On September 24, 2020, we held our next webinar in our new 20 Minute Marketing Webinar Series on How Your Local Listings Affect Your Website’s SEO.
How are local business listings important for SEO? Google reads and indexes websites and directories that store information about your business. The more you list your business online in reputable directories or make its presence known, the more search engines can use this data to analyze your business’ information, build trust, and rank you higher in search results.
Search engines crawl a variety of sources to compare with data they already have about your business. If you offer active, consistent, and detailed listings, search engines will consider your business a high value or worthy of their trust thereby ranking your agency website higher for insurance-related searches in your geographic area.
Watch the webinar to see how your insurance agency website’s SEO can be improved with properly managed local business listings.
Watch The Webinar
Spencer: Hi, everyone. Thanks so much for joining us this afternoon. My name’s Spencer Breidenbach. I’m a Sales Executive here at BrightFire. Thanks again for everyone attending our September webinar in our 20 Minute Marketing Webinar Series. We had a really great turnout for the first one last month focused on our agency website Sales Tool Suite. And don’t forget, if some of these conflicts with your schedules or things come up, you can always access all of the previous webinars on-demand by visiting brightfire.com/webinars.
The goal of our webinars is to provide you with digital marketing advice and discuss current digital marketing topics in a short 20-minute format. And then we’ll always have a Q&A session at the end to answer any additional questions from attendees.
So today, we’re going to focus on local business listings, also known in some places as citations, and talk about how this affects your website’s SEO.
If you have any questions at all during the webinar, feel free to send those on over using that Q&A feature you’ll see in your Zoom menu. If you haven’t used Zoom frequently, and look at that menu, you’ll see the two little speech bubbles and Q&A. So if you click on that, feel free just as questions come up, you guys can go ahead and send those on over as you think of them. And then we’ll be able to get through that at the end.
Also, as a reminder, today’s webinar is being recorded, so everyone will have it available on demand for future access.
Spencer: Before we get into local listings and SEO, here’s just a brief little bit of background on BrightFire.
We started providing insurance agency websites back in 2000. Over the years digital marketing became more and more prominent and that’s the go-to for tons of consumers. And we expanded our digital marketing services beyond just the websites that help clients and agents with things like lead generation through SEO, pay-per-click advertising, helping them get their local business listings all straightened out, and posting content for them on social media so they’re not sinking time into that every week. So presently we work with over 2,000 agencies across 48 states and that very first client that started with us back in 2000 in insurance is still working with us now. So with that little bit of background, let’s go ahead and get started.
What Are Local Business Listings?
Spencer: So from the beginning, I think it would be helpful to explain exactly what a local listing or citation is, just to avoid any confusion. So a local business listing, it’s an online profile that contains information about your business. So common, big things are your company name, physical address, phone number, and website address. These are on informational websites, things like Yelp, as well as business directories. Some important examples of business listings and directories include some household names like Apple Maps, Google My Business, Yelp, Yellow Pages. These are some of these big names that folks recognize.
Many consumers will often use some of those well-known listing directories in that buying process to research, and look at ratings for businesses near them. Search engines like Google and Bing also use these local business listings, including some listings you’ve never heard of because they want to verify that your business information is accurate and determine exactly where your physical office location or service area is. So for example, Localeze is a really big data aggregator out there. No consumer has ever heard Localeze, nobody’s going to Localeze to find a local agent, but Google and many other smaller online directories really value and trust Localeze for information. So they put a lot of stock into the consistency of what they can find on that, even though it’s not one that consumers are headed to a lot.
SEO and Local SEO
Spencer: So a big reason why you would want to care about your local listings is because of the impact that it has on your SEO. So SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s basically the practice of doing what search engines want to see in order to increase the quality and quantity of traffic that is getting into your website through showing up in these organic search results. Where you’re showing up on the basis of Google or Bing deciding, hey, this is a good result for what this person looked up versus advertising where you’re paying to cut in line to the very top.
SEO is one of the most valuable long-term lead generation strategies. However, there are over 200 ranking factors influencing how Google ranks your Insurance Agency Website. So I know it can be difficult to know where to start. Additionally, there are different factors in play when you’re considering your local SEO versus organic SEO, or what you can really think of as a national scope SEO. So local SEO, it’s a search engine optimization strategy that helps you be more visible in search results for things that Google’s determined to have a local intent. So examples of businesses that benefit from local SEO are things like restaurants, plumbers, doctors, and of course insurance agencies. So local SEO can help large agencies with a physical storefront as well as smaller agencies that don’t have that brick and mortar physical location.
