InterNACHI South Africa

Content and Organization

By Nick Gromick, Founder of InterNACHI

Gromicko on Home Inspection Websites

Brutality Online
 
PREFACE:
 
The home inspection business is different than most any other business in that you (the home inspector) never meet your client until AFTER you are hired.  That’s right — when you get out of your truck at the inspection site and introduce yourself to your client, s/he has already hired you.  There is almost no salesmanship involved in the home inspection business.  Success relies almost solely on marketing.  But where should an inspector market?  Well, a home inspector’s clients are nearly always home buyers.  And many of these home buyers are conveniently all in one place… online.  They are online touring new homes, researching schools, emailing their real estate agents, shopping for mortgages, and looking for home inspectors.  And since you will not have an opportunity to sell your inspection services in person, it is important that your website be capable of doing your selling for you.  To a potential client, your website is a sample of what you and your report are going to be like.  It makes little sense to drive traffic to a website that doesn’t represent you well.  The door to your website is your homepage.  It is the most important page of your website.  Most of your visitors will never even click through to your other pages if your homepage doesn’t make them want more.  As a home inspector, you might work on some of the most expensive real estate in the world, but no home is as valuable, per square foot, as your own inspection website’s homepage.  The right homepage can generate you many thousands of dollars in inspection business, if it is designed correctly.  You only get one chance to make a good first impression.  Make sure your site doesn’t un-sell your inspection services.
WARNING:
 
Some of the advice in this article is wrong.
Most of what I have to say here is specific for home inspector’s websites.  In fact, it is so specific that it is actually bad advice for most other website designs.  If you are not developing a website for a home inspection service, stop reading now.  This article is not for you.
Some of the advice in this article isn’t.
I’ll admit that I have a big ego and like to see my own name in print, hence the title of this article.  But the other reason for including my name in the title is to make it clear that this is not so much set of general guidelines as it is my own commentary on the subject.  I did not offer a boilerplate website for good reason.  This article is more my own personal thinking than a set of rules.   
Nearly none of the advice in this article is technical.
A technical paper geared more toward website developers is in the works.  This article is its precursor.  I also saved the subjects of traffic generation and search engine optimization for my future articles.
 
Some of the advice in this article is brutal.
I’ve always fancied myself a gentleman, and so I am rarely crude.  However, when it comes to giving marketing and sales advice, I am often brutal.  This “marketing brutality” can even be found in the code of the many thousands of InterNACHI-owned sites on the Internet sending members work.  It is how some mediocre InterNACHI inspectors are able to compete with excellent inspectors, and how some excellent InterNACHI members can dominate entire markets.  Some advice I offer here is very much in keeping with my marketing brutality.  So, be forewarned.
Having said all that, if you are a good home inspector, you have an ethical duty to market yourself and stay in business so as many of your fellow citizens as possible can use your services.  In my own career at InterNACHI, I have never pulled any punches when touting the fact that there is no place a home inspector can spend 79 cents a day that is better or more profitable to his/her business than joining InterNACHI.  In my heart, I truly believe that InterNACHI members get far more back from InterNACHI than the membership dues they spend, and that nothing can compete with the value provided by membership in InterNACHI.  If you feel your clients who about to make the purchase of their lives are served well by hiring you… you shouldn’t pull any punches, either.  Marketing is no place for humility.  You are serving your clients by allowing them learn of, and benefit from, your good work.
NOPE:

Your website is not a brochure.
A company brochure is nothing more than a pompous business card.  Brochures are widely accepted as corporate propaganda.  Readers don’t expect to find much real information in them, so brochures are not really something a potential client is going to study with any seriousness.  You should consider yourself lucky to have a potential client even open your brochure.   However, Internet users are much more goal- driven.  They have clicked on your website for a specific reason — not to just flip through the pages.  Therefore, your web developer has to predict what information these visitors are seeking and then quickly give it to them, or at least make the visitor believe they are just a click away from finding it.  I believe a website is far more important to a home inspector than a brochure.

Your website is not a TV.
There still exist some web developers who forget what the real purpose of a home inspector’s website is… to generate inspection business for the inspector.  Some designs still include slow-loading graphics, a happy couple standing in front of their new home, virtual tours, and, of course, the obligatory tie-wearing, clipboard-holding, smiling inspector.  These sites look great, but they generate very little inspection work for their owners.  Visitors are seeking information.  Your web developer’s job is to quickly make visitors believe that the information they’re seeking is just a click away (at most), and then shape the delivery of that information such that it leads each visitor toward a decision to hire you for the inspection.  That’s it.  This isn’t art — it’s science.  There is a big difference between a professional-looking website and a pretty one.  Gromicko’s Law of Websites:  Pretty websites only sell their developer’s services.  However, there is some correlation between clean, visual design and quality.

The worst thing I ever saw on a home inspector’s website was a virtual home inspection tour.  And, I confess, we almost created one at InterNACHI, until we discovered that most visitors misinterpreted it as some sort of newfangled, online sample inspection report that they did not like.

