Put this technology to work to boost your agency’s SEO
By Chris Paradiso, CPIA
It’s been a bit of a game changer in the digital world. Yes, artificial intelligence (AI) is now influencing marketing, and in more ways than one. As we watch technology rapidly advance around us, it’s up to us as independent agents not only to keep up with the times but also to push the envelope and stay ahead of the game. Some of you may be hearing for the first time that artificial intelligence is affecting the marketing arena, and you may be wondering how that could even be possible. It’s a reality, and one we should take seriously, because it directly affects our efforts in insurance marketing. Before we can understand how that is possible, let’s explore what exactly artificial intelligence is so we can begin to wrap our heads around this concept.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines artificial intelligence as “the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.” In essence, artificial intelligence is technology that has the ability to learn.
Artificial intelligence exists primarily in three forms. The first is artificial narrow intelligence, also known as ANI, which is designed to complete one specific task, such as taking down a world champion in a strategic board game. The next is artificial general intelligence (AGI), which is capable of learning across a wide spectrum. Once artificial intelligence can behave or perform like a human, we consider it AGI. Third is artificial superintelligence, which is beyond the capabilities and limits of a single human mind. When it comes to digital marketing, we’ll mostly see examples of ANI that are specifically designed to be strong at one specific task.
Artificial intelligence eventually will help us turn cold leads into “warm” prospects, and it’s bound to have an even greater impact on our industry as time moves on.
The first and primary example of how artificial intelligence is already in play for agents is Google search algorithms. Google rankings are continually updated, which is why it’s a constant battle to gain the top spot in Google search results through search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is any effort we make to improve the Google ranking of our agency’s website or online reputation. Google’s SEO algorithm is updated every 18 hours, and that is possible only through the power of artificial intelligence.
Behind Google’s complex search engine algorithms and constant updating is a piece of artificial intelligence called RankBrain. It’s a mechanism that creates an algorithm for SEO, based on interpreting data through artificial intelligence. When it comes to SEO, the old approach will no longer suffice because SEO is evolving on its own. RankBrain looks at each search index separately; it creates and filters data for search results based solely on one search and is not influenced by similar searches. This empowers users to create niche websites or focused content by pushing them ahead of their competition through specific credibility. With RankBrain’s intuitive approach to SEO, it can determine which set of algorithms should be applied to each search to filter the best results and rank them accordingly. Certain searches may place credibility on the metadata generated by the search, whereas other searches may point strictly to the URL. If you were looking up symptoms for a disease you were experiencing, the website webmd.com most likely would appear on the first page because over time Google has given that URL credibility. Similarly, if you were looking for a recent news story, the metadata (or the text that appears on Google right beneath a clickable link) could be the most important search result because it allows you to preview the article before deciding to click on it. For each kind of search, RankBrain assigns the appropriate algorithms to deliver what the user is looking for. For that reason, if you were to perform a regression analysis based on Google searches, your analysis necessarily would be done by each specific result, but it is difficult to measure Google’s shifts in algorithms.
The next thing Google’s development team realized about SEO is that they could teach RankBrain what a “good” site looks like versus a “bad” site in the same niche. For example, if a user were using Google to look for a nearby restaurant, RankBrain likely would look for websites that display rankings, customer reviews, menus, and more. Some websites may have local listings and phone numbers available for restaurants in the local area, but without the other key elements of a properly SEO’d website that presents nearby food options, these websites will not show up in the top of Google’s search results. RankBrain knows the appropriate “environment” and settings for the website for which the user is searching.
A technique you may want to consider for your agency website’s SEO efforts is backlinking: providing links to external websites. It’s a useful tool, but if not used correctly, backlinking can negatively affect your SEO. When RankBrain looks at your website’s backlinks, it checks to see if they are credible for the niche you’ve established. When you consistently create backlinks on your website, you establish what’s known as a “linking neighborhood,” and if you wander outside your linking neighborhood, RankBrain will know. In my agency, a lot of our backlinks connect to our partners’ businesses. We’ve established a partner program to highlight our clients and their businesses and give them some more traction online. We consistently target businesses in our town (Stafford Springs) or our state (Connecticut), and Google knows that. When a user looks for “Stafford Springs insurance” we have high credibility, and our backlinks show that we’re involved in our local community.
As mentioned earlier, RankBrain is artificial narrow intelligence, which is just one form of artificial intelligence. Of the three kinds of AI we examined, ANI is a fairly weak form, meaning it has much more room to grow. In the future we can expect to create even more marketing moments by using artificial intelligence to interpret geo-based marketing, establish interpersonal relationships among our clients, conduct stronger data evaluation, and more. Artificial intelligence eventually will help us turn cold leads into ”warm” prospects, and it’s bound to have an even greater impact on our industry as time moves on.
Chris Paradiso, CPIA, is president of Paradiso Financial & Insurance Services, headquartered in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. His agency won PIA National’s Excellence in Social Media Award in 2013. He also heads up Paradiso Presents, LLC, which provides social media consulting, seminars and workshops to help agencies thrive in the online marketing world. Contact Chris via email at email@example.com.