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

  • Customer Loyalty Isn't Dead. It Can't Be. It Simply Needs a Revival.

    There is doom and gloom in the statistics. Fewer people are staying loyal to a single brand of vehicle. Fewer people are staying loyal to a particular dealership. We've been hearing about it since the rise of the digital age and it can push dealers to focus on generating new sales and service customers at all costs. Since we're a vendor that specializes in search and social marketing, one might think that this is the type of shift in the industry that we would embrace. The reality is that our roots as car people and our focus on being a partner for our dealers supersedes the benefits we receive from the trend. We want our clients to succeed and the lowest hanging fruit - customer retention - is the one measure that we see slipping through the fingers of so many dealers out there. One of the things that we've been investigating is the (seemingly) lost art of turning the one-time sales mentality that has been growing in our industry into the good ol' "customer for life" paradigm that...Read post

  • Mobile Search Rank Study Shows It's Good to Be #1

    If you've spent any time on the marketing side of your dealership, you know how valuable organic search traffic is. But in order to receive a large amount of search traffic, you need to rank for a variety of different keywords, which means having a properly-optimized website, high-quality content, and inbound links from authoritative sites.   Now, on the desktop side, there have been plenty of studies that prove that the #1 organic result on Google receives the brunt of the clicks. As Google users become more familiar with searching for information online, and Google updates its algorithm to provide better overall results, though, the number of people who click on the first result has gone down significantly.   (This is also a sign that your metadata--which is the information displayed about your page on Google and other search engines--needs to be optimized so users can understand what your content is about, which will increase clickthroughs to your dealership's website.) Read post

  • Stand Out by Thanking Veterans

    The spirit of the holidays is in the air. Halloween is next week and before you know it, Thanksgiving and the end-of-the- year holidays will be here. With all the excitement of these upcoming holidays, many retail companies will glaze over a very important tribute, Veterans Day on November 11th. This day of remembrance and thanks to veterans for their commitment and sacrifice to defend our nation deserves a place in your end-of-the-year marketing strategy. Here are two ways you can honor veterans, drive traffic and revenue, and STAND OUT from your competition. Offer Exclusive Veterans Savings This idea seems like a no brainer because it is! Put together valuable discounts, something you’d typically offer your most loyal customers, and advertise them exclusively to veterans and active duty military personnel who visit your store during the month of November. You could also decorate your showroom or service drive with red, white, and blue to show your support of these brave men and wo...Read post

  • Going Beyond All-You-Can-Eat In Loyalty

    When consumers think of loyalty programs, they typically think of racking up miles, or frequenting a business in exchange for rewards, perks or freebies. No matter what business you patronize, there is a good chance that it is offering some sort of loyalty incentive. In fact, many argue that loyalty programs are so prevalent nowadays that they are losing some of the initial qualities that attracted consumers to them back some 45 years ago. Namely, that feeling of being treated special in exchange for the customer’s ongoing business and continued loyalty. Today, some loyalty programs choose not to even offer rewards. Instead they just provide the concept of receiving lower prices. Many grocery store chains have the regular price and then a loyalty member price. Sale prices are reserved just for members of their loyalty program.  Your information and transaction histories are exchanged with the grocery store for a slightly lower total at the checkout counter.   Loyalty programs h...Read post

  • Dealers Shouldn’t Abandon Third-Party Sites Just Yet

    If you've been following the trends for the last year in the automotive industry, you’ll note that there are some dealers that are pushing all of their advertising dollars towards driving traffic to their websites. It’s a strategy that was made popular when a large dealer group declared that they were going to focus on generating their own leads and wrote an interesting piece about why they were doing it. Unfortunately, the strategy that they’re adopting has been misunderstood by many. The idea is that they wouldn't be buying leads from other sites anymore. They never declared that their inventory wouldn't be available on other sites. It’s a concept that makes sense – generate your own leads, whether they’re coming from third-party sites or the dealership’s website. In an article titled, Why Car Dealers Should Adopt a Modern Digital Merchandising Strategy, we went into detail about why many consumers prefer to shop on third-party sites rather than on a dealership’s ...Read post

  • Why Customers Leave Without Buying A Car And What To Do About It

    What's the most creative reason you've heard from a customer who is leaving your dealership lot without purchasing? Sure there are the typical, "have to check with my spouse," and "have to pick up my kids at their soccer game." Then there are the more atypical reasons: "I have a dentist appointment," or "My mother-in-law's in town." If it's one of the latter, warning bells should be ringing. Who would rather go to a dentist appointment or visit with their mother-in-law than buy a car?   According to AutoLoop Engage's call center statistics, only three percent of customers who leave without purchasing give the salesperson the real reason. Our agents have connected and engaged with thousands of unsold customers and here is why they're really leaving, according to our data:   55 percent leave because of payments/price/trade-in issues 26 percent leave because of inventory issues; your dealership didn't have the exact color or model they wanted 16 percent left because they had a bad...Read post

  • How to Find Out What Women Want and Reach The Modern Female Car Buyer

    A woman’s vehicle path to purchase needs may be prioritized differently than a man’s, and in order to sell to women, stores can benefit by understanding and caring about what women want when it comes to cars. They should ask Mel Gibson (about what women want…)Read post

    By Cobalt on October 23, 2014

  • Brand and Dealer Loyalty – a Fine Balance?

    Think about the last time you visited a business such as McDonald’s, Target, or a 7-11.  Now, think about the store itself – did you select the store because of convenience, or because you were dedicated to a specific location?  Sometimes the answer is both, but more often than not, like most consumers, you are making the choice based on convenience.  Either way, your decision was likely based on the brand or company name and not the individual business or the people that work behind its doors.Will a customer repeatedly choose your dealership for sales, service or your collision center because of who you are and the people on your team? Does your dealership name stand out in the minds of consumers? Or will they choose your location because of the brand you offer and the service they have previously received at a different dealership of the same brand?At your dealership, do you consider your regular customers brand loyal? Or do you consider them loyal to your dealership? If you...Read post