Lessons Learned from 2 years working on SEO for Car Insurance

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July 19, 2012 // Search Engines, seo
Working in the finance vertical is one of the most challenging for any SEO, full of corruption, highly competitive keywords and a search engine that want’s to compete with you. I worked on a Car Insurance client for a few years and have to say it was one of my favourite campaigns, hard work, constantly evolving and very rewarding when you succeed – here are 9 lessons I learned:
  • PR is key to everything - I can’t stress how important working well with a PR department is. It might require some education to bring them up to speed but once you have them on-board you’ll be able to coordinate large scale link baiting and content strategies that really deliver the highest quality links. You cannot underestimate the relationships and weight that PR people have with journalists and webmasters, these can make all the difference. Even if the bigger press locations don’t link back immediately you might get lucky and find a news hub like the BBC reference the brand and actually link.
  • Good content still prevails – it might sound silly but there are a huge number of different car insurance products out there; for women, young people, old people, students, electric cars, fast cars, expensive cars – you absolutely should have a landing page for each of these types of product. It’s not just the immediate benefit to SEO for the top term car insurance you receive but conversion rates and revenue will obviously start increasing.
  • When thinking of link bait don’t just think of text – this is quite an important point, even more so now with the various Panda updates. Anyone can write content, most actually quite well too so your strategy needs to include multimedia content assets to stand out from the competition. Creating widgets is one particular idea that is rarely used frequently by competitors, in fact if they work well (not necessarily quickly) if built with a good way of sharing the code (with links). One widget we built actually delivered up to 10k visits per quarter with a 3% conversion rate – not a bad return considering it cost about £4k to build.
  •  Competitors will adapt, quickly. An example of this is comparethemarket.com – for a long time they bought links, and it worked, well. However all good things must come to an end eventually they got penalised (although not a full penalty) for a number of highly valuable keywords, within a month or so all their paid links had been removed and they started ranking well again.
  • When the playing field is pretty much level Google starts using CTR’s for rankings – Last month I blogged on how Google was putting websites in cycles i.e. promoting websites from page 2 to page 1 for a set period then pushing them back down – this happened about 4 times in a row to date, like clockwork. This just goes to show that when you have large complicated strategies in place that something as small as a Meta description or Title tag could mean the gain or loss of tens of thousands of visitors.
  • No competitor is “untouchable” – there are certain websites in the UK, mainly Moneysupermarket.com who have such a vast investment in content and link building that their authority in most product areas is vast. You must pick you battles carefully and eat away at the market share bit by bit by choosing your keyword targets wisely. Although websites like MSM are authorities they do sometimes drop off, a few months ago a much smaller Car Insurance provider topped the UK at number 1 for a number of weeks.
 

  • Don’t buy links – I know Google has hammered this message for the last few years but it’s only really been in 2012 where I’ve seen them enforce this more than the occasional one off or slap on the wrist. I’ve seen 3 big car insurance brands in the UK get penalised for buying links and moved from a strong market position for car insurance terms to page 4/5 – which must have cost them millions. As mentioned before the majority of those brands that were buying links have now stopped completely (although there are still a few, ehem..). Your link building strategy needs to be water tight, think big picture and social and you’ll be just fine.
  • Vary your anchor text on a regular basis – in the wake of the Google Penguin update this might seem like a quite obvious statement to make and it’s something I did for a long time. Think of every product/landing page/keyword as a “mother” – each mother will have “children” that are related, some might look similar, some quite different i.e. car insurance; buy car insurance, motor insurance, car insurance from BRAND, good deal on car insurance etc – you get the idea. This will require more time and budget but the end result is simply better rankings, for more keywords = more visits.
  • Don’t be obsessed with the one keyword “car insurance” – for a long time I was, while the keyword is one of the most valuable terms in the world for search volume and potential revenue it is only one piece of the pie. Roughly speaking the keyword “car insurance” accounts for 40% of the entire market, so important yes – however if you concentrate your efforts on the other 60% which is built up of medium to long tailed terms your strategy can be less reliant on a volatile landscape – it’s far easier to rank for that other 60% and the competition is much smaller.


Matt Ridout

About the author

My name is Matt Ridout, I've been working in digital marketing for 9 years; worked for agencies and currently Head of SEO at fashion startup called Farfetch. Try to test my own theories.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for this informative post. You hit it right on the head when you said, “think big picture and social and you’ll be just fine.” Would you say that good content is key to start SEO with for small companies with limited resources?

  2. Great post. I like how you made it a point to recognize that contest is still king. Search engines goes through incredible lengths to make the websites with the best and most appropriate content rise to the top, often at the expense of those who try to work around it.

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