Before spending any money on Search Engine Optimization or Social Media Marketing, do these three strategies that will promote your obits for free, generate more online condolences, assist in your Google rankings, engage more people on Facebook, increase online floral sales and even get more people to attend services that you host.
Topics discussed / In this video:
00:00 – How to implement Three Simple Strategies to Promote Your Online Obits
- 02:43 – Strategy to do before spending money on search engine optimization
- 03:15 – Background story
- 05:19 – Benefit of Online Obituary
- 07:29 – First Step, Send an email to the family
- 10:15 – Phase Two, Send an email to the church or any other groups the person belonged to
- 10:15 – The importance of traffic coming back to the home website and putting the obituary on Facebook page
- 16:39 – First step, Send an email to the family regarding the obituary
- 18:16 – Second step, Send an email to churches and groups
- 19:15 – Importance of obituary email
- 20:19 – Third step, showing family how to add the obit on their Facebook page
- 21:53 – Five steps to go to where the obituary is.
- 23:37 – Results of Free Obituary Promotion
- 24:19 – The importance of mobile friendly website
- 26:11 – Save your money on promoting obituaries on Facebook page, Use keywords for Google Adwords
- 27:55 – Do the Three Steps and see the results
- 29:11 – The advantage of funeral homes website obituary
- 32:12 – Tips for aspiring funeral director
3 Funeral Home Website & Obituary Traffic Strategies – Swipe Copy
Links and Resources Mentioned In This Episode:
[00:00:00] On today’s show we’re going to be talking about how you can implement Three Simple Strategies to promote your Online Obits which will in turn improve your Google rankings, get more traffic to your website even get more condolences, more social media engagement, increase online for ourselves and even get more people to attend the funerals that you host.
[00:00:23] Welcome to strategy talks by Funeral Results Marketing where professionals discover the latest market strategies that get results. Now join Robin Heppell and Brian Young as they share their insights and experiences to help you and your firm during these ever changing times in the funeral profession.<!–more–>
[00:00:41] Welcome to another episode of strategy talks by Funeral Results Marketing. Before we get into today’s topic I wanted to let you know to stick around at the end of the show where you can get templates for these Three Promotional Strategies that Rob is going to share with us today. So let’s get on to today’s topic.
[00:00:58] Sure, Brian. The reason why we’re talking about this is for from in marketing you know, an online marketing people are always saying you need to get content out there and you hear terms like Content is King and Google really loves content. And, if you were to go to your local Rotary Club luncheon or Chamber of Commerce and you’re rubbing shoulders with other local business owners and they’re talking about you know, an online marketing strategy or content marketing strategy they’re going to be telling you that you have to create you know these blog posts and you have to write them.
And, you know, this is not probably what business owners signed up for. And, you as the funeral home owner or funeral manager can kind of just sit back and chuckle because unlike every other local business you have free content in your lap that you need to put on your web site anyway in the form of online obituaries. So by taking these of these pieces of content that need to get out there and by following a simple process you can actually help benefit your website by getting more traffic, which in turn be a more traffic, more engagement that is going to help in your Google rankings. Also, you’ll be able to increase your social media engagement by basically getting the family to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. And, the great thing is they’re not going to see this as a burden at all.
[00:02:43] So, before you spend any money on search engine optimization from a third party or even paying a third party for Social Media Marketing, paying you know hundreds or even thousand dollars or more a month. Make sure you’re doing these strategies that you can do for free and will probably take no more than five minutes per call and you’re going to then reap all the benefits that we’ve already talked about.
[00:03:11] So, what’s the background story? What can you tell me about this.
[00:03:15] Well, sure Brian. So, in around 2006 when I really started to launch Funeral Futurist and I was blogging because I knew that I needed to establish myself as a as an authority in the market. And, you know, by adding new content such as videos and blog posts. And, one thing that I noticed when I was doing this with the set up that I had, we we use, I was using that time, WordPress which is a content management system and still use that today plus all of the funeral home websites and cremation arrangement websites that we build are on the WordPress content management system.
And, what I noticed was that my articles, well, the first thing that I noticed was that my Google alerts would go off maybe in 20 minutes, half an hour, maybe even an hour after I put up a new article. Like wow, Google’s finding this, you know, within 20 minutes of me uploading this. And, I’m always trying to connect the dots and think you know, well, how can this apply to the funeral homes. And, so with, you know, with our first website clients I would run these experiments. I tell them I’d say, “hey, let me know when you’re going to put an obit up. And let’s see how quickly we can find it in Google because we’ll do a search for it immediately before we post it. So there’s you know for Robin Heppell obituary, it’s not going to be there now when that obituary goes up online it’s going to be there and let’s see how long it takes for Google to find it and put it in its results.” And, we can always get them found within an hour. Usually though, I think you know, like I think one of the fastest ones was like 28 minutes and then I’d always been a student of Search Engine Optimization you know before that.
