They stole your spot

They stole your spot. They swooped in while you were busy taking care of families and took your spot…and you should be furious!

The spot I am referring to is your first page ranking on the three dominant Internet search engines Google, Yahoo and Bing. Google has about 65% of the market. Yahoo and Bing both have approximately 13% each.

In our Internet driven world if you are not on the first page of the search engines you are on your way out of business. Fortunes are literally won or lost on the first page. According to Google 87% of all clicks happen on the first page, 10% on the second page and a measly 3% left for everyone else.

If your funeral home website does not appear on the first page of Google for your key search term (e.g., Funeral Home Columbus, Cremation San Francisco, etc.) you can expect your call volume to continue to decline.

I won’t spend time talking about the importance of having a good website. That should be pretty obvious to every business owner by now. But investing thousands of dollars on a website that no one sees is a complete waste of your hard earned money.

Even five years ago getting a listing on the first page of Google was actually fairly easy. All you had to do is build a website that followed some pretty simple guidelines, fill it with relevant content, submit it to the search engines and wait 30 to 60 days.

But things have changed….

Today, every viable funeral home has a website.

Today, every florist in the country is targeting the word “funeral home” because they want to sell flowers to the family.

Today, you have,,, and dozens of other directory websites all trying to steal your spot on page one so they can sell you the advertising space or a pre-need lead.

So if it’s strategically important to be on page one and defend that spot against a growing hoard of competitors….how do you do it?

Don’t worry, I won’t turn this into an extremely technical newsletter that will leave with a throbbing headache. The reality is that you don’t need to know the details. You just need to understand the big picture well enough that you can hire the right people to help you fight this battle.

To achieve a page one ranking on Google your website must have the following four critical attributes.

1. Structure

2. Content

3. Links

4. Activity

The first attribute, Structure, is basically the same as it has been for the last 10 years. Google will penalize you if your website does not contain certain technical elements. The common acronyms you will hear are Tags, Title, Keywords and Meta Description. Any decent website developer will know how to do this and should definitely not charge you extra just to make your site search engine friendly.

The second element, Content, has been important for years. However, what the search engines look for in your content has changed. In 2010 roughly 80% of all Internet traffic is video. Google likes to reward websites that give people what they want and they will give you bonus points if you have video on your site.

Google likes to see a mix of content. You will need text that is filled with your target keywords (e.g., funeral home Dallas), video that people can watch, and maybe some audio that they can play or download. It takes some work but filling your site with a good mix of content is critical if you are going to make it to page one of any search engine.

The third element, Links, started to become important about three years ago and is extremely important today. What I am referring to is links from another website back to your website, these are called “inbound links”.

About two years ago, Google looked at every inbound link as a vote and the more votes you had the higher they would put you in the rankings. This led to the emergence of unscrupulous website owners who would create thousands of links back to your website for a fee. It’s kind of like paying someone to stuff the ballot box in an election.

It didn’t take Google long to figure out that the “one link equals one vote” concept was too easy rig.

In today’s world the search engines do not view all links as being of equal value. Instead they are looking for you to have links from other popular or authoritative websites. Basically it’s gone from being a democracy to being a popularity contest in which you don’t just need friends…you need the right kind of friends.

The fourth critical attribute that Google is looking for is….Activity.

Google hates boring website that never change. If your site goes unchanged for months or even years, Google will penalize you by lowering your ranking and moving you from page one to page two or even worse.

The great news is that it is extremely easy for a funeral home website to create a steady flow of activity. It’s called….online obituaries and condolences.

Google likes to see two types of Activity. They want your site to change and they want to see your visitors interact with your new content.

Online obits and condolences are the perfect fit for this. You post the obit and people leave condolence messages….instant activity points.

The florist can’t get these points. The directory website can’t get activity points. But you can!

The key is that Google needs to be able to technically detect when activity is happening on your site. Unfortunately, many funeral home websites were created with underlying technology that makes it impossible for Google to monitor your activity. You should definitely talk to your website developers about this issue.

To review…..dominating the first page of Google requires four key elements. You have to structure your site properly. You have to fill it with the right mix of content. You will need plenty of inbound links from other popular websites. And, you will need lots of activity on your site that Google can detect.

On Saturday October 2, I will be presenting more information on this topic at the Selected Independent Annual Conference in Orlando. The session is called Spinning a Better Web and I am co-presenting with Buddy Phaneuf from Cremation Society of New Hampshire. If you are a Selected member be sure to attend.

Best wishes

John Callaghan

(810) 626 4080

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