Blog Archives: November 2016

Funeral poverty anyone?

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

grief
 
‘High level return on investment within 2 to 5 years’
  • 2,500 plots available to investors
  • Plot price to investors £2,400
  • High level return within two to five years
  • Plots are valued at over £3,750
  • Clearly defined exit strategy
  • Minimum investment is 4 plots

‘A very rare opportunity has arisen to purchase burial plots in London’s Rainham cemetery, which is being extended to accommodate the high demand for burial plots within Greater London…..’

‘….As a unique investment brokerage we specialise in sourcing and delivering the best alternative investment projects worldwide. 

We are proud to present the Rainham Cemetery Phase 2 within the Greater London area. 

We are the EXCLUSIVE master agent for this project. After major planning and preparation we are finally able to offer new burial plots for sale to the general public. 

Due to the desirable location and the critical state of the market, plots are being offered purely on a first-come first-served basis.’

There’s good money to be made in this burial business apparently, according to the team of ‘highly skilled and very successful individuals’ aka the EXCLUSIVE master agents at Harley Investments Ltd.
 
We have a copy of the brochure at GFG Towers for anyone looking to make a quick buck out of bereaved families needing to find somewhere to bury a relative. 
 

Dignity Caring Funeral Services prices 2016

Friday, 18 November 2016

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For some reason, the UK’s largest provider of funeral related services prefers not to list their prices online.

Happily, we have no such reservations about letting the public know the current cost of a funeral from a Dignity PLC owned business.

(There are currently in the region of 780 funeral director businesses in the UK that belong to Dignity PLC, all of which trade under the name of their former owners.

Have a look here to see which undertakers near you are owned by Dignity. Put your postcode in and see which names come up. You may well be surprised.)

Anyway, back to the prices. To save you squinting at the small print in the pics below, as a quick reckoner, if you pick a Dignity funeral director to be your undertaker, agree to their recommendation of embalming for ‘peace of mind’, select a cardboard coffin and require just a hearse to go direct to the crematorium or cemetery, your bill will be £4,375.00.

Just for clarity, this figure does not include the cremation or burial fees, you’ll need to add another £999.00 just for the cremation fee at many of the Dignity owned crematoria.

Nor does this figure cover the cost for an officiant at the ceremony.  Nor the doctors’ fees required for a cremation in England and Wales. Nor flowers, orders of service, a funeral tea, or an urn for the ashes. 

An at a glance breakdown of the main constituents of that £4,375.00 (all capitals letters not our own) is below. We haven’t bothered to type up all the details, but if you zoom in on the images below, you will see just what you get for your money under each category. (We quite liked the sound of ‘...full access to our own 24 hour Client Service Centre’ which sounds like a description of a VIP lounge at an airport, although in fact it’s a fancy name for the after hours call centre where phone calls get answered when the staff have all gone home.)

Our Service to You:                                         £1,405.00

Our Service to the Person who has Died:       £  950.00

Our Embalming Service:                                 £    75.00

‘We will ensure every available care is taken to delay the natural processes that occur after death. However, as members of the National Association of Funeral Directors, we recommend the peace of mind that embalming brings. You will be advised on this and we will require your consent.’

Your Appointed Funeral Director:               £  665.00

Our Hearses:                                              £  620.00 (each)

Our Limousines                                          £  175.00 (each)

Our Range of Coffins and Caskets – examples:

Veneer MDF coffin:                                      £  440.00

Cardboard coffin:                                         £  660.00

Willow coffin:                                                £1015.00

Source: Dignity Funerals Ltd Price List 3rd October 2016.

You could of course opt for the Dignity Simple Funeral, which offers limited access to their full range of services, no choice of coffin and limited choice on the date and time of the funeral. The Dignity Simple Funeral costs £2,520 and must be paid in full (along with all cremation or burial costs) 48 hours in advance of the funeral date.

Chief Executive of Dignity PLC, Mike McCollum, was among the delegates attending the national conference on funeral poverty held in Edinburgh this week.

We weren’t on the same table as him, so are not able to relay what contribution or comment he had on the subject.

