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AM PROMOTION Dealer insightBy Tim Smith, commercial director of GForces, web manage­ment and marketing specialistsearch Engine 0ptimisation (SEO) is the bedrock of online marketing. When used correctly it can get a dealer's website to the top of the search rankings, increasing online visibility and reducing the cost- per-lead. However, there is a common misconception among car dealers that SEO is a simple case of incor­porating key words within website text, a number of links from external websites and standardising website page URLs. Getting SEO right, and therefore topping the natural search results, is a process of improving and enhancing a website's visibility to search engines. Gaining a place in the natural search rankings can be the work of many months, especially in a crowded marketplace such as automotive search. As a result, a holistic strategy which utilises all of the most effective SEO tactics is the best way to get results.For car dealers, getting SEO right could be the difference between a cost-per-lead of £10 and a cost-per-lead of under £3; a big difference in the current market. Changes to the way Google gener­ates natural search listings (see timeline below) add to the need for a good SEO strategy. Traditional tactics such as building links or 'chasing keywords' have become less effec­tive and in the near future may become outdated due to the ongoing changes in the way Google operates. In fact, over the last 18 months, the shift in how brands should focus SEO, driven by changes to Google, have been faster than ever before. As a result, a 'set strategy' which does not move with the latest SEO trends, will not do your rank­ings any good. The timeline shows the various changes to how Google picks natural search results:June 2010 - 'Caffeine update': This meant that fresh and new website content was favoured, so a website with lots of up-to-date news and recently updated pages would rank higher than one with out-of-date content. August 2010 - 'Brand update': This update put a focus on branding, so brand visibility and strength became more important. As a result, brand listings could appear numerous times within search results for related keywords.December 2010 - 'Social signals': A key change in the way Google picks results, this update meant that posts on social media sites would now be Search Engine Optimisation - Simple? Easy? Other?taken into account as ranking factors.February 2011 - 'Panda/Farmer update': SEO tactics such as publ-ishing lots of low quality content and having a high list of outbound links were hit by this change which lowered the relevance of these in informing search results. March & June 2011 - Google+ updates: In March, Google launched the '+1' button, and June saw Google+ - the brand's social network - launch. In each of these cases, Google users could influence search results by clicking the '+1' button. October 2011 - 'Query encryption': This change removed a specific type of keyword referral data from some searches, making it harder for SEOs to work out which keywords were generating traffic via natural search listings. November 2011 - 'Freshness update': An update similar to 'Caffeine', it impacted time-sensitive results.January 2012 - 'Search + your world': Enhancing the relevance of social profiles, such as Google+, meant that natural search listings were even more informed by social media. February 2012 - 'Venice update': Localising search was the aim of this update. It has been a significant change in how search listings are produced by allowing local busi­nesses to appear for generic terms when searched for in their own locality. Local brand strength is now an important factor for SEO.These changes give a very distinct message to how businesses should undertake SEO to stay competitive: an integrated approach is the only way to guarantee success. Improving the technical content of a website (videos and rich snippets), the general content (such as news and images) and the information architecture of a site is the starting point, but the SEO strategy has to be advanced. Maximising the impact of pages relating to a dealer's website, such as social media presence, is now highly important. Equally, with localised search becoming more prevalent, having a high local brand visibility must be a top priority. In short, the days of SEOs chasing individual keywords via traditional methods like link building, are coming to an end. The focus for the UK's top automotive web providers is now on promoting sites and brands through a holistic digital marketing strategy that encom­passes social media, local brand prominence and personalisation of results.Only by keeping with the times and continually evolving SEO will car dealers reap the benefits. In association withTim Smith is the commercial director for GForces Web Management, who deliver the most effective digital strategies for market leading dealer groups and manufacturers. Tim is responsible for defining GForces' company strategy, marketing activities, product and service innovation. Tim has an extensive knowledge of IT and its applications to business having worked in the industry for 20 years. Over the past seven years he has helped shape GForces to become one of the most prominent providers of digital solutions to the automotive industry.ABOUT THE AUTHORAchieving high search rankings is a key factor in a successful dealer websiteSDrive your digital marketing to the top

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