From the perspective of senior living communities, marketing can be a tricky business.

By Susan Saldibar

From the perspective of senior living communities, marketing can be a tricky business. On one hand, it’s important to establish your brand and get your competitive footing secure; on the other, you may not have the time it takes to put all the marketing gears in place that are needed to serve today’s web- and mobile-savvy clients.

I caught up with Ashley Nicol, Senior Living Client Services Manager for G5, a Senior Housing Forum partner, for a quick Q&A on the changes and challenges that are in store for the digital marketing landscape in 2016.

Q: First, I understand that G5 is a data-driven digital marketing company. What exactly does that mean?

A: The simplest way to describe what G5 does is to say that we increase marketing confidence and increase lead generation. That involves helping senior living businesses manage their digital marketing across multiple touchpoints where prospects, their families, and residents interact with their brand online.

It’s important that providers represent their communities in the digital world the same way a prospect or resident would encounter them face-to-face. And they need to know if they’re achieving that consistency, which is possible through data-driven insights that show what’s working well and getting results – and what needs course correction.

Essentially, we take the guesswork out of where marketing dollars should be put and make campaign ROI repeatable and predictable across multiple digital channels such as the website, paid advertising, and search.

Q: We hear a lot about the importance of data for building effective marketing strategies today. Can you expand on what you mean by data-driven insights?

A: Business and marketing decisions shouldn’t be based on opinion; they should be based on fact.

Say, for example, that you own a senior living community and suspect your website is due for a redesign but you’re not quite sure how to get started. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) measures how well your website is answering your prospects’ questions and then guides them to take the action you intend them to take. This helps you learn where visitors spend most of their time on your site and why they are or aren’t converting – so you can fix it.

We’ve learned, for example, that in most cases soft calls-to-action (for example, “view care levels”) should appear higher up on your web page, and more direct calls-to-action, such as “schedule a tour,” should appear lower down on the page. CRO lets you take your hypotheses, test them, and optimize your site based on your findings. It really is a science that lets you make smart marketing choices that are backed by data.

Conversion Rate Optimization: heat map example


Q: It seems as if Search Engine Optimization (SEO) changes its stripes so often in terms of what type of content is best for search engines and how to optimize for page ranking. What challenges can we expect to encounter in 2016?

A: There was a time when you could skate by with basic SEO. But you have to be better than “just good” at SEO to survive today. The major search engines continue to evolve their algorithms, which means organizations need to be on their toes with regards to putting high-quality content out there. Any “black hat” practices, like those that focus solely on targeting search engines rather than human audiences, will get dinged. And it will take some time to regain lost ground.

Best practice is to be authentic and publish content that answers the questions your prospects have and the search engines will follow your lead. By being authentic and providing relevant content, you will naturally gain high organic search visibility. Search engines are looking at relevancy and measuring websites on the trust they build with their visitors. That isn’t something you can simply set and forget. As user behavior changes, so do their expectations on finding useful, always-evolving information from businesses.

Q: We’ve been in the 21st century for a while now, but it’s still hard to wrap our heads around marketing to a new generation of Baby Boomer adult children and, soon, residents. Any words of wisdom?

A: Today it is no longer sufficient to have the basics nailed with just demographic knowledge. You really need to dive deeper. Now, more than ever, it’s important to develop comprehensive personas that reflect the demographics, values, and pain points of your target senior living customers. This will allow you to personalize your website to speak to each of these different segments. When that is not done, you’re diluting your website messaging and not hitting any nail on the head. It’s a process that we have been optimizing for years and that nets a much higher web conversion rate.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you want to speak to an adult child who is in the process of making a difficult decision about a parent. You should be displaying clear messaging to lead that prospect down a path that will provide him or her with the resources, reassurance, and help needed to get started with this move.

Q: We are hearing more and more about the growing power of analytics. How are they changing, and what do we need to know to make data work harder for us?

A: It’s important to not let the amount and depth of data available intimidate you. The goal is to gain insights that you can act upon – and quickly. What we are also doing at G5 is providing clients with the ability to benchmark their own performance against competition like Internet Listing Services, or ILSs. Many senior living communities are not really aware of how distracting it can be when a user goes to search for their website and an ILS shows up along with them in the search results. It can divert prospects, drive up acquisition costs, and even take away leads. Using analytics, we can help clearly demonstrate what’s happening behind the scenes and provide recommendations for how to take those leads back.

To learn more about G5 and the powerful tools they offer to help senior living organizations compete more effectively in a digital world, visit