Randi Thornton, known as the SEO Google Guru, has overcome many challenges to succeed in the highly competitive mortgage and real estate internet marketing industry.
Thornton’s colorful career has influenced her decisions to develop businesses that produce automatic revenues by taking advantage of SEO techniques, conceptual website creations and her unqualified success serves as a good example for people who want to expand their career options and reinvent their lives.
This creative entrepreneur has demonstrated an intuitive grasp of advanced search engine optimization skills, and she chooses to share her insights with other people. Thornton, founder of realWITS, a concept focused on a turn-key real estate company website solution and online marketing resource, has focused her efforts on helping real estate companies and brokers understand the challenges of using white-hat SEO methods to increase website authority rankings and sales conversions while strengthening online reputations.
Traditional marketing efforts fail to generate high profits for brokers who just go through the motions, and marketing directors become frustrated dealing with misinformation, competitive keyword-marketing tactics, black-hat consulting scams and elitist jargon that bears little relevance to everyday activities in the real world. Brokerages cheerfully furnish office space or partner with affiliates who own websites, but real estate company agents sink or swim on their own efforts. Many brokers have little training and few ideas about how to strengthen their online presences, but Randi Thornton created realWITS to provide this kind of guidance.
Most real estate website owners neglect creating comprehensive strategies, but Randi Thornton achieved success as a single mother by dialing random phone numbers, looking for new opportunities, educating herself about the benefits of the World Wide Web, and keeping her spirits up throughout her career.
Thornton progressed from having little practical real estate and mortgage knowledge to owning and selling lucrative online companies without resorting to unethical practices, black-hat SEO techniques or illegal financing schemes. The real estate meltdown of 2008 resulted from the questionable practices of real estate and mortgage lending opportunists. Competitive brokers and affiliates generate conflicting, ambiguous relationships; so many agents zealously guard their intelligence and resist sharing information through online forums.
Randi Thornton has proved these competitive industries can succeed while sharing open-source technology, ethical real estate SEO strategies and consumer-oriented online platform. Motivated entrepreneurs can build successful careers selling ancillary services and generating leads by learning to leverage the benefits of optimized websites through on-page and off-page SEO techniques.
Looking back on my life, I have always enjoyed the sense of security and ethical certainty that come from family, community, mentors and supportive friends.”
Randi Thornton was born in a Midwestern community in Wisconsin, and one of her earliest memories focuses on her father quitting his executive position at 3M to start his own real estate business. Treasured childhood memories include taking part in brainstorming sessions to name the new company and come up with a logo. Thornton’s father, a respected and influential pillar of the quaint community, started selling real estate part time and eventually decided to pursue the calling full-time.
Randi Thornton, sharing a common problem of young people, became pregnant at the end of her senior year in high school in 1981. Living in a small town and having a religious upbringing caused Thornton to feel as though she had let her family down, so she married hastily but learned to repent her decision. After spending three years in an abusive relationship, Randi Thornton found herself a single mom with two children to support.
Despite Randi Thornton’s precarious situation, she managed to find ways to support her children, buy homes, start businesses and gain respect in the real estate, mortgage and marketing-consultant businesses.
The following timeline shows some highlights of Thornton’s career that have influenced her to establish the realWITS company to create clear, navigable and authoritative websites for real estate companies.
Thornton started her journey by attending cosmetology school because she always enjoyed working with people and thought that she would enjoy helping them to look their best. Unfortunately, the income failed to cover the expenses of rent, food, utilities and daycare for two young children, so as a single parent Thornton began scouring the want ads for new jobs. No convenient online resources helped to simplify job searches back in 1986.
At last, Thornton found a posting that held some promise because it included the following details:
The trusty local newspaper again provided a job opportunity in a related field that Thornton could pursue with her real estate license. The job was for a mortgage broker position, so Randi Thornton again started with little practical knowledge and the risk of working for commissions in her efforts to prove to herself and her father she could financially support her children as a single parent. The owner provided no training or guidance, but one colleague helped Thornton by answering questions and mentoring her fledgling career, which lasted for the next eight years.
Thornton’s next employer promised to double her income because the company had many loans that needed closing or had minor problems that required an experienced troubleshooter to solve. On the first day, Thornton was given a stack of mortgage-application files to study, so she went to work with optimism and determination but quickly discovered that none of the applicants qualified for loans.
