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Consumer Alert: The Real Story Behind Mortgage Rating Websites

While on social media or browsing the web, you may have come across websites that claim to identify the “Top 5” of this or the “10 Best” of that. We have all seen them. Many of us rely on them when shopping for a new product or service.

Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but here is some news: the rankings on those sites are not always what they claim to be.

The truth is, what many of those websites are actually listing is the top 5 or 10 companies who are willing to pay to be listed.

How do we know? Because Mortgage 1 is approached daily from websites like those asking if we want to be included in their listings.

We always decline. To learn why, along with how those websites operate and why you should take their listings with a grain of salt, keep reading below.

Pay-to-Play Rating Websites

In the world of online marketing, “Best Of” websites are known as lead generation (aka, “lead gen”) sites. They exist for one reason: to attract visitors and gather their information.

The lead gen sites then pass along that information to the organizations listed on the site. There are lead gen sites for all kinds of industries – insurance, lending, higher education, healthcare, and others.

How do organization get listed on these sites? They pay a fee.

As proof, here is the disclaimer from one well-recognized mortgage lead gen site (bold added for emphasis):

HOW WE RANK: The sites that appear on this site are companies from which we receive compensation. Ranking and order of products on the site are subject to change and the site does not include all companies in the marketplace. Rankings are impacted by site reputation, visitor interest and success rates, as well as compensation paid by the site. Compensation may impact the numerical rankings, star ratings and or higher positions in which the companies (and/or their products) are listed.

In addition to paying to be listed, organizations may also pay additional fees for each time a consumer selects them or is directly referred from the site.

Sadly, many consumers do not realize this aspect of these ranking sites. Many consumers believe what they read and think the lead gen sites are grading companies based on objective criteria and are choosing from all companies within an industry.

They are not. It is pay-to-play.

So, how can you tell if a review site is real versus pay-to-play? Here are some indicators:

· Pay-to-play sites are required to have a disclaimer, such as the one shown above, that describes how they work.

· If the site seems pushy about gathering your information, it is pay-to-play.

· If the site only includes a small sample set of listings, it is pay-to-play.

· If the site includes only positive comments and is overly gushy about each of the listed companies, it is pay-to-play.

· If the listing is part of a larger site that is nothing but reviews and ratings, it is pay-to-play.

Mortgage 1 Does Not Pay to Be Ranked. We Do not Need To.

At Mortgage 1, we do not pay to be included on ranking sites. First off, it is a bit unseemly. It is like buying friendship.

Secondly, we prefer to grow organically, one happy customer at a time. We think it’s working, as witnessed by our 99% customer satisfaction score and our 97 Net Promoter Score (NPS).

“We do not pay for reviews or recommendations or referrals. We have earned our reputation by having real people refer us to real people. You won’t see us running a $6 million Super Bowl commercial, but you will hear satisfied customers telling their friends about us at happy hour. That’s how we like it.”

– Mark Workens, Mortgage 1 CEO

That’s not to say we don’t advertise. Mortgage 1 does run text-based Google ads as well as graphical ads. One example of a graphical ad is below. You may have seen ads like this on the web. These ads are nonintrusive and relatively low-budget and appear when people search on mortgage-related terms or visit certain websites.

Some Rating Sites Are Legitimate

What we have described in this article isn’t meant to say that all rankings on the internet are bad. There are numerous outlets that legitimately rate and rank products and services. Sites like Consumer Reports or U.S. News and World Report, for example. These entities conduct thorough, objective, evidence-based analysis to generate their rankings. While the companies who are ranked might buy an advertisement in the magazine (usually, to pat themselves on the back), the companies are not able to buy their way into the rankings.

Choose a Lender with a Hard-Earned, Honest Reputation

Looking for a lender with an earned, not purchased, reputation for honesty and satisfaction? Choose Mortgage 1. Call us at 517-315-4626 or at


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