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Insurance Agents: Enhance Your Online Presence By Blogging

December 31, 2013

Some insurance agents assume that blogging about their policies or about the market is a huge waste of their time. On the contrary: a blog can be one of the smartest tools in a savvy insurance agent’s marketing arsenal.

A blog can establish an agent as an expert who knows products well and can help others make smart policy choices. The insurance industry is filled with jargon, but with the translations of a good agent, it does not have to be so. Agents who blog have a knack for taking complicated riders, policies and clauses and turning them into plain English for customers. It’s good marketing, and visitors appreciate it.

A blog is also excellent material for search engine optimization (SEO). All search engines thrive on original content, so if an agent blog frequently and creatively, the content will appeal to engines and rank higher in results. Content does not need to be endless, but frequent, original, fresh posts make a difference. An onsite blog allows an agent to offer visitors precise information in the areas that directly affect them. For instance, a medical insurance professional can discuss how Medicare works, or what Medigap insurance is, as he or she links visitors to the coverage they seek.

Blogs have grown out of forums and message boards, and it is now even simpler to post and to be noticed. Add something new often, and visitors will beat a path to the door over time. Dismiss “instant” success stories. Instead, build your blog carefully and steadily to seek out steady traffic that converts.

Should an agent allow people to comment on posts? While the idea is appealing, it works better in theory than in practice. Moderating comments for spam and inappropriate content can consume an undue amount of time and effort. Instead, provide readers with the information to call or contact the agency online with questions and comments.

How does an agent prevent a blog from becoming a static entity on an insurance website? Use Real Simple Syndication (RSS). Most blogs offer an RSS feed that syndicates your blog entries into other forums, search engines and blogs.

It the process sounds overwhelming (and it can be for a new user), look into hiring an insurance-industry-savvy SEO company that knows what is needed to make an insurance website a huge success. The marketing investment is well spent for the potential for new customers it will provide.

Get Your Insurance Blog Online With Google Blog Search

December 16, 2013

Did you know you can get your insurance blog online with Google?

You may already know a great deal about Google seach engine results for web searches. But Google also offers additional, specific (and lesser-known) search engines. Have you heard of Google Blog Search? This service does just what it says it does: it searches for and through blogs just as Google Shopping offers results and price comparisons on items for sale.

Truth be told, not all insurance agents and brokers blog, and they really should begin. Blogging expands your online reach in a significant way. But of those agents and brokers who already blog, not all realize that they could be using Google to better promote their writing.

So, if you already blog on your insurance website, it is a smart marketing manuever to submit your blog to Goolge Blog Search. It’s not difficult to do. You just need to find your feed URL. Your URL will look something like this:
nameofyourwebsite.com/com/blog.

At the bottom of your website, you should see a link that says, “ATOM, XML or RSS.” Click on one of them. Then, visit Google Blog Search at blogsearch.google.com/ping to add your blog’s feed.

The process cannot be completed overnight, so check back in a week to ensure that your blog has been added.

For an even smarter boost, click the option that provides “automatic pinging” when you submit your URL. The option is applicable to WordPress platforms and to several others. Every time you add something new to your blog, Google updates your listing, which is surprisingly important. No one will read an out-of-date blog; an old blog can even work against you, making it appear that you take little interest in your marketing or that you have abandoned the endeavor.

Most importantly, remember that relatively frequent entries keep your readers interested in what you have to say. Google’s algorithms love fresh content. Accordingly, your insurance website will rank better in results if you blog actively, post fresh articles and send out regular news releases.

Don’t know how to blog? Don’t have time to do it? Think your writing is atrocious? You’re not alone. Many insurance agents and brokers have enough work trying to run a business without keeping track of a website. A search engine optimization (SEO) company may be your answer. Such a company will run your marketing plan for you and bring out your best features to help visitors become customers.

Ideally, find an SEO company that has serious experience selling insurance and a full understanding of the market. Such a winning partner can guide you to the higher rankings and increased conversions you need to make your business grow.

Yay or Nay to Gmail’s Tabbed Layout?

November 28, 2013

You might wonder what Gmail has to do with insurance marketing. If you track email marketing efforts, filtering is important for you.

The recent changes to gmail’s look, which include a variety of things, like new tabbing, has created a great deal of consternation. People have been logging in to find a whole new filtering system in place. Nice. Or is it? The system now sorts your email into three categories, promotions, social and primary, with the option to add forums and updates.

Supposedly, this lets users scan their inbox to see what’s there and deal with it when they can. In some respects, this is good, as you would, ideally, see those emails you need to deal with immediately, while other ones can wait for later. Call it a time saver if you will. Or is it?