Your website is not a magazine.
Your website is not a magazine, and your homepage is not a magazine cover.  The purpose of a magazine cover is to grab your attention so you pick up (or visit) the magazine.  However, there is no sense in trying to make your homepage grab attention, since no one can see it until after they choose to visit it anyway.  It is the links on your homepage leading the visitor toward a decision to hire you that must be the attention-grabbers.  A homepage cannot attract or send visitors to itself.
Your website is not a building.
Your website is not a building, and your homepage is not a true “lobby”.  Most websites have a homepage that acts as a lobby, directing traffic in different directions.  However, a home inspector’s homepage should be a “trick lobby.”  The signage (links) should appear to offer visitors directions to different departments.  But, in reality, they should merely take visitors through sales pitches that all lead back to making the visitor decide to hire you.  These departments (pages) are not destinations in and of themselves, but rather routes which you allow the visitor to pass through on his/her way to hiring you.  Common link titles that lead to such sales routes are: “Reasons to Hire Me,” “My Qualifications,” “What My Full Home Inspections Include…” and “My Promise to You.”
Your webpage is not a newspaper.
Your webpage is not a newspaper, and your homepage is not the newspaper’s daily headline.  A newspaper, or a site like NACHI.org, is expected to have fresh news every day, and readers revisit the same newspaper every day, rightly expecting to read something new.   However, your homepage is not going to be visited daily.  Very likely, you’ll get only one chance to say anything to a potential client with your homepage.  Forget about freshness.  People buy a house only once in seven years, on average.  Throw your same old, but best pitch, every time.
Furthermore, a newspaper’s format is recognized all over the world.  Readers all know that the sports scores and weather are on other pages within the newspaper.  This advantage permits newspaper publishers to dedicate their front pages to big headlines.  However, your visitors are not as convinced that what they seek exists within other pages of your website, so you will have to use part of your homepage to assure them.  For instance, if you offer ancillary inspection services, such as wood-destroying insects or radon, you will need to say so, on your homepage.  Little changes make all the difference.
YES:
A home inspector’s website should have only one, lone goal.
A home inspector’s website is not a brochure, not a TV, not a magazine, not a building, and not a newspaper.  Unlike many websites, it should not serve multiple purposes.  Don’t give your visitor any freedom to find anything but reasons to hire you.  You must have an understanding of who your visitors are and who among them are important — who is likely to hire you.   A home inspector’s website has only one purpose… to cause visitors to contact you to hire you.
While your website also may cause someone to refer business to you (typically a real estate agent), your sole purpose is still essentially the same.
 
Virgins
Because most people buy homes only every several years, nearly all visitors to a home inspector’s website are first-time visitors, and will likely never return again.  This is the main reason your homepage must use universally adopted conventions, which you must finely tweak and customize to suit your business.
 
Your website is a series of billboards.
No visitor reads all your website content.  They glance at your homepage, scan it, and make a crucial decision — crucial to you, the home inspector.  The decision they make is whether or not to click on anything on your homepage, or to exit and head for a competitor’s website.  There are only two ways to get them to choose to stay:
  • Give them what they want quickly.  Unlike other industries that have to worry about fulfilling many visitors’ multiple needs, your visitors have one basic need that you need to meet.  Immediately let them know that you have what they want, and that it is, at most, a click or two away.  This should be easy because home inspectors already know what their visitors want… to hire a good home inspector.  So just give it to them.

OR

  • Give them something they weren’t originally seeking, but, rather, something that appears so enticing that they can’t help but click it.  An irresistibly titled link pointing tohttp://www.nachi.org/3mistakes.htm is an example of this strategy being used on an InterNACHI- owned site.

Omit needless words on your homepage.  This will make the pertinent words more prominent.  Your homepage is like a billboard that your visitors are whizzing by.  Give them only those words which will cause them to hit their brakes.  Gromicko’s Law of Site Stickiness:  Stickiness begins with one click on the homepage.  Yes, I know this sounds obvious, but your homepage must compel visitors to make that first click.

THE TARGET:
 
Your visitors arrive with baggage.
By the time most visitors arrive at your website, they will likely have experienced thousands of other sites and will expect yours to follow the same standard conventions.  Visitors expect your site design to follow common conventions.  To the extent that your web design veers from these internationally adopted conventions, your visitors will find it uncomfortable, assume your inspection report is similarly difficult to navigate, and, with a click of their mouse, leave.  Most visitors won’t drill down into your site if they don’t immediately find what they want, and find it where they expect it to be.  So, your site has to be smooth — smooth in terms of meeting visitor expectations.  Forget about being creative.  Play the odds and appeal to the masses.  Let your competitor’s web developer be creative.  If you want to be an artist, go be one.  Many web developers should be on stage doing interpretive dances or pounding lumps of sculpture clay.  They have no business screwing up our website designs.  I once visited a home inspector’s website where the links were all placed on different parts of a picture of a house.  It was cute, but almost impossible for a first-time visitor to navigate.  Conventions only become conventions under the force of natural selection.  In other words, they are conventions because they work.  Visitors get a reassuring sense of comfort from a website that doesn’t veer from standard conventions.  This sense of comfort earned by your website then transfers to their sense of you, the inspector.  Remember:  this is a science — and your business! — not an art.
You must deny your visitors their freedom.
www.nachi.org is a horrible example for a home inspector to follow when developing his/her own website.  It is the opposite of what your website should be.  www.nachi.org is hailed by usability experts as near perfect, in large part, due to its homepage.  Within a second or two, first-time visitors to NACHI.org’s homepage, regardless of what they are looking for — online education, interactive message board, industry news, etc. — all come to the conclusion that they’ve found it, or at least they’ve found the page that will take them to it with just a click or two.  This is fine for the homepage of one of the world’s best trade associations because NACHI.org’s 255,000+ other pages truly deliver what its homepage promises.  NACHI.org is able to be everything to all visitors, and it grants visitors the freedom to seek, and, more importantly, find, anything they might want.
 Conversely, a home inspector’s website must deny this freedom.  Every link on your homepage should lead to a page that starts with something relating to that respective link title (the “lead-in”).  Then, every link from that page should link to a sales pitch-lead for your services.  Then, every link from that page should lead to sales closings (reasons to contact you now).  Finally, every link from that page should lead to your contact information.  I love to link these pages with the one-way title “Continue,” as visitors have no business navigating themselves around.  Your site should covertly chauffeur your visitors.  Don’t worry –your visitors won’t ever figure out that they aren’t behind the wheel unless you give them a site map… so don’t.