 

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‘Here’s Looking At You’ – The Good Grief Project

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

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“It’s a photo taken by someone who would die in 3 months, of her loved ones looking at her, with that knowledge. It’s quite a concept isn’t it? I see the tense smiles as well as the relaxed merry faces. I printed the three photos and joined them together and I put it in her coffin so that she had us all there with her on her journey.” Jo Bousfield

Good friends of the GFG, Jane and Jimmy Edmonds run the Good Grief Project. Set up after they experienced the sudden death of their son Josh, the purpose of the Good Grief Project is not only to share their experience of grief, but also to help others to find ‘an active and creative response to the expression of their grief.’

Yesterday, Jimmy posted these photographs on their website. They were taken by Harry Banks.

Harry’s mother, Jo Bousfield, is a trustee of the Good Grief Project, and Harry was terminally ill when she captured this moment, of the people she loved, looking at her, with the knowledge that she was dying.

Three months after taking the photographs, Harry died, aged 31. 

Read the post here.

International Work Group on Death, Dying & Bereavement Open Conference

Friday, 11 November 2016

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Today, somewhere in Scotland, leaders in the field of death, dying and bereavement will end a five-day meeting, and bid each other farewell until 2018, when the 30th gathering of the International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement will convene.

Membership of the IWG is an honour bestowed by invitation only; founded in 1974 by, among others, Cicely Saunders and Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, the IWG is a non-profit organisation whose members must demonstrate leadership within thanatology within their country, and typically on an international level as well. While the majority of members are either in academia or the medical care professions, the organisation includes others who share a common bond of passionate intellectual and personal interest in the field of thanatology.

For the last week, around 140 people from around the world have been engaged in in-depth discussions on various death related topics – it is a kind of think tank on thanatology, with no agenda other than to explore the agreed upon topics. And last Saturday, the group hosted an open meeting in Glasgow where the public were able to glimpse the calibre and quality of some of the thought leaders and practitioners involved. The GFG was privileged to be invited to co-host a workshop at this conference on social aspects of death, dying and bereavement, and to attend the plenary presentations from some of the finest thinkers on the subject of our time. We also got to have dinner with the presenters the evening beforehand, which was quite an experience!

The one-day conference was hosted by Dame Barbara Monroe DBE, former Chief Executive of St. Christopher’s Hospice, a trustee of Marie Curie and Special Commissioner of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Barbara’s opening address was challenging and bracing; “…some of our efforts to engage the public in talking about death, dying and bereavement have looked like us talking to ourselves” she said, “we need to find a wider variety of words.”

Professor Robert Neimeyer Ph.D from the University of Memphis, author of 30 books and almost 500 articles and book chapters and editor of the journal Death Studies was the first speaker, presenting psychological insights on ‘The Importance of Meaning’ alongside Dr. Neil Thompson, a highly experienced social work professional who offered sociological insights to the same subject.

Bob’s presentation was illustrated with a brief case study of an impoverished African-American mother contending with the murder of her young adult son. He explored the concept of adaptive grieving and the move towards integrated grief (the point where the finality of death is viscerally acknowledged). Neil reflected on a holistic approach to meaning, the personal, cultural and structural influences and the fluidity of an individual’s experience. He explored the sociological context within which grief is experienced, the cultural norms and expectations, the structural power relations of class, race, gender, age, disability and language group frameworks which inform the unique experience of each individual.

The second presentation was given by Darcy Harris Ph.D, an Associate Professor and Thanatology Co-ordinator at King’s University, London, Ontario with a background in oncology, palliative care nursing and bereavement counselling. Darcy’s presentation examined grief from the perspective of social justice (the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights).

Most clinicians in end of life care and bereavement care are trained with an emphasis on the experience of the individual, often in isolation of the various contexts in which their lives are socially situated. Darcy explored the social and political underpinnings that inform individual perceptions, experiences and expectations, and discussed the social rules for grief, which cover who can be grieved, whether the relationship is valid, how long grief can last, how it is expressed / manifest and whether the type of death is acceptable.

Frustratingly, all four workshops were held simultaneously, leading to ‘workshop envy’ from both participants and workshop hosts – the three other sessions being held while we co-hosted a workshop on ‘Whose funeral is it?’ with Scottish bereavement consultant John Birrell were entitled ‘Ordinary People, Extraordinary Things, a community response to bereavement’, ‘Maximising child and family support after a bereavement – the role of networking’ and ‘Building community resilience and bringing remembrance into the open – Scotland’s answer to Dia de los Muertos’.

