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SEO - Go with our website host Dealer.com or with another company? What are the positive and negatives?

So it seems like forever and a day that I have been on here. Sorry everyone! Lots of stuff going on with changes in management positions here. Great news is now I am specifically on ECommerce - so look out because I will be nagging everyone on here for support.

So as my title states - who has opinions on SEO - should we go with our website host Dealer.com or with another company?

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Comment by Aj Maida on October 25, 2010 at 1:15pm
Amanda,

(Being an Armando I love that name) This is an excellent conversation you started. Remember that true SEO is more then just the pages on your website. As Rob, Ralph and Brian have pointed out having a Micro-site strategy is helpful. Your social sites done right will also show up on Google Page one. If you want to own it, Page one that is you need to have multiple pages for your makes and models. I myself found that I didn't have the time or the expertise so I retained a dedicated SEO company and joined the Automotive Advertising Network in order to build back links into our website. In the long run it was cheaper then hiring someone to help me. I am also on the dealer.com platform for both of our stores. I was/am on the "Chrysler Digital" platform for our CDJ store but I am dropping it for a "retail" site. They just had to many rules and regulations that prevented us from having really dynamic SEO and conversion. As Rob talked about earlier you need to take care of your meta tags, titles and descriptions and they were just making it to hard. I mentioned it earlier but when thinking about SEO don't forget about conversion, and when thinking about conversion don't forget about SEO. Through the use of micro-sites, ANN, Press release sites and video site we are able to hold multiple spots for all our makes and model in multiple geographic searches. Ask for help and explain to management that if they think it's too expensive, how much is a lost opportunity worth??
Comment by Scott Golembiewski on October 25, 2010 at 8:53am
Matt, good points and consistent messaging in content is critical. I fully agree with the investment of time into the dealers primary domain, though with one exception being a dealership blog that is on it's own since blogs have a powerful SEO effect but differ significantly from the visitor intent. Dealer websites need to be optimized for conversion, whereas Dealer Blogs should be a place to post content that attracts new buyers, provides commentary, for those who are researching and possibly looking on sites such as Edmunds or KBB for information.

Making an early impression on someone with a blog that doesn't have the sole purpose of selling anything, but to provide good quality information and service tips will build relationships and lower barriers for trust to begin to form.
Comment by Matt Murray on October 25, 2010 at 7:40am
This is an incredible conversation, love it. Brian and Katrina have already pointed out the opportunities that exist in on-site and off-site SEO. These are solid strategies that have been proven time and time again within our industry and certainly throughout the business world. The only point I would like to stress for you Amanda is that strong, consistent messaging starts with the content on your site. Unfortunately I have seen dealers reach out to create an enormous off-site network without ensuring that the message they are sharing lives on their primary domain first. This causes some serious trust issues with the shopper, like running a TV ad for a special and not having that info on your site too.

In the end, there are many roads you can travel to find SEO guidance within the industry. The capacity to choose the one that is right for you depends on your ability to ask the questions that will validate the potential SEO services. Reach out to trusted resources in your network before evaluating a vendor to make sure you have your bases covered. Congratulations on taking the first step to protecting and growing your brand.
Comment by Brian Pasch on October 23, 2010 at 4:52pm
How could I not post a response to this post after so many good ideas have been shared. Since PCG Digital Marketing provides independent Automotive SEO strategies we work with many platforms including the Dealer.com platform on a regular basis.

Dealer.com is an 2010 AWA award winning platform and has the architecture to achieve great results for the domain that it is hosted on, when properly setup and edited. That said, Dealer.com Dynamic SEO technicians can do a fine job on updating the basic SEO META tags and Page Titles to reach your search marketing goals.

Once that it completed, and you are trained on how to use Page Builder to create new search optimized pages, you need to focus on off-site link building and content publishing to increase the search authority and visibility of your brand. This is where a dedicated independent SEO strategist comes into play.

Also keep in mind that content creation that matches your search marketing goals is one key to success, along with video optimization, PDF optimization, and social media as Ralph's diagram shows. This multi-faceted approach continues to get more interesting each day so a dedicated SEO company is better positioned to deliver customized solutions for your dealership.

