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What You Need to Know About Paid Search and Social Advertising for Senior Care Organizations

Ross Tudor, Co-Founder of Hot Corner Digital

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On Episode 23 of the Senior Care Growth Show, we interview Ross Tudor, Co-Founder of Hot Corner Digital. More than ever, people are going online to research senior living and senior care services.

During this conversation, we talk about how to manage your online reputation on platforms like Google My Business, Facebook and others. We dig into ratings and reviews and why they are important to your community or organization. We also talk about how to solicit ratings and reviews, including who you should be asking for reviews.  Finally, we discuss negative reviews and what you should be doing about them.

How do your marketing and sales activities stack up to other communities?


Rick Whittington  

Welcome to the Senior Care Growth Podcast. Today I’m joined by Ross Tudor of Hot Corner Digital and we’re here to talk about digital advertising best practices for senior living and senior care organizations.

Ross Tudor  

Thank you for having me. My name is Ross Tudor. I’m the co-founder of Hot Corner Digital. We are a digital marketing agency based in Richmond, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina. 

We specialize in paid online advertising, specifically Google ads, paid social media landing page optimization, everything in the customer acquisition realm. 

I’ve personally been in the digital marketing world for almost 10 years now, and specifically running paid advertising campaigns for over nine years, which is crazy to think back on. 

And we’ve been working with Rick and the Whittington team, specifically in the senior living world for several years now having a ton of fun doing that.

Rick Whittington  

Awesome. And it’s been great working with you, Ross. So you and I work, as you mentioned, we’ve worked together on nearly a million dollars of annual digital advertising for senior living and senior care organizations, what have you learned about the Senior Living audience that might be a little different than other audiences you’ve done advertising for? 

Ross Tudor 

Yeah, it’s a fascinating audience, because what we have found is they don’t really know what it is they’re looking for, or the people that get to your website are in wildly different parts of the decision making process. So I’ve never seen an industry like this where two people or ten people can search the exact same keyword, click on the exact same ad, and get to your site and have very different expectations about what it is they’re looking for. 

And some of that is just because some people have a more acute need right now. Whereas some people are doing research for six months or a year down the line. 

People have very different vocabularies in this space, and don’t really understand the intricacies of the difference between independent living or assisted living, or if there’s a memory care component, or what is hospice? Or what is personal care, what are all these things. And so they ended up using a lot of these terms interchangeably, and then get to the same place and don’t really know exactly what it is they’re looking for. 

They’re just trying to get answers. And so it’s a very emotional decision that people are making. But I think we’re finding that as a general rule, people are all over the board in terms of what part of the decision making process they’re in. And that becomes a really unique challenge as a marketer, trying to have a website or a landing page, or even ad copy that speaks to people without knowing exactly what it is they need or when they need it.

Rick Whittington

Let’s talk a little bit about Google. So you know, in terms of digital advertising, companies have a lot of different choices. They’ve got Google, they’ve got Bing, they’ve got Facebook, social advertising, let’s specifically talk a little bit about Google ads and pay per click. Why is Google ads a good option for senior living and senior care providers? 

Ross Tudor 

So the benefit of Google ads, be it for senior living or anybody else, is that you’re capturing somebody who has expressed an intent or an interest in your product or service at the exact moment that they are expressing it. 

And there’s really no other marketing medium exactly like that, where you know exactly what they searched, whether they know exactly what it is they’re looking for or not, they are in the market for your service offering. And you’ve got them right now on the hook. And so there’s really no substitute for that, you know, that being able to target people. 

So specifically, by the intent of their search, they are raising their hand and saying, I am interested in this thing. Again, there’s really no substitute for it. And then it’s the case with all marketing, all digital marketing, at least. But it’s so measurable. You know, there’s so many different levers you can pull to optimize your campaigns. And you can track exactly how well your campaigns are doing by specific keywords, people are searching by different ads, people are clicking on by where they’re coming from. 

There’s very few other marketing channels that give you that level of control and that level of insight into who is clicking on your ads and what they’re searching for.

