Seasonality in Senior Living Digital Marketing is Real. Here’s What We See.

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The popular phrase ‘don’t wish away your days waiting for better ones ahead’ is certainly one that resonates within the senior living industry as we collectively undertake a mission of inspiring older adults to embrace their legacy, and invest in their physical, spiritual, social and mental well-being TODAY, not tomorrow. However, for the digital marketer within senior living, sometimes tomorrow looks a whole lot better than today.

Metrics don’t lie. But they do tell a story.

After years of collecting data and unenthusiastically anticipating the year-end metrics that come from our digital marketing efforts, the Solutions Advisors Group team of digital experts have begrudgingly accepted ‘seasonality’ as a real phenomenon. Not unlike anyone else in or outside of senior housing sales and marketing, we too believed that year-end holidays, from Yom Kippur, to Thanksgiving, to Christmas, were the perfect opportunities for families to come together and see how the family elders were thriving, or not. So, it seems logical that the fourth quarter of every year would be a breakout period for adult children and caregivers to ‘Google’ search for supportive living for their family members. But the metrics don’t lie…the fourth quarter produces less digital marketing performance than any of the other three quarters.

Flipping the calendar flips the results.

As we put the first quarter of 2022 to a close, our digital marketing team has identified the dramatic differences in results from December 2021 to January 2022. “We knew that for years we had seen better results coming out of the new year than year’s end”, says Marybeth Parker, SEO Specialist at Solutions Advisors. “But we were really surprised when we put the numbers from several of our clients into a side-by-side comparison report…it was really remarkable to see the stark contrast in performance over such a short period.”

The findings were indeed remarkable. Across a random sampling of seven CCRCs and/or ‘full-service communities’, we saw an average increase of 42.7% in organic traffic alone from December 2021 to January 2022. And that organic traffic was engaged, with a 75.1% incremental lift in conversions (phone calls and contact forms) over that same time period.

“To say we were relieved to see the calendar flip is an understatement”, notes Jeff Felton, Vice-President of Digital Services at Solutions Advisors. “We take this roller coaster ride every year and by late December are starting to question whether our targeting is off, the messaging needs refreshing or our content just isn’t hitting the right notes”, he adds. “But if we can just hold on until the new year, we’ll quickly realize that it’s not about our efforts, but seasonality at play”.

It wouldn’t be fair or accurate to say all years are going to be the same with comparable fluctuations in traffic and lead generation. The fourth quarter of 2021 had some unique attributes that we certainly can’t rule out as influencing factors. For one, the news media had our full attention during the latter half of the year with a focus on the highly contagious Coronavirus’ Omicron variant. That may have squelched some interest in moving into communal housing for a segment of our audience. And the Google algorithm update of October 2021 caused volatile fluctuations in the Google search results, which likely were felt throughout the entire quarter.

Preparing for seasonality in 2022/2023 

So, if we know seasonality in our digital marketing efforts is coming, what can we do about it? Here are some strategies Marybeth Parker recommends that senior living marketers consider this year to help offset the losses in performance in the fourth quarter:

  • Blend seasonal messaging into your blogs that aren’t necessarily about senior living. I.e. think ‘Thanksgiving dinner tips for seniors’.
  • Utilize Google Trends to produce a graph of popular and relevant keywords over a period of time (i.e. monthly) and either double down on seasonal drivers or back away if certain keywords wain in seasonal months.
  • In seasonal months, advertisers are battling for impressions in a very crowded space. Consider a bump in your click-spend budget to remain visible to searchers.
  • Really leverage your email list. The fact that you have their email address demonstrates a positive experience and trust in your community brand. Contact them.
  • Be ready to educate in Q1. Family is going to be searching online during and right after the holidays. Align your content to be educational and helpful during this potentially difficult journey to ensure your community has an informed and entrusted persona.

Ride the ‘seasonality’ roller coaster with Solutions Advisors Group

While the seasonality digital marketing roller coaster can be a bit jarring and concerning, it doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it can be a challenge we tackle together. At Solutions Advisors Group, our digital marketing team is here to develop digital strategies and supporting tactics that help you overcome any sales and marketing hurdles your community can possibly face. Contact us to learn how.