[00:05:19] And you know, my arguments were or my position was too that to our clients was it the sooner you get this out in online the sooner people can find it and when we started doing this that anything that we found was with Google Analytics installed in the background is that people were actually searching for those obituaries right away as soon as you know as soon as someone hears it someone dies they’re are going to start searching for Robin Heppell Guneral, Robin Heppell Obituary. And, now when you’re not putting your obits up right away or if they’re not google friendly, you’re not going to see those hits through your Google Analytics. But once we saw this, this was hey, you know, this is great. And then, I start to think well how can we, you know kind of we need to kind of refine this but we’re just making sure that you know the funeral homes were getting this up as soon as possible. And then the others, there are third party companies such as legacy.com who host more obits than anyone else and they would start to outrank for our future homes. You know, the funeral home which was the original copy of that obituary.
[00:06:41] And, so, we tried to put together a little bit of a process to make it so that the funeral homes obit would rank as high as possible and sometimes you know legacy is just so huge that and Google loves websites with authority you know, we’re just a small little drop in the bucket compared to the footprint of legacy has. But by by following some some steps that I’m going to share with you here in a moment, we were able to at least maintain sometimes the first position, you know may drop down for a little while but then it would be since legacy is always turning new content, those old bits would maybe would then come back to the top.
[00:07:29] And, so, what I was thinking was if the way it worked then was legacy would only put the obituary on the website kind of the day of it would go in the newspaper. So, this was great. This gave funeral homes a head start because Google likes original content and they like to know who the originator of that content was. So, if it was a Tuesday and you uploaded the obituary Tuesday afternoon and then it wasn’t going to be in the newspaper until Thursday, that gave you a couple days to get ahead of it going on the legacy. But, if nothing is going on with that obituary, if it’s just laying there dormant, you know, Google’s going to think that, well, sure. Maybe that’s there a little bit early but no, no one’s going to that site.
So, I thought well the best thing that we could do is we’ll send an e-mail to the family. And then the family will send an e-mail to all the people they know because they need to get the word out. And what this will do then is it will turn those people and drive them right back to your website getting Google’s going to see that obituary post has been engaged with people leaving condolences. Maybe they’re sharing that on social media. So, that’s the first step because we needed there to be some signals that hey, not only is this website or this post is up already but people are interacting with it.
[00:09:22] So then, this would have been probably five years ago or so a bit more and my dad died and I was at the funeral home down McCall brothers in Victoria and Dean McCall I’d gone in for some you know we’re just making you know working on some details of the arrangements and I was sitting in the foyer of the funeral home and Dave came out and just asked me how he’s doing.
[00:09:51] And, he said “Hey, Rob. you know you I know that you’re known throughout the funeral industry would you like us to send your dad’s obituary to you know the different associations that we belong to as the funeral home and you know that maybe they’ve spoken to.” And I thought, “Oh gee, that’s you know it’s a great idea and a nice gesture. Sure. That would be great.”
[00:10:15] And, with a lot of things you know my brain kind of takes it and thinks, you know what, that might be a good thing to do for everyone. So, what we started doing then was incorporating phase 2 which would be to send e-mail to the church or any other groups that the person belonged to with the same, with a similar message. And then, what you’re getting is you’re getting those groups to then promote it to their membership and getting people to then come back to the funeral homes website.
And it’s really important that it gets you know that the traffic comes back to the home website because if you don’t kind of take a little bit of control of this, sometimes the families may get a hold of that legacy obituary and share that instead of sharing the obituary from your site. And, we’ve seen on a couple of occasions sometimes you know, you have those like those viral obits that are just really written well, witty and you know somewhat humorous and you know they’ve even been on national news stations TV stations you know read it and and it seems that yes the times that I’ve been involved I’m like, How come you didn’t tell the family to share your obit instead of the one on the newspaper’s website. So, then we thought well let’s also get the. And I know lots of funeral homes, they want to put the obituary on their Facebook page.
