TrustedChoice.com employees have taken over the IA Advantage podcast this month to bring you a master class in search engine optimization content strategies.
Listen as Steve Gomez, Director of SEO, picks the brain of a leading SEO consultant to uncover strategies for creating web content that enhances your overall SEO. You’ll learn tips on selecting topics, how to improve existing content, how to deal with Google’s changing algorithm, and more.
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Steve: Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of the IA Advantage — Employee Takeover Edition. My name is Steve Gomez and I’m the director of SEO for TrustedChoice.com. Some housekeeping before we get started. This program is made possible through the support of TrustedChoice.com and the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, the Big “I”.
As I mentioned today, we are doing an employee takeover of the podcast. In this edition, we are going to be taking a deep dive into search engine optimization, and that is why Chip asked me to do the hosting honors. I’m Steve Gomez and I am the director of SEO for TrustedChoice.com.
You probably know the SEO is critical here a TrustedChoice.com. It is the most important way we find consumers who are looking for insurance online so that we can connect them with local, independent insurance agencies. In fact, we’ve ramped up our investment in SEO over the last 12 months with the help of one of our SEO consultants, Jackie. Welcome, Jackie!
Jackie: Hey Steve. Thanks so much for having me today.
Steve: Thanks for joining us today. I want to start out with a question about content. As you know, website content is the most effective way to attract people to your website through search engines. Plus, the more quality content you have on your site, the better your search engine ranking overall. With that said, how do you approach content creation?
Jackie: Yeah. One of my favorite questions, honestly, cuz it covers A to Z starting from the foundation. So with anything with digital, first and foremost, especially SEO, it’s about thinking about what your target audience might be looking for. So you really wanna put yourself in the target audience’s shoes.
So being insurance, you don’t wanna think just about obvious things like car insurance or, you know, the, the end result. Obviously it’s a little bit more transactional looking for, like they’ve already said, they want a certain type of insurance. Instead, you also wanna think of what are the friction points? What are the needs of the audience? What are the concerns? Is it maybe… what is the deductible? What is, or how do I insure my car? Or is this other person covered by my insurance or how do I get homeowners insurance versus renters. So you wanna think of all the possible things, real life scenarios that potential audience members might be looking for.
Once you have a good idea about the types of questions, concerns, needs, you think of the topics and you start doing some more research about that. You think of… what might they be looking for? What are the types of ways that they might be searching for that? And you do a little bit more research and then maybe back it up with monthly search volume if you’re looking at different ways to collaborate on like, should I talk about something related to homeowner’s insurance or is it more important for me to talk about car insurance or renters insurance?
So kind of having some of that data-backed points can make it a little bit easier to narrow down what you should go after and see what really resonating with people — whether it’s a little bit more further down the funnel or a little bit more higher up.
Steve: That’s great. And, and part of that data, would you say it’s things like seasonality, you know, what’s, what’s in demand, what people are searching for at certain parts of the year?
Jackie: Absolutely. I mean, this can be anything from seasonality, by state, by region time of year. Something like, Florida, for example, might be very prominent with hurricane-type searches versus somewhere in California might be wildfires. Just to give a, a very top level kind of example, but definitely seasonality, winter versus summer in the different regions with that by state.
And then also just time of year, what insurances, like healthcare might be more prominent in January versus sometime in the middle of summer. Things like that. Definitely want to take seasonality and region into perspective when thinking about target audiences and where you’re trying to get people from.
Steve: That’s great. Thank you. Really appreciate that. So next question I have, what do you look for when trying to improve an existing piece of content?
Jackie: Yeah, great question. When looking at existing content, I first don’t really actually look at the content. I think of the topic. So I look at the target topic, I go within Google search for, however, I might look for that topic and then I review what types of pages are already ranking for that. Whether that’s something like a Nerd wallet or maybe it’s something that’s a Progressive Insurance. All those different things, kind of give me sounds and, and pieces of information I need to know, like, is this realistic for us to go after or is it something more educational? Is it something more transactional? Like they’re actually looking right that moment to look for insurance. And I take in some of the different actual SEO factors. So I might be looking at whether they have an optimized URL for that landing page’s ranking. I might be looking, do they have optimized headers, metadata, the type of content—do they have long form or short form? Is it an actual insurance offering, landing page, or is it more educational, like a blog post? Is it a well known site? Is it very competitive? Is it a Nerd Wallet /Progressive, or is it John’s Insurance Company down the road? So all of those types of sites and sounds let me know realistically whether it’s possible to target.
