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Dealer SEO 101 (I am not an "SEO GURU")

A little off subject for what I do but I thought I would offer some SEO 101 for car dealers. Take it from someone who see’s 20+ dealer sites on a daily basis. I will cover things most dealers miss, what dealer’s do that actually hurts them, and why they aren’t doing what’s important. You can also pick up some really cool tools that I use that can save you some time and money, maybe even your job.

I have found that in any vendor business where you are selling to dealerships, TRAINING is vital to making sure the dealer is successful with your product ( gets it). So how come I haven’t heard of website providers offering free training to their clients on the do’s and don’ts of SEO. My belief is that they are not staffed for it or don’t feel it would help. Let’s face it…you probably don’t have hours a day to invest in SEO practices nor are you educated enough to do it.
Here is what you need to provide intelligent SEO services for your dealership. You need to know basic HTML code or a CMS that will do it for you, you need basic SEO knowledge, and Last but not least you need time to do it and maintain it. You are not an SEO expert because you follow google on twitter or because you read a blog from some guy called “SEO GURU” and shares all his tips with you.

This blog could help your search ranking and help protect your job from the super savvy SEO/Internet Director. Don’t count on your site provider to tell you or even wait for that “SEO/Internet Director” to point out all the things you are doing wrong with your site and ask for your job. Be proactive and put your site to the test. Again….these are basic but extremely important things I see missed every day.

Keyword Research:
What keywords are you using and are you spread thin? When doing research for keywords keep conversion rate in mind. You want the traffic that hits your site to be relevant and to convert at the highest possible percentage. There are a few tools to help with this: this tool is offered for keyword research for adword campaigns but is great for organic keyword research as well. Since everything is going local now they have made a recent change to show you local vs. global. There is a setting on the right hand site of the results you want to play with that a little (Broad, Exact, etc…). Do a search for “used cars” wait a minute don’t get too excited!!! You are not going to land on page 1 of “used cars” and get 16,600,000 hits to your site every month. Find niche keywords like “used cars in my area” has 9,900 searches. Look at “used cars Atlanta” local search is key unless you are shipping cars nationally. Search it and compare your site to those ranking well. See if you think you will be able to rank for that keyword or keywords. I am going to keep this basic so moving forward assuming you have picked your keywords. keep in mind it does matter if you use an "s" or "GA" on the end of words.

Dealer Negatives:
Dealerships don’t have a set of a few keywords they want to dominate for. They use millions of them and don’t rank great for any of them except for their own dealer name.

What To Do With Keywords:
Ok so here is where I tell you to stick it. You will need to (in moderation) drop your keywords in your title tags, meta keywords, meta descriptions, content, and listen dealers even your alt tags for photos. That’s a biggie because I see soooo many dealers with images on their site and you hover over them and it says cropped_image_12797 or car_image_78897. That won’t help you!!! Those tags are there for a reason. I actually did a test and images without alt tags will drop you in local search and organic search in google. Ryan, why so much about google? Well 70% of searches come from google so I suggest you optimize that way. Oh, and yes local is offered by relevance to your searchers. You can dominate local searches for many different cities as a car dealership if you know what you are doing. Oh, almost forgot…do a google search for “home” and tell me where your dealership ranks. Lol it doesn’t rank on the first page I promise you that but majority of sites will rank in some form or fashion because that is the home page name. "Home" should be a place holder not the name of your "home" page. So drop your keywords in your page names if it makes since. Don't go crazy with this..people need to know it's your home page. Have your URL read clean (example: A lot of times you will see or something crazy. That won’t help you. Google has stated that is NOT good (Source @mattcutts). Eliminate symbols in your URL’s. Before Contact At Once went to Wordpress we had the same issue with the URL’s. WAIT!!! Before you go changing your URL’s keep in mind you may have positive deep links and inner links you will have to take care of. Do that first!

Title Tags:
uummm here is where I laugh most the time with dealers. Dealers will offer 1000 title tag words trying to keyword stuff. Let me help you here. You are diluting your good keywords and probably are not ranking as well as you should. This is the case with probably 95% of all the dealer websites I see.

Keywords In Text:
Offer keywords you want to rank well for in your text. Keep in mind that Google’s Algorithm measures keyword density and if you do like most dealers at the bottom of your page you will see something like a content section or a small scroll bar with text reading like…..
Serving: car dealer atlanta, used cars Atlanta, car dealer Alpharetta, used trucks, used trucks Duluth, norcross, roswell, macon, lawrenceville, suwanee, Buford, Georgia.
That’s the short version but what is that? Make it read well!!! Choose a few really good keywords and go after them. Don’t dilute your entire site with keywords.

Flash Sites:

However lovely you may think they are….they are NOT!! Why? Glad you asked….#1 reason is I have found that not everyone is running a 10 meg connection at their house or workplace like I do. Flash takes time to load and sometimes doesn’t. The majority of mobile devices can’t process flash as of right now. Search engines cannot crawl video yet. I did hear Adobe and google are working on it. So your option is to add keywords behind the video. NOT a good idea. Google is pretty clear when it comes to hiding text. Have you heard how hard it is to get back into google once you have been blacklisted? If done in moderation you should be fine but hiding keywords behind flash is not recommended. You probably want to treat this like alt tags. Effective but don't use to many keywords. Name it and move on.