Unlike NACHI.org, your website should have only one goal… to cause your visitor to hire you.  Like the former Soviet Union’s elections, where every candidate was a Communist, your visitors should also be free to choose any link that leads them toward a same end.  Your website is a funnel with visitors “freely” and unconsciously choosing to spiral down it.  You cannot afford to grant your visitors any real freedom.

Let your competitor build a website like NACHI.org, one that provides visitors with real freedoms and lots of information.  You build a website that provides food for your family, one that will pry visitors away from their hard-earned money.  Gromicko’s Law of Site Usability: Visitor freedom and sales are inversely related.  Grant your visitors the complete freedom to never choose incorrectly.

How to treat visitors seeking something you don’t sell:
If your visitor wants something else, something you don’t sell, treat that visitor like a window-shopper instead of a potential customer.  Don’t let him cost you anything.  Let your competitors waste precious homepage real estate with stuff like “Search the Web” functions.   Design your site as if every visitor was there to hire you.
 
DESIGN:
 
Don’t use too many pics on your homepage.
People are naturally drawn to photos (pics), so if a pic does not tell a story that sells your inspection service, don’t use it.  An example of a pic that sells would be a shot of you (the home inspector) kneeling to check a gas valve near a heating system using an electronic leak detector.  This action shot of you holding a gadget that the average client likely does not own or understand is a strong visual sales pitch that you might consider building your homepage around.  You can’t judge a book by its cover, but many visitors will, so reconsider using your picture if you:
  • look very overweight. It implies that you can’t inspect the crawlspace.
  • look very young. It implies that you are inexperienced.
  • look like a mass-murderer.

If you are male and have a ponytail, hide it in the photograph. You want the reader to identify with you.  Keep your picture as simple as possible. Consider using digital air-brushing to touch up your picture.  Don’t wear a tie, except for maybe in “My Promise” (discussed later). This look is generally too professional and implies that you are so dressed up that you won’t inspect the attic.  Also, don’t wear a t-shirt. This is too unprofessional.  You are a step above, inspecting the work done by men in t-shirts.  Try to find a middle ground — perhaps a nice collared shirt with the top button undone.

Another pic you could add to your homepage would be a cutout of a sample of your home inspection report, all fanned out and laying on a table.  Make it a cutout instead of a square photo, though.  It will look much better.  Trust me.

There is one additional pic which may serve to increase sales.  That is a pic or a cutout of something -anything — that conveys that you are locally owned and operated.  Use an image depicting the local sports team, a familiar town monument, or recognizable local geographic feature.  Visitors like to contact local inspectors, which is why I’m also generally against toll-free numbers.  Local exchanges are much friendlier.  Anyway, a pic that shows you are a local is a fine addition to your homepage.

Fight the temptation to include most other pics on the homepage.  Other pics such as those of defects can go inside the site on their respective pages, but not on the homepage.  They will dilute your visitor’s attentiveness, which is so critical to sales.  Pics also slow download times.  Gromicko’s Law of Pics:  Pics distract visitors away from critical, interactive sales text, unfortunately.  See http://www.nachi.org/images.htm

Use high-contrast colors for legibility.
Dark text on light background works best, especially since convention dictates blue for links.
Scroll.
Avoid adding blank space between bodies of text or inserting blank lines between paragraphs if it looks like it might fall on the “fold” of the homepage.  Otherwise, a blank space might happen to land at the bottom of the visitor’s screen, making it appear to be the end of the text.  A continuous body of text will allow visitors to realize they should scroll to reach the end.
InterNACHI Certification Verification Seal
Put your InterNACHI certification verification seal somewhere above the fold of your homepage and with the other logos at the bottom of every page (where a visitor wouldn’t need to scroll to notice).  The seal is an InterNACHI member’s most powerful sales tool, designed to be interactive with your visitor.  Use it.  http://www.nachi.org/webseal.htm
Add logos to the very bottom of every page.
Use logos demonstrating third-party certification or qualification if you’ve earned them. They should go at the very bottom of every page.

