Funeral Innovations is constantly researching search engine optimization (SEO) to learn the best techniques and apply them to funeral homes. We confess that we will never know everything there is to know, but we strive to be the SEO experts in the industry, in order to help our customers get the most out of organic web traffic.
Lately, we’ve been studying the SEO challenges inherent to small funeral homes, oftentimes in rural areas. Namely, the small guys (and gals) get less respect from Google and the other search engines! Here’s the reason: search engines determine where to put their resources based on their perceived authority of each website. This authority is based on the number of relevant sites linking to the website in question, as well as the amount of traffic and popularity of the website. If your funeral home is small and in a rural area, there’s a good chance that you do not have a large amount of traffic or links from other sites to yours. As a result, Google will consider your site to be of lower authority.
What happens if your site is not considered popular in the eyes of the Google? Not only will your pages be ranked lower in the search results, but search engines might take weeks or even months to put it into their search index in the first place – until then, your new pages will be invisible to anyone searching for its content!
Fortunately, your popularity is only one factor for determining your pages’ rankings in search results. Even if you have a relatively low PageRank, you can still take plenty of actions to improve your search rankings.
Unfortunately, if Google and other search engines aren’t even indexing pages on your site, there is much less you can do to improve their rank of those pages!
Are Sitemaps the Answer?
At this point, some of you may be wondering, “Can’t I just submit a sitemap of all of my links each time I add a new page, to ensure they are indexed?” Yes, you can and should submit a sitemap regularly. In fact, we do this automatically for all of our customers every time they post an obituary. However, just because Google receives and even crawls your sitemap doesn’t mean they are going to index all the pages in it!
5 Ways Improve Your Odds
While there is no silver bullet to ensure all the pages on your site are promptly indexed by Google and other search engines, here are some steps you can take to improve your chances.
- Fresh content – Google loves fresh and changing content on your website. The more your content changes, evolves and grows, the more often Google will return to index your pages. So be sure you spend some time keeping your pages up to date, and adding new and original content where it makes sense, particularly on your homepage.
- Blogging – Google loves blogs! Much of this is goes back to the “fresh content” concept, since by definition, blogs are full of original, fresh content. Not only that, but your blog posts have the best chance of earning backlinks, which are links from other sites to yours. And as we mentioned earlier, backlinks are pure gold when it comes to SEO! One more note to keep in mind: ensure your blog is on the same domain as your main website, rather than a subdomain. If your blog is on a subdomain, it won’t be helping the SEO of your site, since Google treats all subdomain as completely different websites when it’s calculating PageRank. In other words, use http://yourdomain.com/blog rather than http://blog.yourdomain.com.
- Page speed – This is a little known fact of SEO: the faster your page loads, the more Google will like it. Make sure your site is screaming fast!
- Tweet – It’s been shown that tweeting links to your new pages gets them indexed faster, particularly if other people retweet them. Just be sure that the links aren’t your only tweets – mix in some other quality thoughts in your tweets, otherwise Twitter might stop indexing you and you’ll be less interesting to potential Twitter followers.
- Google Webmaster Tools – This is a site that lets you track the status, errors, and statistics of your website in the eyes of Google. From Google Webmaster Tools, you first create an account for your domain and prove you are the owner. From there, you can submit a sitemap, see how many links have been indexed, find out which keywords are most popular, see where your pages are ranked in the results, and find out if there are any errors when Google indexes your site. This is a crucial step in keeping up to date on the status of your website indexing.
Having your obituaries hosted on your website is important for many reasons:
- Any link to your obituary is a link back to your site, thus increasing your PageRank
- Search engines can index all the content of your obituaries and anyone who clicks on the obituary in the search result comes directly back your site
- Obituary traffic is important for brand and customer lead generation
- In short, if you don’t host the obituaries on your site, you lose control of traffic, monetization options, and SEO
Tom Frisch, President of Got Funeral? discusses in more detail the importance of keeping obituaries on your own website and the dangers of the 3rd party obituary hosting sites. See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of his Obituaries blog series.