Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most valuable long-term lead generation strategies. Yet, with over 200 ranking factors influencing how Google will rank your website and two different forms for SEO, Local SEO and National/Organic SEO, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Local SEO is a search engine optimization strategy that helps your agency gain visibility in search results for a service that Google determines to be provided locally or in a specific geographic area.
In order for insurance agencies to be successful at local SEO, there are three areas that need to be addressed:
- Your Agency Website
- Online Reviews
- Local Business Listings (Citations)
You may already be aware that the agency website is a part of SEO and rankings since that’s often the most discussed element of SEO, but many business owners don’t realize that online reviews and local business listings also greatly contribute to your SEO.
In this webinar, we discuss the necessary components to successful SEO for insurance agency websites.
Watch the Webinar
Kevin Dorgan: Good afternoon, First Choice Agents Alliance members. Kevin Dorgan here. I’m pleased to have Spencer Breidenbach from BrightFire. BrightFire does insurance agency marketing and websites specifically (and only for) insurance agencies. With that introduction, Spencer, it’s all you.
Spencer: Hey, Kevin, and good afternoon to all the FCAA members. Thanks so much for joining us today. As Kevin mentioned, my name is Spencer. I’m a Sales Executive at BrightFire. In this presentation, you’ll receive an overview of local SEO strategies for insurance agencies. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll walk away with some takeaways that will help you improve what you’re doing with your own local SEO strategy.
Spencer: Before we get into the specifics of local SEO, we’ll quickly cover what we do at BrightFire, our relationship with the FCAA, and a little bit on the different components of what Google and Bing look for regarding local SEO in today’s marketplace. Then, we’ll do a deep dive into local SEO, and we’ll finish up with a Q&A at the end, so we can make sure to address any questions that come up along the way today.
Spencer: BrightFire originally started out building general business websites in 2000. One of those websites in the first year was a local insurance agency. We soon saw that we were getting a lot of referrals from other agencies, and we really liked working with insurance agents. As agencies across the country started finding us, we decided, hey, let’s just specialize in this one vertical and only do insurance.
Spencer: Over the years, as the digital marketing needs of insurance agents grew beyond, “Hey, I need a website,” we’ve added on new services like Reviews and Reputation Management, and Social Media Marketing. We help a lot of clients with pay-per-click advertising or social media ads and Local Listings Management.
Spencer: With over 2,000 agencies in 48 states, and that first insurance agency client we got back in 2000 is still working with us today. Our relationship with the FCAA began in early 2020. We’ve been really excited to have the opportunity to help FCAA members grow their business with digital marketing and bring you guys educational webinars like this one today. With that background on BrightFire and our relationship with the FCAA, let’s go ahead and get started.
Spencer: But before we discuss SEO, it would be really helpful to define SEO and specifically local SEO. SEO stands for search engine optimization, which is the practice of increasing the quality and quantity of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. It’s basically building Google’s trust in your website and your agency. So Google says, “Hey, Bob Smith is searching ‘auto insurance’ or ‘Medicare,’ or what have you. We feel like we know a lot about this local insurance agency and are confident this is going to be a good result for this search. So, let’s show it higher up on that first page of search results.”
Spencer: But effective SEO is about more than just getting the rankings and the traffic to your site. It’s about getting the right kind of traffic by increasing your rankings for the right words. So if somebody only does personal lines, it’s not doing you any good if all kinds of folks find you looking up “business insurance” or different types of policies you aren’t in doing business in.
Spencer: SEO is one of the biggest, most valuable long-term strategies for lead generation, but there are over 200 different factors that Google looks at that influences how your insurance agency website ranks. And there are two different forms of SEO – local SEO and national SEO. So there’s a lot of information to know, and it can be difficult to know where to start and what to focus on.
