fit their needs:

****>> Complete Subservicing Offering– supplies a complete private-label solution in partnership with a leading U.S.-based sub-servicer. This end-to-end offering enables significant per loan cost savings to each client.

****>> Back Office BPO Solution– supports full functions within the servicing stream including payment processing, reconciliations, loan modification, loss mitigation, and more. The delivery staff works within servicer’s existing technology and workflow process.

****“Wipro Gallagher Solutions has reorganized its private-label BPO offerings into packages that are simple to understand and are tailored to specific markets,” said Narayan Bharadwaji, business head for WGS. “The new packaging better serves our customers to fit their specialized needs and provides more flexibility to enable our customers to focus on their core business and target markets.”

Tony Garritano

Tony Garritano is chairman and founder at PROGRESS in Lending Association. As a speaker Tony has worked hard to inform executives about how technology should be a tool used to further business objectives. For over 10 years he has worked as a journalist, researcher and speaker in the mortgage technology space. Starting this association was the next step for someone like Tony, who has dedicated his career to providing mortgage executives with the information needed to make informed technology decisions. He can be reached via e-mail at tony@progressinlending.com.

Lykken On Lending: The Next Industry Crisis?

*The Next Industry Crisis?*
**By David Lykken**

***About nine months ago, I started seeing evidence that the mortgage industry could be heading for an unanticipated crisis as a result of the new National Mortgage Licensing System which is causing a mass exodus of loan originators from our industry. By October of this past year, I had sufficient data points to make the following prediction at the National MBA Convention in Atlanta. My prediction was and remains this: “The precipitous rate at which loan volumes are falling could be unexpectedly exceeded by an even greater and more precipitous drop in the number of licensed loan originators available to serve the financing needs of the public!” I went on to say that this is setting us up for something we have never seen before in this industry. While the supply of and demand for loan originators is adequate today, we may soon see that day where we as an industry, may not have a sufficient supply of loan originators to meet consumer demand for mortgage loans. In other words, we will soon experience a significant “Capacity Crisis”.

****When I made the prediction, I did not comprehend the potential magnitude of this crisis. In February of this year, when I again made this same “capacity crisis” prediction at the Southeastern Secondary Marketing Conference in Tampa Bay, the Florida State licensing authority in attendance at the conference confirmed that it is astounding how few loan origination license applications they have received. This past week at the Texas Mortgage Banking Association’s educational conference, the head of the Texas regulatory agency confirmed the same, and we are hearing similar reports from regulators in Michigan and many other states. Almost across the board, 90% of all registered loan originators that were previously registered/licensed have either not applied to have their license renewed or have failed the loan originators exam or have been disqualified because of their credit score. If you think about this for very long, the implications are astounding!

****Think about it, GONE are nine out of every ten loan originators that participated in the last business cycle. If you are not seeing evidence of this, it may be because some have chosen, at their own peril and even more so their company’s peril, to continue to originate without a license. If that is the case, it will come back to bite them and any company that foolishly allows an unlicensed LO to originate loans within their organization.

****So what are the implications of all this? Four quickly come to mind and they are: TECHNOLGY, RECRUITING, TRAINING & GREATER EARNINGS. Allow me to explain:

****>> We are going to be more reliant than ever on technology to effectively manage the numerous new risks and to help new LO’s originate.

****>> Recruiting new loan originators is going to be key to a company’s future.

****>> Training is going to be a big need in the years to come.

****>> Increased earnings for the companies that survive and for those individuals that are licensed because of less competition therefore more volume for the remaining 10%.

****So what are you thoughts? I wrote this just to get you started thinking about what the implications may be to the coming “capacity crisis.” I want to hear from you. E-mail me at DLykken@MortgageBankingSolutions.com.

