Webinar Title: Everything You Need to Know about Local SEO for Insurance Agents

Recording Date: February 26th, 2015

Presenters:

  • Ryan Hanley – Vice President of Marketing – TrustedChoice.com
  • Marty Agather – Vice President of Strategy – TrustedChoice.com
The Agency Nation webinar series is brought to you by TrustedChoice.com. Click here to begin receiving inbound insurance referralsĀ today!

Resources Mentioned:

See Also: [INFOGRAPHIC] How to Use Local SEO to Grow Your Business

Video Transcript

Ryan: Hello, everybody and welcome to the very first Agency Nation webinar. We’re using kind of new technology here, WebinarJam and Google Hangouts which allow us to provide this kind of unique format. We can do a lot of cool things. This webinar will be fairly straightforward. We’ll go live a couple of times actually out of some sites and talk about some things with local SEO as we get to use this tool a little more and more over time but we’re very happy to have you here. We’re going to run through a lot of great tips about local SEO but first I want to introduce myself. I’m Ryan Hanley. I’m the VP of marketing here at trustedvhoice.com which is actually the power behind Agency Nation. And my partner in crime is Marty Agather, our VP of strategy. Marty, say hello to everyone.

Marty: Could I say howdy instead? Howdy, Marty Agather, trustedchoice.com.

Ryan: So the cool thing about Google Hangouts is it allows us to kind of have this face to face dialog and at the same time what you’ll see is underneath the video if you’re watching on the page is a chat box and at anytime you can type into that chat box, we’ll see that chat happening. You can chat with each other. You can also ask us questions so we want this to be a very interactive presentation and really the point of this is to answer your direct questions. So as we’re going through this if you have questions about local SEO type them in. There is no question too small or too large. We’ll try to address as many as we possibly can and then if you miss anything the replay will be available on Agency Nation. It will be as part of our Pathfinder Content Library which is free. You just have to register for it and we’ll make sure that we have all those links available to you afterwards and at the end we’ll mention exactly where you can go. And then you can go back and watch the webinar as many times as you want and access any of the other pieces of content that we have in the content library right now or in the future. Once you’re a member, you’re a member forever. So with that I want to kind of get right into our presentation and we’ll start to dive into what local SEO is and how it can help independent insurance agents. And I’m just sharing my screen here. Marty, how does it look?

Marty: Excellent.

Ryan: All right. So, we’re talking about local SEO today. As we said this is Marty and myself. Actually one of the first conferences that we went to since I had joined the trustedchoice.com team and we obviously like to have a little fun on the meantime. So why are we here talking about local SEO, right? That is SEO gets kind of a bad rep. It used to be a very technical thing. You really had to almost be a programmer or a coder to do a local SEO. It’s not necessarily the truth anymore. There are everyday things that you can do but maybe before we get to those I want to talk briefly about why we even have to consider local SEO. And it has to do with this concept called the zero moment of truth and this is actually the title of a study that was done by Google back in 2011.

They were studying the online consumer trying to get a feel for how does an online consumer differ from maybe a traditional consumer who isn’t going online. And what they found was for consumers who go online, 60% of the decision as to who they are going to use is already made before they even contact an agency or any business for that matter, in this case insurance agencies. So what that means is Sally refers her friend John. Before John calls your agency, John is going online and researching you. What is this agency all about? What are their values? What products do they have? What are other people saying about them? What does their website look like? Well, there are things that we can do on a local basis to make sure when John searches for you that he’s getting a very good representation of your business and maybe even more important that he can find your business very easily and hopefully it’s at the top of the list. So that just provides more social validation as to why you’re doing local SEO. Okay.

So these are traditionally what we consider connected generation consumers but there’s this whole generation coming behind them which is using online digital tools to make buying decisions. But that’s not the only generation. Baby boomers, gen X-ers are using online tools as well to make these buying decisions. We call these people the connected generation and the connected generation is searching online and specifically looking for local providers but they’re just using online tools to find those providers and do research first. So we consider the connected generation anyone, regardless of age, who communicates, builds relationships and makes buying decisions online. That is the connected generation. So it doesn’t matter if you’re 17, 27, 57, or 77, if you’re communicating, building relationships and/or making buying decisions online, you’re part of the connected generation and that’s who we’re looking to capture with local SEO.

But it all starts with Google. Still, even though some services have gone with Bing, some have gone with Yahoo as their primary default search, Google is still the major player. And though we don’t necessarily want to do anything to set ourselves away from Bing or Yahoo, primarily what we’re going to talk about today is showing up in Google Search since 85%+ of all searches are still done on Google. So we want to make sure that we’re setting ourselves up to capture the most visibility. So we’re going to talk in terms of Google today. But if you’re doing the right things for Google you’re going to set yourselves up pretty well in Bing and Yahoo as well.

So let’s get into the tactics of local SEO. This is what we ultimately want and before we go too far let’s see, is anyone have any questions yet? How am I doing? If you have a chat make sure you’re letting me know. Just put in the box if you have a question and we’ll make sure that we get those answered.

So if you’re doing local SEO well, this is what you see when someone searches in your local community. So this is actually the agency that I used to work for. I did an incognito, so a search that was basically as plain as plain can be. So I wasn’t using any of my previous search history or any connections that I had. I put in the terms Albany Home Insurance, which Albany is the main town near the office and what we got was three results for – when you’re doing local SEO very well what happens is you show up the first arrow on the left that you see kind of pointing up next to the five stars. That is map search, that’s local search, and those are basically a pin on a map. So sometimes that pin would show up on a map on the right hand side. We’re showing up first for that search there. So that’s one place you can show up.

