Why Do Bad Senior Sites Do Well?

David BesnetteOver the past year or so, I have spent time watching the shuffling of sites in our beloved search engine ranking system, with “G” being the top dog of the bunch of course.   Websites, site owners, and webmasters have been scrambling to try to figure out how to respond to the new algorithms, and all of the heresy coming out of the internet pundits, other webmasters, and of course, trying to gauge what we believe by looking at the types of sites ranking at the top, or doing well.

It’s been frustrating to me, watching that last part – seeing sites that are dominating our ever-crowded senior care niche that are really questionable, not-straightforward, and downright bad – be rewarded handsomely for their efforts.    It goes against everything that “G” says publicly that they are looking for in good websites – originality, good content, solid coding, no-seo-shenanigans or black-hat tactics, and solid social support.

The sites in our assisted living industry that I see ranking well now often-times only do well on one of those fronts – good coding.  They are sites that are pretty to look at, and have obviously had a talented webmaster or web team behind them, but that’s about as far as it goes.

Take this site for example: http://tinyurl.com/aqrxrzv
– and I am doing the ‘tinyurl’ thing for it just so I don’t give it any sort of a boost for linking to it directly.

Why does it rank well? There are no direct phone numbers or contacts for each facility.   The facility list doesn’t come up until you click into a link to request it – which, to me, offers a good signal to search engines by lowering bounce rate, and adding to time on site, but it offers a lousy user experience.  Once you do get a facility list, there isn’t any way from there to contact the facility – everything the user does gets funneled into a referral form.

Is that really the type of information people are looking for?  I think not, but to a search engine, it probably looks pretty good.  People are on the site for a while, clicking around to find information that they will likely never get.

It’s really a bummer that I am seeing most of the sites at the top of the rankings doing exactly this – putting on a front that they offer good information, but when you finally look under the hood, there isn’t much there other than a way for them to collect your money, or information.

Let me be clear – I love it when good sites rank well – even if they rank above our little pond –  Assisted Living Directory.  

It’s hard, though, for all of the genuinely true experts, caregivers and contributors that work on our site – to have their content and efforts ousted by a site that has basically scraped a database, or another site, or who have piggybacked on other business names and addresses to rank well, but to offer a confusing and manipulative user experience.

For Assisted Living Directory, and other sites out there who actually do original content, and work hard to ‘follow the rules’ – we’ll keep plugging away, staying the course, and getting up each morning to ‘make the doughnuts’ as it were – in hopes that maybe someday, our efforts will be rewarded a little more, and that sites who spend time looking good to non-humans out there, that maybe they’ll stop enjoying the fruits of their lack of labor.

2 thoughts on “Why Do Bad Senior Sites Do Well?

  1. Tim Colling

    I agree with everything you said about. The websites that lead to such paid referrals are a real pain. However, they are doing their best to market their service, just like we all are. We just have to overcome and prevail.

    How does your business work? Do you find placement for seniors by charging a fee to them, or do you receive a commission from the facilities that you place seniors in?

  2. admin Post author

    Hi Tim, I really appreciate your comment, and also have enjoyed connecting with you on G+. Thanks so much.
    I have to say that I am not against advertising, or paid referrals. What I see that is so frustrating is sites that borrow a businesses name, and address (ususally in a list) but don’t offer any way to directly contact them, and/or you have to click a dozen times through a site to get to the pertinent info, if it exists at all. Most of the time, it just leads to a referral form that isn’t so obvious that it is as such, where the information will likely go to a third party, without the senior or family knowing it. Another tactic one of the bigger, well ranked sites is doing is to actually get the phone number for the facility, you have to click a link – which brings up a huge referral form covering most everything else – and in tiny print at the bottom, it says “no, please take me to the phone number’ which is impossible to see without scrolling. All of this leads to a favorable bounce rate, time on site – which most certainly looks good to search engines. Another tactic being abused (in my view) in our niche is sites that are .org but are not really non-profit – but try to come off that way. I think this is hugely confusing, especially to seniors who may be less saavy about internet stuff.

    Other things about many of these sites is that you can’t figure out who is behind it – meaning there is no authorship information, no humans, experts or industry leaders contributing – and if there is a contact form on the site, it is anonymous. Privacy policies..yikes. That’s another topic in and of itself.

    There’s a widely available database that can be purchased that many sites use, with all 36,000+ facilities – with the facility name, and other basic info – that many sites purchase and then load onto their sites, removing pertinent info, and instead replacing it with referral stuff.

    You also had a good question about my site, which I appreciated. If you look at my site, you’ll notice that every facility listing and facility can be contacted directly. Many of the facilities on my site have been submitted by the actual facility owner, and I have in many places done interviews with them, and added them to my site. I offer links to state resources so my users can verify information that they have found, and video tutorials on how to use said resources. I include photos of the experts and caregivers who have contributed to my site as well, and I have a contact form which has my name on it, and a privacy policy on every page.

    I do have referral forms, but they are marked and described obviously as such – help from experts. They are a separate choice for my users should they need additional help. I receive a fee for this, but not if the family contacts the facility directly. Any facility may list their info on my site completely free.

    Short-term, I could do what these other sites are doing – be anonymous, trick people into filling out forms they think belong to a facility, etc. But, long-term, I believe it is not a good way to go. As you said, we will overcome and prevail (I hope) – through great content, networking and being honest.

    Anyways, that turned out longer than I intended, but it’s an important topic to me – when many of us make every attempt to play by the rules, and to be straightforward.

    Tim, thanks so much – great connecting with you and I appreciated your comment.
    – David

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