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About this article: The author provides independent agencies with a fast and easy strategy to increase their Internet leads and search engine positioning. Even better, it’s free and makes use of free local search tools provided by the major search engines and online directories. The article then provides agents with the simple steps on how to implement the strategy.

The Best Web Marketing Strategy You’ve Never Heard How to get the most out of “local search” By Matthew Marko By now, you’ve probably heard how creating a website or using social media can help increase visibility and generate leads for your agency. The ACT website is filled with resources highlighting how to use these tools effectively. But there's one tool you may not have heard about -- even though it's a fast, easy way to reach thousands of people in your local area who are shopping for insurance right now. And, it’s free. It sounds too good to be true, but “local search” can give your agency excellent visibility at the same moment consumers are looking for a local agent. What is local search? Quite simply, local search is the name used to describe search engine results that show local business listings when a consumer searches for products or services in his or her area. For example, if a consumer enters “insurance + Savannah, GA” the results page will include a map and a list of the top ranking local agencies. Think of it as the new online alternative to a yellow pages directory.

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Because local search sifts through business data, not websites, your agency doesn’t need a website to be included in local search (however, websites are still recommended to help consumers find information about your agency). And since local search listings are often positioned higher on the results page than websites, your agency may show up above the top ranked insurance website – a position many spend thousands of dollars in search engine optimization to achieve. By claiming your agency’s free local listing, you’ll open the door for additional exposure and new business leads. Why local search works: Ninety-seven percent of consumers use the internet to shop locally.1 Ninety percent of online searches start with a search engine, not a company website.2 Americans conducted 16.4 billion searches in June 2010,3 and twenty percent of Google searches are local in nature.4 This suggests over three billion local searches are conducted in the U.S. every month. Of the more than 20 million businesses in the U.S.,5 only 2 million (10 percent) have claimed a Google local listing.6 We all know the internet has changed the way consumers look for information about products and services. But according to a Progressive survey, three out of four independent agencies still haven’t taken advantage of local search. Now is the perfect time for you to take the lead in your market by developing a local search strategy. How to get started The easiest way to claim your local listing is by visiting GetListed.org, a free service that checks your current listings and helps you claim them with major search engines including Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Just type in your agency name and zip code, and GetListed.org will score you on how well your agency is represented in local search. If you haven’t claimed your listings, the site will also link you to the claiming page of each search engine. The rest is simple. For each search engine, just register for a free account, then provide information about your agency. Be sure your listing includes the following essential details: Business address; Local phone number; Website (if applicable); Business hours; Insurance products; and, Special services.

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Here are a few more tips for setting up your local listing: Be consistent: Make sure your agency information appears exactly the same everywhere online. When search engines locate information about your agency, they look for exact matches. By providing consistent information, you can start pushing your agency toward a higher local search rank. Get verified: As part of the claiming process, you’ll need to verify that you are who you say you are. This verification is different for each search engine, but is typically done by sending a confirmation code via phone or postcard. List multiple locations: If your agency has multiple locations, claim a listing for each office. However, avoid creating duplicate local listings for the same location. Search engines will likely penalize you for doing so. Making the most of local search After you claim your listing, adding more relevant information will likely help your agency move up on the list of local results. Here are some ways to enhance your local listing: Include keywords: Update your business description and categories to reflect your offerings (ex: auto insurance, home insurance, business insurance). If you represent carriers with recognizable brands, include carrier-approved keywords (ex: “Authorized Progressive Agent” is pre-approved for Progressive agent use, and other carriers have similar programs). Get reviewed: Encourage customers to post reviews of your agency. Increase exposure: Add your agency to other free online directories, like SuperPages.com , MerchantCircle.com, Localeze.com, and your local Chamber of Commerce website. Also consider submitting your agency information to Universal Business Listing, which distributes your agency information to online directories for only $30 a year. Add content: Post additional content like photos and videos to your listing. Learn from others: Study the listings of high-ranking agencies in your area and adopt their best practices. Monitor your listings: Assign one person in your agency to monitor listings on a monthly basis. The local search environment is constantly changing. By acting before your competition, you’ll get the greatest impact and value from your listing. You have nothing to lose – it’s easy. It’s fast. It’s free. Matthew Marko is a Marketing Process Manager for Progressive Insurance. He works to provide local marketing strategies and tools to help independent agencies grow their business, and has developed several online marketing webinars for Progressive agents on ForAgentsOnly.com. E-mail him at matthew_marko@progressive.com. Matt prepared this article for ACT. For more information about ACT, contact Jeff Yates, ACT Executive Director at jeff.yates@iiaba.net. This article reflects the views of the author and should not be construed as an official statement by ACT. 1

http://www.kelseygroup.com/press/pr100310.asp http://www.kelseygroup.com/press/pr100310.asp 3 http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2010/7/comScore_Releases_June_2010_U.S._Search_Engine_Rankings 4 http://sites.google.com/a/pressatgoogle.com/googleplaces/metrics 5 http://www.census.gov/epcd/www/smallbus.html#Nonemployers 6 http://sites.google.com/a/pressatgoogle.com/googleplaces/metrics 2

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Local Search