Stand Out

Now is the time to think about what’s your differentiator? How do you stand out in the current competitive mortgage market? One sure way to get there is to create good content that gets you online traction. How do you do that?

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In the article entitled “5 Keyword Research Steps not to Overlook to Create Better Content” written by Ann Smarty, she shares some tricks of the trade.She says everything, from SEO to content marketing to customer engagement, is hinging on finding and cornering the best and brightest keyword combinations.

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For the most part, you probably have the process down to an art. You know the steps, you are aware of how to use the data and have been doing it for long enough that you have watched the resulting benefits rolling in.

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But could you be skipping a couple of the more creative tactics in keyword research? Here are some to consider implementing (if you weren’t already).

1. Organize Your Keyword Lists Properly

Long gone are the days when we had to create a landing page for every little variation of a keyword we were able to find. I am glad our industry is forced to evolve into a more integrated and smarter tactic. These days search engines prefer long-form expert content that covers a lot of related concepts and is organized well.

Content structure starts at the keyword research level – therefore keyword list organizing is a crucial step (which is overlooked by many content publishers, sadly).

Keyword clustering isn’t new, but it’s more frequently discussed these days because it helps structure your content and optimize it for a lot of related terms. A more common approach to keyword clustering is finding a common term and going from there. This approach is very limiting but luckily we have more advanced tools at our disposal.

2. Research Questions Behind Search Queries

Google search offers a great way to research what people are wondering about when they type a query in the search box. We have all seen the expandable section that provides the question, offers a bit of an answer and allows the reader to click-through to learn more.

More than that, it provides a chance for researching niche questions and thus understanding your audience better. That makes answering questions, especially niche queries that fewer sites are trying to answer, an awesome strategy.

Covering niche questions can diversify any site’s organic rankings:

“People Also Ask” results help you create better-targeted content (and attract more organic users)

“People Also Ask” results are closely connected to Google’s “Featured snippet” algorithm, which means that covering them in your content can give you additional exposure in search.

We don’t know how exactly Google finds these questions and how its algorithm decides whether a certain question deserves to be listed there. But after years of using and optimizing for Google, I can be fairly sure that paying attention to whatever Google is showing is a solid marketing strategy.

Make “People Also Ask” results a part of your content research and optimization process. Look for the questions people are asking that you are uniquely qualified to answer. Then create content addressing them, attracting more organic leads and building your site authority.

3. Use Social Platforms For Keyword Validation

The platforms we have access to these days provide so much opportunity to understand your audience better by simply watching and recording what they do and what they talk about.

Social media is a goldmine of information, as well as a great way to directly engage with customers, would-be customers and influencers. You can also use it to validate your findings when it comes to keywords.

Because the influence of social platforms is so intense, keywords are not just important when it comes to general search. You can get some great insights from social media or even a way to establish a whole other style of keyword driven campaign. Since so much referral traffic comes from social media platforms, there is no excuse not to make it a big part of your efforts.

There are dozens of tools you can use for social media monitoring (Cyfe, TweetDeck, Hootsuite, SproutSocial…). All of those and the many others that exist are great, efficient methods of gathering social insights. But don’t underestimate the power of good ‘ol fashioned search and sort on the social platforms themselves. Adding a bit of human element means you have a better chance of establishing complete lists that use imagination in the search, something automated tools lack. Use tools to monitor social media context but play with different search operators to find those that work well for you.

The reason social media should be used for keyword research is that it provides real-life context: Actual people talking about your core topic. In this sense, tools that analyze social media context and provide related terms and hashtags can provide additional data for you to work with.

4. Monitor Competitors’ Keywords (and How They Use Them)

Your competitors are dominating their own keywords. Maybe you should be following their example. To do that, you need a couple of tools that will help you to find out what they are targeting and how they are doing it.

Free tools really don’t have all the features you need (though they can still be awesome for supplementing your efforts), so you need to be prepared to invest some money.

For an in depth competitive insight try Spyfu. Their data dates back to many years ago. In fact, I think it’s the first competitive intelligence tool I’ve come across in our industry

If you don’t mind building your own dashboard, Cyfe is an all-in-one business platform that includes some monitoring tools. You select and build your widgets and get only what you need, for about $19 per month, less if you pay annually.

