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Joker Magic Trick

“How about a magic trick? I’m gonna make this keyword disappear.”


“TA DAA! It’s…It’s gone.”

The famous scene from The Dark Knight applies very nicely to black hat search engine optimization tricks today. Those who are still trying to “beat the system” are running into roadblocks, landmines, and deranged Google employees willing to take out your metaphoric eyeball with every slight of hand technique they find. The face of SEO today is completely different than what it looked like a couple of years ago when spammers were rewarded and automated SEO reigned supreme.

Today, anything that smells like a trick should make website owners run in fear.

Search engine optimization is no longer a distant cousin of social media marketing. The two are meeting in the middle with quality content as their cornerstone and earned “love” at their hearts. Link-building is being replaced by link-earning. Bulk likes, retweets, and +1s are being muscled out by organic likes, retweets, and +1s. It’s about earning trust, not faking it. That’s why search engine optimization as an art and science is alive and well.

One thing must be understood. Google has never and will never hate search engine optimization. They have maintained the same stance for years, that their job is made easier by those who help websites tell the world and the web crawlers exactly what a website does, who it serves, and what it offers. Their war has always been with black hat techniques. Their algorithm adjustments are designed to identify these black hat techniques and those silly enough to still be using them.

This is important to understand. So many are starting to shy away from the “evils” of search engine optimization because they believe they run a risk of being hurt by it. On the contrary, truthful and organic search engine optimization is more powerful today than it ever has been. The smack down that Google and Bing have been laying on the spammers over the last couple of years means that those who stay true to what Google and Bing want have the ability to rise higher than ever before. In many cases, these updates have shown that the right listings on websites using the right techniques are moving up without doing anything in particular because their competitors are being forced down by their actions.

Now is not the time to give up on search engine optimization. Every week there will be new articles that declare the death of SEO. These articles are written by those who have found that their black hat techniques aren’t working like they used to and that their rankings are plummeting. As a result, their conclusion is that SEO is dead when in fact real SEO has never been more relevant.

Focus on quality, earn your links and social signals, and think about your visitors first. Google and Bing have rewards that will satiate desires both subtle and gross for those who do things the right way. They’ll bring down furious vengeance upon those who try to manipulate the system with magic tricks. If it sounds black and white, that’s because it is.

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In many ways, the standard thinking about your marketing no longer applies when it comes to what’s happening online. Two of the largest components, search and social, are in a constant state of flux. For better or for worse, the big players like Google and Facebook do what they can to keep marketers and the businesses using them on their toes.

Chalk it up to constant improvement if you’d like. Say that they’re out to get us and that they don’t want us to succeed because then they won’t be making as much money. Whatever theory works best to make you understand that stagnant strategies are ineffective, so be it. That’s not to say that there aren’t components of search engine optimization and social media marketing that haven’t worked for a long time and will likely continue to work into the future, but the overall status of SEO and SMM are always on the move. What worked yesterday may not work today but may work again tomorrow.

This stems from a conversation I had with a potential client who was convinced that the Google Penguin and Panda updates had reached their final form. There were no more changes to monitor, no more adjustments to make. His site was ranking well and there was no need to push any further. There are two problems with this philosophy. First, Panda was updated just last month for the umpteenth time since it rolled out in February, 2011. At almost two-years old, it’s still being adjusted. Penguin is far from hitting its final variation – Google has all but said that. Then, there’s the dreaded Zebra update that may or may not be a mythical unicorn more than a real obstacle, but whether it’s real or not doesn’t really matter. The point is that Google is always improving, which means that search marketers must always be improving as well.

The second fallacy with his argument is that their rankings were thought to be as good as they were going to get. We have a client who has been getting optimized since 2003. Every month we’re fighting to keep the progress that we’ve accumulated over the years while pushing them further in other keywords. While there is definitely a plateau that can be reached where the gains from improved SEO start to level off, the idea that SEO can be in a pinnacle phase with no need for further improvements in the future is preposterous.

Social media is worse. In social, it isn’t just the changes that the websites themselves make that make strategy adjustments important. It’s the trends and flow of the communities themselves that make a difference. Case in point – I was working with a client not too long ago who was feeding multiple RSS feeds onto their Facebook page and into their Twitter stream. There was a time (short as it may have been) when this strategy of “more is better” worked. That was 2010. Today, any business who is auto-feeding a dozen posts onto their Facebook page per day is reaching nobody. Once I showed them how to look at their statistics, they realized that out of 17K fans, their posts were reaching an average of 16 people. Everyone had either shut down their stream from their news feed or had seen so many without liking any that Facebook shut it down for them.

Their Twitter account was a mess. With 4k Twitter followers, nobody had engaged with the account in weeks. Their posts were all doubled up – they were posting from the same feeds onto Twitter and Facebook, then feeding their Facebook onto Twitter.

This isn’t intended to single out a couple of juicy examples. Most businesses are not taking such a careless approach to their online marketing. However, it does seem that there is a rise in complacency. When success is found, it’s time to move on – at least that seems to be a prevailing attitude.

The reality is this: success is relative and there are very few who have reached a level that cannot be dramatically improved upon with better understanding of the current trends. Instagram was a huge portion of many business’s Facebook and Twitter strategies just a few weeks ago and now is being abandoned altogether by many. Pinterest is hot today but is facing spamming threats that could plummet the site into strategic unworthiness. Google+ is effective today for search rankings and may become more effective in the coming months, but it could also fall off the radar completely if Google decides that it’s just too easy to manipulate.

Nobody knows what’s happening behind closed doors at the companies that drive our industry. We can speculate. We can guess. We can keep our eyes open, read the various blogs, talk to insiders we have in out back pockets, but at the end of the day we’re all dealing with too many unknown variables to rest on what works today.

I’m not trying to scare anyone. I just want it to be understood that your online marketing efforts should be tweaked, adjusted, monitored, and tested on a regular basis. To sit back and let the changes happen without you, to be passive in an extremely aggressive atmosphere, would be the biggest mistake you can make, particularly if you’re already doing well. I’ve said in the past, “Being thankful for what you have doesn’t mean you have to be satisfied with it.”