So organic SEO affects your search results, which are not part of the local map, as well as that map pack that shows businesses on a map on that first page of search results. So you guys are familiar with, hey, I’m Googling pizza and then you see at the very top that little map inset and there’s some drop pins showing local pizza restaurants. That’s the section I’m talking about when we mentioned the local pack. So as an example, if somebody is searching for a dentist Google knows, hey, it’s not going to be useful to show a dentist that’s two hours away, or somebody across the country. Nobody’s going to do a two hour commute to get a teeth cleaning in the middle of the day, or drive a state away for a root canal.
But however, on the other hand, if somebody is searching for say a photo editing service and you Google photo editing local results won’t be highlighted since Google knows, hey, for this kind of business, somebody could hire a photo editor from a different state or even a different country and they’re going to be just as capable of taking care of that service irregardless of how close or far from you they are.
So in order for insurance agencies to be successful at local SEO, there are three big areas that need to be addressed. First, your website itself. Second, the number of online reviews that Google can find for you. Of course, because Google’s Google, they love their own reviews. Facebook and Yelp reviews are also sources that they trust a lot and pay attention to it in regards to SEO. And then our focus today is this third area for local business listings.
You may already be well aware that your agency website plays a big part of SEO and ranking since that’s really the element that gets discussed the most often. But many business owners we talk to don’t realize that online reviews and the local business listings are also really big factors that contribute to your agency website’s SEO and where you’re showing up. So in this webinar we’ll be focused on local business listings and the impact that they have. And then in a future webinar, we’ll take a look at online reviews and the impact that those have.
How Are Local Listings Important For SEO?
Spencer: So how are local business listings important for SEO? As a local business you can understandably feel, hey, there’s little point investing time and money in my online presence. If you do a quick search for auto insurance and you see who’s competing against you like Geico and Allstate for rankings. So that might be true when it comes to some searches, but for a local search, it’s really a different ball game. Both Google, as well as the actual insurance shoppers recognize the value of using local businesses for certain industries like insurance. So within the insurance space, Google’s got a specific set of local ranking factors that it uses to determine whether or not your business is relevant both geographically, distance-wise like we were talking about, and also service wise to a searcher.
Google knows if somebody searches “Medicare broker”, they’re not going to say, “Oh. Hey, here’s this place that does P&C insurance. We’ll show this website focused on homeowner’s insurance to them.” It’s looking for context and the specific kind of policy that that person is shopping for. So Google reads and indexes websites and directories that store information about your business. The more you list your business online in these reputable directories, and help make its presence known, the more the search engines can use that data and analyze your businesses info, build trust in you, and rank you higher in those search results.
Search engines crawl a variety of sources to compare what data that they already have about your business. So if you have active, consistent, and detailed listings, these search engines will consider your business a high value or more worthy of their trust, thereby ranking you higher for specific insurance related searches in your local area.
So local business listings play a very important role in local SEO for insurance agencies. It’s a big piece of information Google and Bing use to decide, hey, what do we have to go off of and what we know about this agency just besides their website itself? So consistency and accuracy for your business listings information are key in order to really enjoy the benefits that having local listings brings to your search engine optimization.
Keys to Proper Local Listings
Spencer: There are four crucial pieces of information that should be accurate and 100% absolutely consistent on all of your local listings – your company name, physical address, and phone number. And you’ll see these referred to as your NAP, which stands for Name, Address, Phone. So NAP consistency should be seen as very baseline foundational. That kind of data is really critical for search engines to trust your brand and make sure that no matter how consumers are finding you, they can easily connect with your agency.
The next really crucial piece of information is your website link or URL. Your website is where you house all of the important info about what you do, how you do it, and where. So therefore, your website also should have the exact same information as your local listings when it comes to name, address, phone number. For your agency website, it is really key to make sure that it’s formatted to include the HTTPS or HTTP at the beginning if your website doesn’t have an SSL certificate and that ://www and have the link match up perfectly.
The third thing is your company description. Search engines like Bing and Google, and some other directories have specific fields where you can describe your business. That’s really there to help give consumers a better idea of what you’re all about, and show them why you’re the right insurance company for their needs. Your company description must be unique and accurate. You want it to be very straightforward and not overly salesy.