Certified:  The word “certified” creates the most positive response from the general public, which is why you should write out the words Member of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, and not just use the acronym InterNACHI. Various InterNACHI logos are available for member-use at http://www.nachi.org/logos.htm

Licensed:  The word “licensed,” along with your state license number (Texas, for example: TREC #12345), should be included, and its inclusion may, in fact, be required in some states.  However, consumers give you little credit for being licensed, as they know licensing is a bare minimum standard, and they assume that you are operating legally, even in states without licensing.

Society:  Anything with the word “society” in it should be avoided, as studies have shown that the general public equates a society with a social club, and not a professional trade organization.

Training Institute:  Unfortunately, the schools or training institutes you attended can work against you a bit.  Schooling is sometimes associated with being a novice.  Use only their logo (if permitted).  Don’t write out “graduated from…”  Your qualifications list (discussed later) is the better location for detailing your educational background.

Your Company Logo
Put your logo in the upper left-hand corner.  It should be bigger than anything else on the homepage, except maybe one main pic (described below).  100 pixels is about the max, though.   Avoid cartoons.  Cartoon graphics do not present a professional image.  No Sherlock Holmes characters looking at a house with a magnifying glass.  Would a professional engineer use cartoons?

There is an emerging convention that makes logos link to the homepage.  There is no harm in linking your logo to your homepage, but many users are not aware of this convention yet (so maybe I’m premature in calling it a convention).  Therefore, link your logo to your homepage if you wish, but not in place of having a link titled “homepage” on every page.  Every page should have a link titled “homepage.”

Your Tagline
This is the most important part of your homepage.  The main role of a tagline is to communicate what you do, quickly.  It is the sign over your store, and should be placed to the right of your logo.  A tagline is especially important to inspection companies that don’t have the word “inspection” in their company name.  For example:

A & B Enterprises, LLC

This company name doesn’t clearly convey what business they’re in.  Imagine seeing a sign for a store without knowing what it is they sell.  A tagline solves this problem.  The best tagline for home inspectors is Inspected once, inspected right!®  It not only quickly defines what business the company is in, but it is also a powerful ad within itself.  Inspected once, inspected right!®  insinuates that if you hire someone else, you might end up having to have it inspected a second time.  It also confidently touts that A & B Enterprises, LLC inspects it right the first time.  See how much better the company name looks with a tagline under it:

A & B Enterprises, LLC
Inspected once, inspected right!®
Another good tag line is: “Anyone else is just looking around.”®   And for multi-inspector firms, a good tagline is: “The right inspector, right away.”®
 
Note:  “Inspected once, inspected right!”, “Anyone else is just looking around” and “The right inspector, right away”  taglines are Registered Trademarks of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI).  InterNACHI members may use the taglines as they wish.  InterNACHI recommends that members italicize and punctuate the tagline as depicted.

Fonts
Avoid using many different fonts.  It diminishes the continuity of your website.  Stick to two fonts, one for headlines and one for the body text.  “Impact” fonts are best reserved for headings.  Impacts command attention, and they help the reader determine what is important.  Choose a Serif font like Verdana, Arial, or Helvetica for the body text.  Serifs exist for a purpose:  they help the reader’s eye pick up the shape of the letter.  Bolding or italicizing do not necessarily count as separate fonts.  The same thing goes for varying colors.  Use an alternate color to emphasize a word or set of words, but don’t overdo it.  Use these techniques only to add emphasis and clarity.  And never use comic fonts…you are a professional, not an entertainer.

NAVIGATION:
Your homepage links constitute an ad, in and of themselves.
Because a homepage serves as the portal to the different areas of a site, homepages tend to have more links than other pages.  I like a wide border of navigational links.  However, be mindful that navigation facilitation is only a secondary purpose of home inspector’s homepage.  The primary purpose is to sell your services.  Therefore, the links on your homepage should create an ad for your home inspection company, in and of themselves, even if your visitor never clicks any of them.  Compose your navigation links as if they weren’t live links, but rather copy (the advertising industry’s term for text within an ad).
  
Left-Border Navigation vs. Top-Horizontal Navigation
Most tests that have been conducted on this subject declare that navigational links are best placed vertically in the left border for left-to-right reading languages like English.  Visitors often suffer from banner blindness and so ignore anything horizontal at the top of a webpage.  Furthermore, vertical lists imply hierarchy, whereas horizontal tabs do not.  This hierarchy can be especially exploited by home inspectors’ websites, which typically sell only one service, to compose a sort of ad made up of link titles.  More on this below.
“Home” vs. “Homepage”
As a home inspector, you will likely use the term “home” a lot within the content of your website.  Therefore, unless you are making it clear that the term “home” is a link back to the homepage (ex: making it an option in your navigation bar) don’t use the term “home” to also refer to your homepage within text boxes.  Instead, reserve the word “homepage” for your homepage, and use the term “homepage” instead of “home” to link to your homepage within text boxes.
 