The second place is the arrow that’s pointing down into the right and that is just straight organic search. So that is just Google giving their best representation of the website resources for the term Albany home insurance. So the websites that they think will provide the best benefit to someone who’s searching for that term. On the right is something that not everyone may be familiar with and that is called the knowledge graph. So this is the arrow, the larger arrow which is pointing up into the left.

And we’re going to tell about the knowledge graph but essentially this is Google’s way of providing a very deep, rich resource of a service provider that they think is the best possible solution. So in this case we’ve gone three for three and now you see an image of our foyer, you see a little map to the location, contact information, Google reviews, some testimonials. And we’re going to talk about how you set your agency up to potentially have this show open search. This won’t always show up. Google is constantly tweaking this so there’s no like if you do X you’ll get Y. But if you’re doing the right things inside of Google+ and some other places like citations, business [inaudible 00:09:15] and citations, you have a very good chance of having this knowledge graph show up as well and we’re going to get to that. But I want Marty now to take a second and walk us through his three Rs of local SEO to kind of set the stage before we get into tactics. Marty.

Marty: Thanks Ryan. The three Rs of local SEO is a concept I came up with that’s hopefully nice and easy to remember. And essentially what it breaks down into is while there are literally hundreds of things that affect search, that the way Ryan showed you those references on the Google search page on our last slide. If you think about these three, these will get you pointed in the right direction.

The first one is relevancy. So when a searcher types a phrase, a keyword, a number of keywords, a keyword search term into the search bar, what they are doing is they are saying, “I want to find out information about this thing.” Google looks then to its index of all the pages and begins to sort them and determine which is the most relevant to the terms that the searcher typed in. And so what you want to do is make sure that you’re going to be found when a searcher types a very specific search phrase into a search engine.

So relevancy and we’re going to get into some details on exactly how we do this, but relevancy the concept is, you want your information to match as closely to the searcher’s desire as possible. And the easy one that I always give is if you’re talking about long bob-tailed trucking or we ensure long haul risks and you’re using a bunch of insurance terms on your pages and the customer types in – because he’s an over the road driver – types in tractor trailer insurance, that relevancy match won’t be very high. If you however have a page that talks about tractor trailer insurance, you will do much better in a relevancy score, number one.

Number two, recency. Google rewards content updates. It’s critical that you keep your website up to date. It’s no longer good enough to write a page and ignore it for you. Google figures that if you don’t care enough to keep your website up to date, they shouldn’t care enough to present you, place you in front of people who are searching for information. The good news is blogs are a very good way to keep fresh content on your site in a very quick and fast fashion.

And then the last one is referrals. In the same way that if I refer my friend to your agency you are going to have a much better chance of selling them because they depend on me because we have a relationship and I’ve given them a recommendation that you’re the right insurance agency for them, that’s all going to work in your favor.

Google does the exact same thing electronically and the way they measure those referrals is they look out and they look at your various components online and they say, “Who looks to you as a resource? Who links to you and says you’re a great place to buy an insurance or information about insurance?” And so online we call those backlinks but the easy way to remember it is just referrals.

Ryan: Yeah. And I think that’s a really good analogy that the idea of a backlink being a referral because remember we’re going to talk about citations, we’re going to talk about client reviews, backlinks, internal links, these are all really referrals, right? These are all some third party in different senses saying that your site is a quality resource. If you’re stacking up those referrals on top of each other, the more of those that you have, the more authoritative Google feels your site is. And this is not something that you’ll necessarily be able to do overnight. So we’re about to dive into some tactics.

I do not expect anyone to have to run out and just try to get all this done in a week. It’s not going to happen. But what I do hope is that you will kind of maybe do one a week, just do one thing a week. Take off one box a week and over time over our series, a week series, a month you’ll start to see your agency rice but you won’t overburden any of your resources internally to the point where they’re taking away from some other job function inside the agency that’s also vitally important.

So my goal and I know Marty’s is as well is I want everyone on this call to start to do these things. It’s incredibly important but what we know is having both been in the industry for a long time that there are other vital things that need to get done. So we want to make sure that this is an achievable goal. So do not feel overwhelmed. Like I said, you’re going to have access to this resource. You can go back and watch it over and over. And at the end we’re also going to provide you with a link to an e-book that we wrote which kind of mirrors this presentation and if you haven’t already downloaded that you’ll be able to and almost use that e-book as a checklist as well.

So let’s get into some of the tactics. Before we do that though, I would just like to see what questions people have. Terry asks will this be available to watch later. Terry, yup. Absolutely. We said at the beginning that this webinar, the recording will be available in the Pathfinder Content Library which is obviously free. You just have to sign up for it and you can watch the video as many times as you want. It looks like we have some other people checking in and it’s great to see everyone. Lisa, Frank, thanks for being here guys. And if you have any question – we just got a question from Jim. Can backlinks be terminated if I don’t want the referral? Jim, that’s a really great question and I’m actually going to answer that right now and we’ll talk a little bit more about it when we get to the backlinks section. But the answer to your question is 100% yes, but the one problem is that you actually have to contact that organization and let them know, “Hey, can you take that down?”

