SEO for Assisted Living, Home Care and Small Business – Part 1
This article is part of Carenade’s ongoing efforts to create a knowledge-base for home care agencies and assisted living facilities.
You need to know the basics of SEO.
I know it sounds hard.
But it’s not that hard, I promise.
Yes, that applies to you. The home care marketer. The assisted living head of marketing. And you, the small business owner who manages everything themselves.
I have heard it before, from ‘old school’ marketers. They have their process down. They don’t need the internet. They don’t have time to do this, they are too busy.
Well, ask yourself.
Is your occupancy at 100%?
Are you so flushed with caregivers or employees that finding new ones is as easy as a phone call?
Finally, search “Home Care ________” and enter in your city. What page are you on? Are you #1?
If not, then pay attention.
We are going to go over the absolute basics. This information will allow you to discuss SEO and digital marketing with all of the digital marketing pros who are constantly approaching you. Look, the SEO guys might not admit it but the industry is full of frauds – college kids who built a WordPress site/ installed Yoast and call themselves experts, overseas companies that generate fraudulent content, dangerous paid backlink scams and freelancers who “take the job and THEN learn how to do it”.
Knowing the basics will help you avoid these pitfalls and help you understand the role that digital marketing and SEO play in your company.
The Home Care and Small Business SEO One-Liner
Google wants to see that your site is awesome.
Let’s say you want to build a site dedicated to taking care of Alzheimer’s patients and you want it to rank highly for a bunch of Alzheimer’s related searches. Then your goal is to build the best Alzheimer’s information site in existence. Make it secure. Make it load fast. Make it full of great content. Make it easy for Google’s bots to crawl and understand the site (this part may require coding ability). Make your content so good that other sites around the web mention your website (Google sees the links to your site on other sites – these are known as backlinks). List your “Google My Business” listing on the site. Make it work well on mobile. And make sure your site talks about all the different topics and phrases that pertain to Alzheimer’s care.
And Google will rank it.
For the record the term “SEO” can be used to mean search engine optimization itself OR the person doing the optimization. For example: “My cousin said he was a good SEO and has a good understanding of SEO”.
Step 1: Motivation and SEO Basics
Don’t listen to the naysayers.
I’m sure you have heard it before.
“SEO is too complicated.”
“We will have to hire an expensive agency. “
It turns out, the basics of SEO are quite easy. And it also turns out that the basics give you the highest yield. You don’t have to stay banished to page 7 or 8 of Google. And every single click counts. So, don’t be scared. You can do this.
The problem with a lot of the posts you read is that they just give generic advice. First I will explain the how and the why of SEO and then I will give you the actual steps. Here you will find the specifics and I PROMISE, they are not that hard. Even for the not so tech savvy, you can do it!
What is SEO?
SEO or “Search Engine Optimization” involves creating your website and other web content with the intent of ranking highly on Googles’ search engine results page for specific keywords. This will increase the number of free (organic) visitors to your website.
The power of the Google search engine lies within its ability to locate what you are looking for. Every day millions of people search for billions of different things. On top of that, many users search the same thing but with different search intent. Imagine a person searching for “digital marketing”. They might be looking for blog articles like this one or they might be looking for a local digital marketing agency.
Google works hard to give you the best websites based on what it thinks you are actually trying to search for – your “search intent”. This sounds simple but Google bots have to “crawl” and recrawl the ENTIRE VISIBLE INTERNET over and over and over. They look at the on-site text, website structure, pictures, content, links and hundreds of other factors. So when you search “Tuna Fish Sandwich”, Google knows to show you this website for a tuna fish sandwich recipe – https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/tuna-salad-sandwiches/1516cf19-d7c2-44ea-8698-5e9f3c5aed4d
By simply typing the words “Tuna Fish Sandwich” into this blog post, Google is now reading it. Somewhere in the deepest depths of the Google search engine result page, this blog post will show up when some poor hungry soul searches “Tuna Fish Sandwich”.
Why does SEO matter to small businesses?
Imagine that you are a local business that wants to get more clients.
Local businesses and home care agencies often dabble in traditional marketing methods like networking, referral marketing, local radio, billboard, tv, and newspaper. This type of marketing is good for “getting your name out there”, right?
If this sounds good to you, think again. “Getting your name out there” should be a dirty word to you. You want action, not awareness. Awareness is far too costly. This strategy works for big brands like Nike and Coca-Cola but won’t work if your marketing budget is smaller. Nike can afford millions of dollars to get in front of millions of people. On top of that, the consumer already knows what Nike does, they sell shoes. So what actions do you want potential customers to take? You might want users to visit your home page, call you, schedule an in-person meeting, enter in their email or some other specific “call to action”.
That’s not to say traditional marketing is dead. Only that there are digital tools with higher conversion rates that should also be utilized as well.
If you need more convincing just check out some the research by the Pew Research Center.
Unless your target market is adults >90 years old, then a significant percentage of your target market uses the internet.