And then once I have all of those sound and bits and pieces, I go back and I look at the piece of content that I’m trying to see if this will rank. Does this content meet the same needs and expectations for reader that’s ranking on page one for these types of search results? Is it hitting the mark? Does it need to be refreshed? Does it have any existing SEO value? Does it have any keywords ranking at all? If it does, is it within striking distance? Is it already ranking well or is it on page eight, nine and 10? So like very low visibility. Typically, if a page doesn’t have the best visibility to begin with, then it’s likely that we need to just kind of start fresh with a net new piece of content. Hopefully not, but sometimes that is the case. Or maybe it needs to be existing somewhere differently in the site, like maybe within a blog section versus the first or second sub folder, for example.
So that’s a little bit of a in the weeds answer, but all of these different things definitely accumulate to kind of deciding whether you should audit an existing piece, how much or how little, and also what’s the best strategy to tackle that?
Steve: Yeah, that’s, that’s a very interesting approach. So, really what you’re doing is you’re thinking about the topic. You’re not analyzing the, the current existing page yet. First you’re looking at the competitive landscape, seeing how others rank for it, what type of content they have, what their URL structure looks like. You know, where on the site is located, how are they approaching it? Is it, like you said, long form or short form content and then coming back and analyzing what would be on TrustedChoice.com?
Jackie: Absolutely. And the reason why I do that is because the way to know what Google and people want. So Google’s always changing your algorithm, always improving, always trying to get the best user experience. Because think about it. If Google doesn’t serve the right content, they’re not gonna make money at the end of the day, right?
So if we wanna know what people are looking for, look at what’s ranking and what’s being rewarded in Google’s eyes. Cause Google’s gonna serve the best and most expected type of content to user searching. And so with that, for me to know what people are looking for, I look at what’s being rewarded, and also not only what’s being rewarded, but how can we improve even better, give better content, give a better user experience, all that, with our sites and our landing pages to improve and out rank the competitors.
Steve: Yeah, that’s great. You know, it’s funny you mentioned about Google’s algorithm and the next question I was gonna ask you is, you know, how do you handle Google’s constantly changing algorithm? I mean, we know that they update it multiple times a year. Sometimes they don’t even tell people.
Steve: And then you have to find out because a bunch of SEOs are talking about it. Like, “Hey, my rankings changed. They went up, they went down, what? What’s going on here?” And then, yes, Google admits, okay, we made a a major algorithm update, we made a minor update. And they tell you more about it. But you know, how do you handle that? Not really knowing when it’s gonna happen. And then after it does happen, you know, what do you do?
Jackie: Yeah. Great question. My rule of thumb is to never react to an announcement of Google. As you stated, as I stated, Google’s constantly changing their algorithms, always working to improve their, I mean, it’s, it’s a giant machine, right? Like their machine learning system. So there’s tens and millions of however many numbers you wanna put into it factors at the end of the day. And so whenever there’s an update, I always think it’s interesting because some people completely freak out about an algorithm update. And yes, it should be taken seriously, but not reactive either, though.
My rule of thumb is to always see, do some more research, see if there’s any like, articles that are explaining types of industries that are impacted. So for example, a couple years ago, I think it was called Your Money, Your Life. So a lot of the finance and almost like lifestyle type topics and industries were impacted a lot. And that was more so from a pure like spam and quality of content type perspective. So knowing that those really real life type topics, Google is taking very seriously. They don’t want spam and they don’t want just like John’s finances, computing or coming out with different pieces of content. They want valuable, high quality, authoritative pieces that are coming out there reliable. So to answer your question about Google’s ever-changing algorithms, my rule thumb is don’t react. Let things settle. Sometimes it might take a week, sometimes it might take a month and see exactly how your pages or your website is being impacted.
