Should your insurance agency hire an SEO company?

SEO for insurance agencies is one of my favorite things to talk and write about here at Advisor Evolved. It’s one of the most misunderstood strategies out there, and a lot of agency owners simply don’t understand it and/or expect too much from it.

Because of that, many of our agency clients and outside agencies have asked us if we do SEO and if we could do it for them. While we do some general SEO stuff when we initially setup our client sites, my answer is usually no, and I’ll explain why in a few seconds.

As I’ve mentioned before, SEO is a long-term strategy. Unfortunately, it is packaged up and sold to business owners as a short-term strategy. Because of that, people expect a much faster return on their investment.

This unrealistic expectation that is being set by SEO agencies, or just people who think they know SEO, is something that needs to stop.

The fact of the matter is, SEO in today’s world is super hard. Google has gotten much smarter, and is straight up dropping the hammer on websites that aren’t doing SEO the right way.

It’s no longer a game of keyword stuffing, or over-optimization of on-page tactics, or PBN’s (private blog networks), or link scraping.

The new world of SEO is a game of copywriting.

SEO works very well, but it requires content. Written content on your site. You need to blog — period, and you need to do it the right way. There’s no other way around it and here’s why I say that:

There are over 200 SEO ranking variables

But just one of them makes up for about 80% of SEO as a whole.

Backlinks baby.

When a website links to your site, that is considered a backlink.

You can’t get a backlink unless you have content to be linked to.

There is a difference between a good backlink and a bad one though. When an authoritative site links to your site, that is a very good thing. Getting a link from Insurance Journal would be much better than getting a link from Billy Bob’s Pool Restoration site.

The problem is, most agents don’t have link-worthy content on their site that will attract links from quality sites (or any site at all), because well, they don’t blog. If you don’t blog, you’re not going to get links. A website by itself is not going to generate links.

Every time I mention blogging to an agent, they sigh and/or roll their eyes. They don’t want to make the time to do it, but here’s a fun fact: companies that blog get on average 55% more leads than companies that don’t.

Most of the people that are blogging, while they are giving it a good effort, aren’t creating the type of high-value content that will attract shares, and links from other sites.

Side note: I’m not here to chastise people trust me, I’m trying to help you and save you a lot of grief and/or money.

So what’s happening is, you have a bunch of people with websites who are trying to survive purely on some basic on-page SEO, when in reality, 80% of SEO (or possibly more) is off-page (backlinks).

Sure there are other things, some smaller than others, that go into the overall SEO equation like site structure, having a mobile friendly site, having SSL (which all Advisor Evolved clients get for free), and using proper page titles, meta descriptions and keyword-friendly urls, but at the end of the day, backlinks are what Google puts the most weight on because a backlink is a sign of authority and/or quality in the eyes of Google.

Think of SEO like car insurance pricing

There are a ton of variables that go into car insurance premiums right?

But have you ever had a client who asked you, “Are you sure I’m getting the airbag discount???” and you’re like, “Yes, it’s in there.” The client thinks thats some kind of huge discount, but in reality, you know it’s pulled in by the VIN automatically and probably makes very little difference, if any, in the final rate. It’s a variable, but not really.

But the insurance carrier lists it as a discount on the quote/dec page, so the customer assumes it must be important — that it’s a bigger deal than what it really is.

That is exactly how SEO has been sold to people. The small stuff is played up like its major, when in reality, the most important thing is content and backlinks.

With car insurance, you know that at the end of the day, 80% of the rate is their driving history and credit, but the customer has heard all this nonsense about airbag discounts and driver safety discounts and low-mileage discounts and so on.

Sure these things are part of the rate, but they’re no where near as impactful on the rate as driving history and credit. Not even close right?

The problem with most SEO agencies and link building

Here is the typical scenario that I’ve seen play out time and time again:

Agency owner wants leads. Agency owner hires SEO agency/company/person who claims they know SEO.

Agency owner gets impatient because they are paying $250-$1500/mo for SEO services and getting very little in return, so they voice their displeasure with said SEO company.

SEO company fears losing their client and their monthly revenue, so SEO company starts employing gray-hat and/or black-hat SEO tactics like building bogus links from low-authority or spam sites in an effort to give the client a quick win with some traffic and/or leads.