Rick Whittington  

That’s a really good insight there. So that’s really why it works, right. I mean, people are actually browsing the web, they’re searching, they’re searching for these services. Yeah. And then they’re finding those services. Have you noticed anything in the keyword portfolios of different Senior Living organizations that might indicate that the way they talk about things are different from the actual companies offering those services? Do you notice any differences between what the Senior Living organization calls something and what the consumer calls something? 

Ross Tudor  

So I think people talk about retirement homes a lot. That’s just a It’s just I don’t know if that’s just kind of the term that we’re all most familiar with. But does a retirement home differ in people’s mind than a retirement community? I think in some people’s mind, a retirement home is more what they also might call a nursing home versus a retirement community might be a 55 plus golf course community in Florida. So I think search returns on “retirement home” and “nursing home” in particular are phrases that I think people use more than the actual Senior Living organizations do. 

And then Senior Living organizations, we work with a lot of talk about things like home health care, and personal care. And that’s not the vocabulary that I think the general public really has yet, or they either don’t know that this service offering exists, or they don’t have the word for it yet. 

I think there’s a couple of disconnects between the phrases that people are using, and the phrases that the organizations are using, that people are not using. There’s just all kinds of interchangeability between assisted living, and independent living, even though I know those are, you know, again, people use these terms, and they all get to a very similar place.

Rick Whittington  

Yeah, I know that you all are really good at figuring out what a consumer is searching for versus what an assisted living, community light search might think they’re searching for right? So how do you actually do that research? Is there research that goes into that? And can you talk a little bit about that? 

Ross Tudor   

For sure. So Google has some really readily available keyword research tools, and they’ve got Keyword Planner, writing Google ads, that actually is a great starting point. for that. We are fortunate enough that we have enough experience in this vertical now where we have some institutional knowledge built in. 

Google has its own in-house tool, that’s a really good starting point. But from there, what we do is try not to try not to dictate what it is that people are looking for, I guess, not to try to jam the way that the organization wants to talk about themselves down the consumers throat and kind of meet them with the language that they are already using. And so we build our campaigns to have a broad range of keywords that meet a lot of those different things. 

Because again, even if it’s not a specific service that this particular community offers, there’s a really strong chance that what the person in question actually needs, they probably do have a solution for it, and the person searching doesn’t really have that vocabulary. So we tend to err on the side of full coverage around all these keywords in this space. 

And you know, we build our campaigns exactly that way. So, you know, that goes down to having these really granular campaigns where we have specific ad copy around retirement homes, around senior living communities around Independent Living, senior apartments, you know, for robust accounts. But we have ad copy very specific to each one of those. I think that’s a big takeaway, you know, if you are an advertiser in the senior living space, having that relevance between your ad and the specific search query that somebody is using, is paramount. We see too many people that just have a generic ad about their business and try to show it to all people for all keywords.

Where there’s real value, and where you actually start seeing a lot of success is in showing a very specific ad. If somebody searches for a retirement home in Rochester, New York, you show them an ad that says retirement home, Rochester, New York, don’t worry about the fact that you don’t call yourself a retirement home internally. 

Rick Whittington 

Show them that ad, get them to your site, and then educate them from there. So you started to get into this, but what are some common mistakes that you see advertisers make? I know you’ve audited a lot of accounts over the years. So just tell us about some common mistakes that you see. 

Ross Tudor 

Yeah, the overly generic ad copy is certainly one. But the biggest, by far, is overly broad keywords. So Google makes it very easy to waste your money, pretty easy to get up and running and spending money. And if you’re not intimately familiar with how to run an account, they really encourage you to run broad match keywords. 

They have even had alerts over the last few months that say to upgrade your keywords to broad match the word upgrade being super misleading there. But essentially, that is giving Google more and more control to show our ads to anybody that you deem to search something tangentially related to our topic. And so what we often see when we’re looking into an advertiser’s account, is they’re spending a lot of money on their own brand name. They’re spending a lot of money on competitors, that would, I would say, is the biggest thing.

Massive, massive amounts of wasted spend on competitors, because they’ve got broad match keywords, somebody searches for the name of a competitor, Google says, that’s a senior living community, let’s show an ad for them.

