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When I started working with car dealers in 2005 on their SEO strategies, there was little a dealer needed to do in order to influence their search rankings.
Most dealer websites did not have blogs so secondary blog sites (microsites) had to be created. Dealers were not setup to create content let alone maintain a blog.
Dealers needed outside consultants to optimize their website pages, since most website platforms came un-optimized out of the box.
In 2005, the Wild West of SEO was taking dealers by storm. They just didn't know if this "SEO Stuff" had any value.
Back in 2005 Google Places, Social Relevance, +1 Buttons, or Google+ did not exist and were NOT in the SEO equation. In the early days I was focused on quality content, microsites, off-site links, and creating strong flows of qualified traffic. SEO Consultants did a majority of the SEO work for dealers.
Back then, the SEO tactics were the responsibility of the SEO Consultant. SEO "experts" were tasked to create "magic" and get dealers on Google Page One.
Those days are gone.
Automotive Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become a shared responsibility. It is critical that dealers know that the cheese has moved.
Today the "organic" search results consist of Google Places, videos, blogs, social media, and of course website pages. The SEO strategist today needs the cooperation and participation of the dealer to influence local search rankings.
If a dealer chooses not to engage their customers to post an online reviews, the work of an SEO consultant can be easily undermined if the reviews on Google Page One are horrible.
If dealers do not identify customers that have Gmail accounts, they lose the opportunity to leverage the Google +1 button or connect with their customers on Google+. Both of these marketing tools greatly influence local search results.
If dealers do not create customer testimonial videos or educational walk-around videos, the SEO strategist has little to work with to create ENGAGING Video SEO strategies.
In some ways, Google has leveled the playing field. They have pushed some of the SEO responsibilities back to the business owner. This is good if the dealership understands their role and executes effectively with the guidance of their SEO partner.
It's bad if dealers believes that their SEO company can operate independently of their engagement. If dealers want the strongest local SEO strategy to work for their brand, they have to lend a hand.
If you have an SEO vendor partner, make sure you ask them what your contribution must be to ensure success. If they tell you that you have to do nothing, this should be a warning flag.
Maximizing your search visibility during the Zero Moment of Truth is critical. The point of this post is that you can't outsource 100% of the work and expect market dominating success.
Is content, links, and a comprehensive strategy still relevant? Yes. Just don't be surprised when that strategy has some homework for your dealership staff!
Brian Pasch, CEO
PCG Consulting Services