Jay Goldstein talks with Steve Moran about Pay per move-in vs. Pay per lead

As you may have read in January, this year SeniorHomes.com joined forces with Caring.com, a Senior Housing Forum Partner.  That joining of resources means great things for senior living providers and consumers.  

A part of that alignment process meant moving some of the SeniorHomes.com customers away from a pay-per-lead model to a pay-per-move-in model.  I had an opportunity recently to sit down with Jay Goldstein, founder of SeniorHomes.com and now a Caring.com vice president, to talk about why the pay-per-move-in model is better for providers.

 The Conversation

Steve: There are three primary ways that senior living websites make money, just to make sure we are talking common language…

  1. Subscription listings
  2. Pay-per-lead
  3. Pay-per-move-in.

Which of these did Senior Homes offer?

Jay: Senior Homes did not offer a subscription model. We did offer pay-per-lead, and also pay-per-move-in like Caring. About 50% percent of our communities were on pay-per- move-in, while the remaining 50% were pay-per-lead.

Steve: Which is better and why?

Jay: It depends on your perspective. But, for us, the process was the same either way. We have to acquire the traffic, qualify the leads, match it to a community, and follow up. Pay-per-lead is a little easier for us as the vendor. With that model, we acquire, match, and send the leads, then invoice once a month. Pay-per move-in is more advantageous for the communities as the vendor is taking on all of the risk. Unless the community works the referral and gets a move-in, we don’t earn anything to cover our costs of acquiring, screening, and qualifying the lead.

Steve: Don’t you send more leads to your pay-per-lead clients?

Jay: It’s not wise to send every lead you get; they need to be qualified and matched. As SeniorHomes when we offered both models, our customers got nearly the same number of leads regardless of payment type.

With Caring.com, the biggest driver of lead volume is consumer reviews. Since Caring is a consumer-choice site, payment model doesn’t really matter; if you have ten great five-star reviews, lots of consumers are going to request to visit your community and you’re going to get lots of referrals from us. 

One thing we changed when we combined the two companies is that we now no longer send “un-certified” leads; every lead we send to any partner has been through our “Family Advisor” call center. Out of 1,000 inquiries, we might deliver 400 referrals to communities. That other 60 percent weren’t qualified or well-matched for one reason or another.

Maybe they didn’t have the funds. Maybe they have to pay with Medicaid, which private-pay locations can’t accept. Maybe the consumer didn’t realize that the community was 40 miles away. Or, most commonly, they didn’t realize that community didn’t offer the care type they were looking for. We do a lot to educate consumers about what’s available and reasonable for their specific needs, preferences, and budget.

Steve: How do you decide when a lead can be sent to a community? Aren’t you better off if you send as many leads as you can? Wouldn’t that increase your odds of being paid?

JAY: Our initial criteria are really those three things I mentioned: 

  1. Financial qualification, 
  2. Location
  3. Care type

Then, our Family Advisors will use the descriptions provided by the communities about what makes them unique and special, plus any reviews posted by community residents, to identify places that will be a great fit for the family.

That doesn’t mean all referrals will result in a move-in. Communities that are quick to respond and do a good job following up might see as much as a 10% conversion rate for referrals they get from us, but even then, nine out of 10 referrals don’t move in – which is another reason that communities like paying per move-in rather than per lead.

And, let me explain why we don’t just send out every lead that comes into our senior housing helpline, why we avoid the “spray and pray” approach. If we did that, communities aren’t going to want to have an ongoing relationship with us. They’ll think, “I’m wasting my time and I don’t want to work with them.” Or, they may just start ignoring our leads.

The cost is on us to generate, match, and send leads. If we’re sending folks who are poorly matched to the communities we suggested, don’t have the budget for those communities, or otherwise are “bad leads,” the communities are right to ignore them.

Steve: How was the transition as you moved away from the pay-per-lead model?

JAY: I think customers have been very satisfied with it, since it removes all their risk. Mostly, though, they’re happy that Caring and SeniorHomes are now combined. The fact that they don’t have to deal with two different vendors makes it simpler for them. How they get the leads, how they’re invoiced for the leads, who they talk to if things need to be worked out, is simplified. I think they appreciate that.

Steve: So you’re continuing to maintain the Senior Home’s website and it’s going to continue to look like it always did? Now you have two strong properties on the Internet from an SEO standpoint that are both feeding leads into a common funnel?

JAY: On the business side, yes, you can look at it as that SEO benefit. But really we think of it as two different offerings going out to consumers. Some consumers are more attracted to one, some to the other.

For instance, SeniorHomes is particularly strong in the Pacific Northwest, while Caring.com has content for people who may not know yet what they’re looking for. What’s going to make them feel comfortable to get started? We always used to say, we wanted to help people take that first step. We’d introduce them to what’s out there, help them understand their choices, and send them to great communities. Whether they find us via SeniorHomes.com or Caring.com, we’ll deliver an experience that helps people feel connected to valuable information and resources.


Stay tuned for Part 2 in which we’ll talk about occupancy and additional approaches to website marketing . . .

 Steve Moran