On-Page Indicators

Now if they don’t, you can notify Google and if you have a big problem with this reach out to me, ryan.hanley@trustedchoice.com. You can contact Google via the Webmaster tools and get some backlinks kind of disallowed, like let people know, let Google know, “Hey, I don’t want that backlink. It’s actually creating a negative impression on my business.” So that’s a great question, Jim. If you have more questions like that let us know and as we go through these sections I’ll be jumping back on here and we’ll get those answered. So I’m going to pull up the presentation again and we’re going to talk about on-page indicators.

So on-page indicators are basically the things that you do on your website to make sure that you are telling Google exactly what you want to rank for. So one of the major problems – and Marty, I know you have a lot of experience with this as well so you can chime in if you have any specific examples that you’d like to mention – but one of the things I see in doing audits of agencies, websites, is that it’s almost like we… and this is natural. So anyone that’s doing this don’t feel like you’re doing the wrong things and that you should know better.

The natural inclination is to assume that the people reading our article know as much as we do or know what we’re trying to say. When it comes to on-page indicators you have to be as direct as you possibly can, right? If you’re talking about a specific topic, you have to use those specific words because though Google is getting smarter in understanding words that relate to each other we’re really far away from them knowing that if you use word X what you really mean is Y. And so when someone searches for Y they can apply that same relationship over to the word that you’re actually using. We have to be very, very direct. So keyword placement is big, keyword frequency, how often we’re using the term and where, and supportive phrasing. So though we want to be very direct, like I said, Google is getting smarter with what words kind of revolve around that keyword. And we’re going to show an example of that in a second. Long tail keywords, another good on-page indicator. Basically the search that we showed before was Albany home insurance, right? Very specific term. That’s more of a specific or generic keyword.

When I say long tail what we’re thinking about is something that is three words but home insurance is still fairly generic. When we go long tail it might be “what is New York state short term disability” or “how do I cover my business against a workers’ compensation claim.” You’re going to get far less search results on long tail keywords but the people who are searching for those long tail phrases are statistically much closer to making a decision on the provider that they want to use.

So someone who searches Albany home insurance statistically is at the very beginning of their search. Someone who searches a long tail phrase is towards the end of their search. They’ve already done some research. They know pretty much exactly what they want and now they’re just looking for someone to use. So we want to make sure that we’re using some long tail phrases and we’re going to talk about the importance of consistency in local… Yes.

Murray Group Video Example

Marty: One of the other things, you mentioned that there’s going to be fewer searches for long tail phrases but the customer is more likely closer to a buying decision. However, the real key to a long tail search term is there’s a lot less competition for a long tail keywords.

Ryan: Yes.

Marty: While Albany home insurance obviously is a good, nice keyword, there are a number of agencies in the Albany area that are trying to rank for that and there’s probably far fewer for a long tail keyword like “what is New York State short term disability insurance.”

Marty: That’s a great point, Marty. So it allows us to easily separate ourselves and stand out from the crowd. And here’s the God honest truth – when it comes to traffic, traffic is great but if you have to get a thousand hits to get five leads or ten hits to get five leads, does it really matter? What matters is that you’ve got the five leads. So long tail phrases are definitely one way to go in on-page factors. So I want to show you an example. So I wrote an article for the Murray Group, the agency I used to work for back in the beginning of 2014 and I promise all the examples that we used won’t be from them. This is an interesting one for me and it’s one that I had worked on a lot and when it finally started to rank and we started to get calls from it I think it’s an interesting idea that I want all of you on this call to steal 100%.

Albany Mortgage Brokers

So we actually ranked on the first page, in this case three for top five Albany mortgage brokers for your next home loan. Why did we want to rank for this term? Because when someone’s looking for a mortgage, they’re probably in a life change or home buying position and it’s a very good opportunity for us to step in and potentially become their insurance provider. So we rank for this term. Now I’m going to go over to the actual post itself and talk about the on-page factors that lead to this post ranking as high as it does. So the title of the post, Top 5 Albany Mortgage Brokers for Your Next Home Loan. I’m telling them exactly what this post is about. I’m using the terminology that I want to rank for and the terminology that I know they’re looking for, Albany mortgage brokers. So as we go down that’s in the title. It’s not something cheeky, it’s not what to do when you’re buying a home. It’s not just mortgage brokers. It’s a long phrase that tells the reader exactly what they’re going to get using the keywords that are important to this page.

Next, we have an image. The image explains exactly what it is. Behind this image, so if you were to look at the code behind it and again, I hate that I just said that. If you’re using WordPress, this is very easy to do but if someone else is handling it for you all you need to know is the actual title of the file itself, the image file that had to be uploaded to the site was Top 5 Albany Mortgage Brokers and the alt tags. So again you don’t need to know how to set it up if you’re not the one doing this. All you need to know is the alt tag for this image is also Top 5 Albany Mortgage Brokers. So I’m being consistent and clear with the fact that this post is about the top five Albany mortgage brokers.

As we go down through the page I’m using some supportive terms. Remember, we talked about that. So Albany mortgage brokers. I’ve taken out the term top five. Here is just the term mortgage broker. I’m using mortgage broker again. As you scroll down you see we start to talk about how to pick a mortgage broker so we’re giving them a little bit of value. So the post just isn’t a list, it actually has some value for them. So now that’s building our credibility that these top five mortgage brokers are probably people that we actually thought about, they are actually good because we took the time to write this article. Now you see the top five Albany mortgage brokers in a subheading. So up at the top here’s the title of the article. This is considered a subheading. So it’s a larger text that separates the page and draws people’s attention to it. Google sees these subheads as an indicator.

