What if every time someone searched for your insurance services you showed up as number one? Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the process of optimizing your website to show up at the top of search engine results, is a fundamental piece of your marketing strategy. With that said, there are a few aspects of local SEO for insurance agents we must cover before diving into the “how.”
First off, if you’ve had any experience with SEO, you know results are rarely instantaneous. Success in SEO is all about proving to Google that your page is better than all of the other pages like it out there. And, as you may already know, fooling Google is not easy (nor recommended). Black hat SEO tactics, while they may jump your rankings overnight, will usually never stick much longer than that.
Your best approach is to do exactly what Google recommends.
Step 1: What Are Your Ideal Prospects Searching For?
The fact of the matter is that local SEO, although it may seem like a complex topic, is really quite similar to any other type of marketing. When it comes down to the basics, SEO is about your audience and what they want.
What words do your clients use when you first start a conversation with them? Are there repeated key phrases?
These common terms are a great way to start building a list of keywords that will be the building blocks for your local SEO strategy.
However, not all keywords are created equal. Some will cost you more time and effort to rank for and deliver little if any, leads. Other keywords will take barely any effort and generate substantially more leads per visit.
It all depends on the keyword.
When first starting out, your safest bet is to focus on long-tail keyword terms.
Pursue Warm Prospects via Long Tail Keywords
Your keyword selection process, in a way, acts as a prospecting technique. Some keywords will generate visitors that are just starting their search process and, consequently, aren’t quite ready to do business with anybody. These are what search engine specialists call broad keywords.
Long tail keywords, however, are the opposite. These searches comprise those who are searching for a more specific, focused topic. As a result, these leads are much more likely to convert.
Typical characteristics of long tail keywords include:
- Four or more words
- Less competition
- A more refined, focused phrase
Below is a chart showing how, as the search volume decreases, the specificity of the searches tends to rise.
Finding Your Keywords
While there are dozens of free and paid keyword research tools, the most common starting point for local SEO marketers is Google’s Keyword Tool.
By typing in a keyword at the top section of this tool, you’ll be provided with an average monthly search volume, total competition (via AdWords), and a suggested bid amount.
This tool is really built for search engine marketers advertising with AdWords. The search volume and competition, however, are a great resource for gauging the value of a keyword.
Additionally, one really cool tool for local SEO is the “Targeting” selection in the top left. With this selected, you can isolate traffic to your specific city:
Selecting Florida, for example, alters your total search volume as follows:
The real value of this tool, however, is not in checking specific keywords you’ve created. It’s in discovering new ones.
Below the data provided for the keyword you’ve entered, you’ll see a list of other suggestions. There are over 800 suggestions for our sample search alone.
For local SEO, you’ll want to do a combination of research:
- Searches with specific locations included
- Searches with broad information but tailored to a specific location
For example, you may want to search for a keyword using the location filter as we did above. Or you can search for “short-term health insurance agents in Miami” instead.
Developing a List of Keywords
In general, the larger the search volume your keyword has, the more competitive it will be. This means more time and effort for you to rank for that keyword.
Your best bet is to get a list of 10-15 low to medium search volume keywords that are long tail.
Once you’ve found a list of keywords that match what you’re offering and where you’d like to offer them, you’re going to want to optimize your website for them. This is the process of On-Page SEO.
If you’re familiar with regular On-Page SEO, you’ll notice quite a few similarities between it and local targeting, with only a few key differences.
Google taps into several HTML elements on your web page to decipher what your content is about. These elements, while not the key factors to SEO success, are necessary prerequisites to make you a candidate to rank.
Simply put, you need them to rank but having them won’t give you a leg up against your competition.
To clarify this while giving a solid example of a well-optimized page, we’re going to continue off the “Miami short-term health insurance” example.
Doing a quick search for that keyword, we get the following:
Let’s look at the back end of one of the results and see how they use the HTML elements to rank for this keyword.
