It’s no secret that most insurance buying journeys start with a search engine. What’s interesting is that many come via local search.
Nearly half (46 percent) of Google searches involve users looking for local businesses, and “near me” searches have increased by more than 500 percent in recent years, according to digital marketing writer Macy Storm. If your agency constantly pops up for “insurance agents near me” search traffic in Google and on Maps, you’re bound to get a sizable volume of quality leads, many of whom might ultimately convert into customers.
Here are the fundamentals of how to succeed at local search engine optimization as an independent agent.
What Exactly is Local SEO?
Before we dive in, it’s important to have a clear understanding of precisely what this digital marketing strategy is and what it entails.
“Local SEO is focused on improving search engine rankings that are relevant to an insurance consumer based on their current geographic location while using a search engine,” explains the team at insurance marketing company BrightFire. “So if they search for ‘independent agent,’ Google would provide them with search results for insurance agencies or agents nearest to them.”
It relies on the same core concepts as regular SEO but aims at matching users with agents in their immediate area. If you were located in Chicago, for example, prospects located in the city and surrounding areas like Evanston and Oak Park would be directed to your agency.
The Essential Elements
Local SEO is a wide umbrella that encompasses many different strategies. That said, there are a handful of essential elements that agents can implement across the board.
Here are some specific steps you can take to improve your local search engine optimization.
Identify Target Keywords
Knowing your target keywords is a vital first step to local SEO and a precursor to everything else. “A target keyword is one word or phrase that best summarizes your page,” explains SEO Shopify app SEO Manager. “This is what you hope people will type into a search engine to find the page.” If you specialize in selling homeowners insurance lines in Chicago, for example, your target keyword may be “homeowners insurance Chicago.”
Once you know what your target keywords are, you can effectively construct your local SEO campaign around them. If you’re new to this, it’s helpful to study the basics of keyword research. Rachel Leist, director of marketing at digital marketing platform HubSpot, wrote an excellent guide for beginners, which can point you in the right direction.
Create Relevant Content
A steady stream of quality content that zeroes in on your locale and incorporates your target keywords helps Google better understand your agency, your location and the specific services you offer. Relevant, local content can improve your link profile because other businesses and customers are likely to link to it. It also makes it easier to build trust and rapport with prospects because they’re more likely to view you as an expert in the insurance industry.
Having a sound content marketing campaign is advantageous on many different levels. In fact, research shows that 92 percent of marketers consider content to be a business asset, writes Vincent Nero at SEO marketing agency Siege Media.
There are many different avenues you can take when developing content. Blogging is still the go-to for many independent agents. Jeremy Moser, cofounder of uSERP, points out that businesses that blog generate 67 percent more leads each month than those that don’t.
Topics can run the gamut from tips on selecting the right type of policy, to advice on filing claims and help with understanding complex insurance terms. An example for a local SEO blog post would be writing about a community news event that ties into the type of insurance you’re selling. Maybe your area was affected by flooding recently, so you discuss the impact and explain the benefits of being covered by flood insurance. This could generate links from local publications, and the content will naturally contain location-based target keywords, which should help Google associate your agency with your location.
Video is another type of content that’s really gaining momentum, with 54 percent of people wanting to see more video content from brands, according to Maryam Mohsin at dropshipping platform Oberlo.
Ryan Lessard at benefits administration software provider Ease offers a few ideas like creating how-to videos, customer testimonials and videos that highlight your agency’s culture. One specific way to incorporate videos into your local SEO campaign is to take part in a community event like a fundraiser or a food drive. You could vlog the event and show the highlights. Then, when uploading it to a platform like YouTube, you would include target keywords like your city and state to increase your odds of ranking for local searches.
Other types of content that can be effective for agents are infographics, interviews, insurance checklists and eBooks, explains Sherman Standberry, cofounder of social media management company Lyfe Marketing. Just look for interesting ways to tie them into your local area, such as a checklist of companies in your city to contact after a car accident if you’re focusing on promoting auto insurance.
Optimize Your Google My Business Profile
A critical part of appearing in local results is fully optimizing your Google My Business profile. If you’re unfamiliar, GMB is a free tool that enables you to manage your presence on the search engine and provide prospects with the information they need to learn about your agency and obtain your contact information, says Elevation Ten Thousand director of search Sam Hollingsworth.
To create a GMB profile, you can do it here.
In order to optimize your profile, start by filling it out in its entirety. This should include your address, phone number, hours of operation and website. Be sure to incorporate target keywords to increase your chances of ranking higher for local searches.
It’s also smart to include a handful of images of your agency — inside and out — so local Google users can figure out exactly where you’re located and identify your business when they’re passing by.
Finally, you must be sure to verify your GMB listing, which lets Google confirm the physical location of your independent insurance agency. There are several ways to do this, which Julia Jung covers in her guide at SE Ranking.
Build Quality Links to Your Website
You can think of links as “SEO currency.” The more links you receive from relevant, quality websites and social networks, the more value you’ll have in Google eyes.
BrightLocal, an all-in-one marketing platform, says 89 percent of local SEO experts place a priority on link building for their local clients, and 100 percent say that it’s integral to improving local search rankings. This means launching a link building campaign where you focus on obtaining links is a vital aspect of your SEO strategy.
But how exactly do you go about this?
For starters, BrightLocal recommends developing relationships with other businesses, organizations and influencers in your area. You might, for example, help out with local charities and build rapport that way.
And of course you’ll want to cultivate meaningful relationships with your customers. Doing so makes them more likely to share your insurance agency on social media, which can serve as valuable links.
Another technique is to write local press releases. “Local news sites crave local stories,” says online marketing writer Manisha Sukhyani. “They’re always on the hunt for stories to fill their pages and give their audience new food for thought about their local area. If you can offer them these stories for free, then you will get good exposure and backlinks from local users.”
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Jake Sheridan, founder of Google Sheets resource Sheets for Marketers, offers an exhaustive list of 50 local link building tactics that can be extremely helpful.
Encourage Positive Reviews
Having positive Google reviews is beneficial for three main reasons.
First, they help build trust with prospects and can pique their interest in your insurance agency. Entrepreneur Craig Bloem, founder and CEO of online logo maker FreeLogoServices, notes that more than nine out of 10 people read online reviews, and 84 percent trust online reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation.
Second, they help increase your overall Google rating. The more four and five star reviews your agency receives, the higher your rating will become which in turn should make your business more appealing to prospects. Betsy McLeod, at internet marketing company Blue Corona, writes that people who read reviews are 58 percent more likely to convert.
Third, they help Google better understand your agency and the specific types of insurance policies you offer. “Not only do your Google reviews let the robots know what your site’s all about, but your customers can even fill in gaps that your website’s content may have missed,” explains the team at digital marketing company 1SEO.
So you want to do everything you can to encourage positive reviews. Some easy ways to do this include sending a follow-up email to customers after purchasing a policy where you ask for a review and adding a review link to your agency’s website.
How to Rank Highly in Your Area
With nearly half of all Google searches being local ones, it’s hard to emphasize enough the importance of having a strong search presence in your area. This is basically your ticket to an ongoing stream of qualified leads and sets the stage for a thriving insurance agency.
Although mastering local SEO takes time, effort and patience, you can figure out the fundamentals fairly quickly. Focusing on the points mentioned above should get you started out on the right foot and put you in a position to stand out from other agents in your city.
Images by: rawpixel/©123RF.com, antonioguillem/©123RF.com, fizkes/©123RF.com