Let me tell you the story of a man, whose personal problems with health insurance led him to create a website, for which the volume of search visibility today can simply be described as stunning. Once upon a time in the ‘dark ages” before the Internet, a young guy, called Vip Patel, a Stanford University graduate, was deadly ill from food poisoning. Since he was unemployed and didn’t have health insurance, Patel was afraid to go to the hospital. So he laid in bed and wondered if he was going to survive. Fortunately, Vip Patel did survive, but the question of what other people in his situation could and should do stuck with him for years. So, why am I telling you this story? Well, because a decade later, that same guy created the first online marketplace for individuals and families to find, compare, and choose from hundreds of health insurance plans. That marketplace is called eHealthInsurance.com (no affiliation) and today it has enrolled over three million Americans in health insurance coverage and managed to achieve really impressive positions within the largest Search Engines.
Zooming Out: Who Are the Top 5 in US Insurance?
In the beginning of my “mission”, I actually started investigating the overall insurance landscape. What makes the insurance field so interesting is the variety of categories that fall under it: car, dental, disability, health, home, life, motorcycle, pet, and travel. So what grabbed my immediate attention was eHealthInsurance as the leader of the overall insurance landscape, even though the company’s main expertise falls within health and dental insurance. Then I asked myself: how strong should a domain’s search visibility be on a category level, in order to become #1 on an industry level as broad as the insurance industry?*Note that the data for the Infographic was retrieved on 20th January 2014. Naturally, I took my investigation further in the “Health Insurance” direction.
eHealthInsurance.com: The Undisputable Leader in Health Insurance for the US Online Market
First, I wanted to discover the top players in search results for health insurance. I looked at both organic and paid search visibility. This data is based on the top 25 generic keywords that we track for a given category within the insurance industry. Here’s where I mention that I am used to exploring a large variety of domain Search performances on a daily basis. Stumbling upon a domain that is “centuries” ahead in Search Visibility, compared to the rest of the top players, is not so common. What impressed me right away was the fact that eHealthInsurance.com is more than 25 percent ahead of the rest domains in the US Health Insurance category:
Note how Healthcare.gov – the health insurance marketplace operated by the US Government – takes a second position in the total Share of Search graph. If we were to compare Healthcare.gov and eHealthInsurance.com, the two domains show similarities in both interface and services. However, eHealthInsurance’s Price/Plan Comparison tool feels more intuitive, user-friendly, and covers a larger range of plans to choose from. Additionally, we can’t go without mentioning that despite all the technical issues Healthcare.gov has since its launch in October, the domain has stabilized and is among the top performers in Search Visibility within the US Health Insurance landscape.
The Two Sides of the Search Visibility Scale: Organic vs. Paid
Next, I needed to satisfy my curiosity further by trying to get a sense of eHealthInsurance’s Search strategy. So I took a sneak peek into how the domain’s Search Visibility is spread between Organic and Paid. It turned out, that the SEO experts of eHealthInsurance have chosen the well-known balanced approach between Adwords and Organic Visibility:
Still, the domain’s stunning Organic performance definitely couldn’t leave my curiosity alone, so I had to do some further research.
What’s Behind the Success of eHealthInsurance in Organic Search?
Undoubtedly, the core of any domain’s successful Organic performance lies a solid base of well-managed SEO disciplines and a good technical platform. In my analysis of eHealthInsurance, however, I was more interested in exploring the non-tech oriented side of SEO, such as the company’s Content and Link Building Strategy that plays an equally important role. Here are my four observations:
Blogging as a Proven Source of Traffic
Launched in September 28th 2010, eHealthInsurance’s “Get Smart. Get Covered.” is a consumer-oriented blog aiming to educate consumers by delivering news, facts, shopping tools, etc. related to the Health Insurance industry. Back when the blog was launched, Brian Mast, VP of Communications, mentioned in a press release, “As the Health Insurance Market continues to change, it’s easy for consumers to feel overwhelmed. Our goal is to translate the complexities of the market to help Americans find the personal insurance solutions best suited to their individual needs.” Note that the blog is a sub-domain of eHealthInsurance.com, meaning that its generated Search Visibility does not count in the total Share of Search for the main domain. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that the blog plays a major part in eHealthInsurance.com’s success in Organic, by providing a number of high quality backlinks to the main domain:
Storytelling via Video Content
Storytelling is a successful tactic for building trust and provoking users to engage further with your company. eHealthInsurance combined this technique with Video, as a means to transmit their stories in an easily comprehensible way. Going to the “About us” section, users can watch Video content about several different matters – from Vip Patel (founder) sharing the story of the company, to Bill Shaughnessy (President and COO) discussing how eHealthInsurance resembles Expedia (they don’t sell their own product, but rather distribute other providers’ products). It’s worth mentioning that all the videos are embedded in the website and don’t have external links to YouTube, which gives the domain its own video content Search Visibility.
Investing in Sharable Visual Content
eHealthInsurance frequently supports the educational content shared through their blog with a variety of visuals. Additionally, their content is distributed via the most popular Social Media channels, like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. What I found most interesting, though, was the company’s active presence on the visual platform Pinterest. It’s unusual for an insurance company, but there is a lot of pinning about topics like Healthy Recipes, Motivation & Inspiration, Senior Healthcare & Fitness, and so on. Once again, I would refer to the relevance of a mixed Content Strategy (distributed via a variety of media platforms), as a successful tactic for good linking purposes.
Positive Online Reviews
A simple Google Search about eHealthInsurance’s reputation will lead to numerous sources of reviews, most of which can be described as fairly positive. Most importantly, however, is probably the company’s A+ Accreditation by a trusted resource, the BBB (Better Business Bureau). How is that relevant to Search Visibility? Logically, the better the reviews, the greater the chance of being further recommended, hence, searched for. To summarize, this case study aimed to demonstrate a player’s impressive Search Visibility rank in a highly competitive landscape, thus making you ask yourselves: “What can I do to adjust my Search Strategy and beat the competition in my related industry?” Analyzing some of eHealthInsurance.com’s strategies for high exposure in Organic Search highlights the importance of high quality content strategy, smart linking, and the influence of positive reviews on a company’s overall image. Those fundamental factors can be taken into consideration by a variety of businesses, regardless of their nature and industry. Last, but not least, I would be very interested to hear your comments about any other elements that you found influential for eHealthInsurance.com’s success in Organic Search. Featured Image source: Wikipedia Commons
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