Recently, Google quietly announced that they would be making a change to their pay-per-click advertising policy regarding text ads. Starting in April 2013, Google will no longer be allowing publishers to manually insert their phone number into their paid search text ads. Practically speaking, Google is trying to eliminate ads that appear in search results that look like this (note the included phone number in the pizza ad):
There are a lot of marketers out there whose strategy is to deliver a high volume of phone-based SEM leads by including each client’s SEM-specific phone number in their AdWords advertisement. Since Google has stated that these types of ads will be disapproved in the near future, this could affect marketers significantly unless a change in strategy is executed.
A good SEM team will adjust to the changing landscape of paid search ads, and have a plan in place.
In order to be in full compliance with Google policies, all SEM campaigns will need to remove/pause all campaigns that include a phone number in their text (description, headline). In addition to that, marketers will want to utilize an AdWords function called “Call Extensions” in order to display phone numbers associated with each ad. In this case, your SEM phone number will be eligible to show up in Google sponsored search results next to your text copy, like this:
In addition, this feature will allow your phone number to be displayed as a “click to call” option on mobile devices. Google has recently begun treating desktop computers and mobile devices as similar entities when it comes to paid search (because the ever-increasing capabilities of mobile devices has blurred the lines in terms of usability), so this is an important development. One of the features of this change will allow mobile search users who find your PPC ad to simply click on your phone number to be connected to your agency. With mobile paid search growing rapidly, this is a great development for your campaigns as you prepare to field potential leads from those on the go.
The bottom line is this – Google PPC advertising is always changing, which is why it is important to have your internet marketing team working hard on your behalf to help adjust to these changes, and identify new areas of opportunity for your agency.
SEM performance, when it comes to our agency partners, can be analyzed in two ways:
- SEM campaign performance (cost per click, average position in search results, cost per lead)
- Sales (agency) performance (policies activated, percentage of leads quoted, total premium acquired via SEM)
To a large extent, the SEM department strives to drive qualified traffic to your VIO, with the ultimate goal of converting that traffic into “quotable” opportunities (i.e. a visitor who is looking to obtain an insurance quote from your agency). I use many different methods and tactics to drive as much qualified traffic as possible to your agency, so that you aren’t wasting SEM budget on clicks that aren’t valuable to your agency – specific keyword research (at the very least, we are advertising on specific insurance products, not informational keywords), geographic targeting (so that you aren’t wasting budget on clicks from outside of your target area), and “day-parting” (the practice of showing your ads in search results primarily when your agency is open and able to handle quote inquiries). Of course, you’re liable to receive traffic and lead inquiries (calls or quote request forms) from people who are less qualified, but these are the methods that we employ to limit those instances.
But what happens after you’ve received a quote inquiry from SEM? You’re highly visible in search results for your target keywords, you’ve enticed someone to click on your specific ad, and you’ve given the user enough information that they’ve decide that they want more information from your agency via form or phone. Now what?
Here are three tips to take advantage of the leads that come through your SEM, giving you the best chance to turn leads into customers:
- Be open to all types of customers. SEM is a great tool to target some specific types of insurance, mostly through the use of good keyword selection. That way, we can make sure that we capture those searching for “auto insurance” and not “earthquake insurance” (kind of important when your agency is in Chicago!). But what about the term “business insurance”? Can you imagine all of the various types of businesses that will arrive at your site via that search query? Don’t throw away that lead opportunity just because your agency doesn’t specialize in funeral home insurance.
- Don’t sit your “varsity” players! We all know that different producers have different success rates when closing business for your agency. When you are paying for the traffic (and thus, leads) that come from SEM, wouldn’t you want to give yourself the best chance at closing a policy as possible? The answer is simple – use your sales metrics to assign all SEM leads to the producer that has the best closing ratio. After all, it’s much easier to close a “referral” than a digital marketing lead, so put your best player on the field as the competition gets tougher.
- Haste makes waste. This is probably the oldest rule in the insurance sales book – the quicker that you get in touch with a lead, the better your chances of getting their business. This is particularly true for digital marketing (and SEM) leads, because those that are on the internet are likely using the down time after they fill out a quote request form on your website to research other agencies. Don’t let them get to far – call them as soon as you receive their inquiry, or else run the risk of losing them to the other local insurance agent down the street.
SEM can be a very valuable source of qualified leads for your agency — the person that tries to contact you via SEM has already performed a keyword search, seen your agency’s advertisement, and clicked through to your site. At this point, you’ve got a very interested audience – wouldn’t YOU want to take advantage of these leads?
