When searching for May's Appraiser Spotlight, I did what most reasonable people do when they want to find something: I went to GoogleTM. And having just returned from our first regional convention in Las Vegas, I decided that "Las Vegas Appraiser" would be a good search phrase to use. So, who came up #1 in the results? Naturally, it was AppraisersofLasVegas.com, one of our very first Appraiser XSite adopters.
Upon visiting the AppraisersofLasVegas.com site, I immediately noticed the immense amount of original content on the site. According to Loreen Stuhr, the owner of Appraisers of Las Vegas, "Content is king. You must establish yourself up front as the market expert to demonstrate credibility and show you're not some fly-by-night startup with a generic website." (pq)
Their original content contributes to their high search engine ranking, and even the way the content is worded is intentional. "Early on we knew we'd want to be ranked in search engines," said Loreen. "So we started using Google Adwords and paid placements. A lot of what we did was trial and error. We sat around a table and thought of everything someone might type into a search engine to find an appraiser and started paying for placements associated with those phrases. From there, we saw which phrases were generating the most traffic and made sure our site was relevant for those keywords. Now, we just naturally come up at the top."
In addition to focusing on original content and keywords, Appraisers of Las Vegas also did their homework when it came to getting other websites linking to them. Inbound links are a key ingredient for high search engine placement. After all, when Google or Yahoo!® sees other business websites referring to yours, they rank you higher. "We asked ourselves what things outside our services would be of interest to our target audience. Once we found these websites, we researched them very carefully to ensure they were legitimate and someone we'd want to be associated with before contacting them and seeing if they would link to us."
Search engine placement has paid off for Appraisers of Las Vegas. Loreen told me, "We track where new orders originate, and we've seen a 25% to 30% increase in volume due to web referrals. It's helped on the commercial side, too. We started marketing commercial work on the web right about the time the market turned down, but we've still seen a 15% increase."
To keep their site fresh between updates of their market analysis pages, Appraisers of Las Vegas takes advantage of their XSite blogging features. A blog is an online journal of sorts that gives a website owner a forum to comment on their profession. Loreen says, "To be relevant in your market and maintain your status as the authority in your area, you should constantly be sharing new information and analysis with your clients. There's a certain amount of risk involved because you're exposing your expertise to your competitors, too. But the bottom line is you must be the authority so customers keep coming back. Any competitor that tries to copy us is a step behind anyway."
The AppraisersofLasVegas.com blog is also connected to XSellerate. "Every time we create a new posting, over 400 clients and contacts are e-mailed. It keeps people thinking about us, so they'll ultimately remember Appraisers of Las Vegas when it's time to order an appraisal."
Where does the inspiration for this content come from? Loreen says, "There's no shortage of topics to write about these days, especially with the market downturn". Recently, Loreen attended our Regional Convention in Las Vegas where she got some other ideas. "I had taken classes from Patrick Egger in the past and was excited to see him teaching at the convention. His Housing Market Analysis class gave me ideas for updating the information on my website as well as enhancing my reports with information to further support my value conclusions."
Of course, Appraisers of Las Vegas is more than just a website. Operating since 1998, they built their reputation on the ability to appraise anything, provide solid values and give great customer service. According to the AppraisersofLasVegas.com website, "We appraise houses to hi-rises and condos to casinos". Loreen told me, "There's one home that's actually a ‘palace' in Las Vegas - only one. I can't disclose who owns it, but we appraised it."
To accomplish this one stop shop "niche", they rely on a network of about 20 independent appraisers across the state of Nevada and a fresh approach to recruiting, which you can view for yourself at http://www.appraisersoflasvegas.com/AttentionAppraisers. And even though their appraisers are independent, they still benefit from Loreen's commitment to staying on the cutting edge of knowledge. Loreen told me, "When we first saw the market turning down, we had a meeting with all of our appraisers letting them know this should be reported in their analysis. While many appraisers took months to start considering the downturn, we were right on time, and our clients really appreciated the thoroughness of our work."
In closing, we should mention that Appraisers of Las Vegas isn't just all about the money. The original owner of the company, Don Scoggins, is currently on mission in Boane, Mozambique with The Benjamin Project, serving older youth and young adults with academic and career training, spiritual development and parenting. Loreen had been a staff appraiser with Appraisers of Las Vegas for several years before she purchased the company from Don in October of 2007, so he could focus on his missionary work. Loreen told me, "We support Don by donating 10% of all revenues to The Benjamin Project. It's our way of giving back."
To learn more about Appraiser XSites, click here.