Category Archives: funeral directors

Changes they are a’coming

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

 

                                                                                                       

The GFG was back on the road this weekend, over the border in the ancient Scottish town of Stirling. Some 720 years after Sir William Wallace led his Scottish army to the historic victory over the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, the welcome we received was significantly warmer, although the towering National Wallace Monument glimpsed through the hotel window was a constant reminder of more fractured times in our shared past.

The reason for trekking the 400 miles north was to be present at The Stirling Debate on the forthcoming regulation of Scottish funeral directors. Jointly hosted by the two trade associations, the National Association of Funeral Directors and the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors, the day was designed to give delegates the opportunity to find out about the ground-breaking powers granted by the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016.

The Act will introduce changes that will shape the way bereaved people are served and the way that the funeral trade conducts business for years to come, and throughout Scotland, funeral directors are watching and waiting, with varying degrees of concern.

With the passing into law of the Act, Scottish funeral directors will soon operate under a new dedicated regulatory framework, the first of its kind in the UK. This will include a statutory inspector of funeral directors, regulations governing the funeral trade and the possible licensing of funeral directors throughout Scotland.

Both NAFD and SAIF have been working closely with Scottish Government to ensure that the new regulatory regime is ‘effective and successful’, and consequently they were the joint hosts of the Stirling Debate, giving an opportunity for delegates to raise questions and concerns with a member of the Scottish Government’s Burial and Cremation Legislation Team.

It is the first time that the NAFD and SAIF have shared such a platform, and in acknowledgement of this momentous collaboration, the CEOs of both organisations signed a joint document which instantly became known as The Stirling Agreement – read the full version here: Joint agreement NAFD and SAIF Final version ready for signature 1 April 2017

It is a sign of the importance of the changes that are coming that the two trade associations have put aside their differences and are committed to working together to offer one voice for funeral directors – a historically disparate bunch ranging from enormous private corporate businesses to individuals working from home and hiring facilities as they need them.

As background, in Scotland 388 companies belong to the NAFD, and 240 to SAIF, with some companies belonging to both. It is not certain exactly how many other funeral directing businesses are in operation in the country that don’t belong to either association.

Members of NAFD and SAIF carry out around 55,000 funerals a year in Scotland, and when a survey was circulated by the trade associations last year, while only 42 businesses responded, these carry out 34,500 funerals a year between them. The responses therefore likely represent the views of the larger businesses, and are summarised below:

  • 74% of respondents welcome regulation of the funeral industry
  • 79% support work to improve standards
  • 95% think that the trade associations should work closely with government

Respondents felt that care of the deceased should be the first priority, and that the role of the inspector should focus on care of the deceased, facilities, service, estimates, pricing, vehicles and staff experience.

They also felt that ‘all options for sanctions’ should be on the table – currently if a funeral director does something that is in breach of the code of conduct of either association, the most severe sanction is expulsion from membership. There is nothing to stop that company from continuing to trade.

A desire was expressed for a transition period before any new regulations are implemented, to allow time for any businesses not meeting the requirements to reach any new standards. There was also a call for consideration to be given to the vast differences in funeral director business models.

An example was given of one individual in Lewis, who carries out all the funerals on the island, but who does not offer refrigeration. Lewis people who have died normally stay at home, with burials taking place within a few days, so refrigeration isn’t required. Any new regulations would need to take account of this kind of requirement.

Having heard the survey responses, delegates had an opportunity to put questions to a panel, including Cheryl Paris who was representing Scottish Government at the debate. Inevitably, it was Cheryl to whom most questions were posed, and she gamely did her best to address the many concerns put to her, although it was apparent that everything is in the very early stages and decisions on almost every aspect have yet to be reached. Cheryl spent most of her day scribbling furiously as different subjects and questions were raised, although she did give some indication of the timescale of implementation:

Decisions on cremation regulations, including the application forms, are in the consultation stage. The appointment of an inspector of funeral directors is imminent, although decisions on the scope of the inspector’s powers and how he or she will work with existing inspectors of the respective trade associations have not yet been made – these will be being put to consultation shortly.

The inspector will consult widely across the funeral industry, and make recommendations to Scottish Government, with regulation of funeral directors expected to be introduced from 2019. At this point in time, however, according to Cheryl, “We are not at a place where we even know if licensing of funeral directors is appropriate.”

Five questions were put to delegates, who split into groups to discuss them.

