Paid search vs organic search senior living lead management

Paid Search vs. Organic Search for Senior Living Lead Generation

If boosting senior living lead generation is your main objective, you might be wondering which tactic is better: paid search or organic search. Like most things in life, the answer isn’t clear-cut. Both tactics have merits.

Below, we’ll discuss the following:

  • Definition of paid search and organic search
  • The benefits of paid search and organic search
  • Challenges associated with each
  • How both can affect your lead generation efforts

What is paid search?

When people go to a search engine like Google, they type in their query (e.g., “senior living communities near me”) the search engine produces the “search engine results page” (the SERP). At the top of this page, you’ll see paid listings followed by organic listings.

With paid search, you pay the search engine to display your ads at the top of the SERP. You choose the search terms (the keywords) that you want your ad to show up for. As Google explains, you’ll only be charged when someone clicks on the ad. (This is a simplified explanation, of course!)

Some keywords are more competitive than others, and you need to compete with other businesses for them by bidding and winning an auction. As Google notes: “The exact prices are determined by how many other businesses are bidding on the same keywords.”

That gives you the general gist. As its name suggests, paid search is a pay-to-play scenario.

Now, let’s discuss organic search.

What is organic search?

As the name suggests, organic search results are the “natural” or unpaid listings on the search engine results page (SERP).

In other words, you don’t pay to have your site show up on the SERP. It happens naturally because the Google algorithm has deemed a particular web page from your site as highly relevant to the searcher’s query.

How do you get your website pages and blog posts to show up in organic searches? By optimizing them. This is referred to as SEO, or search engine optimization.

SEO involves both on-page and off-page tactics. On-page elements include things like writing compelling content around specific keyword phrases. Off-page elements include things like how fast pages load and whether the site is mobile-friendly.

Again, we’ve simplified this explanation. You can read more about SEO for senior living here.

What are the benefits of paid search?

Increases visibility

People pay attention to what shows up on the first page of Google, which is where those all-important paid ads are located. In fact, according to marketing wizard Neil Patel, 75% of people will never scroll past the first page of Google results.

Boosts brand awareness

A popular tactic with paid searches is making sure your ads come up when people google your competitors’ names. Someone googling a competitor might be looking for something specific, like a phone number to reach a resident. But some folks might be googling because they heard about the community, and they’re interested in touring. (Meaning they’re a good prospect for your community!)

Here’s the thing: If your ad comes up when they google the other community’s name, their eyes will see your ad. They might not act on it. They might not even be aware they’re seeing it. But your name will register on a subliminal level. And if they DO notice your ad, they might click it instead of going to the competitor’s site.

Can quickly drive traffic to your website

Paid search, when done right, can drive traffic to your site quickly. Which is the point. The “done right” part is critical—and one of the inherent challenges (more on this below).

What are the benefits of organic search?


Yes, it takes work to optimize your website. And you’ll need someone to do the work, whether a staff member or an outsourced marketing agency like ours. And while SEO is never truly done . . . if you’ve optimized your website and you do a good job of optimizing all new content that you publish (like blog posts), it will likely be a more cost-effective strategy in the long run.

A preferred option for some searchers

Not everyone trusts or pays attention to ads. In fact, according to End Point Digital, “70-80% of all searchers ignore paid ads and focus on organic results only.”

With effort, you could outrank competitors—naturally

Again, optimizing your site for organic search is a marathon, not a sprint. But if you put the time and effort in, the work can pay off by outranking your competitors in the organic search listings for a variety of competitive and long-tail keyword phrases.

Helps build website authority and brand authority

The more web pages and blog posts that rank well in Google, the better overall authority your website will have—which can further boost newer pages and blog posts. It’s a positive domino effect.

Challenges associated with paid search & organic search

The biggest challenge for one tends to be an advantage for the other.

For paid search, the biggest challenge is usually budget. You need to pay to play—and often you need to pay big dollars to get the momentum and ROI you’re looking for. You also need to pay someone to manage your ad campaigns. (We don’t recommend setting them and forgetting them.)

Organic search optimization requires someone to do the optimization work. So there is an initial cost (and that’s true whether you use a staff member or outsource to an agency like ours). But if you’ve done a good job optimizing your web pages and posts, they will continue to work on your behalf—even if you don’t invest much in them moving forward.