And they end up tracking phone calls and all this and there’s a very misleading story of how a campaign is actually performing. You know, we saw this very, very recently, people thought they had all these phone calls and other campaigns were doing pretty well. We dug in a little bit and saw that the overwhelming majority of them were wrong-number phone calls for competitors. So that comes up time and time and time again, and I’m talking from small advertisers to very large advertisers who are wasting a lot of money on competitor names.

Rick Whittington  

Yeah, thanks for your insights there. It’s super important that people understand that and they understand what some of the common mistakes are in the industry. Let’s change gears a little bit. Let’s talk about search, advertising, and display advertising. Those are two different types of advertising you can get with Google. Can you talk about the differences between those two? And what are they? What do people need to think about those two options? 

Ross Tudor 

Yeah, so search obviously, like we defined before, that is, somebody’s actively searching something on Google or Bing. And you’re showing them an ad, right in the search results. 

Display is more of your traditional awareness-based advertising, where you’re showing people image ads, or some combination of image and text ads, while they’re elsewhere on the internet. 

You know, I think, in an ideal world, you have some sort of relatively tight targeting to where you’re showing people who at least are maybe interested in seeing your living or your services, or better yet, you’re employing remarketing, where you’re showing messaging to people who have already been to your site or who have already interacted with your business in some way. But it is more awareness based, it can be reinforcement messages can be top line awareness, whereas search is more direct response, here’s a text ad, you can click on this, you might not even know it’s an ad, it’s right in the search results.

Display is more visual, it is going to be more awareness based. And it’s going to probably have less of a direct response, you know, costs not gonna have as strong of a cost per lead, as you might want to do a Google search.

Rick Whittington  

So you mentioned cost per lead. And I know that you probably hate this question. But a lot of people ask the question about cost. A lot of people ask me about budget, you know, how much should I spend? I know that there are certain providers that have multiple locations, many locations.

Ross Tudor   

You know, we’ve worked together with clients that have many, many locations. So I guess the question here is, how does an advertiser determine if they’re multi location, or even single location? 

If they’re an organization that just operates in a single metro area? How do they determine their budget? Yeah, it is a question that comes up a lot. 

We call it the budget dance. It’s like a salary negotiation where nobody wants to be the first person that throws a number out there when you’re trying to figure out how much they should spend. 

So what we always do is, work through some really simple back of the napkin math with people starting with, what are your goals as a business, if it’s we need to fill five spots a month, okay, of all the people who take a tour to your community, how many of those people you close, it’s one out of 10, then we need 50 leads, we need 50 tours, okay, and then we’ll work start working together to do some cost per click projections, we’ll give you some conversion rate projections and things like that. And we’ll kind of back our way in, it’s okay, if we think it’s going to be $100 cost per lead. And we’ve determined that based on your metrics, you need 50 of them in order to hit your growth goals. While $5,000 is a pretty good starting point for your budget, these are numbers I’m pulling out of thin air. 

But that’s kind of the really simple math that we go through to help people at least understand like, this is what it would look like, here’s a scenario with some budget ranges, where if you spend $5,000, you could realistically expect to get x. So we help people work through that. And it’s, again, it’s a starting point. I think people are very hesitant, or maybe even have some kind of distrust of ad agencies thinking they just want them to spend more. And we are very aware of that kind of perception of our industry. 

We don’t charge a percentage of ad spend, basically, for that exact reason. I never want clients to think that I’m recommending they spend more money just for the sake of it. I don’t care if you theoretically had a $10 a month marketing budget, you can hire us and we would do it for the same price. I mean, I would not recommend that it would not be very cost-effective!

But theoretically, you could, you know, the point is we really don’t care how much people spend, we want to inform our customers of what you should spend, if those are your goals. Here is what you can expect with different budget levels, and we kind of let them decide from there. I think the people that do it most successfully are willing to spend more overtime as a result, you know, weren’t. We start, start slow, in a lot of cases, prove some results and then ramp up over time.

Rick Whittington   

You talked about multi location? And I think that’s a really good question as well, because there is a natural tendency in a lot of those organizations to spend the exact same amount in every area. And because they feel they owe it and okay, we’ve got 10 locations, we’re gonna spend $1,000 in each every month and that’s totally fair. And I understand there’s politics involved there or maybe that’s just exactly you’re required to do that for whatever reason. Whenever possible. 