Spencer: Local SEO is a search engine optimization strategy that helps insurance agents be more visible in search results for a service that Google has determined is a local service or something that only applies to a specific geographic area. For example, this applies to businesses such as restaurants, coffee shops, plumbers, and insurance agencies. So, if Bob Smith searches, “dentist,” Google knows it’s not going to be helpful to show him a dentist that’s two hours away or a business across the country. People searching online want to say, “Hey, I’m looking for a dentist. This is somebody I can feasibly go visit in person quickly for this appointment.” So local SEO is going to help both large agencies that are located in physical, brick-and-mortar, traditional locations, as well as smaller agencies that may work remotely or work from home.
Spencer: National or organic SEO, on the other hand, is for non-localized businesses or services that don’t need to be provided in-person or on a local level. As another example, if somebody were to Google search, “photo editing,” local results aren’t going to be highlighted in Google. This is because you could hire somebody from a different state or even a different country who’d be able to help you just as well with photo editing as somebody two blocks away in a strip mall.
Spencer: In order for insurance agencies to be successful at local SEO, there are three big areas that need to be addressed. There’s your insurance agency website itself, your reviews from customers online, and then your local business listings. A lot of times you’ll see that referred to as citations. You may already be well aware that the agency website is a big part of SEO, and ranking in that is the part that gets discussed the most often. But many times, business owners don’t realize that the online reviews on those local listings also are big contributors to your overall SEO. So in the next few slides, we’ll walk through and dive deeper into each of these three big factors.
Spencer: With regard to your website, it’s important to identify some of the key factors that go into SEO. First, your website must be more than mobile-friendly to compete in 2020. It’s got to be mobile responsive. What that means is that your website can detect what kind of device visitors are using to view your website. Knowing that it then formats your website so it will still look great and be usable, no matter if that person is looking at it on a phone, a tablet, or on a traditional desktop computer. If your website is not mobile responsive, there’s not really any point in putting energy into anything else about your SEO. This is because Google has officially stated that they recommend mobile responsive websites over anything else. So, a mobile responsive website would be a really key starting point to make sure the SEO element is addressed. Then, we can dive deeper into more.
Spencer: The next big thing regarding your website that you’d want to consider is performance. How quickly your website loads is an important ranking factor. That doesn’t mean you need to get a perfect score if you go on one of the load speed testing tools online, but it does mean you want to make sure it’s loading quickly.
Spencer: Once those foundations are in place, you want to consider the hierarchy or structure of the pages that make up your site, as well as the navigation, the menus, and what links are there, emphasizing your home page. It’s important for the content to make sense from a structural, hierarchical standpoint and be really easy for your visitors to locate, thinking, “I’m trying to do this task. This is what I should click on. This is where I need to go next.”
Spencer: Another important aspect of SEO on your site is your page titles. Meta descriptors used to be big for SEO, but they’re no longer a factor that Google is looking at. However, they still are important. Both the page titles and meta descriptions are displayed when you’re looking at a page of search results. So those meta descriptions influence how many people say, “This is exactly what I’m looking for. Let me click here,” and then they wind up on your website versus just continuing to scroll through the search results.
Spencer: Next, headings can be thought of as the outline of each page of content. It’s a way to emphasize certain statements. The proper use of headings is key to SEO, as well as producing quality content that’s going to read well to your visitor. On Google’s end, it’s also helping give the search engine the data it needs to understand what is important on each webpage. Google’s algorithms are very smart – sometimes so smart that it’s creepy – but it still needs some breadcrumbs to really be able to figure out what’s going on. What is this website trying to emphasize? What’s this business’ real specialization, and what areas do they service?
Spencer: Content, the text verbiage on your website, is also fundamental to SEO. It’s really important to talk about what your agency has to offer and the things that make you unique or differentiate you from your competitors. Unique content carries more weight with Google as far as showing up well in search results outside of the local pack.
Spencer: We’ll reference the local pack a few times today, but it’s basically when you do a search, like for auto insurance or a restaurant, you’ll see that little map inset up at the top of the page. It’ll have different drop pins highlighting, a car dealership down the road, your local insurance agency, that kind of thing. It’s showing somebody on a Google Maps layout where nearby businesses are highlighted.
