Obituaries are by far the most trafficked pages on a funeral home’s website. Increasingly that traffic is coming from search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo; as such, search engine optimization (or SEO) is one of the most important factors for having a successful web presence.
Search Engine Optimization is the process of improving how pages of your website rank for particular search phrases within the search engine. In other words, how high in the search results do your pages appear when visitors search for content that you’ve got.
How important is having a top search result in Google?
Studies have shown that the #1 listed search result is clicked on twice as often as the #2 result, and it falls off rapidly after that. This means that proper search engine optimization holds the key to your website’s success.
How do I know if my SEO is any good?
We know that funeral directors realize the importance of search engine optimization, especially when it comes to obituaries. However, SEO is a very technical topic, and funeral directors don’t have time to become SEO experts. They expect their web hosts to provide that expertise.
Unfortunately, while most web hosts play lip service to search engine optimization, we’ve found that very few actually know what they are doing. They promise the funeral director their obituaries will rank high in Google search results, but don’t actually have a plan for making it happen.
We want to shed light on what constitutes good SEO, particularly in improving the search rankings of your obituaries. We strive to help funeral directors learn about the process so that they know if their SEO strategy is working, and so they can recognize empty promises from web hosts when they hear them.
The Funeral Innovations SEO Policy
Funeral Innovations wants to make sure our customers have the best SEO in the industry. We realized that in order to accomplish this, we need to be systematic and consistent with our SEO strategy. Even with our extensive industry experience, we recognized that we had room to improve. That’s why we spent several months putting together the Funeral Innovations SEO Policy, a detailed checklist of the best search engine optimization techniques for funeral home websites and obituaries. We are now in the process of applying our SEO Policy to all of our hosted websites and obituaries.
Since SEO tactics evolve, so will our SEO Policy, but we feel it’s important to help funeral directors understand what goes into good SEO. That’s why we’re taking the unprecedented action of making our SEO Policy public to our customers, our potential customers, and even our competitors!
You can find the Funeral Innovations SEO Policy here.
Search Engine Optimization for Obituaries in Plain English
You can read the full version of the Funeral Innovations SEO Policy from the link above, but I would like to talk more generally about what aspects of SEO are most important to improve the search rankings of your website and obituaries.
While there are dozens of individual techniques to improve your site’s SEO, they generally boil down to the following two categories:
Your website’s authority is how important the search engine considers your domain to be. Google calls this “PageRank”, after their page ranking algorithm that Larry and Sergey (the founders) developed while at Stanford.
PageRank is affected by a number of factors, but the most critical are:
- Inbound Links – In other words, how many other sites link back to yours? And even more important, are the sites that link to yours considered “high authority” within your industry? Funeral Innovations increases your site’s inbound links through social media integration, inclusion in our funeral home directories (more to come!), and propagation of your obituary links throughout our growing network.
- Domain Stability – This takes into account various criteria, including whether there are keywords in your root domain, how responsive/available your site is when Google’s scripts “crawl” it, and how long your domain has been active. Funeral Innovations improves domain stability by ensuring our hosted websites are fast with near 100% uptime.
The content and page structure of your site is of critical importance and can be highly affected by proper SEO techniques. Most generally, your web pages should be richly concentrated with your targeted keywords and included original content. Here are some hints:
- Identify Targeted Keywords – These are the words for which you want your site to be rankly highly within user’s search results on Google, Bing, or Yahoo. For many funeral homes, your targeted keywords should include your city, state, and the words “funeral home”, “mortuary”, “obituaries” and/or “cremation”. When identifying keywords it’s importance to be concise: the more focused you can be, the better chance that you can optimize your site for those specific keywords.
- Keywords in Your Content– Once you’ve identified your targeted keywords, it’s important to consistently use them throughout the content of your site. There are a few caveats:
- Ensure the keywords are used within the title tag of your site (the part that shows up at the top of the window or tab)
- Ensure the keywords are used in the larger headers on your home page
- Be sure that when you use the keywords they are text, not within images, since Google and other crawlers cannot read the words within images
- Use the keywords through the copy of your site, particularly on the home page
- Create lots of good, original content. This is best done through the use of a blog or other pages that are updated often.
- Meta Tags – This is invisible content in the code of your page that targets search engines to provide information about your site.
- Link Text – As mentioned above, one of the biggest criteria for good SEO is the abundance of inbound links to your site, from high-PageRank domains. But not all links are created equal: you want the clickable part of the inbound link to contain your targeted keywords. In other words, it’s better to have a link like this: Click here to learn more about the best Funeral Home in Webster City, than this: click here to learn about Foster Funeral Home.
- Keywords in the URL – Most search engines give a bump to URLs that contain the words that a user is searching for. That why our SEO Policy requires that our customers’ obituaries contain the deceased’s name right within the URL. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Google and other search engines split up the URL based on dashes and underscores, and therefore if a user searches for “Stanley L Hale”, this URL will match the search phrases: http://www.carsonandson.com/obituary/4042/Stanley_L_Hale, while this one will not: http://www.carsonandson.com/obituary/4042/StanleyLHale
- Measure the results – There’s a business saying that “you make what you measure”, meaning you will not improve the aspects of your business that you don’t track, measure, and analyze. That’s why it’s important to include web analytics software such as Google Analytics on your site and obituaries so you know how much traffic is coming from search engines, and what search phrases are driving those clicks. Knowing this will allow you to improve on your weaknesses and focus on your strengths. Otherwise you will never know whether your SEO techniques are working!
We’ve just touched the surface of SEO in this blog post. The Funeral Innovations SEO Policy covers even more specifics for improving your website and obituaries SEO.
Hopefully we’ve provided you with at least a basis for understanding proper search engine optimization for your funeral home and obituaries. We don’t expect you to become an expert, but we do want to educate you enough to know if your web host is doing the right things to improve your search engine standings.
Knowing what you know now, you should ask your web host a few questions:
- Do you have an SEO Policy or Guidelines that you follow?
- What specific techniques are you using to improve my SEO?
- Can you show me whether my SEO is working or not?
If they cannot give you straight, understandable or convincing answers to those questions, it’s time to seek another web host. Your web presence is too valuable to leave in the hands of someone who doesn’t care.
Is there anything else you’d like to know about SEO that wasn’t covered here? Would you like to learn about other techniques included in the Funeral Innovations SEO Policy? If so, just leave a comment on this post or ask us on Twitter and we’ll be happy to answer your questions!