With Cyfe you can monitor any amount of Twitter search widgets, Moz, RSS feeds (those from Google Alerts, for example), Google Trends, and so much more.

5. Expand to Related Keywords

Sometimes you just need to see what other key-phrases you could be using in order to be inspired and improve your research. I have lost track of how many times I have gotten a whole new campaign started, or even found content ideas, using this method. Though it used to be harder, having to be done manually or with some less than stellar research tools that required a few extra steps.

For this task you should look at Buzzsumo because it has some of the most thorough insights and analytics you could hope to find. That includes both search keywords and social media and content information. Since I use content as my primary marketing foundation, it is amazingly helpful. Its Question Analyzer feature is a great way to expand your initial keyword lists with related terms and phrases.

In the end, keyword research is useful on so many levels, from content brainstorming to gaining organic visibility. There’s no one perfect way to do it, but if you want to stand out in today’s mortgage market you need to do it.

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Home Appreciation Continues

Veros has released its third quarter 2018 VeroFORECAST with predictions of how property values in Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) across the nation will fare between September 1, 2018 and September 1, 2019. 

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“Our latest VeroFORECAST indicates that on average, for the top 100 most populated metro areas, we expect 4.5% appreciation over the next 12 months,” said Eric Fox, VP of Statistical and Economic Modeling at Veros. “This is the 25th quarter in a row where this index has forecast overall appreciation. We are forecasting that the overwhelming number of metros across the nation, approximately 97 percent, will appreciate, with just three percent depreciating during this period. The fact that these averages are identical to those of last quarter’s update indicates that we are seeing consistency in nearly every metro market.”  

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Western states continue to hold all top ten spots, with forecast appreciation rates running roughly between nine and 12 percent. Seven of those MSAs with the highest-projected appreciation are in Washington and Nevada, with the other three in Idaho, California and Colorado. Another Western state, Utah, is also projected to be a solid performer. These five states, along with Oregon, have provided the index’s highest-ranked markets throughout 2018. It is an indication of the changing economy of Idaho that, after being represented in the year’s first two quarterly reports by Pocatello, Idaho, with a population of approximately 83,000, we now see the Boise City-Nampa MSA, with more than a third of the state’s population, moving in at 11.2 percent, VeroFORECAST’s second-highest projected appreciation figure.

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“This is a very strong showing, with the average appreciation of the Top 10 markets forecast to be a half-percentage point higher than in our last report,” Fox said. He added that, from an overall perspective, the latest report signals “more of the same” for property values in these markets.  Furthermore, for many of the markets for which data was analyzed, interest rates appear to be softening this quarter’s forecasts by one to two percent over what they would have been had the flat interest rate environment of the past several years continued.

Despite the Western MSAs’ domination of projected U.S. real estate appreciation, there are bright spots in every region. In the South, North Carolina is projected to perform well, as are the 

Midwest states of Michigan and Indiana, especially the Indianapolis-Carmel, IN MSA, where property values are projected to appreciate at 8.5 percent. 

Indiana’s next door neighbor, Illinois, however, is forecast to do very poorly, with three of its MSAs in VeroFORECAST’s Bottom 10: Bloomington-Normal is forecast to appreciate at just 0.3 percent through next August, and Peoria and Danville are predicted to depreciate at -0.7 percent and -1.2 percent, respectively.

In the South, Texas has healthy markets, notably Midland and Odessa, which show definite strengthening while others, such as Dallas and College Station, show definite slowing since last quarter’s report. Although its Bay Area jewel, the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont MSA, ranks in the Top 10 with projected 9.6 percent appreciation, parts of California are beginning to show some signs of slowing down. San Jose, for example, is showing a projected appreciation rate dropping from double-digits to 8.3 percent over the next 12 months.  In this third-quarter 2018 VeroFORECAST, the top market, Bremerton-Silverdale, is predicted to appreciate more than a half-percentage higher than the top market in the previous report, Seattle-Tacoma at 11.1 percent. On the other end, the Farmington, NM MSA is predicted to depreciate a half-percentage point more than the second-quarter’s lowest scorer, Cumberland, MD-WV, at -1.6 percent. 

