Agent to Agent: Maximizing Mobile: From Good Idea to Must-Do
By Chris Paradiso, CPIA
For the past couple of years, consumers have increasingly used mobile devices to search the web. The number of mobile searches has grown into the billions over the last couple of years and it continues to grow. Forward-thinking companies — insurance agencies included — have responded and built mobile-friendly or mobile-responsive websites to serve these customers.
A mobile-friendly or responsive website is designed specifically for the smaller screens — those found on smartphones or small/mini tablets. In addition to being more easily viewed, mobile-friendly/responsive websites allow users to take advantage of touch-screen capabilities of smartphones and tablets.
Such websites are accessed using the device’s web browser. Just like you would on a desktop or laptop, simply enter the URL into the browser or click a link. The website automatically detects a mobile device and redirects the viewer to the mobile version of the website.
The primary benefit of a mobile website is that it makes website content more accessible for mobile users. The page can maintain the same elements as the regular version of the website — such as its look and feel, pages, images and other content — but it displays info in a layout that offers improved readability and functionality.
By providing a mobile offering, customers can access your website anytime, anywhere, using any device. Best of all, you can allow them to do so without compromising the user experience. By not offering a mobile-friendly experience, companies found visitors quickly abandon sites when they arrived there using a mobile device.
That, of course, was bad. The stakes just got higher.
Google recently tweaked its search algorithm to deliver additional benefits for individuals using its search engine. The firm announced in February that, starting April 21, it would deliver mobile-optimized sites higher in its search results. Given the public’s shift to mobile, the company correctly asserted that sites that display well on a smartphone or similar device should be rewarded for delivering what consumers want. The company watched the data and followed through with what the public wanted, which is a positive experience on their smart phones.
April 21st has come and gone. How is your site performing? Is Google delivering visitors? What about other search engines? Are they? You can use Google Analytics, a free service, to see exactly how people find your site. Are visitors to your site finding you on a mobile device? Again, Google Analytics can tell you this.
Perhaps the most important question to ask is, “Do mobile users who click through arrive on an easily readable site, not one that is simply a large, messy, desktop-based layout squeezed onto a small screen that’s hard to navigate and even harder to read?” You can test this by using your own smartphone or you can enter your agency website URL at j.mp/MFriendly to judge its mobile-friendliness and responsiveness. If it fails, your web developer can fix the problem, quickly and at a minimal cost.
In addition to the algorithm change, Google recently announced content hidden in mobile apps will affect search results. What’s an app? And how does it differ from a mobile-friendly or responsive website? Think Google Play or Apple’s App Store.
Mobile apps are smartphone or tablet applications that are downloaded and installed. While they function much like mobile websites, mobile apps give agencies the advantage of having their own corner on a client’s mobile device. Because users must download and install the app, agencies have greater control over their presence on a device than with a mobile website.
How so? Even a closed or inactive mobile app can work in the background, sending out push notifications tied to location. This could let agencies send advance warning to clients in a specific area when a hurricane or tornado approaches. This value-add helps clients see us in a different light.
An agency app also empowers clients to pay their insurance bill whenever they want with a single touch of a button. Payment goes directly to the carrier, saving agencies money and time. Other app features include the ability to view insurance cards, one-touch agency contact, and more.
Google’s decision to show app content more prominently in search results will require that its search bots — little programs that gather info — see what’s offered. If a developer has enabled app indexing, the bots will use the info to deliver and enhance search results. In my mind, this is reason enough for any agency to build and deploy an app.
If your website is mobile-friendly, great. If not, find a professional web designer and get it updated and mobile-ready.
Next, find an agency app and consider asking your top carrier to cover some or all of its cost. My research shows the following elements are most important:
- Apps must be powerful enough to really service clients. Our agency app, from goinsuranceagent.com, lets clients report claims 24/7 with a single touch and pay bills directly. It lets me deliver around-the-clock service the national companies tell consumers to expect.
- The app shouldn’t store important content on the clients’ phones. With all of the data breaches and theft of information, it’s wise to have our information stored in the cloud, not on the phone, and password protected.
- Make sure the app can send push notifications, which have a very high open rate. This functionality lets me talk with clients through the app, which is extremely powerful.
- The app should be able to store insurance cards.
- You should be able to track information and activity — such as downloads — through the app.
There’s power in the agency apps and mobile-friendly websites. Customer satisfaction and engagement top the list. The benefits alone are worth the effort.
In addition to these benefits, there are downsides to not acting now: Google will penalize your website if it’s not mobile-friendly. Plus, you’ll miss out on potential ranking gains by not having a solid app. So what are you waiting for?
Chris Paradiso, CPIA, is president of Paradiso Financial & Insurance Services, headquartered on Main Street in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. His agency won PIA National's Excellence in Social Media Award in 2013. He also heads up Paradiso Presents, LLC, which provides social media consulting, seminars and workshops to help agencies thrive in the online marketing world. Contact Chris via email at email@example.com.