Everyone wants his or her business to rank #1 on Google search, but achieving and maintaining high visibility online is a lot harder and more complex than the simple acronym SEO makes it sound.
[This article was written for MOPAR North America (Chrysler Corp.) - but the methods expressed apply to all businesses - of all sizes]
Identifying the SEO techniques for auto dealer marketing that most effectively pull in local traffic is a moving target.
Last year Google alone made over 500 changes to how they rank and index a business website on their search engine, and with their latest Hummingbird update that essentially rewrote their entire search engine, they are on a collision-course to best that number this year. Therefore, it is highly probable that some website changes you may have made to your site just a couple of years ago are now obsolete (if not downright banned) while new standards and best practices for local SEO may be absent from your website - same goes for your off-page assets like social media and business listings.
So if you have been thinking that your online visibility seems to have crashed lately – you’re probably correct.
However, where there is difficulty – there is an opportunity, and if you are not satisfied with your local search engine results, here are 7 SEO tips that are sure to drive more local discovery to your business – no matter if you have one or multiple locations.
The strongest element driving traffic to most websites is not the visual part of the website – it’s the wording. Search engines do not see the visible parts of your website – they only see the words. That said, it makes sense to focus as much attention here as possible.
Keyword research will help discover the words and phrases best suited to help the search engines know what you do (i.e., wholesale Mopar parts, wholesale Jeep parts, wholesale Dodge parts), and where you do it (location) as well as identify what words people are typing into their search bar to find businesses like yours. You can use a Free Tool like Google’s Keyword Planner to build your keyword strategy. Download your list of keywords into Excel for further editing and filtering on a regular basis – quarterly review works great but definitely no less than twice a year. I’m a big supporter of quarterly audits for most business analysis, marketing, and performance KPIs.
Ranking for a hundred keywords that nobody is searching for is a waste of energy. Identify the words most likely to drive the right kind of traffic to your business and build your site (and off-page activity) around those key-words. Better to rank highly for 5 words that drive traffic, then for 100 that don’t. You are just fueling your ego with the later.
As a rule, I focus on about 35 targeted keywords & phrases for most local-business clients and spend several hours’ fine-honing keyword selections. Every keyword strategy is unique, even for clients in the same business vertical – like auto dealers.
SEO TIP: Filtering results of the Keyword Planner tool by geographic regions (country, state, county, and city) will display the regional demand for your keyword entered as well as project a sense of how competitive it will be for you to rank for those words on local search.
2. Keyword Mapping & META
Now that you have your keywords strategy down let’s put it to good use.
Looking at your keyword list (Excel spreadsheet), you will probably notice that you could group similarly-focused keywords together (I call these silos). Go ahead and sort your keywords into silos.
Does your website have a page for each silo listed on your spreadsheet? It should.
You do not need hundreds of pages for your website (generally speaking) – but your pages should target the primary aspects of your business. Your list of keywords is the starting point. As a best practice, your website should have no less than 6 pages, and be no longer than it needs to be (if people don’t read it – you do not need it).
Looking again at your keyword list, make sure the primary keyword for a page is used as close to the front of the opening sentence of the website as possible and consider highlighting your keyword in bold. Same goes for the administrative elements of the website called the META – the part people cannot see, but search engines can.
Definition: META | Short for metadata – loose translation “data about data”
There are three elements of META on a website to concern yourself with:
- META Title
- Meta Description
- Meta Keywords
Make sure each website page has unique META elements (each of the three) and position your major keyword as close to the front of your wordings as you complete these elements.
SEO TIP: META Title and Description have character limitations you should be mindful of, they are 60 and 160 respectively (conservatively). META Keywords are not a ranking element, so use them sparingly – no more than 10 words/phrases – and don’t sell-the-shop by listing your most important keywords for your competition to discover. Do however be certain to list your state, town, and zip code along with your primary keyword terms - like “auto parts,” “Mopar parts,” and “auto body parts.”
Two of the most common SEO errors for small businesses I see are META that is not optimized and/or that is not unique for each page.
A relatively new tool for local marketing (circa June 2011) has to do with using a simple HTML code called SCHEMA – also referred to as structured data or microformat – to better identify and classify some of the most important information on your website to search engines. For local marketing - this includes your location and contact info.
This code is universally accepted by Google, Bing, and Yahoo making it a must-have for every local business.
