Local Search Engine Optimization (Local SEO) is a topic that’s tossed around quite frequently among insurance agents.
But even though most agents are familiar with SEO, many still don’t know how to put a strategy into action that makes a real impact online.
My goal with this post is to change that. Below I explain how agents should approach SEO to make the quickest and biggest impact to their chances of becoming discovered by prospects online.
It may run counter to what you’ve heard before – but it works.
Organic vs Local Search Engine Optimization
If you own an insurance agency and are looking to get noticed online, then you’re in luck. Several years ago Google made changes to their search algorithm that has given you an edge over larger direct carriers.
With these updates to the algorithm your basic web search is broken down into three categories: paid ads, organic websites, and local businesses. This graphic displays how each are displayed on a search for “home insurance” on Google in Iowa.
Local SEO aims to increase the likelihood that a nearby business directory listing (in contrast to website) will rank higher for people searching for products or services within a limited proximity.
Organic SEO aims to increase the likelihood that a company website will be discovered by people searching for relevant terms online, through non-paid means, and within a much broader proximity.
When approaching an SEO strategy, first think about the location of your target market. Are you focusing on prospects nationally, or do you operate locally?
A Laundromat, for example, would be “hard-pressed” to find clients interested in services in a distant state. On the other hand, online retailers usually welcome customers from all corners of the globe.
An organic SEO strategy will focus on things like link building, keyword enhancement, content creation, meta-tag optimization, etc.
The goal is to make a company website look so popular and attractive to search engines that it pops up near the top of search results when somebody searches for relevant terms. The drawback for insurance agencies is that organic search doesn’t take location into consideration when matching prospects with businesses.
Local SEO doesn’t pay as much attention to the company website.
It focuses rather on the official listing (think online phonebook) of the business.
The listing has information such as address, phone number, hours of operation, and customer reviews.
This listing is completely separate from the business website. Taking ownership of it, and optimizing its accuracy and reputation online, is the core of local SEO.
Local search considers the proximity a prospect is from a business, meaning local agencies are displayed first.
How Local Search Engine Optimization Works for Insurance
Companies that engage in organic SEO are competing on a large playing field. Ma-and-Pa insurance agencies are in direct competition with the like of Geico, Nationwide, etc.
Because these companies have deep pockets and dedicated SEO specialists it’s very difficult for insurance agencies to compete on this front.
An example of organic SEO is when someone searches for “why do I need homeowner’s insurance” there are hundreds, if not thousands of articles across the internet that answer that question.
It’s unlikely that a local insurance agency is going to rank on organic search on a topic like this. Rather their website will be buried somewhere near the bottom of an endless stack of competing websites.
With local SEO on the other hand, if someone searches for “homeowner’s insurance” on Google they are first going to be shown three insurance agencies located near them.
Because proximity is taken into consideration, those agencies that have a strong local SEO strategy will get a front row pass to eager prospects. Here’s how:
Proximity and Local SEO
Location, location, location.
Google places significant weight on the distance a search query is from a local business when determining search results. Most importantly, an insurance agent should have a physical address listed.
Some agencies are reluctant to list an address because they work from home, which is a mistake. You need an address if you want to want to be taken seriously in regard to online search.
NAP consistency means that a business’s Name, Address, and Phone number are uniform across the internet—with both online directories and websites—wherever your information is listed.
Search engines regularly collect information from all the nooks and crannies of cyberspace. This data is then stored for easy access when people perform searches online—this process is called web crawling. One of the things they are looking for is consistent information regarding businesses.
Even slight contrasts in a business name, address, or phone number will likely create duplicate listings online and throw off search engines.
For local SEO it’s important to always use your local address and phone number (rather than using toll free numbers).
NAP consistency is perhaps the easiest way to substantially increase your local SEO. There are great services out there such as Moz Local that can easily boost your NAP consistency for less than a hundred bucks per year, which is well worth it.
Similar to the old Yellow Pages, online directories operate within the framework of business categories.
So it’s important to get this right when setting up your agency on sites like Google and Bing. It should be pretty straight forward, but similar categories may present themselves which could be confusing.
Always choose the more local option. In other words, consider what a potential client would be searching for and pick that—e.g. insurance agency over insurance company.
Reviews across third-party websites are important on a couple fronts. First is the obvious social-proof element which helps people choose between competing businesses. An agency with several 5-star reviews will be chosen more often than the review-less agency.
Positive online reviews also increase the prominence of a business in the eyes of search engines—an important factor when determining search rankings. Google, for example, has tied their local review feature directly into the business listings themselves.
In regard to local SEO, search engines look at the quantity and frequency of online reviews. A single wave of reviews from a couple years back doesn’t do much good in regard to SEO. But a review every week or two will make a big difference.
At Rocket Referrals we designed our software to automatically collect reviews for our agencies because it is such an important element of improving online visibility.
Website / testimonials
Having a solid website is important for several reasons.
Google will scan the website to make sure it is reputable and consistent with the business listing – thus making it an important factor to local SEO. Moreover, the website serves as the first place an interested client often visits after scanning the online business listing.
If the homepage appears organized and attractive the prospect may either call, or fill out a contact online.
Don’t do all the work of pushing prospects to your business listing only to turn them off with a clunky website.
The interconnectedness of the internet encourages businesses to become active across several mediums. Social media is growing in importance as it begins to infiltrate search results outside its direct social network.
Similar to the website, having active social media sites will help the agency get seen online, and have an impact on its overall reputation.
For example, Facebook has recently implemented the ability for users to review local businesses which have more staying power than your ‘Shares’ or ‘Likes’.
Here is an example Facebook review:
Marketing Super Heroes and Creative Geniuses for Independent Insurance Agents!
Facebook’s business listings are also linked directly to common data aggregators and major search engines—reinforcing that they’re relevance is increasing with local search.
With all this talk of local SEO its common for insurance agencies to get overwhelmed and confused about how to implement much of this.
But the good news is most of it can be automated with services like Moz Local and Rocket Referrals.
We’d love to show you how we collect online reviews, testimonials, and social media shares for agents at the flip of a switch.
Learn more about Rocket Referrals and schedule a live demo here.
P.S. We’re proud to have Rocket Referrals as a Gold Sponsor of Elevate 2017. Get your ticket to Elevate 2017 today and meet the Rocket Referrals team in person…