One of the most important qualities of an SEM (Pay-Per-Click) strategy is the ability to convert site visits into actual lead opportunities. After all, besides the branding lift associated with site traffic, your most valuable visit is the one that turns into an action that benefits your agency’s bottom line. When it comes to paid search traffic, the desired action is to either:
1) Complete an online quote request form, or
2) To contact your office via dedicated SEM phone number
Both have a bigger impact on your policies activated than a simple click.
Of the myriad metrics that are available to us in SEM to determine performance, the one that tracks our ability to transition clicks into leads is called conversion rate. This ratio is simply the total number of contact points over the total number of site visits, and looks like this:
Conversion rate = (SEM phone calls + SEM quote forms completed) / total SEM visits
To that end, I am always tracking the SEM department’s performance at converting traffic into leads by comparing our client’s performance to industry-specific benchmarks. A recent study shows just how effective the Astonish SEM program is at driving valuable traffic to your agency’s site.
Pay-Per-Click vendor Wordstream just finished a study on SEM spending and conversion rates amongst some of the more competitive markets in the search landscape, and it highlighted some interesting findings.
First of all, to no one’s surprise, the Finance vertical (which includes and is heavily influenced by insurance-related searches) was the most competitive landscape in paid search advertising. The top two advertisers amongst this group were State Farm and Geico (again, unsurprisingly). The costs and conversions were the highest amongst the industries, highlighting the importance of having a dedicated SEM program to help you navigate this important, but crowded, marketplace.
Second of all, and something that I found most interesting, was that this presented a couple of benchmark metrics for Astonish to use in assessing our own client’s performance. The one that sticks out to me is the average conversion rate (the % of people who completed an action after clicking on a PPC ad) across the entire industry is just over 6%. I’m pleased to say that Astonish PPC conversion rates are exceeding that industry benchmark. In 2012, 10% of all paid search visitors (to Astonish clients’ sites) are converting to a quote request form completed. This means that Astonish SEM campaigns outperform the industry by a whopping 66% when it comes to converting everyday traffic into leads.
Author: David Osowa is the Director of Search Engine Marketing at Astonish. He manages and optimizes hundreds of PPC campaigns on behalf of Astonish clients to get them the best possible lead opportunities available.
This is a multi-part leadership series written by Tim Sawyer, President and Director of Client Services at Astonish. The goal is to give your insurance agency the tools necessary for effective leadership from a man who’s helped thousands of insurance professionals succeed in marketing their insurance agencies to the modern consumer.
As the head of client services for the largest digital marketing company in the insurance industry, I have worked with thousands of insurance professionals over the past 5 years. Through our work with these professionals we have discovered specific characteristics that must exist in order for an individual agency to successfully implement strategies to meet the growing demands of the modern consumer.
First and foremost, successful execution and implementation of any marketing strategy, whether digital or traditional, requires the active presence of a dedicated, passionate leader. Having installed training and marketing systems into several thousand businesses, we have determined that leadership is the number one reason for success or failure.
Practically speaking, because most leaders are not the implementers of the actual strategy, there is a natural tendency to pass the responsibility on to the “go to” person in the office. Typically this person is a seasoned insurance professional with little or no insurance marketing expertise, whose primary function is not related to the success of the initiative. In fact, this new initiative may actually be perceived as an impediment to their ability to perform their primary unrelated tasks. This dynamic can pose serious risks to the desired outcome of the marketing initiative.
In the worst case scenario, the implementers may actually, unknowingly undermine the initiative altogether. When questioned by the agency principal as to the progress of the initiative, the lack of success is often blamed on the process, perceived added workload, lack of training, lack of quality, etc.
For this reason it is imperative that someone other than the actual implementers be held responsible for the success of the initiative. In other words, the outcome requires the active participation of a strong leader.
Your company has multiple social media sites – good for you, but why are you spending more time on Twitter than LinkedIn? Content varies from one site to the next and posting the fun company office photos you’d upload on Facebook isn’t something you can do, say on your company’s YouTube account. The sooner you realize each site is meant to be used differently the better you will keep your audience engaged! There are numerous social sites out there, but these four remain as the top reigning ones that are most visited each day. Your business can definitely be bettered by utilizing all four, just make sure you’re keeping on top of all your accounts appropriately and equally. Here’s how each one should be maintained for your business:
Facebook – Most people still view this as a site for college students to put pictures of your friends partying online that will stay on the Internet forever and we don’t blame those people because Facebook was originally created for college level men and women. However, since its inception almost eight years ago, this popular social tool has become much more than a time waster. Companies are now using the site to gain a virtual audience for their business by setting up online promotions and taking their customers into their office by way of videos and photos. Those with accounts on the popular social site are viewing these companies who also have accounts as driving forces in their communities just trying to make a name for themselves. You are able to interact and respond with people almost instantly about anything you post on your page! This is a very gratifying way to launch your business’s name to the online world.
