You have been reading (hopefully) that on or around April 24th, Google rolled out another update to its search algorithm code named “Penguin“. This update was to enforce it’s existing terms of service guidelines regarding link quality. This update is important to car dealers who have been working hard to increase their search visibility for specific keywords. Automotive SEO Strategies must be adjusted for Penguin compliance.
What is ironic about this update is that since Google started, external linking strategies have been one of the core tactics to achieve page one placement for very competitive keywords. SEO strategists now have to determine if Google thinks their links are “natural” or “unnatural“. An example of this is the footer area on a website, which you can often find the name of the website author with a link back to their website.
If a website company builds 1,000 websites with an average of 25 pages per site, that would produce 25,000 links back to the website builder if they placed a “follow” link in the footer. In the past, this was not considered link spam. Now that Google flipped the switch, those links could be flagged as unnatural, especially if the Anchor Text of the link was a keyword like “California Website Company” and not the name of the company.
What Should Automotive Marketers Do Post Penguin
There are many immediate changes that need to be made in light of the Penguin updates. Let me be clear, these changes do not imply that your SEO strategist was doing anything “wrong” in the past. Times have changed and tactics that once worked, no longer work. It’s that simple.
So, I created a checklist of sorts to make sure that you make the changes to your strategy that will help your online search marketing strategy on Google.
- Footer Links – If you have microsites and blogs, eliminate/update footer links that appear on all pages and that point back to your dealership website(s). If the anchor text of the link is a keyword goal and not your business name, delete it. If you want to have a link with your business name on all pages, make it a “no follow” link. You do not need hundreds of links anchored on your own dealership name because most likely you already rank in the #1 position for a search on your dealership name.
- Sidebar Links – If you are using a blog, check if you have utilized the sidebar links feature. This will place a list of popular links on all pages, in the sidebar column widget. Again, if these links are designed to provide useful navigation to customers, make them “no follow”. If they were designed to reinforce primary keywords, I would remove them.
- Excessive Home Page Links – Some website have hidden or scrollable text regions on the home page which have dozens of links to internal and external website pages. This is very important if you have multiple websites or microsites for your dealership. When you look at this content area it is clear that it was created for SEO purposes. I would suggest that the content be edited to remove to high frequency of hyperlinks and make the text more natural.
- Review Your Content Strategy– Review your blog posts and syndicated content to make sure that the linking strategies used in the content are natural. It is natural to mention a 2012 Honda Civic is a blog post and you link the words to your list of 2012 Honda Civic cars in stock. Linking to specific VDP pages is also natural because the car is unique! It is natural to link your your service page, parts page, and used car pages. Today, Penguin forces greater attention on “how” those links are created. If you are talking about the benefits of BMW CPO cars in a blog post, you can link the words “BMW CPO Cars” to your CPO website page but don’t get too crazy and create three links in the content on text like “BMW Used Cars Cincinnati“.
- Accelerate your Google+ Strategy – Content, Videos, and Photos can be shared on Google+ that reside on your dealership website and blogs. The links created by Google+ are valuable and the social signals created by these posts are important. It seems very clear that Google’s way to stop link abuse is to favor the influence of peer votes through social media websites. So, go with the flow and get your Google+ strategy in place.
- Invest in Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest – Once again, you may think that getting clicks, likes, retweets, and re-posts from social media sites provide little value but the rules of organic visibility are changing. The line between Automotive SEO and Social Media Marketing are blurring. When you combine social media strategy with RETARGETING, the results can be insanely profitable.
- Syndicate Your Content – Dealers should be syndicating their content. There are many ways that dealers can establish themselves as local experts by syndicating blog content, Infographics, PDF resources, and videos. Networks that allow content syndication with “natural” linking can amplify the benefits of your in-house or outsourced content writers. Video is a favored asset for syndication and the results that I have seen with dealers we coach on syndicated Video SEO is just amazing.
- Invest in Original Content – The last few updates from Google have generally focused on quality and of course I have been an advocate or hiring in-house writers and social media advocates for years. With Google calling the shots for 67% of the search market, maybe it is time to invest in an internal Digital Warrior. Since video is so effective, video production skills should be part of the job description. Having someone who can write, create videos, and engage in social media is well worth the investment!
- Create more Internal Links – Don’t forget to link content and information within your website pages. If you look at some of the most respected automotive websites, you will see internal links on short phrases like “Camry” or “RAM 1500? linking to appropriate internal information. Internal links reinforce the content investment you have made on your website. Don’t worry that these links are not geo-targeted. That’s the point of this entire post! geo-targeted hyperlinks repeated over and over on your website is unnatural to Google.
- Don’t Get Discouraged – If your website was penalized by Penguin, fix the problems and Google will see those changes over time. If you have done a full audit and your internal and external linking investments are now natural, rankings will come back.
Is Keyword Linking Dead?
No. Content with links that are natural can still include keyword targeted links as long as you don’t abuse the strategy and as long as the page the link points to supports that keyword goal. For example, if you are a Toyota dealer in Louisville, your content can include a link on the words “Toyota Dealer in Louisville” if the words are natural in the context of the article. You will also want to diversify the keywords that are linked; do not use the same anchor text in all your blog posts.
Do you have any specific questions, feel free to drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org