David Lykken has garnered a national reputation as a visionary, entrepreneur and business leader within the mortgage industry. He has also become a regular guest on the FOX Business News with Neil Cavuto, Stuart Varney, Liz Claman, Dave Asman and others. He has been a special guest of Governor Mike Huckabee on FOX News’ #1 weekend rated program “Huckabee”. He has appeared several times on the CBS Evening News, Bloomberg TV & radio, NPR and many radio shows. On matters related to the economy, housing and mortgage lending, David is frequently quoted in leading newspapers across the country as well as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. Additionally, David has his own national weekly radio program called “Lykken On Lending” that can be heard each Monday at Noon Central time by going to www.LykkenOnLending.com .

As co-founder and Managing Partner of KLS Consulting doing business as Mortgage Banking Solutions, David Lykken has over 37 years of management experience as an owner/operator with in depth expertise in real estate finance and housing. His knowledge and skills comprise a unique blend of technology and business strategy. Above all else, David loves helping business owners and executives navigate through extremely difficult business circumstances helping them overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles while rediscovering themselves and their passion for life and living.

Dave is married, has two daughters and currently resides in the beautiful Hill Country of Central Texas near Austin, Texas. David received a bachelor’s degree in 1973 year from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington.

Market Analysis: What’s Going To Happen In 2012?

*What’s Going To Happen In 2012?*
**By Tony Garritano**

***I know we all want to know what’s going to happen in our business this year. There are a lot of uncertainties for sure. However, we’ll face them and overcome them, I’m sure. I know that today is a light day. Everyone is just getting back over the holidays. So, I thought I’d keep it light here in my column as well by starting off 2012 with some predictions. Here goes:

****Yesterday a good friend to PROGRESS in Lending, David Lykken invited us on his weekly radio show. Myself, Roger Gudobba, Michael Hammond, Kelly Purcell and Gabe Minton talked about all things technology in 2012. Listen to what we all had to say:

Listen to internet radio with David Lykken on Blog Talk Radio

****Being part of the Lykken on Lending Radio Show each week is real treat for me. I love doing it. I hope you found this edition of the radio show helpful and I hope that you’ll tune in every Monday at 1 p.m. est. It’s a great industry resource.

Tony Garritano

Tony Garritano is chairman and founder at PROGRESS in Lending Association. As a speaker Tony has worked hard to inform executives about how technology should be a tool used to further business objectives. For over 10 years he has worked as a journalist, researcher and speaker in the mortgage technology space. Starting this association was the next step for someone like Tony, who has dedicated his career to providing mortgage executives with the information needed to make informed technology decisions. He can be reached via e-mail at tony@progressinlending.com.

Life-Cycle Lending:Technology Advances

*Technology Advances*
**By Harvey Foster**

***There is no question that technology advances such as multi-vertical origination software have enabled financial institutions to implement customer-centric business models. Lenders certainly need to be nimble when it comes to product and process. But it does not stop there. Financial institutions need to add a new word to their lexicon: transparency. This term is becoming foundational to how the loan operation relates to regulators, borrowers and other departments within the institution. Transparency is not only being able to provide insight into origination processes and practices, but it also means being able to pass along transactional data to those who request it, when they request it and in the format they request it.

****Looking back as far as a decade, some astute financial institutions began to realize that their loan origination systems were becoming outdated and were based on technology that was increasingly more difficult to maintain. But the influx of new loans suppressed system upgrade projects. As a result, the current technology landscape is rife with redundant, inefficient, and incompatible systems that are increasingly costly to maintain. The long-term result of this uncoordinated growth was a focus on vertically segregated products and a business-line approach to managing customers.

****Many institutions have grown accustomed to having one system for first-lien mortgages, another system for second liens, a third for lines of credit secured by real estate, and possibly even a fourth system to accommodate other consumer installment products. In such a stratified operating environment you may also find deployment of separate systems to help manage collections and investor accounting in an attempt to bring cohesion to disparate servicing systems. Aging components and a mixed bag of interfaces jeopardize the entire lending infrastructure. The risk of failure increases and the cost to maintain status quo escalates rapidly. Cost and risk pressures prevent some institutions from installing upgrades that are critical to their business.