Thornton met with the boss on the second day and explained that none of applications qualified despite lending resources that included sub-prime lenders and private investors. Many applicants were applying for loans beyond their means to repay, but the boss merely suggested filling in the necessary incomes on blank W-2 forms to justify the loans.
Thornton had been raised in an ethical family, and her previous mortgage experience had never involved falsifying applications or forging substantiating documentation. The trustworthy young woman learned a valuable lesson that day that has continued to guide her career—namely, that not everyone operates ethically, but she decided that she would not work with people who did not have moral codes of behavior. Thornton quit that day, making the job the shortest she has ever held.
First Website Designed by Thornton
The two days of working for an unethical lender had unexpected benefits: Thornton realized that she had the skills and resources to start her own mortgage company because she had experience closing deals, cared about people, knew how to pinpoint customer motivations, had the ability to match lenders and borrowers and her ability to problem solve. Of course, many mortgage applicants problems could be solved ethically such as adjusting applications to disclose hidden marital assets and resolving title problems, and Thornton knew how to finesse these issues to help determined people buy homes and refinance.
“I knew how to engage people from all walks of life, uncover their motivations, match their mortgage needs with suitable lenders and put out the fires that threaten to consume dreams of home ownership or financial reconstruction” Thornton commented on deciding to start her own business. “The downside was that I had never run a business, but the prospect excited me. I couldn’t help but recall the positive impact directly related to challenging myself in the past and working outside of my comfort zone.
I began researching office locations, logo designs, possible business names and other business logistics I eventually decided to name my business Thornton Mortgage, Inc. I settled on this name for two reasons. First, I had already established my brand and name in the mortgage industry and wanted to capitalize on the residual good will and respect that I had earned. The second reason was that I wanted clients to know that I staked my personal reputation on each of my business deals.”
The strategy proved successful, and the fledgling entrepreneurial effort flourished. Thornton’s strategy of providing personal service and helping people negotiate complex deals generated an impressive list of satisfied clients, glowing testimonials and industry contacts. After working successfully for one year, Thornton became fascinated with the World Wide Web, so she decided to create a website for her company and enlisted the services of a local website developer to help her design an attractive website that continues to be a source of pride, despite the advances in technology and design criteria.
Thornton launched her website believing that if you built it, people would come, but she found that Internet marketing presented new challenges. “I found many SEO experts who promised extraordinary benefits, but these advantages never seemed to materialize. I was convinced that hiring the right expert would solve my problems attracting website visitors, but after many months of effort and spending thousands of dollars, I ended up essentially back where I started.”
Thornton decided to learn everything she could about search engines, attracting viewers and optimizing websites. During the day, Thornton worked at running Thornton Mortgage Company and building the business, and at night, she researched SEO techniques and marketing strategies. Some ideas worked while others did not, but Thornton continued to examine and test new strategies until her efforts began to generate powerful responses.
Eventually, sales leads began to snowball, creating new problems. Internet marketing generates leads from all over the country, but Thornton only held a real estate broker’s license in Minnesota, so she had no way to handle online applications from borrowers across the United States. Similar to real estate agents, mortgage lenders consider valid leads as the equivalent of pure gold, but Thornton could not take advantage of out-of-state leads. The dilemma for Thornton was that failing to act on legitimate leads not only seemed wasteful but also threatened to disappoint optimistic borrowers who had placed their trust in her company’s website.
The solution to the problem involved selling leads to nationwide lenders. Thornton comments on her decision to develop a new website to handle leads: “I was getting phone calls and online applications from borrowers all over the country. I felt that I had an obligation to put these people in touch with out-of-state lenders and mortgage companies that could handle these applications because the companies were licensed to do business in those states.”
Thornton created a new website that would attract customers using the same SEO techniques that had worked for Thornton Mortgage Company but with one key difference. The new site would take applications from anyone who wanted to find a mortgage, and clients would get sent to the best lenders, according to each client’s financial needs, and not exclusively to Thornton Mortgage.
Business continued to grow, and Thornton’s insistent efforts to expand upon her existing SEO knowledge she started to scrutinize the top 500 keywords that consumers used each day in their online searches. “I discovered that the term ‘mortgages’ always made the list, but the term ‘mortgage calculators’ was also very popular. People needed help figuring out their mortgage payments to decide which properties they could afford to buy. Amortization tables, tax strategies and early pay-off calculations challenge consumers, so many people look for online calculators to help them plan their budgets and decide whether to buy property, so these people made hot prospects for my MortgageCreditProblems.com website. I decided that I needed a website that provided the most requested mortgage calculators.”