Perhaps a more appropriate “person” to quote would be Ricky Bobby: “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

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Call it human nature to mislead in order to promote a product. Call it deceitful selling. Call it ignorance. Call it whatever you want to call it, but the concept that has been being spread around the automotive industry that you don’t need content on your homepage is absolutely incorrect. In fact, the homepage is the most important page on your website from an SEO perspective. Building a website with a homepage that has no HTML text or links is like making a hamburger without a beef patty (even though ground turkey is acceptable and ground bison is actually superior in my opinion, but I’ll save that discussion for my food blog).

More than the sitemap, more than your navigation bar, the homepage content is the true gateway through which you can highlight the most important pages on your website for the search engines. On most websites on the internet  and nearly 100% of car dealer websites, the homepage is granted the highest level of authority by the search engines. The links within the content are given the most “juice”. Pages that are linked within the HTML of the homepage within context are considered to be the most important pages.

To have contextual internal linking within the context of your homepage content, you have to have homepage content. It’s that easy. Is it possible for a website to rank without content on the homepage? Of course. It’s also possible to eat a hamburger with buns, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, and mustard. Just as must people who order a hamburger expect meat of some sort inside, the search engines expect their “hamburger”, the homepage of your website, to contain meat.

Does HTML content detract from lead generation? No. Your customers aren’t that naive. This isn’t the first website they’ve ever visited that has words on it. Many won’t even scroll down to see the content and will find what they really want to see (inventory, specials, or department pages) in a second or two.

It came to our attention at NADA that at least one website vendor is preaching the concept that the homepage content clutter factor of content is not beneficial for SEO. It may be more. If you hear that idea spoken, don’t buy it. Instead, ask them, “Where’s the beef?” Even a vegan burger has a soy patty. Your website needs homepage content just the same.

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(Informal) FREE Webinar On "How To Properly Optimize Your Videos For Your Dealership" - (LIVE) Video SEO from Dealer Synergy on Vimeo.

(Informal) FREE Webinar On "How To Properly Optimize Your Videos For Your Dealership" - (LIVE) Video SEO

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Content Marketing for SEO [Infographic] Video


Based on search trends, content marketing is on an exponential rise. There are many good reasons for its rise in popularity. But one of the biggest is the application of content marketing for SEO. 
The importance of SEO is pretty clear. Studies have shown that traffic from organic search results is generally more profitable than traffic from many other sources (like paid advertising).
This makes sense because a person who lands on a page based on an organic search result is actively seeking an answer, solution and/or products. And an organic result is more “trustworthy” than a paid placement.


So where exactly does content marketing fit in to SEO?

Well…kind of everywhere.

Let’s start at the beginning: search engines need something to rank. And that something is content. Without content, there’s no reason for your page to be displayed.

But it goes deeper…
Search engines are increasingly relying on social signals (such as Facebook Shares, Google +1s and Tweets) to rank content. They are in the business of helping you find content. And it only makes sense that if content is getting shared a lot by people, then it must be good.
Well..actually…search engines are in the business of selling ads. But the better their search results the more people they’ll attract to click on the ads. You get the idea…
So providing great content increases your chance of building up more social signals.
Let’s also throw into the pot the increasing importance of individual author authority. Google’s “authorship” should be a factor of increasing importance going forward. So publishing great content will increase your authority, which will in turn help your content be better-ranked.
Of course, simply creating the content and taking a “if you build it they will come” approach won’t get you the best results (if any). You also have to apply the “marketing” part of content marketing.


I thought the following infographic from Sekari  was worth sharing because it provides a pretty good visual representation of how content, social media and SEO all fit together.
It also provides some pointers about how to make your content more “shareable” to ramp up your social signals.
And remember, on-page optimization is important because it helps the search engines know what your content is about! 


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"Social media participation is not something to be ignored or taken lightly. Aside from some of the older and more understood tactics and strategies affecting your SEO, great social media activity absolutely begets great SEO. This infographic simply explains several ways that social media has a direct impact on how fast and how effectively your social media activity improves your website’s SEO. Enjoy!"

Infographic source: Being Your Brand

Related :'Is anyone clicking on your tweets? 3 tips to make sure they do."

"If You Don’t Think Social Signals are Important for SEO, You Don’t Know Google Very Well"

Why Attend the Internet Sales 20 Group?


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The idea of the NoFollow attribute on links was to help prevent spam from appearing on user generated content sites, particularly Wikipedia. It was intended as a way to tell Google (and eventually all major search engines) that a link was not supposed to transfer any “link juice” to the recipient of the link. In essence, it was designed to stop SEO spammers from trying to insert their links where they didn’t belong for the sake of improved rankings.

It has become an abused attribute. This needs to stop.

Modern use of nofollow by many websites is to prevent link juice “leakage” from a website onto other websites. Many put the attribute on any link that isn’t internal. Some go so far as to put it on every link, internal or external. This is ludicrous.

There may be some merits to the idea that leaking PageRank juice to others is a detriment to the optimization of a website, but if there is, it’s minimal. I’ve seen websites that have a completely closed nofollow policy that doesn’t “leak” any juice at all that have major troubles ranking and I’ve seen sites (such as all of my sites) that rank exceptionally well while giving link value to everyone.

There are exceptions. UGC, as mentioned before, should have nofollow attributes attached to links that are not vetted. If it’s a UGC site that passes through the eyes and scrutiny of an editor, the nofollow attribute isn’t necessary. If it goes live immediate, it’s necessary.

Comments or other areas where links can be added by anyone should also be nofollow. Some use plugins like CommentLuv to encourage comments by making links followed. This is up to site owner and as long as the comments and links are vetted I have no problem with it at all. If the links in comments aren’t vetted, I don’t suggest it.

Otherwise, there should never be nofollow links on websites. If a link is good enough to post, it’s good enough to get juice. Trying to sculpt or channel your link juice is futile, ineffective, and an argument can be made that it’s actually more damaging than good.

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Social Ecosystem

There are still many in the search engine optimization industry that are fighting the concept that Google (and Bing) is taking social signals into account at a high level when determining search rankings.

