Build a Web Presence Worthy of 2010

by Agents Council for Technology on January 29, 2010 · 4 comments

About this article: Think of your agency’s Web site as another door to your office. Clients and prospects “stop in” to find out more about business, meet your staff and decide whether they want to talk more. By taking a few steps to encourage them to “come on in,” you can attract new business.

act_logo.gif Editor’s Note: Matthew Marko is a Marketing Process Manager for Progressive Insurance. He works to provide local marketing strategies, tools and co-branded collateral to help independent agencies grow their businesses. E-mail him at matthew_marko@progressive.com. Matt prepared this article for ACT. For more information about ACT, contact Jeff Yates, ACT Executive Director at jeff.yates@iiaba.net. This article reflects the views of the author and should not be construed as an official statement by ACT. Please visit the “Websites & Social Media” quick link at www.iiaba.net/act for more tips on websites, search engine optimization, blogs and other social media issues.

The day you hung your first sign outside of your office you took the step to say, “We’re here.” By taking the same pride in building an agency Web site, you tell online visitors that you are open for business.

Auto insurance is one of the most shopped-for products on the Internet, and interest is growing. Seventy-three percent of people use the Internet to search for insurance information, but 67 percent still prefer to buy from a local agent(ComScore, April 2009). It should be clear that locals are searching for your agency. If they can’t find you, they may call an agency down the street.

Start by building a quality site
Whether you develop a site on your own or use an outside resource, your site should:

  • Reflect your agency’s brand. Clearly set your agency apart from others in your area. Show your logo, local office and team members’ faces rather than generic stock photography. Talk about what makes your agency unique. Include customer testimonials.
  • Show all of the ways customers can interact with you. Include real-time online quoting, phone number, address with a map, an e-mail address and a short contact form. Our company, as well as others, offers a real-time online quoting banner agents can place on their site. Some comparative rating vendors offer tools you can put on your site to enable consumers to get online multiple quotes that then feed into your agency rater.
  • Provide easy ways for customers to make self-service changes. This can be as easy as providing a link to your carriers’ online self-service sites or a form for your customers to fill out that is automatically routed to you.
  • Incorporate search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is the technical term for moving your listing up the ladder on sites like Google, Yahoo, Bing and others. The higher your listing appears on the page when someone types in “[Your City] insurance,” the more likely people will click on that link. We’ll talk more about SEO in the next section of this article.
  • Be built with measurement in mind. Google Analytics, a free service, can tell you how people arrived to your site, what pages received the most attention, the key words people typed in search engines to find you and other valuable information. A professional Web development partner can link Google Analytics to your site or you can do it yourself by visiting www.google.com/analytics .
  • Be personal and be local. Your neighbors are looking for a hometown resource. Your site should have links to other local businesses and organizations. Reference the areas you serve and clearly show that you are committed to your community.
  • Be updated regularly. No prospect or customer wants to visit an outdated web site, and, just as importantly, search engine rankings reward sites that are frequently updated. Try to post new content to your site at least once a month. Better yet, start a blog on your site where you answer common insurance questions, describe your agency’s involvement in the community or share local news and events.

Broaden your reach
A quality Web site is a necessary first step. It is your agency’s Internet “hub,” the place you want online users to eventually reach – whether they get there from an Internet Yellow Pages listing, a search engine, a carrier Web site or a social media site like Facebook. But it’s equally important that you constantly work to attract people to your site.

When someone types in a business name or “[Your City] insurance” into Google or Yahoo, some of the top listings that show up are “local listings.” Try it. Type your agency name and city into one of those sites and see where you end up on the list – if at all.

Local listings are like Internet phone books that show your company’s phone number, address (sometimes even a visible map of your area), background information, and Web site. These listings are free, but you have to claim them and check them for accuracy and consistency.

Our company has run agent surveys indicating that fewer than 1 in 5 independent agencies have claimed free online local listings. Don’t let your agency miss this high-impact opportunity.

To start, claim your free local listings at Google, Yahoo! and Bing. (Tip: to get started on Google, for example, type “Google local listing” into the Google search engine and select the Google Local Business Center.) Make sure your agency information is consistent and accurate, that each listing links back to your agency Web site, and that you choose appropriate business categories and keywords. Take note of how your highest-ranking local competitors are listed and mirror that format.

Your agency also should claim free listings at localeze.com, infousa.com, yellowpages.com and superpages.com – the more listings your agency claims, the better.

Attract “searchers”
Next, help people find your Web site when they perform searches on sites like Google and Yahoo! for common insurance terms. That’s called “Search Engine Optimization” and it’s driven by two main factors: your content and the Web sites that link to yours. You can control both.

Use Google Analytics and Google Keywords to better understand the words people use to search for insurance in your area. For example, if you have an agency in Boca Raton, Fla., and you discover that people search for “Boca Raton insurance” most, those three words need to be integrated into your home page copy.

To boost SEO:

  • Create separate pages for each product line.
  • Write for humans. Tell people exactly what you offer and why you’re the best. Integrate search terms, but don’t repeat them.
  • Work with a local Web development partner that can improve your SEO. Behind-the-scenes metatags, link-building strategies, keyword optimization and other tactics can improve your search engine rankings. Ask for local references of any partners you consider.
  • Link to carrier sites and ask carriers to link to yours. For example, all of our agents can be linked to and from our agent locator site.
  • Start a Facebook “fan” page and be sure to have a listing on LinkedIn. These social networking sites also feed search engines.

Keep them coming back
Agents most successful on the Internet are those who invest ongoing time and money in their online presence. These agents respond quickly to online inquiries. They designate team members to keep content fresh and regularly check online listings for consistency. And, most of all, they measure their results with online analytics and by the business generated through Internet activities.

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