  • How would funeral directors operating across the Scotland / England border ensure compliance with any new regulations?
  • What would you recommend as the minimum standard for the profession?
  • If licensing is introduced, should it apply to the individual or to the funeral home?
  • What role should the NAFD and SAIF have in ensuring compliance with a new code of practice for funeral directors?
  • If the new code of practice had five sections, what would they be?

The responses from the discussions indicated the complexity of the challenge ahead to get regulation of the funeral industry right – the issue of cross border compliance with any new regulatory regime is one that resulted in more questions in response than answers. Could this include purchase of a license by English companies carrying out funerals in Scotland? Would repatriation companies also need a license? What type of insurance products would need to be introduced to cover cross border execution of funerals? Should there be a compliance officer appointed? How would regulation in Scotland affect the choices available for families bereaved in England where the funeral takes place in Scotland and who might wish to appoint an English (unregulated) funeral director?

The question about minimum standards elicited some interesting answers, not least a suggestion of a mandatory requirement that every funeral director should belong to a trade association. Other responses included common inspection standards between the two trade associations, a requirement for all staff to be trained, a diversity of training to be available, with tiered qualifications, a definition of adequate premises for care of the deceased, a need to establish the fitness or calibre of the business owner, accountability to be vested in one nominated individual, transparency of ownership of the business, indemnity insurance to be compulsory – and an ethical basis for all business practice.

The question about whether any licensing should apply to an individual or a funeral home, was met with the response of ‘Both’ from all the tables that discussed it. It was proposed that all premises should be assessed as fit for purpose, and all funeral directors should be qualified to a standard to be agreed, or certified as competent. The regulation used in the care quality commission was cited, and it was suggested that sanctions should be introduced for both an individual and a company that breached any new code of conduct.

On the question of the roles of the trade associations in ensuring compliance with a code of practice for funeral directors, it was proposed that both should be closely involved in developing and drafting a new code of practice, and that both trade associations should be consulted in an advisory role to Scottish government during the decision-making stage. It was also noted that there should be consultation with members before any new code of practice is introduced. Discussions about levels of sanctions available, whether trade associations should be held responsible if members are not compliant and what shape a complaint system should take were all raised, and the role of existing trade association inspectors was proposed to evolve into an advisory role, auditing businesses pre-inspection to ensure that they were at the required standard.

Finally, suggestions for the proposed new code of practice included premises being fit for purpose, individuals holding adequate qualifications or education, standards – i.e. being a ‘fit and proper person’ – DBS (formerly CRB) checks, continual professional development, an arbitration and complaints scheme, transparency, confidentiality and establishing standards of care of the deceased, insurance, Health and Safety, advertising, and so on.

The discussions were animated and lively, and the involvement and engagement of everyone attending the debate was very evident. The introduction of regulation of the funeral trade in Scotland will have huge consequences, not just for the people who work in the funeral industry, but far more importantly, for their clients, the bereaved families who will be using the services of an undertaker in years to come.

It is far too early to tell how things will develop as work continues towards implementation of regulation, but from an interested observer’s viewpoint, Saturday’s Stirling Debate was a positive step towards cohesive and constructive changes that were first called for by Henry Sherry in 1898, when he urged the British Institute of Undertakers do ‘all in its power to petition or otherwise to get parliament to make some form of compulsory regulation.’

What the shape and form of that regulation will take in Scotland is something that we will be reporting back as things develop. Watch this space.

                                                                                       

Undertakers at war

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

 

Ivor Leverton, 1961 – Image from Leverton and Sons website

The necessity to collect and decently dispose of those who fell in battle never led to  the conscription or recruitment of specialist undertakers. Undertakers wishing to serve their country in both world wars had to sign on as soldiers or sailors or airmen. There was no scope for serving as undertakers — with one exception.

Operation Mincemeat in 1943 was the exotic brainchild of British Intelligence. It was deployed to deceive the Germans into believing that a British invasion of Europe would be attempted in Greece and Sardinia, and that the force assembled in Casablanca apparently preparing to invade Sicily, the actual target, was merely a diversion. The purpose was to persuade the Axis forces not to send troops to reinforce the Sicily beaches. 

To achieve this bluff, the corpse of a Welsh pauper, Glyndwr Michael, was clad in the uniform of a fictitious Royal Marines officer. Forged top secret letters were placed in his briefcase bearing the necessary misinformation. The corpse was released from a submarine off the coast of Spain and picked up by a fisherman. The documents were read by the Germans, who believed them. The Allies invaded Sicily in the face of muted opposition. You can read all about it on Wikipedia.

