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Marketing 2.0: strategies for online lead generation

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To stay competitive in today’s market, agents need to get creative with their lead generation methods. Driving organic traffic to a website is one strategy, as is buying leads from an aggregator. But what if you’re not convinced SEO is worthwhile and you don’t want to have to depend on an aggregator (or the quality of their leads) to stay in the black? There’s a third method for generating online leads you can use to supplement these strategies: PPC and retargeting.

Strategy #1: Pay-Per-Click

PPC stands for pay-per-click — you place ads on other web pages (blogs, content networks, or search engine result pages) and pay for each click your ad gets. To place your ad on search engine result pages, you can use Google AdWords and the Yahoo! Bing Network (YBN). These are where most digital marketers start, but they’re also the hardest to get right.

In my experience, ads on search engine pages are less profitable than those on blogs and content networks. Search engine PPC ads are keyword-based, so you need to have a very good understanding of your prospect and the way they use search. If you get started in PPC without this, you’re wasting your time. If you already use keyword research tools such as the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, Wordstream, or SEMrush, you’re on the right track.

Unfortunately, insurance keywords are the most expensive of all, with popular searches like “life insurance quotes” costing as much as $50 per click. That’s no guarantee the person who clicks your ad will request a quote or fill out an application. That’s just how much it costs to get their eyes on your landing page.

My average cost per click with AdWords runs between $8 and $15 because I don’t use generic keywords, like the one in the example above. That might not sound like a lot, but remember — that’s $8 for one click. I still have to convert that $8 click, which is tough. To get better conversion rates, you need to select more targeted keywords and be prepared to spend roughly $20 per click.

Refining the PPC distribution model

One strategy that’s worked for me is finding a third-party PPC vendor to place ads (called display ads) on their network of partner sites. Right now, for example, I’m partnered with a financial blogging network. That network receives more than 14 million unique visits every month and just about every one of those visitors is already looking for information on finance, investing and managing money.

With this strategy, you have the opportunity to reach readers who weren’t even thinking about life insurance until they saw your ad, which is something you can’t do with traditional PPC. In terms of results, I’ve ended up paying less per click through the financial blogging network than I did with AdWords. This strategy brings in 500-600 leads per month and we’re converting about eight to 10 percent of those into in-force clients.


Strategy #2: Retargeting

In addition to traditional PPC and display ads, you can also use a strategy called retargeting to generate more leads. If you’ve ever visited a site and navigated away to check Facebook, for example, only to see an ad for the site you just left within Facebook itself, that’s retargeting.

Services that offer retargeting, such as AdWords and AdRoll, keep track of people who visit your website. If a prospect leaves without converting, the retargeter will then display your ads on other sites they visit. How do they do it? These services provide a small piece of code for your website. Once it’s added, that code uses anonymous cookies to track your visitors via their Web browsers.

I currently use AdRoll for Facebook remarketing, but AdWords also has very affordable options for retargeting (much less expensive than traditional PPC). Overall, you can get several thousand impressions, or views, for just a few dollars.

Best practices

Display ads and retargeting work best when they are customized for the audience you want. AdRoll, for example, will display your ads on niche sites that correlate to your products. AdWords, however, depends on you to do that legwork. If you don’t pick sites for your ads, AdWords will place them randomly and your conversion rate will suffer.

If you’re using AdWords, it’s a good idea to build a list of websites whose readers are likely to convert for you. Think about where your clients go for news, financial updates, or consumer advice. Take a look at these sites and the types of ads you see on them. That’s your benchmark in terms of creating something just as (if not more) clickable for your prospects.

When you’re evaluating your results, there’s one statistic you need to pay attention to called “view-through conversions.” This stat tracks the number of viewers who saw your ad, but didn’t click on it. If they come back to your site later and convert, that counts as a “view-through” conversion. Taking this number into consideration helps you better track the effectiveness of your ads. (Note: If you’re a Google Analytics user, retargeting conversions are not the same as the conversion goals you see in your Analytics dashboard. They’re set up separately, through your retargeting service.)

If you’re wondering where to start, my suggestion is to try a bit of everything. In my experience, PPC ads through third-party vendors convert into leads more often than retargeting. On the other hand, leads earned through retargeting are more likely to convert to actual sales because they’ve seen our brand twice. Other factors affecting conversions include the text of your ad, where it was placed and the design of your landing page. It doesn’t take a lot of money to get started — it just takes some time and willingness to experiment.


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