By Leigh Ann Hubbard

Remember when referrals were king — when most move-ins came from a professional’s recommendation? You’d spend hours networking and schmoozing to stay top-of-mind.

Then that started shifting.

Over the last decade or so, 30% to 50% of move-ins have begun coming from online sources. Over the last year, during COVID with social distancing and shelter-in-place mandates, consumers’ use of online resources has increased.

As society has shifted online, senior living customers have been shopping for communities like they shop for everything else — and it’s not by going straight to a community’s website. Before they ever get there, they read reviews, of course! (Don’t you?)

Smart communities are maximizing on this shift — and by doing so, increasing move-ins. Since (a Foresight partner) is the number-one review site in senior living, we tapped into their insights about modern consumer behaviors, to see how you can jump on the trends.

Aggregator Sites Are the First Stop

Whether you’re shopping for a hotel, restaurant, or mortgage, chances are you’ll turn to an aggregator website or online directory to compare options and read consumer reviews first — before narrowing down a few companies to contact.

That’s how people now shop for senior living too. They want to explore their options and see that other people like a community before deciding whether they might too. According to a 2020 BrightLocal survey, 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses — up from 67% in 2010. Their 2019 survey spliced the data by demographics: Among US adults aged 55+, more than half won’t use a business that has fewer than four stars.

Many senior living searchers also like getting a free consultation with a third-party expert like Caring’s Family Advisors, who help the senior and their family members consider levels of care, price points, amenity and service preferences, and what to look for on tours. Caring’s Family Advisors also help seniors and their family members schedule the tours with well-matched senior living communities in Caring’s partner network. (Caring’s online directory also includes other licensed care communities not yet in their network, with consumer reviews available for those communities as well.) 

Beyond Stars, Think Legitimacy

Predictably, the most important review factor is star rating, according to the 2020 BrightLocal survey. The second most important? Legitimacy.

When deciding where to focus your review efforts, consider how consumers experience each site. Some senior living sites, for example, only let people see all the reviews in exchange for contact information. (Caring’s reviews are visible with no strings attached.) 

And we’ve all seen reviews that seem suspicious or otherwise odd, right? Consider whether the site has filters in place for unscrupulous situations. For example, Caring’s senior care experts read and evaluate every review before it’s published.

Consumers Don’t Scroll on Google

Google the phrase “senior living” and you’ll get more than 2.5 billion results. But 28.5% of people will click on the first one, according to a 2020 Sistrix study. 70% don’t get past the fifth.

Search engine optimization is essential to get your community seen. It’s also technical, complicated, and often costly, especially for competitive terms. And it’s notoriously ever-changing. What works today may not work tomorrow.

That’s why Caring employs what Denise Graab, director of industry marketing, calls a “small army” of experts to constantly work on it. So while you maximize your SEO in whatever way your budget and time allow, you can also rely on your maximized Caring listing to keep you front and center.

Need More Help?

Recently, a new Caring partner whose listing’s success surprised even him told Denise, “I absolutely believe the industry’s business owners are missing the fact that their online reputation is essential to growth and keeping their facilities full. Families are absolutely reading reviews, and they need to be current and extensive to be effective.”

For help getting great reviews, please contact [email protected] to take advantage of their review support services — including the industry’s first call-in reviews. They’re also hosting a series of webinars this summer to provide deep insights for senior living communities on getting and responding to online consumer reviews and be recognized as a Caring Star award-winning community.

Caring’s Partner Success team is also available to assist communities in their network to update community profile photos, service descriptions, rates, and more — to help ensure a steady flow of prospective customer referrals. Partner Portal is another way communities in Caring’s network can update their listings, peruse referrals, read performance reports, and run review solicitation campaigns.

If you’re not yet a partner, contact [email protected] or (855) 897-2433 to learn more about how to grow your business on the platform (and please mention that you read this article on Senior Living Foresight).

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