Seems, according to a recent survey, that about a month after the new filter system went into effect, there was a drop of up to a full percentage point in open rates, a warning signal, but likely to be expected. People don’t like dealing with new things that have been forced on them. What will the long-term affects be? No one knows, until later.

Insurance agencies that track email marketing campaigns already know that customers filter their emails. They also know that not everyone reads everything in their inbox. Instead, they strive to avoid filters by offering something the recipient wants to read. Supposedly, those already reading your email marketing efforts will still find and read what you have sent. But, will they? And there in lies the dilemma.

The uproar centers around marketers feeling Google is cheating them out of readers after they worked hard to get them in the first place. It’s true, marketing insurance in an online newsletter can be tough and if you have an established mailing list that is fairly active, this change may clip your wings. They feel if it is not delivered to your primary inbox, that once delivered in another tab, people won’t read the messages, using the system as a spam filter instead.

It’s up in the air for insurance marketers, but one thing to keep in mind is instead of instantly reacting negatively to the change, take the time to assess it first. It may not affect your insurance marketing plans the way you think it may. Monitor the situation before making any changes and remember that people still want to read quality content (yes, content is still king) that is relevant to them and that users can move items from one tab to another.

Since users may move items from one tab to another, they are also asked if they wish to keep getting emails from the same person in the new location. You may not have an issue to worry about. If all else fails, talk to a qualified search engine optimization company with insurance experience. They know the ropes.

Insurance marketing online means dealing with algorithm changes constantly

November 15, 2013

If your insurance agency is online, you need to deal with algorithm changes regularly. Nothing seems to be easy any longer.

Do you know what you need to do if the algorithms keep changing? You already know that affects how you market your insurance website, but dealing with it is another can of worms you may not be prepared to handle. Although many agents and brokers mutter faint curses under their breath when the rules keep changing, it is done to make sure the Internet has good, interesting, fresh and relevant copy. But, yes, it does mess up your insurance marketing. It’s frustrating.

You’re not alone. There are hundreds of other insurance companies that groan loudly when yet another algorithm change is trotted out. There have been so many of them lately that if you are riding herd on your agency search engine optimization (SEO) program, now may be the time to consult with an SEO specialist with particular expertise in insurance marketing. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all.

The latest changes —- think Penguin —- have made insurance agents jittery about their rankings and how the changes affect their marketing plans for the foreseeable future. No sense getting uptight. Sit back and wait to see what shakes. Take the time to determine if the changes would upset your marketing plans. They may not, so rushing in to fix something that isn’t possibly broken may make things worse. Analyze the changes before taking action. If you are not sure how to do that, hire it out to a good SEO company. It’s a smart business move, worth every penny.

Focus intently on your news releases and ensure they are top quality, interesting, relevant and offer solid links to your website. Make sure what you write about is interesting to people. Sure, not all of it may be barn-burning material, but try to put out information, in plain English, that people need to know. Write about things of interest. Things that help potential customers make a decision to buy and things that are newsworthy.

And one last super valuable tip: if you don’t do social networking, you need to get on that bandwagon pronto. Why? You need to get on that bandwagon because, believe it or not, it makes a big difference in promoting your agency and in attaining a good SEO ranking. So, aim for the best and use Google+ and Facebook. In the alternative, hire an SEO company that specializes in helping to rank insurance websites.

For a new insurance website, demand full ownership of the contents

October 30, 2013

Don’t look now, but your website content does not belong to you.

Did that get your attention? Did you know that even if you spend lots of dollars on getting the perfect insurance website, paying for great blogs and tons of highly useful articles with relevant content, that the content is not yours to keep?

You may never have needed to know that, unless you choose to move your insurance website to another service provider. If you make that decision, you may just be told you have no rights to what you paid for.

You want to market your insurance agency effectively, and to do that you want to know where you stand, how to improve and what is needed to move forward. In doing that, you may decide you need a new website, and assume that the content is transferable. Legally, you are not entitled to the contents. Take a look at your service agreement.

If it does not say your search engine optimization company, content provider and/or website designer specifically transfers rights to your insurance company, then they own the content. Even if you technically own the content, since you paid for it, legally, that is another can of worms.

Companies that have you locked in really retain no particular advantage other than it makes things hard for you to transfer your insurance website to another provider. There isn’t much you can do about it, but you can most definitely learn from that situation and not make the same mistake again.

For your new insurance website, make sure to have your contract spell out in great detail that your insurance company owns full rights to the content of the website, design, and whatever content management system is being used. Insist that there will be no close out fees/transfer fees if you have completed a contract term. Make certain you own your own domain name and have all the relevant information needed to access it and have all your licensed picture rights transferred to your insurance company at no addition cost.

Controlling your own insurance website content is the smart thing to do.

