We talk a lot about the benefits of selling remotely - you can increase your geographic reach to find new prospects in new markets while working from the comfort of your home. But with this increased geographic reach, you also get increased competition. So while you sell online and expand into new markets, you also want to make sure you are finding new ways to reach the market in your own back yard.
Local SEO, or "search engine optimization", is the process of telling search engines information about the services you provide and the geographic markets you provide them to so they can show your information in search results and on maps. This gives you a tremendous "leg up" - while the top spot for a competitive search phrase might be almost impossible for an independent agent, showing in local results is very much in your reach.
Here's what local search results look like:
We've prepared this guide to get you started with local search. We cover the basics and hope we've made it easy. There is a lot more to it, but even simple steps should help significantly.
A little prep work will go a long way in making the most of your local search optimization efforts. By thinking through the following three things, you'll make sure you are consistent in your efforts.
Know Your Citation
Search engines use a combination of your business name, physical address, and phone number to identify your business and your location. This is called your "citation". You want to make sure you use your citation consistently on your website, online profiles, and local directories so they can all be linked together. For example, don't use "St." sometimes and "Street" others.
Know Your Listing
You will need to identify the category of service you provide. In most cases, these are standardized. You may show up in additional categories because of your website content or reviews, but your primary category will be your most likely place to get ranked.
Have a Great Website
Your local profiles all link back to your website. You'll be driving people there so it should be representing you will. Additionally, search engines will index your site to determine your ranking in local search and additional categories or phrases you might get listed for. If your website needs work, the team at AgentMethods is here to help.
When it comes to local, your address is the most important thing. Make sure your address is properly presented:
Your address needs to be on your site.
Self-explanitory, right? However, many agents work from home and don't want to present their home address as a business. Our advice is to have it on your site anyway. Don't be afraid to let your clients know you work from home. Many of them do too, and many more wish they could!
Your address needs to be consistent on your site and all of your business profiles.
Make sure you use your address the exact same way everywhere you put it online. That means don't call it "Northwest Main Street" in some places and "NW Main St" in other places. And don't get fancy with your phone number, using characters instead of dashes (don't use 333.444.5555 or 444~333~2222, or 555*666*7777!).
Your address needs to be marked up with structured data tags
To make sure search engines understand your location, you need to tag your address correctly. To generate the tags, you can use the hCard creator. AgentMethods customers: we automatically handle this for you!
You can test your site's structured data using Google's free tool.
Now that your prep work is ready, you'll want to work through the various listings and profiles to make sure the information is correct, links back to your site, and your citation is consistent.
Do this first! Google will verify your address and then use this information in local search and Google+. Go to http://www.google.com/business. A few tips:
Once you have verified your address with Google Places, you can create your Google Local page. You'll use the information in your Places page here. To get started, go to https://plus.google.com. If you need instructions, Google provides more details here.
Bing has a places verification process similar to Google. To get listed, go to https://www.bingplaces.com.
While Yelp isn't a search engine, it is a great place for new customers to find you and for existing customers to provide reviews about your service. You can create or claim your profile at https://biz.yelp.com/claiming
You can add your agency to Yahoo! at https://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/local-listings/basic-listing/
While Facebook isn't a local directory per se, it does contain one. Plus it's a great spot for gathering reviews, likes, and reinforcing your brand. If you haven't done so already, set up your Facebook business page here: https://www.facebook.com/business/learn/set-up-facebook-page
This one's for insurance agents only - Agentreview.net runs a local directory specifically for insurance agents. Make sure you've claimed and completed your profile here: https://agentreview.net/register-as-an-agent/
Once your listings are set up, use Moz's free local tool to check for accuracy, consistency, and completeness.
With your listings complete, your next step is to get customers to add reviews to your profile. This helps you in a number of ways - search engines use reviews to determine both your ranking and the keywords they show you for, plus prospects are more likely to choose agents that have a large number of reviews.
Remember that your prospects aren't going to review you unless you ask them. You can get the process going by following these tips:
Make it a habit to consistently ask new customers for reviews
Most review sites have guidelines around the proper way to ask for reviews. Many do not allow incentivizing customers to leave reviews. Here are a few do's and don'ts to help you with gathering reviews:
Up until now, most of what you've done has been "off site" - meaning it happens on someone else's site. In order to rank in the competitive world of local search, you are going to need to make some edits to your site to show search engines what and where you focus on.
We are assuming that the basics of on-site optimization are covered - your site is structured correctly, works on mobile devices, uses proper HTML tags, has a sitemap.xml file, and is easily edited. If it isn't, now may be the time for an upgrade (and yes, AgentMethods is happy to help!.
Know Your Keywords
Before you begin, it's important to know what keywords you are focusing on. Create a list of the products you sell, the geographic regions you are focusing on, and the markets you sell into. The more focused, the better. Even though focusing limits your market, it also greatly reduces your competition and shows relevance. Getting relevant traffic for "life insurance" is going to be significantly harder than getting traffic for "life insurance for new homeowners in Tulsa".
Combine your list of products, regions, and markets to create your list. Make sure this is written down - you'll use it to track results over time.
If you do one thing on each page, make sure the target keyword is in the page's title tag. Go through each of the pages you are targeting for local search and put the primary keyword in the page title. You'll also want to include your agency name in the title. AgentMethods customers: we automatically combine your page title and business name in your title tag.
While this isn't generally used to rank your page, it is shown in search engine results. Having the keyword you are targeting in the description will help you get more clicks from results pages to your site.
Link to each page from other pages on your site where relevant. Use the keyword text in the link. This helps search engines understand what the page is about. Not sure where to link from? Consider adding links to your home page, or create "guide" pages for different markets you focus on.
The page URL is the location of the page. This is another indication to search engines about the page's content. Make sure your URL is easily understood by humans, reflects the site structure, and contains your keywords. Consider these two URLs:
Local search is often conducted via mobile devices. Further, searchers on mobile devices tend to have a more focused "purchase intent" - meaning they are looking to buy rather than browse. Because of this, search engines will prioritize sites that are responsive to mobile devices in their results. Make sure your site is responsive.
Here's a search for "seattle critical illness insurance" showing an AgentMethods site at the top of the results after minimal local optimization: