There have been many articles written by marketing experts since the release of Google's two major search engine ranking updates, Penguin and Panda, preaching the death of backlinks as a ranking factor in search engine optimization (SEO). I'm here to tell you that the "death of backlinks" guidance is complete nonsense. Backlinks, meaning links from other websites pointing to your insurance agency's website, are still extremely important in ranking your website for local SEO.
What has changed is that, unlike 5 years ago, when links were essentially the only factor in ranking a website in Google search, today there are over 200 search engine ranking factors Google takes into account. The other prominent change is that shady or "black hat" SEO activities (like buying hundreds of links from poor quality websites) can now be penalized and decrease your search engine rankings. Don't let this scare you. When it comes to backlinks, the important thing to remember is that Google wants to see natural looking backlinks. The more natural looking backlinks you have, the higher your site will climb in search engine results.
Here are a few places your agency can secure natural backlinks that will help improve your local SEO.
Build relationships with the local newspaper reporters. Make sure they know that you are available to comment whenever they have a question about insurance. Many times, the online version of the newspaper will link to an information source—in this case, you.
Consider contributing to insurance industry trade publications like PropertyCasualty360 or IA Magazine. By sharing your expertise on a topic with the insurance industry, you will receive a healthy and relevant link back to your agency website.
Ask clients if they'd be willing to place a link from their website to your agency website as way of showing support for your business and the work you do. An even better idea might be to create a cool little graphic that says, "Insured by [Insert Agency Name]" (or even just your logo) and have your clients link that image to your site.
Local organizations such as chambers of commerce or not-for-profit organizations in which you participate usually have a listing of members and links to their websites. Because of the philanthropic nature of these types of organizations, Google can sometimes give a slight boost in "juice" to these types of links. Make sure you have a link from each organization in which you participate.
Advantage Subscribers to TrustedChoice.com receive a backlink to their agency website. The backlink from a well-optimized TrustedChoice.com profile will definitely provide local SEO value to participating agencies.
Local SEO for insurance agents, a big part of which is attracting more backlinks to your agency website, takes work. But, if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times—the path to increasing profit online lies in search.
Connected Generation consumers use Google as a tool for finding solutions to their needs. When these insurance consumers, both personal lines and commercial lines, find your agency in search, that's when new opportunities turn into new business revenue.
This article is based on a resource guide published on Agency Nation titled "The Complete 2015 Guide to Local SEO for Insurance Agents."
Ryan Hanley is the vice president of digital marketing for TrustedChoice.com and Agency Nation. He is also a writer, speaker, and content marketing consultant helping businesses find their audience, tell their story, and grow their business online. Connect with Mr. Hanley on Google+ here.
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