The Secret to Stronger, Faster Online Referrals

By Sho Balkian

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SEO: 3 Common Misconceptions

striped bowtie

SEO: Rock your bowtie strategy like a boss. Striped bowtie by Pete, CC-BY-2.0

Since it’s now widely known that everybody who seeks information on the Internet starts at Google, any business whose clients are online — or every business — spends time worrying about how to be at the top of the search results. A big challenge, though, is that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is constantly evolving, as search engine companies (such as Google or Bing) look for better ways to decide which content is the most valuable (for consumers) and most profitable (for them). To keep up with these ongoing changes and meet the objective of being high on Page 1 of search results, marketers must constantly re-visit their assumptions and refine their approaches.

SEO expert AJ Kohn of Blind Five Year Old recently joined Caring’s Digital Marketing Academy for a deep dive into the latest thinking on SEO. He focused on three common SEO assumptions that have changed significantly over time.

Misconception #1: Content is king
While this adage still holds true, it’s not enough just to write great articles – you need to promote and market them, too. As AJ said during the webcast, “Content alone isn’t going to work. If you publish content, they will not come to it magically.” People need to see and engage with your content, to “like” and “share” it on social media, and to post comments in order for the content to help you rank for SEO. In fact, AJ advised spending as much time promoting content as you do creating it.

Content promotion tips he provided include:

• Find Q&A forums, such as Caring.com’s Ask and Answer platform, to find consumer questions you can answer, provide information that helps them, and as relevant, link to your related content.

• Join the conversation in comments on other websites’ articles, particularly if there aren’t a lot of comments already on the page and it’s high in search engine rankings for a term that’s relevant to your business. Make sure that your comments are interesting and helpful, not sales focused.

• Write content that attracts “true fans”. It may only take 1,000 really engaged people to help a blog post ‘go viral’ or get noticed by Google, as discussed in a blog post AJ shared.

• Consider and try paid social (for instance, Facebook’s Promoted Post program) to jump-start likes and shares.

One final, important thought about content marketing: Don’t expect results to appear overnight. “Think years, not months,” AJ said.

How We Can Help
Caring’s social media team is a great resource for senior care providers to share content with the tens of thousands of people who engage with us via social networks. Our team keeps a close eye on who’s sharing Caring’s content, and often reciprocates. We also regularly share information on social media from winners of the annual Caring Stars award. If you’re working with us directly, our client services team can connect you with the social folks.

Misconception #2: Links to other sites are to be avoided.
A prevailing thought used to be that outlinks detracted from your domain authority – but this has changed. Nowadays, a smart linking strategy, both in and out, can help establish your “neighborhood,” providing valuable context for your content and boosting your site’s authority and rankings. That’s why it’s key to link out to quality sites (including Caring.com, which often appears in top search results for industry keywords).

Another important reason to link out – prominently – is that it keeps people from clicking through to your page, getting their question answered, and then returning to Google with a follow-up question. AJ described this bouncing back to Google as a “pogo stick” situation. Instead, he says, you should aim for a “Bow Tie” strategy. Think about the related information people might commonly search for after they read your content, and link to those resources. That way, instead of bouncing back to Google from your page, people continue on to other sites. Your site then becomes the “knot” in the bow tie.

And, since they haven’t just bounced back to Google to address these follow-up questions, Google views your site as a place people go and stay for a while – a great signal that you’ve got a valuable resource that deserves to rank high.

Some simple things you can do:
• Link to reputable, high-quality content that helps answer readers’ additional questions. Let’s say you have a senior living community in Mesa, AZ. You obviously want to rank for searches for your name, and also for assisted living in Mesa, AZ. But once people find your community website, what are their next questions? They might want to know how to pay for senior housing, so you could link to resources like a local veteran’s benefits company, or Caring’s great article on how to pay for assisted living.

• Link to pages that demonstrate your expertise or connect consumers to other relevant organizations. They might want to make sure you’re an ethical company, and you could link to your local Chamber of Commerce, or third-party sites with consumer reviews. Or maybe they’ll want to know how close you are to great healthcare, so you’d link to your local hospital’s website.