Twitter – Believe it or not most people are still intimidated by this site simply because its format strays from a typical site of adding a picture and a bio. It offers you the ability to express whatever’s on your mind, but only in 140 characters or less so get a little creative with how you post! Twitter was designed to be more of a mobile social site where you can share anything on the go – a true information network. Want to let your customers know of a great promotional video that’s running for your company? Attach the link and in seconds anyone who’s following your Twitter account can have access to it. Need to send a quick message to a few Twitter followers about a question they had for YOU? No problem! Group your Tweet so you’re interacting with all of them! Twitter is a fantastic option to become a true influencer in your community and create a professional network of people who share the same interests as you. Don’t be intimidated – create an account and jump right in!
LinkedIn – This is THE professional site today. You want all the positive information about your business on your page as possible. That includes a photo of yourself or the company’s logo, contact information so a potential customer can reach you like a website and phone number, and how about some comments from past customers or employers? LinkedIN has a feature called “recommendations” where you can opt to have people leave positive feedback about your business and the type of worker you are. People who visit your page will read through these comments and will instantly know yours is the company to get in touch with and that you mean business. LinkedIn is also a fantastic networking tool because it can provide you with information on potential employees looking to work in your industry. You can browse for interested applicants for jobs and connect with colleagues and friends who also have a page on the professional site.
YouTube – Unlike the first three sites, this one is all about video and nothing else. YouTube was designed in mind with the idea that anyone – pretty much literally – can add videos to the Internet and in a matter of minutes hundreds of thousands of people can view what you’ve uploaded. There are acting and music sensations today that began their careers with the simple click of the “upload video” button on their accounts. You can become an online star as well. Utilize the fact that YouTube reaches so many people and create customer testimonials. Sure a written recommendation does the job the same, but people are more drawn to watching something positive than having to scan pages of a letter. Be creative with your YouTube account – link it to all your other social sites; have you thought of that? Once you have that powerful piece of video, take it and put the link on your Facebook and Twitter accounts so more than one realm of your audience can view it! Tools this simple are made this way so everyone can enjoy them without the hassle.
So now you know just what each social media site can accomplish for your business and how it affects your target audience. The amount of time you spend on each site is entirely up to you, but make sure it’s divided equally as you have just learned all four of these sites can do amazing things for your company. You wouldn’t want to be thought of as amazing some of the time, so don’t just go on these sites some of the time!
There’s a good chance you already have a LinkedIn profile (and if you don’t, what are you waiting for?!), but there’s also a good chance you aren’t taking advantage of everything this great networking platform has to offer. After you’ve tweaked your profile to perfection, added a professional looking picture and received a few recommendations from colleagues and clients, what else is there to do?
You need to think of LinkedIn like an after-hours networking event: you show up in your nice suit, grab a drink, put some of your business cards out on a table…and then sit in the corner all night.
No! You work the room and meet everyone that you can. You want folks to get to know you and understand what you bring to the table. The same method of thinking needs to be applied to your LinkedIn profile; don’t show up to the party and then sit alone for the entire evening.
One of the most valuable parts of LinkedIn is their “Answers” feature. LinkedIn Answers allows users to post questions and also answer questions that other users ask. If you log on to your LinkedIn profile, click on “More” in the top navigation and then “Answers” in that drop-down menu, you will be directed to the Answers portion of the website. I recommend just clicking around as a way to really see what Answers is capable of, but here are a few reasons why I think it’s so great:
1) You can position yourself as an expert. People are able to ask their questions in very specific categories. Click on categories you feel that you are very knowledgeable about and if you think you can provide a great answer, go for it! If the person asking the question thinks you had the best answer, you will begin to earn expertise. Experts are featured on the Answers homepage and in each category of questions. This is your way of showing what you know rather than telling people what you know.
2) Increase your blog traffic. If someone asks a question and you think a blog post you have written can be used as a resource, feel free to share your thoughts and your link. Obviously you shouldn’t do this if it has nothing to do with the question at-hand (don’t be that guy) but if you can work your post in to your answer in a seamless way, you definitely should.
3) Target potential clients. Think about what kind of clients you are trying to attract – small business owners? Technology companies? Auto enthusiasts? Think up a question your ideal customer might want to answer and put it out there. Once people begin to answer your question, be sure to message them individually and thank them. Don’t try to sell them anything; just be genuine! This is a nice way to slowly build a relationship with someone who has the potential to bring a lot of money in to your agency.
LinkedIn Answers is a fantastic networking tool if used correctly. Just remember to only ask and answer relevant questions; don’t waste your time trying to answer a million questions every day. Good relationship building takes time, but the ROI is often well worth the wait.