Mortgage Calculator Website Design
Thornton created a website to provide calculators for consumers that she named Calculators4Mortgages.com to take advantage of the popular search trend of including the words calculators and mortgages in keyword searches. Thornton’s strategies began to generate so many leads that she could no longer handle sending leads to lenders manually.
“As the leads poured in, I sold them to qualified lenders, but manually sending, tracking, and verifying payments became a time-consuming nightmare. I needed a functional website that would connect with mortgage lenders and automate these transactions in real-time. Bear in mind that I was generating this kind of volume before giant mortgage lenders were regular online marketing participants.”
Thornton required new levels of functionality to take advantage of lead-generating websites. “I had to go back to the beginning to design a site capable of seamlessly connecting with lenders. I needed an interface that would let lenders know how many leads were being generated from each state and could automate online payments from selling mortgage-application leads. I created MortgageLeadsforSale.com to automate the process, and the website solved the problem beautifully. However, I soon found that I had too much free time on my hands.”
Real estate brokers and agents cannot succeed without developing marketing skills, and the pursuit of business success often forces creative entrepreneurs to consider new products and new markets. Many business owners find it advisable to pursue mutually profitable partnerships.
The real estate industry consists of business brokers, lenders, mortgage companies, borrowers and insurance companies. Randi Thornton increasingly found her interests gravitating to other areas of online marketing. Thornton comments on her success in learning SEO techniques: “I started business by trying to help people who had less-than-perfect credit, but developing Internet strategies began to occupy my time with increasing regularity. Sleepless nights and midnight oil helped me achieve number-one Google rankings for more than 200 keywords on one website and 186 keywords for another site.”
Thornton began to consider the advantages of taking her knowledge of SEO techniques and Internet marketing to new levels, so she began studying affiliate programs. Developing relationships with other websites offered many potential referral benefits. Affiliate partners could send customers to websites from banner ads with strong calls to action, so Thornton created a website to establish partnerships or affiliate relationships called LendingAffiliates.com.
Randi Thornton had built automated businesses that produced revenue she had never dreamed of enjoying. “I had time and money to travel, purchased a second home in Florida, made real estate investments and could afford to send my children abroad to study.
My success attracted attention, but I was still surprised to receive a phone call from an industry leader who wanted to buy my online businesses.
Rather than continue paying premium advertising costs for optimizing keywords that were getting number-one rankings for my websites, the buyer thought it made sound business strategy to buy my businesses.”
Thornton had never considered selling her website businesses, but she approached evaluating their worth in a rational manner by studying how much advertisers were willing to pay to obtain number-one rankings.
The sale took place in 2005, and Thornton applied a formula to calculate the value of her organic traffic, to each keyword by multiplying the number of monthly keyword searches by the percentage of expected organic click through rate and multiplying that number by the dollar amount advertisers are willing to pay Google for that particular keyword search placement. The resulting number was then multiplied by 12 to convert a monthly value to an annual value.
In 2008 Thornton took this screen shot of a Calculators4Mortgage.com on Google. At the time the shot was taken the website had 1,650 different keywords that ranked on page one or two on Google.
The following represents the value of “mortgage rate calculator” at the time of the business sale:
mortgage rate calculator
The keyword phrase “mortgage rate calculator” was in the 1st position.
There were 491,000 indexed pages on Google for this keyword phrase.
Average paid cost per click by advertisers for keyword phrase (Google Adwords) was $7.13
The estimated monthly search volume for this keyword phrase was 22,200.
A 30% click through rate was expected for the first position on Google.
Based on the above data the following calculation was applied to the keyword phrase “mortgage rate calculator” to determine the market value of its ranking:
22,000 X 30% X $7.13 X 2 = $9,411.60
After two weeks of negotiating, Thornton sold her online businesses and received a very big payday. Unfortunately, Thornton needed to sign a two-year non-compete agreement that prohibited her from developing websites or practicing SEO for two years. Thornton again turned to searching the want ads to find a new career, but now she had the benefits of using online job-search resources that helped her find better matches for her skills.
Special Note: Randi has not had control of these websites since the sale.
