Bickford Senior Living’s 50 locations around the country provide a family environment for senior residents who can no longer live alone. A longstanding ReachLocal search engine advertising customer, Bickford wanted to drive more leads through their website rather than relying on lead aggregators that provide the same lead information to multiple assisted living facilities. However, Bickford’s new website wasn’t showing up in organic search results, so they turned to ReachLocal for help with search engine optimization (SEO).

Within four months, the SEO project delivered great results. Most importantly, Bickford has seen 100% increase in the number of resident move-ins coming from web leads. All the other important web metrics have also improved.

A case study about Bickford’s SEO project highlights three important online marketing lessons relevant to any organization:

1. All Web Traffic Is Not Created Equal

Sometimes people focus on metrics that look good but don’t really impact the business. Overall web site traffic is one of those metrics. The old adage, “It’s quality, not quantity” couldn’t be more relevant to online marketing. You want to bring visitors to the site that are actually interested in your product or service and have the potential to convert into customers. While this may seem intuitive, some businesses concentrate more on bringing “eyeballs” to the website rather than attracting a lower number of more qualified visitors.

Why is unqualified traffic bad? Search engines look at the quality of your website as part of the algorithm that determines search results. “Bounce rate” measures visitors coming to your website and leaving without going to another page within the site. A high bounce rate, as well as low “time spent on site,” indicates that visitors are not finding the information they are looking for. Search engines are constantly trying to weed out spam sites, so pages with high bounce rate risk being penalized or even banned from appearing in search results. Bickford had used a number of different domain names to redirect web traffic to their main site so the overall traffic was high, but so was the bounce rate, causing a negative impact to their organic search results.

2. Design SEO Into Your Website Before You Build It

SEO concepts should be incorporated during the planning and building of a new website, not afterwards. Retrofitting SEO into an existing website takes more time than implementing SEO tactics while the site is being constructed. Some elements of SEO are structural, so making these changes can be very difficult once the design and coding is complete. The technology used to build the site should be SEO-compatible. For example, using Flash for animated graphics can be visually spectacular, but is disastrous for SEO since search engines can’t read Flash content.

Rewriting copy to include relevant keywords, editing or adding tags, speeding up page load-times and other SEO modifications takes additional time and money that could have been spent on other revenue-generating activities. Bickford’s website is beautiful and engaging, but SEO principles weren’t adequately incorporated in the initial construction and most of the optimization work had to be done after the site was live.

3. SEO and Search Engine Advertising Work Better Together

Studies have shown that using SEO and search engine advertising together improves the performance of both and drives incremental traffic to your website. Analyzing the keyword and conversion data from both tactics can tell you what high value keywords to focus on. Since you can only effectively optimize a limited number of keywords using SEO, search engine advertising can provide more broad coverage of other good value terms. While clicks from organic search results are free, SEO is a long-term process, while search engine advertising can bring instant results.

Optimization of landing pages can also bring up the quality score in Google’s AdWords paid search. Higher quality scores enable your paid keywords to show up in better positions for less money. Once Bickford’s site was optimized, their SEM campaigns began performing better with lower cost-per-click than before.

Bickford’s SEO Results

  • 100% increase in resident move-ins coming from web leads
  • 176% increase in visits
  • 51% increase in organic visits
  • 80% improvement in bounce rate on home page
  • 91% of location pages with page 1 Google rank for at least one non-branded keyword

Download the entire Bickford Senior Living case study to learn more about the project and results.