Insurance carriers don't just stumble on the good and bad qualities of their Web properties, and then make adjustments. Insights gleaned are often the result of ongoing quality assurance efforts that provide a roadmap to effective Web stewardship.New York Life Insurance Co, New York, has launched an affiliation with an application service provider that offers Web tracking and measurement services through a branded program called The data that's extracted helps New York Life make analytical decisions about the site, says Michael Battaglino, corporate vice president of Internet marketing.

The company that has perhaps reaped the most exposure as a Web site reviewer is Gomez Advisors Inc., based in Lincoln, Mass. Through a campaign known as the Gomez Insurance Carrier Scorecard, Gomez' goal is to shepherd consumers to the Web sites that best meet their needs. Scorecard evaluates sites on more than 150 objective criteria, which range from policy quoting, policy management and ease of use.

Despite the influence that third-party ranking services hold over consumers, carriers have a tendency to take their pronouncements with a grain of salt. Carriers that are serious about the Web's role in their operation believe that consultants like Gomez help shed light, but the best litmus test in evaluating a site's strengths is based on internal oversight. Often, this consists of a cross-functional endeavor featuring input from senior-level executives, marketing, underwriting, customer service and IT.

"We always ask ourselves how we can improve on making our Web site more interactive," says Toby Alfred, Internet site manager for Mayfield Village, Ohio-based Progressive Insurance Co. "We focus on how to minimize the clicks and make it as easy as possible for the consumer, or they will disconnect."

Going live with a first-generation Web site in 1995, Progressive has more than six years of experience from which to draw in evaluating its corporate Web site,, which has been named the top insurance carrier Web site by Gomez on more than one occasion.

"Our Web development people spend countless hours critiquing the site, and one of the areas they've been attuned to is how to continually improve navigation and page download times," Alfred says.

Slow navigation can be the death knell of many Web sites. It's often the result of Web links with verbiage that's confusing or cryptic. It seems to occur all too often: A Web user clicks a link only to discover that it's brought him further away from the intended destination. Ultimately, five to 10 minutes are tacked onto a Web visit-unacceptable to many insurance Web masters such as Alfred.

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