Today's SEO Best Practices

Tuesday, November 10, 2020 | Jeff

A client asked how they can rank better for specific search terms. Here is my response.
 
Below are my thoughts on how to improve your SEO results for terms like Toledo insurance, homeowner’s insurance Toledo, commercial insurance Toledo, auto insurance Toledo.  I am happy to jump on a call to discuss. (A nice way of saying this response is long.)
 
The rules of SEO have changed significantly in recent years and will continue to change.  Some of the suggestions I have are relatively easy to implement. Most of them simply require hard work, not rocket science. 
 
Please note that these are suggestions based on best practices, not hard rules. Google does not publish a list of how to improve your SEO results (with two exceptions covered below). So we are constantly watching what seems to be working and changing our approach to garner the best results. If it works, we keep doing it. If it doesn't, we try something else.
 
In the past, we used tactics, like keyword stuffing - placing the term "auto insurance" on the web page a dozen or more times to increase the quality score for searches on "Auto Insurance". And Google recognized that marketers were gaming the system, so Google became smarter and changed the rules. 
 
Then marketers learned to game the new rules. So Google watches the marketers, learns, and changes the rules again. And then the time came that Google became smarter than the marketers. Now Google learns and changes faster than we can keep up. Artificial Intelligence running on a network of a hundred thousand servers.
 
I recently attended an online seminar on best SEO practices and learned how fast Google is able to learn and adapt. Waymo is Google's self-driving car project. The speaker is a nationally known SEO expert and he conducted an experiment with Waymo cars. 
 
Waymo has safely logged millions of miles with their self-driving cars. He spent a day walking around the city looking for a Waymo car and then he would step in front of it. Every single time the car recognized the danger and successfully stopped. He failed in his attempt to fool Google into making a mistake. 
 
This is when he realized that Google's AI (artificial intelligence) had become faster and more powerful than any marketer. The days of gaming SEO are behind us. It is time to recognize that we are in the era of SEO best practices, not just all following the same rules. 
 
The first thing to understand about SEO is to identify who is Google's customer. Here is a clue - it is not me, not you, and not businesses that spend millions of dollars on advertising.
 
Google's customer is the person who is looking for information. A search is a way of asking a question, and Google's mission is to provide the very best answer. For free.
 
So if you want to rank better for "Auto Insurance", provide better answers. 
 
Let's start with the only two rules that Google has given us.
 
Your website must be Mobile Responsive. Google now indexes all websites through a mobile lens. If a page is not mobile-friendly, it is ranked below websites that are mobile-friendly. This can push you on to page 2, 7, or 54 on the search results depending on the search term. 
 
Close to 70% of all website traffic today comes from cell phones. This is why Google requires your website to be mobile-friendly. It wants to keep its customers (searchers with a problem looking for an answer) happy.
 
Google provides a free tool to see if your website pages are mobile-friendly. Great news, your website is built on a mobile responsive framework.
 
SSL Security - Much like being mobile responsive, Google has stated that you need to have an SSL security certificate on your website that encrypts the data that site visitors submit on your website. You know if a website is secure because the URL will start with https://. 
 
Additionally, most browsers will now warn you that a website you are trying to visit is NOT SECURE. You can still access the site, but you will need to jump through some hoops.

Similar to mobile-friendliness, websites without https:// are ranked behind the secure websites in the search results.
 
Your website has a security certificate. https://www. knightinsurance.com/
 
Lightning Fast. Google realizes that a mobile phone doesn't have the processing power of a computer. Their goal is to make sure that searchers aren't waiting, waiting, waiting for a web page to load on their phone. Web pages that load lightning fast are rewarded. You can have the best answer, but if it will not load in 3 seconds or quicker, Google knows the searcher will go somewhere else.
 
Inside Google Analytics they provide a free tool that will tell you how fast every page on your website loads, and they provide a list of suggested fixes to make the page load faster. Here is a link to a brief video showing you how to use this tool inside Google Analytics. 

What we are looking for are quick, easy changes that we can make to improve page load speed. The most common obstacle to load speed is image size. Simply compressing the image size usually will fix 75% of the problems with load speeds. Your content management system has a tool built in the Image Manager of the web page editor that allows you to change the image size from Original to Large, Medium, Small, or Thumbnail. This is a great place to start.
 
Google has indicated that your webpage should load in 3 seconds or less. Your average load time is 2.68. This is great news, but you have a few pages that exceed the 3-second recommendation. Compressing the image sizes will go a long way to improving your load speed.
 
The Most Reviews Win. Marketers versus peer reviews. Google has learned not to trust what marketers say about their business. Obviously, we are paid to say we have the best company, best products, best services, best employees in the world.
 
