So You're Telling Me There's a ChanceI’m a guy, and as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to rank things. I’ve come to find out over the years, that this is something lots of guys do. It’s built into our DNA: the whole competing for a mate thing I guess. So, naturally, search engine rankings appealed to me.

Ranking for keywords, or paying for them in PPC for that matter, can be extremely expensive. Like lots of marketers, my Ranking-Self kicked in one day and I did a search for ‘most expensive keywords’ – and it brought up this sweet infographic. According to it, at the time it was created, ‘auto insurance price quotes’ had the most expensive cost per click at $54.91!! Using Google’s tools –the cost per click is now at an amazing $61.01 on exact match (June 10th, 2013)!! That’s a heck of a lot of coin.

So that led me to my next question:

Because the clicks were so expensive, the companies which rank for these terms organically must be the best and know precisely what they’re doing with SEO.

Much to my surprise, their SERPs alone quickly revealed less than optimal results!

Ranking Search Engine Result Page Listings

Keep in mind – ultimately, what gets shown in the SERPS is up to Google, so to an extent, it’s out of the business’s control. But, nonetheless – there are things they’re NOT doing that prove even smaller businesses have a chance in organic search results.

First, we’ll go over my 10 step organic ranking system –

I’ve assigned a 2 for optimal coverage of each element. 1 for OK optimization, but not great, and a 0 for non-existent or incorrect optimization of the given element.

Meta Tag Length Optimization – Have to be between 150 and 160 characters..
Title Tag Length Optimization – Have to be 70 or less characters.
Meta Tag Targeted Properly – Has to be a call-to-action around car insurance quotes
Title Tag Targeted Propertly – Has to be a call-to- action around car insurance quotes
Best Page Ranked – Is this the best page this site has to offer for conversion on this term?
Convert on SERP? – Is it possible for the viewer to convert just on the SERP alone?
Google+ Presence? – Does the company have a Google+ Reference on the SERP?
Sitelinks? – Does the entry have sitelinks referenced?
State Specific Targetting – I’m searching from PA – does the Organic listing point that out?
Organic Display URL Optimized – Does it have relevant Keywords visible?

Organic Search Result – June 10th 2013 ‘Auto Insurance Quotes”

auto insurance price quotes - Google Search 2013-06-10 11-20-04

 

What I learned about this SERP

Even with this highly competitive search – both Google, and the companies it shows here, leave much to be desired. I will rank them by their scoring on my chart, but I’ll also list a few quick takeaways here –
Very low adoption of state-level targeting in organic.
This seems likes a no-brainer to me, specifically for a smaller competitor, but there was no state-specific content in the Organic results. PPC was a different story, but even here visibility was minimal.
Sitelinks – not really that prominent
This is a very basic Google SERP features, and only 2 of these companies were exhibiting it.
Low Google+ Adoption
Almost no Google+ adoption, at least as far as this SERP was concerned. And one of the two companies who used it, had it interpreted incorrectly by Google (Though that helps them).
High Domain and Page Metrics Not Necessarily Correlate to Great Rankings
Any SEO knows this, but there’s always a crappy competitor who manages to rank. In this SERP, it’s PriceQuotes.com who manages to compete with some MUCH stronger competitors and brands.
Even Google makes mistakes
Might I draw your attention to the number 9 and number 10 results here? Matt Cutts, what’s going on buddy?

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 11.25.36 AM
Click to see expanded view!

1. Insurance.com – Score – 14. SERP position – 4

This was a shocker for me on a few levels. Out of all the top companies here, they are the only one to receive extensive Google markup…and it’s done incorrectly! You’ll notice the Google Authorship markup for Michele Megna. Interestingly enough, her authorship markup does NOT appear on the homepage of Insurance.com. The homepage instead only contains a link to the blog containing her articles. They scored a 1 in meta title and title tag optimization basically because they’re not taking up as much real estate as they could with the Title Tag. They gained big points with their sitelinks as well – which further reinforce the conversion point they’re trying for. A perfect example of how a good site can compete with a huge, branded site on the SERPS.

2. esurance.com – Score – 10 – SERP Position – 1

2. progressive.com – Score – 10 – SERP Position – 2

2. allstate.com – Score – 10 – SERP position 3

2. www.pricequotes.com – Score – 10 – SERP Position –

These companies all had their positives and negatives in the SERPs. The main element they had in common was the simple fact that they didn’t rank on the best possible landing page on their website. This isn’t entirely surprising – the homepage of the site is by-far the best ranking page but it’s targeted at multiple types of insurances. To their credit, each company had a conversion point right on that page. As large as these companies are though, none of them were taking advantage of a conversion point right in the meta description of title (1-800 number?) or any type of state-specific targeting. In addition, with the exception of esurance.com, none of these site(s) structures even lent themselves to sitelinks. Nor, did any take advantage of Google+ as an avenue for increased SERP visibility. To be fair, Allstate owns Esurance.com so their overall visibility is pretty solid, but nonetheless, definite room for improvement or for a competitor to take over.

3. Everything Else

The bottom tier here was extremely flawed in a manner that really surprised me. The last 2 websites on the SERP –
www.akindalehorserescue.org
www.equifit.net

Were basically spam sites Google should have taken care of easily.I’m using non-personalized search, so it’s equally as odd that these are both horse-related websites?

There are still ways to go when taking on highly competitive SERPS. As you can see, even the largest companies aren’t taking advantage of everything they should be – and that represents an opportunity for another company.