Again if you put this term in subhead ten times and it would look ridiculous, one. And two it would add nothing to your SEO but we’re using it in a subhead, we’re using it again in text right below that, and then we actually link out to and name five Albany mortgage brokers. So those links, those external links tell Google that this is a very valuable resource. Google is saying to themselves, if I send someone who’s looking for Albany mortgage brokers to this page, they’re going to get resources that they can actually use. And that’s one of the reasons why this page ranks against some relatively stiff competition and this is Angie’s List is number one in organic search and the Times Union which is the largest paper in Albany is number two. And BizJournals which is Albany business review. There’re business reviews all over the country and kind of different names is actually four and Zillow is five. And little tiny Murray Group Insurance is number three because we did a very good job with our on-page indicators. Marty, as I check for some comments, what do you got to add there?

Marty: So my first question is when you put that article together, you identified those mortgage brokers and then did you call them to sort of kind of get their takes so you could write that little short bio about each of them?

Ryan: I did not.

Marty: So how did you figure out what to write about them?

Ryan: I took it off their websites.

Marty: Okay. Perfect. The second thing is you mentioned and briefly touched when you had the slide show up about frequency and you talked about having frequency in the article itself. I want to make sure that we caution our listeners, you should not overuse your terms. They call that keyword stuffing and Google will actually downgrade you if they think you’re trying to game the system by saying insurance, mortgage broker, mortgage broker, mortgage broker.

Ryan: Yeah. Hey, Marty. We got a really good question here from Jim Janson and he asked, “How does Google determine what the keyword of the article is?” Fantastic question. There really isn’t a way to like ping Google and say this is the keyword. It really is about going through that process that I just went through where if you’re using it on a consistent basis, you’re placing that keyword in the right spots, you’re using it in different places, you’re using some supportive keywords, that’s how you tell them by using it consistently throughout the article. As Marty said, not overusing it. It has to be natural. If you read through the article and it sounds natural then you’re perfectly fine. And then ultimately you’ll see in the rankings and there are tools that can help you to SEO Moz, Moz, moz.com has a tool that you can use. SEMrush, so the letters S-E-M-R-U-S-H .com is another tool you can use to see – these tools help you understand how Google is viewing your pages. So there’s a free version of SEMrush that you can use as limited tools but both of them if you want the kind of full you’d have to pay for that. Unless you are fully blown into that kind of marketing, I wouldn’t say go out and buy a tool right away. I’d get a feel for this before you do that. So Lisa asked a question… Go ahead, Marty.

Marty: …Parts there, some of what Google is doing is interpreted. They’re looking at the actual language that you typed into the page to do that. But you can also give them hints in the code and I don’t want to get into the level of detail that’s required there to really go into that but there are areas in the actual building of the page where you can give Google indications of what you believe the topic of your paper is and what they should use for keywords as well.

Ryan: Yeah. So Lisa asked a question. What needs to go between keywords? And should they be divided by commas or dashes and what about capital letters? So the days of just racking your page with keywords, with commas and stuff, that was what Marty was talking about. That’s keyword stuffing and that is a big time no-no. First of all, one article one keyword.

Let’s establish that right now. You get one keyword per article, that’s it. Now, if you want to get super advanced and maybe as we go and we build as a community, here at Agency Nation we’ll start to get into some more advanced SEO techniques. But from a baseline level one article – one keyword and you really want your blog post and any page on your site for that matter to feel very natural. You want it to be easily read, you want people to understand.

If they read through it, it makes sense. They don’t feel like its clunky because you’re just trying to stuff words in there. And calling out keywords in capital letters, again that’s a very old school SEO technique and it has no value today. It used to be like if you bold keywords, almost no value at all to doing that kind of stuff. Google wants your page to read as naturally as possible. Very, very good question Lisa.

Marty: And to add to that, they also want your page to be original. So don’t go find the best page on mortgage brokers or maybe murraygroup.com and rip it off. Because Google penalizes you if your page isn’t original. They know who wrote it. That’s the amazing thing.

Ryan: Yeah. And these are awesome questions. We’re going to have to jump off the questions pretty soon because we have a few more factors to get to but I do want to answer one more from Jim because it’s very, very relevant and he asks, “Do the words in the phrase have to be precise? Is the phrase home insurance as effective as we have insurance for your home?” So, Jim, this would be the idea of supportive phrasing, right? So you would want, if you’re trying to rank for the term home insurance then you would want to use that throughout the article in that exact setup.

However, as a good supporting phrase you could say we have insurance for your home because that would make sense inside the article. That’s really good supportive phrasing. Google is going to make that connection and if you using the terminology “we have insurance for your home” fits more naturally in a sentence than you trying to wriggle the term home insurance in somehow, you’ll actually do better to use the natural language.

So if you want to rank for home insurance then you want to make sure that’s in your title and use throughout the article but that doesn’t mean that you can’t write another article using the phrase “we have insurance for your home” and maybe add something to the beginning or the end so it makes more sense or it has more context. But you can just write another article. Again, one article, one phrase but that is good supporting phrasing for the term home insurance. So I hope that answers your question.

Internal Linking

I’m going to jump off of this and we have more questions coming in and we’re going to make sure that we get to all of them but I want to make sure that we get through all our factors as we talk here. We’re getting hang up in the questions which is a good thing. I’m glad that you guys are asking so many great questions. All right. So I’m going to go back to the presentation. And now we’re going to talk about internal linking and Marty, you’re going to run us through this one.

