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The Truth About the Concept of Content Being King

If you've participated in automotive internet marketing for long enough, you've very likely heard the concept that "content is King." It was in play back in the days when I started researching search engine optimization all those years ago and it never really stopped. There was a dirty little secret that few of us in the SEO community ever mentioned, but it's been safe to say it for a little over a year now.

Content wasn't really king. It was important, but it wasn't king - not by a long shot.

When I started at TK Carsites in 2007, I wanted to prove that point. I was given a single website that belonged to the company that we wanted to rank for the important "used cars" keywords. They had a gameplan that included creating pages for every major metro in the country, populating them with tons of unique content, and playing the game the way that it's supposed to be played. I told them to hold off for a while. This was an opportunity to do some testing.

We didn't add the content... nothing. The homepage was flash and had three words in the title tag - two of them being "Used Cars". I then went through an extremely aggressive link-building process and started attacking dozens of cities. In less than two months, we were ranked in the top 3 for over 30 major metros and #1 for a dozen. These weren't easy keywords. "Baltimore Used Cars". "Dallas Used Cars". "New York City Used Cars". We Google-bombed the site and it paid off. Sadly, we didn't develop the site very much after that, but the point was made.

Fast forward about a year and we started recognizing that Google was changing the game. I was certain that they were heading towards a set of quality-control mechanisms that would make the spammy techniques obsolete. We started shifting towards a content model that included high-value sites, blogs, and guest posting. We still used some of the lesser link-building styles such as directory submissions, but we stopped all forms of footer/sidebar/signature link building. If it could be done in bulk, we weren't going to use it. Google was catching on. I was sure of it.

2009 came and went. No major change. Content was a little more important, but link-building still ruled. In fact, our high-touch, high-maintenance technique was working but not much better than the spammy techniques some were using that we had long-abandoned.

2010 - same thing. I was getting worried. I was sure Google was close. They had to be. Unfortunately, I was getting a little pressure from the SEO team because they were seeing that the techniques that I assured were evil were still working.

2011 - Panda. YAAAAY! No, wait. It didn't address the links. The spammy techniques were still working and my expensive strategy was having trouble fighting off the bulk players.

Then it happened. Penguin. April 24, 2012. The day that I thought would be coming in 2008 or 2009 finally arrived and all of the things I had hoped for came true. Some of our competitors fell of the map, Death-Star-style... "as if millions of SEO's cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced."

Today, the strategy, a content- and quality-based strategy, is alive and well. Finally.

So what was the point of all that? Today, content truly IS king, but not in the way that most perceive it. The reason that I built a new company that focuses solely on content, search, and social is that the three are now part of the same digital marketing strategy. You cannot do well with any one of them without doing well at the other two. Content is king because the quality necessary for pure link earning and social media marketing is finally bridging the gap. Unfortunately, that's bad news for the vast majority of dealers because the boilerplate content that populates so many dealer websites is hurting you. Chances are you're not really feeling it because you've never experienced the difference; if nearly everyone is doing it wrong, then "bad" is actually average.

Here is a good infographic that demonstrates many of the connections that are associated with content as part of SEO and thus part of the holistic digital marketing strategy, via automotiveseo.org. Enjoy!

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Tags: 2014, Infographic, SEO, Search, Search Engine Optimization, Search Marketing

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Comment by Alexander Lau on March 31, 2014 at 7:02am

@Ralph, there are many links pointing back to gShift, that's enough credit in my book. This isn't affiliated with a university or professional journal, it's a forum. It's the point that matters. Also, I'm a client of theirs, believe me, they don't care. In fact, they love the link juice. 

There is no Automotive SEO CRM that even comes close to gShift and Moz. I see giant strategy holes in automotive products (not going to mention them, it'll just make their developers pissed and they'll cry) and various components of what those groups offer.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on March 29, 2014 at 10:25pm
Regarding one of Alexander Lau's highly detailed and illustrated "comment" posted on December 31, 2013 I would like to ensure that the actual author of what he posted receives credit for her original content... I have inserted the following "Editor's Note" at the bottom of Alexander's comment in order to show respect for the author and provide a link to the original source:

EDITOR'S NOTE:
Alexander neglected to give credit to his source for the above "comment" which was taken from the following article written by Lori Gariepy...