These people fall into three categories:

  1. Those who haven’t had the ability or desire to test it. If you test it thoroughly, it becomes extremely clear that it’s real.
  2. Those who do not have the ability to generate and promote high quality, shareable content as part of their SEO strategy. If you can’t do it, you might as well pretend like it doesn’t exist.
  3. Those who have read the blog posts of either of the previous two and took the opinions as truth.

The reality is that, based upon extensive testing that we’ve been running (not to mention some of the things that Google has said over the last couple of years), social signals have a significant impact on the overall SEO of websites.

There’s another thing to consider, though, as pointed out by Search Engine Watch last month. Google is paying attention to social signals through Google Analytics. Some might say that it’s a natural addition to the service since people consider social media to be an important part of their overall marketing, but that’s simply not how Google works. If they add something to Analytics, it’s because they consider it to be important. There’s no need for them to track it if they aren’t considering it in some algorithm, and the most likely algorithm that social signals could effect is their search ranking algorithm.

When Google says something with their actions, it behooves those in SEO to listen. Are you listening?

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Google Authorship has been around for a while. It has helped many bloggers and journalists stand out by having their images appear directly in search results next to the articles they publish. It highlights the number of people that have them in their Google+ circles and gives a link to other writings by the author. This is nothing new.

Google AuthorRank has been given much speculation for about a year now. The idea is simple – Google will give higher rankings to those who have demonstrated expertise in a particular field. If someone is prolific at writing about a subject and their writing is well received by the community, the content itself and the domain on which the content appears can be ranked higher than competitors. Nobody knows exactly what criteria Google will consider when determining AuthorRank, but much of the speculation makes too much sense to be completely off.

They want quality. They want content that can be shared. They want resources and value. They believe that there are people who tend to be more influential about one topic or another because they have demonstrated a proficiency at writing about the topic and their content gets the type of activity that one would expect from something of importance. Here are some of the speculations about what may influence AuthorRank:

  • Shares, particularly on Google+, but also on Twitter, Facebook, and possibly others such as Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Tumblr
  • Comments – is anyone reacting to the content?
  • Google+ circle authority. It should be noted that I said “authority” and not “count” as I’m sure Google will look at quality of followers over quantity
  • Authority level of the sources will still have an affect but not in the traditional PageRank way they once did (seen this first hand already)

What does all of this mean for businesses? For larger companies, it’s easy. Get better at blogging. Do more than just promote your products and services. Be informative. Bring value. Hire top-notch journalists rather than marketing copywriters and press release agencies to fill your website will strong content in an engaging format.

For localized businesses, it’s a little more challenging. The rise of outsourced social media tells us that there is already a clear shortage of time when it comes to search and social. Content marketing is the future present and it centers around a word that has been used too many times already in this post, value. It continues to be used because it cannot be stated enough. You have to bring value through quality content if you want to advance well beyond the competition. The good news – very few at the local level will participate. The bad news – it isn’t easy. It isn’t cheap. This isn’t the type of content that you can pay $5 for on an offshore content spinning service and expect to get results. The content has to ring true. The author has to get out there and become an expert, a trust adviser on the topics you need them to dominate. The path isn’t an easy one, but take note: if you do it successfully, you increase your ability to rank well on Google and be amazing on social media by leaps and bounds.

This isn’t a quick tip. It’s not a trick. Bring value to the table and do it the right way and you’ll be rewarded by Google. Why? Because that’s exactly what they want you to do.

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It’s this simple. When given the choice between being ranked in the top 5 for good keywords or being ranked #1 for a great keyword, I will (after asking for further qualifications and some examples) almost always opt for the former. Search has changed dramatically in the last couple of years. As a result, above the fold for many is normally better than at the top for a few.

In reality, it isn’t that simple. You’d have to look at all of the factors to make an educated decisions. This general rule, however, works a vast majority of the time. The reason is based upon search habits. People trust Google and Bing to be a guide but not necessarily to be 100% accurate. In the past, the clicks for the top-ranked listing received the lion’s share of the clicks. #2 got fewer but still more than the rest, and so on, and so forth.

This is still the case for very specific searches. For example, if someone searches for “Dell” and is at the top, it will get over 90% of the clicks. However, for searches that are more general, the ones where the searcher is looking for options such as “Seattle Dodge Dealers”, the gap in clicks between #1 and #5 is minimal. In fact, there are times when the #2 or #3 listings get more clicks than #1.

People doing these general searches are looking for possibilities, not to have a definitive answer. Searching for “Seattle Dodge Dealers” gives them options. From there, they decide which to click on based upon reputation if they know the dealerships, the listing titles, descriptions, and position on maps when appropriate. The look at reviews, domains, and even previews in some cases. The point is this – being “above the fold” is the first goal. Moving up to the top is the second goal.

Some might wonder why we would only shoot for being above the fold. In most cases, the effort it takes to get a site moved up from #5 to #1 is about equal to the effort it takes to get several keywords into the top 5. It isn’t that dealers shouldn’t strive to be #1, but they shouldn’t do so at the detriment of getting more keywords driving traffic to the site. From experience, we’ve seen where the benefits are highest for dealers.

Step 1, get as many keywords into the top 5 as possible. Step 2, once a good chunk of the possibilities of valuable keywords are in the top 5, it’s time to circle back around and push those listings up higher. It’s not as glamorous as focusing on getting a few keywords to the top and forsaking the rest, but it’s definitely more effective in the long run.

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Google Plus Page

Google has stuck with its story that the various components of Google+ and the +1 button don’t have an effect on search rankings. They have to. Once they admit that it does (as countless studies and tests have indicated), the flood of spam and blackhat SEO techniques will grow larger than it already has. This is important to understand for anyone doing research on the topic. Google isn’t trying to deceive people for the sake of being deceptive. They’re trying to protect the sanctity of what will become their greatest advantage in the ongoing search engine wars. They will not sit back and do what Yahoo did a decade ago, relying on mass adoption to carry them through. Just because Google is on top today doesn’t mean that they have no fears for the future.

Thus, Google+.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the three primary components of Google+ and the various +1 buttons (they look the same but they have different uses) that have an effect on your search rankings.


The Google+ Business Page

There’s a good chance that if you’ve been following the advice of internet marketing experts out there for the past couple of years, that you have a Google+ business profile. If you don’t, get one now.

