Every industry experiences growing pains, successes, and over time learns what works best for them. While the valuation industry continues to change there are constantly new developments popping up. Software programs, new forms, forms that are no longer required, technology. But one thing that always remains consistent from industry to industry is – competition.
So, how can you set yourself apart? Steve Whitby a South Carolina Residential Appraiser and an SEO (search engine optimization) guru shared with us how appraisers can attract new clients through their website.
Buzz: Steve, thank you for joining us today. We wanted to talk with you about the importance of web presence and how appraisers can improve their search-ability. For those who may be beginners in this field – what are the first steps they can take to improve their search-ability?
Steve: Thank you for having me! This is exciting! For the beginner, my suggestion would be to focus on branding. Work on getting your company name and your actual name “out there”. Word of mouth is still considered the number one way to get leads and referrals. It’s no different on the internet. In fact, you could say that “word of mouth” on the internet is what builds the definitive authority of a website. As for web presence branding, it’s best to start with building up your citations and socials. For those that don’t know, Moz.com provides the following definition for citations…
“A local citation is any online mention of the name, address, and phone number for a local business. Citations can occur on local business directories, on websites and apps, and on social platforms. Citations help Internet users to discover local businesses and can also impact local search engine rankings.”
Obviously the “social platforms” are Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Building citations and socials does not necessarily guarantee leads or referrals but it does assist greatly in building your name and brand.
The other side of the coin is to go the traditional route and do as many “meet and greets” as time allows. The rise of localized meetups has increased substantially over the past few years and Meetup.com provides the perfect avenue to create your own meeting(s) or to find relevant meetups to network in. For beginners, the bottom line is to build your brand online. As a side note, building your brand online is also a part of reputation management.
The other thing I might mention for beginners and the experienced alike is that building a web presence is not much different than building an actual house. It takes a solid foundation and time! After establishing a solid foundation, then you just keep adding all the components and make it as big and authoritative as you want. To get “yard of the month” (Google’s page 1, position 1 in the Map Pack, and position 1 in organic searches) and stay there, it takes time/patience, money, and resources. Some niche’s and/or keywords are easier while others are harder so there is the “it depends” for the actual time, money, and resources that will be needed.
Buzz: Can you explain how SEO works?
Steve: Sure I can! So how do you look for something you want or need? Chances are, one of the first places you’re going to search from is the internet, right? That is SEO in its essence. A consumer searches for a product or service online and the business owner optimizes their website and/or web presence in hopes of getting your attention to “stop and shop” at their website.
As a matter of fact, the home service industry, which includes the appraisal industry, has a highly competitive lead-gen arena online. There are some businesses out there that have no problem paying $30-$300/per lead. Remember when I said that “word of mouth” is still the #1 way to get leads and referrals on the internet and it’s what builds the definitive authority of a website, well, that’s how SEO works. Among all the Google variables to rank a website, it’s still “word of mouth” that makes SEO work. It’s just a different type of word of mouth.
For example, Google has the word “interview” at an estimated 301,000 searches per month (3,612,000 per year) and “interview questions to ask” at 45,000 searches per month (540,000 per year). So, if you were trying to attract people to your website under the “interview” keyword, based on these estimates, would you invest in optimizing “interview” or “interview questions to ask” or both? The right answer is “it depends” on your goals and any “interview” sub-categories you may be going after. That’s how SEO works.
Buzz: Why is web presence so important for business owners?
Steve: In a nutshell, for the ROI. “Internet real estate” can be, and often is, more valuable than actual real estate. If you knew there was an estimated yet guaranteed X number of searches per month for certain “keyword search terms”, how much would you be willing to pay to get the “lions-share” of those searches?
To those that understand that question, they can be found investing far more than the average 9-12% marketing budget for most businesses. A word of caution though, there are a lot of variables that determine whether having a web presence is going to benefit the business or not. It’s not as simple as most people might think. It’s fairly common knowledge in the SEO (search engine optimization) world that Google supposedly uses 200+ variables to rank a website. So, if you’re investing for the ROI and increased business, it’s best to do your due diligence and find someone that can walk you through it and explain the process, the research, and expectations.
Buzz: From your experience, how have you seen web presence increase business?
Steve: Using the building a house analogy again, if your website gets to the perpetual “yard of the month”, you will see an increase in business. And then there’s the “drive by” visitors that come by to see what your building, especially if you’ve done your citations and socials correctly. So yes, I have seen and witnessed having an online presence increase a business’s revenue. If there is a search volume for a certain keyword and you are ranking at #1, it’s pretty much inevitable that you will see an increase in leads and referrals.
Buzz: For appraisers whose websites are already developed, is it easy for them to improve their SEO?
Steve: With appraisers, I’m starting to see a growing curiosity about SEO and Digital Marketing. Many of whom have existing websites. The growing curiosity about improving their web presence and building up their website authority is encouraging.
I wish I could say it’s easy but with the growing curiosity comes the growing competition. Then there’s the ever-changing algorithms and technology changes to keep up with. What I consider sad is those companies that provide website services with no “backend” SEO. I’ve literally seen appraiser websites that are quite a few years old sitting on page 4 or 5 of Google while some newer appraiser websites that are taking the SEO serious ranking on page 1.
There are some basic “common knowledge” things appraisers can be doing like blogging and working on the name/brand, but to get deep into SEO and rank on page 1 of Google, again, it’s a time and patience game and knowing what to do and when to do it.
Buzz: Steve, before we conclude this Q&A is there anything you would like to add?
Steve: I’d like to thank Appraisal Buzz for this opportunity to hopefully shed some light on the SEO/Digital Marketing opportunities that are out there. I’ve only scratched the surface as to what can be accomplished.
I would also like to add that with the thousands upon thousands of videos out there on “how to do SEO”, you really need to do your due diligence. There is a common knowledge out there about SEO that even a beginner can follow and make progress, but when dealing with Google’s 200+ variables that affect ranking a website in one way or another, it does take a lot of research and testing. And this doesn’t include the other search engines like Bing and Yahoo or the #2 search engine Youtube.
The internet itself is truly a fascinating world. As one mentor of mine puts it “never in the history of man has the “average Joe”, from all walks of life, been able to partner with large multi-million-dollar companies, and yet the opportunities are out there every day”.
And did you know that there are website appraisals? That’s another story for another day!
I sincerely hope this helps and if anybody would like to know more, they can shoot me an email at email@example.com. Please include in the subject line “Buzz Article”.
If you would like to submit an article to Appraisal Buzz please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.