Community

Share your automotive expertise

2 Write a Blog Post

Filed in: Marketing

5 Things to Look for when Hiring an SEO Company

By Richard Valenta on Jan 11, 2013

SEO

Search engine optimization in the automotive industry isn’t hard, which is why it surprises me how often companies choose to use shortcuts rather than to apply proven and acceptable white-hat techniques. It’s a problem that has been on the rise more in the last year than ever before. The reason for it is simple: true search engine optimization requires manual effort.

Large vendors prefer to avoid this because they feel it isn’t scalable. Smaller vendors scramble to assemble the manpower necessary to make it happen. It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s possible to perform search engine optimization at a scalable level that delivers real results for dealers. Identifying those who can bring you the results is as easy as answering five questions.

Before we get into the questions, it’s important to note one important omission from the list. You’ll notice that I did not include, “Do they have examples of dealers ranking well for challenging keywords?” If a vendor has more than a handful of clients, they will have examples of strong rankings. It’s inevitable. There are too many poorly optimized websites out there. A list of examples of clients who rank well is something that every vendor can provide. We’ve even seen occasions where websites that we have optimized on other website platforms are used as examples by that website provider.

Here are the questions that can truly help you make an educated decision.

 

Is Their Solution Centered Around Unique Content?

The Google Panda update of 2011 specifically attacked websites with duplicate and/or low-quality content. The automotive industry was not terribly harmed by this as most dealers have variations of “spun” content on their sites. Relative to other websites in the same realm, most dealerships are equally harmed by the lack of truly unique content, which means that the bar is set low to achieve higher rankings.

Vendors that do the same thing may not be hurt by this type of content, but they certainly aren’t helping. Building unique content pages on a monthly basis is a differentiator that only a handful of vendors utilize. Look at examples of their website SEO. Copy the first or second paragraph of the HTML content on the page. Paste that into Google and search. If you see a lot of websites that have the same basic content but with small changes such as the dealership name and city, you’ll know that their content is not unique enough to be a differentiator.

 

Do They Automate the SEO Process?

All of the old tricks of the trade are dead. Google and Bing have more brainpower behind fighting blackhat SEO than all of the blackhats combined. One of the worst potential offenses that both Google and Bing despise is automated SEO content.

There is no system today in or out of the automotive industry that can fool the search engines by generating pages based on actions from a feed. In other words, if a vendor is automating page creation by “spinning” content with different cities or models, they are going to be hurt by this practice. Some dealers have learned this lesson the hard way. This type of blackhat SEO isn’t just ineffective – it’s potentially dangerous.

 

Does Their Keyword Strategy Meet Your Individual Needs?

The most powerful SEO in the universe is worthless if the proper keywords are not targeted. The foundation of any strong SEO service is keyword selection and maintenance. It’s not just about picking out the right keywords in the beginning. It’s about enhancing the keyword selections based upon needs, changes in the industry, and expansion of the keyword reach.

Ask potential vendors to send you their onboarding or launch questions. This document should ask you what cities, new vehicle models, and used vehicle makes are most important to your dealership. There’s no way to put together a proper keyword strategy without having an understanding of the individual dealership’s competitive landscape. Only the dealer knows this information. Any vendor can make an educated guess, but you know your competition and opportunities better than anyone.

 

Do They Employ Inbound Link Strategies to Enhance Rankings?

Links are not dead. Automated and low-quality links are dead. That happened last April with the Penguin update when some dealers saw their rankings drop quickly.

Google and Bing both still give a lot of weight to inbound links. The difference now is that quality greatly trumps quantity. In fact, Google is making it detrimental to have low-quality links pointing to you. Employing a content-centric link-building system is the best way to make a positive impact on your search rankings. Without links, content alone does not have the power necessary to achieve the more challenging “money keywords” that are based on your make and/or model and city. You won’t be able to rank at the top for terms like “Milwaukee Chevrolet Dealers” with content alone.

