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Social Media Now Most Effective Google SEO Strategy for Car Dealers

Social Signals Have Become Highest Correlating Factors with Increased Google SERP Rankings for Automotive Websites

Within the US, among 22 ranking factors identified, social signals account for 5 of the 6 most highly correlated with Google search results, according to a June 2012 study from Searchmetrics. Presenting the correlations using Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient, the study shows that Facebook shares (0.37) have the highest correlation, followed by number of backlinks (0.36). Other high-ranking factors include Facebook comments (0.33) and likes (0.3), and Tweets (0.25).


A number of factors display a negative correlation with Google rankings for automotive related websites, including title character length (-0.04) and the position of title keywords (-0.05).


According to a BrightEdge survey released in January 2012, 84% of search marketers say social signals such as likes, tweets, a... will be either more important (53%) or much more important (31%) to their SEO this year as compared to 2011.


Backlinks Still Work

Backlinks continue to be one of the most critical factors affecting rankings for car dealer and automotive related websites, according to the Searchmetrics report. The number of backlinks ranks just behind Facebook shares as the most highly-correlated factor. Additionally, other backlink factors also positively correlate, such as the proportion of nofollow links (0.15) and the proportion of links containing keywords (0.10).


Ads Can Hinder Results

Further results from the report indicate that too much advertising by a car dealer, dealer association or an OEM can be a dampener on search ranking success. The advertising factors studied all returned a negative correlation: AdLinks; AdSense; and AdSense Blocks each had a correlation coefficient of -0.04. Even so, the report notes that the correlation value for Adlinks includes AdSense, and separating out AdSense, which has a negative correlation, yields a better result for Adlinks. Basically, not including AdSense code for Google Adwords to insert advertising on your automotive related website seems to have a positive correlation with ranking on that site's SERP.


Also, Searchmetrics indicates that this result needs to be monitored, as these factors only appear to be relevant in the top 10 results and because AdSense tends to feature more often on poorly ranking sites than those with better rankings.


Other Findings:

  • Strong automotive brands rank in the top 5 even without perfectly conforming on-page structures, adding weight to the presumption of brand power in search rankings.
  • Keywords in automotive domain names correlate much more strongly with high rankings than keywords in the rest of the URL.
  • Image count does not appear to be much of a factor, with a correlation coefficient of just 0.04.


About the Data: The report cautions that correlation does not equate to causation, and these results do not in any way guarantee that the factors have an effect on rankings or are even used by Google as signals.


For its dataset, Searchmetrics selected an extremely large keyword set of 10,000 search terms from U.S. Searchmetrics did not just include the top 10,000 search terms according to search volume, since they contain a disproportionately high number of brand keywords which might have distorted the assessment of many other key factors. Instead the reference dataset includes a mix of different keywords with, if not the largest, then at least generally high search volumes. Around 1 in 10 are keywords that were identified as navigation-oriented according to Searchmetrics logic; the rest are a mix of keywords from a variety of CPC areas to best cover transactional (higher CPC) and information oriented (lower CPC) searches as well as the hybrids in between.


The assessment was limited to organic searches – AdWords, Universal Search OneBoxes, 2 to 7 packs, sitelinks, iGoogle integrations etc. were not included. The analysis’ 10,000 analyzed keywords lead to: 30,000 SERPs with 300,000 titles, descriptions and URLs. The ranking sites’ content included: 14.68 GB in data; 92,672 AdSense blocks; 338,562,612 Facebook comments; 3.04 billion shares; and 8.1 billion likes.




Shown below is a Google video of Matt Cutts when Google first admitted to using social signals in its ranking algorithm... Fascinating predictions of what we now know has become fact "relatively lightly... for now...":

Views: 1529

Tags: Car, Dealers, Effective, Google, Media, SEO, Social, Strategy, social car sales, social media


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Comment by Ralph Paglia on July 26, 2012 at 9:34pm

As I stated previously, when I first found the data analysis charts in this article my first  impression was that what many of us in automotive marketing had been doing, was now proven effective... Because more and more automotive marketing professionals have been using social media accounts, profiles and content placements to enhance SEO results for dealers.  Then, when I came across the video of Matt Cutts from 2010 (embedded below) where he subtly predicts that social media "signals" may be used by Google to establish relevance and user satisfaction with websites in the near future (as in NOW), it all came together to form a clear picture of what the research in this article suggests.  Yes, keywords in root domain names are still the most powerful SEO tactic, but broad based social sharing has become a rival to back-links in the impact it has on a dealership's website SERP rank for relevant search queries by automotive consumers.  Want to really understand how you can most effectively manage your dealership's rank with Google search results? You need to register and attend AutoCon 2012 in Las Vegas by clicking on this link: and you will have access to 3 sequential Search Marketing workshops conducted by Google management staff working with some of the best SEO practitioners in the auto industry to ensure you get the hands on learning and expert guidance on exactly what works the best!

Comment by Ralph Paglia on July 25, 2012 at 7:29pm

Manny brings up a great point that many Google executives are always quick to point out... If the content a dealer publishes on the web is interesting and relevant to what car buyers are seeking, then Google will always find a way to ensure such websites with great content appear near the top of search engine results pages (SERP).  We know that relevant videos, good photography and a well written story that is unique to the dealership's web pages produce the right results... And, now we know that when people share that content across their personal social media accounts that Google sees that as a consumer voting to promote that dealer's website.  Social sharing by visitors to websites is important and part of what matters in determining which sites are most relevant to similar Google search users.

Comment by David T. Gould on July 25, 2012 at 5:57am

great "stuff" here @Ralph. thanks for sharing.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on July 24, 2012 at 8:46pm

Tim, when I found the chart my first  impression was "this confirms what we are seeing in the real word..." Of course, since people have figured it out, I am sure Google will change their SERP ranking algorithms in the near future, like they always do!

Comment by Timothy Martell on July 24, 2012 at 8:11pm

This is incredible information! This just gave a lot of dealers and vendors, a lot of work to do!

Comment by Ralph Paglia on July 24, 2012 at 7:01pm

Hey Manny, your video is rocking my sound system! Got my woofer thumping...

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