Now, this when people ask me if they should share obits on their Facebook page, my answer is “Well, it depends if you’re not doing anything on your Facebook page at all, that one wouldn’t hurt to put it there. You’re not going to get a lot of likes but at least you know there’s some content there if anyone ever went there they could see all that you know at least they’re promoting the obituaries on their site. Now if you’re really active on your Facebook page for your future home and you’re sharing other things in your, you know you’re creating little bit of communications and things like that. I would actually shy away from sharing it on your page because if you don’t want it you don’t want those people who are engaged to then become disengaged because in reality unless you live in small town they’re not going to know the majority of the people that you’re sharing that originate with.
So, even if you had a thousand likes on your page you know maybe 5 percent, maybe 10 percent of the people that have liked your page may know that individual. But, if you could get the family to share the Google link to your website on their profile their personal profile and Facebook has told us that you know every know people have on average a hundred and thirty and a hundred and fifty friends on Facebook. Well, when I share my oh my dad’s obituary on my Facebook profile, probably ninety five percent to a hundred percent of the people would be at least interested to know that my dad died and maybe follow up with looking at the balance of the obituary or at least to know that that information happened that or that happened and where they could get the information.
[00:14:11] So, I always say, if you want to get the most out of Facebook and not even have a Facebook fan pag, you just do this strategy. And, now we see that some of our clients actually get fifty percent of their traffic from Facebook by using these strategies. So that’s kind of the overview of that, Brian.
[00:14:34] That’s really interesting. I think I’m surprised by just how large a volume of visitors a website can get. And, so How about you talk about a little bit more in terms of the recipe. I mean how do you go about making this happen?
[00:14:51] Sure. Well, there’s a you know it’s a Three Step Process. And so as I said there is we send the email and you can send this e-mail to the family. I say as soon as that obit is approved, some funeral homes get it approved right there at the funeral home in the arrangements. Maybe they want to go back and you know maybe you maybe you’re waiting on on some information. But, the most important thing is to get that as soon as it’s approved. Get it up on your website. So, once the obit is approved, send up this email and you can hopefully you’re asking for the families’ e-mail addresses. And if you have multiple e-mail addresses from the family members and the arrangement conference then send it to everyone that you have. And, don’t worry about you know, I think sometimes we go “Oh, well I don’t want them to think we’re going to spam them.” Hey, like you know, they’re entrusting your future home with you know with the care of their loved one. So, I’m sure you know they’re not going to be skeptical about looking you know of why you’ve asked for that e-mail address. And, as Brian said we’ll make sure that you get you know these the templates of all these e-mails because I’ve worked hard to really fine tune these two to have them you know written in a manner where you were giving them as much information as they need to to kind of get the job done but without too much information and so what I’m going to do now is give you the copy of the e-mail and then the instructions.
[00:16:39] So, the first one. Number one, after arrangement e-mails sent immediately to the family once the obit is approved. So his subject line is Obituary for (first name), (last name). Then in the body, Dear (family member), I have uploaded your dad’s obituary notice to our Web site at www.yourfuneralchapel.comforward/john-doe. Feel free to forward this link to friends and family as we have found that it is an easy way to let a lot of people know about service times especially on such short notice. Let me know if you need help with anything else. Sincerely, Funeral Director. now a couple things about this. We put the direct link to the obituary. We don’t want to put them onto the home page. We don’t want to put them onto the obituary page for them to then have to make an extra click or find it. And, you know, sometimes busy funeral homes you know there might be three or four new ones ahead of that so we want to make them special. Send them right there. The other thing is you don’t want you know if you have to communicate with the family for any other reason. Make that a separate e-mail. You don’t want to put P.S. We’re bombing your dad this afternoon so make sure you bring in his dentures. You know, I think that information can be left to a different e-mail because the purpose of this very succinct email is for them to open it up look at it hit forward and then select everyone in their contacts in their email program.
[00:18:16] Now, the second e-mail is to churches and groups and it’s to be sent immediately after the e-mail sent to the family. The subject is Obituary for (first name), (last name). Dear (church or group name), We’re sorry to advise you that your member, (deceased name) has passed away or died and his or her family has asked us to let you know, you and the membership know of Mr. or Mrs. (deceased name), upcoming funeral services. The complete obituary and service details can be found on our website at www.yourfuneralchapel.comforward/john-doe. Feel free to forward this email and link to your membership as we have found that it’s an easy way to let a lot of people know about the service times especially on such short notice. Let me know if you have any questions with anything else. Sincerely, The Funeral Director.