Lastly, images such as staff photos, photos of your building, your logo, et cetera, that kind of stuff is also crucial to your listing. if you use the photos of your staff and office, that will help people more easily recognize your brand. Hey, these guys are local to me. They’re not some abstract agency, some unknowable thing. They’re real folks just like me, they’re local to me. So never use stock photos here, as consumers really want authentic info about your business and who you are. Not all of the listings allow for images. So it is important to take advantage of them on listings that allow for that.
So those four pieces of info again are crucial. And really you want to make sure they’re consistent and accurate across all of your local listings. And when we say consistent, we mean identical. Letter for letter, word for word. Variations in street names, abbreviations, or company names for example, you want to avoid that.
Make Sure You’re Not Seeing Double
Spencer: So duplicate listings can be a huge problem for businesses that don’t have adequate listings management. You need to make sure that you don’t have any duplicate listings. Anytime that there’s more than one duplicate listing present, more than one listing on a given site representing a single location, that’s considered having a duplicate listing. Duplicate listings within the same directory will negatively impact your business info accuracy as well as your SEO.
Duplicate listings can happen at any business and if you’re not actively managing your listings, it’s highly likely that’s something that’s going on. They’re even more likely if your agency’s ever changed ownership in the past, or changed the company name, or phone number, or moved from one office suite to another one. Duplicate listings can make it difficult for prospects to find you as well, and hurt your local search engine ranking since Google is not able to confirm your business info. Hey, okay, we see two phone numbers out there, we have no idea which one’s right. So that’s dinging that reliability of this agency’s info to us. It’s really crucial to find and remove those duplicate listings for better SEO.
Keeping Up with Multiple Locations
Spencer: If your agency has multiple locations, you’ll want to make sure each location has its own unique set of listings. So consistency still applies here, but on a bigger scale. Each location needs to get treated as a separate online presence, even if they’re all listed on the same agency website.
On your agency website, make sure each location has a dedicated page with complete contact info. it can get a little more complicated for multi-location insurance agencies, but local listings are something that has to be done to improve your local SEO if you want to achieve the best lead generation possible from local SEO. For example with this agency, if they were only doing local listings for this one location, Google is going to see that individual agency and its location. It may show up well here, but if these other two are neglected, they’re missing out on having those show up to searchers farther out here, close to those two offices.
Spencer: Another major issue we see a lot is unclaimed listings, which is the failure to claim existing listings that are already published and visible online. That’s right. Listings are created on many directories without the actual involvement of the business owner. For instance, Google My Business listings are often auto-generated by info that’s readily available to Google. This means the business owner might not be aware that the listing exists. Since the owner is not touching that information, that also increases the likelihood that there’s incorrect information in there. Unclaimed listings with incorrect info are common for agencies that have been in business for many years because while Google’s good at piecing together info on a business to create a listing, it’s not always the most up-to-date info that gets displayed. So claiming any existing listings is critical to get things consistent and accurate.
Claiming that listing also allows the business owner to optimize the listing and add more details about the business. For example, when you have a claimed listing, the business can ensure that their company name, and address, and phone number, and their website address are 100% accurate.
Agency Information on Carrier Websites
Spencer: Another group of websites we encounter with our agents that contribute to local SEO are the agent profile pages on insurance carrier websites. You can do a search for your agency’s name in Google to find existing carrier listings about your agency. A few popular carriers who provide that kind of thing include Progressive, Safeco, Travelers, and Farmers. It’s really important that these listings have the exact same contact information as your website and your local listings.
This example I have here from Travelers includes the agency’s name, address, phone number, and the link out to their website. Correcting the contact information on carrier listings is outside of what BrightFire provides in our local listing service, but we like to point this out to agents, so that they’re aware and can contact their carrier to get that corrected.
Other Benefits of Local Business Listings
Spencer: There are several other benefits of maintaining your local business listing properly. There’s additional opportunities to show up in search results. The more reputable business directories you add yourself to, the more frequently your agency information’s going to appear in search results. So think of each local listing as an additional website for your business. You want to make sure it’s up to date, that it’s got plenty of pictures of your agency, and provides accurate contact info. So therefore, having a listing on each of these reputable sites means your agency’s going to appear more frequently in Google or Bing’s local search.
It also can increase your brand awareness and reach. The more reputable listings are published online for your agency, the better chance there is that potential customers are going to be able to find you. That’s because listings increase your online presence and brand awareness across multiple websites that have trust and authority to consumers.
Local listings also provide inbound links to your website. Most of those local directories allow business owners to add a link to their website. So with the help of that link, you can actually improve the ranking of your website since high quality back links are one of the things that search engines are using to determine how trustable and how much authority your website has.