For organic search, time is the bigger issue. You need to devote a lot of time to optimizing your site. Not to mention, it can take time for pages to rank. On the flip side, with paid search, you could set up a campaign today and see traffic to your site right away.

Which one should you use for your senior living lead generation efforts?

Like all things in life and in marketing—it depends.

Things to consider include the following:

  • ROI and budget. In order to figure out ROI, you need to understand the total revenue generated by a customer (in senior living, it’s a resident, and that total revenue can come in over months or years). When you know that number, you can justify (or not) budgets and costs for paid search vs. organic search.
  • Time. Do you have the time, staff, and expertise to work on optimization? Do you have the budget to farm out this work—perhaps in addition to running paid search ads?
  • Immediate goals. If you’re looking to drive traffic to something specific and perhaps urgent—for example, the opening of a new community or a time-sensitive event at your community—running a highly-targeted ad campaign could make sense. If you’re looking to bolster brand awareness, especially against your competitors, a paid ad campaign would also make sense.

Usually, we don’t recommend one over the other. With most of our clients, we work on ongoing organic search optimization—which should be happening whether you run paid ads or not. Then, if it makes sense for the client’s budget and goals, we build out specific paid campaigns.

Keep in mind that paid search isn’t the only “pay to play” game in town. Paid social media advertising is another tactic, one that can be used instead of or in addition to paid search ads.

Is your head spinning? We can help.

Maybe you’re overwhelmed by everything we wrote above. Or maybe you simply want a fresh take on your current paid ads and organic search efforts. Either way, we can help! We have paid search and SEO specialists on our team who can work magic on your campaigns and organic search results. Get in touch and let’s talk.

Senior Living Lead Generation: 4 Tips for Better Outcomes

Many of our clients come to us because they need help with senior living lead generation. Our initial work usually involves resetting expectations with marketing and sales teams regarding what good lead generation even is. 

To that end, we’ve taken the best of this expectations-setting exercise and compiled everything into the tips below. 

Tip #1 for better senior living lead generation tip: Make it personal.

Keep in mind that personalization goes beyond simply using a person’s first name in email subject lines (although that is a smart strategy).

When we say “personalization,” we mean providing content that is relevant to a specific person. This means you need to know the person—their hopes, their pain points, their questions. And then you need to provide helpful content that matches those hopes, solves their problems, and answers those questions.

The good news? If you take the time to develop buyer personas, you’ve done most of the heavy lifting since most prospects visiting your site will fall into one of your personas. Good marketing automation can take it from there by serving up the right content to the right person at the right time.

By the way, if you don’t think personalization is important for your senior living lead generation efforts, think again:

  • The majority of U.S. consumers (90%) consider marketing personalization very or somewhat appealing. [Source: Martech Alliance]
  • Marketers using advanced personalization (such as real-time data) can see up to a $20 return on every $1. [Source: ClickZ]
  • Personalization can deliver 5 to 8 times the ROI on marketing spend and lift sales by 10% or more. [Source: Harvard Business Review]

Tip #2 for better senior living lead generation: Don’t expect everyone to be the same.

This goes along with our previous point about buyer personas, but we’re taking it a step further. Even if you have your personas figured out, you need to keep in mind that not everyone is ready to buy now. Some leads will be interested in moving into a senior living community right away while others might be looking six months, twelve months, or even two years out

That’s why you need to think of prospects as either sales-qualified leads (SQLs) or marketing-qualified leads (MQLs). Your sales team should work the SQLs. Your marketing automation, on the other hand, will deliver personalized content to the MQLs—content that will nurture MQLs until they’re ready to shift to SQL status.

Bottom line: If you treat all leads the same, you’ll end up wasting time and valuable dollars. 

Tip #3 for better senior living lead generation: More doesn’t always mean better.

Honestly, this tip should be good news. Because the point of inbound marketing isn’t to simply bring in more traffic, the goal is to bring in more targeted traffic. Oftentimes, after implementing inbound marketing best practices, your overall website traffic might go down. But the number of quality leads will go up. That’s the metric that matters.