Marty: Sure. And we’re a little behind so maybe we better pick up the pace a bit. So pillar posts are those key pages that you want Google to recognize as internal to your site, where do you really want to put emphasis? So our last caller’s question, he wants to rank for home insurance so he’s going to make that home insurance page, that first page he writes, that’s going to become a pillar post.

And so then what we’re going to do is in other articles around the site, it could even be an article on auto insurance, but then you are then going to link with just a nice, very well placed, not unnatural language, a link back to your pillar post on home owners insurance to allow the customer to link to that. You’re giving the customer something they want to do but you’re also signaling to Google this page on homeowners insurance is one of the most critical pages on my site.

So by adding a bunch of articles and then supporting specific pages by doing that, you’re helping Google understand you’re sort of creating an architecture for your site which then Google says, “Aha! I get it. They really want people to see this page on home insurance.”

Ryan: Marty, let me use an example from – actually we’re going to look at Agency Nation. So this is the Agency Nation. This is the blog post we actually did this week which is actually a really great article and hopefully all of you go and read it. But in this article we’re talking about millennials are buying homes. So the first wave of millennials had started to come into the home market and it’s actually estimated that the millennial generation will be the largest buyer of homes over the next five years than any of the other generations, which is interesting in and of itself.

But we’ve written other articles about millennials and independent agents capturing millennial consumers. So really early on in this article we’re talking about millennials and what I did was an internal link where I just… so we have some phrasing and I used the term millennial insurance consumers and I linked to an article where I talk about some of the reasons that independent agents as a whole have struggled to capture the millennial generation.

Now it doesn’t mean that you struggle, it just means that when we take abreast nationally of independent agents its a generation that we struggle with and I don’t think that that’s a secret to anyone.

But what I want to make sure that I did in this article and the reason that I’m showing this is that this is about millennial insurance consumers. Here’s a supporting article about millennial insurance consumers and I wanted to make sure that I both showed readers of the site and Google that these two articles should be considered kind of partners or peers and what that does is it starts to build up our credibility as a website, as a whole, talking about millennial insurance consumer.

So internal linking, you should always have interal links one, two, three at the most. You don’t want to overdo it. In this article I think we have four because I put kind of three in a row as resources here. But you don’t want to overdo it. It depends on the length of the article but again natural, connect.

You write a very specific blog post about home insurance, make sure that it’s somewhere in there. You’re linking to your main home insurance page just to make that connection between the two articles and start to build your overall credibility around that term. All right.

Google Local

So let’s get back to our presentation and then we’ll take some question after we do the Google Local section. Google Local, it’s all about the Google+ about page. Google Local, Google+ have merged. Your Google+ About page is really your Google Local page for the most part and it’s important to format our addresses and our phone number properly.

We’re talking about Google Maps and we may talk about Google+ post a little bit but we’re short on time so I may skip that because it’s not as high a factor necessary as some of the other stuff. So here we’re going to use Josh Lipstone in Lipstone Insurance. He’s doing a fantastic job down in North Carolina.

Big part of the young agents for the big eye down there. And Josh’s insurance agency site shows up in the local search feature of Google and you can see that there’re some stars down here and you can’t see his little pin in the upper right hand corner because it’s behind the B but his pin is on the map and it relates to the G you see next to his name so the pin is lined up and you can see exactly where he is. So this information is pulled from your Google+ page and again, we talked about the knowledge graph and how this information is pulled from your Google+ page as well.

So let’s jump out of the presentation and we’re going to take a look at Josh’s Google+ page. Now Lipstone Insurance, their Google+ page, I wouldn’t say it’s absolutely perfect but I think they’re doing a very good job. They’re doing some things really, really well. So I know that he’s working on building this page up and he’s trying very hard. He’s doing a good job and you could see that because he’s in the search results there. So some things that he’s doing well: he has a well formatted address, right?

Well formatted, proper formatting. He’s got a zip code in there because Google is going to take the address that you have on your Google+ post or on your Google+ About page and use it in this map. So this map right here, they’re using that address to place the pin on that map so you want to make sure that it is accurate. It’s so important, if you’re pin is mislocated, you can edit that through this feature right here. If I was the administrator of this page, which I’m not obviously, I can go in and move my pin to the proper spot.

I encourage you to do that. But if you have a well formatted address, you should not have a problem with where your pin is and most likely when pins are in the wrong spot it’s because your address is formatted improperly.

So he also has a well formatted phone number. So it’s not just numbers clumped together. They’re in a proper phone. He’s listed a category for his agency on Google+, auto insurance agency.

They’re a generalist agency and they kind of split personal and commercial. He’s got a link to his site so he has properly filled out this page. He’s gone through the effort of making sure that everything, all the boxes on this page are filled out, that the information is accurate and clear and really if you did nothing else other than that you would have the good makings of a local page.

But he’s done some additional things as well. He has added some photos. So by consistently adding photos over time, now there’s some additional things that he could do with his photos.

I know that he’s working on it but by adding photos, it’s activity. These are photos that potentially could show up in that knowledge graph and he’s also added a nice kind of keyword-rich description of his business with actually a link back to his site, which is a good best practice. And he’s labeled himself an independent insurance agency. He’s talked about some of the areas that he serves. I talked about some of the specific products that he writes, he gives a little history.

