Hey guys, I posted this article on eLifeTools.com recently and thought you'd like it. I've condensed it here to give you the short and sweet version for the forum, but this will be a great addition to the "Insurance Websites" category. Please let me know your thoughts. 18 Marketing Pros Reveal the Crucial First Steps to Building a Website Five years ago, I was on the brink of bankruptcy. My rise from the ashes has been nothing short of miraculous. Last year, my websites accounted for over $700,000 of placed life insurance premiums. … and I owe it all to online lead generation. 18 EXPERTS REVEAL THE ROADMAP TO FOLLOW IN MY FOOTSTEPS Maybe you’ve done a bit of research, and you’ve read about buying a domain, and hosting, and you’re learning you need to write articles, and need a logo & design, (oh, and what about getting traffic, and what about SEO?) It can be overwhelming! Here’s what you really ought to be saying: Just cut the crap and tell me what I should be focusing on right now, at this instant, right at the start line. What’s the essential knowledge I need to get off my butt and start my journey to building a successful website? That’s why for this first post I brought in 18 first-class web pros, so you can hear it not from one, but 18 experts. And I’ll tell you now, all of them delivered the goods. I purposely sought contributions from both insurance professionals (who are crushing it), and non-insurance professionals (also crushing it.) Our expert panel includes: 9 insurance agents & expert lead generators – Steve Anderson, Matthew Marko, Jeff Root, Brent Kelly, Liran Hirschkorn, John Carroll, Glenn Cooke, Ryan Pinney and Jeff Rose 9 world-class web marketers, traffic generators and SEO Specialists – Neil Patel, Corbett Barr, Pat Flynn, Marcus Sheridan, Ryan Hanley, JK Allen, Jason Hawkins, Brian Dean, and Derek Halpern Each of them was given the following prompt: “You purchased your domain. Now how much planning is necessary before you start writing? Some experts say to plan everything from the keywords you’ll target, to design, to the first 50 posts you’ll write, while others argue to ‘just get something out there as quickly as possible’. What do you recommend?” READY, GO! SET – AN UNEXPECTED THEME DEVELOPS IN OUR PRO ADVICE I immediately noticed a trend amongst our expert comments toward less planning before getting started, particularly for beginners. This may seem paradoxical for some, that a beginner should start writing content with little to no planning, but hear them out. They make some great points. So without further ado, I give you the 9 responses I feel would be most suitable for beginners. Neil Patel – Quick Sprout “If you’ve never built a website before, it’s easy to get bogged down with consuming information about content creation and marketing, rather than taking action. So I say don’t worry too much about the design or how many articles you have posted (at first)… and just focus on writing high quality articles (preferably 2000 words or more) that answer specific questions insurance buyers will be searching for. Once you’ve got a nice base of content on your site, say 10 to 15 articles, you can then shift your attention to marketing. To get any sort of traction in an ultra-competitive space like insurance, you’re going to have to think out-of-the-box a bit and create something unique to generate shares and backlinks. For example, here’s a content piece I came up with when consulting for Life Insure titled “19 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Death”. The article was a big hit because it played on peoples’ fear of death, AND contained interesting facts like: If someone plans to jump off Mount Everest to commit suicide, you’ll need a lot of patience. It takes the average person 2.5 minutes to hit bottom. Or if budget allows, you might create a linkable resource, like I did with “The Advanced Guide to SEO”, a 40,000+ word guide detailing the most advanced SEO techniques that exist today. That one piece has landed me over 700 backlinks and thousands of unique visitors.” Matthew Marko – www.Twitter.com/Backyardmktg “Unless you are hiring a copywriter and outsourcing your content development, I think planning should begin with an honest assessment of how much time and content you will develop each month. 95 percent of blogs (and content marketing strategies) are abandoned. Don’t be that guy. Pace yourself – content marketing is a marathon not a sprint. Create a simple editorial calendar outline for the first 3 months; a great place to start is customer questions. Stick to your calendar. Repeat. Be disciplined about it. So long as you have a solid underlying platform (eg WordPress) don’t worry about the technical stuff at the outset.” Liran Hirschkorn – Compare Term Life Insurance Quotes | Independent Life Insurance Agency |Best Life Quote “If you’re just starting out, I recommend you start blogging consistently. It’s not all going to be perfect, but the key to success is focusing on a few key habits regularly, and one of them is quality content. If you start planning everything, you’ll never get to actually producing content. Don’t wait until it’s perfect, just do it.” Marcus Sheridan – Content Marketing Speaker, Consultant, Agency: The Sales Lion “Brainstorm (write down on paper) every single question a person would have assuming they were interested or needed your services. Do this exactly as a searcher (or consumer) would think, say, and understand the question. The key is putting your head in theirs. Once you’ve brainstormed and come up with no less than 50 questions, take those questions and turn them into titles for