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Foreclosure Activity Is Down 8% From A Year Ago, Lowest Level Since Q4 2005

ATTOM Data Solutions released its Q3 2018 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report, which shows a total of 177,146 U.S. properties with foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions or bank repossessions — in the third quarter, down 6 percent from the previous quarter and down 8 percent from a year ago to the lowest level since Q4 2005 — a nearly 13-year low.

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U.S. foreclosure activity in Q3 2018 was 36 percent below the pre-recession average of 278,912 properties with foreclosure filings per quarter between Q1 2006 and Q3 2007 — the eighth consecutive quarter where U.S. foreclosure activity has registered below the pre-recession average.

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“A decade after poorly underwritten mortgages triggered a housing market crash, it’s clear that the foreclosure risk associated with those problem mortgages has faded — average foreclosure timelines have dropped to a two-year low, and the share of foreclosures tied to 2004-to-2008 loans has dropped well below 50 percent,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions. “The biggest foreclosure risk in today’s housing market comes from natural disaster events such as the twin hurricanes of a year ago. Foreclosure starts spiked in the third quarter in many local markets impacted by those hurricanes. Secondarily, we are seeing relatively modest — but more widespread — foreclosure risk associated with FHA loans originated in 2014 and 2015.”

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Lenders started the foreclosure process on 91,849 U.S. properties in Q3 2018, down 6 percent from the previous quarter and down 3 percent from a year ago — the 13thconsecutive quarter with a year-over-year decrease in foreclosure starts.

Counter to the national trend, 15 states posted year-over-year increases in foreclosure starts in Q3 2018, including Florida (up 25 percent); Texas (up 3 percent); Maryland (up 13 percent); Michigan (up 32 percent); and Missouri (up 10 percent).

Also counter to the national trend, 79 of 219 metropolitan statistical areas analyzed in the report (36 percent) posted a year-over-year increase in foreclosure starts in Q3 2018, including Los Angeles, California (up 2 percent); Houston, Texas (up 51 percent); Washington, D.C. (up 2 percent); Miami, Florida (up 29 percent); and Detroit, Michigan (up 65 percent).

Other markets with at least 1 million people and a year-over-year increase of at least 15 percent in foreclosure starts in Q3 2018 were Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota; Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida; St. Louis, Missouri; Orlando, Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; Austin, Texas, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Jacksonville, Florida; and Grand Rapids, Wyoming.

An Affordable Path To Homeownership

As volume dips, Risk Reduction Mortgage Corp., a startup Fintech mortgage product provider, has launched its signature solution, Risk Reduction Mortgages. This new product will be made available to homeowners and creditors starting in 2019, disrupting the $30-trillion U.S. and $160-trillion global real estate market.

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Developed by renowned mortgage experts, this product has been proven to substantially reduce risk for all stakeholders and provide much needed stability to the housing finance system. Underpinned by Home Diversification Agreements (borrower sells local home-price index and buys national price index), Risk Reduction Mortgages will deliver key benefits:

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>> Eliminate the need for PMI, HFA or piggy-back second mortgages for those unable to afford the standard 20-percent down payment – providing savings of thousands of dollars each year for the tens of millions of homeowners in this category.

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>> Provide a diversification benefit enabling homeowners to substantially reduce their home equity value risk, obtain a similar reduction in foreclosure risk and enjoy a lower interest rate due to their reduced-risk profile.

>> Provide creditors (e.g.- GSEs) up to a 70-percent reduction in systemic credit losses.

“Our new mortgage product is the most important financial innovation since securitization,” says Marc Biron, RRMC founder and CEO. “If available at the time, there is strong evidence they would have helped avert the 2008 meltdown”

Adds RRMC Senior Advisor, John N. Osland, “Our mission is to help millions of homeowners by diversifying their most concentrated investment – their homes. We will remain relentlessly laser-focused on the homeowner.”

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