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5 Internet marketing mistakes insurance agents make

A successful lead generation SEO campaign for insurance agencies will have a strong local SEO component, focus on “long-tail” keywords in strategic niches, and use an aggressive off-site strategy to acquire high-quality backlinks. (Photo: ThinkStock)
A successful lead generation SEO campaign for insurance agencies will have a strong local SEO component, focus on “long-tail” keywords in strategic niches, and use an aggressive off-site strategy to acquire high-quality backlinks. (Photo: ThinkStock)

Insurance agents face immense challenges in Internet marketing.

First, many compete against national and global companies with sophisticated strategies and the deepest-of-deep pockets.

Second, those working for one of these companies are hamstrung by the corporate website and marketing structures.

Third, prospects, even with an immediate need, are reflexively suspicious of insurance pitches, so generating online leads becomes all the more difficult.

Related: 5 new marketing rules created by technology

Insurance agents must therefore devise exceedingly smart strategies and avoid any wasted online marketing expenditure.

Here are five mistakes seen all too often. Avoiding them puts agents on a path to online marketing return on investment.

SEO

(Photo: Thinkstock)

1. Wasting time and money on bad SEO campaigns

“Black hat” SEO agencies dangle juicy traffic and lead carrots in front of insurance agents, luring them into ill-conceived, cookie-cutter SEO campaigns. They never work.

SEO can be a very productive option for agents, provided they have a solid strategy. Generally, a successful lead generation SEO campaign for insurance agencies will have a strong local SEO component, focus on “long-tail” keywords in strategic niches with a very high potential for conversion, and use an aggressive off-site strategy involving the creation of content to acquire high-quality backlinks.

Related: Now is the time to make your business plan for 2016

 Social media

(Photo: Thinkstock)

2. Dabbling in social media

Using social media to generate sales leads is a dubious proposition for most businesses, and in insurance, because of the skepticism mentioned earlier, is particularly challenging for agents.

Basically, people don’t want to talk about insurance on social media, and don’t want to be sold to. Social media can be effective for building relationships with existing clients and establishing credibility, but building an engaged social media community takes a lot of time and effort — time and effort that can be spent more productively in other marketing activities.

Related: Why independent agents will always matter

 Website strategy

(Photo: Thinkstock)

3. Poor website strategies

If an agent is part of a corporate website structure, setting up a second, personal website will not pay off.

First, it will confuse prospects and search engines as to which website is the correct one to use for inquiries. Even a little seed of doubt will produce precipitous declines in website visits and leads.

Independent agents must make their websites solid, in terms of SEO, usability and conversion optimization (i.e., structuring the website to induce visitors to inquire further and make it easy for them to do so).

Winning agency websites have unique, valuable content, structured to enable visitors to find what they need quickly. Also critically important: having a mobile-friendly website. More people now use mobile devices than desktops to access the Internet. A mobile-unfriendly site says, “shop elsewhere” to the majority of prospects.

Related: Straight talk about selling insurance

Online marketing

(Photo: Thinkstock)

4. Under investing in/mishandling e-mail marketing

E-mail is a terrific option for insurance agencies, if it is done properly. E-mail can kill several marketing birds with one stone, including lead generation, credibility building and relationship building. Specific problems to avoid, include:

  • Using purchased lists. This is never effective. Build a house list as relevant and up to date as possible. It will pay off in the long run, no matter how long it takes.
  • Starting and stopping. Consistency is the key to effective e-mail marketing. It can take subscribers months to catch on and engage.
  • Coming on too strong. Remember that skepticism! E-mails providing useful information put prospects and clients at ease, and generate meaningful inquiries in the end.
  • Coming on too weak. Selling is part of the equation. An e-mail providing subscribers with no way at all to interact or inquire is only doing half the job.
  • Not using an e-mail management platform. This is ineffective and amateurish. Many solid, reasonably priced online platforms are available to give emails a professional look, and make distribution and analysis easy.

Related: The power of ‘why‘ for your insurance agency

 Track and measure

(Photo: Thinkstock)

5. Failing to track and measure

Agencies perpetuate bad online marketing campaigns when they fail to capture the right data and/or fail to review it regularly.

In terms of data capture, agencies must be able to tell which marketing campaigns are generating leads, and how many leads are being generated. Here are a few extremely important gaps to fill:

  • Phone leads are often ignored in online marketing campaign tracking. Make sure you can trace any phone inquiry back to the source; basically this is done through assigning unique phone numbers to each campaign — e.g., a unique phone number for the website, a unique number for emails.
  • Phone and form leads (i.e., forms submitted through the website, advertising landing page) must be separated from non-leads. Standard tracking systems usually count conversions — which include leads, spam, personal calls, etc. Failing to separate actual leads from conversions can make agencies overestimate the results of their campaigns.

In terms of review, online marketing is always an exercise in continuous improvement. Without analyzing which online sources are generating the most leads, it is impossible to strengthen weak campaigns (or eliminate them), and invest more in ROI-producing campaigns. With proper data capture and review, your online marketing will get stronger every quarter.

Brad Shorr is Chicago-based Internet marketing agency Straight North's director of content strategy.

Related: 11 signs that it's time for a new agency management system

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