Ahh links… the baby that fuels google search. OK so you may have never thought about this but you and I are the brains behind how sites rank. Follow me here….let’s say your dealer site is a page rank 5. That’s pretty good. You link to my site Contact At Once. Google sees that link and the text reading “dealer chat” and says hhhmmm this dealer says “this is a good link for dealer chat” and begin ranking your site better for “dealer chat”. So why do you need to know this? You need what we call “back links.” These are links back to your dealership website. Wanna know who is linking to you now? Check out webmaster tools for google for the most detailed info. They will give you where the link is coming from, what the anchor text is, and how many links you have.

You may want to check your competitor’s sites here Link Popularity Check -

It isn’t such a bad thing for navigation and for search crawlers to have inner links with great anchor words. For instance, We sell “new cars”... link to your new cars page.

Suggestion: ask your competitors back links to link to you as well if they are not a spammy type of a site.

Note: be careful here don’t link from anywhere you don’t want people finding when they search you.

I am starting to see more blogs on dealer site. These are great for many reasons….keywords, google loves them, and well you can get your message out. Keep it real and know that all above applies here.

Remember text is king!!!

Here are a few people I have followed over the last few years to help you on your journey to actually becoming a “SEO Guru.” (Works for google…gives great inside info) (one of the market leaders in staying ahead of search) (they are great for getting all info from many different sources) (another great site that puts out a lot of great articles) (offers these wonderful graphs like you see below)

seo chart

Views: 101

Tags: chat, dealer, internet, manager, marketing, search, seo, websites


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Comment by Sebastian James on August 28, 2009 at 7:37pm
Another good avenue is to take an online SEO/SEM class from SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization.
Comment by Ryan Lucia on August 27, 2009 at 4:14am
Thanks guys for the feedback...Ralph, what i have found is if you build a site like your camaro site and you see those type of results it means one or more of a few things. You were the first or one of the first to do smart SEO on that subject and won't be long before someone catches up or it's because the demand of what your offering is high and the supply is low as is in your case. I think you have a mixture of both. If I was looking for that car I would visit 15 websites trying to find it, right! I respect your knowledge and appreciate what you do on here. Educated the dealer and giving them the power is the key to success for the automotive industry. Now the dealers have to do something with it. Some will and some won't.
Comment by Ralph Paglia on August 26, 2009 at 6:46pm
Ryan, right on about the SEO targeted phrases being a limited number... I used to recommend 20 and now based on experience i am recommending the 10 most important keyword phrases that are also the most expensive to buy in Adwords... Think about it... If a keyword or phase is dirt cheap to buy, then why waste the ultra valuable and limited real estate of organic ranking efforts on it? Pay for the cheap stuff and work on organic rankings for the ten most expensive keywords/phrases that draw relevant targeted traffic... Generally, after hitting several SEO home runs, I am now in the camp of those who have gotten what they wished for and then realized that the results include unintended outcomes... YOU try handling 1,232 SEO generated Camaro leads in one month for a car you can't get and can't sell... with 90% of them coming from outside your dealership's marketing area!!! With a total cost of less than 800 bucks, it's hard to complain, but after the first week all 12 of my ISS's requested that they be taken out of lead rotation for Strange but true and just one example of "be careful what you wish for" in regards to SEO.
Comment by Ralph Paglia on August 26, 2009 at 6:38pm
LOL... Yes... Really... Andrew, you hit the nail on the head! Last week I went to Barnes and Nobles and looked at about a dozen brand new books out on Social media marketing... Actually bought three of them because i am a sucker for learning new tricks, tips and techniques... BUT, you are soooo right on target when talking about social media... This is a new discipline and already i have read several sections in each of my new book collection which I KNOW are not 100% accurate just based on my personal experience with this ADM community.

Sure, there is a ton of stuff to learn that is out there and established, like which i just re-discovered and which is amazing the first time you whip out the credit card and get past the freebie bullshit (semi-useless) and start actually using the tool's premium services. But, anyways, we are still "writing the book" on this stuff and anyone who claims to be a "GURU" or "Expert" runs the risk of truly being branded as a charlaton and exploitationist... When I presented my Social Marketing and Reputation Management case studies at Digital Dealer #6, I led with the statement that "I am not claiming to be an expert, but i am one heck of a highly motivated student"... I think I will be in the student category for the remainder of my career... To me, as soon as someone becomes an "expert" it seems like they feel no need to keep learning... I love learning this stuff, so just think of me as a 23 year digital marketing professional student!
Comment by Eric Miltsch on August 26, 2009 at 1:38pm

Nice job organizing the concepts; take the time to study these, practice and then practice them a little bit more b/c once you're comfortable, things will change.

Good example, Google's recent announcement of their Caffeine search improvements putting greater emphasis on KW density, local search and social media content.

