I’ve been helping small businesses of all kinds rank higher on Google for well over a decade. During this time, I’ve noticed a few common misconceptions that many business owners have about search engine optimization (SEO) in general and especially about local SEO. The lessons I’ve learned helping businesses in highly competitive industries are especially relevant for funeral homes. I’ll address five key misconceptions about SEO and how to better approach SEO. I’ll also give some actionable advice about how you can help your funeral home’s website to rank better and increase your call volume.
1. The Keywords That I Use are Used by Everyone Else.
Let’s face it, everyone has their own biases. These biases extend beyond basic personal preferences to the words we use when we search for things. That means just because you use certain search terms it doesn’t mean that’s what everyone else uses. This can be annoying when the proper, technical term used in the industry is not what the public searches. For example, you might refer to “cremated remains” or “cremains,” but thousands of people are searching for “cremation ashes” every month.
This is a problem because you need to know what people are actually searching for in order to target those keywords. Proper keyword research is the solution to this problem. If you don’t have real data about what people in your area are searching for, the best you can hope for is trusting your intuition. For SEO to be effective, it needs to be data-driven, and that starts with real keyword research.
2. What I See on the Results Page is What Everyone Else Sees Too.
Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are highly personalized. This is designed to give you better results based on your previous search history, location, and a host of other factors. This means that getting unbiased, neutral search results is very difficult and requires special setup and tools to get it right. Fortunately, a number of subscription tools are available that can give you a much clearer picture of how well your website’s pages are ranking. Unfortunately, these tools are not cheap. Most of the time, only digital marketing teams subscribe to these specialized services. The good thing is that any reputable SEO agency will give you reports that detail how your site is ranking in your local area. This reporting provides a much more accurate snapshot than what you can find by just Googling your own company name.
3. Just Add All the Keywords on the Website, and I’ll Start Ranking.
Google has a pretty good understanding of how well a certain page will satisfy a keyword’s search intent. Unless you have content that does that, no amount of keyword-stuffing will help. In the early days of Google, people were able to pack their websites full of keywords, and they would actually rank well. Those days are now long gone. And that’s a good thing.
For example, if somebody searches for “green burial” they likely want to know information about green burial options. They don’t want to end up on a page with content like this: “Have you heard about green burial? Green burial is a popular topic right now. Why is green burial of interest to people? In this article, I’ll explain all about green burial: the history of green burial, green burial practices, green burial cost, green burial cemeteries, and more about green burial.” This is not useful content, and it does not satisfy user intent. On the other hand, rich content that gives the searcher the information they’re looking for is much more likely to rank well.
4. SEO is Fast.
SEO is the equivalent of a marathon. It takes a lot of consistent effort to achieve your goals, especially when the competition is strong and you have been neglecting SEO in the past. SEO is distinct from improving your website. When you make changes to your website, they can be live almost instantly and will immediately be seen by new visitors. Search rankings do not immediately reflect every change made to your website.
To start with, Google needs to index each page before it can rank. Websites with more visitors tend to get indexed much more frequently than websites with lower volume. After your site is indexed, Google will use what it found to influence its rankings, but this does not produce immediate results. From the user’s point of view this can actually be helpful. More stable rankings let a user consistently find the same things they’re searching for. If you Google “Southwest” today the homepage of Southwest Airlines is the top result. If you did the same thing tomorrow and the homepage for Moe’s Southwest Grill was suddenly the top result, you’d likely be surprised and perhaps confused. Google’s rankings do change over time (hence why SEO works), but improving your rankings requires consistent building and not a one-time effort.
5. You Can Just Get Me to Rank in All These Places/Cities/Counties.
SEO for local businesses (also called local SEO) is highly dependent upon the searcher’s location at the moment of the search and the location where your business is based. Proximity matters to Google. Increasing your reach into new territory is the holy grail of local SEO and not many can do it.
The first step to ranking well in various locations is to rank well where your business is located. Only then can you realistically hope to expand the area for which you rank. A central assumption in Google’s ranking algorithm for local businesses is that a business will rank highest closest to the actual business. (That is, after all, part of what makes a local business local.) You need to dominate your local rankings before your reach will expand.
SEO can often appear confusing and downright mysterious. And for good reason. Google has never made their ranking algorithm publicly available, and many of the details of SEO can be quite technical. It is my hope that I’ve been able to clear up some common misconceptions about SEO and local SEO in particular. A better understanding of SEO (even at a fairly high level) can be a real asset to funeral home owners who are interested in getting the greatest impact out of their websites.