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As car dealers develop their SEO strategies with their vendors, they should be well-aware of how the companies they work with are handling Google Penguin. The update from April, 2012, has quite a few SEOs in other industries scrambling to regain their search rankings. It hasn't been as devastating in the automotive industry but we have seen some companies whose dealers have dropped.
Penguin is the "webspam" algorithm change that is going after aggressive link-building techniques. For years Google has utilized inbound links as a measurement to help determine search rankings. This is the best way for them to do this because it acts as a relevancy "voting" system of sorts; the more links you have from quality sites pointing to yours, the more authoritative it is in Google's eyes.
The challenge has been with strong SEO firms who are aware of this and exploit it by building links to their sites. There's nothing wrong with building links if it's a result of value, but Google wants to put an end to aggressive styles that are based upon trading, network building, or purchased links.
Here are the three primary attributes that a proper link-building plan should have to be successful with automotive SEO:
There was a time when links could be built in bulk to fool the search engines. There were companies that specialized in building tens, even hundreds of thousands of pages with the singular purpose of building "link juice" to their sites. Google has been combating this for years but the Penguin update has seen the biggest affect on this strategy.
It's better to get a single link from a high-value site that is trusted by the search engines and respected by readers than to get 10,000 links from spam sites. In fact, those spam link can do damage to a site (technically speaking, of course, as Google has said there's really no such thing as negative SEO except in extreme circumstances).
If you have content on your website and you think it will be of value on other sites, make sure that you're going after only trusted sites. Send them your content and if they like it they'll link to it. Avoid link-building programs that rely on forums, comments, or other low-quality venues.
There was a famous case of "Googlebombing" that happened when George W. Bush was in office when thousands of links were pointed to his website with the anchor text "Miserable Failure". It worked, and his site ranked #1 for a while. Recognizing what was happening, Google made adjustments in 2007 and ever since they've been on the lookout for keyword manipulation through this technique.
Google is smart. They can recognize when a website is getting natural links based upon quality and when it's getting tons of links built to it for the sake of nailing down a keyword. Diversity of anchor text is one of the biggest factors; they know that the chances that the majority of sites linking to a particular page would have the exact same anchor text are nil. Other than a website's name, there's no other words that could accomplish this. Real people link to Bob Howard Toyota, not Oklahoma City Toyota Tundra Service, for example.
Being organic means getting links that use the "money term" anchor text as well as links that are naturally anchored. To be "money term heavy" spells doom.
This is the tricky one. Is it better to get a link from a PageRank2 automotive website or a PageRank6 non-automotive website?
The real answer is "yes" (in other words, get both) but it's important to understand the "why" this is important.
Google realizes that sites can become authorities for their industry or niche. As a result, they will get links from outside of the industry... at least they should. This is what makes it tricky when discussing in a blog post.
There's nothing wrong with links that come from outside of the industry but the focus should be on industry links. If you have a graphic on your website that can be embedded on an automotive website or a non-automotive website, there's nothing wrong with sending it to both types. Keep relevant but be open minded to becoming an authority from outside the industry.
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Google Penguin is just the beginning. The changes they are implementing with Google+ amongst other changes will continue to improve the search ranking pages and clean up the algorithm. This is a time to rejoice, not get worried. If your automotive SEO partner is legitimate and aware of the changes, you have nothing to worry about. If not, call us. We're ready to help.
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