Also, providers that have their own content network that can be leveraged for your brand and PMA will give you more immediate results. Microsites should be a part of your strategy as well for all the reasons previously documented. Microsites give dealers more opportunities to match their brand with in market shoppers.

If you are planning on going to NADA in February, I will be conducting two days of SEO workshops prior to NADA and it would be a good place to establish knowledge leadership on this important aspect of digital marketing. Details can be found at: http://www.dealer-seo.com/20100924-pcg-digital-marketing-workshop/
Comment by Katrina Gibson on October 22, 2010 at 2:21pm
Amanda. It's great that you are incorporating SEO into your marketing strategy, it is definitely a key piece of the pie when it comes to marketing your business online. We recently posted a great article by Andrew Shotland who gives a short guide with some questions to ask when searching for an SEO provider.

Some of the things you have to keep in mind are that SEO is not just about title tags and meta data, though those things are important, there is so much more that goes into ranking high in the search engines, such as:

-Initial and ongoing keyword research specific to your business and location
-Fresh, relevant keyword-rich content on key pages with quality meta data and title tags
-Building and maintaining a strategic linking campaign that gathers quality inbound links
-Analysing & tracking and regularly optimizing accordingly
-Using white hat tactics according to Google's standards

As Rob Fontano pointed out, our Dealer.com website platform is designed to perform well in the search engines even without our SEO package. In fact our website platform just won the AWA Pinnacle Award for our superior search marketing architecture. However, when subscribing to our SEO package each client gets a dedicated industry specialist that performs all of the above and more and reports back to the client.

I hope this helps you in your search and please let us know if you need help in this process.
Best,
Katrina
Comment by Mark King on October 22, 2010 at 10:59am
I agree with most of your comments. SEO is one of the pie pieces. I you are not wquipped or programed to handle it your self, you need to get there. Yes, there is help out there, and good help at that. Get there guys to help you manage your own sites.
Unstanding the whole picture is where the needle is pointing. Let the experts be the experts. To be sucessful, knowledge of the product is essential. Or if you want to blindly give you money to someone, I'll provide the trackng number!
Comment by Amanda Champion on October 22, 2010 at 10:25am
Thanks everyone. You have given me a lot of food for thought.
Comment by Bruno Lucarelli on October 22, 2010 at 10:12am
Yes microsites work well if done right, no doubt. I agree with the multiple site strategy, of course you have to have the right sales process or NONE of it works! I also concur that you should have your own access to your SEO. In addition, watch your dealership reviews closely!! Don't get tied into one SEO company for more than a few quarters, and check your results on all search engines, especially with Google Caffeine and Google Instant changing the game once again!
Comment by Rob Fontano on October 22, 2010 at 7:21am
The decision to allow your website provider to manage your SEO or to hire another company to handle it is entirely subject to your skill level and available time. I don't believe that there is any one solution to SEO. There are some very good website companies and some very good SEO companies, but If you have the ability I would not place my entire SEO strategy in any one place.

Dealer.com is a very good SEO platform, but in order to get the most out of it you should dig deeply into the Meta data on each and every page. A DDC website will perform well if left at default settings, but will perform extremely well with detailed and well designed Title, Tags, and Description. (Make sure that you have access) One thing to remember is that your website is never finished; you should be consistently adding relevant pages and content. They have recently added a blog, but I really don't think that is very effective. Your time is much better used creating your own dealership blog sites separate from your main site.

As Ralph pointed out, micro sites are an extremely effective SEO tool. Video is also a very effective and great long range SEO strategy. I think about SEO in terms of layers, Websites, Micro sites, blogs, Video, Press releases, social media, photos, etc. The primary focus is to capture as much SERP real estate as possible.
Comment by John Castleberry on October 21, 2010 at 1:05pm
Amanda,

I agree with Ralph about the microsite strategy we have been doing microsites for dealerships for quiet some time and they have really sent a lot of targeted traffic to their main website. We focus on putting these microsites in 5 key markets outside of your local market so that you get broader exposure and you take the business from your competition. I also agree that you should have a budget for Video Search Engine Optimization because in today's internet marketplace video has the highest response rate and is more interactive which is what people are looking for. If you have some time I can show you a new innovative approach to websites that convert 6% of your visitors and show you video campaigns that get 3 to 5 results on the first page of the search engines. When would you have some time to talk?

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