By Coburn Childs
The chances are high that, like many businesses, you’ve joined the world of online social networking. Whether you’ve gotten onto Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or some other network, there are many benefits for your business in utilizing these tools. But is your business actually taking advantage of the benefits these outlets can offer? And are you even aware of social media best practices that you and other businesses should implement? Let’s take a look at a few of the best practices you can start to utilize through your social networking usage.
If you are going to go through the trouble of signing up for social media accounts, then you should take the time to remain active on those networks. Engage your customers through scheduled posts that are useful to them and relevant to your brand. Also, it will benefit you to be proactive in driving web users to visit your business’ site or other relevant resources; you can do this through blogs, links, videos, and articles that you post across multiple social networks. Lastly, it is highly recommended you always maintain professionalism online, even when showing the “fun side” of your agency or business.
To engage your market base through social networking, it is important to be as interactive as you are proactive. Social media is a great tool for customers to feel their voice is heard, so if you receive a comment or a tweet, it is very important for your business to respond to it. Regardless if the feedback of the comment is negative or positive, it is still essential for you to show that you are listening and you care. Indeed, social media sites can be some of the best platforms for you to demonstrate customer service for the whole world to see.
In order to get other social media users—and potential customers—to engage and interact with you, you need to make yourself a reputable, useful, and unique presence. Nowadays, countless outlets fight for your Twitter followers’ extremely-short attention span, so do what you can to make your posts relevant to your brand, while standing out amongst the white noise. If you’re tweeting tips or featured products you offer, get yourself on a routine and dependable schedule. The same goes for other networks, too! If you’re posting pictures to Instagram, make them unique, or if you’re running a contest on Facebook, make it worthwhile.
As an agency or small business, it may initially seem tough to grow your brand and expand your field of customers. However, with easy social networking tools like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, you now have the entire world at your fingertips with the click of a button. Take advantage of these social media best practices, make them a routine, and you will start seeing results in no time!
Ever post something to an online community before considering the consequences? That post remains on your digital footprint. In California, a new law was passed so minors have the option of requesting that embarrassing or scandalous content be removed from their digital footprint. Not everyone is as lucky as the youths of California. Be smart, so you can remain proud of your digital presence.
What is a digital footprint?
A digital footprint is the trail of data you leave behind when you interact with the online world. Such activities can include:
- Social media activity
- Website and blogging publishing
- Web searches
- Email communication
As an agency, you need to protect your digital trail. Be sure you are creating a brand with integrity…here are some tips:
Choose Appropriate Social Channels
What social channels are most appropriate for YOU? You don’t need to be on every social platform; figure out what you can keep up with and who you want to reach. How much time can you dedicate to digital marketing? Do you want to communicate with individuals or businesses? As a local insurance agency, some of the most important channels to consider are:
Be a Follower
If you are new to digital marketing, don’t blindly try to become a leader. Take some time to evaluate the activities that are already happening because you want to offer content that is deemed useful by the online world. Find out who the industry leaders are, what they are saying, the types of content they are sharing, and what is inspiring the most communication/feedback. Use that information as a starting point to gain some positive traction.
Find Your Voice
Your “voice” should be a representation of your brand. If you don’t have a solid branding strategy in place, get with your team and decide upon one. If your industry doesn’t set you apart, you need branding to give you a unique edge over the competition; after all, there is only one YOU. Your voice is part of your branding efforts – embrace that realization and use it to your benefit. Be sure to maintain consistency across channels.
Keep at It!
You’ve chosen your channels, you’re following others, and you have a voice. Now use them, and use them properly. Merely being present isn’t enough; you need to offer something to the outside world. Get out there and promote yourself – let the digital world know who you are and what you have to offer. And don’t forget to maintain a healthy, positive presence that is a proper reflection of your agency and brand.
