Google has been making some big changes to their local business listings over the past year. Most recently, they merged Google+ and Google+ Local business listings. Google+ is Google’s social networking site, which was launched on June 28th, 2011. On it, users are able to connect with their friends, share text, photos, and videos, and utilize the messenger and Hangout (video chat) features.
Google+ Local business listings are the business listings which show up in any Google or Google Maps searches based on location. They include a business’ NAP (name, address, and phone number) and website. The listing would be marked by a location pin on the map along with any reviews a business might have. For example, if you searched for “Astonish Warwick, RI” on Google Maps, you would find this result (image in thumbnail):
On a list of the most popular social networking sites, Google+ is second only to Facebook. By merging Google+ Local business listings with Google+, the business listings will probably get a lot more traffic. Increased traffic isn’t the only perk to come out of the merge, though. Insurance agencies will no longer have to create separate Google+ pages and Google+ Local business listings, which mean they will no longer have to go through a verification process for each. On one verified Google+ Local page, you can list agency information as well as social media content. Agencies can easily build an audience by posting engaging social media content and build brand authority through user reviews and +1’s (the Google+ version of a Facebook “like”). Another bonus that is coming out of the merge is that any additions or changes you make to your business information will be approved faster!
Hopefully you see now how helpful the new, merged Google+ Local can be for your agency. It is available to new agencies already and should be available for agencies that have already created a Google+ account or Google+ Local listing within the coming months.
The Fourth of July is right around the corner, and it’s the ideal time to start a client e-mail campaign. Summer holidays are some of the happiest times with the picnics, pool parties, family, and beautiful weather. If you send your clients e-mails when they’re feeling great, they’ll probably think of you in a good context. Whenever I think of Christmas, I am reminded of the first card I get each year — the one from my insurance agent!
There are many season-appropriate topics you can focus on with a summer e-mail campaign. You might want to keep it simple and just wish your clients a happy and healthy Fourth of July, or you could remind them of the need for insurance during the summer months (that big bonfire they’re planning might be an excellent reason to increase their homeowners insurance!). If you have mostly local clients, consider including a list of fun summer happenings in your area. Another option would be to send them summer tips, such as firework or pool safety.
E-mail campaigns are easy, effective, and important for a variety of reasons. First of all, e-mails are quick and affordable! You won’t have to spend hours handwriting letters or money to mail them out. Plus, a template e-mail can be easily personalized to each client, so they feel as if you care about them as an individual rather than as a dollar sign. An e-mail will also get your clients thinking about you. If a client was contemplating increasing their insurance coverage, your e-mail might get them to follow-through. Or maybe a friendly e-mail will prompt them to refer you when a friend needs coverage!
No matter what you decide to include in your summer e-mail campaign, it will definitely be beneficial to your business and help you to build a stronger relationship with your clients!
1. Thou shalt not use ALL CAPS – Although the occasional use of capital letters can be a good way to show emphasis and enthusiasm, using all caps is never a good idea. An e-mail written entirely in caps can make it look like you are yelling at your client. SEE WHAT I MEAN? Lower case letters are also generally more legible. Forget Caps Lock and stick with the Shift Key!
2. Thou shalt not use Internet Slang – While everyone loves LOLCats, it’s inappropriate to use internet speak and acronyms in client e-mails. It can make you appear uneducated and too informal. It won’t take you much longer to write full sentences and spell out words, but it will make a huge difference in your professionalism. K? Tkx! LOL!
3. Thou shalt use spell check - Misspellings can also make you seem uneducated. Even if you were the 3rd grade spelling bee champion like me, you are going to misspell things once in a while. I don’t know how many times I’ve written “insurnace” instead of insurance. Most e-mail programs such as Outlook and Gmail have a built-in spell check program which will look over your e-mails when you hit send. A quick check can definitely save you some “embareassment.”
4. Thou shalt only speak to clients from thy desk – Although we live in a time when everyone is a multi-tasker and it’s hard to sit still for too long, it’s a good idea to plan time to make client calls from your desk. If your client hears your GPS or a honking horn in the background of your call, they will know you are not giving them your full attention. And please, for the love of your client, NEVER make calls from a restroom!
