Filed Under:Agent Broker, Agency Management

Agents need to take care when using Internet content

Everything you publish creates a reasonable expectation with your customer. (Photo: iStock)
Everything you publish creates a reasonable expectation with your customer. (Photo: iStock)

The Internet has placed a vast amount of information at our fingertips.

Not too long ago, researching a topic would require a trip to the local library. Today, after only a few clicks you have access to far more material than what was available even in a well-stocked brick and mortar library.

But the innformation you find on the Internet needs to be assessed with a discerning eye. Insurance agencies have unique concerns when it comes to using content found online.

Not all information is accurate

Google sets the standard for search engines as the site handles about 70% of all searches.

The Google bots are capable of reading for context and will punish your site if your information isn’t correct by diminishing your opportunities for being found.

However, they reward sites with accurate data by sending them more traffic. But  they also reward sites that have large amounts of content that is refreshed and supplemented on a daily basis.

Because of this, professional content writers are in high demand. This is especially true in the insurance arena.

Since the professional content writers don’t know our business, they rely on Internet searches for their information and are unknowingly spreading false information. Legal problems

If you attend a seminar on avoiding agency Errors & Omissions losses, one of the topics the meeting will cover is the way you present your agency in advertisements. The instructor will tell you that the plaintiff’s attorney will put you on the stand and seek to discredit you. They will do this by asking you to explain your advertising material. If they can find an assertion that suggests that you’re prone to exaggeration or hyperbole, they will use it to convince the jury that you misinformed your customer. For example, the instructor will recommend that you avoid referring to your agency as a “one-stop shop. “

It is never a good idea to suggest that you have all the answers to fit a customer’s needs. That simply isn’t possible and will create fertile ground for an aggressive attorney to make you look unreliable. Beyond that, people have fairly good noses for identifying salesmen who use “puffery.”

The following is a direct quote from one of the largest insurance websites, “When you need to compare options and quotes, a member agent in the (redacted) network is your one-stop shop.”

This site should know better, but so should hundreds of other insurance agency and company sites that use the “one-stop shop” term. Unfortunately, hundreds of agencies have linked to the above wording, embracing it as their own. This widespread use doesn’t make the practice any less likely to be used against you in court.

Listen to some of those ubiquitous commercials on TV, and you’re bound to hear reference to one-stop shopping. This is music to an attorney’s ears.

Some information might create other problems for your agency

Everything you publish creates a reasonable expectation with your customer.

When you state on your website that your agency will “use our experience and multiple company relationships to customize your coverage as needed,” this statement suggests a contract that it is doubtful you can fulfill. When you endorse a policy, are you really customizing it to that individual’s precise needs?

Another word that can get you in trouble is “tailor.”

As an agent, you’re in the business of providing your customer information and choices. They make the decisions. You’re not creating an insurance program for them, and you’re most certainly not “tailoring” or “customizing” an insurance policy just for them.

Those words could imply a fiduciary level of care that most agents would quickly realize is impossible when faced with an uncovered claim.

Ammo box

Be careful about the claims you make on your website. Don't give others ammunition they can use against you. (Photo: iStock)

Overstatement is easy to spot and rebut

Many agents’ websites try to emphasize why a person should use an independent agent.

The reasons stated on most of these sites are just as valid for a competent captive agent as they are for an independent. It is never good to state something that can easily be criticized by the person or persons you’re trying to compete against.

When you state a reason for using an independent agent like “An independent agent can answer all of your insurance questions,” you’re not only overstating, you’re giving your competitor something they can easily refute.

The above is quoted directly from a large company’s website and has no doubt been copied and used by dozens of agencies.

Content is king, but only when it is unique

Google rewards agencies for publishing unique content. They will also punish your site for content that is copied from other sites.

One large online “marketing solution” company provides content for agents’ websites. Unfortunately, this provider, who charges large fees to “help” insurance agents, provides boiler-plate content.

As a consequence for using their product, Google may punish your site for being repetitious. Google wants their bots to be able to search the Web quickly for applicable content. Repetitious content slows down their search.

You supply content for two reasons:

To impress Google and raise your domain authority.

As a resource for your customers. 

If you find information online that is interesting and important for your customers, you’re better off creating a link to it from your site.

Your website guru will probably tell you that links to your site add “juice” to your domain authority. He might also tell you that links from your site will leak “juice.” While most SEO experts agree that sites will lose some authority when linking to others, the amount is usually quite small and in most agency situation meaningless. It is far better to provide a link to the information, than to copy and paste it to your own website.

Alternatives

I have created two pages that you can link to from your site.

One establishes a service standard for your agency.

The other explains why an independent agent can provide a superior buying experience compared to a captive agent or direct-writer.

Feel free to link to them from your agency website. Please do not copy and paste as it will reduce the value of the page for our site and could result in a search engine punishment for your site having duplicate content.

Jim Holm is the CEO of Long Lake, Minn.-based insurance website content provider Enhanced Insurance.

Related: Is your agency's website mobile friendly?

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