The long story short is that the internet is important for your marketing methods because your target market is on the internet.
Step 2: Figure out how to make changes your website.
To do this you will need to know who manages your site. If you are Home Care Assistance, Right at Home or Home Instead then you have the best home-care SEO folks on the planet. Don’t bother asking them, they are already doing their job. These are the guy’s everyone else should look at to see how they are doing it.
Everyone else, keep reading.
If you hired a local web developer, there is a good chance they are using WordPress or another easy to use content management system (CMS). Basically, they have the ability to easily add and change things on your website without doing lots of programming.
Ask your web dev the following questions:
- How do we add blog posts to the website? Is it something I can do on my own? Are we using WordPress?
If you are using WordPress, you really only need to learn one thing… how to add a blog post. See the image below for a screenshot of me working on this post. Simply log in to your WordPress backend, click “Add New” under the “Posts” section and then type away.
But remember, you definitely don’t want to mess up your entire website. If you stick to adding blog posts and do it with the help/blessing of your webmaster you should be fine.
If your site is built another way, then ask your webmaster to show you how to add posts.
Step 3: The Catch – What is your CTA?
First, you need to ask yourself.
Does my website convert?
This is especially important for websites that require users to take certain actions online. Imagine having an online shoe store that sells awesome shoes at a great price. The only problem is your pictures are terrible, your website is slow and your checkout workflow is so complicated that no one ever buys any shoes. You could drive thousands of users to the site but you no one ever buys your shoes!
This same concept applies to any website with slight variations.
As a home care agency or senior living community, your website goal is to gather emails or get potential customers to call you.
Other smaller businesses simply want their website to inspire confidence when viewed by potential customers.
Calls are an important source of leads for home care agencies/ senior living facilities. A call is the first step to getting a client to visit your facility or schedule a home care assessment. Keep this in mind as you build your traditional and digital campaigns. I frequently see billboards around town with huge lovely pictures of caregivers or senior living facilities but only tiny logos and no call to action.
Make sure that your phone number and contact info is prominent on your website.
Step 4: The actual SEO efforts – Keyword research
This is an important step but can be daunting at times.
A typical process is to use the Google Keyword Planner to find keywords for your company. https://ads.google.com/home/tools/keyword-plannerh
What are long tail keywords?
Imagine the mindset of your future clients looking for home care. They will likely search for lots of different phrases. From “my mom keeps falling at home” to “I need help for my great grandma”. Now, you can imagine that most people will search for generic terms like “home care”, “assisted living”, and “senior living”. For example, maybe 50% of people will search for these 3 terms. However, the other 50% of people will search for THOUSANDS of terms like “I need care for my aunt”, “how can I find Alzheimer’s care” and so on. Long tail keywords are the thousands of other keywords that are not commonly searched. While each keyword is uncommon, collectively they make a significant percentage of all searches.
These less commonly searched terms are easier to rank for.
You will have a harder time ranking for a generic keyword like “home care”. This is because the large national franchises already dominate these keywords. Less commonly searched phrases like “home care Providence Rhode Island” and “Alzheimer’s home care” will be easier to rank for.
Play around with Neil Patel’s keyword tool and get a feel for some keywords related to home care and assisted living.
However, this task can be daunting and confusing at times. There are many keyword research tools and they all claim to be the best.
I enjoy using the KWFinder tool as it gives you several different rankings of various keywords.
So to keep it simple you have 3 choices when it comes to selecting keywords:
2. Hire a local SEO or convince a friendly person online to do SEO research for you for free.
3. Use the keywords below:
Home care agencies and senior living facility you should consider ranking for the following:
- (City Name) Home care
- (City Name) Home Health Care
- Home Health Aide
- Senior Care
- Elder Care
- In Home Caregiver
- Elderly Care
- (City Name) Nursing Homes
- Assisted Living
- Senior Living
Beyond those most basic of keywords, you should consider creating content about topics related more peripherally related to home care. Think of questions or articles that your future assisted living and home care clients would be reading. This could include articles/posts on various disease processes like CHF, afib, COPD or other questions that home care and assisted living clients might have.
Want good ideas for assisted living and home care related blog posts?
You know when you search for something in the Google home page and it fills in the possible search terms you are looking for?
This is known as autocomplete and it can be used to come up with good content ideas.
You can use this autocomplete feature to come up with content ideas. Try searching the beginning of questions that potential home care clients would be searching. Then see what comes up in Google Autocomplete. The image above shows the results for “home care g”. You can try it with any letter, A-Z. Try different searches and view the results. See what ranks #1 on the search engine result page and try to beat their post in quality. For example, this article is now the best-written article on “SEO for Home Care Agencies” on the internet. After a couple of months, Google will index it and rank it #1.
Step 5: Create content around detailed SEO relevant home care topics
The key here is high quality, thorough and detailed posts that drive users to the site. Again, think of Google as a human being reading your page and ranking it on how useful the content is.
