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Web Telematics

Yesterday was the time of year for the annual pilgrimage to a comparison website or two in order to renew a car insurance policy. You may be forgiven for thinking that whilst I was on these websites I was comparing policy prices, however, I couldn't help but reverting to type and I found myself comparing car insurance to search engine optimisation. But can you blame me? Comparison websites are dull and utterly boring and I for one can't wait for the renewal of my car insurance to be fully automated.

Let Gino ride with you and compare before you go

Regular readers of this blog might have started to see a pattern emerging. I seem to find analogies for SEO everywhere. Perhaps the first, and arguably the strongest, such analogy is to be found in the first chapter of The Art of Search - in which I help MDs and CEOs understand SEO by comparing the workings of Google to the workings of a dating agency.

The world is changing fast and the propellant is something we call digital. To the uninitiated it may be a surprise to learn that this thing we call digitisation is comparable in scale to the industrial revolution; it's changing the way we live our lives just as industrialisation changed the lives of those who came before us. The industrial revolution saw the rise of engines, the harnessing of energy and the application of economies of scale.

The digital economy harnesses and processes the energy (data) that's generated as users connect to and use the Internet - the engines of the digital economy, which turn data into usable information, are algorithms. To those regular readers starting to get a sense of déjà vu, I make no apologies.

This is how it is. Get used to it. Algorithms now play a major role in your life.

Economies of scale

On this massive, World Wide Web, the engines we use to help us find things are search engines. Whether you are searching for a policy price or searching for answers to questions, you will use a search engine. The power of a search engine comes from the algorithms which translate user input into meaningful output.

Yesterday, when I was comparing car insurance policy prices, it became apparent that online insurance agents (in this instance moneysupermarket.com) required less factual data from me than had been the case in previous years. Their search is getting smarter as they (let the machines do the) work to make the process of getting a price for insurance simpler and quicker by asking me for my driver license number instead of asking me for the details of every single penalty point on my license.

But the element of the insurance policy price search that showed me the connection to SEO was the comparison website's use of the word telematics. The comparison engines results pages gave me an option to filter-out policies who's price was based upon the use of blackbox technology to monitor my style of driving, assess the level of risk I pose as a driver and set my premium accordingly.

Behold the algorithm at work

We have entered an age where we are happy for our driving style (our input to the engines) to affect the price premium we pay for insurance. Now, here's the question? If you drove with the protection of a telematics insurance policy, would the presence of the blackbox telemetery device make you drive any differently? I'd argue not. I'd argue that most of us think we are better drivers than the law of statistical averages would have us be. If, however, we are interested in reducing our premium, we are able to exercise choice and change our driving style to drive more considerately.

Monitor - Measure - Modify [Repeat]

And here's the rub. We all think we drive considerately. When it comes to the effort required to reduce your insurance premium you'll need to drive in precisely the way the algorithm defines as considerate; yet no-one will be able to tell you precisely how to do this. You'll never get to see this algorithm; all you'll be able to do is to drive 'considerately' for a year and then see how your insurance premium has altered upon renewal. Working with the engine (the algorithm) using this process of monitoring, measurement and modification is no different than the way you develop your website to work with search engines.

Don't be a luddite

Working with the engine rather than against the engine is always the best strategy. When it comes to websites and search engine optimisation, we find so very many people unwilling to change their website (ie unwilling to change the way they work with the engine and present their business to the marketplace) this is fine, you have a choice. But the business owner that doesn't think like a Luddite is the business owner that doesn't get hung-up on fighting the algorithms. The business owner that fully accepts that engines (the algorithms) are here to stay and doesn't try to sabotage their work, is the business owner that is empowered and prepared to exercise their choice, to change their business website, to articulate their business proposition using the language of the Customer and to win new business by fighting to put their website right at the very top of the search engine rankings.

Shazbot avatarShazbot11th February 2016
Once again, Mr Whiting, you show yourself to be the owner of an opinion that's a little ahead of it's time, and dare I say maybe even a little premature. Here's a link to an article about Admiral calculating car insurance based upon social media behaviour. Maybe Gino Compario has found a way to assess risk and caluculate your car insurance premium without ever having to drive with you?
Working for carrots but getting peanutshttp://www.omic.domain.name/consultancy.php?pg=0
guy avatarguy6th June 2016
The future is bright, the future is very very simple...

I doubt that few people truly realise how much easier things could be, if only people who wrote and designed websites used all the available "interconnectedness". I mean, how long did it take DVLA to work out that they didn't need you to take your MOT down to the post office when renewing your car tax? After all, they had been recording all the details of your MOT on a database on a computer for years... trouble was they just hadn't linked the two systems together.

I think Steve is dead right (I may have said that before...!) when he says online companies will require less data from us as the years go on. I firmly believe that at some point the government (or some other agency) will come up with an online database where all the relevant personal information about yourself can be safely and securely stored. This may well become populated automatically from other databases (e.g. DVLA) or it may be captured when you type information into a website such as comparethemarket,com. Then when it comes to doing anything on the web, you will probably just need to enter your name, DOB and NI number and the website will know everything it needs to know about you (however little or large that is). Or it may be as simple as a retina scan app on your phone, maybe a fingerprint or voice recognition? This way you don't even have to type anything in...
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