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The Obituary Debate Adds Another Layer: Tributes vs. Legacy vs. ObitTree vs. ObitsforLife

The topic of Tributes.com verses Legacy.com has been a big one on ConnectingDirectors.com over the past few weeks. We received great feedback from a number of experts in the profession who were glad that the discussion was brought to the forefront.

When writing on this topic we have stayed very neutral and fair. We reached out to Legacy.com and got no response. We reached out to Tributes.com and did a great video interview with Vice President John Heald. We also reached out to Frontrunner who has replied back with a great written response and they offer great food for thought.

In the decision to try and stay neutral in this discussion and let it be handled by the funeral directors who are actually the one's creating the obituaries, we will say this, "We do not see any value, to the funeral home, or family, in the services they provide. So lets cut them out of the discussion all together. On the other hand we are huge supporters of driving the obit traffic back to the funeral home. So who is doing that better?"

With Legacy.com out, that leaves us with Tributes.com, Obitsforlife.com, and ObitTree.com. We are leaving the debate up to you. Please watch and read the responses from Frontrunner and Tributes.com below:

Here is a link to the Tributes interview we did.

Response from Frontrunner President and CEO, Kevin Montroy (response published with permission):

"As you know, I am not a fan of ANY Online obituary scheme that drives traffic to a third party site. We have all witnessed the abuse of funeral homes obituaries in these highly commercialized schemes that are designed to put money in the pocket of the online listing – often at tremendous expense to the funeral home both financially and through reputation.  All are bogus in their return search results which is where both the funeral home and the public is duped. Unless their model changes significantly, none in my opinion have credibility.

About a year ago, FrontRunnner Professional decided to take a stand against this. We helped seek out legal opinions on the need (and in fact the urgency) for funeral homes to copyright ALL their obituaries and lay down the authorized or non-authorized republication or use of these obituaries. If every funeral home did this today, the problem would be solved overnight. But we went further, we created ObitsForLife.com and ObitTree.com. These sites contain no advertising  – aiding funeral homes in honoring the dignity of the deceased, while instilling the honesty, integrity of our great profession and solidifying the trust families place in these firms. These obituary posting sites are “free” for any funeral home. They can simply create an account and once they are vetted to insure verification of the account they can upload as many current or past records to the sites. Many clients are still charging a $40 fee on their GLP to provide this service. This has not only allowed for a tremendous new revenue stream, but creates a powerful added service to the families they serve. Most importantly, visitors can find the obituary they are looking for and are instantly taken directly to the funeral homes website where condolences and other tributes can be offered and shared. These listing are permanent. As an added bonus, the obituary posted on the websites of FrontRunner users is instantly published to ObitsforLife.com and ObitTree.com saving time and money.  FrontRunner will also launch TributeSearch.com in a few months to drive the SEO rankings of users even higher.

To further counter the debate of Legacy vs. Tributes, the reality is, when an obituary is published on ObitsForLife.com or ObitTree.com,in as little as 20 minutes, the deceased’s obituary is indexed and ranked #1 on Google – ahead of Legacy.com or Tributes.com. This was accomplished through working closely with Google, and in our humble opinion is the real single location where obits should be found, at it is used by hundreds of millions of people everyday. This model is what truly helps our families and our funeral homes."


Ok, there you have it. So in your (the funeral director) opinion who's providing the most value to the funeral homes, families, and profession?


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  • I just don’t get it. Why does Frontrunner have 2 Obit Sites? Stop the madness! At the end of the day if you look at the number of people actually signing the online guestbooks on Legacy and Tributes it is pretty dismal. The masses continue to get their obit info from local newspapers. Here’s what worked for me. I published a simple “death notice” in the paper…just the basics, concluding with the language–for further details visit: www.”my funeral home”.com. Did it drive traffic to my website? Absolutely.Were the families I served pleased with the result? Absolutely! The national obit platforms offer zero value to funeral homes. The reality is that the only people obsessed with death are those of us in the death care industry. Your average Joe is not. Once your community sees that in order to get the details on a deceased they must visit your website the number of visitors begins to grow expenentially over time. I charged a flat fee which included the newspaper death notice and the complete obituary on our website. And yes, we did earn a profit on each obit we published. You must grow your business organically, which means focusing on your local market by influencing public perception. Train your community to visit your website for obit info by delivering a clear consistant message. “For further details visit: www.”

    • fluidpusher

       I, too, don’t get it.  We don’t need these national obit companies at all.  Our website address at the bottom of the obit in the local paper and on the local paper’s website is all we need. 

      • Legacy and Tributes make claims of millions of monthy visits. This is because every time you click on an obit hosted by these sites you are being diverted to their site. I would like the actual numbers of people that visit these site as their first destination. Is anyone actually going to these sites to get “obit news”? How many people type in the Legacy or Tributes URL. That is the true test of their value, if any.

  • There are some big red flags from Kevin’s response.

    First he claims they “worked closely with Google.” That’s false. Google does not work with companies on their SEO, because they want the results to be organic based on their secret algorithm, rather than optimized or gamed. 

    Next he claims they will get #1 ranking in Google. HUGE red flag there. Nobody can guarantee top spot in Google’s results, and the top SEO expects know this is true because there are too many unknown variables.

    Finally, I’m not sure they even understand SEO. If they did, they would realize that Google’s “Panda” search update severely penalizes sites that duplicate content verbatim, which is exactly what Frontrunner is doing across their multiple obituary sites. Here’s an example where they are duplicating the exact same obituary text on two of their domains:


    I think Kevin needs to have his team do a little more research into SEO and stop deceiving us with statements like the above.