Reach out to sites you link to, and build reciprocal relationships. They’ll be pleased to know you linked to their great content, they may share some of yours, and they may link back to your site. Avoid trading or buying links though. “Inbound links are the result, not the goal. Build a resource that people in your community love. When you earn links, good things happen,” AJ said.

Misconception #3: You must work hard to rank for “root” terms.
Of course, situations vary. In general, though, a single community will struggle to rank high for a so-called root term like “Assisted Living” or even “Assisted Living in Los Angeles,” because search algorithms favor sites that cover the area broadly (like SeniorHomes.com) rather than the site for a single community that happens to be located in Los Angeles. If you’re not ranking first for your community name, though, you’re really in trouble.

“If someone’s looking for your brand, your property, or name, you better capture that customer because they’re further down the purchase funnel,” AJ said.

His tips for simple things you can do:
• Make sure your name and physical address is featured everywhere on your site, using consistent terms, which will help ensure that you rank high for local searches and brand-oriented searches.

• Claim your Google My Business page. “Google My Business isn’t easy, but it’s essential for any business that has a physical location, and at the end of the day, it’s worth it,” AJ said.

Above all, it was clear from the session that ranking high in organic search results requires a consistent, dedicated, multi-year initiative that could easily run you $5,000 per month or more. AJ noted that his own blog, BlindFiveYearOld.com, got almost no traffic for its first two and a half years! It was only in Year 3 that he started to rank in critical areas, and consequently to get inbound traffic from search engines.

DON’T WANT TO WAIT? If you need business NOW, there is another option. AJ called it the “barnacle strategy”. Like a barnacle attaching itself to a ship, you can hitch onto sites that do invest the time and money into SEO ranking. Caring.com is one of these sites, and many partners have used our pages to get found in search results. Call us at (866) 824-9209 and press 1 to speak with a Membership Advisor who can help you execute this SEO strategy.

Additional Info
• Read more of what AJ said during this webcast via our Digital Marketing Academy stream @CaringInsights.

• Watch the webcast recording on YouTube.

• Visit and subscribe to AJ’s blog.

Digital Marketing Academy: Get Insights and Best Practices for Optimal Business Results

digital_marketing_academy_logoSEO, ROI, SEM, WOM — are you drowning in the sea of digital marketing acronyms? Know the difference between “unscreened leads,” “Internet referrals,” and “screened leads”? How much do you know about the pros and cons of “pay per lead” versus “cost per acquisition”?

Within the rapidly evolving and fast-growing realm of digital marketing and Internet referral, it’s easy for senior care industry professionals to feel confused and overwhelmed, and, as a result, stick with their comfortable status quo, especially if they have 90% occupancy rates and think that’s just fine. Unfortunately, though, that’s not the wisest strategy in meeting the demands of today’s consumers of senior living and eldercare services.

The “new adult daughter” is online in greater numbers than ever before (and so increasingly are her parents). She’s using the Internet to research, select, and stay connected to the senior living communities, in-home care agencies, and other senior care providers assisting in the care of her mom and dad (and, in some cases, her spouse, aunts, uncles, or grandparents). And she’s using social media to spread the word about her own and her loved ones’ experiences with those service providers — feedback or word of mouth that reaches her friends and family members locally and across the country, as well as strangers reading her online review(s) too.

To help our industry’s sales and marketing executives understand these societal shifts and then grasp and harness digital marketing for optimal business results, Caring.com formally launched and expanded our Digital Marketing Academy in 2014. Now a go-to source for valuable information and educational resources, the award-winning Digital Marketing Academy includes:

  • Public webcasts covering pressing industry topics and featuring leading experts, compelling data, and actionable takeaways — free of charge.
  • Monthly “Caring Insights” e-newsletter and blog with the latest and greatest sales and marketing opportunities, tips, metrics, and more.
  • Original research culling insights from millions of family caregivers and older adults nationwide, whether through Caring.com’s long-standing methodologies or in partnership with other research specialists, like Princeton Survey Research Associates International.
  • Custom webinars and workshops that tailor personalized sessions to specific companies’ unique needs.

Any professional in the senior living and eldercare industry can access and benefit from the Digital Marketing Academy resources — this learning is not limited to those who partner with us. To get started: sign up for our e-newsletter or register for the latest webcast.

