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How Google’s changes can affect your business

Liz Keener, Managing Editor
December 13, 2013
Filed under Features, Top Stories

Powersports Business Institute @ AIMExpo class teaches about the new SEO

Gone are the days when keywords stacked four inches high at the bottom of a homepage would draw the highest SEO ranking. Now that’s considered spam, and Google is undergoing changes to rank conversational content higher.

As Lea Scudamore explained in two of ARI’s sessions at the Powersports Business Institute @ AIMExpo, Google’s most recent updates have been some of its most important, and they’re targeted at helping users to better find what they seek.

“Google has taught all of us to think like a computer, and for the first time ever, it allows us to think like humans; it allows us to search like humans,” said Scudamore, SEO supervisor for ARI Network Services.

Website SEO

The changes mean that instead of thinking first about keywords and searching terms like “buy and motorcycle,” consumers can now type in exactly what they’re thinking, such as “I want to buy a motorcycle” and receive in return higher quality content.

“It’s much more about how we talk and how we search and the intent of our searches,” Scudamore said.

So what does all of this mean for dealerships? First, any lasting towers of keywords should be trashed as those now have the perception of spam, leaving any website still including them in danger of being penalized in Google rankings. Second, much of the website content should be converted to a more conversational tone.

“You can tell your story, and the content that you offer has to be more valuable. It can’t be as canned,” Scudamore said.

Dealers should use their homepages to write what Scudamore calls a “love note” to their customers. That summary of services should explain what the dealership is offering and why the dealership does what it does. That will differentiate the store from its competitors online.

Dealers also have to be mindful to update at least the homepage of their sites at a minimum of every few months. Updates to the dealership’s story can include mentioning pre-season maintenance in the spring, hunting in the fall, or winter storage options just before the weather cools.

“We really want dealers to write about themselves and what they’re doing well and find a reason to update it,” Scudamore said.

Inventory should also be changed daily, as units move in and out of the showroom. Auto dealers are exceptional at this, Scudamore explained, as many post their auction-bought or trade-in vehicles online, even before they’re showroom ready. Blogs also help update a website. One great blog topic to focus on might be a major vehicle overhaul, which could include photos and information from the beginning of the service to stories how about the repair in progress to photos of the vehicle’s owner picking it back up when the service is complete.

Updates allow websites to look fresh, which gives them a big boost in Google’s ranking algorithm.

“If you haven’t updated content for a while, there’s no reason for Google to offer it up, because it’s old,” Scudamore said.

Google+

Adding a Google+ page to a dealership’s social network is another big help when it comes to search engine optimization. While many see Google+ as just another social page to update, Google+ actually affects how most people see a business on Google.

“Whether people know it or not, their Google Places pages are being converted into Google+,” Scudamore reported.

Google+ controls how a business’ information is seen on Google while on computers and mobile devices. If a business isn’t in control of its own Google+ page, the information could be incorrect, leading customers to call the wrong number, navigate to the wrong address, or end up at the wrong website.

To sign up to claim a business’ Google+ page, an employee simply needs to visit Plus.Google.com. If the dealership already has a Gmail or YouTube account, a Google+ account can be launched with the same login information. It’s important that a dealership uses a generic dealership login, rather than a personal login, so control of the Google+ page doesn’t leave with any one employee.

Lea Scudamore, SEO supervisor at ARI Network Services, speaks during one of her two sessions at the Powersports Business Institute @ AIMExpo in October in Orlando.

Lea Scudamore, SEO supervisor at ARI Network Services, speaks during one of her two sessions at the Powersports Business Institute @ AIMExpo in October in Orlando.

Scudamore recommends that once dealers claim their Google+ pages, they should take control of what she calls CAP — company name, addresses (physical and website) and phone numbers. This information should match on all websites, social media sites and search engines to assure consistency.

One unique characteristic of Google+ is the map feature that allows individual businesses to best place their location on Google Maps. This is especially important, given that all modern smartphones use Google Maps.

“It gives you a lot more control, so you can put the map marker on the roof of your building; you can put it on the front door; you can put it on the driveway,” Scudamore said.

Another feature is hangouts, which allow companies to host live chat sessions with multiple people at the same time. Topics of discussion could include an oil change demonstration or tips on winterization. Those hangouts can then be saved and posted on YouTube to share with those who couldn’t make the live broadcast.

Through Google+, dealerships can also choose from a list of categories that their businesses fall under. Those are preset keywords that help Google bots and potential customers best define a business. Though each dealership can likely be categorized by many keywords, Scudamore recommends choosing the best five as those are typically the most Google will draw from.

It’s important that the page be updated frequently, preferably every day. If pages go stale for too long, Google reserves the right to close those inactive pages.

Updates can include anything from photos of buyers with their new bikes, information about events, news about staff members and more, similar to posts on Facebook or Twitter. And tools such as HootSuite.com and other social media managing sites will allow a dealership employee to update all sites from one page, rather than having to log in to each individually.

“Google+ gives you so many ways to connect with your customers, those who have Google+ or Gmail,” Scudamore said.

Another benefit to Google+ is access to analytics that show every move users are making to and from a dealership’s Google+ page, Facebook page and website, making it easy to test the viability of certain posts.

Claiming a Google+ page and increasing a website’s SEO gives dealers a better chance to draw customers to both their physical and online stores.

There’s no doubt that Google has made some big changes, and it’s almost certain there are more changes coming down the line, but for businesses to succeed, even at the brick and mortar level, they need to adjust to changes online.

 

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