SEO and the Inspection Industry

Note: this is a pretty long post.  If you don’t feel like reading the back story, you can jump to the summary.

A lot of things on the Web have changed in the last 10 years, and search engine optimization is certainly one of them.  Years ago, when Nick and I started to really focus on InterNACHI’s growth, SEO was a pretty brute-force tactic: you made sure you had keywords on your pages, and lots of links to them.  Nowadays, SEO is much more nuanced.  On-page optimization is much more complex; PageRank (Google’s search engine ranking “score”) matters a lot less; links can’t just be any old link; etc, etc.

One of the biggest changes to hit our industry is Google “local” results showing up in regular searches.  Go ahead and do a search for home inspectors in your city.  You’ll see something a lot like this (click to enlarge):

Screen Shot of Google Search Results

Being #1 in traditional search rankings really puts you at #8 or #9 when local results come into play.  If you’re not in these top 6–7 local results you’re going to have a much harder time getting visitors from search.

So what does that mean for InterNACHI and its members?  Well, it certainly means that our members should all have a Google Places account, and should be optimizing their listings.  But it also means that InterNACHI has had to change the way that we send leads to our members.

A lot of these changes focus on the flow of “link juice”—the SEO term for the quantity, type, and value of links pointing to your site.  If you think of the Web as a large plumbing system, each link to your site is another pipe directing link juice to it.  The more juice you have flowing to your site, the better your site will rank.

Well, in the early days of SEO, most links delivered about the same amount of juice, with PageRank having some effect of the pipe’s “diameter.”  Nowadays, that’s completely changed.  There are tons of factors that determine the quality of a link, with brand, age, PageRank, industry, speed, and other factors all playing a role.  InterNACHI has focused on optimizing these factors, so that links from our thousands of inspection-industry sites all deliver the most link juice possble to our members’ web sites.  This helps both our members’ local search listings, as well as their traditional search listings.

On top of that, new technologies have been created specifically to solve some of the problems with location-based search (what most people are doing when they’re searching for a home inspector).  Specifications like Microformats and RDFa help spiders like Google’s Googlebot gather more meaning from pages.  And we can optimize that data so that our members benefit from it most.

It used to be that we’d constantly hear from members, thanking us for all the calls and emails they got from our search engines.  Some folks would get 2-3 inspections a week directly from our web forms.  But as Google and other search engines have changed, we’ve had to move our focus away from direct leads to an approach that sends clients directly to our members’ websites without necessarily knowing that they got there through InterNACHI (we no longer think of our “Find an Inspector” search engines as destinations, but rather as hubs).  It’s bad for our image, but good for our members, and we’re not interested in compromising our members’ success just to make the organization look better.

But at the same time, it’s nice to know that our organization is working for you.  So a few months ago, we started publicly listing a small portion of the leads that we send to our members.  But we wanted to take this feature one step further.  So starting later this week, or early next week, we’re going to start sending our members a custom list of the leads they receive through InterNACHI.  It will be a weekly digest of the leads you received, and which InterNACHI website they came from.

If you don’t want these emails, you can opt-out right now.  But I urge you not to opt-out, because receiving this information has an added benefit that will help your business.  Each week you’ll see a list of all the people that InterNACHI is sending to your website.  If you’re not turning 10-20% of those leads into phone calls or emails, that means your site is not performing as well as it should.  If you’re getting a lot of leads and not a lot of phone calls, it may be time to rework your site.

This post got pretty long, so in summary:

The SEO industry has changed a lot in the past 10 years, and InterNACHI has changed with it, even if that’s meant that our influence in our members’ success is less obvious.  Local search has particularly changed how inspectors need to optimize their sites, and InterNACHI has implemented technologies like RDFa and microformats to ensure that we’re highly influential data providers for search engines.  But we recognize that it’s nice to see evidence that we’re working for you, so we’re going to start sending out weekly notices about a portion of the leads we’re sending to our members’ sites.

New article on spill switch inspection

Spill switches are safety devices placed on modern gas-burning heating appliances. They sense when carbon monoxide spills into the home instead of out the chimney, halting the flow of fuel to the appliance. They must be installed in the correct location, however, and they must respond within 10 minutes of exposure to spilled CO. To find out how they are tested and more, check out our new article on spill switch inspection.

New article on rent-to-own home leases

Many homeowners aren’t aware that they can combine a rental agreement with a home purchase, so they get to stay in a house or condo for some time, paying rent to the owner, before finally buying it. In most cases, the renter has the option to buy at a predetermined price by a certain date it if they choose. While the seller loses some freedom in the deal, they get to keep at least a portion of the rent, or all of it if the renter decides not to buy. In slow housing markets like this one, rent-to-own becomes a more popular option. Read more in our new article on rent-to-own-home-leases.

New article on gravity furnace inspection

Every one in a while, you might run into a giant furnace with monstrous-looking ducts running in all different directions. These gravity furnaces, also known affectionately as “octopus furnaces”, use the force of convection to push air throughout a building. They lack the blower fan inherent to forced-air furnaces, which means they’re quieter and kick up less dust, but the benefits pretty much stop there. They are notoriously inefficient and most have outlived their life expectancies. To find out inspection tips and more, check out our new article on gravity furnace inspection.