Distinguishing Your Homepage
Unlike monster sites like NACHI.org, where many millions of visitors arrive through pages other than the homepage, almost all your visitors will arrive at your website through your homepage.  Nevertheless, it should still be apparent to your visitors when they are on your homepage.  The best way to distinguish your homepage from other pages is with the word “Welcome.”  The word “Welcome” is universally used as a signpost for homepages.  This signpost will help ensure that visitors recognize their starting point, should they return to your homepage after exploring other pages of your website.  
Don’t be compelled to offer a lengthy welcome message or happy talk that eats up prime homepage space.  The simple and lone word “Welcome” at the start of your homepage text is plenty.
Don’t make “Welcome” the first word in your window title, determined by the title tag of each HTML document, since titles play a critical role in search-engine bookmarking.  Use “inspector” or, better yet, your city name to exploit differentiating site information.  A good window title might be: Boston’s best home inspector, or even InterNACHI’s tagline: Inspected once, Inspected Right!®
 
Border Links to Include
The following list includes the internal links your website should have.  They should probably be placed in a left border underneath your logo in this general order.  But, again, this is not meant to be a boilerplate.  Toward that end, I offer this example of the development of your navigation composition.  Remember:  Your links comprise an ad in and of themselves, even if your visitor doesn’t click any of them.
Homepage
Full Home Inspections
Additional Inspections
Why Hire Me
My Qualifications
Certification Verification
Standards of Practice
Code of Ethics
My Promise to You
Contact Me

If you offer more than two additional inspections, you can list them separately under the category of “Additional Inspections” so that visitors know you provide these services without having to click.  “Additional Inspections” would then become a category title, and not a link that is blue or underlined, like so:

Homepage
Full Home Inspections
Additional Inspections
    radon gas
wood destroying insects (termites)
mold
Why Hire Me
My Qualifications
InterNACHI Certification Verification
Standards of Practice
Code of Ethics
My Promise to You
Contact Me Now

I like putting the word “Gas” after “Radon” to help those who are unfamiliar with radon.  And I like putting the word “(termites)” in parentheses after “Wood-Destroying Insects.”  Don’t use “WDO,” since few visitors are familiar with that abbreviation.

The whole purpose of your website is to get your phone to ring, so if you have both an email address and you answer your phone regularly, you might want to also turn “Contact Me” into a category titled “Contact Me Now” and put the actual contact information under it.  Also, if you are willing to answer your phone in the evening, say so in parentheses after your phone number.  This removes a visitor’s hesitation to call you late.
I also believe that there is a small percentage of visitors (mostly real estate agents) who visit a home inspector’s website for the sole purpose of looking up a familiar inspector’s contact information.  Some real estate agents who regularly used my home inspection services for years never committed my phone number to memory and always went back online to retrieve it.  Therefore, repeating your contact information again on the right side of your homepage, near the top, seems reasonable.  Furthermore, some clients referred to you only by company name may be visiting your site solely to retrieve your contact information to schedule a home inspection.  Ahhhh, the power of referrals!
Homepage
Full Home Inspections
Additional Inspections
    radon gas
    wood destroying insects (termites)
    mold
Why Hire Me
My Qualifications
InterNACHI Certification Verification
Standards of Practice
Code of Ethics
My Promise to You
Contact Me Now
     bob@bobshomeinspection.com
    (123) 456-7890 (8:00am to 10:30pm) 

If you can offer a sample report online that is downloadable, put it as link at the bottom of the “Full Home Inspections” page, as well as a sub line underneath it.  It is frustrating to be thrust into a new medium, so if the sample report link goes to another site, or is a pdf file, warn your visitor in parentheses, like so:

Homepage
Full Home Inspections
    download a sample report (PDF)
Additional Inspections
    radon gas
    wood destroying insects (termites)
    mold
Why Hire Me
My Qualifications
InterNACHI Certification Verification
Standards of Practice
Code of Ethics
My Promise to You
Contact Me Now
    andy@abenterprisesllc.com
   (123) 456-7890 (8:00am to 10:30pm) 

I like each word of categories to be capitalized and sub-categories to be all lowercase, as this helps make clear the distinction between their relative importance.  All uppercase words are difficult to read.  However, if you are an inspector who has many qualifications, you might want to capitalize every letter in your “MY QUALIFICATIONS” link and/or make it bold font so as to draw attention, and more clicks to it, like so:

Homepage
Full Home Inspections
    download a sample report (PDF)
Additional Inspections
    radon gas
    wood destroying insects (termites)
    mold
MY QUALIFICATIONS
Why Hire Me
InterNACHI Certification Verification
Standards of Practice
Code of Ethics
My Promise to You
Contact Me Now
    andy@abenterprisesllc.com
   (123) 456-7890 (8:00am to 10:30pm)
There is a small percentage of visitors who, despite your “MY QUALIFICATIONS” being blue, underlined, and its own live link, will misinterpret it as a category title and everything under it as a subcategory and, therefore, not click on your “MY QUALIFICATIONS” link. Solve this problem by changing the order of your “MY QUALIFICATIONS” link and your “Why Hire Me” link (see above), and then listing the content from your qualifications page underneath the content on your “Why Hire Me” page, so that they get it either way.
I also like the “MY QUALIFICATIONS” link title to be bigger and bolder than the others, as if you were gloating with pride about it.  It is its own mini-ad.

Where are we taking them?
Your “Homepage” link takes your visitors to your homepage, of course.  Many web developers add extra code to prevent the homepage link from being live on the homepage itself.  Some even remove the homepage link from the border on the homepage since there is no reason to try to go to a page you are already on.  I think this is unnecessary code and may even cause rather than eliminate confusion.  Nowadays, Internet users are well aware that navigational links often include links to the very page they are on.

