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5 Things to Look for when Hiring an SEO Company

By Richard Valenta on Jan 11, 2013


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.


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

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