The complicated process of giving the corpse its identity-makeover and getting it good to go called for the services of undertaker. That undertaker was Ivor Leverton.

Ivor Leverton had been turned down for military service – medically unfit – but he was itching to do his bit. When the intelligence officers in charge of Mincemeat needed the body of poor Glyndwr Michael moved from St Pancras to Hackney, they turned to Ivor. The episode is described by Ben Macintyre:

“Soon after midnight, Leverton tiptoed downstairs from the flat above the funeral parlour in Eversholt Street, taking care not to wake his wife, and retrieved a hearse from the company garage in Crawley Mews … The dead man was wearing khaki military uniform but no shoes. Leverton was struck by his height. Leverton and Sons’ standard [removal] coffins measured six foot two inside, but [Leverton recorded in his diary] ‘the dead man must have stood six feet four inches tall’ and could not be made to lie flat. ‘By an adjustment to the knees and setting the very large feet at an angle, we were just able to manage’.”

Macintyre describes Ivor Leverton as “a man of unflappable temperament and a bone dry sense of humour”. His brother, Derrick, was cut from the same cloth.

Major Derrick Leverton, 12th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment of the Royal Artillery, was, by coincidence, among the first ashore on Sicily. An irrepressible optimist, he described the hellish sea crossing in a letter home as “a most excellent cruise”. His job was to set up a gun emplacement and engage enemy planes. As his men worked he brewed himself a cuppa. Then he was dive-bombed. One bomb fell in the sea “and splashed us with nice cool water”. In Macintyre’s narrative, “In case of further attacks the undertaker instructed his men to dig ‘little graves about three feet deep, which were very comfortable’ … And so, as the bombs fell around him, this heroic British undertaker sat in his own grave, wearing swimming trunks and a helmet, drinking a nice cup of tea. He looked ridiculous and, at the same time, bloody magnificent.”

Does anyone know of any other undertaker who had a good war?

Derrick Leverton, 1963 – Image Leverton and Sons website

Dignity in Blunderland

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

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Posted by Charles

A relatively new element of the Christmas experience is the themed winter wonderland. We’ve already had our first hilarious example of 2016 in Bakewell, Derbyshire. The Sun headline captured it neatly: WINTER BLUNDERLAND. Bakewell Winter Wonderland slammed by families as ‘pile of s***’ that is ‘so bad even Santa f***** it off’. The shocking muddy conditions saw the festive event likened to the Battle of the Somme.

Bit of a downer, obviously, but not enough to sully the good name of Christmas, a festival that remains robustly evergreen. Everyone complains how expensive it is. It has no utilitarian function. We do it the same way every year, ritualistically, so we know exactly what’s going to happen and what part we’re expected to play. Yes, it’s lovely to look at. But it celebrates an event – the birth of Christ – which to most people is of no relevance. Sure, there’s always a few bah-humbuggers who opt out, hunker down and have a no-Christmas Christmas instead, but vanishingly few, and their example is not influential. No, the overwhelming majority find the money and give it the full turkey. We love Christmas. Cheap at half the price. 

If only we could say the same about the traditional funeral. It’s got most of the same ingredients as Christmas. Everyone says it costs too much. It has no utilitarian function. Its format never varies – it’s ritualistic. Everyone knows what’s going to happen and what part they are expected to play. It is undeniably eyecatching. It was once the vehicle for a Christian funeral, but to most people now that’s of no relevance. And yet, and yet, the number of people copping out and opting for a no-funeral funeral – direct disposal – is growing exponentially. People are increasingly unwilling to find the money for a trad sendoff. Why?

I mean, a ‘traditional’ funeral is a heritage cultural artefact. It can trace its origins to the heraldic funeral of the middle ages. In a country that loves its pomp and ceremony, this is the British way of death. Where did it all go wrong?

I’ll tell you. The undertakers, finding themselves caught in a spot of commercial bad weather, had a straightforward choice to make and they called it wrong. They slashed their margins and introduced cheaper alternatives to the the product we call the traditional funeral. Hardly a creative response, nor a plucky one.

Steady the Buffs. When people say that funerals are too expensive, is this what they really mean?

Listen hard and you’ll discern that what they really mean is that funerals aren’t worth what they cost. They offer poor value for money. That’s not the same as too expensive. 