The afternoon continued with two further plenary sessions, the first from Professor David Clark, a sociologist at the University of Glasgow who leads the University of Glasgow End of Life Studies Group and who has a particular knowledge of the life and work of Dame Cicely Saunders, having edited her letters and selected publications. He is working on a biography to be published in 2018 on the centenary of her birth.

David’s presentation explored end of life issues around the world in the light of the anticipated significant increase in the global annual death toll from the current 56,000,000 people who currently die each year. He noted that the number of deaths in the entire 20th century is less than the number of people currently alive, and how the underlying assumption in palliative care is that the developing world should at some point catch up with the developed world – ‘the waiting room of history’ as conceptualised by historian Dipesh Chakrabarty.

David outlined his current work in a Wellcome Trust funded project investigating and conceptualising a comprehensive taxonomy of interventions at the end of life. His contribution was described by Dame Monroe as ‘a breath of academic fresh air’.

The final speaker of the day was Dr. Kenneth J. Doka, Professor of Gerontology and Senior Consultant to the Hospice Foundation in America. A prolific author (see here), Ken’s presentation highlighted the way that a sociological perspective has informed his work in thanatology, through a selective review of the work of pioneers in the field, including Durkheim, Talcott Parsons and Robert Fulton. He covered the dimensions of disenfranchised grief and the differences between intuitive and instrumental grief, issues arising from dissonant grief, grieving styles and post-mortem identity, and public and private grief in a gallop through the many aspects of his expertise.

It was an extraordinary experience to listen to such learned theorists and academics expound on their work in the area of death, dying and bereavement. The considered and thoughtful presentations were thought provoking and inspiring, and, like many of the other attendees, we came away feeling grateful to have been there to listen and absorb.

The International Work Group may not be well known outside academic circles, but the innovation and leadership that flows from the meeting of these minds influences both research and practice in the field of dying, death and bereavement, and ultimately affects us all.

We were privileged to meet some of the most influential thought leaders of our time in this field, and would like to thank John Birrell, Chair of the Planning Group for his kind invitation to take part in the conference.

FFMA reports positive start to the coffin certification scheme at AGM  

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

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(all pictures copyright © 2016FFMA)

Press release from the FFMA with an update on the latest on the coffin testing protocol.

 

‘The funeral industry body, The Funeral Furnishing Manufacturer’s Association (FFMA) has reported a very positive start to its coffin and casket certification scheme at their Annual General Meeting on the 2nd November 2016.

David Crampton – President, in his opening remarks gave thanks to everyone who has been involved in its development and to all of the FFMA members for their patience whilst waiting to submit their coffins for testing. David said “The FFMA scheme has been developed to meet concerns raised by the cremation sector organisations, namely, health and safety issues. Our scheme has been fully endorsed by the cremation sector associations who have worked in partnership with us since requesting our support 4 years ago. The scheme is fully transparent and most importantly, anyone can visit the FFMA website and view the growing number of coffins which have been issued with a unique certification stamp”.

To date 56 FFMA members have uploaded their company profiles to the new and improved FFMA website. 136 coffin, casket and shroud products have been uploaded, 41 of which have already passed the testing protocol. Another 26 having been received by Intertek and are awaiting testing. The vast majority of UK coffin manufacturers have committed to the FFMA scheme. An estimated investment of over £250,000 will be made by those members to certify their products fit for purpose and allay any concerns of the cremation industry.

Julian Atkinson gave a presentation aptly illustrating (with light hearted humour) the key points of the tests. The aim of the presentation is for the FFMA to communicate the basic principles of this highly detailed testing protocol in an easy to understand manner.  The scheme ensures “coffins” are safe to carry and load, are fully combustible, render a compliant amount of ash volume and can therefore be deemed as fit for purpose.  

For more information, please visit the FFMA website: www.FFMA.co.uk or contact: Sue Bullock  (FFMA Secretary), bullocksuee@gmail.com

-Ends-

Local SEO for funeral directors

Friday, 4 November 2016

seo

 

Posted by Mark Sharron

This is the fourth part in the “SEO for Funeral Directors” series.  Previous posts can be found here:

Quick Introduction

I am the founder/director of Sussex SEO Ltd.  I have been building websites for clients and optimising them to be found in Google and other search engines since 2006. 

This post will focus on “local SEO” and should build nicely on my previous entries.  It’s always a little difficult to know where to begin so I’ll start with a quick explanation of Google’s first page of results for and build on each concepts/techniques as the article progresses.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below.

