Your website isn’t about you.
Your website should be all about your prospects. Toward that end, your website should be in the second-person voice. That means you should refer to your website visitors as “you,” just like what you're reading here, as opposed to referring to them as "my clients."
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 its 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.
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.
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:
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 that 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.
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 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.
If you're male and have a ponytail, hide it in the photo. You want the majority of your readers to identify with you. And don’t wear a tie, except for maybe in you "My Promise" photo (discussed later). This look is generally too professional and implies that you are so dressed up that you won’t inspect dirty areas, like the attic. If you're female, wear work clothing (described further next), and do pull back your long hair into a ponytail, which looks like you mean business and are ready to get to work. Likewise, go easy on the jewelry, although modest earrings that you would wear on the job anyway are fine. Whether male or female, don't wear a hat, which can obscure your face. Also, don’t wear a t-shirt. This is too unprofessional. You are a step above, inspecting the work done by people who wear t-shirts. Try to find a middle ground -- perhaps a nice collared shirt with the top button undone. You can't go wrong with a polo shirt with the InterNACHI® logo or your own company logo. Keep your picture as simple as possible. Generally, you want to appear well-groomed and smiling.
Another pic you could add to your homepage is 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 a 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. For example, pics 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. Too man pics can also slow download time. Gromicko’s Law of Pics: Pics distract visitors from critical, interactive sales text, unfortunately. See https://www.nachi.org/images.htm
Dark text on a light background works best, especially since convention dictates blue for links.
If you've earned them, use logos that demonstrate your third-party certifications. 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 members' use at https://www.nachi.org/logos.htm
Licensed: The word "licensed," along with your state license number (for example, Texas: 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're operating legally, even in states without licensing. Nevertheless, make it easy for a consumer to verify your licenses.
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.
Add your local market region to every page.
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). One hundred 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.”
A & B Enterprises, LLC
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's important. Choose a sans serif font, such as Verdana, Arial or Helvetica for the body text. Sans 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're a professional, not an entertainer.
The following list includes the internal links that 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 ads in and of themselves, even if your visitor doesn't click any of them.
Full Home Inspections
Why Hire Me
My QualificationsDownload My Brochure
Standards of Practice
Code of Ethics
My Promise to You
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:
Full Home Inspections
Additional InspectionsRadon Gas
Wood-Destroying Insects (Termites)
MoldWhy Hire MeMy QualificationsDownload My BrochureInterNACHI Certification VerificationStandards of PracticeCode of EthicsMy Promise to YouContact 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.
HomepageFull Home InspectionsAdditional InspectionsRadon GasWood-Destroying Insects (Termites)MoldWhy Hire MeMy QualificationsDownload My BrochureInterNACHI Certification VerificationStandards of PracticeCode of EthicsMy Promise to YouContact Me Nowbob@bobshomeinspection.com(123) 456-7890 (8:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.)
HomepageFull Home InspectionsDownload a Sample Report (PDF)Additional InspectionsRadon GasWood-Destroying Insects (Termites)MoldWhy Hire MeMy QualificationsDownload My BrochureInterNACHI Certification VerificationStandards of PracticeCode of EthicsMy Promise to YouContact Me Nowandy@abenterprisesllc.com(123) 456-7890 (8:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.)
HomepageFull Home InspectionsDownload a Sample Report (PDF)Additional InspectionsRadon GasWood-Destroying Insects (Termites)MoldMY QUALIFICATIONSDownload My BrochureWhy Hire MeInterNACHI Certification VerificationStandards of PracticeCode of EthicsMy Promise to YouContact Me Nowandy@abenterprisesllc.com(123) 456-7890 (8:00am to 10:30pm)
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's no reason to try to go to a page you're 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're on.
Your "Full Home Inspections" link should take your visitor to a page that describes what you inspect. It's 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, soffits and fascia;
- grading and drainage;
- basement, foundation and crawlspace;
- water penetration and foundation movement;
- heating system;
- cooling system;
- main water shut-off valve;
- 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 panel(s), 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 that it's included in your full/standard 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:
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 factual list as long as possible.
Your "Why Hire Me" link should take visitors to a page that's 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 https://www.nachi.org/webseal.htm
Your "Standards of Practice" link should point to https://www.nachi.org/sop.htm and be included for legal reasons.
Your "Code of Ethics" link should point to https://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 at https://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.
A&B Enterprises, LLC
Inspected once, Inspected right!®
Don’t live-link any graphics.
If a visitor’s pointer or cursor changes over a graphic, indicating a live link, the visitor will often check every other graphic for live links. This is a distraction.
Get More Inspection Work: Capture Leads from Your Website
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.
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're not looking for a home inspector… they're 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… fuggedaboudit. It's 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.
There's no reason to use exclamation marks on your homepage, ever. Never yell at your visitors!!!!!
Consider asking for permission to take and use actual photos of your clients. You can place these above each of their testimonials. This will give the testimonial credence. Make sure your client is smiling in the pic.
Have someone test-drive your website. Tell them to talk out loud as they move about your site, describing what they're looking for, what they're noticing, and what they're having trouble finding.