Remedies to actually optimize Search Engine Optimization…

By Pam McDonald

Trying to keep up with best practices in search engine optimization (SEO) can be confusing and time consuming. That’s why I especially appreciate it when Katie Roper, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for, a Senior Housing Forum Partner, last week shared learnings from Caring’s recent SEO Webinar.

Top Of The List

She reiterated that the quest for all businesses (including your community) on the Internet is to be at the top of the list of search engine results (SER). The reason is simple. Research shows that:

  • Over 90% of Internet searchers don’t go beyond the first page of search results;
  • 70% only look at the first four results; and
  • 33% look only at the first result.

Naturally, your results will be better when the search term is the exact name of your community and a geographic locator. For example, when I search for “Brookdale Plaza, Chicago” the first organic result is Brookdale’s website and the heading “Senior Living Chicago; Brookdale Plaza Lake Shore Drive.”

In fact, if you search for your community using its name as printed on your business card and the first listing is something other than your community, you’ve got a serious problem – either with your business card or your SEO – because consumers increasing use Google as a substitute for the phone book.

Prospects in their own research or discovery phase, may know the corporate name for your community, which for “Brookdale, Chicago” netted the same results as for “Brookdale Plaza, Chicago.” But many people, especially adult children researching care for parents who do not live in the same town as they do, are going to search for big, generic overview categories, like assisted living, senior living, or memory care. In SEO parlance, these are called “root” terms.

When root terms are used for Internet searches, the listing of results are very different. You can say goodbye to specific community listings. Goodbye even to listings of corporate websites. For “assisted living, Chicago,” poor ol’ Brookdale did not even make the first page of results – only Sunrise Senior Living did.

The Root of the Problem

At this juncture, as Katie pointed out, the story goes like this:

  • It is hard to rank high for general or “root” terms for SEO;
  • Even if you do the right things, you have to do them for years sometimes to get to the top spot
  • You have two choices to make sure people find you when they search for ‘assisted living in Chicago’

            1) invest thousands of dollars a year in SEO optimization (an average spend is $3,000 to $5,000 per month), with a consultant who knows what s/he is doing and then wait for Google to find you; or

            2) attach yourself – like a barnacle – to a site that does rank high for those root terms

Katie added, “We think the optimal course for a company with one or two communities within a town is to optimize SEO so that you show up first when someone searches for your name specifically. Then work with a company like to rank high when someone searches for the general terms.”

Back to the Chicago example, came up as the fourth listing in the results. SER for root terms in the senior living industry will include online referral agencies, like; printed and/or online senior living directories, like and even the Yellow Pages; plus the occasional senior housing company with a large SEO budget and a long-time horizon.

That’s why the barnacle strategy – of linking to a reputable website with high-quality content like a barnacle attaches itself to a ship – can be so productive.

To listen to a recording of Caring’s Digital Marketing Academy webinar on SEO, go to and click on the link for “Past Webinars”, or read the summary blog post at