The Funeral Directors’ SEO Handbook: Part II

Colin

Colin

12/12/2017

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Welcome to Module 4 of our online course for funeral directors. This month we’re wrapping up the second part of our SEO Guide.

In Part I, we looked at “On-Page SEO” – which is all the things you can do on your own website to improve your ranking in search engines (such as Google). Because On-Page SEO takes place entirely on your own website, everything is in your control. You can reap the rewards of optimising your website for SEO right now if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.

In this final part of our SEO guide, we’ll look at “Off-Page SEO”. In contrast to On-Page SEO, Off-Page SEO is determined by factors that aren’t directly in your control (i.e. they occur off your page and rely on other people and websites). Because of this, to be effective, your Off-Page SEO strategy needs to be smarter and more targeted.


Part II: Off-Page SEO

When it comes to Off-Page SEO there are many, many different ranking factors you can chase after. To simplify matters, we’ve set out the 2 most effective ways for funeral directors to improve their Off-Page SEO.

1. Backlinks

Backlinks are simply links from other websites to your website. While they don’t sound like much, backlinks play a huge role in how Google ranks you.

Why? Think about it. When you link to a webpage, you’re essentially endorsing the content on that page as well as the website generally. For example, if you were writing an article on different types of soft drink, you might include a link to Coca Cola. Google sees that as a tick in Coca Cola’s favour.

But not all backlinks are created equal. Well known and established websites have higher authority and pass on more benefit to the sites they link to compared to smaller, lower quality websites. For example, if Coca Cola received a backlink from the NY Times (a global website that attracts over 400 million page views each month), that would be more beneficial for their ranking than if they received a backlink from foodanddrinksnoob.blogspot.com.

Earning backlinks from reputable websites can be hard. But it’s worth the effort. Not only do they increase the search ranking of the particular page on your website that is linked to, they also increase the overall ranking of your website.

To get you started, we’ve put together a list of 5 of the easiest places to get backlinks for funeral directors.

Business Directories

There are hundreds of free and paid business directories that you can list your funeral home on. This list from the Marketing Mix is a useful starting point and even includes a spreadsheet which you can use to check off your progress as you go. Start with the most trustworthy Australia-wide directories, like Yellow Pages, True Local, Yelp and Hot Frog first before moving on to the local directories for your state.

Of course, if you don’t already have a listing with us on Gathered Here, you can sign up for a free listing which includes a link to your website here: www.gatheredhere.com.au/funeral-homes/. We are recognised as Australia’s largest funeral comparison website with over 680+ listings and 8,000+ customers searching for services on our site each month.

Tip #1: Don’t go overboard with directories. Listing your business on low quality directories can actually damage your SEO. You can tell which directories are good because they’ll have an editorial team that reviews and approves submissions rather than instantly accepting every single submission.

Tip #2: Some business directories will make you pay them for a listing and backlink. If the directory is not a well known or genuine directory that people visit to find services, then you should not pay for a link. Google will actually penalise you for paying for backlinks from low quality website.

Forums

Forums like Whirlpool and Quora provide an opportunity to answer questions from other forum members in a way that’s not too “salesy” and that includes a link to your website. Simply do a quick search for topics that include keywords such as “funerals”, “funeral directors” and “cremations”, and answer where you can add value.

It’s true that business directories and forums are having less of an influence on SEO as Google continues to move away from “unearned” backlinks, however, there is still benefit in these backlinks where they are authentic and helpful.

Local Businesses

Links from other local businesses and organisations are important as they boost your ranking for local searches. For example, if you are a funeral director in Melbourne, and other businesses also located in Melbourne link to you, you will rank higher for searches like “funeral directors in Melbourne” as Google will have more confidence that you actually exist in that location.

To find backlink opportunities from local organisations in your area, you may have to think broadly about the different things that go on in your community. Some ideas include:

  • Sponsoring a local childrens’ sports team
  • Putting on a bereavement or funeral education workshop for your community and asking for a mention in the local newsletter
  • Building partnerships with complimentary local businesses, such as a wills & estates lawyer or headstones & monuments mason

Online Newspaper Notices and Online Memorials 

When you put up an online notice for a funeral in a newspaper, if permitted you should include a link to your website along with the other contact details of your funeral home. Most newspapers are highly reputable websites and pass on valuable link authority when they link to your website.