Just because your top competitor is being impacted doesn’t mean that you necessarily are good, bad, indifferent, it doesn’t matter. So I always say, be patient. See what happens. And at the end of the day, the rule of thumb that I go by is provide the best user experience and the best quality content you possibly can to make your reader, readers and customers happy. Give them answers to their problems. Give them the solutions or whatever they’re looking for. And as long as you’re doing that, you’re always gonna be on the better side of any algorithm updates or Google impacts at the end of the day.
Steve: Yeah, totally agree. I was gonna say the same thing. It’s really, it’s about making sure you fulfill the user search and you provide them with high quality content. If you’re doing that, I feel like you’re probably not going to get hit by Google’s algorithm. It’s really more so the people trying to game the system, you know, having content that’s not helpful. Obviously Google doesn’t like that. So really really appreciate that answer. Thank you.
Jackie: Yeah. Yeah. The good old days of keyword stuffing landing pages and providing fixed answers or copying and pasting other people’s content on your site is gonna all come down to a negative impact for you. So as long as you’re being truthful, providing the best quality experience and content, you’re, you’re always gonna be on the better side of any kind of changes that happen.
Steve: Yep, a hundred percent. So what do you find the most fun about doing SEO? What is it about search engine optimization that really excites you?
Jackie: So I’m gonna answer how I explain what I do for a living to people and they’re like, wait, what is SEO? What is search engine optimization? Right. I love that question when people are like, what do you actually do for a living? I always say, “Well, when you have a problem or a question, what do you do?” And nine times outta 10, they’re like, “Oh, I go to my phone and I like Google it or, or look it up on a search engine” and stuff. and I’m like, “Okay. So what I do is optimize to get those answers to you if, if, if like you’re my target audience.”
So my answer to what is my favorite part of SEO is the fact that everybody always goes to search engines. Whether it’s a silly question, whether it’s a personal question, whether it’s a life changing question or whether it’s just, “Oh, I wonder like what x, y, and Z is.” Everyone goes to search for those answers to their questions.
So for me, I love doing SEO. And what’s the most fun thing about it is knowing that like I’m helping people figure things out. I’m giving them the answer to their questions. I’m making their life easier. I’m helping them. I’m improving their education or friction points or whatever that may be. To me, to think about how many people are, are learning and bettering themselves because of what we’re providing, that quality, experience and content is, is honestly why I love SEO. Because I, I just think that it’s, you’re being a resource now to people, especially when they need it most.
Steve: Yep, definitely. Same thing here when my friends and family says, you know, what do you, what do you do for a living? And I tell ’em about SEO, they kind of look at me like, what on earth is that? Well, you know, I work for in the insurance industry so if you’re a small business and you wanna look up something like business insurance calculator, how to calculate the cost of business insurance, you’re gonna find us at number one. And then they say, “Well, how did you do that?” Well, we created the topic, built brand new content that we knew people were searching for, and we optimized it. We put the right keywords in there, you know, we had really robust information and sure enough, you know, I just did a search right now just to confirm. This page was uploaded July 28th, 2022 and it’s still number one. After the first three or four weeks we landed on number one, and that was with your help, Jackie, so thank you. Really appreciate that. And you know, I tell ’em, it’s not just that though, you could be searching for best Black Friday deals on TVs. It’s whatever you want. That’s what we do. We help you get to the top of page one. Of course, in. Insurance industry, we’re only focusing on insurance topics, but they always find that very fascinating when I explain it that way.
Jackie: Yeah. And my, my answer is, I help you Google things .
Steve: That’s, that’s great. I love that.
It’s, it’s always mind blowing to everyone, but it’s my, my favorite question that I get asked.
Yeah. So kinda on the flip side you know, what do you find the most challenging about SEO? I know every day’s not gonna be fun. Here’s gonna be something that happens where you’re like, Ooh, this is a a bit of a challenge.
Jackie: Yeah. The most challenging part about SEO and honestly humbling thing is it’s about the long game. SEO is not instant gratification. It’s about the long term play. You’re not gonna see oftentimes, I will say this, nine outta 10 times, you won’t see an immediate impact the second you publish a page, or the second you make a change to a landing page, or the second you switch something. You have to be patient. You have to let Google crawl and reindex your pages. You have to let it, let Google see that you’ve made changes. You have to give it time to reward your site and your landing page. So especially if you have however many pieces of content, you only change one. It’s you, you gotta prove to Google your, that you’re bettering yourself, that you’re bettering your experience that you’re providing quality content.