Your “Full Home Inspections” link takes your visitors to a page which describes what you inspect.  It is really a subset of InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice, and should include something like this:

Our Full Inspections include:

  • roof, vents, flashings and trim;
  • gutters and downspouts;
  • skylight, chimney and other roof penetrations;
  • decks, stoops, porches, walkways and railings;
  • eaves, soffit and fascia;
  • grading and drainage;
  • basement, foundation and crawlspace;
  • water penetration and foundation movement;
  • heating systems;
  • cooling systems;
  • main water shut-off valves;
  • water heating system;
  • interior plumbing fixtures and faucets;
  • drainage sump pumps with accessible floats;
  • electrical service line and meter box;
  • main disconnect and service amperage;
  • electrical panels, breakers and fuses;
  • grounding and bonding;
  • GFCIs and AFCIs;
  • fireplace damper door and hearth;
  • insulation and ventilation;
  • garage doors, safety sensors and openers;
  • and much more.

Review our Standards of Practice at www.nachi.org/sop.htm for complete details.
Download our 
sample report.

Note:  There are sound legal reasons to include a live link to InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice at the bottom of this list.

Each of your links under “Additional Inspections” should take the visitor to a page that offers information about that issue, a short description of how you inspect that issue, and the additional fee you charge for that inspection (so that no one accidentally assumes they are included with your full home inspection).

Your “My Qualifications” link should take your visitor to a page that lists every qualification you can come up with.  Make your list of qualifications as long as possible. Your list of qualifications can be broadened to include information such as your reporting system and schedule availability.  If you make the list long enough, no one will read it.  Your visitors will be impressed enough by its sheer length.  Gromicko’s Law of Surfing:  Only competitors read your webpage content; everyone else just scans it.  Each qualification you have can be broken up and expanded.  For instance, instead of stating merely that you are a member of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, state something like this:

  • I am a member in good standing of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, South Africa (InterNACHI South Africa).
  • I have passed InterNACHI’s Online Inspector Examination.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s Code of Ethics Obstacle Course.
  • I have taken InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice Quiz.
  • I abide by InterNACHI’s Code of Ethics.
  • I follow InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s Safe Practices for the Home Inspector course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s 25 Standards Every Inspector Should Know course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s Residential Plumbing Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s Residential Electrical Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s Roof Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s HVAC Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s Exterior Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s Attic, Insulation, Ventilation and Interior Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s Deck Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s Moisture Intrusion Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s Green Building course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s Wood-Destroying Organism Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s Mold Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s Inspecting Foundation Walls and Piers course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s Log Home Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s Radon Measurement Service Provider course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s Commercial Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s Septic System Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI’s How to Perform Energy Audits course.
  • I fulfill 24 hours of Continuing Education every year.
  • I own and use high-tech equipment, such as a gas-leak detector and infrared camera.
  • I am available Saturdays.
  • I generate easy-to-read inspection reports.

Deliver the message: I am the quality home inspector you want to hire. 

If you use sub-contractors to perform any portion of your inspections, include their qualifications.  For instance:  “Wood infestation inspection performed by licensed pest control inspector #12345.

Notice that the last few qualifications are nothing more than additional reasons to hire you.  Again, make this list as long as possible.

Your “Why Hire Me” link should take visitors to a page that is similar to your “Qualifications” page, only backwards.  List the reasons to hire you first, followed by your formal qualifications.

Your “My Qualifications” page list and your “Why Hire Me” page list are really just the same list in reverse order.

Your “InterNACHI Certification Verification” link points to InterNACHI’s online certification verification seal system.  When making a purchase online, most consumers will look for a seal of approval from a company such as Thawte or VeriSign.  You can give your clients the same kind of confidence by letting them know you are certified by the world’s largest home inspection organization.  HTML code for this link can be found at http://www.nachi.org/webseal.htm

Your “Standards of Practice” link should point to http://www.nachi.org/sop.htm and be included for legal reasons.

Your “Code of Ethics” link should point to http://www.nachi.org/code_of_ethics.htm

Your “My Promise to You” link should take visitors to a page that has a promise and a pic of you.  Include a head shot of yourself looking straight into the camera, and position it above the promise.  Also, add your signature on a slight angle below it.  Few will actually read the promise word for word, but the message will be conveyed nonetheless.  See a sample athttp://www.nachi.org/promise.htm

                                                   My Promise to You

Choosing the right home inspector can be difficult.  Unlike most professionals, you probably will not get to meet me until after you hire me. Furthermore, different inspectors have varying qualifications, equipment, experience, reporting methods and, yes, different pricing. One thing for sure is that a home inspection requires work — a lot of work. Ultimately, a thorough inspection depends heavily on the individual inspector’s own effort. If you honor me by permitting me to inspect your new home, I guarantee that I will give you my very best effort.  This I promise you.

John Smith
A&B Enterprises, LLC
Inspected once, Inspected right!®

Your “Contact Me Now” information is obvious.  However, if you do not have a professional-looking email address, InterNACHI offers them for free athttp://www.nachi.org/membersemail.htm  None of this debbieandbobgonefishin4321@aol.com stuff.


Know when to shut up and take the money.

