Insurers, agents and brokers can optimize their Internet presence by forging alliances with “portals” to sponsor Web-based consumer content instead of using banner advertisements that are attracting less visitors, a new survey has found.

“NetSmart V—America.com: What Makes America Click”—a survey of 1,000 people nationwide who spend at least an hour a week on the Internet at home—found that the number of respondents who clicked on insurance company advertising banners on Web pages dropped dramatically—from 54 percent in 1998 to 32 percent this year.

Bernadette Tracy, president of NetSmart in New York, said banner ad click-throughs are decreasing because Web surfers are becoming more sophisticated. “In the beginning the Internet was a novelty and banners were an important help,” she said. “Once people got used to it, the novelty wore off.”

 Insurers may be better off forging alliances with Internet ‘portals’

 Insurers might be better served by aligning with a portal, which is a search engine that also functions as a “content aggregator,” she said.

Early search engines simply searched for relevant sites, she said.  But portals such as Yahoo, Excite, Lycos and Women.com seek to provide content that keeps visitors at the site longer. “The name of the game on the Internet is to keep people on our site as long as possible,” she said.

Insurers sponsoring content on a portal would attract savvy customers, said Ms. Tracy. For example, an insurer could sponsor an article on the types of insurance that newlyweds need and what kinds of policies they can afford, she explained. “If an insurer sponsors a story, that will give [the visitor] the impression that you have even more information about this on your site,” she said.

Insurers must be careful, however, not to write articles that are overly slanted. Initially, “insurance companies wanted to develop their own content, but the content was self-serving.  Consumers saw right through it,” she said.

Location on a search engine is also very important. The survey found that the top-three listings got 80 percent of the visits.

The survey also reported that 78 percent of respondents who visited insurance sites wanted the names of local agents, but did not want the agent to contact them.

“The insurance sites are making a big mistake [by saying:] ‘Give us your name and we will call you,” said Ms. Tracy. “Insurers and agents have to realize that they are dealing with fully informed customers. It’s a win-win situation because when their online prospects talk to an agent, they have made a decision, so it’s an easy close.”

Leave a Reply