An Insurance Agent’s Guide To SEO Marketing
What’s the first thing you do when you need a new product or service? For most people, the answer would be to open up their phone or laptop, go to Google, and begin searching for vendors. If the consumer is in need of a complex product like insurance, they will likely attempt to educate themselves by conducting research. This typically involves inputting searches such as “How much does this coverage cost”, “What type of policy do I need for my business” etc.
Imagine if your agency was the top result for these searches. How would this impact your revenue? How much new business would you be able to generate?
Ranking at the top of Google for relevant search terms increases your agency’s visibility and helps grow your book of business. Someone will show up first for these search terms, and you can either cede this space to your competitors or try to claim these spots yourself.
Developing an effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy can be difficult, and many agents simply don’t know where to start. With this in mind, we’ve written this article to serve as a launching point to help your agency dive head-first into the world of SEO marketing.
First Things First
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of configuring your website in ways that increase its overall visibility on search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo etc. SEO involves getting your website to show up higher in organic search results, while search engine marketing, or SEM, involves best practices relating to sponsored search results.
When a person types in a search query, what appears is a search engine results page, or SERP. Most SERPs will consist of sponsored ads, organic results and, depending on the specific search query, business listings, images, videos etc. You want your website to rank on as many SERP elements as possible.
The Road Ahead
Everyone wants their business to rank highly on search engines. However, not everyone is willing to expend the time and resources needed to accomplish this. Increasing your agency’s SEO requires hard work that may not bear fruit for a period of time (it can take a few months for your content to begin ranking on Google). In our opinion, the effort required to implement an effective SEO strategy is well worth it, as the benefits overwhelmingly outweigh the costs.
Now that you know what you’re getting into, let’s take a look at how to actually implement a successful SEO marketing strategy.
The first step towards implementing a successful SEO strategy is identifying relevant keywords. These are the keywords you want your website to rank on, and your SEO strategy will be catered towards targeting them.
When identifying your target keywords, a good place to start is to consider the different types of coverages you offer.
For example, at BondExchange, we target search terms relating to different types of surety bonds, such as: Probate bond, contract bond, fidelity bond etc. What we just listed are some of our “broad keywords”, and we want to show up on all searches containing those terms (except those relating to claims, we save those searches for brokers with less advanced underwriting capabilities).
Once you’ve narrowed down your broad keywords, you’ll want to determine the most popular search queries involving them. To do this, we recommend using SEO tools such as ahrefs or Moz. If a paid subscription isn’t in your budget, Moz lets you input 10 free search queries per month. Simply type your broad keyword into either of these tools’ keyword explorer features, and you will be presented with the keyword’s monthly search volume, keyword difficulty, as well as the most common questions/searches involving this keyword.
Content is King
So you’ve meticulously researched your keywords and know which terms and phrases you want to target. Now what? Well, the next step is to create high-quality website pages containing those keywords and search phrases.
What does this look like? Five words: Blog articles and product pages.
For individual insurance products, we recommend creating specialized pages devoted to answering any potential questions your target audience could have about that product and providing consumers with an option to purchase it directly from that page. For example, take a moment and look through BondExchange’s Auto Dealer Bond Page. You’ll notice that the page contains a prominent call to action (CTA) at the very top, answers to all the questions insurance agents are most likely to ask about the bond and multimedia elements (infographic and video). The structure of this page is intentional, and it has been optimized with the goal of ranking at the top of organic search results.
Let’s take a look at each aspect of the page.
Call to Action
Google likes pages that consumers can transact on. You could write the best product page in existence but have trouble ranking if your customers can’t complete an action on it. The inability to transact on a website page negatively impacts your bounce rate (the percent of website users that leave your page without taking action), which in turn decreases the likelihood the page will be featured prominently by search engines.
Additionally, not providing a way for users to purchase the coverage they’re reading about can cost you customers. Think about it, a consumer can spend 20 minutes on your page learning about the coverage, be willing to buy and then abandon the process because they don’t know how to make a purchase. It’s the website host’s job to make the purchasing process easy for site visitors, and including a call to action does just that.
*Shameless Plug Alert: BondExchange’s free-to-use SuretyPro tool lets your customers quote surety bonds directly on your product page, making the page transactional and therefore boosting its SEO. Applications that open in a new tab under a different URL do not provide the same level of SEO benefit as embedded applications do. The tool is the industry’s only fully customizable embedded surety bond application.
Learn more about SuretyPro here.