The page serves two purposes from a search perspective. If you’re posting content from your website onto your page, it counts as a +1 for that particular piece of content. +1s are weighted differently and the ones from your page have more weight than spammers but less weight than most users, but it’s still a good thing to have. It doesn’t hurt, so why not?

The other component is a relative scale. Your page itself has +1s, demonstrated in the image above in the bottom right by “+346″. There have been a couple of studies that have looked at this and shown that it’s the most important aspect of overall search rankings that Google+ affects. I disagree based upon my own research, but it definitely has an affect. By being a “relative scale”, it isn’t a matter of gathering hundreds, even thousands of these. It’s a matter of having higher quality ones relative to your competitors for search rankings. As with everything in this article (and pretty much in search and social altogether), quality trumps quantity. You only see the number. Google sees the quality of the accounts within the number.

Domain Content +1s

The rise of content marketing from a search perspective has been most positively affected by the +1 buttons on your site. Inbound links are still extremely important, but they have remained at a steady value ever since the Penguin update. The +1s accumulated on content within a domain have risen in overall power.

This is why true content marketing on your website is so important from a search perspective. We can no longer rely on strong HTML content and organic links to rank higher than competitors. Sure, they work, but the real differentiator that so few are willing to explore is the fact that social signals to a piece of content affect the overall rankings of a domain. If a piece of content is strong enough to get some viral love on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook, the rankings of many keywords are affected.


Individual Content +1s

This is a two-headed beast. Google has not seen the +1 abundance of data that they had hoped when they first started putting the +1 button everywhere. They’ve gone through many changes over the last year, including changing the way that the search results interact depending on browser and device. Now, you can “share” pages from results into Google+, but it’s unlikely that this is being done very often.

What Google IS seeing is an increase in the number of shares directly from content. It isn’t just a rise from the clicks on the page itself, but also an increase in the +1s happening on the Google+ network within users’ feeds. This is translating into very strong improvements in overall search rankings and traffic for those who are able to get activity on Google+ with their content. The catch-22 is that many businesses are finding it much easier to get +1s to “fun” content. This helps with the second component above, but if we’re not able to get +1s to the “money” content, we’re missing a large part of the strategy.

To achieve this, websites have to start being built with “fun” and “money” on the same pages. It’s a challenge – the entertainment or educational value of content often makes it hard to use as a conversion piece, but that’s the golden ticket at the end of the day. If you can turn your fun content into something that also has the ability to generate leads and sales, you’re definitely a mile ahead of your competitors.

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Men in the Trenches

The other day I was in a meeting with a potential client. We were discussing automotive SEO best practices and the way that the search engines are changing the way they rank. We talked about the best ways a dealer can stay ahead of their competition for their current keywords while moving up in the competitive keywords in the area.

It was then that he made an interesting observation:

“I know that you keep on top of this stuff from a theoretical level, but I want to hear from the guy in the trenches that is actually doing the SEO for dealers.”

It was a great point. I’ve personally worked on the optimization for a couple dozen of our clients, but I’m not the guy that works on hundreds of dealers at a time. That guy is Ron Fortier, our SEO manager, so I posed the question to him. Here is what he put down as best practices for dealers, straight from the mouth of the guy leading the team that’s doing the work successfully…


Develop or Buy Tools that Help You Make Keyword Decisions Monthly

Priorities for your dealership change based on time of year, inventory levels, competition and conquest strategies. We are all resource constrained whether it be time or money, so we need tools that help us to make the best use of our investment in time. You need to have a tool or process that allows you to identify the most important keywords to work based on your monthly priorities.

Looking for more overall visitors? Your priority would be on keywords with larger impression counts. Looking to convert more of your visitors? Your priority would be on keywords that have high PPC costs and competition. Looking to conquest local dealers or make-model combinations? Your priority would be to view your rankings relative to your competitors. Want a great mix of all of the above? That is typically where we end up. Having a tool that helps you identify the best keywords to work based on your priorities allows you to spend 100% of your content and SEO efforts on tasks that are in line with your stores most immediate priorities.


Beware of Thin Content

Google rewards effort, plain and simple. Google’s quality rating guidelines are filled with how to identify low quality, useless content. Their best definition of spam is when you remove all of the template and spam elements from the page, there is nothing of any value remaining. If you are copying content from other sites, or slightly modifying keywords and thinking that you’re fooling Google, you’re not. Google rewards effort. Google rewards typing and content.

Low keyword counts may win here or there in the short run, but every change Google has made over the last 18 months has been an effort to remove thin, low quality pages from its index. Take the time to create content that is of value to a consumer when they get to a page and you won’t have to worry about the next animal-based update released from Google. Content is king and quality, useful content for consumers wins every time.


SEO Works Best in a Holistic Approach

Now that you’ve decided what to work with your time, be sure that all of your SEO efforts work in concert.

What content are you going to add to your site that works the keywords you’ve identified? What modifications will you be making to your website’s architecture and internal linking structure that signals to Google the significance of your content change? How will you support your keywords through offsite content and linking? What is your strategy to getting the content crawled and indexed quickly? If you only use one technique then you won’t be working all of the SEO signals and the effectiveness will be lessened. Does your content say one thing and your links another?

Sending mixed messages will also inhibit the effectiveness of your work. Take the time to ensure that all of your monthly SEO efforts are working in concert for maximum effectiveness.


Low Sales Funnel Keywords are Big though Small

Everyone wants to find that hidden keyword that will get them a thousand new visitors. We understand and often join the pursuit, but we also chase the keyword combos that will get you 5 visits a month. Insanity? No!

Many of these keywords are very low funnel or “right next to the money” as we like to say internally. Think of someone on a Friday night at 6:00 on Yelp searching restaurants. That search is right next to the money. That individual will eat tonight; they are just deciding where. The same thought applies to many keywords we go after. Consider a year make model search. They know what they’re going to buy. The only question is where and when. Don’t be afraid to mix in the low funnel keywords even though you know that they will be statistically insignificant in overall traffic volumes. That five visitor a month keyword could be the goose that lays the golden egg for years to come.