Spencer: Finally, it’s really important that you update your insurance agency website regularly. A few ways to keep your website’s content fresh is through regular blog posts, making sure that your carrier appointments are up to date, and keeping a staff directory that gets updated as folks come and go. If you repost content, like reposting a blog from a carrier or a content library that you’re signed up for, it’s important to use canonical tags to reference the original owner of that content. Other steps you can take to keep things fresh and keep Google satisfied are things like highlighting promotions or time-sensitive resources. In addition, a lot of clients right now are posting updates about COVID-19 locally.
Spencer: And now, the big thing. We’re getting into the off-site elements that Google looks at. Local business listings, which again, you’ll see often referred to as citations. These are online, informational websites and directories. They contain information about your business, such as your name, address, phone number, website address, business hours, and other data. Some of these listings we’re talking about are household names, including MapQuest, Yellow Pages, and Foursquare. Then other types of these are big data aggregators. For example, I don’t know of any consumers who have heard of Localeze or Hotfrog. Nobody’s going there to find a local agent, but Google really trusts the quality of their data. So, that’s why you want to make sure that you’re also represented on these data aggregators.
Spencer: Those local listings also help you rank in that local pack, with the maps and drop pins we were talking about earlier. Google checks all your local listings for that consistent NAP, which stands for name, address, phone number. Google’s also checking the website address that’s shown on your listings, and they can detect duplicate listings. So if you’ve got a listing from this old business address you had two years ago, and have since moved, a lot of times you can end up with duplicates. Then, Google says, “Hey, wait a minute. What’s going on here? There are two different things claiming the same business name and website, but that info is not consistent.”
Spencer: What we see often at BrightFire, then, is that a lot of agencies we talk to when they start working with us have duplicate or outdated listings with incorrect information that they’re not always aware of. These listings that we’re talking about can be created by more than just an individual at a particular insurance agency. They can also get created (as in the case of Yelp) by a client trying to leave a review, or they can be made by an insurance carrier. A listing network can also decide, “We trust Hotfrog’s aggregator. So we see this information about Smith Insurance. Let’s just pull that info in automatically and choose what we think we know about that business.” Since there are so many sources for new listings to get created and new info out there that you didn’t necessarily generate yourself, it’s really important to monitor your listings and check for duplicates or old information that creeps back in and is not accurate.
Spencer: Additionally, these listings create valuable backlinks. Backlinks are Google’s way of seeing pages on Yelp and various databases and aggregators that are all pointing back to your website. Because Google knows all of these directories are super reputable, that helps Google believe an agency’s website is also reputable.
Spencer: Online customer reviews are the last of the big three elements of SEO. Online reviews from Google, Yelp, and Facebook will help boost your SEO with respect to that local pack. The map insets we were talking about earlier or Google reviews are the most helpful. It’s important to generate those reviews on a regular basis and respond to your reviews, as both of those actions boost your local SEO. Many times, clients like to leave a quick “thank you,” or, “great talking with you the other week,” when they receive a new four or five-star review. However, if anybody ever leaves you a negative review, it’s also great to respond for SEO. In addition, if consumers see that an agent responded super professionally to a negative review and was trying to help them, they’ll tend to think, “Oh, okay. This probably reflects more on the person who wrote this nasty review versus the actual business. I can see they’ve got a really good reputation. They tried to reach back out to that customer and make things right.”
Spencer: Now, we all know that showing up on the first page of the search results isn’t the be-all, end-all goal. As an insurance agent, you need somebody to decide to actually reach out after they find you. People seeing you in Google search results doesn’t do any good; instead, you need actual prospects that you can quote and hopefully close. So, in addition to SEO itself, online reviews also influence the click-through rate from people looking at the search result page and winding up on your website. Having a substantial number of reviews and a strong overall rating can definitely help increase traffic to your website from that local pack of search results, where your review total and your average rating are displayed.