blog posts. This will be your editorial calendar for the coming months, and is sure to start you on the right path to success. After your first 10 posts are done and published, take those posts and morph them together, making a guide or eBook out of them—and eBook that should continue to grow as you continue to publish articles. Once this is achieved, make this eBook your list-builder for your site’s first Call-to-Action. This plan works in very industry, but so few will actually take the time to do it.” Steve Anderson – Steve Anderson: Insurance Agency Technology Presentations, Consulting, Products and Resources “Thinking through your strategy is important. But, when planning becomes a reason to procrastinate that’s a problem. Your intended audience is not going to find your site until it has good quality content they want to read. Sit down and write something. And then do it again. If you are not slightly embarrassed by what you publish you have waited too long. Fail fast and learn from your mistakes faster.” Derek Halpern – Social Triggers.com “Before I go to sleep tonight, I’ll write three articles.” Brent Kelly – Brent M Kelly | Engaging, Enlightening, Empowering “Although I believe that design, opt-in strategy, and other tactics are vital, for most people, the hardest part is just starting to write content. In that regard, I suggest that you start putting together content that will be valuable to for others before you start worrying about how you are going to format and send it. Good content is good content. It is also yours. You can always change the design and strategy. It’s easy to get so focused on optimization and forget about why you are writing in the first place……to help others solve problems. I agree with the philosophy that I would rather have my content shareable than searchable.” Jeff Root – SellTermLife.com “I recommend writing your core content, get a baller design and then go live asap as a pre-launch. Then improve upon the user experience by soliciting feedback and testing. Only then would I engage my marketing campaign. Your site will never be perfect to you, but if you can get the right people to your site and your product truly solves a pain, it doesn’t really matter.” JK Allen – Growth Effect | Web Design & Online Consulting for Small Businesses “When starting up a new site, there are so many great resources online to help you get up and running that it can get overwhelming quickly. Be disciplined and rely on as few sources as possible to reduce information overload. Base your learning off of resources that feel trustworthy and that are accessible to answer your questions.” Corbett Barr – The Sparkline “My typical advice is to write at least a handful of blog posts prior to launching a new site, so new readers have more than your first post to digest. That way they can get a feel for whether your blog is worth reading/subscribing to. But beyond that, I think there’s a big risk of never getting your site off the ground, if you try to plan too much and make it too perfect. Besides, you’ll learn so much along the way from your reader interactions, that your writing will likely improve greatly over the first 20 posts or so.” Ryan Hanley – Ryan Hanley - Content Marketing Strategy and Design “Much to the contrary of what most experts would prescribe, content marketing success has nothing to do with your expertise or ability to create and distribute content. But rather, like all things in life, content marketing success is directly proportional to the number of quality relationships you’ve built with partners, peers, influencers and audience members. Focus your effort on relationships first and always, and tactics of content marketing success will solve themselves.” John Carroll – Insurance Marketing | We Love Agents! | InsuranceSplash “Assuming this is your first blog, don’t wait another minute! Running a website is like swimming and you can’t figure it out until you jump in. Get your hands dirty and make a lot of mistakes as soon as possible. The sooner you start the sooner you’ll get what you want. However, I’d hold off on sending all your colleagues and Facebook buddies to the site for at least 3 months. Plan your “big launch” after your site is optimized to capture leads and followers.” I HAVE DETERMINED THE FOLLOWING RESPONSES ARE A BIT MORE ADVANCED, BUT BEGINNERS SHOULD STILL READ THEM Pat Flynn – The Smart Passive Income Blog — Smart Ways to Live a Passive Income Lifestyle On the Internet with SmartPassiveIncome.com “Every day you don’t have something online is a day of potential traffic, readers, subscribers and potential customers lost. However, as much as I encourage people to “just get started” and not worry about being 100% perfect, some pre-publishing planning should be done to maximize the impact you have online. The design can always change and be updated, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that aspect of your site – as long as you have something organized and easy to read and navigate, you’re good. The most important aspect of planning is your brand – who does your website serve and in what way? People have to realize they are in the right spot when they arrive on your site, which goes along with visual branding (logos, taglines, pictures, etc.) and the content that you produce as well. Are you writing just to write and fill space, or are you writing about topics that you know your target audience wants to read. And finally, don’t forget about your email list and social sharing. Start collecting email addresses right from the start, and enable your future visitors to share your content in the easiest way