Google AIS Custom Search

signals (9)


For the last 7 years, I've been watching Google very closely. Sure, they are in the news all the time so it's not something that's exactly hard. What has been more challenging is keeping up with their long-standing obsession with social media and understanding why it's so.

They have some big wins (YouTube, Google+) as well as dozens of losses (Orkut and just about everything else that they've touched that smells social). They looked at Facebook before Microsoft jumped on first. They took a long, hard look at Digg during the social news site's heyday, then suddenly bailed out the moment they opened the books and saw the duct tape coding underlying the site.

Google knows two things very well about social media:

  1. If they have any chance of truly transcending beyond technology to gain a true understanding of intent and desires, they need to get a ton of social data.
  2. They haven't been able to crack into the type of data that Facebook has about people.

Google+ is similar to people, but does not hold the attention of its users. It will get there. It has to. It's Google's last, best hope for getting this data.

The reason they want it so badly is because just about everything they rely upon (search, advertising dollars, fulfilling the hopes and expectations of their customers, just to name a few) as a company would be exponentially improved by understanding true sentiment. They have all of the data that people want. They just don't have an easy way to perfect the delivery and usage of this data.

With this understanding, it's much easier to anticipate what Google will do with their advertising platform as well as their search engine. They are close to perfecting the latter, believe it or not. Most will point to the rapid pace in which Google makes changes to their search algorithm, but that's not an accurate characterization. They made major changes with Panda and Penguin. They made a minor (and completely overblown) change with their recent Hummingbird update. What we see now is close to the end game. Now, all they need to do is tweak it and wait for the next breakthrough.

They have achieved at plateau. Rather than major algorithm changes, they are now in the mode of perfecting the results by turning knobs rather than making the major changes that have hit every year since 2007. The holistic view of Google search that allows optimization to be broken down into the three major components (content, inbound links, and social signals) will not change until the reach a tipping point of understanding social data.

What's the point of all this? That part is harder to explain. For years, I've been reading and experimenting the best ways to market on Google. Now that they've reached a plateau, the anticipation game has changed. Those of us who try to stay on top of current algorithm trends while looking ahead to the changes can sit back for a while. What we see is what we're going to get for a while. It's all about the three components. However, there is one thing that hasn't manifested itself yet that technically changes everything.

The primary reason that Google wants to understand social data and personal sentiment is because they are on a quest for quality beyond the empirical data itself. The data is as good as it's going to get through pure technology. They cannot advance the understanding of sentiment any further until a breakthrough. Today, the great search marketer will be doing two things:

  1. Put out quality content with the proper mix of high-quality inbound links and social signals to improve rankings today.
  2. Put out quality content with the proper mix of high-quality inbound links and social signals with the understanding that once they achieve their goal of understanding sentiment, the quality component will make the search rankings soar.

As you can see, it's an approach that will kill two birds with one stone. There are challenges with the data that Google cannot reconcile today. For example, if someone wants to find a phone number for a business, they might search, click through to a website, find the number, and leave. This takes seconds and technically from Google's current perspective this wasn't a successful endeavor, especially if the searcher then clicks back to the search results and goes to a different site. Even though the mission was accomplished by the searcher, Google will count this as a bounce and a short time on site.

On the other hand, someone might be looking for something in particular, land on a page from a Google search, click around trying to find what they wanted, get frustrated when they can't find it, and leave. From Google's perspective, this was a good visit. From the searcher's perspective, it was an utter failure.

This is the type of sentiment that Google wants to understand. They want to know if you like what they presented to you. They want to know if their information was useful to you. They want to know if a website they "recommended" by having it listed first in the search engine helped you achieve a goal. Today, they can only guess. Tomorrow, they may be able to find out with a near certainty. At that point, we'll see the next major upgrade in search. One might even call it "quantum search" since it would probably take a quantum computer for them to make sense of all that data.

Thankfully for them, they're building a quantum computer right now.

