Virgin Money withdraws insurance affiliate schemes
by Wenonah Lyon
Virgin Money has become the latest in a string of service providers to withdraw from the UK affiliate market.
Originally running on the Online Media Group (OMG) network, Virgin Money have suddenly and without notice withdrawn their car, home, pet and travel Insurance products.
The move comes as other insurance companies re-organise or withdraw entirely from affiliate marketing.
Earlier this month, Sheila’s Wheels, First Alternative and Click4Group closed all of their affiliate marketing. Norwich Union also began downsizing its own affiliate marketing campaigns, following suit from Lloyds TSB.
The withdrawal comes on the heels of a shift at the end of last year, which saw a large number of providers in the financial services sector move their affiliate marketing campaign from Tradedoubler to rival providers, especially to OMG and Buy.at.
The reason for the closures is likely rooted in the credit crunch, as marketing departments are forced to rethink their strategies in the face of threatened budgets.
Certainly over the past year many major insurance brands have looked to “search engine optimisation” (SEO) as a potentially more cost-effective marketing solution.
SEO involves helping rank companies more competitively for their core products and services on Google’s natural search results, as opposed to the paid for Adwords results.
Many internet-based financial services companies have been chasing aggressive SEO strategies for years, not least due to the strong return on investment it can provide.
However, the problem for many traditional insurance companies is they lack experience for distinguishing which SEO companies are capable of delivering strong results.
While branded SEO companies may be able to promise results, very few have been able to deliver any significant positive benefits.
Even worse, some insurance providers, such as Gocompare and Kwik Fit insurance, have both suffered penalties in Google’s search results due to questionable SEO practices.
According to Brian Turner, technical director of SEO company Britecorp, which has a track-record of successful corporate SEO strategy, the problem is one of finding a competitive advantage.
“When everybody is making their websites search engine friendly, no one is remarkable to Google,” said Brian.
“Only those [financial services] companies that are able to apply more innovative strategies, such as off-site optimisation via organic link building and engaging the social web, will be truly able to tap into the vast lead generation potential that Google’s natural search results offer.”
In the meantime, it remains to be seen whether other insurance providers will also remove themselves from affiliate marketing, or else downsize their affiliate marketing campaigns.
UPDATE 2nd May: RBS has today announced that it is closing its Privilege Home Insurance affiliate program.