You can compare Caffeine's results to "normal" Google results here.
Comment by David T. Gould on August 25, 2009 at 7:58pm
Hey Ryan... Your updates from the original post (elsewhere) are looking good. Google (from my research) has continually updated the element stats above and has added a few more with their introduction of their beta released "Caffeine". External (quality / relevant) links, Social Media (Blogs, FaceBook / Twitter) and Video look to already hold the lion's share of the weight in determining the ever moving bar for top placement. SEO and now SMO (social marketing optimization) will require quite a bit more than ("basic HTML code or a CMS that will do it for you, you need basic SEO knowledge, and Last but not least you need time to do it and maintain it.")... to get dealers maximum front page search engine exposure.

I like the direction your heading in here and appreciate your updating. I hope my input is helpful. Good Selling, DTG
Comment by Ryan Lucia on August 25, 2009 at 4:56pm
I have only played with flash and I have seen success with it. My bounce rate is lower, average page views are higher, and average time on site is higher then my non flash sites. Again, I am not claiming I know everything so please don't take my post that way. I do know however that dealers miss bad with SEO. I have seen a video by Bruce Clay this year that said Google was working with Adobe on crawling video. I have not seen any updates saying it is done. Will you please supply your source on the "google crawls video"?

I am saying the exact opposite of asking the dealers to write their text in Keyword gibberish as it is on most dealer sites so don't hear me wrong. Since you are good with stats 70% of the leads you get from 3rd party sites are from search. Hmmmm how would we tell dealers it's not important? Thats not fair. Plus flash doesn't get people to your site!!!

Plian and simple full flash websites ARE at a disadvantage in SEO. I have checked this and my research shows that is true. If you would like to challenge this theory build two sites 1 flash and 1 HTML and tell me what ranks best.

Another reason I am not as big of a fan of flash is the capability for change from the dealer level. You may absolutely prove me wrong here and I am really hoping you can. I have seen CMS's for flash that are pretty nice. Do you guys offer that? If I want to drop a Twitter App on the side bar or something could I do it with a Dealerskin site? Flash navigation is nice to look at but again you are shooting yourself in the foot if you don't add those links in your footer. I have seen pages from the flash navigation NOT get indexed. So, maybe I am doing it wrong but that is the case unless I put the links in the text or footer. You can have options of one click without flash from the navigation.

Here is your shot to shine. I am not anti dealer websites so please understand I am not attacking you or your company.

I only want to educate the dealers if they are interested. Not much interest on this subject here so I will let you speak your mind and show proof and hopefully get business from it. Be blessed!

Comment by Jason Ezell on August 25, 2009 at 7:50am
Good info here but I need to once again defend the use of Flash especially as it related to SEO.
Flash is not a deterrent in SEO if it is used properly. Flash is excellent for captivating a shoppers attention to keep them from shopping the other 4 dealers sites they will visit. The purpose of Flash is to make your site look better than the other 4-6 competitors in your area. So YOUR site is the one they fall in love with, remember, refer to friends etc. "Cool" sites are just as important as the inventory you offer. Also, Flash is an excellent device for building navigation elements so that there can be sub-navigation displayed on roll-over without having to click. This way, every page within your site is only one click from any other page. With the bail-out rate being about 24% per click, removing clicks between shopper and vehicle is critical and Flash allows us to do this.

Also, as the Internet only allows us to appeal to the sense of sight, then vehicle display is critical. Flash allows us to import video into a common player, use the 360 spin pics, make slide shows from multiple picture, there are so many ways Flash helps us display product. Go to any OEM site, Best Buy, Verizon, on and on and look how they display their products...all Flash. Now obviously I don't recommend putting your entire company history in a Flash movie, or having critical text in Flash movies, but for attractive eyeballs, displaying vehicles, and structuring navigation, there is nothing better than Flash.

By the way Google does crawl Flash for content, and there can certainly be "alt tags" put behind major graphics to label what those graphics are so crawlers can "see" the images.
There is also a practice called "alternate content" where when a Flash player is not detected, like on an iPhone, other content in other formats can be displayed instead. So by detecting when there is not a Flash player available, a full reproduction of any Flash elements can be displayed in other formats.

One more piece of critical advice…search engine key word shoppers only represent about 13% of your overall lead volume!!! Almost 40% of actual Internet auto buyers…typed in the dealers URL or some variation of it. So although SEO is very important, it is NOT by any means the most important. Google even says in its SEO rules… “don’t build a website for Google, build them for consumers and just keep Google in mind” Focus more attention on advertising, website content, vehicle display and a solid value proposition for your shoppers, before you start picking your site apart for alt tags, ref statements and stuffing meta content into your current site. If your site looks dated, bland, flat, or boring, you can do all the SEO you want and you’ll still get the same lead conversion. Focus more on eliminating dead ends in your site, pricing strategy, multiple pictures on inventory, prominent display of phone numbers, extremely detailed vehicle data and pictures, etc. I guarantee these practices will not only get your better placement in search engines, but it will also give you a better lead conversion which is what we’re all after.

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