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Social Signals Significance in Search

If you do a search on Google for “search marketing” and compare it to a search for “social marketing”, you’ll see that there are pretty much no similarities. The two disciplines have been separated for a long time and companies usually focus on one or the other (though it seems like everyone offers a little of both). As 2014 draws nearer, the need to keep these two disciplines separate is starting to fade.

In fact, talking about them separately is starting to become a huge mistake.

Search is getting more social. Anyone who is watching the way that Google and Bing present their results and determine rankings on keywords can see this. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest (not to mention Google+, which is trying to seamlessly tie in search with social) are all becoming more prominent in search while continuing to improve their own internal search engines. These two facts are pushing us towards a collision course where search marketing and social marketing are becoming the same overall concept.

It is already a best practice to consolidate strategies around a singular overarching goal. That has been the case for years, even before the rise of social and the true harnessing of search. The change that is happening today and looking to intersect completely in 2014 is geared more around the activities that are required to make both sing properly for a business.

Search is looking to social

All that one has to do to truly see the importance of social signals from a search engine optimization perspective is to look at the most recent Search Engine Ranking Factors analysis from Moz. As you can see in the image above, three of the top are social. One may think that it’s a small portion compared to the number of factors, but with the majority at the top of the list having to do with inbound linking, it’s clear that those are all individual portions of the same basic factor.

In other words, if you break it all down properly, you’ll understand that page authority is #1, Google +1s are #2, inbound links are #3, and Facebook sharing is #4. Page authority is an abstraction of the following three plus the domain authority itself, so the actual actions that are at the top of the list would look like this:

  1. Get Google +1s
  2. Get inbound links
  3. Get Facebook shares

Two of the top three ranking factors that one can act upon to improve rankings in Google are social signals according to the survey that gets the opinions of the best of the best in search marketing. That’s significant.

Social is a part of search

It’s hard to do a search on either Google or Bing that does not pop up something from a social perspective. Bing recently integrated Pinterest directly into their image listings. Google+ pages are instantly added to any search where a business is associated.

Searching for companies by name will yield the company website first followed by a flurry of social and review sites. If the Facebook and/or Twitter accounts are active, they’re almost certainly listed on the front page of search results.

Taking it a step further, most social sites are working their own variations of internal search engines to make content on the sites themselves easier to find. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are constantly tweaking their search engines to show more, more, and more.

What it all means

There can no longer be two separate strategies for search and social. To try to separate them is like trying to serve portions of a meal at different times. Instead of giving them spaghetti and meatballs, you would be serving the spaghetti noodles first, then bringing out the sauce and meatballs on a separate plate when they were done with their noodles. It’s an odd analogy, but that’s really what many businesses and marketing agencies are doing with search and social.

The strategies must be unified. It has worked okay in 2012 and 2013 but as we draw near to 2014, the distances between the two disciplines must be removed. We cannot treat them as two different disciplines. They should be worked together with an overall strategy that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

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The rise of content marketing and more importantly the focus that Google and Bing have put on website content engagement have changed the way we view the types of content we put on our websites. It’s no longer sufficient to focus all of your content on the basic search engine principles of keyword targeting. You have to have content on your domain that draws in the important social signals and time spent on site.

In other words, your websites have to be interesting to a wider range of people, not just those specifically looking for your products and services.

There are several types of content that go on websites, but the two we’re going to be talking about here are the two most important content additions. There is basic content that is relatively stagnant on your website; product descriptions and inventory items rarely have to change, for example. There are other types of regular content additions that somewhat influential as well such as press releases and service announcements. Those are the content types that we won’t be covering.

What we will be covering are often called different things depending on who is describing them, but I look at them as conversion content and conversation content. These are the pages that should be getting added to your website regularly and on an ongoing basis. If you can only focus on one major discipline when it comes to enhancing your website traffic, search rankings, and social significance, creating these two types of content would be the activity that I would wholeheartedly recommend at the top of the activity list.


Conversion Content

For those marketing a website, this is arguably the easiest to understand from a needs basis. This is the type of content that should have an immediate impact. It’s usually geographically targeted and almost always product focused, so there’s a clear understanding how it can help.