Quite literally the, the biggest challenge personally and professionally with SEO is that it’s about the long term play. So you might not see an impact tomorrow. You might not see it next week, but maybe a month or two, maybe if you made a bunch of changes to your site, cumulatively you might see it in a couple months down the road.
So I would say that the, the biggest love hate relationship about SEO, it is a long term play. But it’s also evergreen. I mean unlike, and we might talk about this at some point, but unlike some other channels of marketing, whether it’s direct marketing or paid or tv it’s for the long haul, you know? Right? So you make a landing page and if it’s an evergreen content, like what is or best car insurance, or…what are some other examples? What is a deductible? Things like that. Like, that’s an evergreen topic. Everyone’s gonna always need that type of resource content. So once you have that landing page and it’s done well, that can be existing without needing to be reinvested in for quite some time.
Whereas a TV ad might be momentary. A paid ad might be a fleeting moment or two when someone’s like in the middle of searching for something. So, it’s about the long term strategy, but at the same time it, it can be oftentimes the most rewarding and evergreen strategy as well once done well and the upfront cost of it.
Steve: Yeah, absolutely. One thing I’ve noticed is a lot of competitors. They’ll publish a piece of content. And like you said, if it’s evergreen, you might not have to tweak it too much, but if it’s something like the best car insurance companies, if you posted it in 2017, you know, five years later a lot is probably gonna have changed.
And I know, you know, with your help, we updated a page on our site and we called it the Best Car Insurance Companies of 2022, because we wanna show Google we updated this page a few months ago in 2022. And we’re focused on this year. So when people search for that, people do search with the year, too. Sometimes they’re not just gonna put best car insurance companies. So it’s important to constantly be updating at least, every, I’d say three to six to 12 months. But some pieces of content, sometimes you can get away with it if you, if you don’t update it for a year. But I would say that’s probably the maximum that you can wait. Would you agree?
Jackie: Yeah. I mean, it definitely depends on the topic. And that goes back into the initial question of like, how do you tell if an existing piece of content is good, if it needs a little extra TLC or maybe needs to be redone. Like our competitors showing that they have a date stamp that’s like by the year, by the month. Like is it best car insurance? Is it 2022 or is it best insurance companies for January, 2022? Like is it that specific? So I think that when you look at search results and competitors and how often they’re updating data and content that’ll kind of give you an inkling. But if it’s something that’s like, “what is a deductible” or “how do you get car insurance,” I don’t know. I’m thinking on the fly. But some of those evergreen, like non-changing topics, those can likely be set for several months and obviously like still keep tabs on like your rankings. Are you gaining traction? Are you losing traction? Is there something that needs to be improved or, or clarified better in a piece of content to be rewarded better based on what other competitors might be bringing to the table? But all of that definitely goes into consideration when we’re talking about content and whether it needs to be more of an evergreen piece or more of a monthly maybe, or, or yearly update.
Steve: Yeah, absolutely. I, I could see topics for sure, like, you know, what does car insurance cover? That’s probably not gonna change very much. You know, that’s gonna be set in stone, what it covers. So that totally makes sense.
Jackie: Or maybe even, I mean, insurance can often be by state, so maybe something like Florida versus New Jersey, like laws change more frequently than not. I guess maybe depending on the insurance and the area and the state, but things like that. If, as things change, rightfully so, pieces of content may or may not need to be changed based on that. Depending on how granular they are.
Steve: Yeah, absolutely. So final question I have for you. What is the difference between SEO, so search engine optimization, and people may have heard this thrown around, SEM, which stands for search engine marketing. You know, how should agents think differently about these two?
Jackie: Yeah. When I, when you talk about SEO, so search engine optimization, that as far as a marketing channel is specific to only organic. So organic search results, meaning that Google is rewarding that content based on user experience, quality of content, your website, like it’s strictly, it honestly has nothing to do with what you pay to play. It’s strictly based on you as a website, as an individual piece of content. SEM on the other hand. can include organic and paid. When I think of SEM, I primarily think it’s focused on the paid aspects, so pay per click, paid advertising display, all those types of things. So again, when I talk about SEO, I, from my point of view, it’s only organic. SEM, maybe a little bit of organic, but it’s primarily paid paid search.
