November, 2012
Strategies
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



The Blog that ate the ASHI Home Inspector

CHARLES BUELL, ACI

Sandy Bourseau, ASHI director of communications, asked me why I blog. She thought it might be useful for other ASHI inspectors to know how and why I blog. 

Monster1.jpg

Illustration © istockphoto.com


About four years ago, I started blogging on the ActiveRain real estate website (http://activerain.com/blogs/cbuell) and saw an immediate spike in calls from people finding me through my blogging. Of course, not all those calls were requests for inspections. Often, the calls were from people who had issues similar to what I blogged about. But within a few months, I was hearing: "I have been following your blog for several months and now we are buying a house and would like you to inspect it for us."

The basic reason to blog is to get your name out there.

If your name is not seen, how is anyone going to call you for any reason? While there are other ways to get your name out there, as well as other blogging platforms for inspectors, ActiveRain is a great starting point because it is relatively inexpensive, and the site is configured so that when you blog on it, your own personal website gets the benefit of the Google-juice. When I started, it was free.

Now, there's a monthly fee for "Rainmaker" status, which allows what you post to be found by the search engines. A basic blog is still free, but the search engines can't see it.  I consider it a bargain when compared to what some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) companies charge. Also, there is a sliding scale. The cost goes down based on the points you accumulate for blogging. The point system encourages consistency. 

Being consistent and cranking out quality information on a regular basis is crucial to any blog that is looking to gain and maintain SEO.

There are various techniques to improve SEO. I have found that blogging gets me the SEO I need to make it in today's market.

As long as you are consistent and provide information that is relative to what you want to be found for, you, indeed, will be found.

Currently, more than half of my inspections are related to my blogging activities and the percentage goes up if I count agents who use me because they found me through my blog. I routinely get calls from buyers who say they are looking for an inspector and decided to call me because of my blog, whether it was because of the information or because they could tell I have a sense of humor.

This gets to the crux of why blogging is so important.

We are in the business of selling ourselves — of getting consumers to choose us over some other inspector. People can get a glimpse of who we are through our blog.

The consumer can see us as human beings who care about the job we do. The fact that we are sharing what we know with the world can improve the odds that we will care about the inspection of their prospective home as well. As consumers, we all want to feel connected.  It is not like buying gas for your car, when it really doesn't make much difference where you buy it. It's more like when we need our car fixed and we really want to find someone who is going to tell us the truth, take care of us and not rip us off. Blogging can separate you from the herd.

In light of this, the answer regarding what to blog becomes self-evident. Blog about whatever will help people get to know and relate to you. In my experience, humor goes a long way. Information about houses is a no-brainer. Information about what is going on in your area is awesome. Avoiding politics and religion is a given. You don't want consumers to believe you might be less than tolerant of their personal views. So, you can blog about almost anything, but the bulk should be related in some way to your business.

It does not matter what subject matter gets people to your website. As long as it is relevant — it will increase your ranking for the search terms that are important to getting you more business.

I did a post about barge rafters a long time ago on ActiveRain. I reposted it on my own website quite a bit later, and you can see how well both still are doing by doing a Google Search for "barge rafter." Apparently, lots of people want to know what the heck a barge rafter is. Now, I kind of "own" the term "barge rafter."  I get dozens of hits on my website per month for this search term alone. (I suspect I will see an uptick in "barge rafter" in my analytics as a result of this article.)  Google loves this–content that people are looking for.

Few inspectors are blogging.

If you can write, if you have the courage to find your own voice, if you truly care about what you are doing as an inspector, it can shine though in your blog and people will find you in their Internet searches. The more you're found, the higher your search engine ranking will become; then even more people will find you. It becomes a perpetual motion machine that is working for you 24/7 at virtually no cost.

Let that sink in for a moment: at virtually no cost.

Well, except for a little bit of your time and some minor fees.

As can be seen in "Postcards From the Field" at the end of each ASHI Reporter, we have no shortage of things to blog about. Between my own website and ActiveRain, I have posted probably over 1,800 times in the last four years. When you blog, the posts never die. They are working for you while you are sleeping, they are working for you while you are at an inspection and they are working for you while you are on vacation. They are working for you whether you have been bad or good. Even Santa Claus should have a blog. I can tell they are still working for me because I see these old posts found in "real time" on my website analytics.  I even can see what search terms were used to find those posts.

Going social

Your blog makes you social as you have conversations through the comments on your posts. You may even make new friends through your blog.

I routinely hear about inspectors with huge advertising overhead. Advertising may be necessary for high-volume inspectors and/or franchises, but I spend very little for advertizing. There were some initial costs of setting up my website, but that is a cost all inspectors have (or should have). The fee for hosting my WorldPress.com site is $14 a month, and that's the sum total of my advertising budget.

As I said, I initially started blogging on ActiveRain. About 1-1/2 years ago, I decided I also wanted to have my own blog on my own website to build my own SEO. It was a case of not having all my eggs in one basket.  The conversion of my old static Dreamweaver website that saw approximately 150 hits per month has risen to over 3,500 hits per month. In the old days, I used to allow my visits to the site to be counted–I just didn't know any better. So, the actual difference is even greater. I now alternate between posting on my own site and on ActiveRain, occasionally both on the same day, occasionally neither.

By becoming part of the information highway, we increase the chances we'll be found by consumers.

Isn't that what we want?

Currently, my SEO is such that I am in management/maintenance mode as opposed to looking for new ways to increase it. There are only so many ways to creatively and politely say no to requests for inspections.

So, is this the end of the discussion about blogging?

In one way, it is only the beginning. It is always morphing. We have not even touched on using pictures to avoid the wall of words, videos, guest posts, what a post should look like, how it will help you write your reports better, how it will make the information in your reports more accurate or how to syndicate by spreading it around on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, etc.

For now, let's blog on — and go social.