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SEO Keyboard

One of the keys to being a true dealership partner amongst a sea of vendors is having the willingness to “share the playbook” with our clients and prospects. This is much more important today than ever before in the world of automotive internet marketing because the changes are happening too rapidly. Marketing professionals and companies must stay on top of these changes from day to day and adjust accordingly, something that the vast majority of dealers simply do not have time to do.

Search engine marketing has been in a state of constant flux for nearly a year now. It has always been a challenge keeping up with the changes, but today the changes are coming at us so rapidly that we have to stay tuned in at all times. This is good for those who truly do stay on top; dealers and vendors who have the right plans up front but who also keep them fluid enough to change on the fly are the ones that will have the most success in 2013.

Thankfully, there are certain rock solid activities that have staying power. Google and Bing love quality, so understanding the activities that will work today and that will continue to work tomorrow act as a wonderful hedge against the nuanced changes that happen constantly. Minor course corrections on a solid strategy is the key to sustained success (for us and for dealers).

Here are some of the things that we know work today and that will continue to work in the foreseeable future. There are risky moves that make rankings go up quickly and watch them fall even faster, then there are safe bets that play the SEO market with a steady hand. These are some of those things. The best part – you don’t need a vendor to make these things happen for you. The power is well within your grasp. Pick any one of these activities and do it right now. Bookmark this page and come back to it in a couple of days, a week, or whenever you have time to push forward. Search rankings move with or without your input. Take more control of the outcome by doing these simple tasks regularly.

  1. Build a Content Page – I’ve harped on this point many times but it will never get old. Assuming you have a proper CMS that allows for it, you should build a content page. This isn’t a conversion page. It’s not a page that will compel visitors to buy a car. It’s a page with interesting content that only you can supply that supports your conversion pages. By bringing value to the table, you’ll be able to give Google and Bing what they want: quality. For example, you can build a page that lists five key components the 2013 Toyota Camry has that other makes and models do not have. Of course, you’ll be sure to add contextual links to conversion pages such as inventory search pages for the Camry, specials, or anything else that this page can support.
  2. Get Social Signals to your Pages – This is much quicker than you might think as far as activities go. People at your dealership are on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ right now. Take a stroll around the dealership with a particular important URL or two in mind and ask them to share the page on their social profiles. Some will not want to “pollute” their feed with what they may consider workplace spam, but this is another reason why you will want to have strong content pages (see tip #1) handy. They might not want to share the inventory pages directly, but who wouldn’t want to share an interesting piece of content such as this?
  3. Write a Guest Post – You or someone at your dealership has expertise in cars and the ability to write about it. Find this person. Send out an email to the company and ask if anyone is interested in doing some writing on the side for the dealership. You don’t need much – a couple of pieces of content a month will suffice for now. Once you have some story ideas, pitch them to appropriate blogs and local websites. Some will not be responsive. Others welcome the opportunity to get fresh, unique content for free. This one actually requires a much longer article to describe in detail, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get started today.

Content, social signals, and links. These are the three key components to search engine optimization that are within your power even if you’re not a website developer. Remember to hold quality at the highest level when planning your strategies. A focus on quality over quantity is what has helped us stay on top of the game for so long. Tricks come and go. Quality optimization principles have staying power. Use them.

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Automotive Apps

There was a time when the search engines rewarded content of all types. If a website syndicated content from elsewhere on the web and exposed it to their audience, it wasn’t as good as unique content but at least it didn’t hurt. Some of the content would be de-indexed as duplicate but the overall health of the domain itself was not harmed.

Today, it’s harmful. Websites that are taking a lot of content from others and posting it on their own websites, even if they link to the original source, are finding that their overall rankings are dropping as a result. It’s one of many changes in the string of content attacks Google has been building upon ever since introducing the first variation of Panda back in February, 2011.

Some have gone to “spinning” content as an alternative. In spinning, content is taken and many of the individual words are changed in an effort to beat Google’s duplicate content filter. This worked for a little while and is still somewhat effective today but Google has come out against spinning in several public statements. It, too, is dying.

With Google’s focus on quality being hammered into us from all sides, it’s clear that their orchestrating a shift towards real content. This is a challenge for many businesses who aren’t really journalists and do not have the time to do the research necessary to create strong content. The alternative: commentary.

Thankfully, humans are loaded with opinions. The internet is a venue through which opinions can be shared. Share yours. It can be difficult to pick a topic that’s relevant to your industry and write an article about something, but it’s easier if the research and writing are already done for us, leaving our role as one of reaction rather than investigation.

The process is pretty simple. Read an article or two that pertains to your industry, then respond to it. For example, you may see an article on Smart Planet about how Ford and GM are opening their APIs to third-party developers. A car dealer probably doesn’t want to do the research about the developments, but they don’t have to. They just have to read the article and respond to it from their own perspective within the industry.

Content Commentary

The research has already been done. The news has already been stated. Nobody will go to a car dealer’s website to read the news, but they may be interested in seeing the response about the development from the perspective of those who will be affected, in this case a car dealer embedded in the automotive industry.

This gives websites the ability to add value and participate in the conversation without having to do the technical research surrounding the news itself. It makes bringing valuable content to the table a much easier process and allows businesses to focus on what they know and what they have time to do rather than branching out and becoming the content researchers.

There is plenty out there on any topic through which a business can add valuable commentary. You don’t have to break the news to be valuable in the eyes of both visitors and search engines. You just have to have a unique perspective.

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Content isn't King. It's More Like a President.

Mt Rushmore

The marketing adage “content is king” has been around for a long time. In 2013, it appears that both the search engines and social media sites are focusing on content as their driving forces, but in a different way than most understand. Things are changing in the world of internet marketing. Here’s what you need to know.

Content was never really “king”. Though it made a nice talking point and allowed marketing companies an opportunity to charge for their labors, it was always a temporary fix. In search, it started off as extremely important for a little while until marketers started learning how to manipulate it, so the search engines switched to focus on external signals such as links. Then, the links started turning into link farms and “splogs”, so content re-emerged as a focus point.

Companies were built on the premise of “more is better” and started putting out low-quality, spun, or light content in an effort to fool the search engines once again. Google made moves to shut this down in February, 2011, with the first of many Penguin algorithm updates that effectively put an end to content farming.

