Dealership Marketing

SEO is Evolving …into our world

Hopefully you’re reading that title thinking “duh Alex, of course SEO is evolving.”  Google changes things in their algorithms so often it is almost a different animal every day. Staying ahead of things is a full time job.  However, you’re probably wondering how it crosses into the real world.

No, I don’t want to get into the weeds of SEO, but I do want to point-out a very significant change that could drastically change our approach to SEO going forward.

Before I tell you what I’m seeing let’s make some assumptions.

  1. When I say “SEO” I’m talking about organic search on Google
  2. Google’s mission in life is to deliver the most relevant results to its users
  3. SEO practices, as we define them today, are simply a gaming of Google’s algorithms

Those last two points are bigees. Google has been limited by technology and has had to rely on tags, links, and things of that nature to point their spiders in the right direction. He who understands these things, and plays to them, wins the SEO game. The problem here is that it is all a SEO game; it isn’t real life. In real life a good product is a good product and when you have a good product people talk about it. When people solely turn to Google, a good product can be trumped by a superior SEO strategy if the inferior product knows how to play the SEO game. A “product” can be a website, it can be your business, it can actually be a product you purchase.

How can Google get around things that game their system?

They can bring the real world into the algorithm. Web 2.0 was all about giving individuals a voice and one of the results of this movement was a broader acceptance of social media. Some sites like twitter and facebook created standards for communication on their platforms that made it very easy for Google to see. Pair that with review sites like Yelp, DealerRater, and all the review engines there is another standard of information that is very simple for Google to crawl. If these social medias and review spots are representative of individuals mimicking “real life word of mouth voting” then Google has a very powerful new addition to their algorithm.  Why has Google’s Places with Reviews pages seen such real estate increases in SERPs?

To put this in plain English:

Google is currently experimenting with using social media and reviews to drive search results. Their experimenting is getting deeper and deeper and is looking more and more like it is going to become a very major piece very soon.

Right this minute, the old SEO game is still very much alive. Representatives from Google have even stated that traditional linking still has more weight than social media.  Content and Links still apply.

I just want you to start thinking about how you’re going to put more effort into your reputation management strategy as the SEO game (you might want to reread this article) could significantly change in the very near future.

Who knew an argument with Jeff Kershner, in 2005, would lead to Alex becoming a partner with him on DealerRefresh. Where will the next argument take ...
I agree with your observations and predictions. Google has to socialize their SERP's to provide more value to their users. The interesting challenge will be how they use Facebook likes or Google Places reviews.

These too can be gamed. We already are seeing services that will post fake reviews or "like: your posts on Facebook for a fee.

Mashable just covered a story on a new startup called Likester and you can read up on this at: The idea of using "likes" to spot trends and popular thought is interesting. Google must be thinking along the same lines.

The beauty of good SEO strategies is that content can be optimized to attract search visibility for a set of keywords, which may not be intuitively connected to the company.

When you compare that to reviews, sites like Google Places, give you five categories to classify the business. There are other places for additional text but for now I see that business directories pigeonhole a business into a limited number of silos.

If Google uses weighted reviews, it could possibly assist the SERP rankings in those chosen categories.

For example, if A Japanese restaurant gets high reviews it would make sense that a local search for Japanese Restaurants might place them at the top of the list, in the future. But would these reviews help when someone searches "Kobe Beef Steakhouse" which is not a category or text that is in the review?

I'm just thinking out loud. In any case, dealers looking to create more relevance to their primary marketing website would be well served if they:

1. Add Social Media Sharing Buttons on all pages.

2. Add compelling content on their website that would attract readers to click the like button on that page to share it on their Facebook Page or to Tweet it out.

3. Actively engage their customers using social media to develop a powerful communication channel which now may also have search optimization benefits.

4. Remember that videos are more apt to be shared on social media channels so start to leverage buying tips, consumer protection advice, customer testimonials, walk-arounds, and human interest stories that help brand your dealership as the "expert" in your town.

When you create good content and compelling videos, the next step is to syndicate that content to increase the chances that it will be found ,shared, and social relevance links created.

So true Alex.

Google, and others, are busy trying to figure out two things:

* How to rank social content
* How to rank authors of social content (Influence)

This will help solve the "real life" issue you describe above & help reduce the impact of SEO "gamers" - good products & services will eventually have a way to rise above the muck.
Reviews can be gamed, but they also carry a penalty in US courts of law. Building a link farm does not carry the same weight of punishment.

No system is ever perfect, and people will always find ways to game a system or "work a payplan." The average person writes these things off as "the costs of doing business." The smart person finds ways to game the game. Google sets the rules of the SEO game, and they're fairly smart.

Keep thinking out loud Brian - I like where your head is at! I also like the advice you're giving.
  • K
    Kevin Frye
  • May 5, 2011
You are in line with what I have been thinking for quite some time, and also shared at my DD10 presentation... Your statement "Google’s mission in life is to deliver the most relevant results to its users" - is absolutely true, and the explosive growth and utilization of social media has given Google one of the best opportunities they may ever have to integrate "personal recommendations" on what sites would be most relevant to one's search, and significantly improve the traditional "back-linking" model that Google and the other search engines have utilized for years...
Alex, SEO Evolves
2 things,
1. Are we building our own SEO bubble, the constant narrowing of WHO I AM to the Googlelex means I am getting more narrow and more narrow stuff... see TED Talk on this Eli Pariser: Beware online "filter bubbles"

2. Great study done see Eric Enge article on Searchenginewatch The Role of On-Page SEO Content: Relevance, Not Rankings.
Both stories are eye openers
Torrey Russell;

A great thought provoking read Alex. Thnx! is working it: (bottom left column)

Creating Local Social Signals that are high quality must be very difficult for google. Google has their hands full. This is a very complex problem. Off the top of my pointy head...

Metro Demo vs Rual Demos.
I am from a small market, and these social signals are few and far between. I've got no proof, but, not only are small markets... smaller, but I'd bet the Social Signals per capita are lower too.

On top of that, each SIC (industry) has it's "social profile".

Very Social:
--Dinner theaters (SIC:5812)
--Country musical groups (SIC:7929)
--Nightclubs, alcoholic beverage (SIC: 5813)

Not So Social:
--Ceiling installation Contractors (SIC:1742)
--Fur bearing animal production (SIC:0271)
--Construction Sand and Gravel (SIC:0271)

All of the above can be scored and weighted in an algo. It's the webmasters job to build a site that Google can "identify and classify" correctly.

Surely, Google compares it's organic findings against Google Places info (i.e. the business's claimed categories and Google Places Quality Score) and will layer in Social Signals for additional weighting.

Another angle to consider where Google embraces BRANDS as a strong
quality signal. Local Franchised dealers have a big BRAND advantage to work here.