Brokers who want to generate leads online need to make their website priority No. 1.

Ninety-four percent of business buyers conduct research online before a major business purchase, according to a 2014 study by the Acquity Group:

● 83% check business websites
● 77% will do a Google search
● 41% will read reviews

Businesses that are looking for a new broker are turning to the web more and more. You can no longer depend on personal recommendations and word of mouth. You have to help potential clients both find your website and choose you once they read about your agency.

Also see:The 50 biggest benefit brokerages in the large-group market, part 2.”

Competition for this traffic is fierce and people are putting more and more money into acquiring these potential customers. To get a sense of the amount of money at play, I did a little research through search analytics company SpyFu.com to see how much Zenefits.com was spending on Google AdWords. According to SpyFu, they seem to be spending an estimated $174,000 a month just on Google. I’m not expecting or recommending that anyone spend that much — it’s just an example of how serious the competition is for online acquisition.

Even without spending a penny, there are ways to improve your website. Your main goals are to establish trust in/with your company and make it easy for someone to contact you.

Optimize your website content
The first question to ask yourself about your website: When a potential customer lands on your page, is the value proposition immediately apparent?

A website visitor forms an opinion of your brand in under two-tenths of a second, according to the Missouri University of Science and Technology. In the next 2.6 seconds, that visitor concentrates on key sections of your website and reinforces the first impression. Your message must be clear and focused because you only have seconds to make an impression.

Let’s conduct an experiment. Fire up your web browser and load your website. Give yourself five seconds to take it all in. Pretend you own a donut shop with 20 employees and know nothing about benefits. Now ask yourself these questions:

● Did the headline make it clear what services your company provides?
● Visually, did your site give you a sense of trust?
● Was there too much copy on the site to read?
● Was the copy focused on your customer's needs?

Your website needs to have a compelling message. Your content should be easy to digest and understand. Headlines should make it instantly clear what you offer. If you’re not Nike with million-dollar budgets, I would stay away from vague taglines like “Just do it” or something so open. You don’t want your visitors to ask “Just do what?” You have seconds to make an impression, so use every second wisely.

Have a culture of experimentation
Here at HealthJoy.com, we’re redeveloping our website again. We’ve done it more times than I care to admit because we view our website as an ongoing process. Some of our changes are due to the evolution of our product. Other changes are based on data from A/B testing some of our messaging. Our website is a little complex, since we have different messages for brokers, HR departments and their employees.

If you haven’t heard of A/B testing, it's an automated method to compare two versions of a web page and pick the one that performs better. We use a few different pieces of software since we test everything: emails, our mobile app, website, scripts, etc. If you’re new to A/B testing you can use Google Analytics for free. If you have a little coin to spend, I would recommend you look at Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer, which start at $50 a month. When you’re spending some money to advertise your business, it’s best to make sure your website is working for you.

Alluring email captures
Getting a visitor's email address is usually your No. 1 goal with a website. It’s the best way to get people into your sales conversion funnel. It allows you to do ongoing marketing and is easier to acquire than a person’s phone number. Email marketing is really the best ongoing marketing channel and should be one of the priorities for your site.

Your website should have several ways to capture an email address. On HealthJoy.com, we have a total of four buttons just on the homepage that take you to a signup form. We must have at least 10 opportunities to contact us throughout the website. Don’t be shy about adding multiple calls to action. You want more people to contact you, not fewer. Your call to action buttons should be big and bold with high contrasting colors. Input forms should be short and easy to read. We use big, fat red buttons with white text to call attention.

Mobile optimized is mandatory
comScore’s 2016 U.S. Cross-Platform Future in Focus shows that desktop computers are now a “secondary touch point,” so you need to have a mobile-first strategy. More than 65% of all digital media time is now spent on mobile devices. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile, you are throwing away business.

If you want even worse news, Google stated last year that they would penalize websites if they weren’t mobile optimized. In plain English, websites that are optimized for mobile will be awarded higher rankings in search results than other sites. This will affect even your desktop ranking, so it’s not optional.

I’ve done a spot check here around Chicago for broker websites and found that roughly 30% of all broker websites here aren’t mobile optimized. If you're serious about your website, pull out your smartphone and check it. If it doesn’t look great and readable, it's time for a redesign.

Optimizing or updating your website can be a painful process at times, but the payoff of greater leads makes it worthwhile. Your website is the first impression that someone might make about your company. What is that impression now?

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Rick Ramos

Rick Ramos

Ramos is CMO of HealthJoy and is the author of “Content Marketing: Insider’s Secret to Online Sales & Lead Generation.”