Agency owner website gets a few links, but nothing meaningful and gets upset and fires SEO company/person. Agency owner stops believing in SEO and digital marketing in general. In the mean time, agency owners site is penalized by Google for doing black-hat stuff and actually loses rankings.

Does this sound like you? It’s because you’ve been sold some fools gold.

Let me give you a little secret. Actually, a big one:

Ready? Here goes: you need to create content (blog) for the people who have the power to share it and link to it.

That’s 80%+ of SEO folks and no SEO agency is going to do that for you, at least not for what you’re probably willing to spend.

That strategy though has been proven time and time again by some very smart people in both the digital marketing and SEO space as well as a few independent agents like you.

Just ask Joshua Lipstone at Lipstone Insurance, who after moving to Advisor Evolved and learning the power of blogging, was able to quickly rank number one in Google for not only his local area, but also one of North Carolina’s most important insurance regulations (consent to rate). The kicker? It was the very first blog article he had every written!

Or Erin Nutting of Integrity Insurance Services, whose article about female agency owners made the rounds for weeks and generated tons of traffic, shares, likes, and leads.

Blogging is surely a time investment, but it flat out works, and sometimes it only takes one article to drive traffic and leads! Here’s the thing though, you need to do it the write way.

While the article about “5 tips to winterize your home” is helpful to your insureds, your insureds don’t have websites that can link to yours. Even if they did, their sites wouldn’t have high enough value or domain authority for it to even matter. You might get a couple shares out of the deal, but nothing that will be of any value.

Again, create content for people who can link to it.

What kind of content should you create?

I wrote an article a while back about what to blog about, and among other things, you need to blog about heavy hitting issues like Josh and Erin did, and also your local community (more to come on the power of community and hyper local SEO in a future article).

Also writing positive reviews/comparison articles about local businesses will help you get some backlink love as well.

If you’re not getting leads from your website, or you’re not in the first 6 or 7 results in Google for insurance agencies in your area, there’s about an 80% chance it’s because you aren’t doing anything with your site.

With that said, and this is going to sound like some tough love, but usually it’s not your website’s fault, it’s yours. The good news is, its fixable so turn that frown upside down!

So, should you hire and SEO company?

I would say that now based on how Google works and how they rank sites, your money is much better spent on a copywriter who can create 20-30 articles for your site. This will help you lay the proper foundation for your site.

Once you have that content in place, only then will an SEO company have anything to work with with regards to link building. Don’t hire and SEO company unless you have content first. You can’t manufacture rankings and leads out of thin air, and Google wants to see a natural backlink profile. If all you have is 10-20 backlinks and their all pointing at the home page of your site, it’s going to looks shady to Google.

If you have 500 links all pointing at the home page, it looks even shadier. You want links evenly dispersed throughout different pages of your site, as well as internal linking between pages and posts.

Be careful about who you hire too. Here are two dead giveaways that the person either doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or is outsourcing it to some chop shop overseas:

  1. they don’t charge enough (anything under $2000/mo for link building is a dead ringer). Doing link building the right way is a hard game, especially in the insurance space. It’s labor intensive and expensive. If someone is charging $250-500/mo, something’s not right
  2.  they actually take you on as a client

That last one is probably the biggest one and here’s why, there are some really excellent SEO agencies out there who know what they’re doing, and who will actually work with you and their team to create the type of content you need, however, they are very, very, very expensive, and they won’t work with just anyone.

Typically unless you have at least $3500/mo budget, the really good SEO companies who can actually produce some results for you relatively quickly, won’t even take you on as a client. I’ve seen companies charge over $10k per month for SEO and that’s no exaggeration.

Is your money better spent elsewhere?

Let’s say you were actually willing to part with $3500/mo though. Where should that money actually be spent? A long term return like SEO, or something with a potentially much quicker ROI like paid ads (Facebook and AdWords)?

It all depends on what your goals are.

If you want leads like yesterday, spend the money on ads. If you want to build a strong foundation online and keep competitor agencies at bay, and possibly not get as many up front leads, spend it on SEO.

Either way, smart marketers and business owners never rely on just one source of traffic anyway. You need to have a balanced approach in order to have sustained success.

SEO + PPC + Social Media activity = #winning

If you do end up hiring an SEO company, make sure you have content first, whether it be created by you, or a qualified copywriter.

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