Social media saw a similar shift towards spam in 2011 that was quickly sorted by secretive algorithm adjustments that took into account the different layers of liking, sharing, retweeting, and other social media activities to once again force quality of content to the front ahead of bulk.

For the first time ever, content is truly emerging as the leader in internet marketing activities, but it has manifested differently than most have seen in the past. There’s no longer SEO content, social media content, and conversion content that act separately from each other. Going into 2013, these three primary types of internet marketing content are consolidating into a singular strategy. It’s not that they are becoming the same. It’s that they have to work together for maximum results.

In essence, content is not king. It’s like a president. It has power, certainly, but the majority of that power must be shared, enhanced, and complemented by other factors such as links and social signals. Here’s how the president of internet marketing will work in 2013…


The different hats of a president

Just as any good president must wear different hats depending on the circumstance, a strong content marketing strategy requires that the content falls into the different categories depending on the needs of the moment. I mentioned the three most important – SEO content, social media content, and conversion content – but there are others that often come into play.

We’re going to focus on the three important ones for now:

  • The President as an Organizer – The President can’t do it all. He or she must bring the leaders of Congress and the states together to demonstrate a coherent strategy for their country. SEO content works must the same way. Creating SEO content is different from creating content that acts as SEO for a particular page. True SEO content is designed to help generate inbound links, points the search engines in the right directions once they land on a particular page, and enhances the conversion pages through context and appropriate internal links.
  • The President as an Ambassador – It’s important for a President to be strong, friendly, and build relationships with others. What the President says and how he or she says it makes a difference in perceptions. Done properly, the message is shared. The same holds true for social media content. You can have interesting things to post from your website onto other sites, but if the relationships aren’t there, you won’t get very far regardless of the quality of the content.
  • The President as an Administrator – Despite what anyone says, a President has to be a good salesperson. They have to take their ideas and make them work within their country which requires the ability to direct the people appropriately and get things done that work. It doesn’t matter how good a President is at being an organizer or ambassador if they can’t deliver the goods at the end of the day. This is where conversion content finds similarities. You can have people interested, but if you don’t turn them into leads, customers, or clients, your other efforts are worthless.

From a practical perspective, you content must be able to bind all of the major internet marketing efforts into a working strategy. This is where content comes in. Turn it into the centerpiece of your internet marketing for 2013. Links, social signals, traffic, conversions – all are necessary for success. The easiest way to achieve them is through the strongest content that you can muster.

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Mt Rushmore” image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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With Google Local, formerly known as Google Places decision makers are scrambling to understand how ORM algorithms will drastically affect SEO rankings and high Google scores. Google says Google Local is “a simple way to discover and share local information.” Sounds like business listing are becoming more social.

In other words Google Local helps people like me who could very well turn the urge to buy a car— “Hey, I want to test drive a car today” —into an afternoon outing: “Perfect, there’s a Cadillac dealer with great reviews just two blocks from here. Let’s go.” It’s integrated into Search, Maps and mobile and available as a new tab in Google+—creating one simple experience across Google.

The new system is definitely much broader than the previous star system, given its larger scale. 17 out of 30 doesn’t sound incredibly great but if you look at the scale, 16-20 represents “good to very good”. 0- 30 is pretty wide range to cover the four individual ratings Google goes by:

3 Excellent
2 Very Good
1 Good
0 Poor to Fair

Google takes the average, and multiplies it by ten to come up with averaged scores featuring Zagat scores and recommendations from people you trust in Google+.

Algorithms are incorporated into all kinds of review sites where your brand is being talked about and Google is measuring a combination of indicators across all published reviews to determine your Score and overall ranking.

Survey results released a few months ago indicate that many of the top ranking factors are directly related to reviews, your top keywords in reviews, including Google measuring what kind of feedback or responses you’re providing to the consumer feedback on review sites.

Here is how a few of them ranked, according to that (out of the top 90):

7. Quantity of Native Google Places Reviews (w/text) (REVIEWS)
18. Product/Service Keywords in Reviews (REVIEWS)
24. Quantity of Third-Party Traditional Reviews (REVIEWS)
26. Location Keywords in Reviews (REVIEWS)
31. Velocity of Native Google Places Reviews (REVIEWS)
34. Quantity of Reviews by Authority Reviewers (e.g.Yelp Elite, Multiple Places Reviewers, etc) (REVIEWS)
46. High Numerical Ratings by Authority Reviewers (e.g.Yelp Elite, Multiple Places Reviewers, etc) (REVIEWS)
49. Overall Velocity of Reviews (Native + Third-Party) (REVIEWS)
50. Quantity of Third-Party Unstructured Reviews (REVIEWS)
52. Quantity of Native Google Places Ratings (no text) (REVIEWS)
53. High Numerical Ratings of Place by Google Users (e.g. 4-5) (REVIEWS)
62. Velocity of Third-Party Reviews (REVIEWS)
69. High Numerical Third-Party Ratings (e.g. 4-5) (REVIEWS)
74. Positive Sentiment in Reviews (REVIEWS)

According to Google, reputation management means interacting, responding to, learning from, and implementing ideas and improvements based on customer feedback. The good news is that feedback is everywhere. I’d take that as a hint from Google that a higher Google score is achieved with a multi pronged approach.

Responding to reviews, creating conversation with customers, understanding the underlying issues, and devising possible solutions.

The importance of a high ranking Google score will be directly related to two different potential benefits:

  1. SEO Influence. The exact algorithm for reviews is not completely clear, but Google says the correlation between a higher number of reviews and higher relevance (sometimes ranking) on search engines is apparent in any search query yielding a local result, not to mention fresh content being crawled by robots.


Therefore, it would make sense to incorporate reputation building avenues (follow up emails, etc) for customers

to share their experience, which can help increase the dealerships online reviews and become a more credible source for both customers and search engines.

2.  Conversion & Purchasing Influence. The second benefit is the relationship between top level results and the likelihood of a user clicking on your dealer name. If your dealership continuously encourages customers to leave reviews (not from the dealerships I.P) and the reviews received are showing your business in a good light, then it is likely that you will rank higher on review results. See the logical equation below for Google
Total reviews + Quality of Reviews = Better Google Ranking (simple version as there are other factors involved)

Better Google Ranking + Management Responses = Higher Trust (good reviews) and therefore Higher Revenue (good reviews at the top of the result page)

Regardless of the ranking of the list above, it does stop and make you think about all the potential factors that could go into your local ranking, and many are certainly worth paying attention to.