Similarly, if you use an online memorials service like imorial and Heaven Address, they often provide a space to insert your website for each memorial page you set up.

By routinely adding your website to these types of posts on third party websites, you can quickly scale up genuine backlinks to your website.

Tip: When building backlinks it’s important that you aim for “follow” links and not “nofollow” links. A “nofollow” link is one that doesn’t pass on any (or only very little) positive influence to the linked website. Some websites and forums will automatically convert links to “nofollow” links. As you can see in the example below, the Sydney Morning Herald Obituaries section automatically does this. However, SEO experts argue that there is still enough value in “nofollow” links to make them worthwhile to pursue.

Copy the Competition

Finally, one of the best ways to build meaningful backlinks to your website is to analyse the websites of your competitors to find the friendly sites that link to them and then approach those same sites to see if they’ll also link to you.

Moz Open Site Explorer lets you type in any website and will produce a report of all backlinks to that website.

Let’s look at an example of a top 5 ranking funeral home in Melbourne. After typing in their website URL and clicking ‘search’ – voila! – we have a list of 43 relevant and friendly websites that will probably link to you if you ask them to.

Make sure when writing to these websites that you don’t just copy and paste the same message to each of them. Personalise the message, demonstrate that you have read their website, and explain why a link to your site would help their readers.

Warning: Building backlinks is about earning endorsement from high quality websites. You should never engage in spammy or “black hat SEO” such as:

  • posting throwaway comments on unrelated blogs
  • paying for backlinks, agreeing to “swap” links with another website
  • listing on poor quality directories

At best, this type of strategy won’t have any impact on your website and at worst, it will permanently damage your ranking.

2. Local Presence

As a funeral director, you want to show up in search results in the areas that you service. One of the easiest things you can do is set up a Google My Business account. Completing your account not only improves your Google ranking, it also automatically ensures that you show up on Google Maps, local search queries, and creates a “business snippet” when customers Google your business (see below).


Conclusion

From the outside, SEO is something that sounds daunting and complicated. However, after reading Parts I and II of our Guide, hopefully you’ve come to realise that more than anything, SEO is about making the internet better. And that makes sense – Google wants to show people the best and most relevant websites and content for any search.

So if you focus on creating a website that is useful and well structured for your visitors, and writing content that other websites find valuable enough to link to in their own content, then you’ll be well on your way to achieving SEO success.

The opposite is also true. If you are doing things cynically just to try to manipulate SEO, in a way that does not improve the experience of your users, then you will be penalised. So always ask yourself if what you are doing is making the internet a better place:

  • Is it helpful to list your website on 65 business directories that no one has ever heard of and that people would never genuinely visit to find your services?
  • Is it helpful to leave rubbish comments on hundreds of unrelated blog posts on other websites just so you can include a link to your website?

If the answer is “no” you should never engage in those activities. If you’re hiring (or thinking of hiring) an SEO agency, you should ask them exactly what they are going to do to improve your SEO. If it includes anything like the above (or the negative examples we listed in Part I), that should be a giant red flag.

SEO has to be earned – there are no shortcuts, and it takes time and dedication.

For many funeral directors it might not be possible to spend thousands of dollars on a professional SEO agency or put in the many hours required to do it themselves. And that’s OK. In large part, it’s why our website exists. We spend every day working on SEO, content marketing, social media and digital strategy so that funeral directors don’t have to. Listing on our website means that your funeral home is seen by thousands of customers each month, regardless of whether or not you’re in the top 5 search results in Google.

We hope you’ve found this guide helpful. If you have any SEO questions, feel free to contact us at support@gatheredhere.com.au or leave us a comment below.

<< Module 3: The Funeral Directors’ SEO Handbook – Part I <<

>> Module 5: The Importance of Customer Reviews and How to Get Them >>

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