It reads naturally so that’s well done. And then lastly, he has encouraged people to come and leave his agency a review and he’s starting to build those reviews up and that is going to help with your local SEO. We’re going to talk about client reviews in a second but that’s going to help with your Google Local page as well by getting people to come on and leave those reviews. Marty, while I check for questions, what do you got to add?

Marty: Well, one of the things that you saw there when we looked at the review was that he had actually commented back to his customers that had written that review for him. Another good practice. Google likes to see photos.

I would absolutely encourage you to maybe put some more what I call personality photos in your collection of photos. That’s what people like to see, right? So Google just wants to see that you’re taking the time to put in images. But when I’m searching online I want to learn more about you, so if you’ve got great pictures of your staff, you’re having some fun at the local summer picnic or whatever that might be, that’s a great place to post those pictures.

Ryan: So I want to answer Pixie’s question and it is, “What if you have several locations and use a 1-800 number on your website for all those locations?” So a 1-800 number at the top of your site is okay. It’s not best practice, it’s okay. But what I would make sure that you do in that case is have on your website individual pages for each location. So say you have three locations, you want to make sure that you have separate locations… Actually I’m going to pull up a website here real quick on the fly. Cool thing about Google Hangouts here guys, we can work this thing as we go.

Marty: Can I address a part of that while you find that?

Ryan: Yes, please.

Marty: Particularly on your Google+ local page, you want a local phone number. Remember what Google is trying to do. When they open up your three pack or seven pack that’s where you see the listing of pins. They’re trying to provide the searcher. What Google has figured out is that there are certain products that are best bought locally. Insurance is one of those. And so they want to make sure that they’re presenting a local business. So by having that indicator in your Google+ local profile of a local number, that’s one more indicator to Google that you are indeed a local business, not some monster that’s nation wide and you’re trying to use an 1-800 number.

Ryan: Yeah. So to answer the question. This is Watkins Insurance and Watkins Insurance does this exactly the way that I would recommend you do it. They have a 1-800 number which filters out to all their locations at the top of their site, but at the bottom of the site they have listed all their individual locations with the local phone numbers for each and then created a separate page with the local listing and the local phone numbers for that particular agency on that page.

And given some additional information here but what these pages do is tell Google that this is one business with multiple locations and gives the local phone numbers and that’s how all these will link up and potentially create individual pins in those local locations.

So that’s how I would handle if you have multiple locations. Okay to have the 1-800 number on the top of the page but just make sure that you are listing each individual location as its own page and that you’ve listed out all its local information including the local phone number, not that 800 number as well so that Google can capture that information and make the connection between all the different resources. All right. So we want to keep moving here. We’re going to talk very quickly about backlinks. Marty, you’re going to talk about backlinks.

Backlinks

Marty: Sure. So backlinks, that’s the referral of our three Rs and essentially these are all great places that you can go to in local publications. You are an insurance expert in your town, you want to make sure that the local publications know that. Offer to do interviews, provide articles to them.

If you give them an article many times on the web version on their publication they will give a link right back to your agency. Industry publications, if you can write for any insurance journal, that’s a great opportunity. Again remember, Google looks at how those sites are related. So if you’re in the insurance website and you’re referring back to your own website, Google goes insurance, insurance. Wow, those two things matched, that’s a plus for you.

Clients, you can always work with your clients to get a link from them. You can link to them so those are great opportunities. Local organization, charitable organizations, and of course trusted hoice.com. If you’ve got a profile in trustedchoice.com you can get a link back from us.

Ryan: Cool. So we’re going to move on because backlinks are more strategy that just takes time, right? You’ve got to put in a lot of work and it takes time but backlinks are still very important.

Don’t believe any of the hype that somehow a link to your site is not valuable anymore. I mean it’s not as big a piece of the pie as it was but they’re still incredibly valuable because they’re referrals and Google looks at them as that. It looks them as referrals to your site that you have value.

Client Reviews

All right. Let’s talk about client reviews. Bright Local did a study. It came out in 2014. Do customers review local business websites to kind of provide social validation as to whether or not they should use that business? As you can see on the column on the left, “yes, consumers are doing this regularly” has gone from 22% to 39% in four years. That is a drastic increase.

And as you can see it didn’t come out of the “yes, occasionally” that people do it once in a while. It has directly come out of the people who don’t do it at all. So today, only 12% of customers who go online do not use reviews as a way of determining which business to use on a local-based. It’s incredibly important.

At Agency Nation we’re going to be coming out with some training soon. I shouldn’t say soon but in the next couple of months that has to do with how to handle some of these, helping you guys to understand the process for asking for reviews and just building this into your business. I’m not going to tease it any more than that but this is an incredibly important process and to think about ways that you can get customers to give you more online reviews is so important to local search.

client reviews

Google is a big place. Yelp is another one, though Yelp is very difficult. Their filter is tough. Anecdote, the Murray Group when I was there had 22 Yelp reviews but they only showed three of them and two of them were two star reviews, which is more frustrating than I care to explain on this webinar. Reviews on your website are very good and we’re going to talk a little bit about review filters and a review acquisition strategy.

All right. So on mobile I get referred. Again, we’re going to use Sally is referring Tommy. Tommy has his cellphone in his hand and Sally says, “You should check out the Murray Group.” And Tommy goes, “Okay. The Murray Group, enter.” This is what you get.

So it comes up, if you have Google reviews, so Josh Lipstone in Lipstone Insurance would have six reviews, a 4.5 stars. If you’re getting Google reviews, they show up right there. That is the ultimate social validation that you are an agency worth doing business with. Again, all this information is pulled from your Google+ page.