Listings also help you with receiving any customer reviews and enhancing your reputation. Several of the major business directories like Yelp, for example, include customer reviews and serve as a trusted source of customer feedback for prospects. So online customer reviews for your agency further improve your SEO. Because like we touched on a little earlier, reviews is another signal that they’re looking for to see that a business is active, that it’s credible, and that it’s trusted by consumers, and worthy of trust.
Ways to Manage Your Local Business Listings
Spencer: So there are several ways to manage your local listings. It’s absolutely a necessity regardless of how you decide to go about it. If you’re not managing that online presence, then leaving it up to chance and missing out on additional lead sources and better SEO. So there’s three big ways that you can tackle this. Of course, like anything, all of them have their pros and cons.
So the DIY in-house, that do-it-yourself option of adding your business data to directories on your own can seem easy enough. It is fairly easy if you’re tech-savvy for some of the well-known consumer-facing directories, but you’ll soon find out how many directories there are and begin to understand how complicated and time consuming it can get to set up everything properly, and manage that on an ongoing basis.
Plus there are some directories that either don’t let you add directly to them, or that’ll let you add your business for a small fee, which can add up when there’s 20, 30, 40 directories that you have to do that for. So while it is possible to claim and manage your own local listings in the hopes of saving some money, doing that listings management typically becomes a time-consuming effort that can cost more in the long run when you consider the opportunity cost of your time versus focused on sales calls or things like that. And oftentimes we see this end up an incomplete project.
A second big way to go about is DIY software or DIY service. Manually updating individual websites and directories with a DIY service, Yext is a really popular one. This can definitely be another attractive option. However, it still requires significant and sometimes tedious work by the staff or agency, or the owner themselves and you’ll still be on your own to navigate the technical aspects of local listings.
Those services will save you some time over the in-house DIY option, but it’ll still require your time involvement throughout the year and may not provide exactly what you’re looking for time-wise.
The marketing service provider is a good fit if you’re not thrilled about the idea of learning another software tool or spending your time hunting for your listings and keeping them updated online. There are tons of services like ourselves that work on that. There are hundreds of digital marketing firms that focus on local marketing and often provide local listing management. BrightFire falls into that category as a marketing service provider. But the difference between BrightFire and others is that we only work with insurance agencies and manage everything from beginning to end.
How BrightFire Provides Local Listings
Spencer: So to use our listing service, we just need one initial setup call that takes about 30 minutes and then we take care of all of the initial setup work, as well as all the ongoing time involvement that’s needed.
We provide our Local Listings Management service or both as a standalone option and as a part of our Ultimate SEO Bundle service. So our local listings management service includes updating all your existing listings. And we target 40+ of the most important local listing sites. If you’re missing from some of those places, we’ll create a new listing for your agency there. We’ll also remove any current duplicate listings. We’ll claim any of your unclaimed listings out there across those aforementioned listings that Google really cares about. Then we’ll continuously monitor those listings, updating things when needed, and make sure any new duplicate listings get removed. And finally, we’ll send you a monthly report so you’ll always know exactly what’s going on and the status of these items.
Our Ultimate SEO Bundle includes three services. Which like we were talking about at the beginning, these make up the three big components required for local SEO – your Insurance Agency Website itself, Reviews & Reputation Management, and the local listings that we’ve been discussing.
How to Get Started
Spencer: Pricing for our standalone Local Listing Management service is $40 per month. The Ultimate SEO Bundle is $190 per month, which includes a $30 per month discount compared to the total price if you were just doing the three services on their own.
Our digital marketing services don’t have any setup fees or contracts and include a 30 day money back guarantee.
As a thank you for attending today, we’re offering a $50 promo to webinar attendees. So you can receive a $50 account credit by enrolling in the Local Listings Management service or the Ultimate SEO Bundle. And that promo ends September 30th.
To get started with a Local Listings Management or the Ultimate SEO Bundle from BrightFire, please visit our website at brightfire.com or feel free to reach out and speak with an expert at (888) 778-4393.
And that concludes our presentation on How Local Business Listings Affect Your Website’s SEO.
Spencer: We’ll go ahead and start that Q&A now. So, if anyone has any questions on local business listings or SEO, feel free to send those on over. We’ll do our best to answer any questions that come through. And if we don’t address your particular question during the webinar, someone from BrightFire will follow up with you via email later to answer your questions.
Let me pull up, it looks like we’ve got a few that folks have sent over.
Okay. So someone asks: if I currently have another vendor that provides my local listing service. Is it okay if I also use BrightFire on top of that?