Thornton went to work for Realogy, which was called Cendant back in 2005, and her new job title was Century 21 Franchise Sale Director. During the two years that Thornton worked for the company, she met many inspiring people and learned about franchises and business strategies while calling on independent real estate companies in the Midwest and talking to them about the advantages of affiliations with Century 21.
The time came to evolve yet again, and Thornton was anxious to return to online marketing after the non-compete clause expired. “I dove into SEO with a strong will to learn about changes in searching algorithms and to understand the increasingly popular social media marketing trends. I was no longer willing to pay $10,000 for a new website design, though. I decided that I could design my own from scratch. The open source platform WordPress, which launched in 2003, makes it easy to build websites and control every aspect of on-page and off-page SEO strategies.
Thornton decided to use her acquired knowledge and skills to help other companies optimize their marketing efforts: “I am passionate about Internet marketing and applying diverse techniques to bring customers and businesses together. I knew that I had strong advice for all kinds of website owners who wanted to develop white-hat search strategies.
I created SEOGoogleGuru.com to help marketers abide by Google’s Webmaster standards but still obtain top rankings. Best business practices and ethical SEO techniques produce demonstrable rewards of better sales conversions, more site visits and higher authority rankings, which attract quality links from other websites.”
Shortly after Thornton’s SEO Google Guru launch she came across an online posting about a former Realogy manager, Jose Perez, who had founded PCMS Consulting a Company that provided services to real estate brokers. “I decided I needed to get in touch with Perez to find out whether he had an SEO expert on his team. I started working as a consultant for the company and discovered that many brokers were still operating their businesses without really understanding how important websites and SEO techniques were for building successful online marketing campaigns.”
Although real estate professionals often lacked the skills to increase their online visibility, brand awareness and website traffic, Thornton found that many company owners were perfectly willing to pay for flashy websites. Companies pay large sums of money to create websites without really understanding the cost-benefit value that online marketing could provide. Thornton explains, “Most real estate company websites that I analyzed failed to incorporate on-site SEO best practices, and many brokers never asked the right questions or received the answers that would put them on the right path to help them design and build more SEO friendly websites.”
Thornton found this situation frustrating because she knew from experience how expensive it was to advertise in newspapers, magazines, on billboards and in other traditional media forums. Many of these dollars were wasted because consumers were increasingly turning to the Internet to find Realtors in their areas, search for property online, or list their properties through Internet resources. Thornton offers these comments: “I knew that the markets for real estate SEO services was under utilized, so I began to investigate ways for real estate companies and other online marketers to get better value from their websites.”
Clients, friends, colleges and community service organizations began to ask Thornton for help and advice so that they could build their own websites using open-source programs. During the time that Thornton operated SEOGoogleGuru.com and worked with the consulting company, she developed a do-it-yourself platform that bundled together themes, short educational videos, WordPress website-building instructions, and tutorials about hosting and set-up services for people who wanted to build their own websites. This business was created and developed by Thornton at WPWBB.com.
All of Randi Thornton’s considerable experience in real estate, mortgage lending, website development, ancillary real estate services and SEO techniques and strategies has played a major role in the development of her latest turnkey project, realWITS.com. Thornton’s latest consulting company helps real estate brokers understand how to create more responsive websites, get real benefits from them, learn how to attract quality links, and solve common real estate company website problems.
Thornton offers these observations about her newest company: “During my time providing real estate SEO to the consulting firm, I learned that website hosting vendors seldom understand everything it takes to create a popular real estate destination. A website is a living, breathing thing that needs to grow and evolve to stay current. A well thought out design makes a good start, but the Internet is constantly changing and what works today might not work tomorrow. Website owners need to analyze trends, counter their competitors’ efforts, and meet the unique challenges that online real estate marketing brings to the table.”
realWITS helps provide leverage for real estate brokers who often struggle to close deals due to lacking website hosting and vendor support. Thornton believes that agencies and companies deserve better breaks, and helping real estate professionals design better websites and optimize their efforts to attract clients provide essential and in-demand benefits for the real estate industry.
On April 1st 2013 the company will officially launch to take requests from brokers.
“People don’t always know what they don’t know,” says Thornton. realWITS.com is designed to reduce brokers risk with their company real estate website.
Help brokers take control of what Thornton believes to be their most valuable asset… a company real estate website.
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