Is the term SEO popping up everywhere you look? Is it still very foreign to you? What is it all about anyway, or is it just something dreamed up by marketing agencies to get more money from clients? After all, it can be seen as black magic right?
WHAT IS SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. Not to be mixed up with SEM or Search Engine marketing which refers to paid ad content, SEO is about organic efficiency of your brand, and the way it performs in searches on major search engines like Google and Bing.
To understand SEO, I believe you need to look at your brand from an outsider’s point of view. How will they find you, and what will they be looking for?
Lets take John Smith and his dealership ‘John Smith Toyota’ as an example. Sure, John might think everything is fine when he types in John Smith Toyota and finds his Toyota certified website showing up first, but the fact is, not everyone knows about John Smith Toyota, nor will they be typing that search term into the search bar.
If John’s dealership sells new and used cars, as well as offering spare parts and servicing, he needs to be found by those people looking for these services. Mary who might want to find a new car for herself might type in ‘best small car 2017 under $30000‘ which is very generic, and doesn’t even narrow it down to a brand. She is looking for a review or list of car options which she can then further investigate.
To make sure John’s new and used car models are getting found by Mary, he needs to be listed everywhere Mary might look. This could include:
- Used car listings such as CarSales and CarsGuide. These sites often have news and review pages with articles showcasing the most popular models and what to look out for with certain brands. Having a feed of your current stock going to these directories, means your vehicles can now be in front of more people, and these sites usually rank quite high in organic searches.
- Manufacturer’s listings. Brands like Toyota have their own new and used car lists and pages that rank quite well for a myriad of search terms. By entering a postcode, this could then have the enquiry sent through to the closest dealer to Mary. Make sure you are listed correctly.
- Google Business Pages and Maps. By ensuring all your correct data is on these pages, as well as updated photo content, there is a good chance your business is showcased by Google when searchers are close to your location.
- Blog articles on your website. I cannot stress enough how important this can be for your brand to get found online. There is nothing stopping you from having articles on your own website titled something like ‘The Top 10 Cars of 2017’ or ‘What to Look For When Buying a New Car’. These articles could then possibly show up in searches by people like Mary, who then could be on your website. having appropriate call to actions to then take Mary to where she needs to be on your website is important.
- Local Directory Listings. Make sure you are listed in as many local directories as possible. you do not need to spend hours doing this. Businesses like BrightLocal offer citation bursts and listing updates to help you get your directory pages and links sorted.
- Don’t forget Apple maps. All you need is an Apple ID and you can add a location to Apple Maps. Many people forget this when they are creating their Google Maps page, but remember, there are a lot of iPhone users out there!
- Review sites and magazines, such as NRMA, the Motoring Report and Drive are examples of sites that focus on delivering content that is helpful to users searching for their next car. Many of them allow you to advertise your brand on the site alongside articles that match your offerings. For example, a review of buying a second hand Toyota Camry, might be perfect for an from john Smith Toyota. Often, these ads can be postcode/location matched, meaning that the user will see an ad for the dealer closest to them.
- Trustworthy websites. When it comes to brand influence and recommendations, having trusted names refer to your brand can be very beneficial. This can be in the form of text or links, or even mention of you in a video or podcast. What we call user-generated content is very beneficial to building trust in your brand, I will cover this in the next paragraph.
Now that you are listed in as many places as you can, make sure that at least every month you check the listings, update any details that have changed, and add new photos. This will help keep the listing fresh and current, as well as being re-indexed by Google more often than not.
User Generated Content.
With search engine optimisation, search engines use complex algorithms to decide the way sites are listed on the results page. They do this by trying to determine the most helpful result for the imputed search term or phrase. It takes a lot of factors in to account, including social signals and reviews.
I refer to reviews, comments and tags as user generated content. Rather than John Smith telling the world online how great his dealership is, why not impress Mary who just a bought a car from John, and hope she reviews the dealership on Facebook or the Google business page. This is not only community building and a good way to build up returning customers, it also shows search engines that your brand is trusted and is popular for certain reasons – whether that be cheap cars, good service or something else.
As always, this is more often than not, a combination of positive and negative content. Not all brands are perfect and people do have bad experiences. Unfortunately in this day and age, they are more likely to vent on social media and in reviews. Don’t be scared of this, just work on outranking the negative with positive content and reviews.
When you post content on your social media pages, try to also include posts from your own website. This way, link clicks are leading readers to your website rather than someone else’s site.
Links and Backlinks.
Search engine optimisation is about two main areas of optimisation: your website and external content linking to your website.
Your web developer should be able to help you get your website search engine friendly, and will need to have considered the following:
- Correct Meta Data Titles and Descriptions on every page.
- What we call ‘alt’ tags as well as image dimensions on every image.
- Internal linking that keeps the flow between pages on the same website.
- Correct use of Header tags throughout
- Optimal use of primary key words or phrases throughout content pages.
- Fast loading and page transitions.
- A mobile friendly interface that works on different screen sizes.
Bear in mind, most SEO marketing gurus are good at web development too, but the same can’t be said vice versa. Make sure your web developer knows what SEO is all about and has the above items covered.
Search engines use the above data to ensure they index your site correctly, so they know what it is all about and what is offered, as this will then help decide when your site is listed in results for particular search terms.
Search engines also look at links to and from your website. Just as your site may link to other websites such as your manufacturer, or social media pages, events, etc, there will be other websites that can link to yours. These are referred to as links or backlinks.
The quantity and quality of a backlink helps determine your rank on search. A quality backlink may include:
- A ‘dofollow’ link on a .gov or .edu website.
- Press release links back to your site.
- Directory listings.
- An industry influencer referencing your website.
- A manufacturer linking to you on a dealer finder page.
- Social media content linking to your site.
Of course, there are plenty more ways to get links, but if you focus on the above six, you will find that your ranking will improve.
When it comes to links, focus on quality links. It is possible to also boost your presence with services from vendors like the Hoth. US based, the Hoth offer SEO link services. They use what is essentially a tiered linking structure to ensure they create safe links to your website.
When used correctly, a combination of a sh#tload of links and very good quality links can work really well to show search engines your page is popular, an authority in your industry, and local.
It can take time to build up your search presence. What we often recommend to dealers is that they cut their TV and Radio budget for a month, and hire an SEO agency or expert to look at their current content, and either advise on improving it or get it done for them.