When you’re trying to drive relevant traffic to your insurance website, especially when you’re targeting insurance keywords, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Insurance keywords, in general, are highly competitive. That means a lot of people are optimizing their sites for those keywords, therefore it’s harder to attract the people typing those words and phrases into the search engines.
- There are ways to optimize your site for insurance keywords naturally and through inbound marketing activities like social media and blog posting.
We’re going to discuss seven of them in this post. These are highly tactical so you’ll be able to try them on your agency’s blog or social networks today.
#1. Don’t overuse product keywords on product pages.
In other words, you don’t need to mention “auto insurance” and your state in every paragraph of your product pages for the search engines to understand what the page is about. The search engine’s algorithms are more sophisticated now and they’re actually devaluing “keywords stuffing” as a tactic. In fact, that type of action can actually hurt the credibility of your site.
#2. If you want to draw traffic relevant to a product you sell, blog about it.
When you’re blogging around a product you sell, the first thing to keep in mind: no sales language. A blog post is different from a product page. When we say blog about the product, we mean blog about a topic related to the product. Did the insurance laws recently change around a particular policy or coverage in your state? That’s a great way to get the product name and the state in the title of your blog posts. Using those types of keywords in your blog titles can help draw relevant traffic to your site.
It’s important NOT to squeeze those keywords into a blog title or blog post unnaturally though. You really need to make sure you’re only including them because they are highly relevant to what you’re writing about.
#3. Post the blog post you wrote on social networks.
After you write the blog post, promote it on all of your agency’s social networks. Distribute it to agency staff to share on their personal or professional social networks as well. Word of mouth is a powerful tactic, even online. If your blog post is highly relevant and useful or solves a popular problem that insurance consumers face, there’s a chance it might go viral if properly promoted.
#4. Do long tail keyword research for your product-centered blog posts.
Even if you’re writing a product-centered blog post such as, “Does auto insurance cover a hit and run?,” you can do long tail keyword research to determine the best way to phrase that blog title. When we say the “best way to phrase,” we mean the way people are searching for that topic online.
Long tail, by the way, means it’s a longer, more descriptive keyword phrase.
Here’s how to do long tail keyword research:
- Go to the new Google Adwords Keyword Planner (you’ll need a gmail account and you’ll need to login).
- Click “Search for keyword…”
- Type “auto insurance hit and run” into the first search field.
- Click “Get Ideas.”
- Click on the “Keyword Ideas” tab.
- See what comes up!
You’ll want to incorporate the keyword phrase that most closely matches what you’ll be writing about into your blog title.
Based on this research you may want to incorporate “hit and run insurance” into the blog title because there are 320 average monthly searches and the competition is medium, not high.
#5. Include keywords naturally in your meta descriptions.
A meta description is the description that appears underneath the blue hyperlink in search results. It is a great way to let the search engines and consumers know what the content they will be clicking to is about. For blog posts, it’s extremely important not to overlook the value of including insurance keywords and long tail keywords into the meta description, only if the keywords fit naturally though. The same goes for product pages.
#6. Implement a #hashtag strategy both on Facebook and Twitter.
When sharing your optimized, insurance-focused blog post on Facebook and Twitter, make sure you’re using hashtags correctly to reach an even broader audience. Hashtags look like this: #lifeinsurance. And when you incorporate them into a post they turn into hyperlinks. If you click on them, they take you to search results for all the social media posts using that hashtag phrase. A lot of people use these to search for others talking about a topic on social networks. That’s how they could find your agency and even get to your blog.
#7. All of this is no good unless you have an engaged audience on social networks.
Remember that promoting your blog posts on social media is only going to work if you have an engaged audience there. And you’re only going to get an engaged audience if you go and follow relevant people in your community, you comment on their statuses or reTweet their statuses, and if you are consistently providing information that is useful to them – not just from your site but from third party sites as well.
We hope this list gives you a good place to start when trying to draw relevant traffic to your insurance website. And by relevant traffic, we mean traffic that will likely convert into leads!