So similar to what I talked about earlier, organic is a, is a long haul. It can be evergreen. It’s long term. It’s about building trust and authority and giving the right answers. SEM is a little bit of a different strategy. You’re looking for, often, more quick results. You’re looking to pay to play. You might be trying to break into an area that you might not be able to rank for organically. If it’s a little more bottom funnel focused, or if you have, or if you’re a new brand or aren’t visible in an area, you might pay to play by having paid ads show up for a certain type of audience or region, because otherwise you wouldn’t have had that authority to be able to show up for that yet. So I would say SEO is more low and steady and evergreen and paid as more quick, immediate and tangible results that you can also AB test types of ads that you put out there. And you could be a little bit more targeted and granular to get immediate results with SEM. But it’s also, again, how much you pay is how much you’re gonna get out of it versus organic, if you do it right and well, the first time it’s gonna, you’re gonna reap the benefits for the long haul.
Steve: Yeah, I can really see supplementing SEM in there with the paid ads. You know, for example, if you rank at the top of page two and you’re not getting a lot of traffic for something like, “how much is the cost of home insurance”, you know? A longer keyword that someone’s searching for, you may bid on that because it’s probably not as expensive as something as broad as just home insurance. you know. That’s gonna be very competitive. It’s gonna cost you a lot per click, but that could be a really good synergy between the two. Would you agree?
Jackie: Yeah. I mean, there is something to be said by doing the appropriate balance of paid and organic. I, like I said, if you are looking to target a very specific audience, like a, a certain demographic, a certain region, things like that maybe someone that’s looking for car insurance in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for example, and your website might not be able to rank exactly for that type thing, maybe not just yet, but you can pay to have your advertising placed on that search result. And at least at that point, the person who’s searching will see your brand, see you, have an awareness of your brand, or you as an agent, or you as an agency, and have that top of mind of like, “oh, maybe that’s Agent Joe or Joe’s agency”, whatever it may be. They have that awareness that you were able to get without necessarily having the appropriate landing page or the capability of getting there organically just yet. Or maybe they have that and then they see you again. Organically as they’re doing another search or something similar. And then again, that’s like double hitting the person that’s looking for an agent or insurance agency and so on and so forth.
Doing it the right way, doing it strategically without being spammy is always like finding the right balance of, and a happy medium of, of how to target that and kind of make both a work to your advantage for that type of scenario.
Steve: Yeah, definitely. That’s great. But yeah, really appreciate it. Any, any final words from you for the listeners?
Jackie: I appreciate being able to come and talk to everyone today. At the end of the day when it comes to digital marketing or any marketing for that matter, always think of putting the target audience first and putting yourself in their shoes. Think about their questions, comments, concerns, ways that they may be searching for answers. And also looking about how you can provide the best experience, not necessarily a spammy experience, not a quick experience. Think of it, the, the long term play of curating that relationship with that customer and being a trusted resource for them and getting in front of them. And that’s the best advice I can always have.
Steve: That’s excellent. Really appreciate it. At the end of the day, it’s, would you want to be on that website? Do you like the content? Right. You know, like if, if you land on a website, you wanna make sure it’s providing you with what you were looking for and if not, you’re gonna leave. And we don’t want people leave. We want them to join TrustedChoice.com’s website and find what they’re looking for. And that’s, that’s what it’s all about.
Jackie: Yeah, I would say put yourself in their shoes. Would you wanna read that? Is it helpful for you? If it’s not, then they’re probably not gonna find it helpful either. So yeah, you hit the nail on the head with that one, Steve.
Steve: Absolutely. I appreciate it.
Of course, we wanna thank all the folks that make this program possible, including Central Insurance, Encova, Main Street America, Safeco, Selective, State Auto, Travelers, Westfield, WR Berkeley, and of course, the Big “I”.
And one more reminder, please check out your agency profile or your IA company profile on TrustedChoice.com. Your digital footprint matters more than ever in the post COVID area. This has been the IA Advantage, and I am Steve Gomez filling in for Chip Bacciocco. As Chip likes to say, have a safe and prosperous week everyone!