Getting Noticed: Unleashing the Power of Search Engine Optimization
Insurers are turning to SEO to gain visibility and build brand awareness, but an expert says success begins by first mapping out a strategy that focuses on content and meeting customer needs.
- Lori Chordas
- May 2021
Insurers increasingly have been relying on search engine optimization to improve visibility of their websites, bolster brand awareness and build relationships with customers and prospects.
But achieving SEO success and meeting those goals begins with having a strategy that focuses on content and a company's business objectives, said Steve Wiideman, co-founder and CEO of Wiideman Consulting Group and an adjunct professor at California State University, Fullerton, and University of California, San Diego. Over the years, he has played a role in the inbound successes of global brands such as Disney, Honda, Skechers and Applebee's, with an emphasis on strategy planning and campaign oversight. Wiideman recently spoke to AM Best TV about the power of SEO and how insurers can effectively direct traffic from search engines to their website to stand out from their peers. Following is an edited version of the interview.
How can insurers use SEO to break through the search clutter in an industry that at one time had one of the most expensive AdWords, which was “insurance”?
It still does. I know “personal injury” is up there, too, with clicks going as high as $800 per click for some queries. It can be very expensive, but small businesses, in particular, have a huge advantage in that they can do that mom and pop grind that the larger companies can't do.
Collaborate with neighboring businesses and participate in community events, such as blood drives, to help your local area and earn many backlinks, or hyperlinks to your site that Google uses as one of its many ranking signals.
What advice can you share with insurers just beginning their SEO journey?
Begin by doing an SEO strategy and audits. There are tons of free audit templates available online. Create a strategy so you know what you have to do instead of saying, “Hmm, maybe we should add a keyword here.” You don't need to reinvent the wheel.
Also, look at search like it's a pattern of behavior, not a set-it-and-forget-it. Create a page for every product and every version of that product that customers are looking for, and modify the title and heading to include the cities and counties you serve.
Ensure you're doing everything on your web pages to address local SEO ranking factors. Ask questions such as: Are we getting more visibility in terms of links and business listings every month, and are we improving the quality, quantity and velocity of positive reviews and ratings that are coming in?
For organic search, make sure you have optimized your website as best as possible. And with the help of Google's new updates, make sure that your pages are fast-loading and pass a core web vitals test, which is a set of factors including stability, page loading and interactivity, that Google considers important in a webpage's overall user experience.
What steps should insurers take to build a successful SEO strategy?
There are three things to think about: How search engine-friendly is my website holistically? Can the search engines quickly and easily get to the content I want to appear in search results? Can users utilize that content regardless of operating system, device, browser or internet speed?
Also, look at what content your users are looking for. If searching for a specific type of agent, make sure to have that type of service as its own page to solve for that query.
The biggest challenge with SEO is content. SEO is a marketing initiative, not an advertising play, and it's something that offers a unique competitive advantage for every business.
Identify your business objectives. “Oh, I want to sell car insurance.” OK, great, but show me your car insurance page and how it's better than the other nine results that appear on Page 1 of Google for the area that you serve and the type of car insurance that you offer.
Also remember to identify your technical action items and competitive baseline. Look at what keywords and nonbrand keywords your competitors are using and where they're receiving their traffic.
How far can SEO take insurers, and how can insurance companies of modest means be found in this ultracompetitive search sector?
Differentiate yourself by doing a better job solving problems that your customers have. Talk to your customer service people and ask, “What are the questions that we get the most often, and do we have a page for them?”
Create answers in the Google Actions console for Google Home, so when somebody does a query, it will give you that featured answer at the top of the search results. That is the catalyst to getting more voice queries answered.
Also use tools and free data sources like answerthepublic.com, and do a search for the word “insurance” to see questions people ask and related questions in search results. As you start clicking on the questions, they'll keep giving you more, and that offers many opportunities to create content that even the larger brands can't compete with, especially if you have an iPhone and a YouTube channel and are willing to create a better answer than what the big guys are willing to put money into.
What challenges do insurers face when it comes to SEO, and what's needed to overcome those hurdles?
Challenge No. 1 is there's simply a lack of resources. Often companies don't have a dedicated SEO person on staff. Also, outsourcing is a challenge. You'll get one of these fly-by-night, $200-a-month SEO companies that have 4,000 other insurance companies that are near you. Be careful of choosing a conveyor belt SEO brand.
If outsourcing, do your research. Talk to consultants and get recommendations of agencies that do a good job and don't put you on the conveyor belt.
The other challenge is that many parent companies don't give us much to work with in terms of an SEO-friendly landing page. You can't compete against a company that won't let you.
If you're allowed to create your own web presence and optimize your own website, then you've got a competitive advantage. If you're confined to that one URL, then you're going to want to use social channels like Facebook and LinkedIn.
Also, ensure your keywords are in your bylines and that you're linking back to your profile page to gain a competitive edge over local competitors.