****The future of origination technology resides with multifunction, multi-vertical solutions. New systems, such as Common Origination Platform from Fiserv, will be used to support multiple loan products, both secured and unsecured. To keep operations nimble, these solutions will have embedded rules and other controls to empower lenders. They will also be real time to ensure immediate awareness of transactions across the enterprise.

****Common Origination Platform and other systems like it combine intelligent processing automation with next-generation, sophisticated technology architecture. With customer data housed in one database, lenders can effectively reduce risk, gain processing efficiencies, take advantage of cross-sell opportunities and use information more effectively across the enterprise.

****Process Automation

****Offering process improvements and greater levels of automation, single platform environments such as Common Origination Platform enable financial institutions to originate all consumer, business and mortgage loans utilizing the same tools (including all processes, workflows and business rules management performed) and skill sets. Defining or modifying actions, behaviors and workflows within this environment is easily accomplished by manipulating the built-in business rules, giving an organization much greater control over its own specific processes. Streamlining in this fashion can open up new avenues for cost management strategies and greater profitability.

****Single System IT Support

****Operational efficiency is built into an integrated platform. Having just one system means that any updates, changes or modifications are applied enterprise-wide, saving resources and money. Systems such as Common Origination Platform that can handle multiple loan types across multiple channels enable the organization to devote IT resources to maintaining and supporting just that system. A common platform also eliminates the need to train separate technical staff or users to handle different technology applications.

Harvey Foster joined Fiserv in September 2011 as Product Manager for Common Origination Platform, the flagship origination solution offered by Fiserv. He has more than 35 years of experience in the banking and software solutions industries holding positions as client services manager, conversion support manager, education manager, and senior product analyst for commercial and consumer loan products.

Market Analysis: Compliance Remains Paramount

*Compliance Remains Paramount*
**By Tony Garritano**

***Are you frazzled dealing with all the new rules and regulations? Aren’t we all? In most cases, it’s the job of your vendors to keep you compliant. And the good ones are doing just that. Fior example, PROGRESS in Lending has learned that LOS Avista Solutions has completed a direct integration to ComplianceAnalyzer, an automated compliance auditing solution from risk management solution company ComplianceEase. Here’s the scoop:

****Avista Solutions and ComplianceEase have a number of mutual customers and this integration allows those customers to access the ComplianceAnalyzer solution directly from their Avista Agile LOS.

****ComplianceAnalyzer gives mortgage lenders real-time compliance audits at any point in the lending process, safeguarding them from potential loan risks. As part of recent electronic examination (e-Exam) initiatives, state regulators have been using ComplianceAnalyzer and other e-Exam tools to audit as much as 100% of licensees’ loans in regulatory examinations. By leveraging integrated audits using the same auditing software, lenders can prepare in advance for their e-Exams. ComplianceAnalyzer covers a full spectrum of government regulations, including the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act, the Truth in Lending Act, RESPA, state and local anti-predatory lending laws, state license-based consumer lending regulations and secondary market investor and GSE compliance guidelines.

****“Avista Solutions recognizes the importance of providing our customers with access to industry leading compliance tools,” Avista Solutions COO & CFO Jerry White said. “As the company behind robust tools that state banking and mortgage regulators rely on, ComplianceEase is a significant force in the mortgage industry and we are excited to now offer a seamless, system-to-system interface to their ComplianceAnalyzer solution.”

****Avista customers who choose to sign up for ComplianceAnalyzer may utilize the tool to pinpoint a mortgage loan’s compliance risk factors, whether the loan is in the pre-close or post-close stage, with a single click and without leaving their Avista Agile LOS. ComplianceAnalyzer returns comprehensive, user-friendly audit reports to lenders within seconds. Each report features the industry standard RiskIndicator, a score that reflects a loan’s compliance risk, as well as quantitative analysis of thresholds and detailed qualitative overviews with narrative descriptions of regulatory requirements.

