An important marketing strategy for senior living providers today is Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. It is a proven best practice for building awareness of your community and attracting attention to your website, your key benefits and points of differentiation, and your social media outlets.
Special Challenges for Multi-site Providers
Google’s number one consideration in local searches is the physical address of a business. This provides most communities with great rankings in their local markets. However, for senior living providers that have an extended service area, it can prove problematic.
For specific location local searches, there is an inherent bias towards businesses that physically operate within that location. Therefore, competitors from other towns and cities often get excluded from the results. This is particularly true in densely competitive markets, since the high number of biased location-specific results push out any neighboring competitors. In less competitive locations, a strong Local SEO strategy will often be sufficient to break into the rankings, but not with rankings as high as those businesses that are physically located in that market.
Recent Changes in Local Search Functioning
Google has made a number of algorithm changes in recent months regarding local searches. The focus of local searches has now been placed more on directory site listings and the integrated Google+ Local results. Data since May of 2012 has indicated a major increase in traffic to the major directories, e.g. Yellow Pages, presumably at the expense of “local business” sites. The Google algorithm is constantly changing, so this may be a temporary condition. Ultimately, Google wants to provide the highest quality results to users, so whatever type of site they feel provides the best information for the user will usually win in the search rankings.
Strategies You Can Use to Compensate for Local Search Bias
There are not many options to get around Google’s imbedded algorithm preferences for search activities. However, despite the limitations implemented by Google’s algorithm, there are still ways for providers with extended service areas to improve their visibility in local searches. These include:
Google’s social network, Google+ is highly integrated with local search. Maintaining your business on Google+ Local will likely improve rankings in the specific local market, as well as less competitive neighboring markets. Google+ Local listings are the profiles that display in Google Places results and the map on local search results.
Write articles about what the community does for residents of the areas you want to be ranked for. Optimize your blog posts for relevant keywords and try to incorporate references to nearby businesses or addresses that will help search engines relate your business to that area. Keep in mind that Google’s main concern regarding rankings is the usefulness of content to users.
As previously mentioned, much emphasis in local search is now being placed on directory sites. Ensuring that your business has good listings in the main directories, i.e. Yelp, Yellow Pages, Super Pages, as well as any specific directories that rank well for the searches in question, can improve your website traffic and leads without directly improving your rankings.
Having a strong Facebook presence boosts brand awareness and frequently increases SEO results across the board. Facebook ads also have the ability to target specific demographics, allowing you to reach your audience without them having to specifically search for services.
Pay Per Click (PPC)
A “PPC” campaign can target keywords in neighboring markets that might be impossible to reach organically, especially in competitive markets. The benefits of using PPC in this manner are that the results happen relatively quickly and the listings display above the actual search results. The downsides are that PPC campaigns cost money to run and users often trust ad results less than organic results. PPC campaigns also don’t have permanent effects on search rankings (i.e. the results stop when the campaign is stopped).
Service Area Page
Including a service area page on the website that explicitly states the targeted counties/cities could potentially boost rankings for less competitive markets. However, this technique will rarely penetrate a densely competitive market.