The development of a strong website with relevant content that is search-engine friendly is becoming increasingly important in the senior living industry. As housing rebounds and more older boomers look to sell their homes and move into active senior communities and assisted living facilities, reliance on the Internet is greater than ever before.
With seniors and their adult children becoming savvier in Internet usage, it is becoming critical for the senior living market to address its target audiences online. A strong website that is easily found by the search engines (such as Yahoo and Google) is key to generating interest. For some, it is the first step to determine which community to visit.
Forward-thinking operators and owners of senior living communities are learning to harness the power of the Internet.
One example is Franciscan Communities, which currently operates senior living communities in Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois and Ohio. The senior living provider overhauled its website in recent years to market more effectively to this audience.
The 115-year old company’s adoption of new media has helped strengthen its leadership position in the senior living industry, according to Steven Kozy, Franciscan Communities’ corporate director of sales and marketing, Kozy collaborated with Stevens & Tate Marketing and its Endora Digital Solutions Internet team to create and execute Franciscan’s online strategy.
Endora Digital designed a website that serves as an introduction to Franciscan’s senior living communities and community-based services. The site educates visitors on the various communities, including their amenities and services. The ultimate objective is to drive visitors to the community website that best fits their needs.
Enhancements and revisions are made each year to keep the content and navigability fresh. The website is also designed to be search engine friendly, so when prospective residents key in search terms such as “senior living” and a specific geographic location, the Franciscan Communities corporate website appears at the top of the list of websites.
With a focus on maximizing the search engine friendliness of the site, Kozy reports that traffic from search engines accounts for almost 50% of the overall traffic on the corporate website, and the majority of the traffic on the communities’ websites. In fact, Kozy reports that the Franciscan corporate website refers more traffic to the community sites than Google and Yahoo.
Prior to focusing on an Internet campaign, Franciscan’s marketing dollars were primarily focused on direct mail. According to Kozy, Franciscan’s web presence has greatly enhanced the effectiveness of its marketing campaigns and additional dollars have been allocated to Internet marketing.
In addition to designing a site that is user-friendly and search-engine optimized, Stevens & Tate and Endora Digital Solutions worked with Kozy to create content that engages visitors to the website. The robust website offers interactive tools such as a “Lifestyle Assessment” and a “Financing/Cost of Living Calculator.” A moving tips/checklist helps seniors plan accordingly for that life-changing event. These tools are to help any senior in the planning process of deciding if a senior living environment is right for them and helps them analyze the costs involved in making this decision.
The content needs to educate prospective residents while it helps build trust so that when they walk into a Franciscan residence for a tour, they have a good knowledge base and comfort level when talking to the staff, this writer believes. These interactive tools help them identify what questions to ask and basically expedite the sales process.
In addition, it is extremely important that the site be easy to navigate.
“Oftentimes, an adult child will need to find a community fast, due to the unexpected change in a parent’s health,” Kozy said. “These children turn to our site. They first pick a community, and then they look at other amenities and programs. They come to the site equipped with specific questions, to which they can easily find the answers.”
The content is peppered with photos of healthy, active seniors along with testimonials from residents. The new Franciscan website is working well, Kozy says, noting that he has received numerous compliments about the site’s ease of navigation.
“Prospective clients can move around in the pages quite easily. Their questions are answered in a straightforward manner,” said Kozy.