How Semantic Search is Changing Insurance Industry Digital Marketing

Semantic Search

Insurance industry digital marketing is changing. Gone are the days of paying an “SEO” to buy a bunch of links and stuff your website full of local keywords. These tactics are not only less effective, but in some cases, websites are being directly penalized by Google for “Black hat” SEO.

Using proper keywords and acquiring backlinks is still relevant strategy for ranking your insurance agency or carrier website in search engines, but the volume of keywords and accumulation of backlinks must look natural.

These changes are in part derived from Google’s dedication to the semantic search.

What is Semantic Search?

Don’t feel bad if you’re unfamiliar with the term, “Semantic Search.”

Search marketing expert Mark Traphagen, provides this definition;

“…semantic search is Google’s growing ability to make associations between things in ways that come closer to how we humans make such connections.”

Basically, Google is attempting to create search results which provide more relevant resources to our actual needs versus which company can play the technical SEO game best. The semantic Web creates an incredible revenue opportunity for insurance agents and carriers who are willing to take a long-view on digital marketing.

By focusing on building relationships, (what the insurance industry is built on), insurance agents and carriers can stand out in search without the mega marketing budgets of their direct and captive competitors.

How the Insurance Industry Capitalizes on Semantic Search

Semantic search is built on relationships. This means we can focus less on growing counting numbers, (i.e. followers, Web traffic, “likes,” etc.), and more on the quality and relevancy of the people we connect with.

This is networking 101 and should ultimately swing digital marketing success into the wheelhouse of insurance professionals. For the last 100 plus years, insurance agents and carriers have grown their business on relationships and referrals. Inevitably, more quality relationships leads to even more referrals and business growth.

Instead of focusing on the technical aspects of digital marketing, build human relationships, one at a time. This may seem counterintuitive to the mass marketing opportunity digital marketing is supposed to provide.

It’s time we look at Web visitors for what they are, not just units pushing the line graph higher in your Google Analytics account – human beings.

In order for human beings to take an action, such as filling out a contact form or picking up the phone for an insurance proposal, some sort of relationship must be established.

3 Ways to Build Human Relationships Online

Focus on Niche Product Offerings

Insurance consumers do not use Google Search looking for the best generalist in insurance. As an example, restaurant owners want to work with an insurance agent well versed in coverages such as spoilage, workers compensation, and liquor liability. They don’t care if you also write retail, construction and higher education insurance.

Be Geographically Specific

Insurance consumers want to know you understand the obstacles impacting their specific market. Speaking in geographically relevant terminology comes naturally to local and regional insurance professionals. However, most national carriers do a terrible job of creating a sense of geographic understanding in their marketing.

Use Native Advertising

Native advertising is a term used to describe digital marketing in a way that fits the platform and experience of the consumer. This means fitting your message and marketing to the platform, not shoving one message onto every platform regardless of it’s relevancy. Adhering to native advertising as a marketing principle shows consumers that: 1) you care about their experience and 2) you’re part of their online community.


By focusing on specific products, in specific locations using the digital marketing methods appropriate for each platform, insurance industry professionals are filling the semantic Web with data points feeding search engines the information they need.

The “Spray and Pray” method of marketing online no longer works (if it ever did). Insurance industry marketing must create relationships with human beings while providing search engines with the data to send more insurance consumers their way.

Marketing Photo via Shutterstock

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Ryan Hanley Ryan Hanley is Founder of Hanley Media Lab, an advanced digital marketing agency helping companies grow their audience to grow their business. He also produces one of the fastest growing content marketing podcasts on iTunes, Content Warfare TV.

13 Reactions
  1. I saw how traditional advertising has an effect on semantic search. This is because semantic search is dependent on niche marketing. With traditional advertising, you get a greater grasp on your niche. I know this from personal experience as I see my site gain some rankings when I advertised on a newspaper website.

  2. This is great Ryan. I often feel niche mastery can vault a person into expert status because there’s usually less competition. In my humble opinion where we see rabid competition is among folks who are generalists. They were the ones who did spray and pray and wasted money on SEO’d “articles” that backfired. I put “articles” in quote marks because most of them were written for engines not humans. And when you read the content, it was atrocious “common sense” content, sometimes condescending, like it was written by “Captain Obvious.”

    • You hit the nail on the head here. Expertise is what people value. If you have access to the entire world through the internet, you want someone who has the exact experience you need.

  3. Ryan,

    I’m trying to understand in detail how this is actually going to work when you said: “X Company/Business can stand out in search without the mega marketing budgets of their direct and captive competitors.”

    What if their competitors are doing exactly this with their mega marketing budgets? It seems that it might sound good for the “little guy” but if your competition is doing it you’re back where you started. Since they have their mega budgets to build relationships, focus on niche products at a local level and can certainly push out some native advertising, it seems you’re back where you started.

    You can also see how Google is favoring larger brands for different keywords and search terms so it’s going to be an uphill battle. I’m curious to know how you would do things to help a local business or small agent stand out when they are going up against large brands and the Google behemoth.

    Overall, great article and thanks for sharing.


    David Caron

    • David,

      It is highly unlikely that GEICO knows your town as well as you do or the people in it or the businesses in it or the geographic eccentricities…

      If you’re asking me for a silver bullet one doesn’t exist. You have to outwork your competition, what outlined above are solid strategies for positioning your business ahead of national competition who can’t be seen as the expert everywhere.



      • Ryan,

        I’m certainly not looking for a silver bullet like you said. What I am looking for is an article that doesn’t over promise and I believe that some of the remarks you have made are unfounded – specifically about how the little guys can compete and be positioned better than the national big budget folks.

        i.e. “insurance agents and carriers can stand out in search without the mega marketing budgets of their direct and captive competitors.”

        I’d like to see some numbers/study/examples of this actually working to back up your claim. Looking forward to the results!


        David Caron

      • David,

        Taken from one of my clients:

        This is an older post… many of these terms still rank today.

        I live and breathe this every day.


      • Ryan,

        (It won’t let me respond to your most recent comment but I appreciate the response.)

        I’m about two-thirds of the way through the article ( but it’s awesome. I’m glad I was relentless in my commenting that you were able to share that article on this thread because it’s exactly what people need to see. Content marketing with video (and some SEO sauce) can deliver results.


        David Caron

  4. Martin Lindeskog

    Ryan Hanley: Could you mention some insurance companies that have used semantic search in order to attract and keep customers?

    • The Murray Group Insurance Services and Paradiso Insurance are the first two that come to mind.

      • Martin Lindeskog

        Ryan: Thanks for the information! What do you think future search will look like for specialized areas like insurance? It is a long buying cycle.