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Navigating SEO is a DrivingSales.com exclusive series by Timothy Martell, CEO of Wikimotive. Each Friday, Tim breaks down ways dealers can improve their SEO and offers insight into how it will benefit business.
The best and worst part about SEO is that it's always changing. That means you have to always be on top of your game in order to be successful over time.
On top of that, it means you're always given a second chance to out-do your competitors, especially in the age of Google updates that threaten to penalize and shake up entire industry rankings.
But what if you don't do SEO on a daily basis? How are you, as a manager or business owner, supposed to make the right decisions when there's so much conflicting and outdated information about SEO out there?
To help you tackle this head on, I'll give you a quick update on keywords, rankings, and content to help you understand the best practices and strategies that will help you grow in 2015.
How to Think about Keywords in 2015
Don't worry, I'm not going to tell you that keywords are completely useless and that you've been wasting your time. They're still a very important factor in SEO, but they're also something most dealerships and SEO vendors need to rethink.
Instead of free-for-all over usage, which is considered keyword stuffing, use more natural language in the main body of your content.
For example, if your target keyword is "Jeep NH," you want to use that in:
But don't think that adding it 20 times throughout the page is going to make a difference.
A better way to utilize keywords throughout your site, and one that will actually pay off, is using phrases that are semantically similar to your target keywords when there's an opportunity.
In fact, apart from the optimization mentioned above, try to forget about keywords and just write really great content that someone searching your target keyword would want to read.
Think more about the context of keywords and you'll be better able to reach your target audience.
How to Think about Content in 2015
So now that you understand how you should think about keywords, let's dig into content. While it's one of the most important parts of SEO, it's also highly misunderstood.
My team and I have written extensively about content and how it relates to SEO over the past year, but I'll do my best to summarize the most important thoughts in this section.
Like keywords, content has changed. The days of being able to publish hundreds of pages with similar content in order to target 500 keywords are over.
Those who took the easy way out of SEO paid a huge price with Google's Panda update, which targeted sites that featured thin, valueless content (a.k.a. the kind of sites that regularly practice keyword stuffing).
The problem now is, how do you change your strategy without drastically increasing your budget?
You can't produce 1000-word high quality pages the same way as 300-word 'thin' pages, so something has to change.
Instead, you have to first prioritize what topics are most important to your business that can be deeply explored through new content efforts.
For instance, content pages for individual models are a great driver of targeted local traffic to dealership sites. But you can't just reword what's on the manufacturer's site or a site like Edmunds and expect to see results. You have to provide more than that.
Let's think for a second. If you're a customer searching for a specific model in a certain area, what are things you're going to want to know about that model?
You're going to want to get a basic understanding of the vehicle, and then have reasons presented to you that explain why you should buy it.
A great way to handle this on model content pages is to provide comparisons and reasons why the model is perfect for that region of the country or types of consumers (families, businesspeople, contractors).
Don't stop there, either! Look at how your competition, and even major automotive publications, handle their content. Try to find holes that can be filled to add more value to your pages.
Over time, this work alone tells Google and other search engines that you go the extra mile, and will make you stand out in a visitor's mind when their searching for cars in your area.
How to Think about Rankings in 2015
By now, we all know about the importance of search engine rankings. If you're the #3 spot for a keyword with 1000 searches, you're only going to receive the leftovers from the site at the top spot. That might vary, but it does pay to be #1.
Instead of constantly worrying about rankings for a few specific keywords, why not split your focus and go after more achievable longtail keywords?
You don't want to disregard the high-volume keywords, you just want to diversify your efforts. Longtail keywords are also known for converting at a much better rate than high-volume short-tail keywords, so you may end up thanking me down the road!
Now, don't think that I'm telling you to just let go of those high-volume keywords. You want those rankings! However, if things aren't working out, try out a new strategy.
Doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result won't work, especially not in SEO.
One of the biggest shake-ups over the past year, and something to think about throughout 2015, is local SEO.
Google's local map packs are a completely different beast when compared to organic. They have similar ranking factors, but there's an increased importance on citations (directory listings and brand mentions) and consistency of information, such as your business's name, address, and phone number, across the web.
If you haven't already, consult with your SEO provider to check in on the status of your local rankings and what they're doing to improve those over time. (Feel free to also ask me any questions in the comments below, and I'll do my best to help you better understand that aspect of Google.)