InterNACHI.org hosts the industry’s largest message board.  It is open to all and members are un-moderated, which sometimes leads to comments being made which are somewhat less than disciplined.  It was once proposed that such comments or posts be deleted for fear that a member’s potential client would read them.  I argued that no potential client would make a decision to hire a home inspector based on another inspector’s comments found within a post, within a thread, within a forum, on a message board hosted by a trade association that the inspector being considered also belonged to.  I further argued that if such a scenario were anywhere near reality, I would jump for joy — it could make us all rich!  The unfortunate truth is that potential clients don’t spend much time researching before choosing their home inspector.  And a visitor, if you are savvy enough to get him/her to your website at all, is likely going to grant you three clicks, maybe four, at most.  I hate to burst any home inspector’s bubble here, but you ain’t all that, at least not to most potential clients.

This leads us to the length of the text on the pages that the navigation links point to.  The answer is “short.”  Even if you have a lot to say, don’t say it without offering the visitor a chance to shut you up with cash.  For example, let’s say you have a link titled “Radon Gas.”  It may be tempting to put all sorts of scientific definitions of radon, the history of radon, graphs alerting visitors to the cancer risks that high radon levels pose, etc., but refrain.  Instead, have the link go to a short radon page which quickly describes why testing for radon is important, why your form of testing is the best, and how to contact you to order the inspection.  If you are worried your sales pitch on this short radon page doesn’t satisfy overly inquisitive visitors, simply add a “More About Radon” link at the bottom of your short radon page that contains everything anyone would ever want to know about radon, and then some.  Include all the information you can on this page.  Make it all one long page, and feel free to make it as long as you like, with pics.  Include the advantages of your testing method (your testing equipment manufacturer or your analysis laboratory can provide you with plenty).  However, have this long “more” page periodically offer to bring the visitor back to your short radon page with “Back” links.  Let your visitors decide for themselves when they’ve been sold.
Avoid naming links “Click Here.”
Never title a link “Click Here.”  Instead, tell the visitors what they get when they click the link.  For example, rather than saying: “Click Here for my Code of Ethics,” just title the link “Code of Ethics” or “My Code of Ethics.”
Avoid naming links “More.”
Rather than having a link titled “More” at the end of a list, tell the visitor what there is more of, for example: “More references and testimonies from my past clients.”
 
Don’t change your links’ colors once visited.
Most websites have links that change colors once visited to keep a visitor from revisiting a page.  However, assuming every page of your website is designed to sell your services, I see no reason to stop a potential customer from reading anything twice.  Therefore, if possible, remove the code that provides this courtesy to your visitors so that all your links remain underlined and blue, even after being visited.  (I know — it’s brutal.)
Don’t choose icons or buttons over simple text links.
Nearly all visitors to a home inspector’s website are first-time visitors.  First-time visitors can read a word faster than they discern what an icon means.  Don’t make them interpret icons (other than, maybe, a well- recognized one, like a printer icon).  Use text-only links.

Don’t live-link any graphics.
If a visitor’s pointer changes over a graphic, indicating a live link, the visitor will often check every other graphic for live links.  This is a distraction.

PRICE:
 You’re not fooling anyone.
Don’t offer a downloadable discount coupon.  Such built-in coupons are a silly way of simply charging less, and everyone knows it.  Something available to everyone is worthless.  Don’t make your client download and present a $20 coupon when they are buying a several-hundred-thousand-dollar house.  You might get away with it if you announce that it’s exclusive and only available on this website till the end of the month or something similar.

Huh?

Avoid complicated or ambiguous pricing formulas. Example: “Base price + $1 for every $1,000 in home price over $250,000, additional fees and Saturday/mileage surcharge applies, call for quote.” Instead, keep your price structure straightforward and respectably high.


Nothing says Quality louder…
If your pricing is much higher than you competitors, flaunt it.  High pricing is the sure-fire way to convince a customer that you are one of the best.  Americans believe that you get what you pay for.  If your website is making the contention that you are the best home inspector in town, your pricing has to support this contention.  Charging too little contradicts this claim.  Read http://www.nachi.org/convert.htm.

MISTAKES:
Noise
Don’t use watermarks, background images or wallpaper.  They add clutter, decrease visibility, slow download time, and are merely decorative.  Some tasteful exceptions exist, but those are few.
Don’t offer a “search” feature.
Don’t grant your visitor any real freedom to search your site, or, worse, the entire Web from your website.  Don’t let them wander to weather forecasts or stock quotes.  The goal of your website is to lead the visitor toward a decision to hire you.  Your website does not exist to provide your visitors with any distracting conveniences or information other than that which you want them to have, in the order you want them to get it. 
Don’t offer to ship visitors anything.
I was a licensed REALTOR with RE/MAX for many years.  Typically, an inspection addendum within a real estate sales contract gives the buyer only a week or two to perform all the inspections.  This means that when visitors are on a home inspector’s website, they are not looking for a home inspector… they are looking to hire a home inspector, and 99% of them have no spare time.  And you shouldn’t offer some trinket or costly book to your visitors in the hope that they’ll give you their address, in the hope that you can ship them something, in the hope that it will arrive before they hire a home inspector, or in the hope that, upon receipt, they’ll hire you.  As my fellow New York InterNACHI members would say… forget about it.  It is better to ask for their email address.  Besides, all visitors are justifiably hesitant to give up their actual home addresses, but have no problem giving up their email addresses.  So, if you get their email address, use it!  Email them something every day, forever, or until they scream Stop!  Work every lead to death or until that lead turns into a scheduled home inspection.  The top real estate agents will often work leads for years until those leads produce.  We can learn something from these agents.