[00:19:15] Now, again you know this is very succinct. We want to use the direct link to the obit and we don’t want to include. Now, some people might think, Oh, why don’t we just put the service information in the e-mail. Or why don’t we just paste the entire obit in the e-mail while that is going to sure, they’re going to get the information but they’re not going to then want to go to your website. And the great thing about these two e-mails is that you’ve had the family and the church or any other groups indirectly promote your website. And those people that have received that e-mail are probably the single group that is most likely to purchase flowers or leave condolences. So, because they’re you know they’re the ones that have the closest contact. So, it’s very important to get this out as quickly as you can.
[00:20:19] Now, the third part is then showing the family how to add the obit to their Facebook page. And I’ve seen families either give a demonstration right there at the funeral home with their cellphone. Even showing them how to go onto the website, find the the obituary, clip the it’s in its best. This is important. It’s best to copy the link to the obit then to use the sharing icons. Now, sure you can use the sharing icons and it will help share that on that obit on their Facebook profile. But if you copy the if you copy the link and then go to Facebook and paste it in, the ability that you have by doing that is that then you can tag other people in your area where you’re adding the information. So you could, you know, so in my circumstance I would be able to tag my mom and my sister and any, you know, any other relatives that were also mentioned in the obituary. Because then that’s going to show up in their profiles for the people who they’re connected with. And this is very simple.
[00:21:53] So, there’s just five steps to go to where the obituary is. You copy the URL in the address bar and then login to Facebook and where it says you know update or share posts, paste in the the link. You can then select which photo that you want and you add a little line and then click Share or click Post and that’s it. Then that will go directly to all the people that that family member is associated to.
And again we’ve seen you know some funeral homes are now getting fifty percent of the traffic to their Obit to their website through Facebook and particularly Facebook Mobile. So, people are sharing it and they’re seeing it and they’re getting they’re getting that information as quickly as possible. So, those are the you know, again those are the Three Steps. And try not to shortcut them. Some people have tried to combined them and then you just kind of lose the, I think the effect. So I’m I’m all about efficiency and effectiveness. And so I try to make this as simple as possible but also as effective as possible. And again it’s taken me fifteen minutes to explain it but this can all be done in under five minutes.
[00:23:21] That seems like a really easy way to get a big benefit for your website and your brand of visibility. Can you tell us about some of the actions your clients take in it? What kind of results they have experienced from doing this?
[00:23:37] Yes, sure. Well, when you’re John McQueen from Anderson Mcqueen of Florida, he said that once he had their staff doing these Three Steps that they saw an immediate and continual twenty five percent increase in online floral sales. Not that. And let me specify not that continually to increase, but you know, say, if it was a factor of one hundred then. Now, that factor is one twenty five and continues on. So, there is you know, they are benefiting from that just by putting that into their process.
[00:24:19] We’ve had to DeJohnFuneral, Ross DeJohn and his firm really do the Facebook part well and get a lot of direct traffic from that as well as Dave Perotto from Bartolomeo Funeral Home actually shows people how to do that with their cellphones right in there. Right at the funeral home and showing that. One thing though, make sure if you’re with people with their cell phones and if they’re doing this on on a mobile version you want to make sure that your website and your obits are mobile friendly.
Some funeral home website companies if you shared the link and then someone goes to open it, it may not open because it’s trying to force the mobile version of the website to open that for our website, that doesn’t happen. We use mobile responsive website so that means that no matter what device, it’s the same page showing up. But I really believe that if you know if people do this they’re going to see more engagement, more condolences. Dr. Grollman says, you know, “Grief shared is grief diminished”. So, the more condolences that come in that’s going to help the family. And it just going to have a better community feel for that.
[00:25:48] And, again if you’ve been in the practice of sharing the Obit on your Facebook page, that’s fine. But you’re going to see a huge benefit by getting the family to share it on their Facebook profile because their audience is much more interested in that single obit than your audience on your page.
[00:26:11] And you know, speaking of Facebook and putting it on your Facebook page, the Funeral Home’s Facebook page. I heard this information and I couldn’t believe it. At a conference and they said, “Oh, it would be a good idea to boost, like to actually pay to promote obituaries on your Facebook page.” Save your money. That’s just crazy talk. You know there’s no benefit for you to boost that at all. You know, that’s just throwing money. You’re not promoting something that’s going to directly impact your business. And usually it’s $65. You know, it is the kind of the initial budget for boosting the post. So, you know, that money could be spent way better. You know, creating a Facebook campaign for preneed leads or something like that. So, never. Never spend money to promote your obits. And while we’re on that, just one last thing. If you have Google AdWords make sure the word obit, obituaries, death notices that those are all negative keywords. You don’t want to be paying for people searching for obituaries at your funeral home for your add to to show up and then them click on the ad so we never have obituaries or even in the same length of your ads. You know, let people find that for free and if you follow these Three Steps, they’ll be finding that they’ll be finding your obits very easily. So, that’s you know that’s kind of it. In a nutshell, I guess a pretty pretty big nutshell, Brian.
