You’ve probably heard it by now: If you want to have a successful health insurance practice, you need to market online. It seems simple enough – but the Internet is a massive place, and unless you can figure out the most effective way to market yourself online, you’ll be wasting your time. Here are four ways to get started in online marketing – and most of them are totally free.

1. Create a simple, effective website

Does your website describe your agency and the products you sell in a succinct way? Does it answer prospects’ needs in, say, less than 10 seconds?

Once someone clicks on your site, you have a matter of moments to capture their attention before they click away. So make sure that your home page is captivating, but not too flashy. It should include some basic elements, such as:

  • A call to action
  • An easily accessible/prominent “Contact Us” button

You can include other items on your site, but these two are the most important. You want to create a connection with your visitor and clearly convey what you offer.

Also, make sure your site ranks high in search engine results. By including certain keywords and terms in the code and updating your content frequently, your site will appear higher up on Google and other search engines. Any good Web designer will be able to help you optimize your search engine results. Still, it’s up to you to know the best way to describe your product and service to prospects, and then turn interested individuals into qualified sales leads.

2. Start blogging

By frequently writing in a conversational way and showing the human and personal side of your business, you can open up a whole new audience. Share your knowledge about health care reform, changes to the insurance market, or other hot-button issues, and invite readers to comment or contact you if they have questions. Sites such as Blogger and WordPress offer free blogs that you can even embed into your website. This can help legitimize your business and show that you are an expert in your field – all for nothing more than a time commitment of about 15 minutes a day, three times a week.

3. Try podcasting or video blogging

Podcasting is a relatively simple technology that can provide an even more personal touch on your website or blog. And all you need in order to get started is a decent microphone or video camera (many recent laptops and desktop computers already have Web cameras built in), a digital recorder, and editing software – or the patience to re-record in case of an error.

You can host podcasts and video blogs (also called “vlogs”) with business partners or others with knowledge of the health insurance industry. Consider inviting a local doctor or fitness expert to discuss preventive medicine. Think about what your prospects or clients will want to hear, and cater to their interests. You can also use podcast and vlog software to record an introduction on your website – a simple solution that adds a personal touch and sets you apart from your competition.

4. Get started in social networking

There are several social media options from which you can choose – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – and all of them have something different to offer. If you’re looking to make professional partnerships or connect with local business prospects, sign up for LinkedIn. If you want to share your thoughts and expertise and are licensed in multiple states, consider Twitter. To connect with prospects of all ages, try Facebook. All of these sites are free, and with a little time commitment you can get a lot of free marketing and meet new prospects who could become clients for life.

Heather Trese is the associate editor of the Agent’s Sales Journal. She can be reached at 800-933-9449 ext. 225 or HTrese@AgentMedia.com.