By Shawna Arnold
Recently, we discussed the importance of Google Webmaster Tools for your insurance website. This week, we’re going to get into Bing Webmaster Tools, and why you should be implementing this tool as well.
Bing Webmaster Tools 101
Similar to Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Webmaster Tools is a free platform that allows you to submit your website and view its technical data. Bing Webmaster Tools presents you with the following information:
- Clicks to your website from search
- Appearance of your website in search results
- Crawl status of pages
- Crawl errors
- Index status of pages
- Top keywords for your website in organic search
- Top pages for organic search traffic
- Incoming links to your website
Bing Webmaster Tools also allows you to submit your sitemap, review its crawl status, and find / fix your website’s crawl errors. Bing’s tool will detail out any “SEO suggestions” they see for your website as well, such as adjusting page title tags and meta descriptions.
Why Bother With Bing?
We know what you’re thinking. Google holds 67% of the market share for search engines, so why put much effort into complying with Bing’s best practices? Bing’s share has been slowly growing over time. With almost 19% of the market, it’s hard to deny that they’re a contender in the search “game.” You don’t want to put all of your eggs in one basket. In this case, you don’t want to rely solely on Google’s data to know how your site performs in search overall. Despite Google have the largest share of the search market, they are increasingly taking information away from website owners, while Bing is not.
While your inbound marketing strategy may have been formed with Google specifically in mind, what is best practice for Google should translate to all search engines. Your website should provide high quality, unique, and engaging content that adequately explains both who your agency is and what insurance products you provide. Your website should also be relevant to search users. If your site meets these criteria, then you’re on the right track, no matter the search engine.
Bing Webmaster Tools not only indicates how your website is performing and its technical status in Bing search, but also in Yahoo search. Yahoo and Bing merged their search algorithms back in 2011; you now only need to use one set of tools between the two search engines to track your website. By using both Google and Bing Webmaster Tools, you’re able to monitor the technical and search performance of your website on all three major search engines.
In learning the technical status of your website and how / why visitors came to your website, you’ll be equipped to make any strategy adjustments necessary to ensure you’re catering well to every search engine’s user base.
Have questions about Bing Webmaster Tools or stories about how it benefited your strategy? Leave a comment so we can discuss.
About The Author
Shawna Arnold is the Inbound Marketing Manager at Astonish, specializing in SEO and content marketing. She has been with Astonish for five years, allowing her to work closely with a variety of insurance agencies all over the country. She has a passion for SEO, content, social media, and all things inbound marketing. She thrives on educating small businesses and individuals on inbound marketing through blogging, eBooks, white papers, and more.
By: Allie Viau
When it comes to your agency’s website, the “if you build it, they will come” optimism simply does not apply. Unless you work hard to market your site and entice online visitors, chances are you will not find the reach you are hoping for.
So, how can your agency drive traffic to your website? While paid advertisements are always an option, many agents today do not realize the true value of organic, or unpaid, marketing. Inbound marketing strategies such as search engine optimization (SEO), social media, blogging, and others all work together to market in a way that is attractive to your audience, not disruptive.
Independent insurance agencies that adopt a holistic inbound marketing strategy can achieve increased traffic, among other benefits. In order to see the maximum results from these efforts, the strategy needs to be an agency-wide initiative. Each and every team member should be on board and contributing. By doing so, your agency can leverage inbound marketing to create new customer opportunities, improve client retention, and increase the number of referrals your agency receives.
So, how can you use inbound marketing, specifically SEO, social media, blogs, and press releases to drive traffic to your website?
Search Engine Optimization
SEO is the process of improving and promoting a website in order to increase web traffic received via search engines. Since between 50 and 60-percent of web traffic is driven by search engines today, it is crucial to make sure that your agency is following up to date SEO best practices (which are, unfortunately, changing constantly). Today, search engine optimization is not just about pleasing search engines, but web visitors as well. By working to “optimize” your site, you will help drive traffic to your website over time since you are making it easier for users to find you through online search.
Since the insurance industry is one of the most competitive in terms of search traffic, if your agency is not on board with SEO yet, you will have a difficult time competing in the future. Not only will SEO help bring in more traffic, but it can bring in higher quality traffic. Studies show that on average, SEO leads have a 14.6% sales close rate. This blows away the 1.7% close rate for outbound leads such as print ads, direct mailing, etc.