The problem is not with cost, it’s with value.

Last Thursday, Dignity bottled it and launched a direct cremation service under the branding of Simplicity Cremations. There’s a lot of the usual sales bilge on the website employing words like ‘dignified’ and ‘respectful’, as you’d yawnfully expect. There’s also a Ratneresque Cruise missile strike against the traditional funeral:

A full service funeral can be an expensive occasion that takes time and effort to arrange. You’ll often need a Funeral Director and a whole team of staff to co-ordinate the required services, vehicles and personnel, book the time with the crematorium, deal with paperwork, manage tributes and announcements and ensure everything runs smoothly on the day. And then there are also additional costs for items such as flowers, service cards, music, maybe a memorial or headstone and often a wake. It will usually take quite a few face-to-face meetings to arrange, not to mention several thousands of pounds.

In other words, yep, our flagship product is a bunch of crap. Too much time, too much effort, too much money. Don’t buy it.

Why would Dignity do that? These are clever people. Why diss the product that yields the best margin? This is industrial strength, Santa-killing insanity.

On the same day that Dignity was raising its cowardly white flag, Team GFG was, by happy coincidence, in London meeting a high-level ceremonialist with excellent connections and a strong belief that all is not lost. Because, dammit, we’re not giving up on the traditional funeral. We think the thing to do is to fix it – fix this issue around value.

What is a high-value funeral? It’s closely related to a high-value Christmas. It is something which does people a power of good. In the case of a funeral, it is transformative of grief.

For undertakers, ‘funeral flight’ represents an urgent existential threat. The business model of a funeral director is structured to provide all or most of the elements of a traditional funeral. Bankruptcy is hovering. When most funerals are private events or non-events, where will be the job satisfaction? For people grieving the death of someone, the consequences of the death of the funeral are quantified by John Birrell – here.

Christmas happens when we need it most. The days are short and dark, the weather awful. We all need cheering up. The retailers, whose livelihood depends on us splashing out bigtime, cleverly meet our needs with both the right merchandise and also cleverly pitched marketing messages – those supermarket  tv ads are all about the feelgood factor. Retailers understand that they will only sell us stuff if they can show us the Christmas is going to be a richly meaningful experience.

When commercial interests align with consumer needs you’ve got the makings of a thriving market, one in which everyone does well. Our undertakers would do well to ponder this, and so would our celebrants. Funerals happen when we need them most, too. If the public, processional, ceremonial funeral is, as we believe, the best way to deliver a high-value funeral experience – a funeral worth every penny – how can it be updated and repurposed in such a way as to accomplish that? 

 

Caring for the Dead

Friday, 2 December 2016

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Guest post by Hasina Zaman of Compassionate Funerals

There are many facets to being a funeral director.  Much of our work seems to stay behind closed doors. Are we actively shielding the public from the dead or is society choosing not to embrace death as a part of life? Death has perhaps become removed from the everyday lifecycle experience. Our aim is to bring it out into the open by explaining some of the processes we go through. 

The aim of this article is to best describe how we care for the dead.  At Compassionate Funerals we are dedicated to caring for both the bereaved and deceased. It’s very important that we work together with the bereaved so that they are at the heart of the funeral process. We believe it’s important that funerals are personalised, meaningful and empowering.

Before we collect the deceased there are a few processes that will take place. Initially, the bereaved or pre-bereaved family or friend will call us. This person may be the next of kin and in most cases will liaise with us at Compassionate Funerals.  A person can die in hospital, a hospice, at home or in a care/nursing home. If death happens accidently or suddenly in any location, the deceased is under the care of the Coroner.  They will take time to establish the cause of death. Therefore, when it comes to us collecting the deceased, we must ask where death occurred and decide what equipment is required for us to bring the deceased into our care.

We are particularly mindful when we are collecting the dead from their home. There may be bereaved family members present or children who may be experiencing death for the first time. We make sure that there is clear communication and permission from the bereaved family. This can be a very emotional and traumatic time. We do this quietly, slowly and gently as possible.

We got a call from Tina, who told us that her mum Joy had a few days to live. Joy was in a palliative care unit in a local hospital. Tina had also ordered her own bespoke coffin and wanted her mum to be buried in a natural burial ground in Essex.