 

Do They Rank Well With Their Own Sites?

A great chef cooks well at home as well as at the restaurant. It’s a shame that so many claim to have the best automotive SEO available without having the ability to get their own sites ranked for terms like “automotive SEO”. How does that make any sense?

Do some searches pertaining to keywords the prospective vendor would hold important. If they are truly good at SEO, they will certainly apply their techniques on their own websites. If they can’t get their own websites ranked well, how are they supposed to help their clients reach the top. After all, “automotive SEO” is a much more challenging keyword than “Milwaukee Chevrolet Dealers”.

Again, automotive SEO isn’t hard. It requires effort, proper strategies, and the ability to keep up with the rapid changes that are happening at Google and Bing. If you aren’t completely satisfied with your rankings, it’s time to find other options. Once you have those options gathered, ask these five questions. The answers will help you determine whether they’ll be able to get you higher rankings or if they’ll have your rankings tanking.

Comments

Inspect, inspect and inspect again. I often ask friends or family to search for a new or used car so I can watch how they search. Sometimes we try to optimize well for phrasing or keywords nobody outside Automotive uses.

Jan 12, 2013

Very nice post Richard. I agree with all 5 whole-heartedly, but I'll add one to the list.

Do they guarantee #1 rankings?

It's one of the biggest, and easiest to spot, red flags out there.

Jan 13, 2013

Comments 1 - 2 of 2

You must be logged in to comment

Login Create an account

Add your comments:

   

Richard Valenta's Recent Posts

Related Posts

  • Make a Resolution to Save Marketing Dollars

    As we quickly finish up January and move into the second month of the year, you may already be able to see the predicated trend of rising vehicle sales for 2015. Vehicle sales is the number one indicator of success in the auto industry from year to year. However, I’m sure there are a number of other metrics you use to determine your yearly success, like customer retention, CSI scores, RO count, revenue, etc. All of these key performance indicators are important to you and the success of your dealership. Due to the nature of our business, we always ask dealers to look at their marketing spend and cost per sale and service as a metric of success. For many of the dealers, we see an average marketing spend of $50,000 - $150,000, depending on the size of the store and allocated funds. At the core of our business, we strive to reduce a dealer’s marketing spend and find ways to drive down the cost per sale and service. Today, I’ll share five ways you can leverage our best practices and...Read post

  • Women Car Shoppers

    Women-Drivers.com recently released their 2015 US Women’s Car Dealership Report which contains the findings of their survey of over 3,450 women regarding buying vehicles and their car dealership experiences. Some interesting insights regarding women car shoppers can be gleaned from the results. To start, women car shoppers have increased overall. The most popular vehicles shopped include Volkswagen, Ford, Chevrolet, Jeep, and Buick, while the most popular vehicles purchased include Mercedes-Benz, Lincoln, Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler. In fact, numbers are up across the board – including increased leasing and servicing completed by women car shoppers. Where it gets interesting for digital marketers is that almost one third of women car shoppers surveyed reported that the dealership website was not helpful! Women in the survey visited on average 2 dealerships before making a purchase. Over half went by themselves in person to shop, and most of those that leave without purchasing never ...Read post

  • Build a Marketing Plan Around Funneling Car Shoppers to Your Website

    Targeting is the name of the game. Most dealers (and even some vendors) are really starting to embrace this concept. Gone are the days of illogically spent marketing budgets and shotgun techniques... ...at least we wish those days were gone. Unfortunately, they're not. Many vendors still promote bulk marketing practices and many dealers are still buying into it. Producing favorable numbers is easy. Taking qualified buyers and getting them to engage in a meaningful way with your dealership is harder, but there's a silver lining: you have tools available to you to target the right people and get them to the right venues. The Right Venue First and foremost, the best venue for producing more sales is your website. That's not to say that there's anything wrong with AutoTrader, Cars.com, or any of the other places where your inventory can be seen. However, any opportunity you have to take them to your website will yield more favorable results. Between social media advertising, search e...Read post

