Evaluating Your Senior Living Website: Expert Tips
The beginning of any year is a great time to audit your senior living community’s website. Why should you audit your site? First, it’s easy to get too close to something and gloss over problems. Second, your website isn’t static. In order for it to work hard for you, it needs to constantly evolve.
Here’s a comprehensive guide to auditing your site, broken down into relevant sections: the buyer’s journey, look and feel, technical stuff, content, and analytics/results.
THE BUYER’S JOURNEY
All of your marketing and sales efforts should begin and end with the buyer’s journey. If you truly understand your buyers—who they are, what they want, where they are in their process—then you’re already way ahead of the game.
So how can you tell if your website effectively serves your prospective residents and/or their families during the various points of their journeys?
Many strategies exist from heat mapping (a tool that allows you to see where site visitors focus/click/spend most of their time on your website) to user studies to digging into your website’s backend analytics (e.g., bounce rate).
But sometimes the best thing you can do is ask yourself to view the site from different perspectives.
For example, if I’m an adult child who is researching living arrangements for an aging parent with dementia, does the site make it clear what I need to do/where I should go next? Or if I’m a senior who is searching for a next step for my spouse and myself—and I need to make a move this year—does the site make it clear what I need to do/where I should go next?
Your site needs to clearly communicate the right message to different buyers (including the various stages the buyer might be in—awareness, consideration, decision), and your site needs to help people self-identify so they know where to click next.
Remember, you need to think beyond the home page, too. Yes, your home page will be one of your most trafficked pages, but not everyone will enter the site on your home page. Someone coming in from organic search might land on a blog post. Someone coming in from a pay-per-click campaign will come in on a custom landing page.
Every page of the site needs to keep the buyer in mind. If it seems like a daunting task, well—that’s because it can be.
But to make it easier, always ask yourself this: if I were in the buyer’s shoes, what information would I want? Let that be your guiding principle and build from there.
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LOOK AND FEEL
Does the design say 2020 or 1999?
It’s hard to believe we’re in the second decade of this century, but here we are. Your website needs to be modern and fresh. It’s surprising how quickly designs can look dated. Even a five-year-old design can feel old.
Does the site render well/correctly on various devices?
You absolutely need a website that’s “responsive,” meaning that the site will automatically adjust itself to render properly (and look good) on devices of various sizes—desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones.
Does the site design work for your audience?
Your site talks to an older demographic: from seniors who are looking for their next move to adult children doing searches on behalf of mom and dad. For example, not all modern fonts were developed with aging eyes in mind.
The good news is you don’t have to sacrifice a modern feel for excellent functionality in today’s design landscape, but you do need to be aware—and, more importantly, make sure your designer is aware—of this specific need.
Does the site design SPEAK to your audience?
More than just colors and font size, you need images that convey and capture your community. Avoid stock photography and invest in pictures depicting real places and real people. Got an awesome bar with a cozy fireplace that residents love using? Make sure you have a photo of that. Got a wonderful fitness area with classes designed for older demographics? Again, let’s see pictures.
When people are searching for a senior living community, they’re looking for a place they can call home. So, introduce them to what “home” is like in your senior living community.
Is the website navigation simple and clear?
The key is organizing the navigation in a way that makes sense to site visitors and to the all-mighty Google. Your navigation also needs to adjust for small devices (think hamburger menus on phones). In fact, the navigation in the desktop version of your site will and should look different from the way it displays on phones. So when it comes to navigation, you need to think both big and small.
Is your site optimized for search?
You’ve likely heard of search engine optimization (SEO). Essentially, you need to build your site in a way that’s easy for search engines like Google to find, crawl, and index the various pages on your site. Sounds simple on the surface, but there’s a lot that goes into on-page SEO and off-page SEO. Bottom line: follow best practices (and always build and write for humans first, search engines second).
Is the site fast?
Your site must load quickly. Think of how many times you’ve been annoyed by slow-loading sites or endless pinwheels while you wait—provided you wait at all. You’re already working in a crowded space. Don’t make it any easier for people to write off your community’s website.