Ross Tudor  

We strongly encourage organizations not to structure it that way, because inevitably, some markets are just going to be hotter than others, there’s going to be more search volume in certain places, certain communities are going to need help more than others. And so 

I would encourage any advertiser to, you know, figure out what your overall goals are, and your overall budget is, but be willing to flex between locations, even between networks as performance dictates, and don’t be set on we have to spend exactly $1,000 per location, or else. That’s the people that have gotten on board with that we found have had a lot of success. 

Rick Whittington  

Yeah, that’s a great point, you know, an organization can look at locations and say, Are there underperforming locations? Maybe we need to spend more there? Or where are we not optimized? 

Well, from a local search, or from  just organic search engine optimization standpoint? Well, let’s maybe spend some more money there. That’s a really good idea. I like that model quite a bit. I also like the model you’re talking about where you know, you start with, how much? How much vacancy Do you have? And let’s work backward. So how many tours? Do you need to be able to fill those beds or fill that customer pipeline, so to speak?

And then, how many tours? And then how many leads? Do you need to be able to get those tours? And so then it becomes just a math game of working backwards and figuring out how much you need to spend? I love that. 

Ross Tudor

Yeah, well, the whole thing really is a math game. You’re right. And that’s, you know, we can, you know, at some point, we can get into, you know, upper funnel content versus lower funnel content and all that. But the whole thing is a math game. That’s why I like this industry, from the get-go, whatever you’re doing, if you’re tracking things appropriately, you can figure out if the math makes sense. If I spent $1, did my business get $2 back?

 And if you have the right tracking mechanisms in place, you can do that. So easy to do with E-commerce if you’re selling widgets online, you know, very directly, but you can do it in lead generation and customer acquisition space as well, so long as you have those tracking mechanisms in place throughout the process. 

Rick Whittington  

Absolutely. Absolutely. Agree. Let’s turn our attention to social media advertising a little bit, because I get this question quite a bit, too. So, you know, Facebook and Instagram are kind of lumped together, does advertising on Facebook matter for senior living, why or why or why not? 

Ross Tudor   

I think it absolutely has a place. Again, you’re never gonna be able to replicate the immediacy of the intent that you get on search. But as a remarketing methods are going people who have already been to your site as a storytelling method, and knowing that this is an emotional decision, in a lot of cases, being able to share images, share videos, and other assets like that you have absolutely, it can be a really good top of funnel, we’ll go right back into the top of funnel lead generation mechanism. 

You know, if you have somebody who is not, they don’t have an acute need for a solution for their parents right now. But they know it’s coming. And so they see an ad that has these really cool photos of showing all the amenities that your community has to offer. 

Or maybe you can download this guide to help planning checklist or something like that a 12 month planning checklist, we see things like that work really, really well where it’s not an overly aggressive offer, you’re not asking somebody to come in, and take a tour, but you’re providing them with useful content you’re getting in front of them now. And then getting them into ideally, a nurture sequence to where you’re staying on top of them over the next several months or even years in some cases. 

But we think that works really well. And so if you have good visual assets, if you have videos, if you have photos, and if you have, again, those tracking mechanisms in place to determine what you’re getting from different parts of the funnel and have systems in place to move people down your sales process. There’s absolutely a place for that. Because what you lack in the ability to target people based on intent on Facebook, you gain the ability to target people demographically. So you know, people who can target people and even a fairly broad age of people who probably have aging parents, and you can target them with that message.

Rick Whittington

That is very, very valuable if you do it right. So I get a question a lot of times and people say, Well, you know, my audience is older, they might not be on Facebook, or there probably is a target audience. So you know, I’m in my mid-40s. And my parents aren’t quite at the point yet where they would need, you know, Senior Living but who is on Facebook, like, is it? Is it a viable option for someone who is looking to advertise for senior living or senior care in that space?

Ross Tudor

Absolutely, it is. So you know, we are finding that Facebook users in particular, and again, Instagram are lumped in with this, as well, but Facebook specifically actually skews older than you probably would think.