For example, a Honda dealer in Irvine, CA, should be ranking well in Google for the various Irvine searches with their homepage alone, but they may need to create a content page called, “2013 Honda Accord Santa Ana” to have a landing page geared towards those in neighboring Santa Ana.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything, and as a general rule anything that’s too easy is probably the wrong way to do it in the eyes of Google. In other words, automatically generating dozens, hundreds, even thousands of pages to hit the multitude of targets is the wrong way to do it. The practice is relatively common, so common that it often takes Google time to catch those who are doing it, but in the end they catch everyone. This type of blackhat conversion content creation leads to destruction (i.e. de-indexing or even a penalty).

Real conversion content creation is a manual effort, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be tedious or time-consuming. The page mentioned above should only take 10-20 minutes to create depending on what content management system is being used. It’s not rocket science nor does anyone need a PhD in SEO to make it happen. They simply need to create a page with lead generating tools on it that has visuals in the form of images and/or videos of the product and content describing it. The content itself doesn’t have to be long – a paragraph or two works though a little more would be better – and it can still be conversational.

There is no need to make the content keyword rich. As long as the title tag is set up properly and the content mentions the target keywords somewhere in there, that should be enough to start targeting the keyword appropriately. When you try too hard to get the keyword, you often make it harder to get.


Conversation Content

This is the type of content that I often have the hardest time convincing people to build. It goes against the nature of old-school marketing that has been embedded in most of us. In essence, conversational content has nothing to do with converting a visitor into a lead or a sale. It’s often whimsical, only loosely relevant, and seems to bring no value other than to entertain or educate.

Today, it’s the content that can have the biggest impact on search and social marketing. With conversation content, the goal is clear as day written in its name. You want conversations. You want people talking about the content on social media. You want people saving the content in their bookmarks. You want people talking to you about the content in the form of comments.

The image above was taken from a conversational piece of content titled “7 Charming Honda Vintage Ads”. There is very little chance that a Honda dealer is going to have any of the cars being advertised on the page. The page is not designed to sell anything, in fact. It’s designed to get shared. It’s designed for people to see it on social media sites, click through, and reminisce.

Most business website pages outside of the blog are not shareable. Sure, they might have social sharing buttons on them, but nobody is going to share an inventory details page of a 2009 Honda Civic. They aren’t going to share a service appointment page, a specials page, or an about us page. People share content that they find interesting.

Just as you want to be in the conversation with pages on your website, people want to share content on social media that can spark conversations. A page like this one will encourage people to share on their social networks because it’s interesting to see things such as vintage ads.

Social signals don’t just help with social media popularity. They don’t just help with the search rankings of a particular page. Their most important influence is that they help a domain rank better. The more pages that are on a domain that are getting shared well on social sites, the better chance they have of ranking for similar keyword terms as well. This dealership might not care about whether it’s ranked for “Vintage Honda Ads” but it certainly wants to rank for “Dallas Honda Dealers”. Social signals through conversation content pages help to this end tremendously.

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As you continue to push the envelope and watch your digital marketing evolve, it’s important to keep in mind that things aren’t always obvious. They’re clear – that much is certain – but the techniques and strategies that have lower adoption rates such as creating the types of content in this article can be the differentiators between your own marketing and the marketing of your competitors. If you’re creating these types of pages and your competitors are not, you have the upper hand. It’s that simple.

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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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When the topic of SEO comes up, many people envision HTML code and meta tag adjustments. They think of keyword stuffing. They consider the bounds set by the OEM of what they can and cannot do with their websites and how far they can push the boundaries to extend their market reach.

They don't usually imagine finding cool images and videos of epic cars or amazing places, but that's one activity that dealers and SEOs can do to affect their overall search rankings as well as reach out to their communities with amazing and sharable content.

Today, social has become a tremendous SEO tool. Content is the key to true social interactions. The best content is informative, fun, or both. You should see where I'm heading with this, but just in case...


