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  • Three tips to increase your business Google rank

    Search engine optimization (SEO) is an ever-evolving beast that can be difficult to navigate.

    The rules are always changing and understanding where to begin can present a challenging maze for those unfamiliar with the most current trends.

    Google, of course, is the giant of the search engine ladder, and if your business URL ranks at the top of a Google search, it has a 33 percent chance of getting clicked, while the second position gets close to 15 percent of the share, and the third position, 9 percent.

    Moreover, a whopping 75 percent of people who use search engines to browse topics never leave the first page of search results. In other words, a high rank leads to more clicks, and more clicks equate to more leads.

    To achieve optimal results, businesses can implement several strategies to increase their visibility on Google. Here are a few tips to get started.

    Improve the speed of your landing page.

    The time it takes for your home page to load is front and center in the minds of the public—and Google. If your load page is too slow, Google recognizes the lull and will promptly demote your ranking.

    As well, a slow website affects the ways in which visitors to your site engage with your pages. Research shows that 40 percent of visitors will leave a website if the page takes more than three seconds to load. Even worse, 80 percent of those visitors won’t bother to come back.

    To test the speed of your website, consult a free online service like Pingdom.

    Regularly update your website with new content.

    If you allow the content on your website to become outdated, or worse, let it fade into oblivion, your SEO ranking plummets. To generate traffic and increase your website’s visibility, posting fresh content is imperative.

    If your site is littered with irrelevant or outdated content, get rid of it. Update your site on a regular basis with newsworthy, consumable, relevant and value-driven content (including graphics, videos, how-to guides, webinars and live chats) and visitors will likely return.

    Something else to keep in mind: Google increases your website’s search engine rank when visitors spend more than a nanosecond on your site. If you keep your target searchers engaged with great content that makes them care, they’ll stick around—a factor that Google takes into account when it ranks websites.

    Use the correct key words and phrases.

    Keywords play a huge role in Google’s ranking algorithm. When creating content for your website, include keywords and long-tail keywords (three-or-four-word phrases) that speak to—and define—your brand.

    Keywords can be used in the body of a blog post, header tag or as part of photo captions.

    Google isn’t particularly keen on saturating sites with keywords, however, so use them strategically and sparingly, otherwise you risk diminishing your search ranking. Tip: Take advantage of software sites like Moz and Ahrefs, both of which offer keyword suggestions and monthly search volume.

    Real Estate Corner:
    New Amazon and Realogy partnership strives to lure homebuyers with up to $5,000 in home products and services.

    graphic - real estate, blue

    Retail kingpin Amazon and the nation’s largest residential brokerage firm, Realogy, whose brands include Coldwell Banker, Century 21 and Sotheby’s, have joined forces to attract home buyers in fourteen different cities.

    To entice buyers to take advantage of the newly launched partnership—called Turnkey—Amazon is offering up to $5,000 in home services and products upon the closing of a home.

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  • Is it time to reexamine your company’s culture?

    Culture is the lifeblood of every organization.

    It is created through a language and customs, arts and practices that are shared by a particular work group. Culture is an identity, and it can attract or repel engagement with your organization.

    All companies have a culture, whether it is one that develops on its own or is deliberately nurtured. The questions is do you have the culture you want?

    Does your culture revolve around how your people respect each other and your customers? Does your culture foster the experience you want your customers to have? Is it time to be more deliberate or even make a bold change?  

    In a recent Gallup poll, 53% of workers reported they are “not engaged.” From Gallup’s employee engagement report: “They may be generally satisfied but are not cognitively and emotionally connected to their work and workplace; they will usually show up to work and do the minimum required but will quickly leave their company for a slightly better offer.” That same poll reported that 34% of workers are “engaged,” and it’s the highest number since this Gallup poll was created in 2000. Only about one-third of our workforce feels engaged, and that’s an improvement.

    Imagine the change possible if we could reverse these numbers? Gains in productivity, increases in job satisfaction – wins for everyone! And that’s just a start.

    To improve employee engagement, it may be time to reexamine your company’s culture. Do you know what your people really want and what is important to them? Have you asked them or are you making assumptions?

    Each employee brings his or her own unique personality, life experiences, skills, talents, work history and world view. We act, behave and influence others based on who we are – and what we have gone through in life.

    How people work together can either happen by chance or by deliberate action. Culture allows us to find commonalities among our differences, to align the group’s focus on a single objective to achieve success.

    I look forward to exploring company culture with you during the Engagement Lab: Culture Audit at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 23 during the ALTA One conference in Austin, Texas.

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  • Tips for improving and increasing the reach of your press release

    the modern digital age is changing the way journalists rely on information gathering

    While traditional press releases – distributing promotional news about your services, products, brand or business through mass communication channels – should still be part of your communications cannon, the modern digital age is changing the way journalists rely on information gathering.

