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Search Engine Optimization - the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's "natural" or un-paid ("organic") search results.
KEYWORDS - on-site SEO, off-site SEO, meta tags, spiders, algorithms, inbound links, link spamming, white hat, black hat, page rank, link analysis, author rank, citation analysis, probability distribution, spoofing, spamdexing, Hummingbird, Penguin...
Is your head spinning?
Can we simplify this a bit?
Let's start with on-site SEO. At one time, this consisted of putting meaningful titles, descriptions, and keywords into the HTML side of your website or web page. The search engines would then pick up on those and decide that your site is relevant for those terms.
Today, it is still best practice to pay attention to those tags, but there is an added requirement... Content. Search Engines have become more sophisticated and can now judge the actual content of your site.
But wait! Content alone is meaningless unless it is unique and ever-changing. So don't cut and paste content from other sites. Write your own and add new content frequently.
Got it covered? Good! Now let's move on to off-site SEO.
Off-site SEO is... EVERYTHING YOU DO ONLINE that can be traced back to your website identity!
Social Media - Do a search for your dealership and you will find posts from Google+ if you post there. You will also find your Twitter account and YouTube videos. Is this powerful? (You are utilizing Social Media, right?)
Reputation - Do you Yelp? Maybe not, but many of your customers do and their reviews show up in search results. So do your reviews from Google+, DealerRater, Cars.com and more. Is this powerful? (You do manage and maintain a good reputation, right?)
Blog and Newsletters - Do you maintain a dealership blog or send out a monthly newsletter? Do a search for your dealership. Wow! There they are! Is this powerful? (You do stay in touch with your customers, right?)
Are you in the online Yellow Pages, SuperPages, and hundreds of other local online directories? You should be! That's SEO!
There will be SEO professionals who will think this is a simplified explanation and they are certainly right. This wasn't written for them. If you can afford to hire them, do so by all means. Although Google considers them "unpaid ads", SEO is not free. You either pay someone in-house to do it or you outsource it to a professional. If not, then do your best with what knowledge you have and you will see improvement.
But there are two caveats to all of this.
1. Your website must be a destination worthy of the traffic! It must convert visitors to prospects and customers.
2. Your dealership experience must match or exceed the online claims and online experience.
If those two conditions do not exist, then all the SEO and other marketing, paid or unpaid, that you do is for naught.
Written by Tom Gorham
Editor, From The Trenches