Spencer: We often see agencies using a service that helps reviews, but a lot of times these have a proprietary system, meaning they’re not generating more Google, Facebook, or Yelp reviews for you. They’re a third-party system. They might say, “We’re using a review widget, but when a client leaves a review for us, it’s not going out there on the internet where Google can see it. It’s only staying in ReviewNet’s dashboard that we can see the results.” This is an important distinction because each review that you gain with a service like that can be seen as a missed opportunity, since that review could have been left on Google and Facebook or Yelp where it would have had a much bigger impact.
Spencer: Google looks at specifically the big three – Google, Yelp, and Facebook – for SEO. Additionally, consumers recognize those brands, and they trust their verified reviews. Many people look to those as a go-to, thinking, “My friend recommended this business, but let me go and see what I can find for Yelp reviews or Google reviews before I reach out and commit.”
Spencer: You may have also seen reviews in the past for your agency that were marked as being from a local guide. That’s another reason why it’s key to build your reviews on these kinds of known credible networks, because some of your policies may be designated as a local guide on Yelp or Google. When they give you a rating and have that local guide status, their opinion of your agency is really going to stand out and carry additional weight as opposed to somebody who doesn’t have that status.
Spencer: For more information and helpful tips on generating reviews and managing your brand reputation, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to online reviews for insurance agencies on how to ask for, manage, and utilize reviews as you get them, help your agency grow, and protect that reputation. I encourage you to check out the ultimate guide, as it’s free for anybody to access.
Spencer: Now let’s bring together what we’ve gone through today and zero in on some key takeaways, understanding that local SEO isn’t influenced solely by your insurance agency website. First, you need a mobile responsive website, a blog that’s getting fresh content added each week, and a website that’s managed by professionals and kept up to date.
Spencer: Second, you want accurate and consistent business listings out there. There are over 40 directories and sites that Google really looks at for this, and it can be really time-consuming trying to manage all of your listings. However, you can hire an insurance marketing agency like BrightFire to update and conduct a comprehensive audit on all those citations for you. That way you know your business information is regularly reviewed and corrected.
Spencer: Lastly, for online reviews, it’s important to have a holistic strategy. You’re generating reviews regularly, responding to them in a timely fashion, and reaching back out to engage with anybody leaving a negative review to try and resolve their experiences. Doing so demonstrates to people seeing those negative reviews that you care about each customer experience and want to make things right. You can monitor the review sites yourself and handle each review internally, or you can utilize outside resources, like BrightFire, who take care of that element of SEO for you.
Spencer: You may be asking, how do we do SEO at BrightFire? We offer an Ultimate SEO Bundle, which addresses each of the big three factors we’ve talked about today that go into local SEO. Its price is just $190 per month, with no startup fee. Additionally, all of our services are also available individually so we can be as flexible as possible for our clients that may have specific needs. When you purchase a service individually, our Insurance Agency Websites cost $100 per month, Reviews and Reputation Management costs $80 per month, and Local Listings Management costs $40 per month.
Spencer: That concludes our presentation on local SEO for insurance agencies. I’d love to go ahead and start the Q&A sessions if anyone has any questions on SEO or any of those three big factors we talked about that goes into ranking on Google.
Kevin Dorgan: I have some questions to ask. But before I ask my questions, if you are viewing this and you have a question, please put it into the question dialogue box within the GoToWebinar platform. So, if I have a website with another company, can I still use your SEO services?
Spencer: Yes, absolutely. That’s a good question. That’s part of why we have all of these services broken up individually. We talk to folks who say, “Hey, I just spent $5,000 with a local web agency to do our website. We’re not looking to redo that right now.” We can still certainly help them with these offsite factors, conducting services like Local Listings Management, or Reviews and Reputation Management that we have talked about.
Kevin Dorgan: Cool. Next, rebranding is everything for the transition from exclusive to independent agents. Historically, Nationwide has owned the Google business listing for all of the Nationwide agents. Agents have to request to transfer account ownership over to themselves, and they do that on an individual basis.
Kevin Dorgan: Part of that – for any agents who want to do that but haven’t yet – you want to send an email to EA search, firstname.lastname@example.org, and ask to transfer primary ownership, not just ownership, to you and provide them a Gmail address.