Some of the feedback we’ve received about the Digital Marketing Academy:

  • Thank you for the wonderful webinar presentation. I believe that was the best-presented and most informative webinar I have been a part of. It was short, concise, and to the point. Kept my attention and I found the content to be useful!”
  • Thank you for your presentation. It was spot-on.”
  • “This is extremely helpful. Thanks so much!!!”
  • “The training is very valuable but it also is something that many of us can use toward our training hours. I appreciate it and everything you do.”
  • “Thanks so much for the great session yesterday — very informative. Nice work.”
  • “I thought it was great. The fact that you had other providers sharing their insights was productive for me for sure. I’ll attend others as well when you have them.”

It’s not too late for your team to start benefiting from the Digital Marketing Academy as well. Peruse this blog for recaps of past webcasts and featured digital marketing articles. Come to the next event — whether an online webcast or one of our in-person sessions. Or suggest a topic we should cover. Contact your Membership Advisor at (866-824-9209) or post a comment below. Thanks!

Caring.com Research Reveals Senior Living Tours Exceed Expectations, Speed Up Move-in Times

ThinkstockPhotos-78321153When you tour a family through your community, do you ever wonder what they’re really thinking? Caring.com surveyed 1,181 family caregivers and older adults who searched for a senior community in the last year, and we asked for their candid comments on their tour experience. What we gleaned:

  • People who tour are seriously searching: 1/3 of respondents toured four or more communities, and only 17% visited just one.
  • Despite seeing flattering pictures and descriptions posted online, 68% of people who toured a senior community reported being “surprised at how nice it was.”
  • People matter! Almost all tour takers (91%) commented on their favorable impression of the staff, and 10% specifically mentioned observing staff interaction as an important reason to visit in person.
  • Almost half the people who had taken at least one tour had either already moved in (40%) or were scheduled to do so (8%).

Caring.com sees this same result in broader visitor data. Families who schedule a tour through our senior housing help line move in at 3.5 times the rate of others we speak with, and also 25% faster than those who decline to tour right away.

While most visitors had a good experience during their tours, noticeable minorities said they had not been contacted prior to a scheduled tour to confirm it (12%), and almost one in five people (18%) reported no contact at all from the community after they went home from the tour. A further 26% had been contacted only once post-tour.

In addition, 20% of people said their tour was too much of a sales pitch.

Over half of survey respondents took the time to provide open-ended comments, and the single most common category of negative comments was dissatisfaction with the way the community handled pricing discussions (13%). Most people resented the fact that they could not get pricing information before taking a tour.

“That approach may have been fine for previous generations, but this next generation is mainly email and text messaging, and we need our information on line” was one verbatim comment.

The single most common positive comment was that the tour allowed them to get a “feel” for the community. Comments like, “I found the feeling of hominess was not evident until I visited,” or “Meeting the people, talking with them, eating with them was very nice and gave me a ‘home’ feeling” underscore the importance of real-world visits in addition to online research.

About 1/3 of people who were invited to tour declined to do so. The most common reason was that they were “too early in their search” (46%) or “not sure loved one is ready” (21%). But 9% of those who declined did so because they had no transportation to get there. If your community is willing to pick someone up, be sure to let people know. And three-quarters of the people who declined to tour initially would be open to scheduling a visit now. Are you still in touch with them to invite them in?

Caring can help you get people to your door! If you’d like our Family Advisors to schedule more tours for you, here are some easy things you can do:

  1. Tell us something good. Give us an exciting, compelling tidbit about your community that we can use to sell families on coming in for a visit. Here are some great ones:
  1. Update your rates. Make sure we have accurate pricing information — not just your starting rates but what your average resident can expect to pay: https://caring.wufoo.com/forms/senior-living-community-rate-update
  1. Reviews, reviews, reviews! Encourage your happy residents and their families to review your community on Caring.com.
  1. Call right away. When we do schedule a tour for you, call or email to introduce yourself and welcome them to your community. Then call again the day before, just to remind them (we will, too!). Then, once they take the tour, call them to see what they thought.

Mark your calendar for an exclusive webinar on the insights from this survey:

What Families Really Think About Senior Housing Tours
Thursday, June 11, 2015, 11:00 a.m. PT (2:00 p.m. ET)
Sign up now!

Questions? Please contact your Membership Advisor or Client Services representative: (866) 824-9209