Attracting more quality leads goes back to the point we made in the first tip: Start by knowing your target persona and what they’re searching for in Google. Then, create compelling content based on those searches. This will help lead ideal prospects to your site via organic search (and pay-per-click advertising as well).

Then (provided you have good marketing automation in place), you can automatically score and segment your senior living leads according to whether they’re SQLs or MQLs. SQLs will go onto the sales team. And MQLs will continue to be nurtured. 

Tip #4 for better senior living lead generation: Don’t put all your dollars into third-party lead aggregators.

Third-party lead aggregators are problematic for many reasons. First issue? Third-party leads are shared leads. Second, the overall lead quality tends to be low. Third, being the first person to interact with a third-party lead is the only way to improve conversions with these leads—and that’s a lot harder than it sounds. And finally, you likely already have many of these leads in your database already. Which means you’re essentially paying for them twice.

A better approach is to put your marketing budget towards the following:

Again, focusing on organic lead gen will likely result in fewer overall leads than a third-party lead generator would deliver. But the quality will be much higher, and the leads will be 100% yours.

Bonus tip for better senior living lead generation: Work with us!

We love showing senior living sales and marketing teams how to attract better leads that actually convert into move-ins. Get in touch so we can chat about your needs. Or check out our case studies.

strategies and best practices to generate leads via website opt-ins

How To Get More Senior Living Leads via Website Opt-Ins

Your senior living website serves several purposes. First, it should welcome site visitors and clearly direct them to the information they’re seeking. Second, it should provide a good user experience, thanks to easy navigation and a nice design. Finally, it should provide numerous ways to convert anonymous site visitors into senior living leads.

Today, we’re going to discuss the latter. Below are several strategies for getting more senior living leads via website opt-ins.

1. Use compelling calls-to-action (CTAs).

Your CTAs should entice people to take action. Consider the following examples:

  • Book a tour now.
  • Download our free guide.
  • Request pricing.

Your CTAs should follow best practices, as well.

  • Be specific, and be clear
  • Design your CTAs for visual appeal.
  • Don’t clutter them with too many words.
  • Experiment with placement. For example, if you normally end blog posts with a visual CTA, try using a sliding CTA in the middle of the blog post.
  • Always test your CTAs and monitor results.

Remember, A/B testing CTAs is an excellent way to determine which one drives more conversions. Follow the basic principle of A/B testing: test only one thing at a time.

For example, your first CTA might say, “Download our free guide.” The second CTA might say, “Get our free guide.” All the other elements in the CTA should remain the same. See which one results in more clicks. Good marketing automation software, like HubSpot, bakes CTA testing into its platform.

Another important point: CTAs don’t have to be visual, either. You can have text-based CTAs as well, such as “Schedule a tour now.” (This line would link to the tour landing page.) Your site should have a good mix of both visual CTAs and text-based CTAs.

Need assistance creating a highly optimized website that converts anonymous visitors into senior living leads?

We’re a digital marketing agency focused solely on the senior living agency. Let us help.


2. Make sure your live chat captures email addresses.

Live chat is an easy way to get a person’s basic info. In fact, one of the first questions the live chat host should ask is this: “Can I get your email, just in case we get disconnected?”

Be thoughtful in how you use the emails you gather. In fact, you’ll want to carefully think through the lead nurturing workflow you enter these senior living leads into. Design a workflow specifically for people who come in via live chat.

3. Make it easy for people to subscribe to updates.

If you offer a blog subscription, make it super easy for people to subscribe. In addition to having a basic subscription box on the main blog page, consider adding lead-form “pop-ups” at the bottom of blog articles. It can say something like this: “Like what you just read? Get more articles like this. Just enter your email address.”

Do the same with monthly newsletters, podcasts, and any other type of content you regularly publish. Make it easy for people to sign up.

4. Provide different types of gated content.

People absorb information in different ways. Some folks want to sit and read a long-form piece of content, like a guide or e-book. Others prefer visuals, like an infographic. By offering multiples types of premium content, you will appeal to a wider audience.

When it comes to creating content, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, either. Repurpose one piece of content and redistribute it via different media.