    Muck Rack and the Zeno Group, for example, published a survey last year that produced some surprising results: only 3 percent of journalists worldwide rely heavily on press releases distributed via newswires. Even more telling: 53 percent of U.S. based journalists don’t rely on press releases at all.

    Consider these additional findings from the Muck Rack and Zeno Group survey:

    • More than 41 percent of journalists consider the potential “shareability” of a story when deciding what to write about
    • 63 percent of journalists in the U.S. and 68 percent of journalists worldwide track how many times their stories are shared on social media 
    • 27 percent of journalists choose Twitter as their primary news source

    To be clear: Press releases are not dead. Even in today’s digital bonanza, they’re still a formidable medium for delivering your message, especially when that message is well written, informative and has a strong hook.

    Still, these findings, if nothing else, should compel communications professionals to rethink how they communicate – and build relationships – with journalists that go beyond an email and a formulaic press release.

    To bolster your message, consider implementing these three additional strategies.

    Follow reporters that cover your beat on social media.

    Make sure to follow reporters that cover your industry on social media platforms. A journalist’s tweet may spark a pitch for a story idea or the opportunity to become a source or an expert for a forthcoming article or column.

    The more familiar you are with the journalists that write about your industry, whether it’s trends, news or thoughts, the more you’re likely to understand the kind of stories they’re looking for.

    Share, share and share some more.

    When your business is featured in a publication, video or blog post, share the story to your own social media followers.

    And always tag the publications and reporter that wrote the story. Spreading good news extends the story’s reach for your business, and it also benefits the publication and the reporter.

    It’s a win-win situation for generating visibility across the spectrum.

    Make your pitch personal.

    Distributing a mass pitch is easy, but it’s not advisable. If you’re going to do the research to craft a press release, ensure that you devote time to developing customized angles and narratives that are personalized for the specific reporter or outlet you’re pitching.

    Journalists receive dozens of pitches every day; make yours stand out by personalizing your pitches and letting reporters know why, specifically, they’re the right person to cover your pitch.

    Additionally, think beyond text: the inclusion of infographics and videos in your release is proven to generate more attention.

    https://www.prdaily.com/report-journalists-are-ditching-the-press-release/

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  • If Something Doesn’t Smell Right, It’s Probably Not

    It may seem like “Title Insurance 101” – but small mistakes can be signs of fraud or misuse of funds or outright intentional undoing of a clear road to closing on a real estate deal.

    It may seem like “Title Insurance 101” – but small mistakes can be signs of fraud or misuse of funds or outright intentional undoing of a clear road to closing on a real estate deal.

    Not everyone knows everything all of the time; a thousand items have to fall into place and “add up” in order to make the process smooth and completely unencumbered.

    Download Our Fraud Detection Guide for Agents

    A power of attorney showing up in the middle of a transaction (or at the end) should be scrutinized. So should cashier’s checks drawn from geographical areas that don’t coincide with the seller’s, buyer’s or property’s locale.

    Take a look at the potential red flags below; being aware is half the battle.

    Preliminary Title Report/Title Search

    Red flags” involving the preliminary title report and title search may include:

    • Ordered by, prepared for, or mailed to a party other than the lender.
    • Property seller is not in title (possible purchase disguised as a refinance or improper property flip).
    • Seller owned property for a short time with a cash-out on the sale.
    • Notice of default is recorded (possible cash-out purchase with a straw buyer or foreclosure rescue).
    • Report indicates delinquent property taxes.
    • Report indicates modification agreement on existing loan(s).
    • Title documents show the borrower or Seller on a purchase is not the owner of record.
      • For a purchase transaction, the seller should be the owner of record.
      • For a refinance transaction, the borrower on the loan application should match the owner of record on the title documents.

    Escrow/Closing Instructions

    “Red flags” involving escrow and closing instructions may include:

    • “Fill in the blank” or generic escrow instructions.
    • Change of sales prices to “fit” the appraisal.
    • Odd amounts paid as a deposit/down payment.
    • Significant or unusual buyer credits or fees.
    • Unusual amendments to the original transaction.
    • Seller on Closing Disclosure different than seller on preliminary title report.
    • Evidence of “white-outs” or alterations without initials.
    • Payoffs to third parties whose lien was not listed on the preliminary title report.
    • Reference to another escrow.
    • Down payment is paid into escrow upon opening.
    • Cash is paid outside of escrow to property seller.
    • Sale is “subject to” property seller acquiring title.
    • Entity acting as the property seller is controlled by, affiliated with, or related to the applicant or another party to the transaction.
    • Buyer is required to use a specific broker/lender.
    • Sale of subject property is not subject to inspection.
    • Power of attorney used with no explanation.
    • Power of attorney is not properly documented/recorded.