So if you’ve got referred to our agency and you saw there’re 27 five star reviews and there’s that big call button down there in the lower left, there’s a very good chance you’re going to click that. Because someone said you should give these guys a call, you look, you see wow, a bunch of other people have had really good experiences as well. I’m going to give these guys a shot. That’s the power of client reviews.

So I’m not going to go through Yelp, the process for getting reviews on Yelp. Different platform but very similar. You just send them to your page and they can leave a review.

But for Google they have to go to your Google+ About page and you will still see in the top right hand corner of your About page on Google+ a box that says write a review. So the one thing with Google is that they have to have a Google ID or a Gmail account in order to leave you a review. These days most people do and not everyone will.

Unfortunately that’s just the barrier to leaving a review is that they have to have a Gmail or a Google account. But as long as they do, they click write a review. If they’re not logged in it asks them to log in. They do that, they write a review, done. It goes into Google’s review process and as long as the review seems legitimate, it doesn’t seem like you’ve paid for it or something like that, there’s a very good chance that Google is going to show that review on your site.

Now Google has a filter just like Yelp but it’s important to the more people you get there the more chance you have to grow those reviews. I think I have no idea how many reviews we have today. When I took this screenshot we had 27. So I’m sure that there are some that have been filtered out, maybe for good or bad reasons.

Citations

So that’s basically reviews. We’re going to talk about citations next but the important part about reviews… Oh, I apologize to everyone because I didn’t show you this.

This is a very easy handout that you can give to people. You can download this and give this to your clients. So what this does and we’ll have this linked up afterwards, whitespark.ca. So if you just go to the main website you can find the review handout generator or you can just go to review-handout-generator but if you are at the main site you’ll be able to find this.

These are downloadable PDF forms that you can give to your clients and it actually shows them step by step how to walk through the process of leaving you a review.

So this is just something that you can put these three forms. So one is for desktop, one is for Google Maps app, and one is for mobile browser.

Maybe you just print all three out, staple them together and use it as part of your onboarding process. So you have a new client, you’re walking through their paperwork with them and you say, “Here, whichever method works for you. I’ve kind of put these together for you so you can leave a review for us of your experience here.

It would mean a lot to us.” Just kind of soft sell them on it and you do that ten times and three people will leave a review, over time you start to generate a lot of reviews and that will help with your local SEO and with kind of social validation for your agency. Okay.

citations

We have about nine minutes left. I’m going to move very quickly through citations because there’s not a lot to talk about as far as what you need to do but it’s very important to understand how these impact your local SEO.

Citations are references to your business. So unlike a link, which is a link to your site, a citation is a mention of your business. Most of the time citations come in the form of business directories, the White Pages, the Yellow Pages, a local Es.

There’s 500 plus of these local directories. And Google uses these local directories as more validation of your location and of the kind of domain authority that you have. Marty actually found this great picture. You may have if you’ve watched other local SEO presentations you may have seen this before but it really gives you a good visual representation of how many directories actually exist online.

There’s Super Pages and Yahoo Local and hibu and what you’re saying is, “Who’s ever going to find me on hibu?” Probably no one, but Google is going to ping these different sites for consistency and this is where people get hung up and I’m going to tell you a very quick story here that is not meant to scare you but hopefully it will get you to take action because this is probably the easiest thing that you can do today to start to improve your local SEO.

We at the Murray Group about two years ago started getting calls that said your phone number is wrong. “We tried calling you and your phone number is wrong.” And it was driving me nuts.

I looked all over the website, I looking on our social media platforms and I’m like, “Where are these people finding us if they’re saying our phone number is wrong?” Well, as it would happen whitepages.com had somehow mislisted our phone number and our phone number was 518 456, they have listed it as 518 465.

So think how scary this is. Three people in probably a month called to tell us that our phone number was wrong. Think about all the people who didn’t call us.

Think about the people who just stopped searching for our phone number. So these are the people who got a wrong number and still try to figure out how to call us. It scares me to think that we may have lost a certain number of new leads because our phone number was wrong on this website and it scared the heck out of me.

So what I did was I went to and I’m going to go back to this. Yext, Y-E-X-T, I listed some other options here, Moz Local and Whitespark is another directory kind of management tool. I like Yext for a lot of reasons, mostly because it shows you kind of directory by directory that they’ve matched them.

But basically what you do is you go in, you enter your information once, you make sure that it’s correct and what this service does is it goes out to all the directories and validates that your listing is accurate and that it’s consistent. Because what you don’t want is for… we talked about how important phone number consistency and address consistency is.

Simple things like we were located in Western Avenue, if it’s 1807 Western Ave, 1807 maybe we yet somehow someone picks up street or drive or boulevard or has avenue spelled out, in other places it’s just A-V-E. These are little tiny things that might feel inconsequential but to a machine like Google, they want to see consistency and the more consistency you have in all these directories the more domain authority they’re going to give you.

Now again, we’re talking slices of a pie. This is not something that all of a sudden tomorrow you’ll be ranked first on Google. That’s absolutely not the case. But this is just one slice of the pie that’s going to help move you up and it’s as simple as going on to Yext. There’s a fee to it. You choose which option you want.

I think it was $500 for the year and they go through all these directories and make sure that they’re all accurate and I thought it was money very, very well spent. And there’re others, Moz Local and other ones. You can choose which one you want. I use Yext and I do recommend I did have a good experience with them. Marty, anything to add on citations and directories as we kind of get to the end here? I’m going to kind of jump us off and look at some questions.