****“Avista users can enjoy the best of both worlds with this seamless integration, continuing to use their LOS of choice, while managing compliance with ComplianceAnalyzer,” said ComplianceEase Senior Vice President Jason Roth. “Major secondary market investors use ComplianceAnalyzer to check every loan prior to purchase and state regulatory examiners are using it to audit as much as 100% of licensees’ portfolios. To safeguard their reputations and reduce financial risks, it makes a lot of sense for lenders to do the same.”

Tony Garritano

Tony Garritano is chairman and founder at PROGRESS in Lending Association. As a speaker Tony has worked hard to inform executives about how technology should be a tool used to further business objectives. For over 10 years he has worked as a journalist, researcher and speaker in the mortgage technology space. Starting this association was the next step for someone like Tony, who has dedicated his career to providing mortgage executives with the information needed to make informed technology decisions. He can be reached via e-mail at tony@progressinlending.com.

New Media Strategies: Blogging And Comment Etiquette

*Blogging And Comment Etiquette*
**By Rick Grant**

***Now that you’ve got your own platform to speak from in the shape of a blog, don’t think that means you can totally ignore what other bloggers are saying. If anything, this is the time to up your game when it comes to commenting on other blogs. But of course, like everything else, there’s a right way and a wrong way to handle this.

****Some people may tell you that for however many posts or comments you read, you should be writing a certain number of comments. This approach makes no sense to me. You’re not going to know in advance how many of the posts you read each day are going to strike a chord with you. Don’t be driven by numbers. It’s never a good idea to be constantly visible, especially if it comes at the expense of value. Focus instead on making comments only when and where you will be adding value to the conversation.

****In order to ensure that you are adding that value, you first need to be sure that you’re commenting on the right blog. Does the blog you’re reading share the same audience you’re trying to reach? If not, you may be barking up the wrong tree. There are plenty of blog search tools out there to help you find the right one. The first engine that comes to my mind is http://blogsearch.google.com, where you can do a simple keyword search or define specific parameters for what you’re seeking.

****You can also set up Google Alerts on blogs to see who’s talking about the things that concern you. And there are many good feed readers out there that will pull all your feeds into one place for you to read and consider.

****I like Google Reader, where you can see your Google Alerts and any RSS feeds all on one page. From there it’s one click to get to the actual post where you can make your comments.

****Once you find the blogs you should be reading, see which blogs those bloggers read—this is just another flavor of networking. More often than not, you will find the blogs read by the bloggers you read just as valuable.

****It’s okay to put links in your comments, but never link back to your own blog more than once in a comment. Usually the comments section of a blog will have a place for you to identify yourself and link back to your blog anyway. There’s no need to go overboard in your self-promotion, especially when you run the risk of being labeled a spammer. Make significant comments often enough and the blogger and other readers will come to know your name and your own blog easily enough.

****Remember that your primary focus in commenting on other blogs is adding value to the conversation, not driving traffic to your own blog. If you are truly adding value to the conversation, traffic to your blog will come naturally. And that’s the way you want it.

Rick Grant has been an editor, writer and new media advocate for nearly 20 years and has focused on various facets of the mortgage industry for the last decade. Prior to starting his own company, Rick Grant & Associates, he served as the special reports editor for National Mortgage News and was the launch editor for Origination News Magazine, Broker magazine and Home Equity Wire, as well as managing editor of Mortgage Technology magazine while employed with SourceMedia, formerly Thomson Media. Rick then served as editor of Real Estate Technology Insight, an October Research Corp. publication. A successful freelance writer, Rick continues to write for the industry in addition to running his own consulting company. He is a proponent of new media communication tools, such as blogs, podcasts, video blogs and online presentations. He can be reached via e-mail at rick@rga-pr.com.