Back in the day, you could simply list your keywords over and over. Repeating “home healthcare” 40 times throughout your blog post would get Googles’ algorithm all excited. However, those days are gone. Focus on quality, not spamming keywords. From a content standpoint, I like to imagine Google as a real person reading your blog. Take this post as an example. It’s long. It’s filled with awesome info and pictures and content. This is much better than a shoddily thrown together top ten list or a brief paragraph on Alzheimer’s.
The only downside to creating all this high-quality content is that it takes lots of time. It’s not easy to research and write quality articles. And again, quality is the key. However, imagine it as an investment. Taking the time to write an awesome 3000-word blog post will give you lots of benefits down the line. And remember, every click that you draw organically is worth its weigh in gold!
Just look at the costs of some popular search terms.
This chrome extension, “Keywords Everywhere” shows similar keywords to the ones you search on the search engine results page of Google. Play around with it. Try searching for care insurance or lawyers. Their cost per click can be over $50. That’s $50 just to drive a user to the site.
What should I write about?
Ranking #1 for a generic term like “assisted living” or “home care” is going to be very difficult. Instead, consider writing multiple articles about various topics related to home care. Take a look at the bottom of the Kindly care website for a perfect example of this.
Notice that they have multiple articles on various topics. Take further notice that lots of these article titles are also likely searches on Google. This is an example of awesome content directed at long-tail and more common keywords.
So what you should actually do?
Well, realize that this is going to take some time and start writing! Create an awesome blog post for specific search terms. For example – “Alzheimer’s care in Philadelphia” or “How much does a home care cost in Charlotte.” A well-written blog post around one of these topics could rank #1 for those terms. But it can also boost SEO for broad terms like “home care” and “senior living”.
Step 6: Getting Quality Backlinks
This is a big deal.
THIS RIGHT HERE IS A BACK LINK. You know those blue clickable words that take you to other websites? In the preceding example, the words “This right here is a back link” are known as the “anchor text”. Google also looks at these words to help understand what things people are talking about when mentioning your website.
Backlinks are how Google looks at your site and says “wow, look at all these other sites on the internet that are mentioning your site.”
It’s important to note, that you want the other sites to actually link to your site and not simply mention your site by name.
There are entire companies devoted to finding quality backlinks and this task in itself could be a full time job.
However, here are some basic rules of thumb:
- Never Pay for Links – some experienced SEOs may be able to get away with such “Grey Hat” tactics. But for most, paid links are at best a waste of money and at worst will harm your ranking.
- Create awesome content and reach out to other bloggers to see if they will mention your content.
- Link to your own site in a logical and organized fashion. These are known as internal links.
- Finally, do a Google search for “how to get backlinks” and read more on the process. Link building takes time and is more of an art than a science.
Step 7 : The basics of Technical SEO
I saved step 7 for last because it is the most difficult and likely better left to your web developer. There are all kinds of technical aspects of your website that Google looks at when determining your rank on the search engine result page (SERP).
You can imagine all of Google’s bots crawling the web. Well, these poor bots are faced with the task of reading websites designed for humans.
Part of technical SEO is optimizing your website so that Googles bots can easily understand and view your entire site/ site structure.
Other aspects of technical SEO include:
- How fast your page loads
- How your page displays on mobile
- How your page is secured
- Special files designed for the search bots to read called robots.txt files.
- and many more complex topics.
Becoming a technical SEO expert requires knowledge of web development, computer programming, how websites are built, how search engines crawl and interpret websites, content optimization, page speed, migrations, site structure and more.
Responsive design refers to the ability of a website to scale nicely as the size of the screen changes. This can mean changing from a 1080p monitor to 4k to a phone or tablet.
Mobile friendly design and a responsive site will help SEO in several ways. It increases usability and therefore increases the time that users are on the website. It also decreases the “bounce rate” – this is the percentage of people who go to a website and then immediately leave without browsing. Google tracks these metrics and factors them in when determining how high you show up on the Google Search Engine Result Page (SERP).
Finding a good SEO
You will likely need to find yourself a good technical SEO person. This can be tough if you don’t know how to pick out the good ones from the BS’ers.
However, do your best to vet your potential agency or freelancer. Remember, Step 3 – The Catch. What is the goal of your website and how does it fit into the role of your business? Some basic questions and thoughts when looking for a person to do SEO or digital marketing:
- Ask them for references and previous case studies.
- What types of clients have they used before?
- What was their goal with their previous clients?
- What are their thoughts about your website and business goals?
- What do they want to change about your site?
- What do they think are the fundamentals of technical SEO?
- Finally, what’s their pricing structure?
A good SEO should be open and honest about all of these questions. Finally, utilize your network/LinkedIn and ask around for a good technical SEO person.
Increasing your organic website visitors takes time, effort and may be costly. That said, there are ways to grow your presence online over time. Post quality content frequently to your site. Find a friendly local SEO person/web designer who is used to working within your budget and with companies your size. And most importantly try to understand the role that your website plays in your entire business model.