Kevin Dorgan: Once you have the ownership of it, a lot of questions I get – and I assume BrightFire does, too – is, “I don’t want Nationwide to be my business listing name anymore, but I still want to be found when people search for ‘Nationwide Insurance’ in my market.” How does BrightFire address that?
Spencer: That’s a good question. Yes, that does come up for us a lot, too. We’ve been working with a lot of folks over the past few years making that jump from Nationwide. So we can definitely help. And like Kevin mentioned, it’s great to have just your own name, such as, “We’re Smith Insurance now. We’re not Nationwide-Smith Insurance.” That way, people see that you’re an independent insurance agent. They then say, “This isn’t just a Nationwide office I’m reaching out to, where I’m only going to get one quote from one carrier.” We can still highlight their branding and mention a carrier in the content of their website, because we do have a lot of clients who say, “We’re an independent shop, but 80% of our volume’s through this one carrier.” Then, Google still sees that an independent insurance agency specializes in Nationwide or another carrier they may want to emphasize locally.
Kevin Dorgan: You talked about directory listings and submitting those to all of the online directories. When Nationwide owns the listings, they will still submit them for agents who want to utilize their service and who have the elite contract, which is the majority of agents. Nationwide uses Yext to distribute those online directory listings. What do you recommend? Should an agent who uses BrightFire discontinue Nationwide’s listing service?
Spencer: Yext is a common directory out there. And we’re not going to make you use our service just to use it. But it’s essentially two different approaches. Using services like Yext is like going to Home Depot and saying, “I’m going to rent a wet saw and buy the tile, the grout, and the mortar and tile my bathroom myself.” Yext offers a dashboard for the agent to leverage, but agents still have to go in there regularly and check listings to make sure all areas are correct and fixed. The way we do the listings is like having a tile contractor come in and take care of it and clean up after themselves. With BrightFire, you’re not spending time checking and fixing listings. One of our employees goes in there for you each month and reviews everything.
Kevin Dorgan: Cool. With the ownership of a Google listing, one thing that Google lets you do is post content. They encourage you to post to your Google account once a week. Is that something that can be done through BrightFire, or do agents need to do that on their own?
Spencer: Oh, good question. That is part of our Social Media Marketing service. We help a lot of clients by posting on their Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google My Business accounts. Not a lot of insurance marketing agencies out there seem to be doing that right now. Besides Google liking that for SEO, that is also a great way to differentiate yourself. If somebody’s looking at Google listings for a few different agencies and sees Smith Insurance posts regular updates and photos of things going on in the office, that’s a great differentiator to help your agency stand out. If you want to post content on your own, you’re free to, but BrightFire can definitely help you post content automatically every week with our social media service.
Kevin Dorgan: The other piece that you can do within your Google account, and you do it actually through the Google My Business app on your cell phone, is to create a “Request A Quote” button. If anybody hasn’t done that to your business listing, send me an email, and I’ll send you some very easy instructions on how to do that through your cell phone. As Spencer said, it’s another differentiator. I would say 99% of the insurance agency Google business listings I look at don’t have that set up.
Kevin Dorgan: So, the more content you put out there, the more Google is probably going to love you. The other piece that Spencer talked about was on receiving reviews, and that’s extremely important. One of the vendors who does review management is trying to sell First Choice on getting our members to use their services. And they use an insurance agency example where they bragged that they had 122 reviews. Well, I went into that listing, and they didn’t respond. That agency they’re using as an example did not respond to any of them. So, to me, that’s losing credibility. I take the time to review your insurance agency, but you don’t take the time to respond. But, maybe responding to reviews isn’t even available on that vendor’s platform.
Kevin Dorgan: We just want to point out how important responding to reviews is, as well as paying attention to our First Choice newsletter. You’re going to see instructions from me on how to embed the Google review link into your email signature. This is a very easy way to get more Google reviews. I’m not seeing any questions. My questions have been answered. So, with that, Spencer, thank you.
Spencer: Thank you, all, for attending, and thanks, Kevin, for having us. It’s been great.