If you scroll through our Auto Dealer Bond Page, you’ll notice that all headings are in the form of a question (excluding the title) and most of them contain a variation of the phrase “Auto Dealer Bond.” This is done intentionally to mirror the most common questions insurance agents searching for the bond will input into Google.
Have you ever typed a question into Google and received a highlighted answer prominently displayed above the other search results? This is what’s referred to as a featured snippet, which is a highly coveted SERP feature. Structuring our product pages in a Q and A format has helped us secure featured snippets for many of our targeted keywords and is a key part of our overall SEO strategy (plus it reads better).
Google categorizes headings based on their importance, and it’s your job to mark them as such. On our Auto Dealer Bond Page, the first heading, “Auto Dealer Bond: A Comprehensive Guide,” is categorized as an H1 heading, while all subsequent headings are categorized as H2 headings. Your website builder should allow you to determine each heading’s classification. Best practices for labeling headings include:
- Only have one H1 – your page’s title
- H1 should contain all broad keywords the page is targeting
- Subsequent headings related to the H1 should be marked as H2
- Within H2s, mark subsequent headings contained within those sections as H3, H4 etc.
- Only have one H1 – your page’s title
It’s important not to over-saturate your headings with keywords, and you should not include your targeted keyword/phrase in more than 75% of a page’s headings.
The content of the page (meaning the body text) is relevant, comprehensive and fully answers the questions posed by the H2s. You’ll notice that the subsequent answers repeat the questions. This is done purposely to ensure the content is well fleshed out, which, in our experience, increases the page’s SEO.
Additionally, pay attention to the links within the page. We’ve intentionally included both internal (linking to our own website) and external (linking to another website) links. Google wants to see a mix of both internal and external links within your content, as these links help increase the page’s reputability (and serve as valuable resources for readers).
Your page’s content is arguably its most important SEO element, as it’s what your readers (and Google’s algorithms) pay the most attention to. Do not cut corners when writing your product pages, and do your best to ensure your website is publishing the highest quality content possible. At BondExchange, our strategy involves meticulously researching each policy we write about and ensuring that the product pages we put out are the most relevant and comprehensive resources out there. In the end, the highest quality content most often gets rewarded, which is why it’s important your agency prioritize quality over quantity when creating product pages.
*Important Note: Do not under any circumstances use Chat GPT or other AI tools to generate content. Google knows when content is AI-generated and will limit your website’s visibility as a result.
Including multimedia elements such as images and videos in your product pages boosts SEO and increases the number of SERP elements your page will rank on. In our Auto Dealer Bond page, you’ll notice it contains an infographic detailing the bond’s key characteristics and a unique video providing an overview of the bond.
Now, creating unique videos for each of your product pages requires subscriptions to video creation platforms and video production and editing skills. If creating unique videos is outside of your production capabilities, then at a minimum, you should include custom images within all your product pages. Additionally, it’s important to include at least one original image containing relevant information that is not a stock photo. Using a generic stock photo is fine for aesthetic purposes, but these photos will not provide you with the same SEO benefit that a custom infographic will.
Why are multimedia assets important for SEO? A couple of reasons:
- Google recognizes that images and videos add value to pages and thus prefer to list results containing these elements
- Even if your page doesn’t rank in the organic search results, your images and videos might still rank on their respective SERP elements
*Important Note: It is crucial you include alt text on all non-generic images. Alt text is how you describe the image to Google. For example, the infographic within our Auto Dealer Bond Page has the alt text “Auto Dealer Bond.” The alt text signifies to Google that this image is relevant for all search terms related to “Auto Dealer Bond” and increases the likelihood that this image will be displayed for those searches. Additionally, make sure to include your agency’s branding on all custom images. Google displays full images under the “Image” tab on SERPs. Even if the person conducting the search query doesn’t click on your image, your brand awareness will still increase if your logo is featured.
Google wants to show users relevant search results from reputable organizations/sources. As such, they’ve meticulously built their algorithms to find and display quality content while neglecting low-level content that is poorly optimized. When creating product pages, strive to be the best resource on the internet. Conduct research on your competitors’ pages, and make it your mission to produce better content. Google (and consumers) will reward you for it.
Blog articles serve a different purpose than product pages, but you will still want to adhere to all the practices outlined above. As the name suggests, product pages are crafted with the goal of educating consumers on a particular product and providing them with an easy means of making a purchase. On the other hand, blog articles display more personality and should be utilized for explaining a topic unrelated to a specific product or trying to convince your audience of a certain point. For example, you might write a blog article explaining the benefits of purchasing insurance from an agent as opposed to directly from a carrier. The tone for product pages is direct and matter-of-fact, while blog articles are more persuasive and informal (notice the contrast in the tone of this article vs our Auto Dealer Bond Page).
