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If you struggle with how to grow, optimize and leverage your insurance agency's online presence to generate leads, you are not alone. I'm guessing there's no shortage of solicitations in your email inbox for lead programs and SEO makeovers for your website. Here are five myth-busting truths about SEO to help you cut through the smoke and mirrors when working with potential service providers. Filter any proposed solutions through these five "reality-checks" to save time, money and aggravation.This is not the rocket science of the SEO universe, but these five principles will remove the mystery, help you set realistic expectations and allow you to explore this powerful medium without getting burned by the posers and opportunists that flood your inbox with their often dubious claims. There are no secrets The right way to do SEO is determined by the search engines in general and Google's algorithm in particular. Other than Google's closely guarded secret sauce, there are no privately held secrets to SEO -- period. SEO best practices are public information and there are many great books and training resources available that clearly break it down into ducks and bunnies. Anyone who tells you they have SEO secrets is trying to exploit what they assume you don't understand about search marketing in a likely effort to separate you from your money. A well conceived and executed SEO strategy can produce miraculous results, but there is no magic involved. There are no shortcuts It is much harder to rehabilitate a negative reputation than it is to create a positive one. Poorly conceived and executed SEO campaigns, let alone unethical black hat approaches to "gaming" the search engines will eventually backfire. If sustainable organic growth is your goal, don't even think about short-cutting your way there with questionable SEO tactics and gimmickry. Shortcuts are most often attempts to fool the search engines into returning better results, at least temporarily. If any of these shortcuts gets you reported to Google's spam page, for example, the negative repercussions could be far greater and long-lived than whatever momentary gains your shortcut might have produced. Don't take shortcuts or follow those who do. They will ultimately lead you down the wrong path. Begin, don't finish with SEO SEO is the most important consideration in the planning, design, development and ongoing maintenance of an effective web marketing platform and social media brand. If you want your online touch-points to perform their intended purpose of attracting and increasing relevant, convertible traffic to your site, your SEO needs to be baked into your site's structural framework. It's the cake, not the icing. Done properly, everything from your site's design, architecture, content

and implementation is defined, supported and leveraged by your SEO strategy. Think of SEO as a blueprint, not as a plugin. SEO doesn't end until your website does Another reason to begin rather than finish with SEO is that, until you shut down your website, you will never really be finished with SEO. The obvious metaphor is physical fitness. Developing maximum gains requires consistent and persistent activity. As soon as you slack-off, the growth trends begins to diminish. Leave it sedentary long enough and organism begins to atrophy. Good planning, quality implementation and vigilant maintenance are SEO best practices. If you are thinking that you can front-load your SEO initiative and then back off to enjoy a perpetual harvest, you will be sorely disappointed to see your quick results just as quickly evaporate. A wedding is an event. Marriage is a process. Think process. Social Media builds your community, not your search ranking Social media is a powerful tool to build your community. It's viral nature can quickly introduce you and your services to a vast and ever-churning audience. What most don't know is that links from your social media presence does little to improve your search engine relevance or page rank. Facebook, for example, designates all backlinks as no-follow, which renders the search engines blind to those links. Facebook expressly doesn't want the search engines to follow outbound links as a means to discourage spamming. Google is interested in search relevance, not viral flashes in the pan. Your social media strategy is vitally important on its own merits. And while you can SEO your social media sites, they have virtually nothing to do with your primary website's search relevance or ranking. Search is organic. Social media is viral. Keep the two separate and distinct in the planning, development and implementation of your online marketing strategy. There has never been more opportunity for business owners and professionals to connect with consumers as we have at our disposal today. The web and social media have made it possible to reach any market of our choosing. As the internet continues to evolve into the marketing medium most favored by consumers, top rankings in relevant Google searches will be richly rewarded. Remember, the way to do SEO is defined by the search engines. Don't look for secrets, shortcuts, quick fixes or links from a social media sites to get you to the top of Google. Leave that for the scammers and the spammers while you implement a strategy that delivers the real deal. Your growing profits and peace of mind will thank you.

About this Author Stephen Crossley is a Senior Consultant with Pantera Marketing, a 25-year veteran of the B2B sales and Marketing community and a professional life and business coach. Pantera Marketing is a full service SEO firm specializing in search-marketing and organic lead generation for insurance agencies. Please visit to learn more about search-optimized lead generation for your insurance agency. Or call (800) 497-1189 to arrange for a free demo.

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