Insurance marketing online means dealing with algorithm changes constantly

October 11, 2013

Google changes their algorithms constantly to keep the Internet populated with relevant material, but it affects your online insurance marketing. Do you know what to do about it?

If you don’t, you are not alone. There are so many changes in what you need to do to get ranked well and stay there, that you almost need to be a search engine optimization (SEO) specialist to be on top of it all. If you run your own agency, there is not enough time to do that.

Recent changes, thanks to Google’s Penguin updates, have made insurance agencies very concerned about their rankings and what they are supposed to do for future marketing efforts.
While it is scary to try and figure out what to do next, it’s best just to sit tight and approach things calmly. First, analyze just how much the latest changes impact on your marketing plans. It is entirely possible that there are not many changes to be made. If you do not know how to analyze the changes and what they mean, search for and hire an established SEO company with experience in the insurance industry.

What really affects your insurance website is what you do in terms of press releases. The news release is not, contrary to what some think, dead. Now, since the latest changes, you get to spend time focusing on quality content without stuffing it with keywords. Yes, content is still the most important thing you need to provide. Keep the rest of the information, such as your agency name, and provide relevant links to your insurance website. Write about things that interest those looking for insurance, newsworthy topics that capture people’s attention.

Not into social networking? You need to be. Being involved in social networking does payoff in terms of SEO, and that is the whole point of being online —- to promote your insurance agency and get good SEO rankings. Your best social choices? Facebook and Google+. Make no mistake, Google is watching social interactions, and if your insurance agency is a part of that scene, keep up the good work.

You might hear the term “content marketing.” It’s the latest in thing to do. However, it is not new. Google has always placed a high value on active blogs and web pages that are updated often. Really the only thing you need to consider when writing insurance articles (and if you can’t write, hire it out) is what you focus on and how it should be distributed. For distribution, just frequently add fresh content to blogs and your insurance website and remember to stick with it diligently. Remember to use a wide variety of text linking to different pages on your website, not just the home page.

Are banner ads a good fit for insurance marketing?

September 28, 2013

Love banner ads and want one for your insurance website? Before you invest any money into banner ads, do some market research first. Today’s online marketing environment is more complex than it has ever been, particularly with Google making algorithm changes so frequently, and changing the rules on what makes a site rank well.
Gone are the days when an insurance company would get by with a nice website design and well-chosen keywords. Today, search engine optimization (SEO) is a completely different approach; your website and its content must be not only relevant, but well written. Now there are so many ways to market an insurance website: use banner ads? Or email marketing? Or YouTube videos? Or Social media? What about Google+ and Google Places? Should you use some of it? All of it? It’s enough to make one’s head spin.

Luckily, most of the newest marketing methods all meld together —- mostly. You might just be able to use banner ads, provided you use them on the right kinds of sites. For example, using them on a large, extremely active, national mega-site is a potential waste of money, especially if you do business in a smaller way, and work locally. On the other hand, you can target the right people and choose the sites to match, with the help of an experienced SEO company —- one with a track record in the insurance market.

Is a banner ad appropriate for your insurance website? Are people even clicking on them anymore? The answer to those two questions are, “It may be appropriate for your marketing strategy, but you need to have that evaluated,” and “Yes, people do still click.” The main thing you need to know is who is clicking and what demographic they fall into and then figure out if that is your target market.

For instance, a recent marketing study shows those age 55 and older are more than likely to click on banners. In fact, just about 50 percent of the clicks come from this age range. However, 58 percent fall into the 15-to-24 age range. Is that your market? If you answer yes, then banner ads may work for you.

Just remember that people click for as many reasons as they choose not to click, so you need to target the placement of your marketing banner very carefully. Choosing sites on your own can be a major pain. Instead, partner with an experienced SEO company that understands the insurance market. You then have an understanding ally who can help shape your insurance marketing plan.

Social media is the way to go to market your insurance website

September 12, 2013

Perhaps you do not enjoy using social media and consider it a waste of your time while trying to market insurance, but here’s something you need to know to improve the conversion rate of your website: A recent study shows more Internet users than ever before are making use of social media to find websites. This is a bellwether trend you need to pay attention to, as it holds the key to drive more traffic to your insurance site.
This kind of information is no surprise to those who use social media regularly, largely because those who are plugged in and active have been trying to get more businesses to join in and not stick with the old method of searching. The fact is that roughly 54 percent of Americans use search engines to find the information they need. In 2010, the percentage of Americans using search engines was 61 percent. Social media is becoming the leader in searching, particularly with younger people.

If you do the math, that means 33 percent of Americans, on average, use social media as their primary search method. What does that mean for your insurance website? It means that you need to be more visible in the social sense, particularly if you want to market to the younger demographic. Marketing methods are rapidly changing and you need to keep up with them if you expect to grow your business.