For example, turn the content from a longer blog post into…

  • A nicely designed guide
  • An infographic
  • A registration-only webinar

5. Don’t skimp on your landing pages.

If you invest in awesome content and compelling CTAs, don’t let everything fizzle with a poor landing page experience. Your landing pages are the ultimate conversion point on your senior living website.

So, for example, if people are clicking on your CTA buttons, but they’re not filling out the form on the corresponding landing page, you know something isn’t working.

Like CTAs, good landing pages follow best practices. Make sure yours include:

  • Compelling copy that explains what people get in exchange for providing their contact info
  • Social “proof,” such as a testimonial or video (if applicable)*
  • Short forms with clear form fields
  • No navigation – this forces people to stay on the page
  • Visually-pleasing design that responds to mobile devices

*Regarding “social proof,” here’s what we mean. Let’s say someone clicks on a CTA that brings them to a landing page where they can request a brochure about your senior living community. Or maybe they click on CTA about scheduling a tour. Either way, including a video on the landing page of a resident talking about her experience living in your community could make the difference between someone submitting the form and someone hitting the back button.

Note: You should A/B test landing pages, just like you do CTAs.

6. Make sure all of your website forms work.

Testing forms should be a no-brainer. Sadly, we’ve encountered many funky forms in our travels.
Test all of your forms, and make sure…

  • The forms go through properly
  • People’s names are being recorded in your contacts database (and scored appropriately)
  • The person enters the correct lead nurturing workflow, if applicable
  • Anyone who submits a form receives some sort of indication the form went through successfully

Not only should you make sure all your forms work, you should also make sure the work for your audience. As in, the information you’re asking people to provide should make sense to them.

BONUS: Don’t forget old-school methods.

When people come in for a tour or some other senior living marketing event, make sure you get everyone’s contact info. For example, if a husband and wife come in for a tour, get both of their email addresses. If their adult children accompany them, get the kids’ email addresses as well.

As always, if we can be of any help, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

superhero delivering effective lead nurturing automated senior living email

Senior Living Lead Generation: Create Better Lead Nurturing Emails

Congratulations! Your senior living lead generation is WORKING! You’ve enticed anonymous websites to give you their contact info, thanks to compelling content offers.

Now what?

Make sure you’ve set up your website forms to support a strong senior living lead generation program.

Any form on your senior living website should gather basic info: first name, last name, email, and state. But it should also ask two required questions that will provide further valuable insights.

First, ask something like this: “Are you gathering this info for yourself or a loved one?”

A drop-down would appear with these choices:

  • I’m looking for myself.
  • I am an adult child looking for a parent.
  • Other

You’re keeping the options simple here, because you don’t want to overwhelm people with questions. And you don’t want to create overly complicated lead nurturing paths, either. (More on this in a moment.)

Second, ask something along these lines: “What’s your timeline for making a decision about senior living?”

A drop-down would appear with these choices:

  • ASAP
  • 3-6 months
  • 6-12 months
  • 12-24 months
  • No timeline—just researching

Again, you’d don’t want to overwhelm visitors with too many choices. And you don’t want to complicate the lead nurturing paths you set up.

Now that you’ve set up proper lead forms, you can think about the next steps.

Lead nurturing best practices: Turbocharge your senior living lead generation program.

1. Score and segment your senior living leads.

See? Everything we recommended earlier with the website forms serves a purpose. By allowing your prospects to self-identify who they are and where they are in their journey, you can score and segment your senior living leads accordingly: marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs).

For example, an adult child who is looking to make a decision for her mother ASAP should be funneled directly to the sales team for immediate follow up. This is a classic SQL.

But you can place anyone who chooses one of the other timelines into a longer-term lead nurturing workflow. This way, you can nurture these “not ready yet” leads, or MQLs. The goal involves staying in front of them so that when they ARE ready, they will think of your community first.

Depending on your internal resources at the outset, you can drill down deep into the lead nurturing “logic.”

So, let’s consider someone who is researching senior living for herself. If she is making her decision ASAP, she will become an SQL and go to sales. But if she chooses one of the following timelines, she’ll be considered an MQL primed for nurturing:

  • 3-6 months
  • 6-12 months
  • 12-24 months

Now, here’s the thing: You’ll need to create a separate set of lead nurturing emails for each timeframe.