Behind the Scenes
While creating compelling content is the most important aspect of boosting your website’s SEO, it’s only half the battle. Behind the scenes (on the back end of your website), you need to ensure your website is structured for maximum SEO benefit. The most crucial component for this is making sure your website is being indexed by Google.
“Indexing” is how Google takes note of your website so it can decide whether or not to feature it in search results. If your website is not indexed, then Google has no way of knowing it exists and all your SEO efforts will be for naught, as no matter how great your content is, it will not show up on Google. Additionally, even if your website is indexed, individual pages, images and videos might not be indexed and will therefore be excluded from search results. Ask your developer and/or website service provider if your website is indexed. Chances are that it is, as you have to manually notify Google not to index your site via code, but it doesn’t hurt to ask as some website builders mark new sites as “noindex” by default. Additionally, you can use Google Search Console to view which of your website pages/assets aren’t being indexed, as well as the reasons why this is the case. Google Search Console is also a great tool for viewing your website rankings and should be utilized by every serious SEO marketer (plus it’s free).
Once you’re positive your website is being indexed, you’ll want to take a look at all individual pages and ensure that:
- Each page URL contains the page’s targeted keyword(s)
- Each page has a custom SEO title containing the targeted keyword(s)
- Each page has a meta description containing the targeted keyword(s)
- This is not strictly required, as Google will fill meta descriptions if you leave them blank. However, it doesn’t hurt to write your own and ensure they contain your targeted keyword(s).
Your website builder should provide an easy way to comply with the above recommendations. However, it is generally worth it to install an SEO tool on your website’s backend to monitor the SEO metrics for each page and provide recommendations on how to further optimize them. There are many free tools (or free versions of tools) that do this.
Upwards of 60% of Google searches are conducted on a mobile phone. As such, Google takes great care to display search results from websites that are optimized for mobile viewing. If your website provides a poor experience for mobile users, you can kiss your dreams of search engine dominance goodbye.
How do you optimize your pages for mobile? Well, simply ensuring your website functions properly and provides a good experience for mobile users is a great place to start. Google’s algorithms will ding you for obvious inadequacies like including text that is too small or too large, long load times and media assets that don’t fit the screen. Ask your developer(s) and/or web hosting team if your website is optimized for mobile. If they’re worth their salt, the answer should be an emphatic yes. If you maintain your website yourself, test out your site’s mobile functionality manually and fix all obvious errors.
Backlinks: More Valuable Than Gold
You’ve created high-quality pages/articles, put together appealing infographics, recorded a live-action video to be featured on your most important page and structured your website for maximum SEO benefit. However, in a cruel twist of fate, you’re not ranking on any of your targeted keywords. Worse than that, your page is no wear near the first page of Google’s search results, all but guaranteeing few people will see and appreciate (and more importantly, transact on) the content you worked so hard to create.
How could this happen? Three words: Lack of backlinks
Backlinks occur when another website links out to your website or vice versa. For example, earlier in this article we provided backlinks to both ahrefs and Moz. Backlinks are one of the most important SEO elements and can make or break your agency’s SEO marketing efforts.
Why does Google care so much about backlinks? Well, backlinks are essentially Google’s way of determining a site’s credibility. If multiple reputable websites link out to yours, then Google is more likely to consider your site reputable and thus be inclined to feature your website in search results. The inverse is also true, if no reputable website links out to your website, it becomes increasingly difficult to rank on Google.
Backlinks can be categorized in multiple different ways, with each category sending Google a different message. Let’s take a look:
The cream of the crop. These backlinks provide significant benefits to your website, as they let Google know that the linking party trusts your website and considers it a reputable source.
Obtaining dofollow backlinks should be a key component of your SEO strategy
Nofollow backlinks do not provide any SEO benefit to your website. When a website tags a link as “nofollow” they are specifying to Google that they can not verify the reputability of your website and do not wish to lend it credibility.
Many websites only provide nofollow backlinks as standard practice.
Sponsored backlinks indicate that you paid another website to link out to yours. There is nothing wrong with paying for a backlink, so long as you disclose to Google that you did so. Sponsored backlinks provide marginal SEO benefits.
