Creating Interactive Websites

We live in the age of the fully informed consumer. Because of the internet, shoppers now have access to a wide range of choices and can compare and contrast prices and services. According to Nielsen, the majority of consumers conduct online research before buying a product – and when it comes to insurance, buyers are no different.

The website is usually the first interaction a customer or prospect has with an independent agency and it is imperative that it makes a good first impression. But unfortunately, the majority of agency websites could be improved.  According to the Insurance Digital Transformation Survey, only 8% of agents rate their websites as “excellent.” Developing a compelling website is not easy – it takes both a financial and time commitment. But the return on investment can be significant when it is done right.

When working with a company to create your site, or if you are building it yourself, there are four elements to keep in mind:

  1. Appealing visual design
  2. Accessible mobile capabilities
  3. Relevant content for target audience
  4. Effective search engine optimization

Don't Scare Away Visitors with Poor Website Design

One of the first goals of any website is to prevent visitors from immediately clicking the back button as soon as the page loads. A plethora of content and a jarring array of contrasting colors could turn off visitors before they even have a chance to find out what your agency does.

Your website should have a minimalistic design. Limit your color palette to one or two colors – and ensure these colors coincide with your brand. For example, if your business cards use blue and orange, don’t change your website colors to red and yellow. But being minimalistic does not mean removing photos and visuals – in fact these are one of the key ways to draw people into your site. If possible, use original images – not purchased stock photos.

Keep the writing on the website short and to the point. Consumers most likely do not have the time to read in-depth paragraphs of information. Provide information about what you offer and what sets you apart from other independent agencies and then make it easy for the consumer to reach out to you if they would like more details, either through a prominently displayed contact phone number or information request form.

Organize your offerings in a way that is easy for customers to view and digest. For example, your agency might offer business lines such as workers compensation, fire & damage, and professional liability as well as personal lines such as flood, homeowners, and automobile. Separating these lines into separate pages or tabs instead of listing them together can ensure that the right audience finds exactly what they are looking for.

Designing a website can be difficult, especially if you don’t have a web design background. There are a variety of companies you can hire that will work with you to create a site that represents your business. But if that is not in the budget, there are also a number of “do-it-yourself” web companies that make it easy for even novice designers to create a site that will appeal to customers and prospects. These sites don’t require you to use any code and provide a variety of templates that can fit your agency’s needs.

It's All about Mobile

Designing a website for a computer isn’t enough – today’s sites have to be compatible with mobile. According to comScore, over 80% of all insurance shoppers begin on mobile, and 66% abandon an agency’s site immediately and do not return if it is not mobile-adaptable. To avoid the risk of losing business, agencies should make their websites compatible with mobile devices.

There are two ways you can make your website more mobile friendly. A responsive design enables your website to adapt to whatever platform it is viewed on. You can also custom design a mobile version of your website. If you are working with an outside agency to create your site, it should be able to help you with your site’s mobile functionality. If you are doing it yourself and using a website building platform, some of them have either a responsive design or custom mobile application built right in.

Content is King - and so is Your Audience

When designing your website, keep in mind that less content can achieve greater results. Your website will be more effective if you focus on one or two aspects of your agency that you want to highlight. For example, maybe the majority of your agency’s business comes from personal lines or perhaps you offer a variety of specialty lines that your competitors don’t. You want to make sure the products and services that set you apart are front and center—but limit yourself to only your top offerings. Additional products and services can be included on subsequent pages.

Provide tools that are useful to prospects. For example, by installing a comparative rater on your site, clients can view rates, quotes, and products from a variety of insurers all in one place. There are companies that will work with you to install a rater on your site that will allow customers to receive instant quotes for a particular service line.

Don’t just add content about your services, but provide examples of satisfied customers. Adding a Testimonial page will help customers understand why others chose your agency. Consumers take into account others’ feedback during the decision making process. If you can add these regularly, it will also help keep your site fresh.

Prioritized content should also be accompanied by a clear call to action – what do you want people to do when they visit your site? Do you want them to request a quote -- have a “Get a Quote” button front and center. Do you want them to call you to discuss their needs further – make sure a contact phone number that will be answered by a person, not an automated system, is easy to find. Or go one step further and add an online chat tool that allows customers to instant message your agency directly from your site and receive information immediately.

Remember that even the best content can be useless if it’s outdated. Make sure your website is up-to-date and error free. You don’t want a visitor to come to your site and notice that no one has paid attention to it for months. For example, if you post a Thanksgiving message or picture on your homepage, as soon as the holiday is over make sure it is removed. A customer shouldn’t visit your site in February and still see a turkey. Also check, recheck and check again that there are no typos or errors and that links to other pages work properly.

Get Your Website Found

No matter how perfectly your website is designed, if prospects can’t find it, it won’t help your agency at all. One of the main challenges agencies face is how can they ensure that when customers search for “independent insurance agency” on Google, it makes it into the top results.

One of the most difficult aspects of developing a web site for agencies is establishing effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Not only are most agencies competing with other local insurance agencies, but they are also often competing with big insurance brands that have more resources and generate more unique content.

Despite the challenges independent agencies face, there are several ways to improve your rankings. One of the easiest but more expensive ways to increase SEO is to advertise through one of the search engines.

But if your agency can’t afford to advertise, than uploading original content is critical. Google’s algorithm prioritizes websites that generate new content. Add client testimonials to your site. Blog about specific offerings you have that your competitors might not. The more original content you can add that focuses on different product offerings such as fire insurance, automotive coverage, or management liability will help pull your agency into top results when customers search specific key words.

Google also takes into account social media presence, so be sure to regularly post on your agency’s Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Participating in local directories and adding “rich media” to your site such as videos and pictures can also increase SEO. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for your clients to review your agency on your Google Business page. While Facebook and Yelp reviews are helpful, the most important place to receive a review is on Google itself.