Insurance Lead Quality

Customers in the Insurance leads market have expressed concerns about industry-wide quality issues. Left unaddressed we believe these issues threaten the integrity of the market. We believe there are some fundamental reasons that quality has declined, some of them structural, and that significant changes are required to address them. All Web Leads is taking the lead in making these changes and we hope all of our fellow partners and competitors will join us in the effort.

The Problem

In many ways this problem is as old as online affiliate marketing -- steady payouts can create a strong incentive for fraud. In the Insurance lead generation market this plays out a bit differently, though, due to the aggressive adoption of undersold sales via "ping-post" and the massive interconnection amongst the players in the market. Beginning in a small way in 2010 and accelerating significantly in 2011, our market has seen an influx of hundreds, if not thousands, of affiliate marketers.While most affiliates are quality players using their online marketing skills to address growing demand, there are increasing numbers of fraudulent players in the mix. Most affiliates do not have direct relationships with lead generators like All Web Leads, but sell via networks. The obfuscation of the actual source of these leads and clicks, coupled with the relative ease with which fraudulent leads can be "manufactured" or "recycled", have combined to create an environment where both lead quality and accountability have deteriorated.This has led to an erosion of trust among the large and small buyers of leads - carriers, brokers, and agents. Commoditization has followed with prices falling and a view by most customers that "all leads (clicks/calls) and all providers of leads are the same." All of this is then magnified by the undersold model and the "ping chaining" that accompanies it -- allowing bad actors to have unfettered access to strong distribution, and allowing them to damage the reputation of those with direct customers. Ping-post lead sharing has helped to make the Insurance market stable and resilient to change as it has made it easy for affiliates to access distribution. The lack of accountability around the undersold model, though, is now leading to deteriorating quality and threatens the future growth of the overall market.

What is the Impact?

There is no objective standard of quality in lead gen -- by definition it simply indicates conformance of a product to the requirements of those who intend to use it. For leads, quality needs to be defined by the customers based on their business goals. Our customers who sell insurance are clearly telling us that they are seeing degrading performance on the leads they are receiving from all vendors and this is hurting their ROI. In Insurance, ROI is driven by the contact rate on the leads, the conversion to policy and the retention rate for the customers of those policies. The model works with normal conversion rates at every step of this funnel but even small numbers of fraudulent or oversold leads can dramatically change performance. The insurance agent, broker, or carrier naturally attributes these changes to the person that sold them the leads regardless of where the problems were introduced in the value chain. Legitimate lead generators then see prices decline as the risks associated with quality problems (dynamic rejection of duplicate leads, customer returns) change customer ROI. We believe we are at a tipping point, where the Insurance leads industry either does something to address quality or we all become participants in a race to the bottom.

What All Web Leads is Doing About It

We believe that aggressive steps must be taken to increase the level of trust in the insurance market, to plug the holes that allow bad actors to monetize fraudulent insurance leads with impunity, and to allow customers to more deliberately hold us accountable to key performance standards. We need to increase transparency as to where leads come from and enable our customers to provide performance feedback around campaigns and sources. We need to provide ways for lead generators to hold distribution partners accountable to following the rules. We need to be able to assure customers of the value of the product they are purchasing even in a shared lead world. In pursuit of these goals, All Web Leads has notified its customers and partners of changes we are making to the way we generate, source, and sell insurance leads.

On the sell-side we believe that the undersold model that allows for the resale of leads or the "legs" of shared leads in the absence of direct customers is problematic. It invites violations of rules regarding sharing and exclusivity, creates duplicate issues, and encourages recycling. The current model provides no mechanism for accountability as the leads are shared. To address these issues we have notified our ping-post buyers that we are replacing the undersold model with a leg-based one where the lead generator controls distribution directives and can enforce the rules. In this leg-based model we will only sell a lead to someone who can identify their direct customer (by carrier or independent agent license.) We have provided deadlines to our customers and many have already transitioned from undersold to leg-based buying. Many more are in the process of implementing these changes.

We also believe that additional transparency is required regarding Insurance lead sourcing and we are immediately making lead source information available to any All Web Leads customer that can use it. We are providing this information in two ways. First, through a partnership with LeadiD, we will provide a source certification ID. All leads that are generated via All Web Leads web properties are currently covered by LeadiD and have this certification. Using the LeadiD, customers can certify how the lead was generated and query for leads that match their business criteria. For customers that are not ready to use this approach, we'll provide campaign source identifiers to allow them to provide more granular feedback on leads that are performing, and those that aren't.

On the buy-side we believe that similar transparency is required and we are requiring it from our affiliate sources. We have requested that all our partners provide source information -- either in the form of a LeadiD or as campaign source identifiers -- or face elimination from our network. This information will allow us to better manage the performance and quality of leads sourced from these marketing partners, and will also allow us to send this information downstream to our customers.

In addition to these changes, we are also investing heavily in technologies designed to improve quality by detecting fraud in real-time. We are working with commercial partners and developing fraud detection technologies of our own. We believe the damage inflicted by fraudulent leads warrants significant investment and, as such, we have stepped up.

This isn't a problem that can be solved overnight. As we improve our ability to enforce accountability and detect fraud, we expect the market to continue to change and the fraudsters to get better. We see this as an existential problem for our industry, and so believe it is critically important to make these changes and continue improvement. We would like to see every single company in the Insurance lead gen market join us in this effort. Please feel free to contact me directly and let us know if you have similar concerns.

Bill Daniel, CEO
All Web Leads