5. Thou shalt not make threats – Although you are probably hoping for quick responses from your clients, making demands of them is not the best idea. I couldn’t tell you how many sales e-mails I have gotten which have warned me that I only have “2 days left” to respond. 5 days later, when I still haven’t responded and I get another warning e-mail, my trust of that company has all but gone out the window. Your client could be thinking about their options, talking with a spouse, or even sick or on vacation. It’s great to reach out to your clients, but don’t lose a sale by being too aggressive.
6. Thou shalt follow the golden rule – The best way to attain and retain a customer base is to treat them well, and let them know you appreciate their business and loyalty. Interact with your clients the way you would like sales people from companies you’re a client of to treat you.
In my last blog post, I discussed the importance of link building on the web, and how links can improve your Google PageRank. Here at Astonish we have our own link building methods, but these are some you can try yourself.
Although it might seem like a no-brainer, one of the best methods of getting a link is by e-mailing your friends, family, and loyal customers. You already know that they would recommend you in person, so it makes sense that they would be happy to recommend you on the web as well. Unless you ask, you’ll never know if one of them might have a popular website or blog on which a link to your site could result in tons of views!
Image Courtesy of Fourtune3.com
Another way to get links is to ask the owners of other websites if they will link to yours. A good place to start is with pages that already link to similar content to yours, or that might have content which is related to (but not in direct competition with) yours in some way. If you sell car insurance, you might want to ask local autobody shops, driver training schools, or maybe even car dealers for links. Some of these companies may desire some sort of payment for putting a link on their site; in exchange, you could offer to link back to their sites on your webpage.
Making a donation can be another avenue to getting a link. Frequently charities and nonprofits list the names of the companies and individuals who contribute to their cause as a way of saying thanks. Some might be happy to add a link along with your name, if you ask. Check out their website beforehand, to see if anyone else has a backlink. Not only would you be doing something good for your community, but your company would be benefiting as well. If you donate to a school or teaching hospital, you might even get your link on a “.edu” website, which are highly trusted sites.
If you try these different methods, you will probably be rewarded with a numerous links from a variety of domains. This can be a big factor in improving your Google PageRank. A small effort or cost on your part could potentially turn into great results for your company. Get your links out there, and you never know what the returns might be.
Traditionally, Insurance Agencies were “Mom & Pop” businesses located on Main Streets. The agents typically met their clients in the neighborhood where they worked. They’d walk out on the street and greet potential clients with a handshake and a smile. Perhaps they had booths at town events or sponsored the local baseball team. They’d provide great customer service and their clients would give them referrals. The best way to gain new clients was to build strong personal links in the community.
Nowadays, potential clients generally search on the Internet for insurance rather than on Main Street. About 50% of new website traffic comes from search engines, and roughly 70% of that traffic comes directly from Google. A potential client will probably open a search engine and type in something like, “Rhode Island home insurance,” and click on the results. They might click a few of the links, and request a few quotes, but chances are they will only click the links on the first search engine result page. In fact, the top 10 results receive about 90% of the traffic. The potential client is not going to go to the 10th results page and start clicking there. That’s why you need to optimize your site! Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of helping customers find your website via search engines. A website with great SEO will come up higher in searches on sites like Google. That means an optimized site will probably have increased traffic, and therefore, the company which runs the site will have more potential business opportunities and sales.
One way to increase your SEO is through link building…and no, I don’t mean the Main Street kind! Web Link building is placing links to your website on other websites so that you can generate more traffic. If a potential client is reading a website or blog about insurance, and it links back to your agency’s website, you might get a new client. Or, if your website is linked on other webpages which have a high page rank (quality of the site, affecting the order in which results are shown on search engines), that will tell the search engines that your site is important and should show up higher in searches too! This is really beneficial since we know that a higher search result means more traffic and more potential clients.
While it will always be important to build links in your community, remember the importance of building web links as well!