Online marketing is a dynamic environment: Tools and techniques are evolving all the time. What worked great 18 months ago might not be effective anymore. Any day now, a brand-new innovation might change the game completely. As we head forth in 2018, we have to remain aware and ready to change direction as needed.
However, one thing hasn’t changed at all: To be successful in 2018 and beyond, your funeral home must rank highly in organic searches in your local area. Local search remains one of the most powerful drivers of lead generation and locking down both pre-need and at-need cases.
Local search made simple
When you punch a term or phrase into a search engine (such as Google, Yahoo or Bing), you get a list of organic search results. They’re organic because they’re ranked purely based on relevance to your search. They’re also called natural or unpaid search results. They’re not ads; you don’t pay Google or any other service for them.
The page that comes up when you do this search is a search engine results page, or SERP for short. A SERP will display both organic and paid search results.
By comparison, paid search results, of course, are advertisements. You pay the search engine a certain amount to display your ad prominently. Different search engines handle this in various ways.
For example, if you searched for “Daytona Beach funeral homes” on Yahoo, a bit of text before the paid results simply reads: “Ads related to: Daytona Beach funeral homes.” If you did the same search on Google, a small green icon with the word “Ad” would appear next to each result.
These paid advertisements are typically pay-per-click ads, aka PPC ads, which means you only pay the search engine when someone actually clicks on the ad to reach your website.
Understanding local search
Let’s move on to local search. This simply means the process by which someone searches for a particular type of business in a specific geographic area. It could be “Baton Rouge dentists” or “Fort Wayne nail salons” or “Albuquerque auto repair.” It’s just as simple as that.
This is how most people search for local businesses: [geographic area] + [service]. However, the search engine almost always returns a list of local businesses even if the searcher omits the location, because today’s technology makes it easy for the engine to know exactly where you are. But if you’re searching for services in an area other than where you are, you’ll need to include the location.
Today, many people bypass by the Yellow Pages and other print directories to find local businesses on the Internet. This includes people looking for both at-need and pre-need death care services. To generate case counts among this clientele, you need your business to rank well in local search.
It’s profitable up top
When I talk about ranking well, I specifically mean being in the top half of the first page of search results when someone searches for funeral homes in your area. In 2018, most people don’t even scroll down to the bottom half. And if you’re on the second page, you’re effectively invisible.
More than 90 percent of searchers never make it past the first page on a Google SERP. In fact, more than 50 percent of searchers choose among the first three providers listed on the first page.
If you’re on the first page, you’re in Major League Baseball. Your games are on television. They’re covered on SportsCenter. If you’re on the second page, you’re in Triple-A ball. Strictly minor league. No TV, no SportsCenter, no traffic to your website and thus no leads, no case counts, no revenue.
When it comes to organic search results, the order in which you’re listed depends on your business’s search engine optimization (SEO), which is largely but not entirely based upon the SEO of your website.
While the rise of paid ads has mitigated the importance of organic results a bit, they’re still critical to your funeral home’s success, especially for at-need clientele. Some searchers still prefer to go straight to the organic search results instead of checking out paid funeral home advertising.
Key elements to ranking well
In addition to generally good SEO, make sure to:
Build trust with Google: The internet’s most-used search engine is constantly refining its algorithm to ensure the top results for any search are the most relevant to searchers.
To build trust with Google, you want your website to have strong, relevant content; include plenty of good About Us information; link to relevant services and information, and have backlinks from the same (which means they also link to your site); and include relevant images and video wherever they naturally fit.
Generate citations: These are essentially mentions of your funeral home’s name and address on other webpages even if there is no link to your website. One example might be an online directory where your business is listed, but there’s no link to it.
Citations can also be found on local chamber of commerce pages, or on a local business association page that includes your business information, even if neither is linking to your website. News stories and even obituaries and death notices can count as citations.
It’s important to ensure that your business’s name, main address and main phone number are correct and consistent on your website, in your marketing materials and in online citations. If a search engine “sees” a variety of different addresses or phone numbers, it might be confused over whether they’re different businesses, and you might not get full credit for all of your citations.
(Note: Ready to supercharge the leads you get from the internet and convert them into real-life clientele? In his free webinar, marketing expert Welton Hong delivers practical techniques you can employ today. Click here to register!)