By Shawna Arnold
Last month, we discussed why “poor quality” websites might be ranking above you. This can be increasingly frustrating, especially when you’re doing everything “right” (e.g. blogging, participating in social media, etc.). We also went over how the search engines work and what to consider in evaluating a website. Now, let’s discuss what you can evaluate in regard to the strengths v. weaknesses between your website and the websites ranking around you!
Going along with the two key questions Google is asking to generate its search results, you need to ask yourself:
- Does my content address the searcher’s intent? Does the content of the websites ranking around me?
- Does my content provider greater unique value than anyone else? Does the content of the websites ranking around me?
Asking these questions will help you determine the content quality and usefulness of both your site and the other sites ranking around you. Having unique, engaging, and high quality content is important to Google and the other search engines.
Here are some other things you can look at to measure strengths and weaknesses between your website and the websites ranking around you…
Search Results / Result Listings
When evaluating the results pages for your website or others, make sure you take a look at the way the listings appear. Does the listing have a great marketing message in the description? Does the title adequately describe what the site is for / what it’s about? Having a poor title or description can work against you or a competitor. Having clear, concise messaging in the title and description that also markets to people and reaches out to them is key.
Another big thing to look at between you and your competitors is branding. How well-known is your agency? What is your authority and recognition within your area and the industry? How about for the companies whose websites are ranking around you?
Something else to consider that connects to brand is a website’s domain authority and recognition. How long has your domain (and those who rank around you) been around? What are your trust factor ratings like, as well as those ranking around you? You can check for these statistics and more with free browser extensions through Moz, Majestic SEO, and more. Typically, such extensions are available on Chrome and Firefox.
An online citation can be a link, brand mentions, social shares and mentions, local reviews and ratings, and much more. It can be overwhelming to try and collect all of this information, and some you might not have access to. Try starting with this list:
- How many backlinks does my website have versus the websites ranking around me? (You can use the aforementioned browser extensions to find this data.)
- How many local reviews does my company have versus the companies ranking around me? (Start with looking at Google, Yahoo, and Yelp.)
- Do I have a rating on my Google Local page? How does it compare to the websites of the companies ranking around me?
Generally, websites with more relevant and authoritative backlinks, local reviews, and local ratings/rankings will perform better than those lacking these elements.
Website Design & User Experience
This can be hard to truly evaluate without someone technical on your side, but simply look at the design of your website compared to the designs of the websites ranking around you. Ask yourself some simple questions, such as:
- Do you find that those websites ranking around you are easy to navigate?
- Were you able to easily find out what their products and services are?
- Were you able to easily find out how to contact the business?
- Did they provide multiple methods of contact? (e.g. a contact form, email address, social media links, etc.)
- As a consumer, would you want to learn more about their services or purchase their products?
- Was the navigation of their site easy to use or confusing for you?
There is so much more you can get into with design and user experience, but start by asking yourself these simple questions and try and stack up your competition and compare with your own website.
When evaluating the strengths and weaknesses between your website and those ranking around you, remember that Google intent will always be to provide search users with the most relevant and valuable results. Make sure you evaluate things like branding, design, user experience, content, citations, and search listings before you assume that the sites ranking around you are poor quality or shouldn’t be there. Not all things are as they appear on quick glance!
By Shawna Arnold
A couple of weeks ago, Moz.com posted a White Board Friday video that really got us thinking. The video explain what those of us in the inbound marketing industry hear all of the time: why is my website “losing” rankings to lower quality websites? In order to really explain this, let’s start by getting back to basics…
How do Search Engines Work?
On the surface, some of the websites ranking above yours may seem of lower quality. However, there is a lot to consider when looking at ranking. Google’s algorithm has so many moving parts to support their intent – to deliver the most relevant and valuable results to a search user’s query. Google’s intent has always been the same, it really has not changed. When pulling up its search results, Google is asking two KEY questions:
- Is this content relevant?
- Among all the relevant content, which one is the best?
