Is your online presence optimized for local search?
By Colleen Malloy
Today’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices are much different than they were five years ago — or even last year! As Google and the other major search engines continue to alter their algorithms, the tactics that help you rank on the first page of search results are constantly shifting. If shoppers can’t find you online, you will lose out on sales and leads. Staying on top of your SEO strategy can help ensure that you’re reaching shoppers who are likely to buy from you.
While some older tactics still have a place in today’s SEO landscape, others can actually harm your search engine rank. Let’s dig into the next generation strategies you should be focusing on and then take a look at a few of the black hat SEO strategies that can hurt your online presence.
Next generation SEO strategies
The future of SEO is local. More shoppers than ever are using search engines to find local products and businesses, and Google wants to provide them with the best possible answers for their searches. To do this, Google looks for the websites of businesses that are well established in the community, are well liked by shoppers, and have accurate and consistent information online.
To make sure that you’re ranking highly for local searches, the first step you need to take is to claim your Google My Business listing. This listing can display a wealth of information about your dealership right on the search results page. Claiming it ensures the information is kept up-to-date and allows you to monitor any reviews that shoppers leave there.
Next, focus on providing a great customer experience. Google looks at factors like the number of reviews that your business has and how long shoppers spend on your website when deciding your search rank. A user-friendly website that answers common customer questions and provides information about the products that you sell will engage shoppers and show Google that you’re a good resource for searchers. Providing strong customer service in-store can lead to positive reviews. These are great tools for potential customers who are trying to choose a dealer, and Google puts a lot of stock in what shoppers have to say about your business.
Finally, prove that you’re well established in your community. One way you can do this is through link building. Link building is an older traditional SEO tactic, but it still carries some weight in today’s SEO landscape. To show Google that you’re a valuable member of your community, link to organizations and businesses that you work with in your area. Linking to your local chamber of commerce, charities or sports teams that you sponsor, as well as other businesses (e.g. local landscapers) you work with, on your “About Us” page can show Google (and potential customers) that you’re a key part of your community and help you establish the local link that you need to be shown to local searchers.
Black hat SEO strategies
Black hat SEO tactics can do more harm than good to your search engine rank. These tactics try to trick Google into thinking that your website is packed full of relevant content. The problem is that Google is smart enough to know when it’s being tricked. If its algorithms indicate that you’re trying to artificially beef up your SEO with black hat tactics, your site may get penalized and pushed to the last page of search results — if it gets shown at all.
One common black hat tactic is keyword stuffing, and Google can sniff it out easily. Keyword stuffing is when you insert keywords into your website’s text in places that you wouldn’t use them naturally. The thought behind it is that packing your website full of keywords will show Google that your website is a good match for searchers using those keywords.
In reality, keyword stuffing provides a poor user experience, and Google is more likely to send searchers to your competitors’ websites when you use this tactic. Instead of stuffing your website full of keywords, write quality website content geared toward answering the questions of searchers. This will help you provide a better user experience for your customers and help your SEO at the same time.
Building unnecessary landing pages is another common black hat tactic. Similar to keyword stuffing, this tactic is used to pack your website full of extra content to try to match more searches. Some dealers will create landing pages with the same content for each city in the area that they serve to try to match more local searches. Just like keyword stuffing, Google knows when you’re trying to pull the wool over its eyes, and you could get penalized for this tactic.
If you’re working with a company that helps manage your SEO, be sure to ask them what practices they use. If they’re implementing black hat tactics like these to artificially boost your search rank, it’s time to find a new SEO partner.
If you haven’t updated your SEO strategy in the past year, you may already be behind the curve. Take some time to evaluate the strategies that you’re using and make any needed updates to optimize your online presence for the next generation of SEO.
Colleen Malloy is the director of marketing at ARI Network Services. Prior to joining ARI in November 2013, Malloy served as the editor of Motorcycle and Powersports News. She is dedicated to the mission of helping dealers improve their operations through the implementation of ever-evolving best practices paired with ARI’s suite of award-winning data-driven software tools and marketing services that help dealers “Sell More Stuff!” — online and in-store. ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine, RV, automotive tire and wheel, and white goods industries. More than 22,000 equipment dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website (www.arinet.com) and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!”