  • Top Brands Rated by Women | 2015 US Womens Car Dealership Report

    Our company has published it’s second annual report which showcases women are having empowering experiences at progressive car dealerships in the United States. Women are responsible for buying over 13 million cars at new car dealerships; that’s an impressive 36,000 vehicles a day. Dealerships have to literally change gears, advertising, amenities and their sales strategies to attract this powerful buying force. “It’s a very competitive industry” shares Women-Drivers.com President, Anne Fleming. “Women know they can buy a car anywhere in their respective city. It’s in dealer’s best interest to strategize and market to women. However, it takes more than just having a family female spokesperson.” The research in the 2015 US Women’s Car Dealership Report comes from over 3,450 women’s surveys from the company’s website. From these surveys, the company generates a Women Satisfaction Index® or WSI score. The range is from a 5.0 (the highest) to 1.0 (the lowest)....Read post

  • New Dealership Websites from Naked Lime Marketing

    Naked Lime Marketing has launched an all-new, comprehensive website platform for automobile retailers: Aptus Websites™. Naked Lime developed Aptus to help automobile retailers build a more effective digital dealership that supports a smoother, more flexible end-to-end retail experience for consumers.Read post

  • Auto Dealer Onsite SEO

    Although generally content is king when it comes to onsite SEO for car dealerships, the set text on a dealer's home, service, specials, contacts and other static pages also contributes to the site’s overall appearance in search engine rankings.  While adding content via an onsite blog is a suggested SEO maintenance strategy, dealers should also be making sure that these static pages are optimized as well. Most buyers aren't necessarily interested in the text at the bottom of an automotive dealership's home page.  Google, however, scans these pages and periodically caches them.  Of course, it’s optimal if these pages have slight content changes from time to time.  But if not, a dealer should at least make sure that all the cities they serve and all the services they provide are summarized on the home page.  It is not advisable to "keyword stuff" this text, but if key terms are worked into this text in a somewhat natural way, it can be of great benefit to a website's SEO rankin...Read post

  • CallSource Automotive Brings Industry-Leading Call Tracking and Management System to Australia

    Company to help Australian dealers improve call-to-conversion ratios with U.S.-patented system that generates an average of $320K+ in additional annual earnings for US dealers; Hyundai Australia first to roll out system to dealer network   San Francisco, Calif. - January 23, 2015 - CallSource, the U.S. leader in call tracking, management and training, announced today at the 2015 National Automobile Dealer Association Convention in San Francisco that it has launched its patented system in Australia. This will give Australian auto dealers access to the same tools US dealerships are using to significantly improve their call-to-conversion rates. Partnering with Australia’s Dealer Solutions, CallSource’s initial rollout is with Hyundai Australia’s dealer network. Dealers and OEMs spend billions of dollars generating leads – a vast majority of which come in as phone calls. CallSource data shows that a mishandled call results in the customer defecting to another brand more than 50...Read post

  • Why 'Irrelevant' Content on a Dealer's Website is Relevant

    Once you get over the beauty of the 1970 Dodge Charger in the picture, you might ask yourself, "What does a 45-year-old muscle car have to do with automotive content?" We've been asked the same type of question multiple times pertaining to content we publish on dealer websites. Sometimes, it's dealers asking. Other times, it's other vendors wondering what we're doing or "tattling" to the dealer about it. The funny part is that when compared to the automotive marketing "gurus" who question it, the dealers tend to understand the philosophy much more quickly than the vendors. I'm not here to insult anyone. I totally understand why it's hard for many vendors to get, especially the larger ones who have mechanized content, search, and social strategies. The reality is that based upon the most modern algorithms for Google, Bing, and Facebook (amongst others), robust and potentially popular content influences the visibility of standard lead-generating pages, inventory, and landing pages....Read post