Content can be deemed relevant for a number of different reasons – the content’s topic, a business / brand, a searcher’s preferences and location, etc. Once Google has deemed a website’s content to be relevant to the search query, there are a number of signals that tell them which is best.
What to Consider in Evaluating a Website?
When you’re checking out that seemingly “poor quality” website ranking above you, keep in mind that Google has deemed that site the most appropriate result for that position. Does Google make mistakes? Sure they do, the algorithm isn’t perfect. Here are some features / site qualities to consider when evaluating a website ranking higher than yours:
- Domain-based items
- Page-based items
- Listing-based items
When looking at domain-based items, you want to consider the domain age of the website, domain authority, etc. These factors are all considered in Google’s algorithm. Using tools like Moz’s SEO Toolbar (FREE!) can help you find this information.
When looking at page-based items, you want to consider the layout of the website, the user experience and usability of a website, etc. How people interact with a website and its ease-of-use will play a role in Google’s algorithm.
When looking at listing-based items, consider the way that website’s result appears. Is their meta description a better marketing piece than yours? Does it have a better call-to-action than yours?
Again, take a step back and start doing some research on the websites ranking higher than yours. That website might not appear to be better than yours, but Google shows the results the way they are for a reason – to support their intent of producing the most valuable and relevant results to a searcher’s query. Remember that there are many factors aside from domain, page, and listing items that can determine the search results, like a user’s location and search preferences, a company’s brand, etc. Next month, we’ll go over what you can evaluate in terms of the strengths v. weaknesses between your website and the websites ranking around you.
By Shawna Arnold
A recent article over at SEOMoz discussed the importance of diversity in your SEO strategy and it really got us thinking. The idea of diversity is important for your entire digital marketing strategy, from SEO to social media to email marketing. SEOMoz calls it diversity, but here at Astonish, we call it a blended strategy!
Blending your digital marketing strategies may be easier than you think. When looking to diversify, pay attention to your:
- Traffic Sources
- Point of View
Not only is it important to diversify your links to keep things fresh, but it’s also important to stay on the up-and-up with Google. You want to make sure that there is a variety of ways for visitors to get to you and you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket. If you’re getting the majority of your links from directories, try grabbing opportunities to guest blog with a local newspaper (Patch.com is great for this) or a local organization / chamber of commerce. Even the highest quality of link building tactic (PR, guest blogging, directories, etc.) can become low quality if you abuse it. Spread the link love and build your backlink portfolio.
Similarly to the places you have links back to your site, you want to make sure you have a variety of outside sources bringing traffic to your site. Whether you’re bringing people in from email marketing or social media, make sure you keep it diverse. If your agency is really strong on Facebook and you’re bringing visitors to your website from there, try integrating more focus on Twitter and Google+ and pushing visitors from those sites.
Point of View
Diversifying your point of view may be a little trickier than your links and traffic sources. For the most part, your point of view is who you are as an agency. But it also has to do with your attitude. You don’t have to change who you are and the message you send by changing your point of view, but rather just change your attitude. The insurance industry can be a tough market for content generation whether it is through email, blogging, or social media. One rut you don’t want to get into is thinking your industry is too boring for creativity – that is the WRONG idea to have! You have to approach your marketing efforts with a fresh perspective and passion for your subject matter. If you’re bored with your content, then your readers, customers, and potential customers will feel that way too. Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone to come up with new ideas – look at your agency as an outsider, go through some of your sales processes as if you’re a new customer, have one of your staff members explain to you why your agency is different and better than all the rest. Consider the things you’re doing within your community or for charitable organizations. A renewed positive attitude can do just the trick in triggering content ideas.
If you adjust anything in your digital marketing efforts for 2013, let it be the diversity in what you’re doing – make sure you’re using a blended strategy. The change up will pay off, giving you a new gusto for your marketing efforts, improved attitude, and in turn better interaction and engagement for your audience!