Originally published on Agency Checklists, a regular newsletter for independent agents in Massachusetts on October 27, 2020.
Working exclusively with independent agencies was an obvious choice for us when we started Surround, but many of our entrepreneurial peers didn’t think it was so obvious. Didn’t we know that direct-to-consumer was the only way to sell our digital product?
We know better. And you know better. Independent agents are increasingly combining a powerful digital presence with the personalized service that has always appealed to clients.
Our Massachusetts agency website survey
Surround’s web presence needs to be a continuation of our agency partners’ presence for our target clients, so we figured out how to build out our quote landing pages, licensable content, and social media campaigns in part by looking at what you’re doing on the web. Where do we “catch” the prospect from you or for you, and how do we hand them back? To do this, we analyzed over 100 agency websites and social media accounts here in the Bay State. What we discovered is that many agencies have built sophisticated digital presences.
We also saw some easy steps that many agencies haven’t taken that could turn off a prospect or client. In the spirit of Agency Checklists, here’s a punch list of four changes your agency can make this weekend to improve your online presence.
- Claim your Google business site
- Curate your social media accounts
- Clean up old or incorrect website addresses
- Make sure your website is readable on phones and tablets
Claim your Google business site in less < 10 minutes
Google handles 85% of search traffic. What pops up when a potential client sees searches for your agency? On a computer, they see search results to the left. And on the right…. An empty void if you haven’t claimed your own business on Google. Or occasionally something strange, like, I kid you not, the Better Business Bureau link to file a complaint.
You can add your business information for free in just a few minutes. Then Google will add that box on the right with your location, hours, and contact information. (On a phone, the box appears a short scroll down from the top of the search results.) The phone number and email address are both clickable – your clients don’t even have to scroll off the page to get in touch.
Here’s what the boxes look like for our site – The photo on the left is our Laptop/desktop version while the image on the right is our phone/tablet version:
How to fix this:
- Go to support.google.com/business on your computer, tablet, or phone.
- Under Get Started, click Get Started with Google My Business.
- Under 1. Sign up and verify your business, click the sign-up link.
And follow the instructions to make sure your agency information is correct.
Curate your social media accounts < 30 minutes
You may not focus on social media for client acquisition, but your prospects probably look at your social media accounts. We saw some repeated patterns in social media use that don’t establish credibility. They are easy fixes, no social media strategy required.
How to fix this:
- Zombie Facebook pages: Facebook is increasingly home to parenting, business, and community groups. Members request referrals for local services from each other all the time. When a client mentions your agency, a link to your Facebook page usually gets pulled in automatically. Facebook pages where the last post was five or even 10 years ago are the digital equivalent of a dark vacant office. You don’t have to post frequently, but a few times a year doesn’t leave anyone questioning whether you’re still in business. If you have a zombie page, whip out your phone, take a nice picture of your agency, and post it with warm wishes that everyone stays safe and warm as we move into fall. Done.
- Instagram where?: There’s a decent chance that there are other insurance businesses outside of Massachusetts that have names similar to yours. And they will all come up when a prospect looks for you on Instagram. Put your location in your bio. Don’t make it hard for your clients to figure out they are in the right place. Go into your agency Instagram account. Click on your picture in the upper right hand corner, then hit Edit Profile. Your bio is about halfway down the page.
- LinkedIn professionalism: Use professional-looking profile pictures. Not selfies in the car, the disembodied arm of the person standing next to you, or casual beach pictures. If you don’t want your image out there on the web, your agency logo is a much better choice than the default grey head.
You can take a totally decent profile picture with a camera phone, enough light, and a neutral background. Then upload right from your phone by clicking on your profile in LinkedIn, then the pencil icon to the right of your current picture.
You might also consider offering to take pictures for your employees for LinkedIn when it’s COVID-safe.
Clean up old or incorrect website addresses < 1 hour
We used the Mass DOI’s Agent Finder at agentfinder.doi.state.ma.us to select websites to look at. You may not get prospect volume from Agent Finder, but marketing companies scrape this information then spread it across the web.
Unfortunately, more than one agency website URL was wrong within Agent Finder. Typos like misspellings or .com instead of .net prevented us from getting to your website sometimes.
Often, though, the Agent Finder displayed an old agency web address. How do we know this? Well, we found the same old addresses on your Facebook pages, your Chamber of Commerce profiles, and at least one Yellow Pages ad you may have paid for. Ooops.
Here’s what your potential client sees when they click (agency name intentionally obscured):
You look out of business, when that’s clearly not the case!
How do you know if this is a problem? Check your Agent Finder profile at agentfinder.doi.state.ma.us. as a start. Then, if you used a different website address in the past, search for it in Google. Put quotation marks around it (“oldagencyaddress.com”) so you’ll get the exact text string. If an old address pops up, try clicking on it. If you get redirected to your new website, you’re in good shape. If you get a dead link, see our suggestions for how to fix this below.
How to fix this, Option 1 – permanent but a little technical:
If the web address is a valid URL, just old or incorrect, set up a permanent redirect. Valid means a website address in a working format. So, this isn’t a solution for a typo like ww4w.oldagencyaddress.xom, which won’t work as a web address.
A redirect automatically sends anyone clicking on your old address to your new address. For an example, type surroundins.com into your browser bar. You’ll be seamlessly redirected to surroundinsurance.com.
If this sounds worryingly technical, your web developer should be able to set up a redirect in just a few minutes.
So, what to do (or ask your website administrator to do):
- Make sure that you own the incorrect domain name, or buy it. (Assuming nobody else owns the domain.) You buy from whoever manages your existing domain. So, Squarespace or Wix or GoDaddy or BlueHost or similar. This will cost from pennies to about $60/year, depending on the address and your provider.
- Set up the redirect. Wix, Squarespace, Hubspot, and similar website builder sites all have easy settings for redirects. Google “squarespace and redirect”, for example, for whichever provider you use. If you have a choice, use a 301 redirect, which is permanent. WordPress and custom coded sites are a little more complex, but still easy for whoever developed them.
How to fix this, Option 2 – less effective but not technical:
If a redirect doesn’t work for you, don’t despair. A little legwork fixes most of the problem.
- Get the Agency Finder fixed. Email ProducerUpdate.Mailbox@mass.gov with the new details.
- Check the address on your agency social media profiles. Think Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and any niche-specific sites you use.
- Google your business and look over on the right. If you click the website button and the URL is wrong, go to google.com/business and edit your profile.
- Google the incorrect address. The results near the top matter the most. If any are legitimate sites your clients may use, navigate to the site and see if there’s a way to edit information. Don’t worry about the random business directory sites that pop up. When you correct your information on Agent Finder, these sites should eventually pick up the correct information.
Make sure your website is readable on phones and tablets < 10 minutes plus a call to your web developer
In the US, about 40% of web traffic is mobile, so it’s worth making sure your clients see a professional site on their phone. The most common issues we saw were the use of tiny fonts and full on desktop-style websites on mobile.
How to fix this:
Whip out your phone and take a look at your agency website. Try not just the landing page, but surf around a bit and look at your blog and contact page too. Is the font readable?
- Look closely at any pop-ups, overlays, and chat windows. Are they legible? Can you close them easily, or it the “x” to close them off-screen?
- Do any forms, like quote requests or claim reports work properly?
- On this one, call your website developer.
At Surround, we’re excited to be entering the Massachusetts market soon with a completely digital sales process for independent agents. And we’re excited to work with you. We’re designing the products you need, and we’re happy to provide some digital advice along the way. What works for you, after all, works for us and works for our mutual customers.
If you're an agent or broker interested in learning more, please visit https://www.surroundinsurance.com/agents to get started.