Does your insurance agency have a website? If not, you could be limiting your potential to connect with and sell to your prospects. After all, when you want to learn more about a business or product isn’t the first thing you do is search for the company’s website? Not having a company website, demerits your credibility and creates a poor user experience which could have your prospects looking elsewhere.

Building a website can seem like a daunting task—unless you break it down into a series of smaller tasks. That’s why Hometown Quotes has put together a list of essential information that can help you get started.

Choose a Domain Name

A domain name is the Web address that people will type to get to your site. When choosing a domain name select one that’s easy to remember and spell, and that clearly reflects your business. For example, if your company name is The John Smith Insurance Agency, you could go with “johnsmithinsurance.com.” On the other hand, if you own The John Zingerdooldeson Insurance Agency, think about shortening it in a way that would still be somewhat intuitive for your customers, such as “jzinsurance.com.” Since your domain name is often also used for email addresses, that’s another good reason to choose one that’s short. Also avoid using numbers in your domain when possible. John4insurance.com sounds catchy, but when you mention it in passing, people may put johnforinsurance.com and miss you completely.

Before you start counting on a specific domain name, make sure it hasn’t already been taken by someone else. Use goDaddy’s bulk domain finder to save time by searching for numerous domains at once. Once you have determined if the domain name you want to use is available, run your chosen name past a couple trusted friends or colleagues. They may see a red flag that you don’t.

As soon as you’ve found a domain name that you’re happy with, have confirmed that it’s available, and has been given approval by your trusted friends, purchase it and any variations that you feel you need—even if you’re nowhere near ready to put up a website. The cost to own a domain name is negligible, and you never know when another John Smith will start his insurance agency. You can purchase your name through a service like Namecheap.com or GoDaddy.com.

Determine Your Must-Haves

Think through the features that your website could include and determine what is most important to you.

One of the best ways to get ideas is to spend some time looking at the websites of successful competitors. While you should never plagiarize others’ wording, it’s perfectly natural for insurance agencies to organize their sites in similar ways, such as by insurance products offered (auto, home, etc.). At a minimum, you’ll want a description of your services and a clear listing of the different ways you can be contacted.

It is also important to consider the tone or feeling you want to convey to your website visitors. For example, would you rather be friendly, folksy and warm or business-like, competent and serious? See if you can choose three or four words that best describe how your agency does business. This essentially becomes your brand. Your website should reflect those words, and knowing what they are will help guide your decisions as you design and build a site.

What other components are essential for you to include on your website? Do you need a secured agents-only and/or customers-only section of your website where your staff or customers can fill out and upload forms or photos? Do you want to include a blog? Some hosts offer the ability to include those features and some don’t; deciding this first may inform your decisions going forward.

Hosting

A web host provides the online space where your website lives. Many web hosts also provide site-building services. Hosting costs will vary depending on bandwidth (number of estimated users per month), number of emails you need to register, etc. If you don’t know such things from the start, you can always estimate on the low side and upgrade later if you find you need more. A great reference to learn more about how to choose the correct hosting provider can be found here.

Choose a Content Management System or Web Builder

One of the main criteria to know is what kind of site do you want. Our recommendation is to use a turnkey template that can be relatively easy to customize, like WordPress or Squarespace. Both provide robust templates and themes and both can be customized to fit your brand. This option is generally cheaper and takes less time to develop, compared to an open source approach. To get a VERY professional result, consider hiring a designer or developer to help set up your vision.

Be sure to consider all of your options before you make a choice. Once your website is built and hosted, it can be a hassle to move it elsewhere. Human nature being what it is, it often feels easier to stick with a company for the long haul, even if you aren’t completely thrilled with their services.

Once you’ve made these broader logistical decisions, it’s time to think about content specifics. Part 2 of this blog post will be available next week, and will include ideas about the particular content that you might want to cover and thoughts about how to lay it out.


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