possible.” Jeff Rose - Cheap Term Life Insurance | Get Free Life Insurance Quotes Today! “Most people assume that setting up a website is fairly simple. What they don’t realize to setup a website that drives traffic and converts into real business takes much more careful planning. Without a sound strategy and doing some research, you’ll be spinning your wheels for months trying to figure out why your site isn’t converting. If you don’t have the time to do the research, then hiring someone that knows their stuff with proven results will save you hours of frustration. Something I wish I would have done when I first started!” Brian Dean – SEO Training and Link Building Strategies – Backlinko “You definitely want a plan before you write your first word. I’d say that most new site owners don’t plan enough. There’s something to be said about putting something out there — but considering how competitive the personal finance space is — you need to have a plan in place. That being said, you don’t need to plan the next year of your blog. All you need to have in plan is: Your blog’s design and branding. Insurance is seen as a commodity. So the stronger you can brand your blog, the better. A piece of pillar content. Publishing “5 tips for saving money on insurance” isn’t going to get your new blog the attention it needs. To stand out you need to publish epic content that gets noticed. Plan and publish this as your first post. How to promote that pillar content. Next it’s time to come up with a plan of action on how you plan to get the word out about your content. Will you email bloggers in the personal finance space? If so, who? Will you promote it on LinkedIn? If so, join some relevant groups today. But that’s all the planning you absolutely need for day 1. Once you have that, you’re already ahead of the game. Jason Hawkins – Insurance Agency SEO Services Company - View Proven Results. “Getting something out there as quickly as possible can hinder the quality of your work and the foundation of your website (which is critical). Based off this logic, it would make sense to have a plan if your goal is to make money from your website. My outlook is ROI based. Gaining quick rankings in smaller cities is a sure way to drum up new business quickly if the following is followed. First, if you serve multiple Geographical areas, you can use this to your advantage to capture more of your local marketshare. For instance, if you are licensed in the State of Florida, you would want to create a Florida Page. Example: www.mydomainhere.com/florida-life-insurance/ Then, after this page is created, you would want to drill down more specifically to the cities within Florida that you are targeting. Example: www.mydomainhere.com/florida-life-insurance/fort-lauderdale-life-insurance-quotes/ Continue doing this for all cities you plan on targeting. Write about 400-500 words of high quality content, not focusing on the keyword density but just ensuring the first paragraph contains your keyword, as well as the last paragraph. Embed images, use friendly img-alt tags, use H1-H6 tags sparingly (do not use more then 9 words), send an outbound authority link to your local regulatory body or a local city government page, make sure your Title Tag & Meta description is on point. Lastly, add Google Authorship, as studies show this increases CTR by 30%+, and will give you a head start should Google ever place an emphasis on Author Rank within their algorithm. Important Note: You will need to incorporate a high quality content based link building strategy for competitive areas and/or to dominate the #1 spot.” Ryan Pinney – Home - Pinney Insurance “If you don’t have a website already and clients are asking about it, then sooner is better than later. If the goal is search engine ranking and lead generation I would suggest you error on the side of caution and planning. Google has and continues to make changes that make ranking and lead generation more difficult for the uninformed and unprepared. For either option it is important to have a well laid out, professional looking site with good content. To be successful with online lead generation and, in particular search ranking, it is import to do your research and have a well planned strategy for link building and SEO in place before you begin.” Glenn Cooke – www.LifeInsuranceCanada.com “Quit screwing around and just get the website live. Design is much less important than content, in fact there’s a saying in the online marketing world “ugly sells”. Check my website if you want an example of that. A website designer would throw up in their mouth over my design, yet consumers frequently tell me how easy it is to read. Guess which one I’m catering to? There’s one fatal mistake many brokers make though. We all know you need to ask for the sale. On your website, the ‘sale’ is the capture of contact information. And if you don’t ask for the sale boldly and right up front, you won’t get their contact info. When you look at your site, is the most visually obvious thing a request for their contact information? In the life insurance world, the easiest way to capture their contact information is using Compulife’s online quoting system. Let consumers run life insurance quotes, but get their contact information in order to run the quote. From least amount of planning to most. So my advice is, if you’ve never built a site before, take the advice of the first few. If you’re more experienced, like me (I think this is my 7th site), you should take the latter into consideration.” Ok, forum, that was actually the condensed version. Hope you loved it and please let me know your thoughts.