What is meant by local SEO

Discounting PPC you have two opportunities to rank for any location based keyword e.g. Brighton Funerals / Brighton Funeral Director.

  1. The local 3 pack, commonly referred to as Google maps.
  2. The traditional 10 organic spots on the home page.

Both the local pack and organic results share a number of common ranking factors; however there are some unique differences required to secure a position in the coveted local pack.  

Creating a local signal for your website can be distilled into three core areas:

Key Concepts

  • Google Maps/My Business
    • Location of Your Business
    • Google My Business/Google Plus
    • NAP Consistency
  • Onsite SEO
    • Business Name / Domain
    • Entities vs Keywords
    • Entity Relationships / Knowedge Graph / Entity Databases (less scary than its sounds)
    • Understanding Semantic Search
    • Maps
    • Youtube Part 1
    • Linking Out
    • Structured Data (this one is a bit scary)
  • Offiste SEO
    • Links
    • Citations
    • Youtube Part 2

Assuming I haven’t lost 90% of the GFG’s readers already, to get things started I’ll explain each of the key concepts, what they are and how they fit into the larger puzzle.

Google Maps / My Business:

Location of Your Business

The first thing to check is the physical location of your business.   Google your keyword, in this case Funeral Directors + Location and look at where the map pins for where your competitors appear.

Google’s objective is to return local results.   If your physical business address is located outside the area you will not be able to get a placement in the local pack.  The same rule holds true if your business is on the perifphory of a locale.   The further you are away from Google’s map centrum the harder it is to rank (not impossible, just harder).

Google My Business

Google My Business (formerly Google Plus, Google Local, Google Places) is the lynchpin that holds everything together. 

A Google business listing is an online profile, it is free to sign up and requires you enter your business name, a link to your website, phone number, opening times, logo, images, email address and business classification.

The key is to fill out your profile 100%.  Until recently it was possible to upload a description however ability has been rescinded giving increased weight to your business name, website URL and website copy.

Google will insist on verifying your business listing with a postcard.  These usually take 1-2 weeks to arrive and will contain a PIN number that must be submitted before your listing will go live.

Ensuring your business listing / associated Google plus page are active / updated regularly, joining local / related communities and acquiring high scoring reviews are also essential ranking ingredients.

NAP Consistency

NAP is short for “Name, Address, Phone Number.”  Google checks to ensure these details are aligned between your Google Plus page and your website.   There are a few important factors to consider.

  1. Ensure your NAP data matches Google Maps.
  • Correct: Brighton, The City of Brighton and Hove
  • Incorrect: Brighton, East Sussex
  1. Place your NAP in your website’s footer.
  2. Ensure your NAP data in your website matches your Google Business listing 100%.

Onsite SEO:

Business Name / Domain:

SEO is a labelling exercise.  Its easier to rank if your business name / domain is a partial match or exact match.   At the very least include “Funerals” or “Funeral Director” in your domain.  It will make your life a LOT easier.

That’s the east stuff out of the way…

Entities vs Keywords

This next section will explore onsite SEO starting with the use of language on your website.  To give you a quick grounding in local SEO it helps to understand the difference between an entity and a keyword.

A keyword is something a user types into the search engine to find something. E.g. Brighton Funeral Director or Sussex Funeral Director

An entity is person, a place an object or a thing.

For example:

  • Brighton (entity) a place
  • Sussex (entity) a place
  • Funeral (entity) a thing/ceremony
  • Funeral director (entity) a thing/profession

Entities are usually associated/related to other entities.  If we review the “onsite SEO” article I posted last year, you can create a ranking signal using placement of keyword throughout your website. 

Avoid Over Optimisation

Placement of too many of the same keyword within page content (more than 4% density) may result into Google penalising your site for over optimisation. 

One of the work arounds is use of related language within the text on your site e.g. coffin, death, cremation, burial to build relevance around the funerary theme.

This technique can be used to boost your website’s “local” relevance by understanding which entities are associated with your “business area” and working these into the fabric of your website.

The easiest way to examine these is via Google’s knowledge graph.   I’ll use Brighton as the example. Click to make it bigger. 

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The important points to pick up on are the entities (locations) that fall within the greater Brighton area, these include Portslade, Falmer, Peacehaven.   If you zoom in on the map you will also find Rottingdean, Whitehawk, Hove, Saltdean, Roedean and a lot more.

