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Navigating SEO is a DrivingSales.com exclusive series by Timothy Martell, CEO of Wikimotive. In this series, Tim breaks down ways dealers can improve their SEO and offers insight into how it will benefit business.
Interest in automotive SEO content is likely at an all-time high thanks to increasing digital marketing budgets and the need to rank for high-value keywords that create a constant stream of leads.
Unfortunately, all of the wonderful benefits of SEO that you've heard from myself and other industry professionals come with risks if not properly executed. Here are a few of the ways SEO writing can backfire and hurt your website:
Thin Content Leaves You Vulnerable to Google Updates
Over the past few years, Google has been fighting to change content standards on the web for the better. One of the biggest ways they're doing this is through updates that target websites with "thin" content.
What is thin content? It's content that lacks substance. Think of it as a news report that leaves you asking questions instead of feeling informed. They left out crucial details, provided no sources, and simply seemed to rush through the whole process.
Typically, this is done for the purpose of quickly creating content based around valuable and relevant keywords. But when the content provides little context or answers for users, Google will punish the site through manual actions or algorithm updates that look for sites that lack valuable and original content.
Keyword Stuffing Makes You a Target for Penalties
Before it was able to more accurately judge content quality, Google often ranked pages based on keyword usage. This allowed sites to create "keyword stuffed" content that simply mentioned a specific keyword as often as possible throughout a page.
Because keywords were a primary relevancy signal, this made it possible for lower-quality sites to rank for high-value keywords. Here's an example of keyword stuffing:
"ABC Motors offers the absolute best selection of used cars for sale. The quality of our used cars for sale can't be matched by any other dealership in the area. Our incredible used cars for sale are priced at or below market value so you know you're getting the best deal on used cars for sale."
Serves No Purpose Outside of SEO
If you find yourself wondering about the quality of a piece of content, ask yourself: is this content valuable outside of SEO?
If a page is formatted and optimized for PPC as well, it serves a dual purpose. If it has elements that make it a resource, it's more than just a way to target keywords. And if it's fun and entertaining, it could be used for promotion on social media.
Unfortunately, a lot of the SEO content created today does not serve multiple purposes. And this is what Google is looking to squash in the coming years.
Duplicate/Generated Content Can Hurt Your Entire Site
When you duplicate content over tens or hundreds of pages (all marked to be indexed), changing only small bits (usually keywords), you're telling Google that your intent is to manipulate search engine results.
In the automotive industry, this practice is still common, especially among out-of-touch and out-of-date website providers. They'll often used the same 300 or 400-word copy on pages centered around model or local geo keywords, such as "Chevy Dealer Los Angeles," or "Chevy Cruze Los Angeles."
The content related to "Chevy Dealer" and "Chevy Cruze" is then used on pages targeted at geos near Los Angeles. This allows them to do the work that might normally take months to do correctly in a matter of hours.
But when the shortcut potentially leads to a dangerous end with manual penalties and algorithm updates that can remove your site from the index seemingly overnight, is it worth it?
Lack of Formatting Leads to Increased Bounce Rate and Low Time on Site
One issue most SEO content does not tackle is proper formatting. Users who land on pages written solely for SEO purposes are often faced with boring and large blocks of texts. Even if the content provided real answers, users are given no signs of how to read or follow along in order to find those answers.
Adding headings, bold and italic styling, bullet points, images, and other media is important because users that don't get answers bounce quickly back to the SERPs. This leads Google to assume that your content did not properly provide them with the information they were after. If this happens on a regular basis with a good majority of your content, your organic traffic could seriously be affected.
If that happens, you'll see less leads from search users, who convert at a much higher rate than any other type of leads.
You're simply handing your competitors the keys to the easiest sales on the market at that point.