It is said the three most important things in real estate are "location, location, location."
The same is true concerning search engine rankings. Being on page one or two on Google, Yahoo or Bing is good for business.
I was recently in Chapel Hill, N.C., visiting my daughter and wanted to put a new set of tires on her Nissan Sentra. I Googled "Chapel Hill tire dealers" and called a few dealers on page one before I found one that had a brand I liked and an open appointment time.
Most people searching for a local retailer rarely get past page one or two. Interestingly, there is evidence that being at the top of page two is better than bottom of page one.
It's likely that most tire dealers don't have the time or inclination to become SEO (search engine optimization) experts. Even if you're not up to speed on back links and anchor texts, however, you should be familiar with some of the basics in order to ask the right questions of your SEO consultant.
Here are some key points to consider this year as you try to take your business to a higher level:
1. Keep it natural and organic—As you have found in building your business, there are no true shortcuts to SEO success. Google will sniff out things like keyword stuffing, buying thousands of links, and automating your SEO, and they will penalize you big time.
I was talking to a trucking fleet owner the other day who hired an SEO company that guaranteed him a dramatic move up in page rankings. Unfortunately, they used "black hat" tactics—a term used within the industry to describe techniques which are sometimes illegal, immoral and punished by search engines—that caught attention at Google.
This poor guy went from page two to page 22 and his business dropped off by 70 percent.
There is no substitute for the human touch. Update your website on a regular basis with fresh and relevant content. Consider starting a blog. Make it easy for your customers to leave Google reviews. An honest, steady approach will win this race.
2. Do not buy links—This is one of the worst of the black hat SEO techniques that will not only cost you money in purchasing the lists but will surely cost you in page rankings. Google is now wise to people purchasing links, and link farms are being shut down right and left.
However, don't forget about inbound links though. They are one of the best ways to increase your Google page rank. The key is to get incoming links to your website or blog from highly authoritative, well-trafficked websites and blogs.
And the key to getting quality inbound links is having quality content.
3. Google Keyword Tool is a great starting point—The Keyword Tool allows you to check monthly search volume for specific phrases. You can also check searches by location, providing great insights into geographic targeting.
The tool also will give you a string of keyword suggestions. Whether you are handling your own SEO or using a vendor, you owe it to yourself to grab a Google account and make use of the Keyword Tool as well as Webmaster Tools and Analytics.
4. Longer articles gain favor—Google is totally focused on providing the highest quality content relevant to the search term. For this reason, Google algorithms are now rewarding websites with longer articles. In the past, 250-word articles did well in search engine ranking for corporate websites, but if the bulk of your Web pages is made up of brief copy, you have a problem.
Inserting a few 1,500-word articles could really improve your ranking.
Your call-to-action links like directions and promotions must be prominent, but there are plenty of opportunities for longer articles on a tire dealer's website. The "About Us" page, for instance, can delve into your corporate history and philosophy.
What about employee profiles? Consumer advice stories, such as winterizing your car, would be a great addition, too.
Start your own blog and incorporate a blog feed into your website. Fresh content will increase your audience and crawl frequency of your website.
You don't have to become an expert in SEO, but I do recommend that you learn the basics so you can work closely with your marketing folks and vendors to improve your page rankings.
I would love to hear what SEO tactics have worked best for you or any questions that you have.
John Taylor is president of JTMarCom, a Nashville, Tenn.-based digital marketing agency. A periodic contributor of blogs to www.tirebusiness.com, he can be reached at 615-477-3099 or via email at [email protected]. The company's website is at www.jtmar.com.