Customize Your Home Page

An appraiser's website should be informative and educational. We're happy to keep our customers from reinventing the wheel when it comes to things like an appraiser glossary, what different designations may mean, a home buyer checklist, etc. Our pre-built content is one of things customers tell us they like the most about XSites. Sometimes people start with our pages and customize them a little, and other times, what we've provided works just fine.

But one place you should COMPLETELY customize the content is on your home page. It's easy to do in XSites, will only take a moment, and is vital. Here are just a few reasons why:

* You only get a brief opportunity to impress a site visitor and tell them why you're the appraiser for them.
* It may be the only page someone sees on your site.
* Search engines like Google rank unique content higher.
* You don't want your homepage to look the same as your competition.

A personalized home page is a good thing. Now let's discuss tips for making a good one.

What's your message?

Start with at least three things you want your clients to know. In marketing terms, this is called "branding". You don't have to be as good at this as Mac computers or car manufacturers, but you should attempt to define yourself somehow.

* Do you have the experience of 1000's of jobs under your belt? Say it!
* Do you specialize in any types of properties or jobs? What are they?
* Can you guarantee a turn time? State it!
* Are you easy to work with? Tell ‘em why!
* Do you understand the needs of non-traditional clients like attorneys or consumers? Let them know!

"If you don't tell them, they won't know."
- Unknown marketing genius

Make the customer the subject of your home page

Most people's favorite subject is themselves. Try not to start every sentence with "I" or "We". Make them the subject. Talk about their problems and how you can solve them.

Don't beat around the bush

As we mentioned before, you've only got a brief opportunity to get someone's attention and prove you're different. While something like, "Welcome to our website. This is the online home of XYZ Appraisal Services..." sounds pleasant and welcoming, it's not very helpful and wastes precious real estate that should be used to talk about your customers needs. Something such as, "With 15 years of real estate experience and quick turn times, XYZ Appraisals is the logical choice for accurate home valuations in Anytown, OK." would be more to the point.

Weave keywords into your body copy

For people wanting better search engine rankings, this is even more important than getting people to link to your site. (See this previous article on inbound links.) Put yourself in a potential client's shoes. If they were going to use a search engine to find your company, what do you think they'd type in? Now, are those phrases on the content of your home page? If you can't work them into the body copy, at least put them in your page's Keywords.

Use bullet points instead of long paragraphs

Bullet points don't really have to flow so much or be as conversational. Similarly, you can make a list of items to keep readers engaged. (Think about it. When you see practically any list, don't you just have to know what comes in at number one?)

Use an image or a graphic

People are always drawn to pictures, and it cuts down on the amount of text you have to write. If you can capture an interesting image of something that relates to your business, include it in the body of your home page text. Use an application like Microsoft's free image optimizer to reduce the resolution so it loads quickly and fits neatly on the page.

Get a someone to review your home page

It could be your spouse or anyone else you trust to give an honest, critical, opinion. They don't have to know anything about real estate, either. Put your ego aside for a moment and listen to what their general impressions were. In fact, having multiple people review your site is a good idea.

Don't just "set it and forget it"

Customizing your homepage isn't a one-time exercise. Come back to it often and re-evaluate its relevance and appeal. You don't have to change it every week, or even every month. But don't assume that because you've worked on it once, that's it. Web traffic and search engine optimization is like anything. You get out what you put in. Don't just "set it and forget it."

And it's all even easier when you have an XSite

Like most modern website tools, the XSite web page editor works like a simple word processor. Our tools are all online, so you don't have to install any programs on your PC to create a web page. To start editing your home page, do the following:

* Log into your XSite.
* Click the XSite button at the top of the screen, then click Wizard.
* From there, click My Content from the options along the left.
* Then, you'll see all the available pages for your site. The page titles are hyperlinks, so just click the word "Home" and you'll be in our content editor ready to implement the tips you've gathered here.

The XSite page editor also has some other options to make your site interesting. For example below the main page editor window is an item labeled Dynamic Content. Click "Customize" and you'll options for including an Inman news feed, mortgage rates and more in a sidebar to the right of your content. Likewise you can include a handy client data capture form so people can contact you right from the page.

If you get stuck, we've got a very comprehensive manual for the XSites, and our tech staff is always standing by 24/7 to get you back on track.