Step 1: Find Content that YOU Enjoy

There are two connections between our virtual world and the real world that need to be noted. On one hand, you have the "sell sell sell" mentality that often prevents dealers from adding content to their website that isn't totally on point with the goal of the dealership: more sales. On the other hand, we're car people. If you're in this business, you love cars (at least you should). As such, thatconnection should definitely come through to the online presence of the dealership but it's often absent.

Above, you'll see an image of a 1956 Ford F-100. It's one of the coolest trucks (in my humble opinion) that was ever built. Why not pay tribute to it on a Ford website? That would be fun, right?

Perhaps more importantly, it can help your search rankings as well as your social outreach by doing so. Find content you love. Then...


Step 2: Put It On Your Website

The most important part here is attribution. I'm not a fan of stealing content. Whenever possible, use images that you've taken. If you must use the internet, there are sites such as Shutterstock that allow you to pay for content images and they have tons of pictures of both cars and locations. If you're going to rely on Google to get the images, be sure to attribute the source with a link to them. They are supplying you with content that will help your website. The least you can do is help them back by supplying them with a link.

With that out of the way, let's talk content. The reason that you're supposed to find content that YOU enjoy is because you'll be able to write much more easily about it. If it's something that you don't care about, it'll show in your writing. If you adore it (just as I adore the '55 and '56 F-100's I used in this project) then it'll show.

There doesn't have to be a ton of written content. If anything, that can be a detriment to have too much. Let the images or videos speak for themselves. With that said, you musthave some unique content on the page or it won't last. One, two, maybe three paragraphs is plenty.

Make it personal. This doesn't have to be the Wikipedia version. It can come from your heart. At your soul, you like cars, right? Let that shine through in the writing. Speaking of Wikipedia, you have to fight the urge to copy and paste. The content must be unique.

Check out the page itself on Holiday Automotive's 1955 Ford F100 page.


Step 3: Make a Couple of Quick SEO Decisions and Apply Them

It's great to have fun with your content, but you want to be able to get a benefit out of it without risking loss of a customer. The first benefit is to help with your search rankings. While it's possible for the page itself to rank for terms associated with F-100s, unless you're a classic truck dealer you're not going to benefit from this.

Instead, use the page to help your domain rank better in general and to help another page rank better for a specific keyword. In this case, we're going to work on getting the homepage ranked for "Wisconsin Ford Dealers", a keyword that they're currently not hitting with on page one. There are two other SEO benefits that we'll talk about below.

The other decision that you'll want to make is whether or not to include the page in your navigation. In most cases, one-off content like this should not be in your navigation. You want to drive traffic to a page like this through social media. No need to distract your normal website visitors with a "fun" page.

The exception to this rule is if you're going to create a lot of pages with amazing content. In such a case, you may want to consider having a section of the website dedicated to this type of content. It can be "Amazing Ford Vehicles through the Decades" with collections of pages similar to this one. It could be "The Best of the Best in Chicago" with pages dedicated to the amazing things and landmarks within the city. There are many options, but a time commitment is required. If you go with occasional one-off pages, you should probably keep them out of the navigation.


Step 4: The Social Buttons

Most pages on most dealer websites have social buttons. Some even go so far as to have toolbars at the bottom or "Share This" widgets. These are acceptable for most pages because, let's face it, nobody's sharing your site anyway. These toolbars and share widgets are smoke and mirror tactics used by some vendors to sell... nevermind - that's another blog post in the future.

The share buttons you'll want on a content page like this will be the ones supplied by the sites themselves. We recommend Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest, though some may want to include others such as Tumblr, StumbleUpon, etc.

This is the second (and arguably most important) aspect to helping your SEO. Both Google and Bing have acknowledged that social signals play a role in the search rankings of a domain. For the most part, the content on dealer websites is unsharable... until now. These types of pages can be shared if you have the right content and the right social accounts in place to share them.