Before setting off to the hospital, we made intentions to be compassionate and composed in receiving Tina’s mum. We checked that we had all the correct paper work, which is required for identification.  We also made sure that we had the collapsible stretcher and covering for Joy. As a company practice, we always refer to the deceased by their name as opposed to the ‘body’ or the deceased. We feel this is respectful and is in keeping with basic human rights.

From the start, Tina was very clear that she wanted us to support her choice of involvement from her family. Once we brought Joy into our care she was laid to rest in a banana leaf coffin, as the family was averse to their “mum being in a cold fridge”.  We suggested that Tina and her elder sister may want to help wash their mother before she was laid to rest. We facilitated the wash and fully supported them through the process. They were initially nervous, but their confidence grew. They used rose oil to wash their mum, and styled her hair.  It was beautiful to witness and an honor to work alongside the two sisters. Their hands were tender, soft and delicate.  They talked to her and re-told stories of their mum and her life.

Joy was a feminist and loved pink. Tina said that her mum would love to be shrouded in rose pink organic cotton. Joy was wrapped in five layers of cotton, similar to the Muslim funeral tradition. Both sisters expressed how they enjoyed spending time with their mum. They were able to perform Joy’s last offices and give her an honorable and loving send off.

On the day of Joy’s funeral, her children and grandchildren spent time with her. Her grandchildren had brought her gifts, letters and her favorite sweets that they placed in her coffin. We kept her room calm, cool and peaceful with subtle artifacts of all things pink.

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 ???

 

Modern Funeral Director of the Year

Monday, 3 October 2016

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Fran Glover & Carrie Weekes of A Natural Undertaking

Carrie and Fran run a funeral business in Birmingham where they have enjoyed rapid success by facilitating highly personalized, non-traditional funerals.

Carrie Weekes and Fran Glover launched their business in Birmingham in 2014 because they felt that current funeral and commemorative practices in Birmingham, where funerals remain very traditional, don’t meet the needs of everyone. Social change, Carrie and Fran reckon, means that people now live less formal lives; their views and commitment to religion have changed. Carrie and Fran said: “We live our lives as consumers, demanding products and services that add and hold value and which reflect our individuality. The internet is used intensively to research and review. And yet the funeral industry on the whole doesn’t seem to have acknowledged any of this.”

Neither Carrie nor Fran comes from a funeral business background. Their previous experiences of the industry were as consumers and mourners. They felt that the funerals they had attended were a poor reflection of the people being farewelled.

So they set out to disrupt the pattern of ‘conveyor belt’ funerals by making a wide range of choices available and involving mourners in both planning funerals and also encouraging them to process their feelings better by playing their part in a really personal farewell on the day – if they want.

Carrie and Fran’s goals are to:

  • Create meaningful funeral events which reflect the personality and values of the person who has died
  • Encourage the involvement of those who knew them
  • Create an understanding that there are many different ways to hold a funeral
  • Help bereaved people to break away from the norm.

Among many supporting testimonials received for A Natural Undertaking, the judges felt that this one speaks most appropriately:

They are passionate advocates of a funeral to suit the deceased and their loved ones. Their business model is truly modern in an industry that is otherwise very staid.

My uncle died earlier this year and although he was in his sixties, he was by no means an ‘old man’. His death was a shock to the family and we were unprepared. We only knew he wanted to be cremated. After that, we were at a loss as to how to best honour his spirit and celebrate his life.

As is my usual default when looking for information, I turned to the Internet. Among some frankly appalling examples, the fabulous website of this company stood out a mile and really resonated with me. It is a modern, clear and concise site which has been very thoughtfully designed – detailed prices are given, along with other information that I really needed to read before making the important decision of who to employ to handle my uncle’s funeral.

From the first time I spoke to one of the owners, she became a trusted and valuable friend. Crucially for me, she was available by text and email (as well as by telephone). Her calm empathy and understanding helped me more than I can say.

With their warm support we discarded the ‘rule” book’ and thought about the person who counted – Trevor. My once vibrant, gorgeous, wonderful – and completely modern – uncle. His funeral was all about him and everything was perfect thanks to the vision and ability of these two women to offer a bespoke service. I think that Trevor’s service will prove quite the inspiration for anyone who was there and might find themselves arranging a funeral in the future – and that is a lovely thought.

They might run a funeral business, but for these two is so much more. They are, in my opinion, modern-day pioneers. Aside from their day-job, they spend a great deal of time out in the local communicating educating people about end of life decisions and encouraging discussion. Their dedication to this side of their business is remarkable as, let’s face it, most busy people don’t generally place such importance on going the extra mile for the good of society.