Your URL should ideally include your keyword in it. Notice how Uhone.com injects keywords into its URL.
From the above image, you can also see their title includes keywords as well.
Page meta description
In the description above, the keyword is also included. Since that was the search term we used to pull this ranking up, the keyword is actually bolded here.
H1 tags act as the web page header of secondary importance to the page's title. Looking at the back end of this page, we can see that the H1 tag also includes the keyword.
Similar to H1 tags, H2 tags signify secondary headers on web pages. By placing keywords in this HTML element, you’re telling Google your content focuses heavily on this keyword.
Sprinkled over the content itself is the keyword phrase. This makes it clear to Google that the page is about the keyword.
These six elements on your web page are the key factors to On-Page SEO. There are other elements you can also optimize (such as ALT tags, Schema, etc.) and should look into if your keyword is of high competition. For now, however, let’s move on to Off-Page local SEO factors, the key to getting high rankings in Google.
According to Moz.com, the top ranking factors for local SEO are:
As you can see, On-Page SEO accounts for roughly 20.3%. Additionally, backlinks (or link signals shown above) account for only 20%.
Here are a few of the easiest tactics you can implement in your insurance business to satisfy these local SEO ranking signals:
Personalize the User Experience
Generally, the more personalized your page is to the keyword you’ve selected, the more relevant it will appear to Google.
For this reason, a best practice is to tailor individual web pages to specific keyword phrases. This includes optimizing all On-Page SEO elements as well as the content. For example, by creating several web pages on “short-term health insurance” tailored to several specific city-related keywords, you create a much more personalized experience.
Create a Google Portfolio
A Google+ business profile allows you to show up in search engines in another spot above where your normal website listing appears. This can help with your click-thru rate as well as allow searchers to quickly see your contact information and reviews.
Additionally, for certain local searches you’ll have a likelihood of appearing in the “Places” listings:
When setting up your Google Business page, it’s important to make sure your contact info used is the same as what’s displayed on your site.
An in-depth guide to setting up your Google + Business Page can be found here.
Include Your Location and Contact Information on Every Page
Google’s complex algorithm uses your Google+ Business listing as well as the details on your site to deliver relevant listings to searchers. Including your agency’s city, state, and contact information throughout your site ensures that Google finds and utilizes this information.
As mentioned above, make sure your Google+ page information matches what’s shown on your site.
Harness Client Reviews Every Chance Possible
While not the largest factor in rankings, reviews on social services like Yelp and Google+ are an easy way to boost your SEO authority.
As Graham Charlton states in a post on Search Engine Watch, “…if you want a prominent position in the local SERPs, you need user reviews. If you want to encourage clickthroughs or physical visits, you need good reviews.”
The number of reviews and words used both play in how Google deciphers this data.
Have few, if any, reviews on social review sites? Now may be the time to start implementing a social review automated email series after a client signs on with you.
Establish and Utilize Your Local Business Partnerships
Quality is always more important than quantity when it comes to backlinks. And if you’re aiming to rank for local search terms, one of the easiest ways is via local business partnerships.
Offer health insurance for businesses? If so, you likely have a handful of local business clients you could potentially receive backlinks from. These are contacts you’ve already established a relationship with and would easily be able to start a conversation with.
If you don’t have local business clients, establishing local partnerships is still an easy way to get backlinks.
Sponsoring a local fundraiser or workshop can build brand awareness while getting your site featured on their website.
Fusing Local SEO with Your Other Insurance Marketing Initiatives
SEO is a hot topic in the digital marketing world. For this reason, it’s easy to get distracted from other marketing strategies in an effort to boost rankings.
While local SEO is important, always remember the purpose of Google and why they built their algorithm the way they did. It wasn’t to give website owners more work, it was to reward the websites that are already providing relevance to their visitors in an authoritative way.
Relevance and authority are the two primary aspects of SEO success. By focusing on these two factors when creating and distributing online content, you’ll both create an effective insurance agent website as well as optimize for local SEO.