As a local agency, one great benefit of social media is to differentiate your agency from its competitors, especially from the major carriers, and driving traffic to your site instead of theirs. For example, by engaging with customers and prospects through social media, your agency can interact with consumers on a more personal, human level. By sharing information about your agency, products, and brand via social media, you can build long-term customers and also drive traffic to your site. Everyone you connect with on social media has easy access to your site to learn more about your products, fill out a quote form, or give your agency a call.
Modern consumers now consider user-generated content, such as reviews or testimonials, to be more reliable than advertisements or other forms of content. This user-generated content is what social media sites are made of. Taking advantage of these platforms can result in increased opportunities, referrals, and in turn, traffic.
Still don’t believe in the business powers of social media? 80% of Facebook users prefer to connect with brands on Facebook, and 50% of twitter users say they are more likely to become a customer of a business that they follow.
More than half of consumers state that blogs impact their purchase decisions. What does this mean for agencies? Your prospects and customers are using blogs to find information, so if you are not blogging, you are missing out. Maintaining a blog that contains relevant, unique, and compelling content is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your agency’s website. Regular blogging can improve your SEO, since it works to develop the credibility and reliability of your site in the eyes of the search engines. And, search engines are not the only ones to correlate blogging with credibility. Studies have shown that blogs are considered to be more trustworthy than Google+, online forums, online magazines, branded sites, Pinterest, and Twitter.
Improving your SEO will indirectly increase your site traffic, but blogging also provides significant direct traffic to your website. Businesses that blog 20 times per month have 5 times more traffic than those that do not. Blogging about your insurance products, your local community, your team members, and other relevant topics will increase your agency’s reach and drive more people to your site.
Customers are looking online for product and company information more than ever. However, it is not enough to simply have a website. Insurance agencies that work together as a team to implement an integrated inbound marketing strategy will be more successful in terms of traffic, retention, opportunities, and referrals than agencies that do not.
About The Author
Allie Viau is an Inbound Marketing Specialist at Astonish. She creates a variety of content including website landing pages, blogs, and press releases. Allie is passionate about helping small businesses build their brand equity online through quality content and other inbound marketing strategies. She spends her free time baking, painting, and traveling as much as possible.
By Jake Bissaro
The conclusion is one of the more under-appreciated and ignored parts of any kind of writing. A time crunch or a lack of ideas can make it difficult to go any further at the end of your blog, but you should always try to push yourself to write a more meaningful conclusion. You’ve managed to hold the audience’s attention for this long; don’t leave them off with a few lackluster, thrown together sentences. You want to give your audience something that will stick in their mind and keep them coming back to your site.
The basic function of a conclusion is touch on the overall point up the purpose of the entire article, but that doesn’t mean it has to be an exact rehashing of the introduction. Think of your conclusion as a way to try to push your readers to think about the subject in a new way. Without a solid conclusion, all the work you’ve done to hold the reader’s attention could be for naught.
Writing blogs isn’t an exact science, but these are some tips that will help you improve your conclusions:
Ask a question. A simple question can go a long way in a conclusion. Asking something rhetorical like “How can I employ this strategy?” can help your reader see how the topic can be applied to their particular situation.
Insert a call to action or a challenge. Encourage your reader to take action and employ the advice you just gave them. If you’re stating an opinion, challenge the reader to disprove you. It can make the content more interactive and encourage action on their part.
Introduce a new idea. Sometimes a new idea can be refreshing. You don’t want to stray from your main idea entirely, but a new idea can freshen things up. If your blog topic relates to an idea you’ve written about previously, this can be a great way to link out to another post.
Things to Avoid:
Starting with phrases like “in conclusion” or “to sum it up.” These are usually unnecessary, and reader should be able to tell that it’s the end of the post from your tone from your tone
Making it too long. A long, meandering conclusion can bore the reader. Your conclusion shouldn’t go over five sentences; any more, and you run the risk of the reader cutting out early.
Being too obvious about promoting your product. Your blog should serve as a companion to your existing site as something to keep your customers up to date and entertained. Shamelessly promoting what you sell every other sentence will only annoy the reader.
