Do you use SEO and are you seeing it in the bottom line?

Brian Pasch
Matt The best initial SEO investment is to make sure that all pages on your website are truly optimized for the message that each page is trying to communicate. Translation: Is the content of a "high quality" that a consumer would find it worthy of sharing with their friends? Are the page "tags" compliant with the current best practices recommended by Google? The list goes on....and other SEO consultants can add their comments. The best SEO investments are focused on building a content message that connects with your local community. That investment will take some time to implement and then some additional time for Google to index. Your team must be patient. SEO strategies can also be accelerated and complimented by social media sharing. If you don't understand the role of social signals, your SEO efforts will be minimized. As far as the ROI, good SEO is not like SEM that provides some immediate "juice" for website traffic, leads, and calls. SEO is a long term investment that often does not "jive" with dealership executives that have A.D.D. The best SEO strategies are often implemented by boutique agencies that have a "hands on" approach to SEO. There are a number of companies engaged in DrivingSales that deliver an attentive approach to SEO. The key is to be patient and to focus on adding great, unique content that matches your brand message and that is a quality that someone would share. This seems very simple, but in practice it is hard to implement with the help of a competent partner.
kelly hazlehurst
Matt: I totally understand your concerns. I have tried many different strategies with SEO and always felt as if I was writing a blank check. They would always tell me what they were doing but when I asked to see it it was a mystery. That is when I decided to really understand SEO. SEO is all about content. My rule of thumb for dealers is if you can't see it chances are you aren't getting your monies worth. I always ask the question, "how much content do I get per month." If companies don't answer this with an exact article or word amount then I know they are not the company for me. I want content that is driven by keywords used by customers. After content I want a company that does the basics with metatags and linking. I am not a fan of offsite linking or offsite SEO. I just don't think it is as effective and I don't think a dealer can really afford to do both effectively. In terms of measurement I want to know where I rank on each keyword vs. my competition. These aren't easy reports to run because you have to have brand new IP addresses to give it any validity. I use a telecommunications company to run my reports. I measure effectiveness based on the following: Traffic Leads Sales Pretty simple. With good SEO I have seen my leads double within 30-60 days and my traffic double within 6-12 months. Good SEO gives you a better quality lead and I am proud to say that after 60 days with this company we installed we have seen our sales number go up by 30-40 units. It has been my experience that when you do SEO right you can really save money on the pay per click and make the SEM more promotion driven. I think good SEO should cost around $1000/month but could be less. There is no doubt that it does take a long term commitment. Find someone you trust. Who you know will put the time in. SEO isn't easy and the companies that try to automate it and take shortcuts will never translate into success for you. I found a company that is very good and I totally believe in them. I think they are the best kept secret in the biz. I actually feel the way you do about SEO with SEM :). Best of luck to you!
Pat McKemy
I agree with most of the points mentioned here. SEO is very important for increasing the visibility of a website, and its importance is increasing with each passing day. There are a number of companies offering SEO services for you, but make sure that they are not doing the same for your competitors as well. :)
Chris K Leslie
Matt, you asked a very straight forward question. Hopefully this straight forward answer helps you out. The reality in this space is that google is tightening up on sharing of keywords used to find your site. For example if 60% of your organic traffic is coming in under the "not provided" tag how can any optimize your site for the keyword "not provided"? If Event + Response = outcome Without knowing the event, there is no way to possibly respond intelligently which leads to unknown outcomes. In order to get different outcomes you would need to change your response to an event. Without knowledge of the event how do you change your response? Depending on what cms/web provider you work with can severely hinder Seo efforts as well due to simple URL structures and page titles etc. for example if all your content like vdp's and srp's are built using a dynamic URL structure with framed inventory. You can spend all the Seo dollars you want and still not make a measurable dent. You would be better of hiring freelance journalists to help tell the stories of your business today. Journalists are trained in both content creation and proper use of Seo and typically have knowledge of different cms platforms and social channels. Seo is nothing but simple structure. The things that drive traffic are the interesting stories you can tell. In all types of formats such as video, audio, blogs etc. with search becoming more social and more real time you'd be better of exploring new types of things rather than giving money to someone to do something, that by nature is not measurable in any way because there is no strong data to back the decision making process. If there was, translating a ROI shouldn't be an issue. Right? Start by understanding how your website company has structured your site. Get familiar with webmaster tools and open site explorer. Look into the lives of your customers and find what's interesting to them. Those things will point you in the right direction.
Timothy Martell
Chris is absolutely right. The "story" is what makes great SEO. So the question becomes who writes the great "story" today? Tomorrow? next week? next month? and so on.. Digital marketing requires a consistent commitment to fresh, engaging ORIGINAL content. Also, your website provider is killing you right off the bat. Take the sport hyundai site, for example: "If you're looking to purchase your new dream car, you've come to the right place." <-That text is on your home page. Copy and paste that in to google's search bar and look at how many other dealer's websites have the exact same content. The reason for this is that most automotive website providers STEAL the content for you site from their other pre-existing clients, or even their competitors clients. Nearly every website provider out there does this. Recently, we found one that doesn't AND they do an amazing job in all other areas of merchandizing as well. They build original content at the outset, they adhere to an excellent site architecture. Does that mean you can't fix a lot of the issues with your existing site? Of course not! A good SEO company will clean up as much of the mess as possible and then using a content marketing strategy, generate traffic, leads, and sales. Remember, with PPC the best you're going to get is about 2% conversion. (roughly the same as position 6 on page one organically). And if you want more traffic, you have to spend more. With SEO, you might not get a whole lot of traffic the first month. You'll have new content. Google will take some time to figure out what to do with it. Then it will get promoted and shared and linked to - this will continue to happen over time, thus the value of the content will continue to increase over time - the ROI of the content itself will increase over time, because you only paid for the content once, but it will continue to pay dividends for years to come if it is evergreen and deemed high quality. You probably won't be able to connect the dot that Mr. Jones, bought the black Elantra on tuesday because of a landing page built 3 months ago that had 12 blog posts linked to it that was shared by 27 people on Facebook and RT'd 37 times and linked to by jalopnik or whatever common scenario might happen. But you can certainly segregate the non-paid search traffic from the paid search traffic, the flow of traffic through your site, how that effected leads month over month, and corresponding sales. A good SEO strategy can account for 30-40% of dealer sales. A good digital marketing strategy can account for 80%. The reason to move to a more digital strategy are all the reasons you cite. Its cheaper pound for pound than traditional marketing. That said it doesn't replace or eliminate traditional. The goal is to find the sweet spot - the right mix of brand marketing combined with the right amount of online market exposure when the consumer makes the choice to then go looking. The car business hasn't changed - its always been a numbers game - so too is marketing. The more qualified people reached, the more opportunities on your website, the more conversion, the more appointments, the more shows, the more demo drives, the more TO's, the more sales. Done.
Brian Pasch
Tim I did that search and you were very accurate...lot's of websites have that phrase. screen-search

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