Article

Going Toe-To-Toe With Google

June 2013, Auto Dealer Today - Feature

by Brian Burt

Brian Burt
[email protected]
Brian Burt BBurt@AutoDealerMonthly.com
If your business depends upon online search results, any changes to Google’s algorithm can have a profound effect. Web marketing expert offers six steps for responding to an unexpected change.

Hardworking auto dealers invest great time and resources to maximize their online visibility and ensure they earn high rankings among the right Google searches. It is a simple fact that being ranked No. 1 organically on Google is still the most effective way to drive web traffic, attract new clientele and achieve ongoing sales growth. That means search engine optimization (SEO) remains an auto dealership owner’s best longterm online marketing strategy.

Unfortunately, even the savviest of auto dealers are typically unaware that regular “algorithm updates” by the good folks at Google can completely unravel their online marketing strategies. Because of these software updates, dealerships that once boasted “Page One” status on Google searches might now be invisible to prospective customers. And that’s a business killer.

Google is gaining the reputation of frequently releasing disruptive software updates. In recent months, the company has launched at least three major updates, unseating many websites from the first position and first search results page. Countless other sites have been penalized with reductions in rankings of -30, -60, or -90. In some cases, previously high-ranking websites were completely deindexed, meaning they were literally removed entirely from Google search results.

While these frequent updates and threats to your online marketing strategy do not automatically spell failure for your business, it is essential that you remain on top of the situation and follow six key steps to ensure that you are in control of your store’s online presence.

1. REMEMBER THAT CONTENT IS NOT ALWAYS KING

Traditional thinking has long held that “content is king” when it comes to websites. I prefer to operate under the mantra that, as a preventive measure, “value is king.” Sure, content is an important part of value, but your website will earn popularity and longevity by helping people solve real problems and meeting the needs of your clients.

Search engine measurement of social interaction is already happening via “social cues.” If you’re part of your customers’ conversations on social media sites, that can help strengthen your search rankings. Google and other search engines rank websites based upon a few core fundamentals, such as inbound linking and proper on-page optimization. Adhering to these best practices will ensure your website is well-regarded and continues to earn high rankings. As search engines continue to become more advanced, they will find additional ways to measure the helpfulness and real-world value you provide to your clientele.

2. HEDGE YOUR BETS

You should take steps to ensure Google is never your only source of website traffic. Startups with limited marketing budgets may need to initially focus on just one online marketing strategy (like Google rankings); however, your long-term preventive strategy must always be to diversify the sources that bring traffic to your website — and revenue to your business. The world has become populated by a far wider range of social media outlets, and your dealership needs to be part of them all.

One way to start is to make certain you have a presence on YouTube. Create videos that showcase your dealership’s offerings. After all, YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine — bigger than Yahoo! and Bing combined! Similar online diversification should include your company’s presence on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

3. DON'T FREAK OUT

If an update does affect your search engine ranking, there is no need to panic. It’s not Armageddon, but it does require immediate attention. Monitor the situation for the first few days to determine the longterm impact. Although your website may have lost rankings, it is possible that it can rebound on its own. While many naysayers will preach doomsday and fear mongering, your first step should be to stay calm and market on.

4. ASSESS THE DAMAGE

It’s against company policy for Google to release the exact nature of an algorithm update, so you really won’t know what you’re up against. Correcting for an update takes real testing and tracking. If your site is negatively affected by an update, there are a few steps you can take to evaluate how badly you’ve been hit:

• Keep a record of the Top 10 competitors that appear on the first page of Google’s search results.

• Take note of your closest competitor’s site. Has it been removed from the first page of search results? Has that site increased in rank?

Evaluate the site that has taken the hit by using available online tools like SEMRush. com and Woorank.com. Tools like this will give you insight into your competition’s backlinking strategy and on-page optimization techniques.

5. CALL THE PROS

Take your findings to an experienced SEO professional for evaluation. Quality SEO firms will have access to real qualitative data on hundreds of websites, effectively taking the guesswork out of your preliminary assessment. An SEO professional can help you evaluate the details of a Google algorithm update — including how to adhere to best practices — and help you assess options for correcting the situation.

6. LOOK AT EVERY UPDATE AS AN OPPORTUNITY

Since there is nothing you can do to deter Google updates, I recommend that you welcome the changes and recognize that the threshold of quality and barrier to entry have been turned up. After all, your competitors have been affected as well.

The key is to realize it quickly, assess the damage and take steps to move forward.

Each update, for example, is your opportunity to be the first to correctly adjust to the latest update. That puts you ahead of the pack. You’ll also learn to better protect your online presence for the long haul. Spammy, pop-up sites that may have quickly jumped to Page One positions will fall off while you remain steady and enjoy the added gains for your business.

There is no question that Google and its competitors will continue to issue these types of updates, and that all businesses will face a potentially negative impact. With a few preventive measures and post-update steps, however, your business can avoid becoming invisible to prospective clients, and, with a bit more effort, rebuild to an even stronger online presence.

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