You could’ve written a great blog post, but if you have an uninspired conclusion, it can be the thing that your reader remembers about the article. If you’re having trouble, just remember to try to put yourself in the reader’s shoes, and let that guide your content creation. You don’t want your readers to feel like they’ve wasted their time reading something you wrote, so put in those extra few minutes at the end. Your audience will thank you!
About the Author
Jake Bissaro is the newest Inbound Marketing Specialist at Astonish, and strives to translate the personality of clients into first-rate web pages. He graduated from UMass Amherst last year, and previously worked as a technical writer before joining the team at Astonish. In addition to web writing, he works as a journalist, writing about local arts in Rhode Island.
By Deirdre Weedon
There is some great news for insurance agencies who have been diligently blogging every week. Blogs influence what consumers purchase. According to Technorati’s 2013 Digital Brand Report, consumers rated blogs as the third-most influential digital resource when making purchase decisions. Retail sites were in first place and brand sites came in second. Technorati also found that blogs came in fifth as the most trustworthy source of information on the internet. Impressive, but what does it tell us? It demonstrates that through blogging, agencies have a great opportunity to reach people and turn them into clients. Let’s look at some ways that will help you with this effort.
Share your posts on your social networks
Research by International Data Corp points out that smartphone users check Facebook an average of 14 times a day, so sharing your blogs there makes sense. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+ are also excellent networks to share your posts. When sharing your posts, include a photo and a status update. Notice how in the image to the right, there is an interesting image and a status letting people know what the post is about and why they should read it? You want to include that when you share.
Use Long Tail Keywords
Use long tail keywords in your blog. A long tail keyword is a popularly searched phrase that is at least three words long and covers a very specific topic. For example, “long term care insurance for veterans” is an example of a long tail keyword that you could use in a blog post, particularly in your title. See Astonish’s blog post about Long Tail Keywords to learn more about them, including how to find them.
Use title tags on your posts
Title tags define a page by offering a concise and compelling title for your blog posts. The title tag is what will appear in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), as the link above the meta description. The title tag also appears on social media sites when you post a link there. You want your title tag to inform people of the topic and persuade them to click over to read the article. If you can use a long tail keyword in the title naturally, it’s a bonus, since people are more likely to click on a link when it’s title matches the search query they used. Keep in mind that if your title doesn’t match what your post is about, people might leave your site quickly, and that is never a good thing. Google displays 50-60 characters of a title tag so you need to make it short. Check out this title emulator tool by Moz.com to see how your title would appear in a search.
Use meta descriptions on your posts
Just like the title tag, you want to write a meta description for each post. As shown in the image above, the meta description will show up on the SERPs below the title tag. It’s important to be clear and compelling. Using just 156 characters, the challenge is to show your reader why he or she should click over to your site. Make it conversational and not a heavy sales pitch. You want to capture their attention and give them a reason to look at what you posted. It’s a call to action. Use title tags and meta descriptions to give searchers a description of what your post is about and a reason why they should read it. Think of the words “what and why” as you write them.
There are many ways to promote your blog. The most important factor is that you are blogging regularly. However, if you’re not blogging regularly, why not start now? There is no time like the present to take your business to the next level.
By Megan Donaldson
There are many keyword research tools available for purchase and free of purchase online. In this article, we’ll explain how to use two free, easy-to-use tools from Google: Google Trends and Google AutoSuggest. These tools are great for determining terms to include in your landing page content and blog posts. They are not designed to provide you with search numbers, but instead to show you common trends in search.
How To Use Google Trends
To use Google Trends, visit www.google.com/trends. Google Trends’ homepage will show you popular search trends across the web that may provide you with some inspiration for a blog or social post. To do more customized research, visit the “Explore” section. Once on the Explore Trends screen, you can begin to customize your research. At the top of the screen are drop down selections for your geographical focus, time period, category, and type of search function. Keep things basic to start; simply select your geographical focus, then start typing in related search topics or search queries. I’ve provided an example below:
As you can see, the geographical focus is set to California. This means that the results are all going to be based on what people in California are searching. Because of this, we don’t have to include the region in our search. We can start with a head term such as “auto insurance.” A head term is a popularly searched one-or-two word term. The search terms you submit will generate a list of related search queries.