We believe that Google looks at reviews as one indicator of who has the "best" answer. We don't believe that Google is concerned with a bad review, it simply wants to see a large number of reviews so the searcher has more information to help make the best decision for them. 
 
Knight Insurance currently has 110 Google Reviews and a 5-star rating. Continue encouraging your clients to post reviews.
 
Crowdsourced Contact Information
 
Once again we believe that Google turns to crowdsource to verify information about your business. If your name, address, phone number, website URL is X, it stands to reason that the directories, search engines, social media sites, GPS systems, and data aggregators would have the same information. Otherwise, it raises a red flag. 
 
I ran a report for Knight Insurance and you have some problems with the listing data on some of the data aggregators (for example, still being referred to as Knight Crockett Miller) and other web properties. I am happy to provide you with a  copy of the report if you like. We have a program that will sync all your data to these properties automatically to correct these errors on a monthly basis.
 
Specific Landing Pages. 
 
The most powerful thing you can do to improve SEO results for each of these terms is to develop landing pages for each term. When I search your website for "auto insurance" I see results for five web pages. Annual ReportInsurance Glossary NMobile AppInsurance Glossary H, and Teen Driver. None of these appear to be a landing page that Google would send traffic to for "auto insurance" answers.
 
When I search for "Auto Insurance" on Google I see two sections of the search results. 
 
The top four listings are paid ads for Geico, American Family, Progressive, and State Farm. 
 
Below these ads are the organic search results (SEO based). The first one is for Farmers and links to a page (https://www.farmers.com/auto/ that only talks about car/auto insurance. The Title and H1 (Header 1) tag are "Auto Insurance". 
 
It tells me that if I drive, I need insurance. 
 
Here are some of the risks a driver may face. 

  • If you cause an accident, here are the risks involved and the type of coverage you need. 
  • If you accidentally damage your own car, here are the risks involved and the type of coverage you need.
  • If a hailstorm dents your car, here are the risks involved and the type of coverage you need.
  • If an uninsured driver hits your car, here are the risks involved and the type of coverage you need.
  • If your son is injured in a single-car accident, here are the risks involved and the type of coverage you need.
  • If you can't work during physical therapy, here are the risks involved and the type of coverage you need.

There are plenty of CTAs (Calls to Action) to get a quote, but the purpose of this page is education (answers to search questions).  
I would build out a webpage focused on this single topic and answer all the questions an average person would ask about auto insurance. Google is looking for the best answers to questions that searchers are looking for. Our job is to answer them.

The dynamics of business have changed. For the most part, the business has always held 90% of the answers to the consumer's questions and the only way to get the answer was to call the insurance agent.

Then Google came along. Now consumers have at their fingertips a way to research everything they want to learn about a service or product before they ever reach out to the business. And Google makes it easy. Consumers have been trained to start with Google before they will reach out to a salesperson.

The best way to improve SEO results is to provide the best answers. What are the questions a consumer asks about "auto insurance"? Talk to your agents and ask them. Then build the page that answers those questions.

Write content for the consumer to read, not Google.

Write for your audience, not Google. We call them landing pages. Google calls them answers.

Another item of interest on the Farmer's auto insurance page. Notice that the language they use is natural and matches the language that regular people use. Rather than writing in a style to impress Google or an actuary, they write in a style that an average person would find engaging.
 
I would also encourage you to build the landing page in a Problem/Solution format. The Farmers page referenced above does an excellent job of doing this. (Google loves answers!). 'Here is the problem'. Followed by 'here is the answer.' Then go on to the next problem and solution.
 
If Auto Insurance is important to your business, I would also add it to the menu navigation. I do not believe that you have a link to auto insurance in your current menu.
 
Emerging Trends in Search.
 
Search with Intent. Your search results will be different than mine. Even though we both search for "auto insurance" our search results will not be identical. Google is the world's largest vacuum cleaner of information and it monitors everything we do online and customizes the results it provides based on this information.
 
Location-based search terms. When a consumer searches for a term like auto insurance (or restaurant, or doctor, or...) Google infers that you mean "near me" not California. So it is not necessary to build a page for "auto insurance" and another for "auto insurance Toledo". Here is a link to a Google Trends report for the Toledo area that shows us that "everyone" is looking for auto insurance and very few people are searching for "auto insurance Toledo".
 
Time. Improving SEO results takes time. Nothing you do today will show up tomorrow. It may take weeks or months to see improvements in a category as popular as insurance.

You should consider launching a Pay Per Click campaign to drive traffic to your landing pages until the SEO results catch up. If you have questions about PPC, I will be happy to share my knowledge with you.
 
I hope this gives you some ideas on how to improve the SEO results for terms you want to. Let me know what questions you have!
 
Enjoy the weekend.

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