In addition, you will notice points of interest located within Brighton and Hove (these are also entities).

Drill down deeper and you will find references to people (check Wikipedia).

Semantic Search

It is these associations of entities and related language that forms the basis of semantic search which is an un-necessarily complicated way of explaining that the search engine is able to understand that concepts are related to one another other.   To cite the above example if I reference “Rottingdean, Whitehawk and Fatboy Slim” the search engine will understand I’m talking about Brighton and Hove.

Local Signals:

To further boost the relevance of your site you can add “local signals.”  Placement of related entities within the text goes a long way but there’s more to it. 

Google Maps:

Add an embedded Google map with your business listing and add a link back to your Google maps/business listing.

YouTube:

Commission a video with a “local” focus (more on this later).  Embed it on your website.

Embed Reviews:

Embed reviews from Google into your site.  This can be done with Google’s API.  You’ll need to ask your web developer to do this.

Link Out:

Reference points of interest / official local government offices (entities) within you text and link to them (make sure Google links to them from its knowledge graph).

Structured Data:

Structured data is a means of adding an invisible layer of code to a website to a enhance ranking signal or control how a website is displayed within Google’s index.

There are multiple forms of structured data, the one most commonly used is referenced at http://schema.org/

The idea behind structured data is to allow a web master to clarify content to the search engine by marking it up with schema.

https://schema.org/LocalBusiness provides a number of actionable examples e.g.
Without Schema:

 <h1>Sussex Funerals Ltd</h1>
Independent Brighton funeral directors for caring, compassion & choice. Providing excellent 24 hour personal service.
185 Portland Road
Hove, The City of Brighton and Hove
Phone: 01273 736469

With Schema:

  1. <div itemscope itemtype=http://schema.org/LocalBusiness”>
  2. <h1><span itemprop=“name”> Sussex Funerals Ltd</span></h1>
  3. <span itemprop=“description Independent Brighton funeral directors for caring, compassion & choice. Providing excellent 24 hour personal service.</span>
  4. <div itemprop=“address” itemscope itemtype=“http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
  5.   <span itemprop=“streetAddress”>185 Portland Road</span>
  6.   <span itemprop=“addressLocality”> Hove</span>,
  7.   <span itemprop=“addressRegion”> The City of Brighton and Hove</span></div>
  8. Phone: <span itemprop=“telephone”>01273 736469</span></div>

This is just scratching the surface with schema.  You can mark up almost every entity imaginable and create associations using the “sameAs” attribute.   Of all the steps I have listed so far this is without a doubt the least accessible to most and I would recommend speaking with your web developer a preferred digital marketing professional to help implement this step.

Offsite SEO:

Links

Link building is an important part of any SEO campaign; in fact, it is essential to ranking well on

Google other search engines. Google places a heavy emphasis on quality and quantity of inbound links as a measurement of how authoritative/trusted a site is for its subject matter.

 

Counting how many 3rd party websites to your website is a means for Google to the reputation/trust/authority if your website.

 

The more competitive a key phrase being targeted; the more links will be needed to achieve a desired search engine rank for a given keyword.

 

Relevant links will rank your site.  Irrelevant links will either be less effective or cause Google to perceive your site as being less relevant.  To give you some examples:

 

  • Funeral focused site e.g. this one = relevant(good link).
  • Brighton / Sussex focused site = relevant to area (good).
  • Site about Death = indirectly relevant (still good).
  • Site about piano’s = irrelevant (bad)

As mentioned above, links are essential to ranking your website.

 

Citations

 

A citation is an implied link and affects your websites prominence in Google’s local pack.

A citation is simply your business name, address and phone number (NAP) placed on a 3rd party site such as a business directory. The trick is to ensure the NAP matches that placed on your Google Business profile and website.

In addition is important to ensure data such as business opening times are aligned.

YouTube:

Google owns YouTube.  It therefore comes as no surprised that Youtube video’s can help influence local SEO prominence.  Creating a video which references your business details and focuses on one of your primary keywords creates a relevant link, citation and rich media which once embedded into a web page will drive your site’s exposure.  This article provides a comprehensive guide.

Conclusion:

Configuring a website to be found within Google for a desirable keyword (SEO) is at its heart an exercise of two halves:

  • A labelling exercise (keyword research: understanding what users search for and labelling your content accordingly)
  • Matching and exceeding your competition (quality / quantity of relevant content & links)

Any questions ???