Appraiser Spotlight:  An XSites Makeover

The release of XSites Desktop, featuring the Energizer plugin, has a lot of people looking at their XSites and seeing how they measure up. (For more details on the Energizer, see our article on XSites Desktop on page 6.) Our beta members were all comparing their scores and bragging about how they were able to boost them.

So, it seems fitting this month to take an actual appraiser’s site and do a before and after — not just improving the XSite Energizer score, but boosting its appeal to search engines and website visitors. The objective here is to demonstrate simple things ordinary people can do to have a more effective site. In other words, we didn’t get our graphics department involved or recruit anyone for copy editing.

The subject of our study is, owned by Ron Stalzer of Tempe Arizona, a longtime customer and regular at seminars and conventions throughout the years. Ron told us he does get orders off this site because people can find him online, but after attending some of the marketing and “Real World” courses at this year’s conference in Vegas and reading articles here in AppraisalPress, he wants to step up his image as a leader in his market.

Let’s take a look at the “before” picture of Ron's XSite, in
figure 1

Even though a lot of the text on the homepage is from our templates, it has been customized somewhat with coverage areas, and we have Ron’s picture with a profile – these are good things. There are also custom pages and a blog, but they are unfortunately out of date. A lot of pre-written content has been enabled, but like we see often, there are way too many links in the secondary navigation, so it makes his site look cluttered. Likewise, while we encourage appraisers to use the XSites $1000 sweepstakes to get leads, Ron admitted he went a little overboard and that we’d want to tone that down a bit.

When we hooked up the XSites Desktop Energizer to, it scored a 420 out of 850 (see Figure 2), which actually wasn’t bad.

With just a little effort, we knew this could be better and we could start the ball rolling on a more engaging website that Ron could be proud of and use to attract new clients.

We started by tackling things the Energizer pointed out, such as:

  • Updating the home page
  • Posting to the blog
  • Customizing page titles
  • Enabling client accounting
  • Enabling dynamic content
  • Creating and enabling a custom client data capture form

After completing these and a few other tasks, Ron’s score was up over 620 and there were still some pretty quick things for Ron to take care of, so it’s likely his score is even higher today. (You’ll have to contact Ron directly to find out what it is now, though, because the only site score made public is the site with the top ranking!) Keep in mind that Ron will need to revisit some of these items because the Energizer knows which things should be done regularly and will penalize you for inactivity.

Next, it was time to move past the Energizer score and make the site content enticing. This is where an appraiser’s experience and expertise is important.

First, we asked Ron to tell us more about his business so we could freshen up his home page. Specifically, we wanted to highlight experience, the ONE thing people should know about him and then what people that don’t order from him are missing out on. (See the article “Setting Yourself Apart From The Competition”)

Next, we asked him to write some short articles we could post on his blog over the coming weeks — market commentary, something related to his expertise, something that required his experience, etc. After all, an important part of being a market leader is indeed having something to say. Just remember: You don’t have to say it all at once. Pace yourself, and always be looking for new, fresh material you can post a few times a month. The blog makes content easy, and is a lot less formal than putting up a whole new custom page. Of course, when you make a blog posting, it asks if you want to notify all your clients, which keeps them thinking about you and subsequently drives business and referrals.

Once we had the new content, we wrote a couple of paragraphs for his home page. Then, we rearranged the menu items on, moving items to sub-menus, bringing important things to the top and removing unimportant items. We also chose one of our cities themes and customized the color scheme and font size through the Theme Prefs step of the XSites Wizard. The resulting website now looks like the screen shot below.

Notice that much of the content is still the same. We actually took text out of the home page and bumped up the font size to fill in the space. We used stock graphics from the XSites clipart library to highlight the online ordering and $1000 sweepstakes in the Dynamic Content pane. And some very simple image editing for an image in the footer called attention to his RAA designation and ability to take credit cards, too.

Now, if you’re wondering if all the procedures around updating this site design required a lot of technical skill, it didn’t. We used functions built into your XSites Wizard and created for an appraiser, not a techie, to use. While our support staff couldn’t necessarily help you write content or figure out what items go together, they could certainly tell you how to enable Dynamic Content or get you started with clipart or hyperlinks. We’re here to help and will be glad to do it 24/7.

Ron, congratulations on your new XSite! We look forward to your continued success and will be monitoring your progress as your site lives on.