So we highly don’t recommend having multiple providers for local listings management. So it would be in your best interest to select just one provider to work with. Of course, we’re happy to take over management if you’ve got an existing vendor and you want to switch over and do something different, we can definitely take over management of those listings for you.
And then another one that was sent over: I don’t have a physical office location, can I still use a local listing service?
So yeah, as a business without a brick and mortar store front, there are some directories you can’t be listed in without having that publicly listed business address. But there are tons of reputable directories that don’t require you to have a brick and mortar storefront address.
Next question: Once a business listing is fixed with the right information, why do I need to monitor it?
So, unfortunately it isn’t quite that simple. The info that you use to populate your local business listings comes from many different sources. So if you decide to stop managing those listings, typically you’ll see that accuracy slowly degrade over time like rocks being eroded at the beach. It’s going to stay good for a certain length of time, but since there’s so many sources where Google and other big aggregators just automatically pull that info, the longer it goes, the more likelihood you’re going to see errors and issues snowball up.
So in addition, various data providers will eventually create new duplicate business listings that need to get removed in order to protect your SEO value of that work you’ve been doing. So whether you already have existing business listing duplicates when you enroll, or that becomes an issue down the road, we’d work to remove all of those.
And we have another question: Do we (BrightFire) offer any automatic link for reviews to send to clients?
Yes, our agency websites feature a Write-A-Review page that includes links to leave a review on Google, Facebook, and Yelp. So a lot of clients like to incorporate that in email signatures, or train CSRs, hey, if somebody’s super happy with us on the phone, please, strike while the iron’s hot and ask if they wouldn’t mind if we sent them that link.
And additionally, our Reviews and Reputation Management service includes a survey that’ll get a Net Promoter Score where in each policyholder that you survey, in addition to rating your agency on a 1 to 10 scale, they’re given the opportunity to leave a direct review for you on Google or Facebook or Yelp.
Spencer: Oh. A great question that we’ve got. What is the difference between reviews and testimonials, and which one is more digitally beneficial?
So that’s a great question. And we’ll address this really in depth in that upcoming webinar, but basically the gist of it, testimonials, or if somebody sent something over an email or we’ll see a lot of people using proprietary systems, hey, I’ve got a review widget for my website. People leave reviews for me in the review widget, but they’re not publicly listed online anywhere. Consumers don’t know what review widget is.
And then with online reviews, we’re typically talking about things like Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp, where all of those reviews are publicly visible. And then to leave a review in the first place that consumer has to have an actual verified account there because that helps control on, hey, there’s not tons of fake review entries everywhere.
Those kinds of reviews for consumers, they’re a lot more meaningful. So I know when I’m shopping, if I see like, hey, here’s this plain text testimonial from Bob Smith on this website, sometimes I’m like, “Hmm, is Bob Smith a real person? Did they just type this on their site themselves?” But when you see these verified Google reviews, here’s a Yelp review from somebody who’s flagged as a local guide because Yelp thinks they’re super helpful, that tends to carry a lot more weight.
From an SEO perspective, those kinds of online reviews are also way more helpful versus testimonials. So if you’ve got testimonials you’ve typed manually onto your site, or that are getting collected into a proprietary review system, Google doesn’t really know that they’re out there. But the big trusted ones like Yelp and Facebook, and again, of course the Google My Business reviews, Google sees those and those have a lot more validity behind them to Google as far as SEO goes.
Spencer: Thanks so much for sending those questions over folks. It looks like we got to everyone. Again we’ll follow up with you separately if there’s anything that we didn’t have a chance to get to.
Thanks so much for attending guys. Really appreciate you taking time out of your day.
Again, I’d love to remind you that our next webinar coming up is on improving your knowledge of Pay-Per-Click Advertising and how that can be used to boost your lead generation while still staying cost-effective. That will be held on Thursday, October 29th, 2:00 PM Eastern 11:00 AM Pacific time.
Then in November, we’re going to be talking about ADA compliance risks for agency websites. So we’ll discuss what ADA compliance means for insurance agency websites, the benefits of having an accessible site, recent legal activity involving ADA website compliance, and how we work to address ADA compliance. That one’s going to be on Wednesday, November 18th at 2:00 PM, Eastern or 11:00 Pacific again.
You can reserve those spots for those webinars by visiting our webinars page on our website at brightfire.com/webinars.
So that does it for today. And for me and the rest of our BrightFire team, we’d really like to thank you all for attending and hope we see you next time. Thank you.