This is where the disclaimer must be made. This isn't A Field of Dreams. Just because you build it, that doesn't mean they'll come. At KPA we have accumulated some incredible social media experts that give us the resources to make sure our dealers get the social signals they need for success. Some would say it's the unfair advantage that keeps us at the top in SEO. It's definitely possible to get social signals without the "power accounts" that we have in our arsenal, but that, too, is another blog post altogether. For now, do what you can and even "fake it 'til you make it" by having employees, friends, and even family share the page on social media. After all, it's a content page. It's not like you're asking them to spam their social friends with a car for sale. This is an epic Ford F100. Share away!

Finally, you'll notice the "Embed this Image" code. This is best for infographics but it works for images as well. This is to assist in helping to get links to the page, which brings us to...


Step 5: Get Links to the Page

The concept of "link bait" is still a valid play in the SEO world and this type of page qualifies. However, unless you're able to drive massive traffic to the page, you won't get a ton of links organically. It's time to share it yourself.

Find content sites that would like to see this type of content on their pages. You have blogs (even your own blog), Tumblr, and other content sites that love compilations. In this case, we used Buzzfeed as well as some blogs.

As you can see in the image, we link again to the target keyword and include the images as the content on the page. The text content is unique - no copy and paste here either. It will only take a couple of links to get this particular keyword ranked if you're using the right sites.

Google's Penguin update is looking for link spam, so don't participate in those types of tactics. If you're going to be building a lot of links, make certain that it's natural and organic. Building links that all have the same anchor text is one thing that can trigger the algorithm's filter.

Do it the right way or don't do it at all. To much is at stake. In this case, the handful of links that we built will not hurt the domain and will help to get it ranked for our target keyword. It will also help the overall link authority of the domain. Whenever participating in link-building, always think quality over quality.


Step 6: Social Outreach

Now that you've got the page and supporting pages built, it's time to share it. If your social media pages are strong, it's as simple as sharing it by creating an image gallery. Keep in mind - this will not count as a Facebook like or Google +1. You can share the link from the page itself on your social channels but they will not get as much exposure that way.

Photos rule.

I did, however, link to the page in the comments.

The goal here is to drive some traffic. It won't be much, but if your social media presence is strong you'll get some traffic to it, particularly from Twitter and Pinterest. The goal is to "double dip" with the content so that you're allowing it to help your social pages to flourish. It's great content. Share it!


Step 7: Rinse and Repeat

Set a schedule for yourself. It could be once a week, once a month, or once in a while, but be sure to set aside some time to creating these types of pages. A content-rich website supported by links and social interactions is the key to overall success on both the search and social fronts.

A final note - this is fun and once you get good it can all flow very efficiently, but it does take understanding. If anything at all in this was unclear, please reach out to me. This isn't one of those things in automotive internet marketing that can be done partially well. You either do it right or you do it wrong - there's very little grey area and there's even less room for error.

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SEO is Dead... for those who can't keep up

Every few months, marketers around the blogosphere start the next batch of chants that search engine optimization is dying or dead. It's like clockwork; Google makes a change, their pages rank poorly, they declare that the party's over. I think I've written about the topic at least once a year since 2008.


The chants are starting again and I'm here to tell you that, as usual, they are premature. I'm not so naive as to make a statement like "SEO will never die," but the thought that the death is here is silly. It's not dead. It has changed. It changes frequently - perhaps more frequently in recent months - but it's not dead yet. In fact, those who are doing the right things are finding that their rankings are actually improving.


Why They Always Pronounce it Dead

Since the dawn of SEO, there have been tricks that work for a short period of time. We've always taken the stance that anything that smells like a "trick" will not last and should be dismissed. This concept has helped us to stay on top of our searches and the keywords of our clients.


For example, 2007 saw a major increase in the effectiveness of social news and social bookmarking links. It was almost too easy - if you submitted a piece of content to Digg, it would rank for easy keywords within a few hours and for tougher keywords in a few days. Smart marketers refused to play this game knowing that Google would catch on and instead learned to use sites like Digg and Reddit to drive real SEO juice by posting powerful content and exposing it to the social news world. This still applies today for many sites, though they are fading quickly from relevance (except Reddit, which is growing).