I thank my lucky stars that they happen to be based in the place where my uncle lived. I know that we would not have gotten the same funeral in my own local area. It would be wonderful to see the their business model spread nationwide. What a difference this could make to people’s perceptions and experiences of death and funerals. In my personal opinion, they deserve every award and accolade available.”

 

Runners Up in this category: The Individual Funeral Company & Wallace Stuart

Low Cost Funeral Director of the Year

Monday, 26 September 2016

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Lucy Coulbert of Coulbert Family Funerals

Having geared her business specifically to help families of limited means arrange dignified and respectful funerals, Lucy was the only funeral director in England and Wales to give evidence to the 2016 DWP Bereavement Benefits Enquiry.

Lucy gives a 100% customer-focused service, unconstrained by the traditions of funeral service. In an industry which sets great store by conformity and mystique, Lucy is somewhat of a maverick. She does what she believes to be right and pays no heed to gainsayers.

She is at the forefront of a new, open way of doing things and her practice is a beacon to anyone contemplating establishing their own funeral business. She has been brave and outspoken and richly deserves this recognition.

Lucy has committed herself to supporting people of limited means, helping them create an affordable funeral. Funeral poverty has become a major issue in these times of austerity. Lucy created Coulbert Family Funerals to exclusively help people applying to the DWP for financial help paying for a funeral.

In the furtherance of the cause of combatting funeral poverty, Lucy gave evidence the Bereavement Benefits enquiry conducted by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) this year giving both oral and written evidence about the causes of, and solutions to, funeral poverty with Baroness Altmann and the DWP. She was the only person asked to attend all three meetings in the capacity of a funeral director.

Lucy is highly responsive to what her clients ask for. She publishes all her prices online, thereby achieving a transparency that all funeral directors would do well to emulate.

Lucy said: “I help people arrange the funeral they want in the way they want, and I do so in the most ethical way I can. I listen to what people want and don’t try to push them into having things they don’t want or need.”

 

Runner Up in this Category: Funerals on a Budget

Wise words

Saturday, 10 September 2016

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Ru’s opening words to the assembled guests struck a chord with many who were there, so we thought we’d put them on the blog for the whole world to read. Over to you Rupert.

“Welcome everyone to the Good Funeral Awards 2016!

It started off, as so many good things do, in a sweaty basement in Bournemouth, and has grown into this glamorous Metropolitan lunchtime bunfight.

My name is Ru Callender and I should be standing here with my wife, Claire – sadly, she’s got flu. Together, we run The Green Funeral Company in Devon, and we used to be the Enfants Terrible of the undertaking world. Self taught, stubborn, scruffy, we still use our family Volvo instead of a hearse – but as we’ve been doing it for 17 years, we’re probably just terrible…

Today is a genuinely unusual mélange of the alternative and the conventional funeral world, and it has probably taken longer than the Good Friday agreement took to get everyone in the same room.

You are here because someone thinks you’re great. Let that sink in.

Even if you asked them to.

This gathering is largely due to Charles Cowling and crew of the Good Funeral Guide, and also to the original renegade masters, the Natural Death Centre, both of whose organisations dared to believe that ordinary people could deal with the gritty detail of death, the truth about what happens to our bodies, that a deep, internal understanding of death is part of our birthright, part and parcel of being human.

And what they did – brace yourself, maybe have a glug of wine to steady yourself here, was to treat the public as adults, to include them in a conversation about the one thing that will happen to each and every one of us.

They presumed, as we all should, that people can handle more than the protective narrative that is fed to them.

They were right.

It was thought wildly radical then, now it just seems honest and transparent.

I said funeral world because I refuse to use the word industry. Making computers is an industry. Fashion is an industry. Even getting fit is an industry. I don’t decry industry. It’s necessary.

But death is a true mystery, and working with it should be a vocation, a real calling, and if you’re not meant to be here, if ego, or an understandable search for meaning in your life has misled you here, then death has a way of calling your bluff. You are either initiated, in or out.

This work, the real work of dealing with death and loss is not glamorous, however closely it nearly rhymes with sex, however interesting it makes us appear to those who unfortunately have to work in jobs they hate to pay the bills, and that matter little.

This work, done properly, is incredibly stressful.

