More than keywords: SEO and content optimization

By Colleen Malloy

There are two sides to the search engine optimization (SEO) coin. On one side are the more technical aspects — meta data, keywords, alt tags — that are probably Greek to you, but are a crucial component to helping your site rank well in search.

I’ll touch a little on technical SEO throughout this article to guide you in a conversation with your technology vendor, but my goal is to help you gain an understanding of the more human side of search.

You want to attract real-live human beings in your local community to your website and help them make the decision to come into your store and pay for your products and services. The best part? The search engines recognize websites that offer site visitors a great user experience and reward good content with higher search rankings.

So, what do you need to do to optimize the content on your website for search? It starts, but definitely does not end, with an effective keyword strategy.

Develop a keyword strategy

Keywords are short or long-tail groups of words used by search engines to locate current and relevant websites. Long-tail keywords are descriptive phrases of three or more words while short keywords are broader in nature. As a result, short keywords are the foundation of your website identity, but long-tail keywords are what turn interested shoppers into paying customers.

* Short-tail example: mower parts

* Long-tail example: Cub Cadet replacement parts in Orlando, Florida

The more descriptive the long-tail keywords, the less search competition it has — resulting in a high search engine page ranking for your website. Another added benefit of long-tail keywords is that they yield 2.5 times higher conversion rates than short keywords, according to a Conductor.com study. Why? Because buyers that use long-tail keywords know exactly what they are looking for.

That said, make sure you build long-tail keywords focused on descriptive searches within your website content to improve your search engine ranking and drive high-caliber local prospects to your website (skip ahead a few paragraphs to learn a little more about local optimization).

Here’s your keyword homework: Do a little brainstorming to generate a list of at least 25 keywords you think your website should rank for on Google. Take that list to Google’s Keyword Planner (you’ll need to login or sign up for Google AdWords to use the tool). The best keywords rate “Medium” to “Low” in the “Competition” column and have a high number of “Local Monthly Searches.” Throw out keywords with high “Competition” and/or low “Local Monthly Searches.”

With your newly generated keyword list, review your existing website content and insert your keywords as naturally as possible. Add the keywords not only to your main website content but also in your page titles, image alt-tags, links and social media posts. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t fret; ask your website vendor for some guidance on how to implement keywords into your technical SEO strategy.

Just like all SEO work, developing your keywords and utilizing them in your content isn’t a one-and-done proposition. Revisit your list of keywords on a regular basis to ensure that you’re still optimizing for keywords that will deliver buyers.

Publish quality content

Search engines reward websites with new and fresh content that match the users’ keyword searches. That doesn’t mean you need to completely overhaul your website content every week, but you do need to be sure that you are regularly publishing relevant content.

Here’s where to start:

* Ensure the products you stock in your store are fully reflected on your website. (If you work with an industry-specific website provider, much of this otherwise time-consuming work can be automated.)

* Update the key content pages like “Home” and “About Us” to reflect the seasonality of your business.

* Make on-going edits to your events, coupons and promotional pages.

* Create a list of 52 blog topics, and set a reminder to write and post one blog a week.

* Take advantage of your updated website and blog content to create relevant social media posts.

* Set up alerts to monitor ratings and reviews, so you can be responsive to both positive and negative reviews.

Keep in mind that you always want to write for the user first, then for the search engines. Search engines don’t become paying customers or share your content online, readers do.

Think locally

According to a recent Brightlocal.com study, consumers will travel an average of 17 minutes from their location to reach a local business. Many dealers errantly cast their net too broadly and miss out on the opportunities available in local search.

One of the primary benefits of local SEO is that compared to the national stage, there are fewer local competitors that offer similar products and services. However, just because your store is in close proximity to your prospective customers, doesn’t mean you automatically rank highly in local search queries. You need to localize your website content to inform the search engines of your location.

Each page of your website should include your dealership’s name, address and phone number. When writing your “About Us” page, describe in detail where you are located and what nearby communities you regularly serve. Over time, your local SEO reach will expand based on the neighboring cities if you include them within your site content.

Remember, the goal of a search engine is to provide the most relevant information for the user. If your business is nearby and meets the search criteria, you will receive a high search engine ranking.

Get link building

Inbound links are third-party website links that direct visitors to your website. These links quickly and easily drive visitors to your site while establishing credibility and increasing SEO.

Links from one website to another produce strong referrals. Just as if you were to recommend a local diner to a friend, websites use inbound links to refer their visitors to other useful websites; trusting the recommendation will provide additional information their visitor may be seeking.

However, not all inbound links are created equal. An inbound link from a highly trusted and often-visited website will produce more traffic than from a dated blog post.

When your website receives inbound links from credible third-party websites, your search engine ranking improves. Why? Simple. The goal of a search engine is to rank the most relevant content at the top, so users can find it. When your website receives inbound links from other credible sources, search engines gain trust that your website content is providing useful information — resulting in a higher ranking.

Here are a few to-dos to help build inbound links:

* Claim your local directory listings. More than 50 percent of online directory listings are incorrect. Start by claiming and updating your business listings on Google Places for Business, Bing Places for Business, Yahoo Local and any relevant local listings. (There are more than 60 in the U.S. alone!)

* Post on another website. Find another local business in your community that will allow you to post guest articles or blogs on their website. A great place to reach out to is a local newspaper or publication. These organizations are credible and always looking for community-based businesses to feature.

* Sponsor local events and charities. Not only is this a great way for you to gain additional exposure within your community, but most often local charities will provide sponsor information on their website.

* Avoid link farming. While building up your inbound links, always stay away from link farms — websites that are created solely for stuffing inbound links and website’s that charge you for posting links on their websites. Search engines know this game and will penalize your ranking if they find your website partakes in these practices.

Call your Geek Squad

Is your website mobile optimized? Does your site incorporate many of the page optimization techniques that have been mentioned in this article, including the use of page titles, meta tags, header tags, keywords, alt tags and more. Have I lost you in the jargon?

This is where things can get a bit complex. To ensure your site’s technical SEO is optimized, I’d recommend turning to the experts at your website provider to gain a clear understanding of how to incorporate these elements into your site’s pages. Most industry-specific website platforms come with built-in SEO optimization tools. Talk to your provider to ensure that you’ve got the tools you need to help you maximize your site’s search engine ranking.

While a little expert guidance is key to ensuring you get the most out of the technical aspects of SEO, you can master the basic principles on your own by executing some of the strategies I’ve covered in this article.

By implementing a content optimization strategy, you’ll see a boost in your search engine ranking and in-bound links from search over time.

1504_OPE_FS_Social Strategy2_author-Colleen Malloy-webColleen Malloy is the director of marketing at ARI Network Services. Prior to joining ARI in November 2013, Malloy served as the editor of Motorcycle and Powersports News. She is dedicated to the mission of helping dealers improve their operations through the implementation of ever-evolving best practices paired with ARI’s suite of an 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 22,000 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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