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As the convergence of search and social continues to become a reality, it's important for dealers to understand that they need content on their websites that can be shared. People will not share inventory on Facebook. They won't tweet specials out to their followers. They won't click the Google +1 buttons on your pages unless you specifically ask them to, and there simply isn't enough people to ask to really have an impact.
For the social signals component of SEO to work properly on a car dealer website, there has to be content that people are willing to share. This is a challenge because it goes against everything we've learned over the years about staying focused and posting only what is relevant to selling more cars, getting more people into the service bay, or increasing parts and accessory sales.
First, let's get an understanding of how social signals work for your websites.
There are certain tiers of social signals that may or may not affect search rankings. At the top level, we know based upon testing and SEO industry insights that Google+, Facebook, and Twitter all have an influence on Google rankings while Facebook and Twitter have an affect on Bing rankings. Anyone who contests this isn't paying attention to what is happening in the outside SEO world or they don't have a solution to account for it so they're sticking their heads (and the heads of their clients) in the sand in hopes that it will go away.
The next tiers of social signals are debatable and it's best (for now) if dealers only use them if they have the time and manpower to dabble. If you are pressed for time and need to focus on what definitely works, the big three listed above are plenty. If you can mess around with Pinterest, Tumblr, Foursquare, Instagram, or any of the other emerging social sites, go for it. They do not have tested and proven affects on search rankings but many believe they do.
Google and Bing are both heading in a relatively new direction with their algorithm. For a couple of years now they have been more focused on the idea that social signals give their insight the human-curated they have always craved, but this year the dabbling into social signals has emerged into something tangible.
For Google in particular, the results have been dramatic. We've been able to move extremely challenging keywords up in the rankings quickly using just social signals and proper internal linking structures. With some attributing up to 1/3rd of the tangible algorithm influencing factors to social signals (with inbound links and onsite content accounting for the other 2/3rds), not having a social signal strategy means you can get, at best, 67% of the optimization potential if you do everything else perfectly.
It happens on two levels: the page and the domain. Each page that gets social signals has an opportunity to rank better, period. That goes without challenge. The second component that some would debate but that testing has proven to be correct is that social signals affect the overall optimization of a domain. In other words, posting great pictures of an individual car and getting a good amount of Google +1s, Facebook likes, and Tweets can help other pages on your website rank better as well.
Now that you hopefully understand what social signals are and why they're important, let's take a look at the four things you can post on your website today that can bring additional social signals. First, here's a portion of a webinar we did on the topic. It's not the entire webinar, but it covers the four examples we talk about here:
1. Great Cars
You are a car dealer. You have great cars. Post them on your website! I'm not talking about pictures of your Ford Focus inventory. I'm talking about the cool, sharable cars that you have. Most dealerships have cars whether hot new vehicles or cool trades that grace their lot. If you run out of those, find images. A Chevrolet dealership could find a handful of cool pictures of the 1973 Chevy Camaro, for example.
2. Local Images
Every dealership in America is surrounded by interesting places. If you're close to a major metro, there are probably landmarks or skyline images that people in the area would love to share on their social media. In the example in the video, a Seattle-area dealer had a page dedicated to the Space Needle.
If you're not in a metro area, you likely have wonderful natural settings that can make for a great image page. These images can be loosely relevant to your website because it focuses on the local area that you are targeting, but the most important thing to remember is that these images, once shared on social media, help your website increase its overall social signals for the domain.
3. Local Organizations, Events, and Charities
This is where videos can really make a difference. Your dealership is likely associated with some local events, charities, or other activities that are relevant to the local audience. Getting the locals to share these activities as they're posted on your website is much easier than getting them to share your inventory or specials.
Social media is a visual realm. With thousands of infographics easily available to post on your website, you have an untapped source of content that people will be willing to share. The key is finding the right ones and writing up some quick but thoughtful text about it.
It's not enough to post the content. You have to be able to get it shared. For many, you'll have to rely on your employees, friends, and even family to get the signals rolling. The more it's shared, the better. Unfortunately, this is a "fake it until you make it" strategy, but it works.
Over time, you'll be able to either build up your own clout in social media to get it out there or you may want to consider promotional teams to get the word out. Either way, it starts with the content. Once you have the content that is worth sharing, getting it shared is possible. It's not easy, but you've done harder things than getting something popular on social media.