While New York Life and Lincoln Life both retained their respective positions as first and second on the list of best consumer websites by insurance companies compiled by Dalbar Inc., Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and AXA Advisors made strong upward moves that brought them to third and fourth place, respectively.

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company held on to first place among advisor-oriented sites. Allstate Financial moved into second place, replacing Lincoln Life. Pacific Life, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, The Hartford and John Hancock Annuities also made significant advances on Dalbar’s list of sites aimed at financial advisors.

Among consumer-oriented insurance sites, Northwestern Mutual, Milwaukee, rose 7 spots over the previous quarter, earning third place with new features, including links that enable clients to get e-mail updates of statements and product news, according to the report by Dalbar, a research firm in Boston.

AXA Advisors, a subsidiary of AXA Financial Services LLC, New York, moved up 5 spots to fourth place by making it easier for site visitors to move around, using a design that allows users to view the site in outline. AXA also offered new account-management functions.

After a record 26 straight quarters of receiving Dalbar’s “Excellent” rating, Fidelity Investments, Boston, dropped 2 spots to fifth place in the consumer site ranks. Its site scored 79.64, just shy of the 80 needed for the Excellent designation. Dalbar scores sites for functionality, usefulness and other factors.

The most significant trend reported by Dalbar among consumer sites was the introduction of useful new tools to help consumers prepare for retirement.

Among examples singled out by Dalbar:

o Fidelity developed a retirement guidance program aimed at helping consumers begin retirement planning and calculate the ultimate impact of current savings patterns. The program, which Fidelity calls myPlan, uses 5 questions to profile the consumer by age, income and other factors, then project future assets and income. Fidelity also added audio feeds to help visitors use various features.

o Principal Financial Group, Des Moines, launched a retirement income planning guide to help consumers 50-years-old and over take assets, income and expenses into account in evaluating retirement preparedness.

o Nationwide Financial Services Inc., Columbus, Ohio, introduced a RetireAbility Check section, offering a variety of videos with different narrators keyed to each user’s sex and age. The videos even add a little fun by allowing users to click on a “Surprise Me” button to have a narrator perform animal impressions or other amusing digressions.

Among Dalbar’s top-ranked sites for financial professionals, Pacific Life rose 3 spots to fifth place after adding new contract-management tools, including online step-ups. It also used its site to offer the services of a group of consultants to help wholesalers and advisors with advanced planning.

Thrivent Financial advanced to 7th place from 11th by offering a secure route enabling advisors to make online inquiries about customer accounts.

Fidelity upgraded its advisor site by combining it with a previously separate contract-management location. Other new features allow advisors to sort accounts by name, dollar value or other criteria and to prefill information for multiple trades on the same account. Fidelity also added 4 new site tours to guide users through the new features.

The Hartford redesigned its site with a color scheme patterned after its consumer site, while improving navigation and online ordering of product literature, Dalbar noted.

John Hancock Annuities (a separate site from John Hancock Insurance) appeared on Dalbar’s professional site list for the first time, landing in 20th place by simplifying site navigation, adding links to news and other fresh information and allowing professionals to receive transaction confirmations via e-mail.

Dalbar also acknowledged several advisor-oriented sites for focusing the user’s attention on what was new to the site. For instance, Pacific Life, AIG Life Brokerage and Penn Mutual all introduced brightly colored indicators to call the user’s attention to recently added links and information.