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JD Rucker

JD Rucker Founder

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What the "Willys Jeep" Post Tells Us About Content Marketing for SEO

Willys Jeep

A few days ago I posted about promotion versus attraction in content marketing and I used the example of a story we posted about the Willys Jeep. The concept is one that is unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) very challenging for dealers and even vendors to understand.

Why would we post something on a dealer's website that didn't directly help sell more cars?

It comes down to social signals and the trust factor associated with a website and its search engine opimization practices. Here's how:

The Valuable Resource

Those of us in the automotive industry are experts about cars and the different aspects of vehicles in ways that others simply are not. Our websites are normally all about cars and both Google and Bing know it. The challenge is that there are dozens, even hundreds of other websites associated with our local area that are also all about cars.

Pieces of content such as the one above put our websites in a different light. By becoming the authority in the area, we have the opportunity to have our sites rank higher for terms that are relevant to us.

Authority in the search engines are judged by two things. Inbound links from other authority websites act like "votes" in the eyes of the search engines. The more votes you get in relation to Dodge, for example, the better you'll rank for local terms that can make an impact such as the term "Hartford Dodge Dealers".

The other way search engines judge authority is based upon social signals. They recognize that people will share what they value on websites through their social media channels. The more they share, the better that Google and Bing like a page and the domain that it's on.

People won't share inventory. They won't share specials pages. They won't share service appointment pages. They will share pieces of content that interest them or bring value to others. For example, a good number of dealers are starting to post how-to videos on their websites. This is great! When people learn how to get their bluetooth hooked into their car properly as a result of a dealership tutorial rather than an instruction manual or OEM resource, they'll be more willing to share their find with their friends and family who may run into the same challenge.

The Willys Jeep story was one that didn't add a resource but rather discussed an interesting historical topic about the brand associated with the website. It made for good reading, offered a nice infographic that had some interesting data points, and had high-res images that are easily sharable through social media.

The Sharing Frenzy

This particular piece of content played very well on Reddit and Digg, two social news sites that value quality content. It was interesting to them, particularly the single fact that of the 135 automakers the US Government tapped for proposals, only two were sent in because the criteria were so strict. On Reddit, it ended up with over 400 points and on Digg it broke the 60 point mark.

As a result, that individual page had 32,493 in a day in a half. Those visitors likely yielded very few leads, but that wasn't the purpose. The goal was to create a page that could get massive social signal action and that's exactly what happened.

Now the question is, "How does this help sell more cars?"

The Results

The reason that we targeted this piece of content where we did was to help in our SEO efforts for a couple of keywords. Executive Dodge had dropped a couple of spots for the terms "Hartford Dodge Dealers" and "Hartford Dodge", so we created the content piece with the link to the homepage at the bottom with the anchor "Hartford Dodge". Within 72 hours after posting the piece, we'd moved back up to #2 for "Hartford Dodge" and to #1 for "Hartford Dodge Dealers."

Our system will check all of their keywords later in the week, but a spot check of several other keywords showed a bump in some of them with no other actions to attribute to the change other than the content marketing piece.

The social signals garnered by this piece helped to move search terms across the board up. It added credibility and authority in the eyes of the search engines and translated into improved results. Does that mean every dealer should post cool pictures or historical pieces and submit them to Reddit or Digg every day? Absolutely not. Those sites are extremely conscious of people trying to "game" them and only truly spectacular content has a chance of doing well from a car dealers' website. "Spamming" those sites with low quality content can actually do more harm than good.

This is a controversial strategy mostly because it's so easy to botch. This doesn't fall into the realm of "give it a shot" or "experiment with it" because once a site is deemed inappropriate on these sites, they can get banned forever. PLEASE feel free to email me if you have questions or want to bounce your strategies off of me. I'd rather answer a dozen questions today than receiving an email in a month saying, "I tried what you said and now I'm banned on Digg!"

Do it right or don't do it all. Either way, we're here to help. if you have any questions.

Brian Pasch
JD What is also important to note that this article was intended to garner "social" votes and readers and NOT direct SEO votes. The HTML page tagging that you did is very different than normal SEO strategies. So let me break this down for DS readers who have not had the opportunity to create a social relevance strategy that you have pioneered on so many fronts, especially for Infographics. First, the Title Tag for the article had no mention of "Hartford Dodge" which was one of your primary keyword goals. The META Description tag had no mention of the dealer or the word "Hartford" If DrivingSales readers have not had experience with news sharing sites, the Titles and META descriptions are often picked up by default to describe the article to others. If the Title and Description tags were traditional SEO tagging, it would very likely attract LESS social readers and thus less votes. For example, if this page title was "History Of Willy's Jeep - Hartford Dodge Dealer" it would most likely not get the same social stickiness. The article did not use H1 or H2 tags to anchor SEO keywords. The article only had one SEO keyword hyperlink and it was at the bottom of the article, which makes it look like a footnote reference. Photo ALT tags using only the word "Willys" made sense. The only misstep was tagging on the Infographic which was tagged "Selling Your Business", which was copied with that incorrect ALT tag from the Russian site that you found it on. The traffic that was generated and social voting scores you achieved demonstrates that power of content sharing and leveraging social portals. One thing to keep in mind that TK's team has deep root in social sharing so their "posts" get significantly more traction than if any reader on DS tried to duplicate this example. That said, sites like Pinterest can generate traffic and social connections that can be more easily created if the dealer is writing content that has great photos and images like what JD accomplished for Executive Dodge. So, leverage existing Infographics and great photography on your blogs and posts and leverage the syndication power that JD demonstrated. Search and Social are now so closely tied that any SEO strategy must leverage both as well as video to make an impact.
JD Rucker
Good observations with one objection. This page was not the target at all for search and should not be viewed as such. It's simply a conduit through which social signals can flow. The footnote link at the bottom is the "old-school" internal linking that can help the target page rank, but the real benefit of a piece like this is to generate strong social signals from a domain perspective which assisted in getting multiple keywords bumped in a matter of days. Otherwise, great points across the board. I even changed the alt on the image to better match the content.

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