Is the site secure?
A secure site is important for two reasons: it’s important to your prospective buyer—more and more people know to only click on secure websites (those that begin with https) even if they can’t articulate why. Certain browsers will even alert people if they’re about to visit a site that isn’t secure. Second, Google now uses https as a ranking signal.
Do the techie add-ons/tools serve the site visitor?
Cool tools abound. But whatever plug-in you add to your site, it needs to support your main mission: serving the prospect on their journey. Live chat that’s thoughtfully implemented and actually operated by real humans (at least some of the time) is better than a bot you install (and forget about) just for the sake of appearances.
Do you need to change hosting companies?
This is often an overlooked technical item, which is why we talk about seven signs it’s time to change hosting companies.
Is the messaging clear, concise, and consistent across the entire site?
Again, thinking of your buyers first, you need messaging that speaks directly to them in clear, concise and consistent language across the entire site (and across all your marketing materials). We wrote a post a few years ago about four important questions your site visitors want answered on senior living websites, and these questions are still true today: can I afford it, where will I live, what will I do, and will I be cared for?
Demonstrate through words, images, and downloadable content how you answer these questions and perceived problems.
Does the site have compelling offers for people at various points in their journey?
By “offers,” we mean premium content that people get for free in exchange for giving up some information about themselves—particularly name, email, and where they are in their journey. You need to develop content for every stage of the infamous sales “funnel”—the top (where people are just getting started on their education) all the way to the bottom (where people are likely trying to decide between your community and a couple of others).
Again, you need to think like your prospects. What information do they need? What will help them feel secure, knowledgeable, happy, less scared? Make sure you have this content sprinkled throughout the site (since you don’t know where people will enter) as well in one main resource “repository.” (Which should be indicated in the nav.)
Does the site have enticing calls-to-action (CTAs)?
CTAs essentially tell people what you want them to do next. Important note: that next step, in most cases, won’t be something like “Call now.” Think about the page you’re adding the CTA to. What’s it about? What’s the logical next step? The next step might be reading a blog post with further information or it might be downloading a free guide. And yes, in some cases, it might be “Set up a tour” or “Request Pricing” or “Call now.”
Do you offer plenty of ungated content that demonstrates expertise?
Not everyone is ready to give their name, email, and phone number—especially in our industry where, sadly, we’re known for pushy sales people. Make sure your site has plenty of “ungated” content (meaning no form required) like a blog. And make sure the material isn’t fluffy and superficial.
ANALYTICS & RESULTS
The proof is ALWAYS in the results. A truly effective senior living website is one the delivers results. For most of us, the all-important benchmark is the lead-to-move-in conversion rate. Of course, other metrics along the way are important, such as email opens and click-through-rates on certain links, webinar sign-ups, contact forms, calls, and all the nitty-gritty website analytics, such as page views and bounce rates.
It’s essential that your website doesn’t operate in a vacuum—that it isn’t simply a thing that sits in cyberspace. Someone in your marketing and sales teams needs to focus on the numbers.
Make sure you have someone on the marketing side and sales side tasked with regularly reviewing analytics and understanding 1) how to interpret them correctly and 2) how to respond to them appropriately. That first part is critical: we’d argue most people don’t understand analytics and the real story they’re telling. People need a strong analytics background, which involves statistics, data sets, and so forth. AND they need to enjoy numbers.
For example, maybe site traffic has gone up and everyone is cheering, but unless your conversions have gone up, what does it matter, right? More traffic is simply that: more. You need targeted traffic that results in increased move-ins. Hint: Here are five marketing metrics everyone on the team should understand.
Remember, you don’t have to go it alone.
Your marketing and sales teams are busy as it is. Working with a marketing partner with lots of experience in the senior living industry can be one of the best decisions you make to take your senior living marketing and sales to the next level. At Senior Living SMART, we provide just the right amount of support your team needs, and none of the waste that so many other marketing agencies generate.
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