Plenty of webmasters and digital marketing experts talk up SEO, aka search engine optimization, as big, complicated science only the pros can understand. But the truth is that even the greenest of website owners can take a few simple steps to improve their odds of ranking highly in the natural search results.
Below, you’ll find three of these simple steps that, when implemented, can make a big difference in your funeral home’s ability to get found through search engines. I recommend making all of them a priority, as more people than ever before are turning to sites like Google, Bing, and Yahoo to begin the process of finding the right funeral home for their needs.
Resolution #1 – Make sure your site is being crawled correctly
To see why this is so important, we need to cover a little background material on how the search engines work.
The goal of the search engines is to deliver the best results to the users searching for information. The better results, the more people will use the engine – and, consequently, the more revenue the engine generates.
To determine which pages to show in response to a user query, the search engines maintain vast indexes of different web pages online. Web pages are added to the index via automated “spider” programs, which navigate from link to link on the web. They “crawl” the pages they find and add their content to the index. When a user enters a search into an engine, the engine filters the pages in the index according to its algorithms in order to determine which pages will best meet the user’s needs.
(Fun fact – Google actually uses multiple algorithms and scores pages according to more than 200 different factors to determine how they should be ranked in response to user queries).
Now, there are a number of different things that can prevent the search engine’s spider programs from reading a website correctly. And if your site can’t be read, it can’t be indexed by the search engine. And, it can’t be displayed in the natural search results. This means visitors who should be arriving on your website won’t even see it if they use search engines to find funeral homes in your area.
Instead of going into all the different things that can prevent proper indexing from occurring, I’m going to give you a simple way to estimate whether your site can be read by search engines. To start, go to WebConf’s Search Engine Spider Simulator and enter the URL of one of your pages. If all the text on your page is visible within the simulator, there’s a good chance that search engines can access and parse your information correctly as well.
Here’s an example from the homepage of Modetz Funeral Home. Although the simulator’s display isn’t pretty, you see all of the text from the site’s main page was correctly read by the program.
If you want to get more advanced with your crawl error detection, sign up for an account with Google’s Webmaster Tools program and add your site to your account. Then, check the “Crawl” section periodically to identify and resolve any issues Google encountered when attempting to index your website.
Resolution #2 – Update your page title tags
Page title tags – that is, the phrases that appear at the top of your browser window or tab when you open a new web page, play an important role in both user experience and SEO.
From a user’s perspective, a descriptive title tag offers clarity and lets them know what type of content they can expect from a page. And when it comes to SEO, the specific words found in this particular area help give search engines an idea about the content your page contains, as well as the search queries for which your page should be displayed.
For this reason, your page title tags should include words your target customers are likely to search for. As an example, take Neal-Kilgore & Collier Funeral Homes, whose homepage title tag has been set to read:
<title>Neal-Kilgore Collier Funeral Home * Catlettsburg, Kentucky</title>
While there’s no way to guarantee your website appears in response to a given search query (short of paying for ads through an engine’s PPC program), this particular title tag helps let search engines know that this page should be considered whenever any combination of these words is searched for – including “Neal-Kilgore funeral,” “Catlettsburg funeral home” or “funeral home Catlettsburg, KY.”
Note – recent updates to Google’s search algorithms make it a bad idea to attempt to manipulate the search rankings by stuffing your title tag full of repetitive phrases. Instead of title tags that read like, “Catlettsburg, KY Funeral Home Funeral Service Cremation Burial Funeral Offerings” keep your titles under 70 characters and make sure they read naturally to the human eye.
Resolution #3 – Update your meta description tags
Meta description tags were initially created to allow website owners to provide additional information regarding the content of their pages to the search engines. These days, their impact on SEO is pretty minimal, as webmasters in the past realized they could improve their chances of ranking highly in natural search results by stuffing this field full of related keywords. Google and other search engines quickly moved to devalue this unnatural advantage, meaning including certain words or phrases in this area won’t do much to improve your overall search rankings.
But that doesn’t mean the meta description tag is unimportant. In most cases, your meta description is the “snippet” that appears below your URL in the search results. In the sample Google results below for the phrase “Columbus OH funeral home,” the text below each linked URL is directly from the meta description tag:
Now, take a look at the differences between the meta descriptions for Schoedinger versus Newcomer funeral homes. The text in the Newcomer snippet offers a clear value proposition; that “families save hundreds, even thousands on burial and cremation costs.” The Schoedinger description, however, is auto-generated and offers no compelling reason to click through.
If someone funeral planning came across these results, which would you be more likely to click on? In this case, there’s a good chance that Schoedinger is losing business because its snippet is so unappealing to would-be customers.
To avoid having this happen to your funeral home, take the time to craft a handwritten, compelling meta description for every page on your website. Keep your descriptions under 155 characters. This way, they aren’t cut off in the snippet on the search engine results pages. But, use this space to make your value clear and to give search users a reason to visit your website.
Not only is a higher click-through rate good for your site’s SEO, it’s good for your bottom line as well.
Certainly, there’s a lot more to SEO than these three resolutions alone. However, even modest changes to your website’s code can result in substantially higher search rankings and an influx of interested traffic. If you need any help making sense of these recommendations, contact Frazer Consultants for expert assistance on SEO and other digital marketing topics at 866-372-9372 today!