Recently, Google published a major update to its local search algorithm. The update nicknamed Pigeon, has significantly affected industries like mortgage, real estate and restaurants. Based on research we on ITC's SEO team did, the insurance industry wasn't hit too hard with this change though Pigeon may have affected listings for some insurance agency websites.
Pigeon was released in an attempt to show more relevant local listings for the search terms consumers use. If your local listing disappeared recently, here's a basic overview on why and what you can do to help bring it back.
Before I get into Pigeon, let me explain local packs and their importance. When you search in Google for something like a restaurant or retail store, you get a list of local results lettered A through G. This list of seven is called a 7 Pack. For instance, if you do a search for Las Vegas Auto Insurance, a 7 Pack of local listings will appear near the top of the results.
Depending on the search terms, a 3 Pack listing may show up.
*These results were found using Houston Auto Insurance.*
In the other industries, like mortgage and real estate, the local packs that are usually shown have decreased dramatically as a result of Pigeon. According to MOZ Cast, the number of searches that display a local pack has decreased from 12.1% to 3.3% overall.
The insurance agencies I and others on the SEO team checked were still showing up in a local pack. Plus, everything we've seen so far about this update doesn't mention the insurance industry, which is why we don't think it has had as big as impact on insurance as it has on other industries. Keep in mind that this information is based off current research and may change as Google continues to update its algorithms.
What does all of this mean?
These changes have led the SEO industry to believe that local search will rely more heavily on traditional ranking signals like high quality content, backlinks and site optimization.
If you have seen a decrease in traffic or notice your local listing has dropped, there are a few things you can do to help point it back in the right direction.
In order to be added to Google's local index, you need to create a Google+ page using Google My Business, which is a central platform to manage your agency across all of Google, including Maps, Google+, Search and AdWords. When you create your listing, make sure to choose the appropriate categories for insurance. Some of the available categories are insurance agency, auto insurance agency, home insurance agency and health insurance agency. Post high quality photos of your agency and logo, and don't forget to verify your listing and get reviews on your Google+ page.
Name, Address, Phone (NAP)
Having a consistent NAP on all local listings is important. The NAP in your listings needs to match the NAP in the footer of your website, which should be text, not an image. If they don't match, Google may not give you credit for the listings since they're not the same. This is especially important for your Google+ page.
If you don't already have local listings, you will need to create them in various directories. Local directories, like the Chamber of Commerce or your local insurance organization, will help your ranking in the local search results the most. Other directories, like Citysearch or Yellowpages, benefit both your local and organic search results. NAP and categories are important so create listings in directories, including any local directories, by using the tips above.
Title and Description
If possible, work your location into the pagetitle and description of your insurance agency website. For example, if you are located in Dallas, your page title could be 'Auto, Home, Business Insurance - Dallas, TX.' Your description could then be 'An independent agent who specializes in auto, home and business insurance needs in Dallas, TX and surrounding areas.' However, it is important to make sure the page title and description don't look forced.
If you're worried about Pigeon affecting your local listings, make sure your agency has a Google+ page with the right categories and high quality pictures. Also, check that your NAP is consistent across your website and listings, and add your location to the page title and description of your website.
Has Pigeon affected how you rank in local search results? Tell us in the comments.
About the Author
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.Follow on Twitter More Content by Phillip Long