The following is a guest piece by Zerlina Jackson and Evan Finkelstein of New York Life. Opinions are the author’s own.
Providing trusted and in-depth information for customers has always been a top priority for insurers. With the rise of new technology that makes it more difficult for brands to control their narratives, it’s become even more important to keep up. In today's AI-driven era, the entire insurance sector bears a responsibility to exercise heightened vigilance in its outreach to consumers to ensure trust and data security for both current and future clients.
At their core, organic search strategies offer brands the opportunity to share their perspectives, insights and expertise with consumers to establish credibility, something that many consumers look for when it comes to insurance. However, there’s a wealth of information online that sounds credible, but isn’t. Misinformation is a problem when trying to access important knowledge and it’s particularly critical when it comes to insurance as people seek reliable information to make informed decisions about their financial futures.
Natural search enables insurance providers to be there and offer trusted guidance for consumers when they are researching important life decisions, such as saving for college, planning retirements and estate planning for themselves and loved ones. While generative AI can provide specific answers and directional advice, organic search results can drive users to sites with a broader range of vetted information and subject matter expertise.
The rise of rich results
One of the recent challenges in SEO has been the proliferation of rich results. Rich results provide information beyond just a link, but also impact visibility in search. For example, a snippet of text pulled from a site might answer the searcher’s question without needing to click through to the website, resulting in a “zero click search.” Although these results may not drive as much site traffic, they do help elevate awareness and are part of a healthy SEO program.
We’ve seen rich information move more heavily into Google’s and Bing’s search results pages over the past few years, making it more difficult to capture traffic on individual websites, but that shift hasn’t diminished the role of a brand’s website. In fact, having a website that’s easy to use with content relevant to users and from a trusted source is key. For instance, searching “life insurance basics” might result in Google displaying a list of quick answer results at the top of the search results, offering a better experience for users and more opportunities for brands to highlight their expertise.
The future of chatbots
Within the life insurance industry, we find that many consumers start their research online, but ultimately prefer human advice and guidance to make important financial decisions. We may not know the full impact of generative AI and chatbots on organic search, but we know it’s crucial for brands to provide thought leadership from credible sources.
According to Google, 15% of searches in 2022 were asked for the first time ever. It’s estimated that there are nearly 100,000 Google searches per second, so that means there are hundreds of billions of brand-new searches every year. With generative AI, the answers to these questions can remove the complexity of researching and analyzing multiple pieces of content to deliver answers in a way that is easier for users to digest. This aligns with the behavioral search trend toward longer, conversational, and personalized questions.
There’s a feedback loop between search engines and searchers; new search options lead to changing search behavior. As mobile search became more popular, people wanted to know what’s “near me.” Consequently, search engines adapted to prioritize relevant local search results, so companies had to localize their experience if they wanted to maximize digital visibility. As voice search and voice assistants became more prevalent, more people spoke their searches, resulting in longer, more conversational queries. Now with AI chatbots, we’re seeing more intricate questions like, “What is the most important thing to know about buying life insurance in your 30s as a new parent in New York City?” in addition to more traditional searches such as “Life insurance agent near me,” or “When should I get life insurance?”
Based on Google’s Search Generative Experience beta test, we believe chatbots and AI-created search results will be an extension of that trend. However, the results partially remove the brand from the equation. They can decrease a site’s visibility, reducing opportunities for someone to visit the site or engage with the brand.
Different tools will pose different challenges. For example, Google’s AI chatbot Bard aims to generate unique content, so it rarely cites sources. Google’s Search Generative Experience does cite sources and links to the pages it pulls from, but it also pushes organic results further below the fold, which can negatively affect the number of visits to those same sites. Depending on how the space develops, this will be a core problem for search marketers to solve. Optimizing for conversational queries and deeply understanding the behavior and needs of target audiences will become more significant.
Adapting to change
To adapt to changing consumer behaviors, insurers are striving to establish a multichannel approach. This will ensure that insurers are discoverable not only through traditional search engines, but also on social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok or YouTube as younger generations — especially Gen Z — tend to seek brand information through these mediums. Although it’s difficult for brands to navigate the different interfaces of each platform, it’s critical to reach the diverse needs of target audiences.
We believe AI-driven search will be a similar story. Targeting conversational queries and gaining insight into an audience’s behavior and needs will continue growing as a high priority.
Efficiency and progress
Insurance companies will continue to monitor the evolving search landscape and embrace AI to streamline processes. Generative AI chatbots are seen as a piece of the puzzle, offering the potential to make insurance services more efficient and accessible to consumers.
The insurance industry is witnessing a significant transformation in organic search strategies driven by generative AI. While challenges like misinformation and zero-click searches persist, insurers are embracing AI-powered solutions to provide reliable information, adapt to changing consumer preferences and make insurance-related decisions more accessible. As the landscape continues to evolve, the role of AI in insurance search strategies will become increasingly vital.