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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.
As a website and business owner, you can do whatever you want with your website, as long as it's not illegal. But in order to rank on Google and reap the profits associated with organic traffic, you have to abide by their quality guidelines.
What are Google's Quality Guidelines, though?
Google's Quality Guidelines are a set of principles the company presents to website owners and administrators to give them a better idea of the qualities that Google looks for in a great website.
It's in Google's best interest to send users to pages with the most relevant, high quality content that also provide a clean user experience.
Without that, Google's own quality and user experience would be called in question.
So far, however, Google has been the most successful of all search engines at accomplishing this, and that's why their share of the search market is so high and why search marketers follow the company's actions so closely.
All business owners should look over the guidelines thoroughly and do their best to get their sites in order, but to make things easier for you I've put together a list of guidelines that are most likely being broken on today's dealership websites.
Create Pages with Descriptive Content
There's a major epidemic on most dealer websites: a lack of content.
Apart from standard content, such as homepage content, About page, service page, and other generic pages, there are more than a handful of pages on your average dealer's site with little to no content to describe the purpose of the page.
Many of these pages include loan forms, service forms, and other embedded applications that interested visitors would use to send you their information. Users know the purpose, but search engines can't judge a page based on embedded forms and applications from third parties. You need to explain the purpose of the page!
Not only will that help improve rankings for those pages, but users will also be presented with more information and be much more likely to convert.
On the flip side of this issue, you also need to create more content in general. With structure and a set internal linking strategy, you can start generating leads from quality content pages, as well as from the increased rankings you'll see as a result.
No Keyword Stuffing
Where some dealers lack content, others feature downright horrible content. One quality of really horrible content is keyword stuffing.
Keyword stuffing is an attempt to manipulate rankings by repeating a keyword unnaturally throughout a piece of content. Oftentimes, the practice is used around content that's not even contextually relevant to the keyword itself.
Many dealers still practice keyword stuffing as a way to grab traffic quickly for a variety of keywords without putting in the time and effort necessary to create unique, quality content.
Google doesn't beat around the bush with this practice:
"Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site's ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context."
No Reciprocal Linking or Paid Links
Years ago, exchanging links was a fairly regular practice. Find a site similar to yours and ask them if they'd link to you if you linked to them.
The problem with this is, Google uses links as a ranking factor, and found reciprocal linking to be a massive problem invading the overall quality of its SERPs (search engine results pages).
Businesses that still practice reciprocal linking today expose themselves to serious Google penalties that could seriously damage their online presence.
In addition, many dealers still participate in paid link schemes (some unwillingly thanks to shady marketing companies). A paid links is a any link, generally site-wide and keyword-rich, that is purchased from a site with the intent of manipulating Google's ranking algorithm.
Google has penalized many sites for these practices in the past few years, and even implemented an algorithm update (Penguin) to further dissuade it.
Don't Copy Content from Other Sites
One of the absolute worst practices that you can adopt as a website owner or marketer is copying content from other sites.
I don’t mean quoting sources, product descriptions, or specifications, either. I'm talking about copying an entire page from another site and publishing it on your own. Not only is it a bad practice, but it can be considered copyright infringement.
By creating original content, you're better able to stand out from existing content, and are much more likely to rank for keywords related to your target topic.
Consider this post a wake up call and audit your site for issues that could hurt you down the road. No one sees a Google penalty coming, but I can assure you that you'll feel its impact when it happens.
Be sure to also read through Google's entire Quality Guidelines so you can know what to look for and enforce best practices on your dealership's site.
Have a question about Google's Quality Guidelines? Let's get a discussion going in the comments below!