Jerry Hart

Schedule a Free Demo
Ask a Question: jerry(at)erepbuilder(dot)com

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Car Dealer SEO Mistakes: Stagnant Keywords


There’s a plethora of articles, tips, and techniques about automotive SEO that fill blogs, webinars, and training courses. Everyone has opinions about what works best and how to help dealers rank better in search. The biggest mistake that dealers (and their vendors) often make isn’t in the SEO techniques themselves but rather in the underlying keyword principles. It doesn’t matter how good the SEO techniques are; if you don’t have the right keywords selected from the start and make adjustments to the targets on a regular basis, your optimization is not optimal.

Here are some quick best practices to keep your keywords from going stagnant:

  • When You Hit Your Goals, Move On – This is the most common keyword mistake in the automotive industry. I see dealers and their vendors pushing hard for keywords that they’re already dominating. They likely selected them from the beginning as high priority but never adjusted when they reached the top. If you’re ranked #1 for a keyword, no measure of additional SEO effort will get you ranked higher. Stop. Move your efforts to other keywords. Monitor it – if you fall from the top spot, re-engage with that keyword, but otherwise point your attentions to getting more keywords.
  • Remember the Variations – So, you’re going after a keyword like “Shreveport Honda Dealer”. That’s great, but what about the others? Order of the words matter. Plural variations matter. Synonyms matter. You should be going after “Honda Dealer Shreveport”, “Shreveport Honda Dealership”, “Honda Dealers Shreveport LA”, etc.
  • Rightsize Efforts Based on Competition Levels – You don’t need a rocket launcher to take down a rabbit. Likewise, a BB gun isn’t going to take down an elephant. Apply the right measure of SEO pressure on your selected keywords – no more, no less. As a general rule, the more words that are in the keyword phrase, the easier it is to get. For example, “Minneapolis Toyota” takes a lot of effort while “2013 Toyota Camry Minneapolis” takes less. Also, the competition level in a given metro makes a difference. Keywords for “Los Angeles CA” are easier than keywords for “Thousand Oaks CA”.
  • Go for Top 5 for Some Keywords – There are certain keywords where the effort to get to #1 simply isn’t worth it. This is particularly true for keywords in cities where there is already a local dealership. If you’re in Palo Alto and you want to rank for keywords in San Jose, the chances of beating actual San Jose dealers is low, but getting into the top 5 is usually achievable. Set your expectations properly and focus on getting more keywords rather than moving up a little higher for competitive keywords.

These are just a handful of best practices, but the underlying lesson is clear. Watch your keywords. Adjust them. You or your vendor should be adjusting your SEO monthly based upon where you rank for your keywords. If you let your keywords go stagnant, you’re just spinning your wheels.

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Sistine Chapel

Let's face it. Facebook (and Google+) love pictures. It ranks at the top of the news feed food chain above text posts, videos, and links. It's the primary reason that many people visit Facebook in the first place. They want to see pictures of little Timmy sliding into third base, the places that their friends and family are visiting, and cats. Don't forget the cats.

Unfortunately, many businesses have focused on cats (or similar Facebook-friendly images) as their source of content. It simply doesn't have to be that way. It's the lazy approach to find things that make us laugh and then post them on our business Facebook pages in hopes that other people will laugh as well and like, comment on, or share the image. What's worse than the laziness factor is that it's insincere; it's like trying to fit in at a party where people are frolicking in order to spring a sales pitch on an unsuspecting soul while in line for a drink.

What's worse than the insincerity is that it simply doesn't work. Sure, people may like the picture of the Sistine Chapel that your sister posted. They may even share it. You may even be able to loosely justify it by saying that it's improving your branding. These are fine delusions, but they don't address the core problem you have with your Facebook page. You aren't actually becoming anything to your fans other than another interesting page that posts content that they occasionally see and rarely enjoy.

If Facebook (and Google+) are mostly visual platforms and you want to capture some of the "magic" without being a poser, you'll want to find the various treasure troves of content to post. Here are some...


Finding Images for Facebook (and Google+)

Tilt Shift Car

One of the most annoying practices that businesses employ on Facebook is that they talk about anything other than their business. Don't get me wrong, it's much more annoying (and completely useless) to post a feed-based flurry of links to your website every day. Still, if you're going to post images (and you should), there are places to find them that will improve your overall presence by staying interesting while also staying on point.

In this example, we'll look at a local Ford dealership. What do they do? They sell and service Ford vehicles as well as used vehicles of other manufacturers. There's no reason for a Ford dealership to post pictures of cats. They have plenty of content available to them that would serve them much better.

  • Google - The obvious choice. It's the other form of the lazy person's approach, but it works and can still help you to stay on point. Search for specific cars. Search for engines. Search for images from the various car shows around the world. When you find something you like, post the image with a unique description. Be sure to add a localized or otherwise-relevant spin to the description. For example, if you're posting an image of a concept 2015 Mustang, you could ask a question such as, "Is this different enough to make it stand out from the current body style?" or simply make a statement such as "We can't wait to get these here in Fond du Lac!" As always, you'll want to post a link to the source, but only after you've included the image. You don't want this to be a link post with a preview generated, so add the link to the description after you've already selected the image. This works on both Facebook and Google+.
  • Shutterstock - There are various paid image galleries that offer different packages. These are particularly useful when you're posting content to your website or blog about the local area. In this example, we used Shutterstock to find interesting images of Wisconsin, the home state of the dealership itself. This gave us very sharable content (23 shares from a dealership's website isn't too shabby) on the website itself as well as a dozen images that we can share on the dealership's Facebook page spread out over time if necessary or posted as an album.
  • Your Store - This is quite possibly the most under-utilized source of content for most businesses. It's also the most useful. Sure, there are plenty of businesses that are starting to post images of their happy customers, but it's not really super-engaging content. The buyer and anyone who knows them might like or share the image, but it's not going to get liked, commented on, or shared by anyone else. However, there is plenty going on other than the customers. In the example of the Ford dealership, there are often "cars with a story" coming through service. It could be a Ford with 300k miles. It could be one that just came back from a trip in the mountains and is now covered in mud. It could be an interesting or funny bumper sticker, a cool modification that someone made to a motor, or even something very simple like a silly outfit the boss wore to work today. There's content floating around the store every day. You just have to keep your eyes open for it.
  • The Area Around You - Every place has something photo-worthy. Whether you're in a bustling metro area or a desert wasteland, there are things happening or interesting scenes that can be captured with your smartphone. Do it. I couldn't tell you how many times I would stop in every city I've been to in order to take a picture of something cool had I managed a localized social media profile in that city. Take advantage of your surroundings and you'll find treasures that your localized fans will recognize and enjoy.
  • Your Imagination - This is rarely used as well but when it's done right, it's awesome. By using your imagination, you can explore both the store and the local area and manufacture scenes that would make for great posts on Facebook (and Google+). For example, you can go to the roof of the dealership and take a picture of the lot itself, then apply tilt-shift manipulation to the image for a really cool final product. The image above was a normal image, but when tilt-shift is applied, it makes it look like it's a miniature car.