For example, if the person conducting her own research enters the 3- to 6-month workflow, she would receive one set of emails. Another person entering the 6- to 12-month workflow would receive a different set. And so forth.

Yes, some of the emails in each set might be similar—or even identical.

Remember, you want to personalize the emails so that they match where the person is in their buying journey. An adult child researching options for her dad to move in 18 months is in a very different place from an eighty-year-old woman needing to move by the end of the year and researching for herself.

If you’ve been thinking, “Gee, that sounds like a lot of emails we need to write and set up,” you’re correct!

But, again: some emails will work in all of your lead nurturing campaigns. And others might only require a few tweaks. Plus, once you do the initial set-up, it becomes an extremely easy program to manage and even tweak, provided you use marketing automation, which brings us to our next best practice . . .

2. Use marketing automation for your senior living lead generation.

Your senior living sales and marketing teams don’t need to manually score leads, segment them, and send the emails. Marketing automation takes care of it. This way, the sales and marketing teams can focus on the RESULTS, specifically the analytics, so they can respond accordingly.

And it goes without saying, but most leads should change from MQL to SQL over time. At least, that’s the goal.

For example, let’s say a prospect in the “I’m an adult child researching for a parent in the next 6-12 months” category is opening your emails, downloading content, and spending more time on the site. You can change the lead score from marketing qualified to sales qualified. (And if you have a robust marketing automation system, you can program it to automatically make this change based on the lead behavior). Now, the sales team can follow up directly with the lead since the person appears to be super interested.

Bottom line: A good lead nurturing program helps salespeople focus on the best opportunities. And it helps the marketing team understand which types of emails and content drive conversions. Armed with this information, the marketing team can focus on creating more content like it.

Need help right away?

At Senior Living SMART, we love helping senior living sales and marketing teams shine.
Reach out and let’s talk!

3. Follow email marketing best practices.

Like everything else, email marketing best practices evolve. But certain evergreen practices will always remain true:

  • Pay attention to grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Nothing yells amateur like careless mistakes.
  • Shorter is almost always better. First, leave long-form copy to your guides and e-books. Second, keep emails short and highly skimmable.
  • Make your emails mobile responsive. More and more people are reading emails on smaller devices like tablets and phones. (Yes, this includes older adults.) Test your emails on a variety of devices. Some marketing software, like HubSpot, bakes this feature into its platform.
  • Keep subject lines succinct. MailChimp recommends no more than nine words or 60 characters.
  • Send the email from a real person. You don’t want to make it look auto-generated by having a [email protected] email.

Remember, make it about the buyer. Don’t lead by talking about your community. Think about the pain points the person might be experiencing. How can you solve for these pain points? Offering a piece of helpful content is a great place to start.

As for current email marketing trends, here are some to consider testing:

  1. Personalization. Emails that include a person’s name in the subject line have a 29% higher unique open rate and 41% more unique click-through rates.
  2. Experiment with emojis (but still use sparingly). Emojis are a popular trend right now, and mileage varies widely. But you could test subject lines with one emoji.

For example, if one of the emails in your lead nurturing set includes inviting someone to have lunch at your community, your subject line could be something playful: Lunch on us! WE HAVE CAKE! (Then, include a cake emoji 🍰).

Test and see if the subject line with the emoji improves open rates, but also keep in mind that open rates are just ONE metric. Conversions are what matter most. In other words, do you get more people requesting lunch when you use a subject line with an emoji? THAT is what you need to pay attention to.

4. Don’t set it and forget it.

Marketing automation makes life easier because it reduces the manual labor. But you still have to use your noggin and regularly review the analytics and make smart decisions based on what the numbers are telling you.

You also need to make adjustments to lead nurturing emails when something unexpected happens. For example, if you run any lead nurturing campaigns right now, you’d be remiss if you didn’t acknowledge the pandemic.

5. Seek help with your senior living lead generation when you need it.

Setting up a well-designed senior living lead generation program doesn’t just happen. And not every marketing or sales team has the requisite skill sets. Working with a reputable senior living marketing agency that has experience in lead generation can save you time and money.

Need help right away?

At Senior Living SMART, we love helping senior living sales and marketing teams shine.
Reach out and let’s talk!