Not tagging a paid backlink as “sponsored” can have detrimental effects on the SEO of both the linking website and the website being linked out to. Needless to say, Google is not a fan of pay-to-win tactics when it comes to organic rankings.
These backlinks indicate to Google that the link was generated by a website visitor and is most often used for links placed in a website’s comments sections and/or forums. Obtaining a UGC backlink does not provide SEO benefits (don’t waste your time linking your to your website in another website’s comments section). If anything, you should make sure your website is properly categorizing user-generated links as UGC, or else you risk spammers using your website to boost their SEO (at the expense of yours).
Backlinks are categorized using html code. Website builders generally have a default tag for all external links (either dofollow or nofollow). Consult with your developer and/or web service provider to identify and/or change your website’s default backlink tag.
Tools such as ahrefs and Moz will automatically keep track of backlinks to your website and inform you of each backlink’s specific tag. Alternatively, you can manually check a backlink’s tag by navigating to the page containing the backlink, right-clicking, clicking “inspect”, and then searching for your website’s URL (Control F for Windows and Command F for Mac). From here, simply examine the tag preceding your URL to ascertain how the backlink is categorized.
How To Obtain Backlinks (The Right Way)
Before we dive into how to obtain dofollow backlinks, it’s important to note that, in terms of backlinks, some websites are considerably more valuable than others. Google considers government and university websites to be the gold standard for website credibility. As such, obtaining backlinks from .gov and .edu websites provides significantly more benefit than backlinks from standard .com and .org domains.
Another aspect of a website to pay attention to is its domain rating/authority. Now, “domain rating” and “domain authority” refer to a website’s overall backlink profile and are scored on a scale of 1 to 100. Domain rating is calculated by ahrefs, and domain authority is calculated by Moz to help provide a general understanding of a site’s backlink profile. Google does not disclose its internal domain rankings. Websites with high domain ratings/authority are considered more credible and thus provide more valuable backlinks. Websites with a low domain rating/authority are considered less reputable, meaning their backlinks provide less SEO benefit. Backlinks from websites with low domain ratings/authority are still valuable, but a single backlink from a website with a high domain rating/authority is much more valuable than that of a single website with a low domain rating/authority.
*Important Note: While domain ratings/authority provide information on a website’s backlink profile and reputability, you shouldn’t structure your SEO strategy around increasing your website’s rating/authority as it’s much more important to gear your efforts toward creating high-quality content.
Now that we understand why some backlinks are better than others, let’s take a look at how to actually obtain them.
Quality Above All Else
Writing high-quality content that is interesting and informative provides you with a major leg up in the hunt for dofollow backlinks. As we previously mentioned, websites are incentivized to include external third-party links in their content. Websites are far more inclined to link out to high-quality content that compliments their own work than poorly thought-out generic content that provides little to no value.
Over time, and as your content becomes more visible, don’t be surprised if other websites organically discover and link out to your work.
There are many websites that are structured around and rely on guest posts. For example, websites like Insurance Thought Leadership and Suretypedia frequently publish guest articles on relevant industry topics within the insurance industry. In addition to providing exposure, these types of outlets often include a backlink to the author’s website.
Submitting unique editorial content to platforms that accept guest articles is a great way to generate backlinks for your agency.
As we previously mentioned, Google considers .edu domains to be extremely reputable. Therefore, backlinks provided by .edu websites provide significant benefit to your agency.
Starting a scholarship is a great way to do a bit of good in the world while also securing backlinks from universities. Colleges want to provide their students with access to as many scholarship opportunities as possible, and many schools provide links to external third-party scholarships (provided they are reputable). Check out BondExchange’s scholarship for help getting started, and once your scholarship is created, reach out to universities and ask them to feature it.
Certain governmental agencies that require persons to purchase insurance coverage as a prerequisite to obtaining a license/registration will provide links to verified providers. Reach out to your state and local licensing authorities and ask if they will add you to their verified providers lists.
As we previously mentioned, .gov backlinks are significantly valuable and provide significant SEO benefits.
Obtaining backlinks takes time and requires hard work. We highly recommend against trying to cut corners by paying for backlinks or engaging in other similar practices. If Google finds out, they will significantly hinder your website’s visibility.
The Bottom Line
Developing an effective SEO marketing strategy is paramount if you want to not only survive, but thrive in today’s digital world. Ranking on all of your desired keywords is not an overnight process, but one that requires significant amounts of effort. However, those willing to put in the work are significantly rewarded, while those that aren’t often watch from the sidelines as their competitors outgrow them.