What’s New in SEO? State of Search 2018 Recap

October 22, 2018 Phillip Long

dallas state of search conference presentation

Recently, our SEO team went to the State of Search conference to learn from some of the best minds in the industry. It’s our job to stay on top of trends and relay new information to our clients. We want to use the most up-to-date information to make the jobs of insurance agents simpler more effective.

Here are some highlights you can use to take your agency’s SEO and digital marketing to the next level.

Local SEO: Google My Business, Content, and More

Most independent agencies want to show up in local online searches in their city. This means agencies should work on their local SEO. Here is what the experts are saying about local SEO:

  • Consider Google your new homepage. If people search for your agency by name, an information panel will appear to the right of search results. But, only if your Google My Business profile is complete. (ITC’s Guide to Google My Business shows you how, step-by-step). Complete your Google My Business page 100 percent. And, always make sure it is up-to-date. Some other things to consider with your agency’s Google My Business page:
    • Include high quality photos.
    • Use a UTM tracking code on your website link.
    • Watch the FAQs, because anyone can submit and answer them.
    • Use Posts as self-promotional ad space.
  • Make your agency’s name, address and phone consistent across the web. You can use a marketing phone number on your Google My Business profile. But, to do so you must also use your normal agency phone number in the secondary slot.
  • Your office will appear closed in the map pack if there are no business hours listed. Make sure your hours are always up-to-date. You may even consider expanding them past your competitors. Or, use a 24-hour answering service if you are open to it.
  • Office location matters to Google. Make sure your brick and mortar location is close to the type of clients you want to bring in. The distance between a searcher and your insurance agency matters. It is one of the biggest factors of whether your agency shows up or not in local searches. If you are in a highly populated area with lots of competition, a 2 mile radius is where you would show up for a search. 
  • Content needs to be localized. Don’t drop a city name or two in your website content and consider that localized. Instead, consider what the people searching expect to see. Mention specific neighborhoods, shopping centers or malls, highways or major thoroughfares.
  • On-page optimization matters too. Here is what to include for all pages on your insurance website:
    • City in page title
    • City in H1 tags
    • City in page content
    • City in URL (example URL: www.agency.com/dallas-insurance)
    • City in alt text of images
    • City in meta descriptions
    • Local phone number
  • Have a blog, and post to it. Don’t just fill it with insurance information. Make it a hub that anyone could come to, and include community information. If you aren’t sure what to post to your blog, try these content ideas.


Link Building

Link building is often regarded as the hardest part of SEO. Increase your chances of someone linking back to your website by using a variety of techniques. Here are some notes on link building, including a list of places to target:

  • Many presenters stressed the importance of quality backlinks. Many said it is one of the primary differentiating factors for local SEO as well.
  • It doesn’t matter if your links are follow or no follow links. Most of your competitors won’t have any. You’ll stand out either way.
  • Build backlinks based on relationships. Join the local chamber and get to know other businesses around you. You can also use other businesses you work with, like printers, IT help, or even contractors.
  • A few ways to build links:
    • Look on meetup.com to see if you can help someone
    • Sponsor an event or a youth team
    • Local charities
    • Local volunteering
    • Local blogs
    • Local clubs/organizations you are a part of
    • Local business associations
    • Neighborhood watch websites

Client Services

While the conference was geared toward SEO, there was still some good information about the customer experience. Here are a few ways to keep your service level high and retention higher:

  • Create internal processes for your team to follow. This may include cross selling, asking for reviews, or asking for referrals with each phone call.
  • Determine what you do, and don’t do. This helps ensure clear communication from every staff member on your team.
  • Create an internal and external checklist. Your external checklist is for clients so they know what to expect. Your internal checklist is so no staff members cut corners or forget to do something you want them to. This will help set customer expectations and make sure you meet them.
  • Users demand instant satisfaction online. They don’t want to wait. They know there are instant options out there. Reach out within 24 hours of a quote request. Otherwise, consider adding staff or buying an online rater to provide internet quoting.
  • Make your homepage have a focus. Too many calls to action will confuse visitors. They will be more likely to move on to another agency’s website. You want to provide clear direction with fewer choices.


Did you know more than 80 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a recommendation from a friend? Building and monitoring online reviews is more important than ever. Here are some ideas on how to build and maintain your reviews:

  • Your goal should be to get stars to show up when someone searches in Google. You can do that by marking up reviews on your website with schema. And, by getting reviews on other third-party websites that have schema built in.
  • The best reviews will include your keywords and geotargets. You have to be careful that this looks natural. If all your reviews are full of keywords, you won’t get much credit for them.
  • Try to gain first- and third-party reviews. First-party reviews appear on your website. Meanwhile, third-party reviews appear elsewhere on the web. You can typically gain between four and 10 times the number of first-party reviews over third-party. If you get even 10 percent of the reviews you ask for to appear on a third-party website, you’re doing an amazing job.
  • Use unique first-party reviews across many pages. This includes your home page, About Us page, and reviews page. If you are a multi-location agency, use them on each location. Mark up these reviews with schema, too.
  • There are two man ways to get reviews:
    1. Ask. Everyone. Proactively asking shows 47 times the amount of reviews generated. The absolute best time to get a review is Human ask + Timing. Ask someone over the phone when they have been satisfied with your help. Save someone money? Help with a claim? Mention reviews.
    2. Use a third party review platform. This helps to automate the process. Email marketing would fall in this category as well.

Phew! Over the next few months, we will dive deeper into all these topics and more. Digital marketing is always evolving, so let us stay on top of it for you. Check back soon for more!

About the Author

Phillip Long

Phillip Long serves as the primary contact point for all of ITC's search engine optimization clients. As the internet marketing product manager, he coaches and guides insurance agents throughout the SEO program, ensuring they progress smoothly. Phillip's specialties include conceptualizing marketing campaigns, SEO, and customer service. He has a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Texas at Arlington with a focus in management and communication.

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