Marketing is crucial during an uncertain 2021

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Future-proofing your claims business by having a solid marketing foundation will reap its own rewards, says Andy Cullwick, head of marketing at First4Lawyers

We are now about half way through the first quarter of 2021, a quarter which we now know is going to be spent mainly in a full national lockdown. January is traditionally a very buoyant month for the claims industry with activity levels usually higher than normal. However, January and February in the middle of our third national lockdown are a different story, with more fluctuation being seen. So, how is the market reacting and behaving? 

Market fluctuations

We have broadly seen online search volume see-sawing from week to week. For example, at the end of January, personaI injury search was down 3% after having bounced back the week before, and medical negligence volumes were up almost 4% after a drop the week before. So, the market is slightly unpredictable at the moment on a week-by-week basis. 

But week-to-week changes are less important than medium or longer term trends and on that front, even with the challenges the market is facing, we are seeing a stronger performance than we saw in the first lockdown with claim numbers already 44% better year-to-date compared to the entire month of April 2020.

Is this impacting search terms?

There are thousands and thousands of different search terms that consumers can use when looking for help with a personal injury or medical negligence case. Broadly, most of these terms fall into key category groups, but why do these terms fluctuate? 

We examined search trends over the last three years to give a frequency of how often a search term is used. We weren’t looking for exact searches but rather an overview of popularity to give a measurable trend. Our analysis showed that, regardless of search term type when the pandemic arrived, it had, predictably, a huge impact on search within our industry.

All sub-industries saw falls of varying magnitude, but the general trend was to bounce back fairly quickly as the first lockdown eased with another less severe drop as the second lockdown in November kicked in. 

Medical negligence and road traffic accidents were probably the two areas that took the biggest hit: medical negligence primarily because of the positive sentiment we saw for the NHS and the incredible job they had to undertake to help people; while fewer vehicles on the road simply led to a fall in road traffic accidents.

However, scratch the surface and the data isn’t always exactly what it seems. Road traffic accidents are a good example of this because the popularity of search terms don’t necessarily correlate with what is happening in the market. The Compensation Recovery Unit figures show a general decline in road traffic accident claims over the last few years, but searches had been seeing a steady increase prior to Covid-19. Why is this?

It’s due to what we call the ‘relevance’ of a lot of the searches. For example, people may be looking for information on a car accident or road traffic accident because they may be looking to avoid traffic when travelling. In 2014, there was a film called Whiplash released that still garners a lot of interest, and still contributes to its search popularity. When it comes to paid search, you need to dig deeper into the words you may think are relevant to bid on, otherwise you could find yourself wasting marketing budget. 

But really, what does all this mean for claims-related marketing? 

At the end of last year, Google confirmed that from May 2021 page experience signals would be going live on Google Search. This will quite significantly change how Google ranks search results by placing a far greater emphasis on user experience.

This is big news for us marketers who know just how important it is for our websites to be optimised for Google Search. Without it, you simply won’t appear on the crucial first page, let alone top of the page.

But helpfully, which is very unusual for Google, you have a six-month heads-up to prepare in advance. So, what do you need to know to make sure you don’t lose your search ranking when the new signals come into play?

User experience is already a factor in Google Search rankings, so should be something you’re aware of when optimising your site. Stability of your page, ie, making sure it loads quickly and solidly with no jumping content or icons will be important, as will ensuring it’s mobile-friendly and whether it has what are known as intrusive interstitials, or pop-up ads.

The algorithm change is essentially trying to enhance a user’s experience of a website, to ensure that it’s not frustrating, that it’s a pleasant interaction and is optimised for the device you’re accessing it on. In Google’s own words: “Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”

Few of us know what exactly 2021 will bring, and with whiplash claim reforms imminent, preparing our businesses to be as resilient as possible will be key. Future-proofing yourself by having a solid marketing foundation will reap its own rewards.

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