    • Brian

      Way to quote the facts Alan. Nice to see somebody who knows his way around SEO. I too am very curious
      about the potential Panda penalty being invoked by Google. It’s only two sites though, so I wonder if they’ll be found.

      Read what Google publishes about Seach Engine Optimization and compare that to what Kevin is saying. It’s pretty obvious who’s telling the whole truth. Kevin’s claim that he worked with Google perhaps means they carefully read and used the tips and directions Google publishes about how to best position content to rank well. Or, they may have attended Google workshops. That’s not the same as working closely with Google.

  • Of course there’ a fourth option which seems to get left out of the discussion. A firm can publish obituaries at its own web address and try to gather as many links and hits directly to themselves as possible.

    I’m not going to try and wow people with an SEO success story (that kind of success comes and goes like the wind). It just seems right to post the information as close to home as possible, and honorable not to try and overwhelm people with ads and other forms of flashing monetization.

    I know the world has lost any sense of manners and decorum these days, but at Hathaway I’m trying to provide at least a sliver over it every day when people come to our site for obituaries.

    BT Hathaway

    • Brian

      There’s a beautiful simplicity to what BT argues.

      When we started putting obits on Websites back in 1997, we saw an 8-10x
      increase in Web traffic volume for clients whose Website had obits added to them. That is a HUGE visibility opportunity for
      one’s brand. If a firm is interested in selling “expanded” obituaries, than a solid
      argument can be made for outsourcing that to a business with a more robust obituary program than one’s website provider offers — assuming certain conditions are met, obviously. But if that is not a firm’s objective for it’s obituaries, then why direct people off the Web site of the business taking care of the deceased and their family? Can anyone offer a logical reason to counter BT’s conclusion? So it seems to boil down to one’s objective for their obits.

      Brian Young

      • funeralfuturist

        I agree with BT and Brian. The best case scenario is to have your obits hanging on your own domain eg.: http://yourfuneralchapel.com/2009/08/john-doe/ 

        This is important for two reasons: 1. When done right (and its not that hard to do it right) you will get the best SEO bang for your buck. 2: You control your domain and if they are on your domain – you will always have control being a true Master of Your Domain!  


  • Lgervais

    I have been following this interesting thread for the past couple of weeks on CD. Here is what I have learned. Please correct me if I am wrong on any of these facts: 

    Legacy.com doesn’t charge funeral homes for hosting their obits on their site but they do pay the newspaper a fee for the obit content. Legacy also sell sponsored ads beside the obit and Legacy has full control over which ads are displayed. The funeral home receives no compensation for their effort from the newspaper or legacy.com for creating the obituary.Tributes.com charges the funeral home a one-time (lifetime?) fee for writing and hosting each obits. The price is dependent on the type/size of the obit. Tribute.com also has sponsored ads from industry-related suppliers that appear on their obit page. I am not clear of the relationship between tributes.com and their media partners and if they pay their media partners for the obit content. Tributes encourages funeral homes to charge families for their obit posting and hosting to cover the cost charged by tributes.com.Frontrunner.com doesn’t charge funeral homes for their obit posting and according to the above story, some funeral homes are generating revenue from their obit posting through frontrunner. There are no ads that appear on frontrunner’s obits for life. 

    If these points are correct it appears that frontrunner is the one that has their obit service most closely aligned with the interest of funeral homes and families.

  • The reality is that in the past people have gone to the newspaper obituary to find out who died. They are not typically looking for anyone in particular, but to look at the list and scan the names to see if there is some one they know. They usually looked in a local paper which automatically filters the list of everybody that died from everywhere in the world down to people from their area. Legacy is nothing more than extension of the local paper which gives them an advantage because the newspaper gives them the obits that we give the paper. Plus they force the families to pay the fee that Legacy charges the local paper to do this. 

    What people want is a local listing that show all the deaths in their area and hopefully that list will lead them to a more complete obit. Until every funeral home in your area post all of their obits on either one designated list or on all the lists (tributes, obitsforlife, legacy, obit tree, lifestorynet, etc. and their own website) the public will still be drawn to the best list out there, which is still the local newspapers website.

    So until one of these third party obit sites makes it’s way to the top of the list by becoming the clear leader in doing this the public will continue to go to the newspaper. There used to be a bunch of search sites too, but Google has clearly become the dominate player. 

    What would work best would be if Google developed an algorithm that would automatically pull all the obits from all the funeral home websites in a specific geographical area. Then they could give funeral homes specific rules for writing the obits or codes that would be embedded into the obits to make sure they would be pulled up in a search. So when someone types in “today’s Obits for Nashville” in Google all the obits for Nashville would show up on the list and when people clicked on one it would take them to the funeral home’s website. This could eliminate the newspaper cost to the family completely. Funeral homes could charge for composing the obit and making sure it gets on the list. Funeral homes could advertise using Google adwords to get listed on the search result pages. This would eliminate any need for any third party obit companies.

    Hmmmm. I wonder if this could really work. I wonder if Google is listening. 

  • Glenn Gould

    Funeral homes don’t all offer the same services or benefits; that’s what makes each funeral firm different.  The question comes down to this, does the premium charged by the on-line tribute service offer an offsetting value to the family, or for that matter to the funeral firm since in most cases the firm is not truly passing the expense on to the family.  A 200 call firm pays $10,000 a year (at $50 per obit) for an on-line tribute.  It can be argued that in a small town the family would derive little value, and hence the funeral firm derives little value.  Perhaps the value quotient would be greater in a metro area, but in either case, it really should be the families decision, as the firm itself benefits very little from a national online obit service, certainly not to the extent of $10,000.