Consumer Generated Content Based Strategies for Car Dealers
When the topic of SEO comes up, many people envision HTML code and meta tag adjustments. They think of keyword stuffing. They consider the bounds set by the OEM of what they can and cannot do with their websites and how far they can push the boundaries to extend their market reach.
They don't usually imagine finding cool images and videos of epic cars or amazing places, but that's one activity that dealers and SEOs can do to affect their overall search rankings as well as reach out to their communities with amazing and sharable content.
Today, social has become a tremendous SEO tool. Content is the key to true social interactions. The best content is informative, fun, or both. You should see where I'm heading with this, but just in case...
There are two connections between our virtual world and the real world that need to be noted. On one hand, you have the "sell sell sell" mentality that often prevents dealers from adding content to their website that isn't totally on point with the goal of the dealership: more sales. On the other hand, we're car people. If you're in this business, you love cars (at least you should). As such, thatconnection should definitely come through to the online presence of the dealership but it's often absent.
Above, you'll see an image of a 1956 Ford F-100. It's one of the coolest trucks (in my humble opinion) that was ever built. Why not pay tribute to it on a Ford website? That would be fun, right?
Perhaps more importantly, it can help your search rankings as well as your social outreach by doing so. Find content you love. Then...
The most important part here is attribution. I'm not a fan of stealing content. Whenever possible, use images that you've taken. If you must use the internet, there are sites such as Shutterstock that allow you to pay for content images and they have tons of pictures of both cars and locations. If you're going to rely on Google to get the images, be sure to attribute the source with a link to them. They are supplying you with content that will help your website. The least you can do is help them back by supplying them with a link.
With that out of the way, let's talk content. The reason that you're supposed to find content that YOU enjoy is because you'll be able to write much more easily about it. If it's something that you don't care about, it'll show in your writing. If you adore it (just as I adore the '55 and '56 F-100's I used in this project) then it'll show.
There doesn't have to be a ton of written content. If anything, that can be a detriment to have too much. Let the images or videos speak for themselves. With that said, you musthave some unique content on the page or it won't last. One, two, maybe three paragraphs is plenty.
Make it personal. This doesn't have to be the Wikipedia version. It can come from your heart. At your soul, you like cars, right? Let that shine through in the writing. Speaking of Wikipedia, you have to fight the urge to copy and paste. The content must be unique.
Check out the page itself on Holiday Automotive's 1955 Ford F100 page.
It's great to have fun with your content, but you want to be able to get a benefit out of it without risking loss of a customer. The first benefit is to help with your search rankings. While it's possible for the page itself to rank for terms associated with F-100s, unless you're a classic truck dealer you're not going to benefit from this.
Instead, use the page to help your domain rank better in general and to help another page rank better for a specific keyword. In this case, we're going to work on getting the homepage ranked for "Wisconsin Ford Dealers", a keyword that they're currently not hitting with on page one. There are two other SEO benefits that we'll talk about below.
The other decision that you'll want to make is whether or not to include the page in your navigation. In most cases, one-off content like this should not be in your navigation. You want to drive traffic to a page like this through social media. No need to distract your normal website visitors with a "fun" page.
The exception to this rule is if you're going to create a lot of pages with amazing content. In such a case, you may want to consider having a section of the website dedicated to this type of content. It can be "Amazing Ford Vehicles through the Decades" with collections of pages similar to this one. It could be "The Best of the Best in Chicago" with pages dedicated to the amazing things and landmarks within the city. There are many options, but a time commitment is required. If you go with occasional one-off pages, you should probably keep them out of the navigation.
Most pages on most dealer websites have social buttons. Some even go so far as to have toolbars at the bottom or "Share This" widgets. These are acceptable for most pages because, let's face it, nobody's sharing your site anyway. These toolbars and share widgets are smoke and mirror tactics used by some vendors to sell... nevermind - that's another blog post in the future.
The share buttons you'll want on a content page like this will be the ones supplied by the sites themselves. We recommend Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest, though some may want to include others such as Tumblr, StumbleUpon, etc.
This is the second (and arguably most important) aspect to helping your SEO. Both Google and Bing have acknowledged that social signals play a role in the search rankings of a domain. For the most part, the content on dealer websites is unsharable... until now. These types of pages can be shared if you have the right content and the right social accounts in place to share them.
This is where the disclaimer must be made. This isn't A Field of Dreams. Just because you build it, that doesn't mean they'll come. At KPA we have accumulated some incredible social media experts that give us the resources to make sure our dealers get the social signals they need for success. Some would say it's the unfair advantage that keeps us at the top in SEO. It's definitely possible to get social signals without the "power accounts" that we have in our arsenal, but that, too, is another blog post altogether. For now, do what you can and even "fake it 'til you make it" by having employees, friends, and even family share the page on social media. After all, it's a content page. It's not like you're asking them to spam their social friends with a car for sale. This is an epic Ford F100. Share away!
Finally, you'll notice the "Embed this Image" code. This is best for infographics but it works for images as well. This is to assist in helping to get links to the page, which brings us to...
The concept of "link bait" is still a valid play in the SEO world and this type of page qualifies. However, unless you're able to drive massive traffic to the page, you won't get a ton of links organically. It's time to share it yourself.
Find content sites that would like to see this type of content on their pages. You have blogs (even your own blog), Tumblr, and other content sites that love compilations. In this case, we used Buzzfeed as well as some blogs.
As you can see in the image, we link again to the target keyword and include the images as the content on the page. The text content is unique - no copy and paste here either. It will only take a couple of links to get this particular keyword ranked if you're using the right sites.
Google's Penguin update is looking for link spam, so don't participate in those types of tactics. If you're going to be building a lot of links, make certain that it's natural and organic. Building links that all have the same anchor text is one thing that can trigger the algorithm's filter.
Do it the right way or don't do it at all. To much is at stake. In this case, the handful of links that we built will not hurt the domain and will help to get it ranked for our target keyword. It will also help the overall link authority of the domain. Whenever participating in link-building, always think quality over quality.
Now that you've got the page and supporting pages built, it's time to share it. If your social media pages are strong, it's as simple as sharing it by creating an image gallery. Keep in mind - this will not count as a Facebook like or Google +1. You can share the link from the page itself on your social channels but they will not get as much exposure that way.
I did, however, link to the page in the comments.
The goal here is to drive some traffic. It won't be much, but if your social media presence is strong you'll get some traffic to it, particularly from Twitter and Pinterest. The goal is to "double dip" with the content so that you're allowing it to help your social pages to flourish. It's great content. Share it!
Set a schedule for yourself. It could be once a week, once a month, or once in a while, but be sure to set aside some time to creating these types of pages. A content-rich website supported by links and social interactions is the key to overall success on both the search and social fronts.
A final note - this is fun and once you get good it can all flow very efficiently, but it does take understanding. If anything at all in this was unclear, please reach out to me. This isn't one of those things in automotive internet marketing that can be done partially well. You either do it right or you do it wrong - there's very little grey area and there's even less room for error.