Cemetery SEO: How FindAGrave.com Makes Millions From Ads In Morbid Organic Search
How’s this for a niche: death?
Talk about unsexy…
I generally embrace boring and weird niches, but this next niche goes a bit too far, even for me.
Not that I wouldn’t love to own this particular website and its absolutely insane rankings, but this is probably the most morbid niche I’ve come across.
And keep in mind I’ve already profiled Prison SEO…
What’s The Website?
The website is FindAGrave.com- a directory style website for ‘final disposition information’, i.e. cemeteries.
According to their About page, “Find A Grave is the best place on the internet to look for burial and other final disposition information for your family, friends and famous people. The site provides tools that let people from all over the world work together, share information and build an online, virtual cemetery experience.”
You can see some of their stunning traffic stats below- 5.4 million ranking keywords:
To get a sense of what it’s all about- check out some keyword research I did below, analyzing their top 1,000 organic keywords:
Getting Started With Niche SitesUse the strategies on this page in conjunction with my niche site process. Here it is in a nutshell:
- AuthorityHacker's Authority Site System (my review): a complete, step-by-step system to start growing your own highly profitable affiliate & authority niche site.
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- A reliable and fast hosting solution like SiteGround (my review)
- A brandable domain name from GoDaddy (my guide)
- A premium theme- I use GeneratePress but there are some cool niche themes on ThemeForest
- SEO Friendly Article Writing ($8-$12 / 1,000 words) from HireWriters (read: my HireWriters review)
- Powerful Backlinks from Authority.Builders (read: my Authority.Builders review)
- An automated social media drip campaign from MissingLettr
- An auto-responder to build your email list– ConvertKit is what I'm using (read: my ConvertKit review)
- Finally- you can always refer to my free step-by-step niche selection guide and all of my free niche reports for inspiration
This site ranks for several different types of keywords.
Looking at keyword data, they rank for different cemeteries (“greenwood cemetery”); their own significantly searched brand term (Find A Grave); and somewhat well-known people that have died (“Rainey Bethea”).
How Does It Make Money?
Find A Grave appears to be completely monetized by ads.
According to their FAQ page, they don’t charge any money if you want to leave ‘flowers’ on their digital memorial pages.
You can see some of their ad placements on this Jim Morrison memorial page. Number 5 appears to be a sponsored ad placement from Ancestry.com:
How Much Does It Make?
I used SimilarWeb to analyze the site’s overall traffic statistics. According to them, they are averaging about 15.5 million a visit a month with users accessing an astonishing 20 pages per visit.
To get an estimate of site earnings, you could divide 15.5 million by 1,000, multiply it by the pages per visit and then multiply that number by an estimated CPM ad figure like $10.
That number comes out to $3.1 million. I highly doubt that they are making that much- maybe the pages per visit number isn’t accurate.
Nonetheless, this is definitely a high traffic website that probably does have significant page views per user.
The Big Idea
Find A Grave focuses on an incredibly unsexy but highly searched topic: death.
There’s a massive amount of traffic to be had in this niche.
While this particular niche might feel somewhat distasteful, the general idea here is that there is far less competition in these unsexy niches.
What I Would Do
If I were entering into this niche, I would do a lot of keyword research to identify content themes.
I already identified several content themes for Find A Grave above.
I might emulate those to build-out different silos of content on my website.
For example, it would make sense to do lengthy write-ups on different cemeteries around the world.
You could create visitor guides, for example. These guides would help people plan their visit to a particular cemetery.
I would also search social media to find images I could embed of the particular cemetery to enrich my posts- like this Tweet about Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn:
Conducted a EVP and Flashlight session today at Lillie's grave in Greenwood Cemetery. pic.twitter.com/6F3WUIa5RC
— East Washington Paranormal Group (@ParanormalEast) July 14, 2019
While Find A Grave monetizes with ads, there are some affiliate opportunities in this niche as well.
Funeral Affiliate Programs
As I build out my content, I would research the different affiliate programs in the funeral niche to see how I could integrate those offers into my website.
A quick Google search for funeral affiliate programs turned up the website Funeral Call, which provides “live funeral home answering service with over 28 years of experience in the industry. All of your calls are answered by a live, highly trained professional.”
And Funeral Wise provides a funeral planning tool- another interesting monetization option.
Of course, I would be sure to vest these difference funeral service providers to make sure they are of high quality. I wouldn’t feel comfortable referring grieving people to low-quality solutions.
The advantage to an affiliate program, especially for new sites with little traffic, is that you can see some earnings even if you have negligible traffic.
You’ll need a lot more traffic to even get into an ad network, let alone see he’s into earnings from ads running on your website.
So, in a nutshell, my approach would be to find different content themes and build out these blog post verticals over time.
You can mindmap these themes as I did in my Get Started guide for tennis below:
Say you choose two different content themes to start, you can plan ten posts in each vertical and use a tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush to track keyword rankings as your site matures.
Maybe one vertical of content outperforms the other- then you can pivot to that content vertical to ensure efficient use of your time and money.
There are some pros and cons to this style of site.
Now that they are a recognized brand, lots of people flock to the site- you can see evidence of that in the keyword research table. There’s tremendous search volume for variations of the term ‘Find A Grave’.
In addition, a lot of the content is completely user-generated.
People are able to upload images and other content to the website chronicling different gravestones from around the world.
It’s definitely difficult to gain traction with user-generated content- you need a lot of site visitors and probably a team of virtual assistants or employees to manually review submissions.
As I’ve already observed, this is a low competition niche. There are lots of keywords that are easy to rank for here.
Funerals are really expensive. I would bet that funeral advertisers are competitively bidding for traffic on sites like Find A Grave. This might translate to solid CPM rates.
Obviously, this is pretty morbid. If your site succeeds, you might be spending a lot of time thinking about gravestones and cemeteries.
While the ad revenue would be a nice consolation, you might not want to be involved with a morbid topic like this.
Hard To Replicate
A lot of development dollars have gone into this website- it’s a genuinely helpful and interesting resource. (I’d experiment using a WordPress directory theme to replicate the style of Find A Grave.)
If you’re trying to replicate their strategy, it won’t be so easy right off the bat. As I already mentioned, they have a lot of user-generated content – people submitting unique images to the website, for example.
Early on I would focus on building out high-quality content and over time perhaps adding more interesting features to the website, maybe incorporating user-generated content, in some way or another, once I had more traffic.
This is another weird niche site opportunity.
There are definitely affiliate and ad opportunities here combined with low competition keywords a new site wouldn’t have too much trouble ranking for.
I would think long and hard about starting a site in this category- it could become depressing writing about cemeteries and the deceased.