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Content Wasn't Always King, But Now It Finally Is

For years, marketers and search engine optimization gurus have been preaching something. They've been telling the world that "content is king" and that if you put the right content on your website, that it will rank well. After all, who would deny the king, right?

The reality was different. Up until April 24th, 2012, content was not king. It was a queen, maybe even a jack - a face card to be sure. However, it wasn't king. Inbound links were king. Other factors such as exact-match domains, site age, and offsite attribution were aces.

Things have changed all the way around. Thanks to the Penguin update, links are now more challenging to come by. Don't misunderstand this - links have not been devalued. If anything, they are more powerful now than they were before the update. Low-quality, automated, spammy links have been completely devalued to the point that they can actually do harm to your domain. For this reason, inbound linking strategies have been forced to clean up their act. Only the highest level of pure links work the magic now. More on that in a moment, but first, let's talk social...

One of the "hidden" changes that happened on or around the same time as the Penguin update was the increased value given to social signals. Google has been considering social signals in the ranking algorithm since December, 2010 (publicly, at least), but they really started pumping up their significance this year. It's very likely that the timing of the change was intended to coincide with Penguin; making two major changes at the same time - one public, one behind the scenes - is the perfect way to keep people like me on my toes.

This brings us to the content. As I mentioned, links of the highest caliber are still powerful, possibly more powerful than ever before. Social signals are equally powerful. The inaccurate but easy math behind it is that links, social, and onsite content account for 30% of the ranking algorithm with the other 10% going to outside or uncontrollable forces such as domain age. If all three major components are equal, how can content now be king?

Today and going forward, there are three types of content for dealer websites. There's the "money content" - the pages that are there to generate leads such as inventory pages. There's the SEO content - the pages designed to target specific keywords and drive traffic to your site from various search terms. Lastly, there's "sharable content" - the pages that are of general interest to visitors that come to your website for reasons other than to do business with the dealership.

Many will avoid the third type as "cool content pages" such as a picture gallery of modified Honda Civics or a video of your dealership's participation in the March of Dimes walkathon do not directly generate leads. This is their biggest mistake and an opportunity for you to shine.

You see, these are the pages that can generate organic links. These are the pages that can be shared on social media to generate the social signals. These are the pages that will allow people to interact with your site even if they're not buying a car. The effects of links and social signals do not just hit the page itself. They help the domain. If you're posting content on your site that is bringing in links and social signals, the other pages (including the "money content" pages) will rank better in search and gain more exposure through social.

It's not an easy process without the appropriate understanding, but once you get the hang of it, there are few things that come more naturally to us. We're all "car people". We got into this business to make money and be around vehicles (at least that's the hope). If you generate the type of content that should come naturally to you and expose that content through the proper channels, you'll have an advantage over your competitors. Despite the ease in which this can be accomplished, few will attempt it. Even fewer will do it right. You have an opportunity to get way ahead of the competition in internet marketing with a little knowledge, a little practice, and a little help.

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Tags: Content, SEO, SERP, content is king, marketing, organic, search engine optimization, social Signals

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Comment by Edward Harting on November 1, 2012 at 1:40pm
This is great stuff JD, how can I get more involved and learn more?
Comment by Ralph Paglia on November 1, 2012 at 1:36pm

J.D. - Is this part of the 5 part article series? In any event, I think Content has always been King when it comes to engaging automotive consumers and driving contact from them that results in an opportunity to do business.  In many ways, it seems to me that the changes Google has implemented over the past few years to their SERP ranking algorithm have been focused on improving their search engine user's experience.  So, these recent developments have not been too much of a surprise to many of us, and I dare say to you either!

As we go forward, it is more important than ever before, and will only increase in value for dealers to have staff that are capable of creating meaningful, relevant and automotive consumer focused "CONTENT".  Gone are the days of hiring illiterate high school drop outs in car dealerships!

My advice to dealers, every applicant seeking a customer facing job or position within the dealership's organization should be asked to bring an example of a blog post they have written, a video they have titled, described and posted, comments they have posted to forums/blogs/videos or examples of photos they have posted online to be considered for the job.  If somebody is applying for a job in a car dealership that involves serving and communicating with dealers and they have never used or posted anything to a social media site, then they are basically anti-social or illiterate... Neither of which is suitable for a car dealership employee going into 2013.

Personally, I will no longer recommend that dealers hire customer facing employees that are not capable of writing an email, a blog post or commenting on a customer's social media profile, account, channel, images, videos, etc. in a manner that is conducive to building the dealership/customer relationships that deliver enough value to take a customer out of the "reverse auction" mind set.

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