Marty: Just leave this slide up for one second. So if you look at sort of the high, the large text up by the light screen circles, that’s Acxiom. Acxiom is a huge data services provider and what you can see is they’ve got that light green circle and it’s feeding a number of different things but one of the arrows goes down into the right and we see yellowpages.com, that little yellow square there.

So going back to Ryan’s example, if the phone number were incorrect at yellowpages.com and you went and corrected your phone number at yellowpages.com, it could get overwritten the next time Yellow Pages refreshes their data. They’re getting their data from Acxiom and your phone number is actually potentially wrong at Acxiom and so what happens when they refresh the data, the Acxiom data comes down and overwrites the changes you’ve made.

That’s the reason that you want to use. You don’t have to by any sort of imagination, this is not rocket science, you can call these directories and go online and edit your profiles, that’s not a problem. But the services understand how to do this and they get right to the root of the problem right away. So it is money well spent, as Ryan said.

Ryan: Yeah. Okay. So now we’re going to get to questions. I’m going to jump back over and see what questions we have. So Jill asks, “When making a Google+ page for your agency, should I create an entire Google account or use my personal information?” Jill, in order to have a Google+ business page, you have to have a personal account.

But you don’t have to be on the Google+ account, you can just be an admin of it. So basically you would log in with your personal information and then in the top right corner of Google+ you can switch very seamlessly between accounts. So you can use it as your agency or you can use it as an individual.

Marty: Odds are good that your agency already has a local page. You just need to go in and claim it. Because remember, what Google is doing, they’re getting the buying from one of those big data services.

They’re buying all the business names and they’re creating pages. But until you go out and claim it yourself, it’s just out there and well, I don’t want to get into the details but there are nefarious types that are grabbing local accounts that haven’t been claimed. So go grab yours.

Ryan: All right. So any more questions from people? We’re getting like kind up to the hour mark. I hope every has enjoyed this. We still have a ton of people on the call, which is fantastic to see. So Michelle asks, “We have five Google+ pages. Any ideas on how to combine?” So you can actually go in and delete your pages.

You have to go into the settings and delete them. What you want to make sure is that you do not delete your primary page, you want one of those pages to be kind of your primary account. But you can walk through those and if you have trouble with that, again, ryan.hanley@trustedchoice.com and just send me if you have many more questions post this. Just send those to me and I will do my best to get back to you guys and answer all these questions or maybe we’ll even do kind of a wrap up post on Agency Nation where we’re answering some of these questions.

Let’s see. Okay. So we got some more questions rolling in. This is great to see. Paul says, “We have a few URLs that point to our main website. What URL should we use to optimize local SEO? The actual URL or the pointing URL or does it matter?” I’m not necessarily sure that I understand what you’re asking Paul. I think what you’re asking is like you have shortened the URLs? Paul, email me directly. I want to get a little better feel for what you’re asking and I 100% want to help you. Just in the context of us running out of time I don’t necessarily have a full grip but we could figure that out. I think I know what you’re asking and I’m happy to help so just shoot me an email, ryan.hanley@trustedchoice.com. Let’s see.

So then we have a follow up question. “Just to clarify, am I wasting time going into WordPress and pasting my huge paragraph and keywords into the keywords area of pages that need to happen within the text of each page?” Right, Lisa, that it’s absolutely 100%. The keyword section of like in WordPress that like keyword area underneath where you write your posts, it actually held zero value. Google doesn’t even look at it. It really has no value at all.

If you’re using a WordPress plug in like Yoast SEO which kind of helps you manage your SEO, all of that, that keyword area is not actually telling Google that that’s your keyword. What it’s doing is just help you better understand how that keyword is actually formatted in the post and Yost is a nice tool to do that.

But yes, pasting all those keywords into the keyword section is absolutely doing nothing for you today. That used to not be the case. So three or four years ago that was not the case. You needed to do that. Today Google is pulling those keywords from your actual post, from the actual content that you’re using. So I hope that helps.

Marty, we’re passed 1 o’clock. I think we’ve pretty much answered all the questions here. I want to thank everybody for coming. This has been incredible. We had almost 60 people on the call and on the show here. Again, you can go to agencynation.com/localseo. All one word. Agencynation.com/localseo. All one word.

You can get the e-book if you want and if you want to watch the replay, if you’re not already a member of the Pathfinder Content Library, if you’re on Agency Nation they’ll be right up on top. There will be a button that says Join. I can actually show you here real quick and that will allow you to join the content library. Right here you see Join, just click that. You can join the content library and have full access to the replay of this webinar at no cost. It’s free for the community. Marty, anything to finish up on?

Marty: Sure. If you haven’t claimed your trustedchoice.com profile we’ve got an address here for you – AgencyNation.com/Advantage

Ryan: Yup. So anyone who’s not aware, Agency Nation is completely powered by trustedchoice.com so if you have questions about trustedchoice.com reach out to Marty, reach out to myself.

We’re happy to answer but we’re delivering a tons of leads to agents and we’re happy to be doing that work. But regardless, if you’re a Trusted Choice agent or not, which you should be, either way you’ll always get Agency Nation webinars and stuff like this by being a member of the Pathfinder Content Library and we’re very, very happy to have you everybody.

Thank you and for Marty and myself we’re going to sign off guys. Take it easy.

Thank you and good luck,

Ryan Hanley

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