While you may not need to be in a great hurry to plunge into the social media stream, it’s a marketing niche that has the potential to greatly impact how you do business in the near future. Pay attention to the age range you want to embrace, what products you market and who is likely to buy them. It’s certainly not like trying to find out when the next hot movie is going to hit town or which hair salon is the trendiest, but there is food for thought in how to properly market an insurance website and products using social media.

Social media, without any doubts, is ideally suited to building bridges with prospects and colleagues —- the very same prospects and colleagues who may refer business your way. Having a strong social presence is not a deterrent, as the younger grow older and into your market demographics.

Love the idea of social media to market your insurance agency, but dislike the thought of setting up an account and trying to learn how to use it, when to use it and how to optimize it? Now is the time to find the right search engine optimization (SEO) company, with a background in marketing insurance, and partner with them, to get a leg up on the latest in marketing strategies that impact on your agency in a positive way. The world is your oyster. Time to start making plans to grab that media pearl.

SEO insurance marketing gets more conversational

August 30, 2013

Remember the day when much of the content on insurance websites was chockfull of industry language, foreign to all, except other agents?

The time has come for a more conversational approach, meaning plain English in words everyone understands, even if a concept may be difficult. Insurance companies need to pay attention to this latest trend, as Google is the driving force behind it, and when Google does something, you know it’s going to drive your marketing efforts.

What’s the latest? Casual verbal conversation searches. That is like asking a search engine where the nearest movie theatre is, what times the shows are, what the address is and where is the best parking near the theatre. The near future holds an interesting experience for everyone and that includes insurance agents who want to market their websites in a competitive manner. It’s the best way to stay ahead of the pack when it comes to proper search engine optimization protocol.

Casual verbal conversation searches are just like your neighbor asking you across the back fence where he can get a good set of reasonably priced tires for his 1979 Mustang. It’s people-talk, not search engine speak —- the stilted string of words used to search for something a person needs. This will have a huge impact on how people search for insurance of any kind. Instead of trying to plug in awkward terms to find out about final expense insurance or about Medicare supplements, the person doing the search can just ask something like: “Show me what I need to supplement my Medicare policy.”

The idea of a search engine responding to human-speak enquiries is exciting, but it will not happen overnight. Nonetheless, Google’s reasoning is sound. People want to communicate online the same way they talk. You only have to read a few Twitter or Facebook posts to know that. If you want to stay ahead of your competitors in the insurance marketplace, then make sure you hire a search engine optimization company that not only understands the insurance industry, but practices what it preaches. You find a company that does that, and you are set to meet the future.

Just think about how your customers may find you in the future. Imagine them Googling that they need better drug coverage, a homeowners’ policy that offers replacement, not assessed value, a car insurance policy that covers three teen drivers, and so forth. It’s a brave new world out there for insurance companies who market online. Get into the mainstream of the latest trends now, before you find your website losing traffic.

A conversational approach to searching will change key phrase research and ultimately, how an insurance website (or any website) is optimized. Make sure you work with a search engine optimization company with extensive experience in the insurance industry. Then get ready to ride the wave of success.

Insurance websites may be full of not so easy to understand jargon

August 15, 2013

The last thing you need is to drive website visitors away with a website full of insurance industry-speak.

Your website might be the best-looking insurance website you have ever seen, but if your content is filled with industry insider jargon, things shared between others in the same profession, you’re in trouble. While the shorthand may be necessary in some instances, it is best to keep it to a bare minimum. People who want to buy insurance do not want to ready insurance lingo and not understand what it means. They want to get the point of what each policy offers, quickly, do some price comparisons, make a decision and buy something. If you confuse them upfront, you lose them — a bad thing for your business.

Industry-speak is confusing to people who do not have a reason to use various acronyms as a common part of their daily conversations. If you have an insurance website, you must tailor your content in such a way that is it understandable to everyone. Yes, you still need to adhere to search engine optimization (SEO) best practices, but that does not mean you need to eradicate all mentions of acronyms. What it does mean is you need to always aim your content at your potential customers, as that is the ideal insurance marketing guideline to convert traffic to your website.

Even though you may think that using jargon makes you look informed and knowledgeable, it only serves to drive people away, because they want the concept of insurance explained to them in plain English. You run the risk of coming across as a stuffed shirt, bursting at the seams to show people how smart you are. Visitors to your insurance website want to know you as a person, how your customer service is, whether you have a product that will suit them and if your prices are reasonable. The plain, down-to-earth kind of concerns you would have when you go searching to hire an SEO company to enhance your website and boost it in Google’s rankings.

A good SEO firm will tell you all these things and point out why being an approachable, likeable, plain speaking insurance agent with a social media, user friendly website does well in search engine rankings. And isn’t that what wanting better rankings is about —- reaching the people you want to market to?