You don't need cats. You need effort, imagination, and a willingness to be interesting with what it is that you do best. Don't try to fit in on Facebook (and Google+). Try to stand out.
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When Instagram decided to block Twitter from being able to post the images directly onto the platform, we all knew it was a matter of time that Twitter would have its own variation. We didn't realize that it would only take a few days. We also didn't expect it to be such a useful portion of the app.


As it turned out, the app is very strong, possibly even better than Instagram in UI. Granted, it's not a true replacement for Instagram, but with a little manual effort it can actually be used to generate interesting content directly from the lot onto all of your social media pages and profiles.


Here's how:

Understanding the Twitter Photo Filtering Tool

If I have one complaint about what Twitter has done with their photo filtering tool, it's that it's only available through their mobile apps. It would have been nice and a great differentiator between the app and Instagram, but it will suffice.


When you take a picture of something at the dealership with your smartphone, you can then bring it into Twitter. There is a cropping tool, an auto-fix button, and the filters that many are familiar with if they've used Instagram. Adjust the image appropriately and it's ready to post.


Now, just come up with a clever Tweet to go with it and you're ready to go. If you're using a picture that you've already taken with your smartphone, no problem. Twitter allows you to either take an image at that point or insert an image already in a gallery on your phone.


Depending on your smartphone, you may face challenges if you're trying to import an image from your computer. You can always use syncing software, connect your phone directly to your computer, or just upload the picture to an image sharing site like Imgur and then download it to your phone.

Get it Posted to Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and (yes) Instagram

Now that you have it on Twitter, it's time to upload the image to Facebook, Google+, and anywhere else you might have a strong social account such as Pinterest, Tumblr, and even Instagram itself.


When posting to Facebook and Google+, you'll want to add the image, THEN add the link to the Tweet itself. When you add an image, it prevents the link from expanding. This is important because links do not do as well on Facebook or Google+ as images. Still, you want the link to the original Twitter post for a couple of reasons, most importantly to get some exposure to your Twitter account for some cross-channel promotions.


Why Go Through the Trouble?

There are easier ways to post to the various social media sites. This is a very manual effort and may discourage dealers from doing it like this. Everything listed above is done so for a reason.


Twitter is one of the most under-utilized tools for dealers. Utilizing the filters and linking to the Tweets from your other social networks allows you to highlight your Twitter account and draw in other followers. Used right, Twitter can be a tremendous marketing and communication tool, but that's for another blog post.


The other reason to do it like rather than posting directly to Facebook from Instagram is because of exposure. As cool as Instagram can be, it presents challenges in your Facebook timeline. If you're posting more than one image in a 24-hour period, Instagram photos get "batched" into an album. Neither this album nor the individual images can be liked, commented on, or shared directly from your news feed. People will have to click through to the image to be able to interact with it, and most won't. They'll just pass it right by.


Also, Instagram doesn't post directly to Google+ or Pinterest anyway, so you'll be adding them manually either way. Posting it like I detailed above to all of your social profiles takes about 2 minutes and expands the potential reach greatly.


Lastly, people recognize the filters from Instagram. It makes images look more real. It makes them look authentic. These are your images and people appreciate images that you took more than images you found on the internet. While the Twitter filters aren't exactly like the Instagram filters, they're still pretty darn cool.


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Social media is about authenticity. If you're making the effort to take images at your dealership, you should be taking the time to separate yourself from the competition by positioning the photos in the best possible light. This process, long (2 minutes) as it is, will give you an edge over your competitors and will let your customers know that there are real people behind the profiles.

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Details: Wednesday January 9, 2013, 12 p.m EST/10 A.M. Mountain Time 


Almost every single person goes online before they step foot into the dealership. The highest closing ratio and the highest gross profit are from leads to the dealership website or from organic search engine optimization. So, a dealership should focus on how to DOMINATE organic search engine optimization. It is not enough to merely show up on the first page of Google when someone types in your dealership name. You must show up numerous times on the first page of Google. Not just for your dealership's name but for any and all of your profit centers. New Cars, Used Cars, Fixed Operations. You should even show up on the first page of Google when someone is searching for your competition. Whether it is your same brand or a competing brand. 

In this webinar you will learn how to crush your competition online by creating a powerful VSEO strategy for yourself and or your dealership. We will go over successful LIVE examples as well as detail how you can create and implement immediately after the webinar

  • Sean V. BradleySean V. Bradley, Founder & CEO,Dealer Synergy. Sean V. Bradley is the top automotive trainer and consultant in the country and is currently one of the most sought after subject matter experts for Internet Sales, Business Development and Digital Marketing. Beginning as a sales consultant, Sean learned the business from the ground up holding positions at dealerships as Sales Manager, Internet Sales Manager, Special Finance Manager and Business Development Director. Furthermore, Sean is the only certified Franklin Covey Trainer and Facilitator in the Automotive Industry and a proud member of the National Speakers Association. Sean is also the creator the Internet Sales 20 Group, an intensive 3-day workshop that is designed for executive management of dealerships. Sign up at
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