So, I’m 32, I don’t spend much if any time on Facebook, my mother is older than that, she wouldn’t want me saying exactly how old and she spends a lot of time on Facebook. And so that 35 to 65 range, which is a really good sweet spot when people are starting to have to make these decisions are very active on Facebook. 

But I think you bring up a good point, though, about what you know, are there other networks, or where are people actually spending time online, because I’m assuming that, you know, Senior Living organizations want to continue operating for the next 15-20 years, or whatever their audience is going to change. You know, and that’s, again, I’m not on Facebook, I, unfortunately, have already had to go through this process and make a lot of these decisions. And I spent no time on Facebook. And so I went through this process very differently. 

My mother had to go through this process for her mother, basically, the exact same time I was going through this for my dad. And we’re very, very different people demographically. And so I think the smart organizations are thinking about how to get in touch with my generation 5-10 years from now. I’m not saying everyone needs to get on Tik Tok, and start making Tik Tok videos of your seniors, but keeping up with those trends. 

You know, I spend a lot more time watching YouTube videos, you know, and get a lot of information that way. And I, you know, sit there, scroll for an hour and watch a bunch of stuff. And you know that that’s something to keep in mind, you know, Instagram, certainly more so within Facebook. So keeping that in mind, understanding who your audience is now and where they are right now is, though, they might always be 45. But people that are 45 are doing things very, very different than they were 5-10 years ago. 

Rick Whittington

That’s a great point just to stay ahead of the curve, you know, what are the new trends that you’re going to need to be addressing in the next 5 to 10, maybe even 15 years? That’s a great thing to keep in mind. So you mentioned at one point, when we were talking here, you’ve mentioned video or things like that, and it made me think about, you know, what are some strategies that senior living organizations can leverage for better success on the platform of social media, specifically Facebook?

Ross Tudor 

Well, the best way I could describe it would be to run as many different types of campaigns as you possibly can. So again, in meeting people where they are in, you know, in their own mindset, and giving people as many options as possible to contact you. 

Rather than saying, assuming that everybody is going to want to watch this video, everybody’s going to want to go to this event. Do it all, if you can, you know, we’ve seen event response zooms for an open house do really well. We’ve seen top of funnel content for this, you know, PDF about the checklist kind of thing we’ve seen that do really well. We’ve seen video ads do really well for engagement and remarketing.

Rick, we work together on a client who does really well with a quiz-based approach. You know that that is the kind of thing that can do really well on social media as well. Whereas if somebody is searching, maybe they want something a little more direct, but a quiz can be really good in terms of like, okay, I don’t actually know what I need just to start the process, I’ll take this quick quiz. 

So I would say, employ as many different strategies as you can and test them and see what works best for your organization. Because it might not be the same thing that works for, you know, the guy down the street. But for whatever reason, a quiz might resonate really well with your audience, and a video might resonate really well with his audience. So test as many things as you can measure it all and see what works best for you.

Rick Whittington

So test, learn and evolve. I love it. Yeah, that’s a good summary, I would say. Very good. 

So if an organization doesn’t do Facebook advertising right now, and they want to start Facebook advertising, I know you and I know that it can be somewhat frustrating to work on that platform. How do they get started? What’s the first step in getting started with something like that? 

Ross Tudor   

Yeah, so you need a Facebook page. First things first. And then you need to create a Facebook business profile or a business manager account. And then from there, you create an ad account that you attach to your Facebook page. It’s not as complicated. It should not be as complicated as they sometimes make it. But ultimately, what you need is a Facebook page, a Facebook business manager account, and then you have to create a separate ad account that you run out and run the actual ads from attached to your Facebook page. It’s as simple as that. And then obviously, you need some sort of photo video assets to run and then a place to send the traffic. But it’s as simple as that.


Rick Whittington 

Very good. So let’s talk about one other thing before we close the topic of landing pages. So obviously, when you have an ad, you need to send the ad somewhere ideally on your website. So let’s talk a little bit about landing pages. 

Ross Tudor 

You work specifically with making sure the message in the ad matches the landing page. So there’s continuity between the two, what are some good landing page optimization ideas to make sure that senior living organizations make the most of that, that person who they then paid to visit their website, essentially? Yeah, no, it’s such an important topic.

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