You’ll notice that Google Trends does not provide numbers to the extent that Google AdWords does, but even Google AdWords provides rounded numbers instead of exact. With Google Trends, you are seeing which terms or phrases are trending more commonly in your target region, so you can adjust the language you use. By using the phrases that people are actually searching, you are more likely to answer a visitor’s question, thereby providing a more positive user experience.
How To Use Google AutoSuggest
Google’s AutoSuggest, or AutoComplete, is probably one of the easiest ways to do keyword research. Just go to google.com, start typing in a search query (but don’t complete the phrase), and the box that drops down while you’re typing is Google AutoSuggest. Google is trying to guess what your search query is by making suggestions of other top trending search queries. This is a great, quick way to get some keyword ideas.
Google’s suggestions are based upon your region and language, both of which can be adjusted in your search settings. If you are targeting a specific region (state/city), be sure that your search settings reflect this.
You can also add a geographical reference to your search phrase to further customize your results. By using a geographical reference, you will be given more geo-specific search suggestions that help ensure the queries are related to your focus region.
Google AutoSuggest also offers up additional modifiers, such as “requirements,” “quote,” or “buy” that will help you create long tail keyword phrases. Long tail keyword phrases allow you to better answer search queries that people are using because they are targeting more specific questions. For example, instead of using the generalized phrase “car insurance” which could relate to any number of searches, “California car insurance requirements” is much more focused and is more likely to answer a specific search query.
So the next time you’re prepping to write a piece of content for the web, research your topic in Google Trends and Google AutoSuggest. Doing so will help you better-target your audience and answer the questions they REALLY want answered.
Have questions about keyword research? Post them here so we can discuss.
About the Author
Megan is a Senior Inbound Marketing Specialist at Astonish, spending most of her professional time fine-tuning inbound strategies, evaluating websites, and researching, researching, researching. After studying Marketing Communications in Western Massachusetts she dedicated herself to the online world through online retailing, web usability, and search engine optimization. Megan is a native Rhode Islander who loves baking crazy confections in her spare time. Have you ever tried an 8 layer cookie cake? YUM.
By Coburn Childs
Perhaps you have heard the phrase, “call to action,” but you’re not sure what it means. Well, did you know that marketing success for your business usually starts with a call to action? How about that 70% of small businesses are regrettably not even employing a call to action on the homepage of their sites? Let’s explore some of the ways you can be taking advantage of this, whether on your agency’s website, Facebook page, or other social media profiles.
What is a call to action?
There is no specific call to action definition, aside from the fact that it is simply what it sounds like: a command or instructive sentence that urges your website landing page visitor—or a viewer of your social media page—to answer that call with a certain action. Believe it or not, the wording in what your company posts in blogging and social media efforts really does matter when it comes to converting customers in your content marketing strategy.
In short, a call to action—whether in a blog post, on a product or service page on your website, in a tweet on Twitter, or even on a post through Facebook or another social media outlet—is essential for your business marketing to be effective.
Call to action examples
Many small businesses do not prioritize calls to action in their marketing efforts, meaning they do not bother to implore potential clients to even so much as “read more.” However, this may be hurting their success. The goal of marketing is to get customers to engage with your business and convert. Hence, it’s time to provide the instruction to yield a conversion.
For example, if your business offers an auto insurance quote form, end the paragraph with a compelling phrase, such as, “Fill out our quote form for information today.” Similarly, if you want a visitor to your social media network profile to click to your website from a simple Facebook post, include something like, “Visit our website now for more information about this service.” You can get creative, but stay basic in how you’re asking your potential customer to convert.
When instituting a call to action, be sure to prioritize what that action will be. Evaluate what will require a conversion, and then craft a simple statement. Just be sure to not overload your pages and posts with calls to action that are not genuine or do not make sense. After all, the very point of a call to action is to engage your visitors and get them interested in learning more and converting. With just a little strategy, your agency can be well on its way to increased inbound marketing success.
About the Author
Coburn Childs is a creative mind and young professional based in Providence, RI. In recent years, he’s blogged on a number of topics, from the insurance industry to Hollywood’s box office trends, from communication theories to religious topics, from food to movies, and everything in between. He’s also a self-described social media nut! Currently, he works as an Inbound Marketing Specialist for Astonish.