    Funds to Close

    “Red flags” involving funds to close may include:

    • Remitter on cashier’s check or source of the wire is not the borrower.
    • Cashier’s check issued from a bank that is inconsistent with the depository information on application.
    • Cashier’s check issued from a bank branch that is out of the buyer’s geographic area.
    • Dollar amount is incorrectly encoded on check.
    • Sources of funds are questionable

    Closing Disclosure/Settlement Statement

    “Red flags” involving the closing disclosure or settlement statement may include:

    • Names and addresses of property seller and buyer vary from other loan documentation.
    • Seller’s mailing address is the same as another party to the transaction.
    • Excessive real estate agent commissions paid.
    • Real estate commission paid, but no realtors listed on the purchase contract.
    • Sales price differs from sales contract.
    • Reference is made to undisclosed secondary financing or double escrow.
    • Rent prorated on owner-occupied transactions.
    • Zero amount due to/from buyer.
    • Closing Disclosure or escrow instructions contain unusual credits, disbursements, related parties, delinquent loans paid off, or multiple mortgages paid off.
    • Payoffs for items not consistent with liens listed on title commitment.
    • Excessive seller paid marketing, administrative, assignment or trust fees.
    • Payouts to unknown parties.
    • Terms of the closed mortgage differ from the terms approved by the underwriter.
    • Date of settlement is delayed without explanation.

    Download Our Fraud Detection Guide for Agents

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  • Wire Fraud, Appraisals & Contracts (Oh, My!)

    No one wants to learn that fraud or misuse of funds or fraudulent transfers happened once a closing is complete, yet those events can be part of real estate closing worlds.

    Appraisals can also prove to be undependable, as parties involved can have less-than-legitimate agendas.

    Download Our Fraud Detection Guide for Agents

    Who wants to learn of a crooked contract – that’s already been signed, notarized and filed?

    No one. Below, we take a look at what agents can do regarding all of the above and how to avoid pitfalls before they happen.

    What Agents Should Do If Wire Fraud is Suspected

    After the Exchange of Funds (regardless of the dollar amount of the loss)

    • Contact your bank.
      • Speak with someone who has authority to reverse or “recall” the wire. This contact may be in your bank’s fraud department. Note: A best practice is to identify this contact and establish a relationship with him or her before a wire fraud incident occurs. 
      • Make sure the bank understands you have been the victim of a Business Email Compromise (BEC) scheme.
      • Request a Wire Recall or SWIFT Recall Message.
      • Ask your bank to fully cooperate with law enforcement.
    • Contact your local FBI office (https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices). The FBI has a number of protocols aimed at freezing and retrieving funds. They will activate appropriate protocols based upon the circumstances of the loss. The American Land Title Association has more information on the FBI’s protocol for reversing fraudulent international wires.
    • Complete and submit a Complaint Referral Form to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Be prepared to provide all details related to the transaction including date, amount, the name of your bank and the beneficiary bank, account numbers, contact information, etc.
    • Contact the fraud department at the beneficiary bank to notify them about the wire-recall request due to the fraud. Provide details and request that the account be frozen.
    • Contact local law enforcement (https://www.policeone.com/law-enforcement-directory/)
    • Contact your Secret Service field office (https://www.secretservice.gov/contact/field-offices/)
    • Contact the Alliant National Claims Department by first calling the Claims Manager at (303) 682-9800, ext. 425, and then follow up by emailing applicable information to Claims@alliantnational.com.

    When the Money Goes Out, Minutes Count

    The 48-hour period following a fraudulent wire transfer is critical; immediately contacting your bank, the local FBI office and submitting a complaint to IC3 as described above will increase your chances of recovering the funds. 

    Special Handling of International Wires

    Since international wire fraud has a very low chance of recovery or reversal of the wire, special precautions are advisable, such as requiring “in-person authorization” from only those authorized signers on an out-going international wire, and having such precautionary requirements agreed upon with your bank.

    Appraisals

    Appraisals and appraisal reports may contain “red flags” indicating potential fraud. “Red flags” may include, but are not limited to:

    • Owner of record listed is inconsistent with other information disclosed in the loan file.
    • Occupant is identified as a tenant on an owner-occupied refinance application.
    • Owner-occupied refinance transaction, but the property is vacant.
    • Occupant of subject property is listed as “unknown.”
    • Appraiser uses public record, exterior inspections, or property seller/builder as sole data sources.
    • Illegal zoning is checked on first page of the appraisal.
    • “Physical deficiencies or adverse conditions that affect the livability, soundness, or structural integrity box” is checked “Yes” on the first page of the appraisal.
    • Subject property has increased in value in a stable or declining market.
    • Land value is atypically high for the area.
    • Excessive adjustments in urban or suburban area where marketing time is under six months.
    • Timeframe between sales does not allow enough time for reported renovations made to property.
    • Loan file contains a note with a predetermined value.
    • Ineligible Condition (C5, C6) or Quality (Q6) ratings.
    • Blank spaces on the form (borrower, client, occupant, etc.).
    • Missing photos or maps.
    • Photos do not match description of property.
    • House number in photo does not match property address.
    • Photos do not match the floor plan sketch (i.e. location of garage, fireplace, etc.).
    • Photos of subject property taken from odd angles or with no depth of field, or have been cropped or otherwise altered.
    • Photos reveal items not disclosed in appraisal (e.g., commercial property next door, railroad tracks, another structure on premises, etc.).
    • Weather conditions in photo of property are not appropriate for the date of the appraisal (i.e., July photo shows snow on the ground for a property in Illinois).
    • “For rent” or “for sale” sign in photo of subject property on owner-occupant refinance application.
    • Most recent sale(s) and/or listing information on subject property and/or comparable properties are missing.
    • Use of unverified comparable sales (i.e., not verified through traditional data sources such as MLS, sales office, Closing Disclosure, real estate agent, etc.).
    • Use of inappropriate comparable properties (e.g., that are not similar to the subject property when comparable properties are present).
    • Excessive distance between comparable properties and subject property.
    • All comparable properties are from different town(s) than the subject property.
    • Lack of bracketing with comparable sales used (e.g., all sales are significantly larger in living area than the subject).
    • Appraisal is ordered and/or prepared prior to date of sales contract or loan application.

    Appraiser is located outside of the county in which the property is located.

    Sales Contracts

    Sales contract “Red flags” indicating potential fraud may include, but are not limited to:

    • Multiple sales contracts exist.
    • Sales contract is dated after the appraisal date.
    • Sales contract is subject to an existing lease on an owner-occupied transaction.
    • Sales contract includes personal property or prohibited sales concessions.
    • Sales price is significantly above or below market value.
    • Purchase contract addenda adjusts the sales price.
    • Applicant is not shown as purchaser.
    • No real estate professional involved.
    • Real estate agent(s) used, but not paid a fee; or no real estate agent(s) involved at all.
    • Seller is a corporation or LLC and the subject property is not new construction.
    • Seller is an affiliated real estate agent, trust, relative or employer.
    • The parties to the transaction are related by family or commercial enterprise.
    • The contract is not dated.
    • Names are deleted from or added to the purchase contract.
    • The contract is an “option contract.”
    • The contract was assigned or is assignable.
    • Earnest-money deposit is an unusually high amount, consists of the entire down payment, or is an odd amount.
    • Contract has a very short inspection period and upon satisfactory inspection, the buyer is to notify the settlement agent who is then supposed to transfer a large portion or all of the deposit to the seller (scam is that 10 business days later, it is discovered that the cashiers’ check is counterfeit after the money has been sent, and the escrow account suffers a shortage). 
      • Recommendation is to contact the bank or entity issuing the cashier’s check to confirm that the cashier’s check number and amount is valid prior to depositing the item in the account. Most banks will confirm this by telephone. Due to the increasing occurrences of counterfeit cashier’s checks, most banks have instituted mandatory holds on cashier’s checks. It is not uncommon for a hold to last up to 10 days (check with your bank to confirm their policy).
    • Name and address on earnest-money deposit check is different from that of the buyer.
    • Earnest-money deposit checks have inconsistent dates, for example:
      • Check #111 dated November 1
      • Check #113 dated September 1
      • Check #114 dated October 1
    • Earnest-money check is not cashed or is not reflected on the Closing Disclosure.

    Download Our Fraud Detection Guide for Agents

    - MORE -

Company News

  • Bob Grubb Named Vice-Chairman of Holding Company for Alliant National Title Insurance Co.
    Grubb helped grow the company into the nation’s largest independent underwriter that does not compete with agents and will remain on the company’s Board of Directors LONGMONT, Colo. (Sept. 25, 2019) – Alliant National Title Insurance Co. announced today that Bob Grubb has been named the Vice-Chairman of Presidio ATC Holdco, LLC, and has passed […]
  • Alliant National Announces the Appointments and Promotions of Three Highly Experienced Employees
    Congratulations to Tim Tillman, Kim Bergner and Heather Huff on their new positions. LONGMONT, CO. – Alliant National Title Insurance Company (Alliant National) recently announced the appointments of three employees.   Tim Tillman, Alliant National’s new Florida Production Manager Six years ago this month, Tim Tillman joined Alliant National as vice president, Tallahassee and Northwest […]
  • Alliant National Title Insurance Company Appoints Controller
    Vesa Tubbs will oversee the financial and statutory reporting and management of the accounting and finance department of Alliant National’s Longmont headquarters. LONGMONT, CO. – The largest title insurance underwriter in the nation with no direct operations to compete against its agents, Alliant National, announced Vesa Tubbs has been appointed as the company’s controller. Tubbs […]

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