By Carl Maerz
SEO MADE SIMPLE
There’s more to being discovered online than you might realize
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the strategy of ensuring your business gets listed before others on Google. Most insurance agents know that. They also understand that improving SEO will get them more leads online. And while some agents spend time getting into the weeds of SEO, most look for SEO experts or services to help them out.
However, five years ago there was a rapid shift in how SEO should look for insurance agents. Although significant, this change in SEO is overlooked in the industry today. So, if an agent’s understanding of SEO is limited to the simple definition above, they could end up focusing on the wrong type of SEO and miss opportunities to become discovered online. Here’s how you can prevent that.
The beginning of SEO
Soon after webpages (e.g., www.KidsChance.org) were created they were indexed on the internet, so you could use search to discover them online. As internet search became more mainstream, websites fought over online visitors. The earliest form of SEO was done by manipulating content on a webpage to match what search engines were looking for. This included keyword density, links to the page, metadata, etc. Over time, Google has released updates to its ranking algorithms to consistently provide users the most relevant search results.
One of the most important factors in determining the ranking of a business on Google is what’s known as the “review velocity” of the agency. This includes the number and quality of reviews they receive over time.
Local search entered the scene in 2003 when Google began listing nearby businesses and occasion-ally prioritizing local websites over non-local. There were limited business listings pulled from public directories; and the business owners themselves had no direct control over the posted information, e.g., hours, phone number, address. During this time, the only way for a local business to improve its SEO was to focus on its website.
Welcome Google My Business (GMB)
GMB was introduced in 2014. This allowed local businesses to claim (or create) an official listing for their business online, complete with updated hours, phone number, and address. Over time, when someone searched for a service or product that was obtainable locally, Google began prioritizing what it called the “Local Pack” (GBM listings) over the organic listings (webpages). The next year, Google narrowed the field from seven local listings to three (the mobile-friendly top three local listings that remain today).
Now when searching for “home insurance” on Google, a prospect is shown the top three business listings (addresses, reviews, etc.) for insurance agents in their area—instead of the webpages for national carriers. This change turned local SEO upside down. Now it makes sense for businesses to focus on improving the discoverability of their Google listing instead of focusing on their webpage.
A popular myth shared among insurance agents is that SEO involves only the agency website. In reality, there are two types of SEO strategies today. The first method looks to improve the chances that the website is discovered in online searches. This includes blogging, improving keywords, and increasing backlinks. All this works toward improving the organic SEO for the webpage. But remember, when determining how to rank local agencies, Google cares less about the webpage and more about the GMB listing. This distinction is particularly important for insurance agents to understand. Mixing this up could cause them to spend time and resources on the less effective form of SEO.
SEO for agents
When someone searches for insurance, Google will show first-displayed listings for local agencies. This is where insurance agents should focus their energy: on improving their Google listing. But local SEO isn’t just about helping an agency become displayed before others on Google; it also includes increasing the chances that the agency is actually picked over the competing listings.
Put simply, here are the three areas an insurance agency should actually focus on when implementing SEO in their agency.
Google reviews. One of the most important factors in determining the ranking of a business on Google is what’s known as the “review velocity” of the agency. This includes the number and quality of reviews they receive over time. Google strongly prefers a consistent influx of reviews as opposed to a bunch all at once. With reviews, steady does it. It’s also important that the reviews include authentic comments, and not just a star rating. Prospects are likely to skip agency listings that don’t also include written feedback.
NAP consistency. This means an agency’s Name, Address, and Phone number are the same across the internet. Search engines regularly collect information from all over the internet. This data is then stored for easy access when people perform searches online. Google wants to make sure the information in an agency listing is accurate before it displays it to people searching online. So, as a rule of thumb, the more often an establishment is accurately listed across the net, the more confidence the search engine has in it.
Even slight differences in a business name, address, or phone number will likely create duplicate listings online and throw off search engines. Utilizing an online service is the quickest and most effective way to ensure accurate listing across the web; a few services available are Moz Local, Reputation and BrightLocal.
Clean website with social proof. Luckily, insurance agents don’t need to focus on the organic SEO of their website anymore. No more worrying about writing blog posts or configuring keywords. This is great news. But it doesn’t mean that they should give up on their webpage altogether. After all, most online prospects end up on the agency website before actually reaching out to them.
When searching for pizza locally, Google reviews alone are enough for most to make their decision. But for something more serious like insurance, three times out of four, prospects like to visit the agency’s website before reaching out. The website should be neat and easy to navigate, and it should list clearly the products offered and show clearly how to contact the agency. It’s also good to have a brief summary and highlights of the agency—so the prospect can get to know it a bit.
A recent trick of the trade is to also display client testimonials—not three or four, but several hundred. We’ve found at Rocket Referrals that the more client testimonials an agency displays on its website, the more leads they receive online. The good news is that today collecting and displaying that many testimonials can be easily automated.
Carl Maerz is the co-founder of Rocket Referrals, an automated communication strategy that helps agencies improve their referrals, retention, reviews and relationships. He aims to help local agencies leverage their advantages over direct carriers by replacing common industrial myths with relevant and practical advice. Contact Carl at email@example.com.