It’s exhausting, frightening, physically, emotionally and existentially challenging, but it is also deeply, deeply rewarding.

Burn out is a real risk, or worse, an unconscious hardening of your outer emotional skin – these are the risks you face depending on whether you fully engage with it or not.

Breakdown or bravado. Truly a metaphor for our times.

So, if you work with death – florist, celebrant, undertaker or chaplain, particularly if you are new to it, you really have to let it in.

Go deeper.

Feel it. Fear it. Don’t pretend to love it , because the only thing worse than death is not death – and then, if you can, let it go.

 

This world is also open to all.

Undertaking is completely unregulated, and should remain so in my opinion, not just because no amount of qualifications can teach you what to say to the mother of a dead child, that is an instinctive language that rises unbidden from the heart, but also because we are all amateurs when staring into the abyss, all professionals when faced with a dead body.

And they are OUR dead, yours and mine. We are all funeral directors eventually.

It is a shared mystery and your guess as to what it means, and your actions as to what to do are as valid as mine, or the Church, or the Humanists.

Nobody knows for sure.

The mechanics of what needs to be done are easy, I promise. Keep bodies cold. Put them in a suitable receptacle. Carry them, bury or burn them.

The rest, the words, the rituals, the how we do this, you KNOW, deep down what is right for you. You know.

 

But here I am, bringing you all down at a funeral award convention – I should get a prize for that!

But just indulge me one last time before we start bringing on the champs, and this celebration of the real change that has happened gets underway –

Euphemisms.

They cover the kitchen floor of bereavement like a spilled cat litter tray.

They protect no-one, they fool no-one, they confuse children. They are well meaning, but they are wrong.

I’m only going to take on one here, and I apologise if anyone has to amend their speech or their website as a result.

Loved ones.

Not everyone is loved, some because they have led sad, lonely lives, others because they did bad things.

They die too. They need funerals and their families are broken, and the depth of their pain makes the phrase ‘Loved one’ seem like a jeer.

Just saying.

So call them the dead, the dead one, the dead person, anything other than ‘loved one’. Call them by their name!

I know it’s awkward, but it will spare you the look of contempt you get when you say it to the wrong person.

Lecture over.”

Why Funeralbooker are backing the Good Funeral Awards

Friday, 19 August 2016

Funeralbooker at the Ideal Death Show

Guest post by Ian Strang and James Dunn, Directors of Funeralbooker

‘Dear all,

For those of you who haven’t come across Funeralbooker before, we are a website which helps connect people with the best funeral director for them.

When we decided to set up Funeralbooker and were researching the market, it was evident that the Good Funeral Guide provided the leading independent voice in the funeral community. We had spent countless hours scouring its blog for valuable insights into this new world – and so one of the first meetings we looked to set up was with its founder, Charles Cowling.

Heading down on the train to Weymouth, we felt slight trepidation over what type of character this Mr Cowling might be – perhaps a firebrand activist or maybe a dour auditor? Therefore, we were delighted to discover an incredibly amiable and engaging Charles, who escorted us to a local pub where we spent a very pleasant few hours in the sunshine discussing the industry. Tough market research indeed!

Since that time, we have continued to value Charles’s thoughts and input and have further strengthened our relationship with the GFG since the appointments of both Fran Hall and Louise De Winter.

In particular, we view several elements of the GFG’s ethos as mirroring ours:

  • • A relentless pursuit of what is best for customers – particularly through empowering them to make their own decisions
  • • Championing the great work done by the many outstanding funeral directors
  • • “Openness” to new ideas, innovation and change

We allow consumers to quickly and easily understand who the best funeral director is for them – using clear pricing entered by funeral directors themselves and reviews from actual customers who have used the platform.

For the funeral director, we provide a way to easily reach a whole new set of customers that they might not usually be able to serve. Before we launched, people who searched online would typically end up with the larger chain companies, and we can compete against that, increasing visibility for the smaller, independent funeral directors.

Last year, as wide-eyed newcomers, we attended the Ideal Death Show and Good Funeral Awards at the very last minute with only a hastily designed banner and some preliminary designs of what our website might look like when we had finished building it.

A year on and we return as proud sponsor of this event, with almost 500 funeral directors signed up with us and our website helping people connect with these great independents every day. These awards provide a fantastic way to celebrate all that is great within the funeral industry and sponsoring them is a very proud moment for us.’

To find out more about Funeralbooker visit their website here: funeralbooker.com/

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