The worst giveaway I ever saw was the “Pocket Idiot’s Guide to Home Inspections.”  For obvious marketing reasons, I don’t have to explain why this is so… well… idiotic.

Help Wanted = Poor Service
Never use your home inspection website to advertise employment opportunities.  It gives the impression that you are short-handed, or that you might send an inexperienced inspector to your client’s job site.  Reserve your home inspection website for only one thing… to convince visitors to hire you.   
 
Forget about online booking.
Any hint of online booking, even posting your schedule on an online calendar, will deter sales.  No home buyer — or agent representing one — who’s about to make the purchase of his/her lifetime, under the contractual time constraints of a home inspection contingency, is going to trust some newfangled online booking function of your website.  It may be cute, but there is a reason real salespeople are employed all over the world.  Answer your phone.
Don’t yell.
There is no reason to use exclamation marks on your homepage, ever.  Never yell at your visitors!
Don’t act like you’ve never been in the end zone.
Avoid giving the impression that you are new to the business…even if you are.  Don’t put anything on your website that would reveal your inexperience.  Kiss-of-death terms include: New to the businessAffiliateJust-licensedGrand openingAssociateRecent graduateIntroductory offer, and the mother of all kiss-of-death terms:  Candidate.
Don’t misppel.
Because home inspectors are in the report-writing business, it is important to check and double-check for typos and broken links. 
Don’t pollute.
Your site should not contain any slow loading intros, ads, pop-up windows, rollovers, pull-downs, music, animation, Flash, banners, things that move content, things that blink, things that make sounds and instructions.  Yes, instructions.  If you have to include long instructions, even for downloading sample reports, you are doing something wrong.   Don’t make your visitors think.
ADDITIONS:
“Call Me Now” Button
Give your visitor immediate gratification by adding this button.  An automated assistant calls you when your visitor asks to be contacted. http://www.nachi.org/immediategratification.htm
Inspection-Related Articles
These articles are great for search engine optimization and may be used by any InterNACHI member.  http://www.nachi.org/articles.htm 
InterNACHI Membership Certificate
Don’t lead with this.  Place it at the bottom of your qualifications page.  http://www.nachi.org/mycertificate.htm
Move-In Certified™ Logo
Place this logo on your services page.  http://www.moveincertified.com  You can also use the Move In Certified Site Widget.
Infrared-Certified™ Logo
Use this logo on your IR page if you are Infrared Certified.  http://www.nachi.org/ir.htm
First-Time Home Buyer-Friendly Seal
Use this seal to attract first-time home buyers and their agents.  http://www.nachi.org/first-time.htm 
IAC2 Logo
Use these logos if you are a member of IAC2.  http://www.iac2.org/logo.php  Membership in IAC2 is free.
A Goal Other Than Direct Sales
If you market heavily to real estate agents, you might want to put something on your website that causes them to refer clients to it.  Links pointing tohttp://www.nachi.org/what_really_matters.htm and http://www.nachi.org/3mistakes.htm are examples of links that generate referrals.
Agreement Between You and Your Client
Some inspectors argue that displaying your standard agreement (or contract) between you and your client on your website might be useful in defending the charge that your client “didn’t have time to read it” on-site.  InterNACHI’s pre-inspection agreement is the best in the industry.  Find it at: http://www.nachi.org/newagreement.htm  You can also use InterNACHI’s free, online, signable inspection agreement. 
Testimonials
When I was in the inspection business, I used to ask every client (after they moved in) for a letter of reference.  I used to send them a postage-paid envelope and a letter asking them to scribble me a reference letter.  I found that you get more replies if you permit them to scribble.  After you accumulate at least 20, you can put them on a page and link to it.  No visitor will really read that many, but they might just check to see how many you have, so wait until you collect a bunch.  InterNACHI did this at: http://www.nachi.org/thankyou.htm 
MATH:
Website design is only one-third of the equation.
For example, if your website is getting 500 hits a month, and of those hits, 3% contact you (attributable to website design), and of those that contact you, one-third schedule inspections, then you are getting 5 jobs a month from your website, which can be translated mathematically as  500 x 0.03 x 0.33 = 5.  However, if you can double all three factors in the equation so that you are getting 1,000 hits a month, 6% are contacting you, and you are converting two-thirds of those contacts into scheduled inspections, then you far more than doubled your results as 1,000 x 0.06 x 0.67 = 40 extra jobs a month!  Each factor counts.  Do the math and make sure your website is not the weak link in your formula for success.
Brutal Truth
The total number of inspections to be performed is a constant.  The margins in the home inspection business are greater than nearly every industry, as there are so few supplies to buy.  So, every inspection job you perform after you pay your overhead for the month is nearly pure profit.  Every inspection counts.  Furthermore, every job you get is one your competitor doesn’t.  Like I said, the total number of inspections is a constant.  Make sure you are doing everything you can to get your share of the pie. 
   
THE END
 
 
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