Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most constantly changing elements of digital marketing. It’s also essential for generating leads by driving traffic to your website. What makes the practice of SEO so challenging is keeping up with Google’s updates. The tech giant changes their search algorithm between 500-600 times a year! While most of those updates are minor, every so often they drop a bombshell of an update that completely changes how your website ranks. Google has already made some significant updates to SEO in 2018 and more changes are coming as soon as July. So, to keep you a step ahead, I’ll be giving you an overview of Google’s latest updates and what to expect for the future of SEO for insurance agents.
THE MOBILE-FIRST INDEX IS HERE
I’ve spoken about Google’s mobile-first index before, and in March 2018 Google announced that the update is live.
Most people use Google on their mobile device. Despite this, prior to the update, Google was ranking websites based on the desktop format for content and overall experience. For a user viewing a desktop version of a website on their mobile phone, the experience is pretty poor to say the least. Google has updated their algorithm to prioritize websites that are formatted for mobile. If your website and content aren’t optimized accordingly, chances are your site won’t show up anywhere near page one for search results. SEO for insurance agents has often been overlooked by the broker community, but in order to stay competitive you should consider optimizing your content and website for mobile.
There are three ways you can design your pages to be mobile friendly:
- Responsive design: This method serves the same page to users regardless of device, but adjusts the website’s layout based on screen size.
- If you use WordPress, you can use a plugin like WPtouch to turn your desktop site into a responsive, mobile-friendly website optimized for Google’s update.
- Dynamic design: This method serves users different HTML based on the user’s device. This means your agency’s website will serve different content for mobile users and desktop users. This means you can remove large images and/or videos that will slow down loading times for mobile users.
- Parallel design: This method means creating a URL layout that hosts pages specifically for mobile users. Basically, if your website is hosted at www.example.com, the mobile version of your website will be m.example.com. The server automatically redirects any user on a mobile device to the mobile URL.
THE MOBILE SPEED INDEX – JULY 2018
Google’s goal is to provide the best possible experience for their users. Another factor Google’s algorithm considers to accomplish that goal is the loading speed of your website. While speed has always been factored in for desktop versions of websites, starting in July pagespeed will also be a ranking factor for mobile sites.
Even if you make your website mobile friendly, it doesn’t mean that your site loads quickly on handheld devices. Slow load times significantly increase bounce rates, which will in turn send your website spiraling down the SEO food chain.
One way to speed up load times for your website on mobile devices is by keeping the design elements simple. Use white space with black text to make your copy easy to read on mobile devices. Avoid using heavy CTA’s and big images that slow load times. Remove big elements/graphics and compress images to create a sleek website that is optimized for mobile. For additional tips on simple, but effective website design read my previous blog Insurance Agency Website Design for 2018. The bottom line is that mobile UX and load speeds are absolutely crucial to SEO for insurance agents in 2018 and beyond. Follow these tips to stay on top of Google’s updates.
GOOGLE UPDATES BACKLINKING
A few weeks ago I shared some simple backlinking tips for brokers. In that blog post I emphasized the importance of getting backlinks from quality, authoritative domains. However, backlinking has always been a long term strategy because websites with thousands of backlinks have always been prioritized by Google’s algorithm. Smaller websites with few backlinks never stood a chance against more prominent websites. Google recently launched an update to their PageRank patent that changes the game for backlinking.
This latest update is a game changer because it gives smaller, niche websites the opportunity to outrank long standing authority websites. For example, if an employer were to search for open enrollment best practices, blog posts from authoritative websites like the Society for Human Resource Management show up first in search results. Google’s update now considers websites that have thousands of backlinks may not necessarily have thousands of high-quality links. You may outrank them if your backlinks consists of more niche, trusted sites.
So if you have more quality backlinks from a number of smaller niche websites like other insurance blogs, or benefits industry related websites, you can outrank more prominent sites. The backlinking game is now about quality over quantity. But remember, as important as backlinking is for SEO for insurance agents, it’s still just a piece of the puzzle.
HTTPS UPDATE COMING
Another update Google will be rolling out in July is a prioritization for HTTPS websites over HTTP. This update may not have a direct impact on SEO for insurance agents, but it can certainly influence your website ranking indirectly. In case you’re not sure what I’m referring to, see the image below – more specifically the section outlined in red:
Starting from July HTTP websites will be labeled as non-secure.
Furthermore, by October 2018 the label will go from what’s seen above to a red flag warning as seen below.
It’s important to note that this will only affect websites opened in the Google Chrome web browser. But, guess which browser is the most used in the US? Yep, that’s right, according to research from the federal government Google Chrome dominates web browser use in the US by a large margin.
Google already prioritizes secure websites, and recent research from SEMrush discovered that 65% of domains ranking for high-volume keywords are HTTPS. The added label of “Not secure”, as seen in the above images, could cause users to leave your website quickly, increasing your bounce rate in the process.
You still have time to convert your website from HTTP to HTTPS. When you do make the switch, ensure that all versions (desktop and mobile) of your website redirect to the correct HTTPS version. Remember to update all of your internal links as well – including landing pages.
SEO for insurance agents is a complicated practice that calls for consistent effort. As a digital marketer I know exactly how brutal it can be to stay on top of all these constant changes. SEO strategies that you invested money and endless hours into a few months ago may be irrelevant by your next quarterly strategy meeting. However, when done right, it is one of the most effective and rewarding marketing strategies in the modern era.
In order to compete in today’s saturated market staying on top of SEO is a requirement. The updates and tools I’ve shared with you today will help you get an edge on the competition, and boost your search result rankings for 2018 and beyond.
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