Forget everything you think you know about SEO.
It’s probably not helping.
SEO is complicated. The rules change daily. It’s highly technical. And there’s so much information out there it’s hard to tell what really works.
The biggest mistake I see agents making is that they hear a few random tips about a specific part of local SEO and think they “get it”.
It’s good to know tactics, but only after you understand how they fit into the big picture becuase otherwise you’ll create an online footprint for your agency that misses key ingredients Google is looking for.
That’s why I put together this high-level overview of local search ranking factors, so you can understand how it all fits together and avoid focusing too much on the wrong elements of SEO.
NOTE: This article is about LOCAL SEO for agents to rank better on Google Maps and searches that show local businesses. If you’re trying to rank nationally this content does not apply.
Overall Local Search Ranking Factors:
- Agency Website (21%) - I think you know what this is.
- Inbound Links (18%) – The links on other websites that point to your website
- Citations (16%) – Mentions of your agency’s name, address, and/or phone number on other websites
- Google Profile (15%) – The information Google has on your My Business, Google+, or Google Places profile.
- Reviews (10%) – When people write online reviews about your agency on Google, Yelp, etc.
- Social (6%) – How big and active is your social network?
- User Behavior (7%) – How do Google users interact with your website and your agency’s listing in search results.
- Personalization (8%) – The patterns and preferences of any individual searcher using Google.
Where Does This Data Come From?
Each year, one of the most-trusted SEO companies (Moz) runs a survey where they ask 30+ of the most respected experts in Local SEO what gets a local business like your agency higher in the search results.
Here’s a link to this year’s survey.
Google will never tell us exactly how they rank websites so this is pretty much the closest we can come to the real answer. At the very least, it sure beats asking your sales manger!
LOL!!! Sorry, I can’t stop laughing at the thought of a sales manager knowing something useful like how to get your agency ranked on google.
Your Agency Website - 21%
First and foremost, your website is a place for Google to confirm that the information they have about your business is accurate. Google wants your website to match what they know about your business name, location, phone number, products & services you specialize in.
Here’s a few examples of things to look for with your agency website:
- Include your agency’s city, and state prominently throughout the site in many different locations and in page titles. Don’t over do it!
- Make sure your agency contact information is included frequently on the site. It should match the address Google has for you.
- Include the lines of insurance and carriers you write for somewhere on your site. If your site doesn’t say “Insurance Bonds” somewhere, why would Google show your site when someone searches for “insurance bonds”?
Inbound Links – 18%
Inbound links are text or image links on other websites (not your own) that link to your site. Google looks at each link from another website to yours as a “vote” of quality for your site. It’s not easy getting links to your site – that’s exactly the point.
Here’s three things to know about inbound links to your website:
- Quality of inbound links is much more important than quantity of inbound links.
- Links from local websites will help you more for local search
- Avoid cheap overseas “link-building” services. The type of links they build will not help you in the long run.
Citations - 16%
“Citations” is SEO-speak for “mentions”, or “references to”. A citation is a mention of your agency’s name, phone number, and/or address on another website. Google assumes that the most popular local businesses will be mentioned the most across the web and each time they see your information the more comfortable they feel giving it to their users.
Here’s three things to pay attention to with your agency’s citations:
- Consistency is important – Try to use the EXACT business name, phone number, and address everywhere you list your agency online.
- If your agency moved and there are instances of your old contact information online, removing and correcting those instances will help SEO.
- Keeping business listings consistent can be tricky but there are services like Yext or our SEO service that can help.
Google Profile – 15%
Over the years it’s been called many things, Google Places, Google+ Local, Google My Business. They’re all the same thing – a profile that Google sets up for every business on earth. Google allows you to “claim” this profile to confirm, correct, and provide additional information about your business and the information you provide them can impact search rankings.
Here’s a few things to pay attention to:
- Use the same business contact information (name, address, phone) you use everywhere else on the internet.
- Provide as much detail as possible for every question they allow you to answer about your agency.
- Pay careful attention to choose the right categories.
Online Reviews – 10%
Google looks at the online reviews people give you as an indication of both the popularity of your agency and the quality of service.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t make your own fake reviews or pay someone else to, it can get your agency blacklisted on Google.
- If you don’t ask your clients for reviews, you’ll never get reviews.
- Don’t ask clients to write reviews using a computer in your agency because it looks fake to Google.
Social - 6%
Seems to makes sense that a big and popular local business would have more Google+ followers and Facebook fans, right? Many SEO experts believe larger and more active social network accounts will help your local search rankings.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t buy likes, fans, followers, etc.
- Don’t do social just because it’s good for SEO. Do it because you want to connect with local consumers in a cheap and effective way and if there’s an SEO benefit then great.
User Behavior – 7%
There is good proof that Google watches how people interact with your website and your agency’s listing in their search results to understand your popularity and the quality of your website. Google wants their top search results to be popular businesses with accurate contact information and a user-friendly website.
Here are some of the things SEO experts believe Google looks at:
- How many people search for driving directions to your agency
- When people click on the link to visit your agency’s website, do they often come right back and click on another agency?
- You don’t need the best website on earth, but if it’s hard to use, ugly, or looks really old people are going to hit the back button when they see it and Google will stop showing it.
Search Results Personalization – 8%
This refers to the fact that every Google search delivers a slightly different result based on the search history of the person doing the search.
For example, since you probably visit your own website a lot more than other local agents’ sites Google will show it higher in the search results on your computer than for anyone else doing the exact same search.
This one’s pretty hard to do much about, so I think I’ll leave it at the explanation.
I didn’t write this article to be everything you need to know for insurance SEO – It’s just scratching the surface.
The key thing is to understand that it’s a COMBINATION of factors both on and off your website. In fact, if your online profile is too strong on any of these individual factors it’ll probably raise some flags to Google.
If you found value in this article, make sure to share it with a friend you know that wants to rank higher on Google and hit the like button so I know you want more content like this.
Hope this helps,