Speaking of search engines, keep in mind that Google is not the only option worth courting. As I write this, Yahoo has just taken the #1 Search Engine spot from Google and Bing has picked up a ton of search traffic since the Amazon Kindle Fire and many smartphones now come default with Bing as the native search engine. Facebook has also integrated a search feature called Search Graph in 2013, and with one-in-seven people on the planet having a Facebook account that makes them (technically) the largest search engine in the world.
BONUS: Replace the SCHEMA code in RED (below) with YOUR INFORMATION and insert on your website page.
SCHEMA TIP: Consider replacing
itemscope itemtype= http://schema.org/AutoDealer with
itemscope itemtype= http://schema.org/AutoPartsStore
for the “parts” page of your website.
(http://schema.org/LocalBusiness for local businesses)
If you have the option to use an HTML editor, use it. Otherwise, copy the code into Microsoft Notepad (it’s somewhere in your programs list) and make your edits there. When you’re done, copy from Notepad directly to your website. Do not copy from Microsoft Word as it will add additional and unwanted lines of code.
SEO TIP: These tools will help you complete & test your code:
Completely underused, the area at the bottom of your website (footer) holds tremendous usability and SEO value.
First off – if you have a lot of HTML code in the header of your website – validation codes are most common – you can probably move it here. Doing so will reduce the amount of HTML coding that search engines have to process as they load your page making your page load faster – and the speed that a website page opens is an SEO element that affects ranking. Fast is good. This is especially important for mobile pages.
Be certain to test your code after you move it.
SEO TIP: Test Your Page Speed HERE
SEO TIP: Test Your Website SEO HERE
Additionally, adding things like your contact information in your footer will make it easy for people to connect with you – no matter what page of your website they are on. This is especially true on mobile devices. Have multiple locations – consider using a split footer where one side is for the local or satellite business | the other for the main location.
As an added benefit, having your contact info on every page could also increase local indexation of your website by search engines, making it easier for local searchers to find you. A Trifecta win!
5. Blogging & Social Media
I’m not going deep into blogging and social media here, there’s already been so much published already on the topic, but suffice to say – you need to be actively creating content (storytelling).
Most small businesses get nervous at the thought of writing blog & social media posts, but here’s a simple strategy that will get your content marketing roaring like a 440 Six Pack.
- Gather 12 images (digital) that best illustrate your primary keywords and location
- Cool car part images and “name the part” quizzes make great content
- Describe who, what, when, where, why, or how about the image
- Make sure your keyword is at the front of your blog title, blog description, and within the message
- Add a link back to the page of your website that this keyword is targeting (see Step 1.)
- Use a scheduling program to automate these 12 posts to publish once a month
You now have one story to post every month. See, wasn't that easy?
Now create 12 more over the next few months and add them to your queue and keep adding and writing. It’s literally that easy.
As to what blog platform to use – my blog is on WordPress, but SquareSpace is also worth looking into (that’s what my website is on). My preference is to have a blog separate from a website to double a business’s marketing channels. There are pros and cons to this approach, so think it through. While I gain additional market visibility. You can also have an on-site (website) blog to curate the posts from your off-site blog, no harm there – just be certain to give new blog posts a few days to populate on search engines before re-publishing them.
SEO TIP: Sendible has a content marketing tool that automatically picks the best time to schedule your blog and social media posts based on when your readership is most likely to read them. It could take a few months for it to get a good read on your followers & friends, so hang in there – it works great. This tool also allows you to set up automatic re-posting, just be sure to write with an ever-greening tone, so your copy doesn’t date itself and put a realistic end-date into play.
6. Business NAP Consistency
One of the largest local-SEO changes in recent years is the importance of properly formatted and correct business contact information.
Any reference to a business’s name, physical address, local phone number, and website are referred to as a business citation. The elements tied to a business location (name, address, phone) being referred to as NAP. The pin-point accuracy of this dataset is critical for local marketing as it provides search engines validation of your location and contact information. Sounds simple enough, but nearly 50% of small business have formatting or data errors in their citation NAP – their local visibility on search is sure to take a hit for it.
Why is this so? Data service companies and search engines get your business information from many sources - even before you build a website. State business filings, financial records, utility companies, vehicle registration offices - all either publicly list or sell this information. Even the slightest discrepancy in your NAP here (by anyone) could easily result in hundreds of incorrect or inconsistent online citation data.
Consider this business:
Bob’s Mopar Parts, 10 Main St, Your Town, ST 09876, 123-456-7890
If there are online citations for 10 Main St, 10 Main Street #345, or 10 Main Street, Suite 345 – search engines will treat these as individual businesses not crediting them as being associated with Bob’s business. So Bob’s Mopar Parts received diluted market share as a result. Not a good thing at all.
Add to that, Bob’s Mopar Parts, Bob’s Mopar, and Bobs Mopar Auto Parts are also seen as different businesses. In all – there are 720 combinations of businesses NAP errors that can be made with the incorrect information cited above. Variations in your town name (i.e., N Attleboro vs. N Attleboro) or inconsistencies in using your state name (MA, Mass, Massachusetts) would make matters even worse.
Discovering and correcting citation errors is not a glamorous task, and it could take months to make any appreciable progress, but in the big picture, correcting your NAP data will pay huge dividends for your local visibility.
Automation (service company or software program) doesn’t work well for citation or link building. Not only are you likely to create duplicate listings (not good), but you cannot construct as detailed a listing using automation as you could by hand (typing). And you can ignore the “Your profile is 100% complete” directives – that usually just means you have completed 100% of the required minimum fields – there’s usually a lot more work to do.
SEO is in the details, and in a hyper-competitive market such as the auto parts industry, the small details could make the difference between #1 ranking on the first page and #11 ranking on the second page. If you are considering subscribing to a local link building service like Yext, know that your listings will revert to the state before you hired them should you cancel your working agreement, and you are responsible for finding and correcting any duplicate listings their service creates. Read our call-out in this Forbes article.
7. Link Building Via Business Citation Building
You have most likely heard of the business review site “Yelp” and have probably heard that both Google and Bing offer directory listings for businesses, but did you know these review and business listing sites can actually give your business a significant boost in local visibility on search engines? They sure can - this local-bump happens in a couple of ways.
Quality (focus on the word quality) directory and search engine listings add a credibility element to your business by verifying the consistency of your NAP (name, address, and phone) and your keyword focus as taken from the narrative of the listing. Many of these listings also add a “category” element further classifying your business. Additional information like your hours of operation and the types of payment you accept can also be noted and verified through these business listings (also referred to as backlinks because they all have a link pointing back to your business). NAP verification increases trust by the search engines of your business data and in time increase your online local visibility.
If citation building and link building pains your brain, think of it like filling a hot air balloon. It takes much air to get the balloon off the ground and required frequent action to keep it afloat. When you run out of fuel or stop hitting the burners, the balloon comes back to the ground. Now consider your marketing actions as if a single link from a directory listing, search engine, blog, or social media post to be the equivalent of one-cubic-foot of air. It would take a while before you started to see your ranking and visibility rise – but like the balloon, once it took off, it will remain flying high as long as it is tended to. Turn off the heat - and your listings drop like a . . . you get the picture.
NOTE: Search engines cross-check your phone number with online phone directory listings as part of their business NAP verification process. For instance, it is well known that Google Maps verifies data with YP.com (at least for now) and other citation data providers, so be certain only to use the local phone numberregistered for your physical location and do not list a call-tracking number on your website or for any online citations. Also, don’t use scripts that show the local number but hide the call-tracking one, showing a viewer different information than what search engines see could be interpreted as trying to game the system, it might work short-term but isn't sustainable, and you may even be penalized for it.
A properly formatted and optimized directory listing can also show up on search engines when someone is looking for the things you have to sell. Think of the times you had seen a LinkedIn, Yelp, YP, or Manta listing when you were searching for something. Well, if you had just one of those elements show up along with your website you would double your online market share! Have 2, and you would own 30% market share on the page. It is easy to assume that a business with the most (and most complete) listings on a local search result page is the local expert.
The trend of search engines to apply significant weight to link building (measured as PageRank by Google) stresses its importance for local business discovery, trailing just behind the bumpers of keyword research and website SEO.
Sites with higher PageRank – show up higher in a search.
All combined, focusing on these 7 elements of local SEO will raise your visibility on search engines and drive more traffic to your website.
Progress takes several months, especially for link building (backlinking) – so hang in there, stay focused, and stick to your strategy all the while keeping a vigilant eye out to see how tomorrows changes in SEO can drive additional opportunities to your business.
#localseo #localseo_tips #smallbusinessmarketing #mopar