I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But there’s a popular service out there that’s taking advantage of funeral homes each and every day — Legacy.com.
Forget what the company’s sales reps tell you about the SEO benefits of a link from their site or the benefits of additional exposure from their network. The reality is that Legacy.com is stealing your website traffic and costing you money. And they’re charging you for the privilege of doing so.
To be fair, I understand that working with Legacy.com may be a necessary evil. For example, if newspapers require families to purchase paid placement on the site to be included in the print edition. But if your funeral home website voluntarily ties its obituary pages or online guestbooks to the service, you’re being taken advantage of unnecessarily.
Legacy.com is stealing your website traffic
Imagine the following scenario with me. Cathy is sad to hear that her favorite uncle has passed away. Hoping to get more information about her uncle’s services — or just to see the online condolences others have left for her family — she Googles her uncle’s name, plus the word “obituary” (a common practice among young people and Baby Boomers). Cathy clicks on the first result that comes up. This happens to be from Legacy.com, and she gets the information she needs, and — as a result — never once sets foot on the funeral home’s website.
If that sounds far-fetched, here’s an example proving just how devastating Legacy.com can be to a funeral home’s business.
Following his death, John Baranowski’s family worked with the Lindley-Robertson-Holt Funeral Home of Navasota, TX on his final arrangements. Because Lindley-Robertson-Holt’s website used an online guestbook powered by Legacy.com, rather than a system that captures these valuable online condolences on the funeral home’s website itself, the firm lost out on search rankings and search visitors.
A simple Google search for “John Baranowski obituary” turns up three separate results for Legacy.com, plus two additional third-party websites. The funeral home’s own obituary page doesn’t appear until the 6th position!
Now, here’s why that’s such a problem. According to the Catalyst Search Marketing agency’s “Google CTR Study,” websites in the 6th position of a Google search results page receive an average 1.63% click-through rate (CTR). The first three results combined, on the other hand, generate an average 34.74% CTR.
Applying these averages to our example above, out of every 100 people who searched for “John Baranowski obituary,” roughly 35 people would click through to links on Legacy.com’s website, while less than two would wind up on the funeral home’s site. Legacy.com might claim to offer funeral homes SEO benefits, but when it comes down to it, the damage they do to a firm’s website traffic flow is far more significant.
Legacy.com is costing your funeral home money
If your funeral home must pay a fee to create the Legacy.com guestbooks needed to run your business’s website, you’re being taken advantage of — plain and simple. There are far better solutions available in the funeral profession today that won’t take money out of your pocket to pay for something that should be free by your website provider.
But excessive fees aren’t the only way that Legacy.com costs you money. Let’s take a look at what happens when visitors head to Legacy.com obituaries, rather than your funeral home’s website.
As the screenshot above demonstrates, there are no links back to the Lindley-Robertson-Holt Funeral Home website on the Legacy.com page. This makes it highly unlikely that a visitor will wind up back on Lindley’s site. As a result:
Legacy.com hurts your flower sale commissions
As you’ll notice above, there’s a “Send Sympathy Gifts” link located on the right side of the page. Depending on the arrangement your funeral home or your funeral home website provider has with Legacy.com, you may not see a penny from the sales that occur here — costing your funeral home hundreds or thousands of dollars each month that you could otherwise earn with a better floral ordering program.
Even if your Legacy.com contract grants you a commission from sales made on the site, you’re still losing money. When clicked, Legacy.com’s gift shop opens in a new window — a step that loses some visitors in the transition. In addition, Legacy.com’s gift shop integration is immature at best. Stronger floral ordering programs — like the one offered by Frazer Consultants — include tasteful banner advertisements and product links; they’re in key online memorial locations that increase sales to support the grieving family with flower and sympathy product purchases.
Legacy.com visitors will not be exposed to your branding
Another major weakness of Legacy.com is visitors don’t see your branding messages in the same way as on your website. Legacy.com online guestbooks include the funeral home’s name in the upper right-hand corner; it’s hard to see these compared to the impact of the branded element on your own site.
Why does this matter? We know from extensive marketing research that consumers need to see branding messages at least seven times before remembering it. If a visitor lands on your website, these associations can easily form with seven different page clicks that feature your funeral home’s name or logo in the header. On Legacy.com pages — where your branding impact is minimal — this is significantly harder to achieve.
If visitors aren’t seeing your branding, they won’t think of your business to preplan a funeral service. You can’t rely on consumers going with their “family’s funeral home” by default anymore; your ability to form a memorable branding impression through your firm’s web presence is critically important.
At the end of the day, Legacy.com is a business. They have every right to try to profit and protect their business by capturing as much obituary web traffic possible. And given their recent acquisition by Great Hill Partners for between $50-100 million, it’s clear that they’ve been successful at these goals — even if they’ve done so at the expense of funeral homes like yours.
But it’s your right to demand more from the products and services you choose to invest in.
The best route to post along side Legacy is make sure the obituary is seen by google on your website first. Link to the obit page from your home page and keep that link up until after the service. To check to make sure google has seen your page search for it in google or search cache:yourwebsite.com/obit. Once it’s cached/ seen by google, then send it to Legacy. This way google will see this content as originating from your website and will add weight to that. Obituaries are a huge source of traffic and making sure your website sends ‘page rank’ to them is very important. Nice blog post Matt.
Thanks for chiming in, Tyler! I can see that being helpful, but I still wonder if Legacy’s higher overall SEO authority would cause it to rank higher anyways. There are so many different factors that play into the algorithms and there’s no way for small funeral homes to compete against a site with the size and reputation of Legacy on most of them. Definitely something to keep an eye on!
Even worse than losing money is the collateral damage Legacy.com does to the funeral business in general. Bombarding people with Walmart gift card messages and offers to buy cheap eyewear during the time of bereavement is horrifying. These people are making a mockery of anything associated with decency and decorum. If I were a funeral director, I’d run the other way. If the goal is to offer support and sensitivity during a family tragedy, Legacy.com offers an abject lesson in how to do neither.