"Google Hummingbird: Keep Calm and Optimize On"
Posted December 19th, 2013 and written by Lori Gariepy
Source: http://www.gshiftlabs.com/google-hummingbird-keep-calm-and-optimize...
Comment by Alexander Lau on January 17, 2014 at 7:53am

I think there's something we all need to keep in mind. SEOs can rank the living hell out of a keyword, keep it #1 for years, but if the corresponding website or landing page fails to convert, that ranking means squat. In other words, you can bring a horse to water, but you cannot force her to drink.

I hear a lot of, "man, I have this keyword ranked through the roof and my conversion rate is dismal...!" Well, yeah, that's due to the poorly designed conversion points on your website. Time to rethink your website, if that's the case. Time to start using an optimization tool.

Comment by Big Tom LaPointe on January 17, 2014 at 7:25am
INDEED Tim... But your research on your 3 reasons post went way beyond looking cheesy to show how it crashes your search rankings...and worse ... LEADS AND SALES
Comment by Alexander Lau on January 14, 2014 at 8:08am

See the middle section on Content Marketing, you had better have an SEO CRM keeping track of what converts for your demographic versus not (waste of time).

Comment by Timothy Martell on January 14, 2014 at 7:03am
Comment by Big Tom LaPointe on January 8, 2014 at 5:13am

Love this - how powerful will your search results be if EVERY dealership has boilerplate seo text as their content. Makes me want my time back when I read it as a consumer:

DEALER GROUP ABC – Your Town DEF ABC car Dealer
HOMETOWN ABC can serve as your Town 1 dealer from our convenient location. We have a wide selection of new and used cars, as well as a service and parts department. DEALER GROUP A has been serving as your Town DEF area ABC dealer with honesty, integrity, and responsibility to customers, employees, and the overall community for over 100 years! We can easily assist you with price quotes or help you investigate financing options.


ABC 123 serving DEF Town, Town 1 and Town 2

ABC 123 can serve as your Town 1 and Town 2 ABC dealer from our DEF Town location. If you are searching for your new ABC from Town 1 or Town 2, please view our hours and map page for directions. At ABC 123 of DEF Town, we'll make the trip worth your while. We are located at bla bla bla.


ABC Parts and Service

Test Drive the new ABC 123 today!


Hometwon ABC carries all the popular models, like the new ABC 123 Car. We also have the 456, 789 and 101 model. Come test drive your new ABC today!

Comment by Joshua Pullan on January 8, 2014 at 4:33am

Thank you for the response. I appreciate you taking the time to get back to me, and for the great tips!

Comment by J.D. Rucker on January 8, 2014 at 3:27am

Joshua, our job on ADM as well as our own blogs is to bring the best practices from the various marketing worlds and apply them to automotive. This is an awesome industry in that we are often faced with absolutely unique situations. For example, it's easy to say in general "get more Google +1s for SEO purposes" but if you visit 99% of car dealer websites, there's no content on the sites that would compel a visitor to share it.

They're not going to be sitting there looking at a service appointment form and think, "what a great form - I'm going to Tweet this, +1 it, and share it to all of my friends on Facebook!"

We have a responsibility to take the standard marketing tips, strategies, and news and convert it to actionable advice that can have meaning to dealers. If you do that, you'll put out winning content to all of your clients as well as useful information for all of the dealers at ADM.

Good luck and reach out if you ever want to chat about it.

Comment by Joshua Pullan on January 8, 2014 at 3:08am

Thank you for the post JD! As a young, fledgling marketer I'm keen to learn, and always find that your posts are filled with high-grade marketing knowledge and top practice tips. I am currently responsible for writing an automotive blog (which sometimes ends up here on ADM) that goes out to US and UK dealers. Do you have any advice on what sort of content works best? From both the audience's perspective and for SEO? I look forward to reading your next post!

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