[00:27:55] But you know, this is one strategy when I hear Funeral Homes think “Oh, you know I’m supposed to be doing social media marketing.” “Oh, I’m supposed to be doing content marketing.” And I say, “Hey, like if you’re not doing these Three Steps first, do that first. See, look at the results it’s not going to cost you. If you go into one of those other strategies that’s going to take you way more time than this. You do this first. See how it goes. And then if you still need to do other things then go ahead. But I think that you’re going to be pleasantly surprised. And people who have done this easily double their traffic to their website.
[00:28:36] Yes, that makes sense to me. I don’t know who wouldn’t want that. It’s the cheapest brand exposure anybody can get as we’ve talked about in the past. So, those are all really helpful tips and insights there, Rob. So, I’ve got one more question for you, Rob. In other cases where a family doesn’t want to have an obituary. They don’t want to pay for one for the newspaper. They’re not necessarily interested in one for the website. What’s your thoughts on that? The funeral homes still put up some kind of obituary? Is it advantageous? What should we know about that?
[00:29:11] Sure. Well, first of all I think that you should let them know that it’s free to put on your website. I really think that it’s important to offer that because of the benefit, of all these benefits you can get by getting them to promote the obituary. So, you know first of all hopefully that they’ll disagree even if they don’t want to put it in the newspaper that you will, that they can do it for your website, the funeral home’s website. And,if they really don’t want that, you could then offer to put in a death notice where it just has basic particulars. But you want to make sure that you get the family’s approval for that to say “Well, you know what if you don’t want to write an obituary that’s fine we can put. If you don’t mind, we’ll just put a draft or we’ll just make a very simple, what we call a death notice and it will just have basic particulars but you know, we don’t need to put in your mom’s birthdate and it’ll just have the very basic information.” But again, to get approval from that I wouldn’t put something in if the family said they didn’t want to have an obituary online. Then don’t. Don’t push that.
One thing that we found that has helped with you know with our clients is we also give the functionality to have families submit their own obituary. So there’s a little online form on the website the family can be directed there by the funeral home. And then, when they have the time they then fill up a form and in the background what happens that it’s actually making a draft obituary post already the funeral home can get notified once it’s submitted. They can review it and then upload it and then follow through with the steps that we just talked about. So, yeah, that’s how I would cover that.
[00:31:28] And you know I think for you listening just to give us try like take our challenge just try this for just even step one, that emailed to the family and try it for two weeks. And now, when I was a funeral director our environment, we were very competitive amongst each other, the other funeral directors. And, so you know I would do this often for little things like who gets the most compliments and the we have this great book. So you know people would come into view of the deceased who you know who got the most compliments who hey, who have the most positive survey returns. And here, this would just be another one.
[00:32:12] So if you’re you know aspiring funeral director yourself, you know, take this on and you do this. Send that e-mail to the family. You know, you’re not, I don’t think he’d be jeopardizing any policies by communicating the family letting them know that the obit is now on the website and do it for a couple of weeks and then compare your obits to the obits of the other funeral directors and I’m sure you’re going to have more online condolences. And if you do this would be a great proof of concept that you could take to the management and say, Hey, look you know I’ve been doing this e-mail the family the obit and we’re getting you know we’re getting more condolences. You know maybe we’re even getting more online photos so maybe then they might implement that company wide.”
[00:33:05] So the challenges is, do step one. E-mail to the family, do from next two weeks and see if you can get more condolences than the other funeral directors that you’re working with.
[00:33:16] Well, thanks Rob. And that brings us almost to the end of the show as we get close to wrapping up here, I’ll ask once again. What’s your burning question about online marketing for your funeral home?If you will leave it here for us, we will try to answer it on an upcoming episode. And if you like what you’re hearing, please leave a comment on the blog or give it a rating on iTunes or Google Play.
[00:33:36] And thank you for spending your time with us today. Our goal is for you to serve more families and provide them more meaningful services. So make sure you check back soon for another episode of strategy talks by Funeral Results Marketing. Until the next episode, This had been Brian Young and Robin Heppell.
[00:33:55] This has been another episode of Strategy Talks with Robin Heppell and Brian Young. To ask a question or leave a comment, visit FuneralResultsMarketing.com/talks To make sure that you never miss an episode, you can subscribe to this podcast for free on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher.