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How to dominate SEO in 2018

By Chris Damico

The most interesting thing about digital marketing is that the rules are always changing. What works one year may be outdated by the next. What didn’t exist six months ago might be the hottest new trend today. That’s why it’s important to stay up on the latest developments in the online world. Consider search engine optimization (SEO): As Google continues to update its algorithms, the way your dealership is found online continues to change. Stay ahead of your competition and get more outdoor power equipment leads in the new year.

Rise of the machines

One of the single most important developments during the past year that will only become more important is the rise of machine learning in marketing. Plainly speaking, “machine learning” describes the ability for computers to learn without being explicitly programmed. So how does this (kind of creepy) technology apply to SEO? Enter Google RankBrain.

RankBrain is Google’s machine learning technology that tracks user experiences, and helps Google assign rankings to webpages based on how audiences interact with the content. In fact, it’s Google’s third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query (Bloomberg).

What does that mean for your dealership? Well, to win the SEO battle, it means you have to create content that RankBrain will find more valuable than your competition’s content. RankBrain focuses on two metrics: the percentage of people who click on your search result (click-through rate) and how long someone stays on your page (dwell time). These two factors will help determine how high or low that your website will be on a search results page.

If your dealership is, say, the fourth result for a search of “John Deere tractors near me,” but your link is enticing and the content on the page is better than the three results above, the more likely searchers will click and stay on your page. The longer they stay on the page, the better the dwell time, and the higher your webpage will move up in the Google results for that search. A recent study found that the average dwell time for a top-10 Google search result is 3 minutes and 10 seconds or more (SearchMetrics).

Content is still king

Here’s what you need to remember when developing content for your website: The copy for your search result needs to scream “Click on me!” to improve your click-through rate. That’s because Google continues to crowd the organic search results page with ads, maps, answers and more, all above your organic search result. You also need to develop valuable, long-form content on your webpages to keep searchers engaged and improve dwell time. Finally, focus on local SEO. That means appealing to searchers in your area who are most likely to visit you. That’s why, in my earlier example, you want to rank high for “John Deere tractors near me” instead of plain old “John Deere,” which has much more competition.

Harness the power of reviews

Reviews are important. Really important. In fact, did you know 84 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations?

What’s more, online reviews are now one of the top-five contributors in Google’s SEO ranking. More often than not, businesses with the best Google reviews are put near the top of the local map-pack search result. Plus, potential customers are more likely to visit and trust your business if you have positive Google or Facebook reviews. In fact, as many as 92 percent of consumers now read online reviews, 88 percent trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations, and only 5 percent don’t pay any attention to customer reviews (SearchEngineLand).

So what’s the best way to get reviews?

Ask customers to leave online feedback! It’s usually just that easy. Demonstrate good customer relationship management, and respond to reviews. By interacting directly with the customers, you have the opportunity to nurture that customer relationship and build loyalty.

Responding to negative reviews can turn a negative experience into a positive one if you’re able to provide assistance or correct the problem.

It’s a mobile world

Is your website optimized for mobile viewing? If not, put that at the top of your list for 2018. Now that nearly 60 percent of searches are done from mobile devices, Google’s future mobile-first search index will consider your mobile website the main version (SearchEngineLand). While it’s not live yet, upping your mobile game will help you prepare for the day the mobile-first index is put into play.

The best way to get geared up for mobile is to have a responsive website, not just a mobile version. Responsive websites resize to fit any viewing device, giving users a much better experience. And the experience that users have on your website is everything!

Get linked up

When the websites of other organizations link back to your website, it’s a huge boost to your SEO. It also gives your website a higher potential for page views and overall brand awareness, and can expand your dealership’s name in your industry and marketplace. Ask the organizations that you’re involved in to add your link to their website. Those organizations can include anything from large professional associations to the local Little League that you sponsor!

Bonus: Go multimedia

As I mentioned in my “What’s Ahead: Marketing trends to watch in 2018” article in December 2017 OPE, video continues to explode online. If you have the resources to make it happen, set up a YouTube channel and work video into all of your marketing (emails, blog posts and social media) and on your website. You’ll be ahead of the curve. Cisco predicts that video will comprise 80 percent of all online traffic by 2021. Don’t get left behind! Video is a great way to improve that dwell time on your website; visitors are more likely to watch a video for three minutes than read a long article. And, when you personalize your videos to reach different audiences, you’ll attract a variety of traffic at different stages of the buying process.

Chris Damico serves as marketing manager at ARI Network Services. He’s helped hundreds of dealers across the country with their digital marketing, including the content and search engine optimization (SEO) of their websites, social media presence, and advertising and email marketing campaigns. He’s 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 23,500 equipment dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website (www.arinet.com) and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!”

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