According to the Consumer Agent Portal, at least 75 percent of consumers head for the Internet first when searching for insurance. Let’s say a consumer brings up Google on her computer and types “homeowners insurance” into the search box – a fairly popular search term. Will your website appear on the first results page?
Building your web footprint so your website appears near the top of search results is called search engine optimization, or SEO. Since about 65% of all searches in the U.S. are conducted on Google (source: Experian Hitwise), SEO professionals spend most of their energy optimizing websites for this search engine.
Here are four steps you can take to improve your website’s position in Google search results.
1. Write Keyword-Rich Text
Keywords (or keyphrases) are the terms that users enter in search boxes. If a user enters a term that Google finds frequently on your website, it concludes that your site contains information relevant to the user. And it rewards you by raising your rank on its search results page.
Select two or three keywords for each page of your site. Don’t pick broad keywords like “insurance” because then you’ll be slugging it out on Google against the likes of GEICO and Allstate. Guess who wins that contest.
Weave the keywords into your text as often as you can. Don’t overdo it, or you’ll sound repetitive and unnatural.
Focus each Web page on one topic, such as auto, home, workers compensation and so on. Focusing makes it easier to build content around a few choice keywords.
2. Use Keywords in Your Page Title, Description and Page Heading
The page title appears in large blue font as the heading of each result. Google places a lot of weight on the page title, as it believes the title to be one of the best indicators of what the page is about.
The page description is the text that appears beneath the title. It gives the visitor a summary of the page and should contain at least one of the keywords used in the title (see the illustration below).
Web browsers display the title at the top of the Web page, but don’t show the description anywhere on the site.
Your page heading is simply the headline on the Web page. Google doesn’t show it in search results, but the headline gives Google a strong clue as to what information a visitor may find on the page.
3. Get Incoming Links
An incoming link is a link from another website to a page on yours. Google loves incoming links because it sees them as confirmation from other websites that your content is relevant. Websites with large numbers of inbound links tend to move up in the rankings.
All links, however, are not equal. Search engines value links from complementary sites more highly than those from other sites. A link to a property and casualty insurance website from an architect or appraiser, for example, carries more weight than a link from a restaurant.
You can build or attract links. To build links, find websites in businesses related to but not competing with yours. Look for a contact email address, and ask them if they will link to you in return for a reciprocal link.
Submit your website to online directories in your region. Almost every city has at least one directory of local businesses. If you belong to any associations or trade groups, make sure they have listed your agency correctly on their website. Seek out not only insurance-industry directories, but also ones that cater to related businesses like appraisers or auto body shops.
Claim your company’s listing on Google Places and fill out your profile. Write articles and post them in other websites and blogs.
To attract links, create a steady stream of original and relevant content, like articles, blog posts, case studies and similar pieces, and post it on your website. In your content, include the keywords you chose in step 1. People will find your information and link to it from their own sites.
4. Make Use of Social Media
Search engines pay attention to your activity on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. Pages from these sites often show up on the first page of search results.
Create your agency’s profile on major social media sites. Be active, and share content on these sites and on social bookmarking sites like Digg and Stumble Upon. Put up videos on YouTube. Different sites have different strengths and user protocols, so each must be approached differently.
As users discover your content on these sites, some of them will follow links back to your own website.
Doing all this sounds like a lot of work, and it is. Search engine optimization is an ongoing process that takes time and effort. However, unless your market is competitive, you may find that “a little bit of SEO goes a long way.” Following the tips above will start you off on the right direction toward improving your website’s ranking on search results.
Arun Sinha is president of Access Communications, a digital marketing, content creation and Web development company in Stamford, Conn. Sinha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.accessc.com for more information on copy writing, websites, and Internet marketing.