Any time one of these tricks stops working, the SEOpocalypse is declared.


The most recent change that has everyone up in arms is the devaluing of automated links. Footer links, sidebar links, link farms - Google and Bing both have found ways to not only discredit these links but to make them harmful when done too much. SEO is dead... for those who couldn't keep up with these changes.


Why SEO isn't Dead

Thankfully, smart marketers did not participate in the automated link-building programs. Personally, I'm shocked it took as long as it did for Google and Bing to figure it out. There was a time in late 2011 that I was starting to doubt my choice of not having our SEO team get in on the link-automation trend. I was getting questioned by some within the company because the path we chose, one of unique content and contextual link generation, was much more expensive to operate than the automated ways.


The corner was finally turned with the Penguin update and subsequent tweaks and my choices were vindicated.


Today, content is no longer a tool for SEO. It is an overarching concept that includes SEO as part of its mandate. In other words, the tool is now the goal and the goals of SEO, reputation, branding, and social media marketing all revolve around quality content.


When you're out there reading about the marketing trends of 2013, take note of those who are pulling away from social media or SEO and those who are pushing forward. This is easy for me to say since it's the direction that my company is heading, but it happens to be the truth. Quality content that people can enjoy, proper link-building and social signal practices that revolve around this content, and social media marketing that doesn't rely on funny cat pictures - these are the real trends that will drive proper marketing in 2013.

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It was the 2011 Driving Sales Executive Summit when I was asked by Joe Webb to participate in a debate about Twitter followers. I had around 100,000 followers at the time and he wanted me to argue for the side of quantity being more important than quality. This made perfect sense except for one fact: I don't believe in quantity being a more important factor than quality. I did back in 2008 when Twitter was bright and shiny and "churning" for Twitter followers was a common technique, but those days are way behind us.


Today, size still matters. It's not the total size that counts but the size of your engaged audience. Under most circumstances, I hate using buzzwords like "engagement" but it fits perfectly here. Your engaged audience is all that matters from a business perspective.


Let's look at a handful of social networks for examples of how quantity and quality fit into the models for marketing in each. We'll focus on three areas: fan base (likes and followers), posting frequency, and interactions with others.

On Facebook

This is the big daddy in social media and deserves to be up top.

  • Fan Base - This is the most important component when discussing quality versus quantity, particularly for localized businesses. National and worldwide brands do not have to worry about it as much, but when you're promoting a local car dealership, you actually want fewer fans that are outside of your area. An ideal Facebook page fan base would be comprised entirely of locals, of people who would be willing to drive to the store. I'll take 500 local fans over 10,000 fans spread out any day, even if 500 of those spread out fans are local. Why? It's all about demographic and advertising. Facebook ads are extremely powerful and pages that are loaded with irrelevant fans actually hurts your ability to market to the locals. It drives up expenses and can make you look like a cheater to those who see your page and wonder why so many people outside of your area seem to like your page.
  • Posting Frequency - There are two different strategies here. On one side of the spectrum, you have the business-only Facebook strategy that puts up 2 or 3 posts a week all related to business and advances these through Facebook ads. EdgeRank will not be favorable to this strategy, but EdgeRank goes out the window with proper advertising in place. The other side of the coin is to go after 1-3 posts a day (or more) with the hope of being a part of the conversation on a daily basis. This works fine as well. The pages that fail are the ones that are posting constantly. This becomes noise and forces people to hide you from their news feeds. They aren't here to see a bunch of posts from businesses. They came to Facebook to see little Timmy sliding into third base. Don't overpost.
  • Interactions - Again, quality is better than quantity here, but it's less of an issue on Facebook. If you're posting comments, liking, and sharing the posts of other pages regularly but not too much, you'll be fine. The biggest challenge I've seen is in having people log in as their Facebook pages and actually interact. Most are willing to comment on their own posts when people respond to them, but it goes deeper, or at least it should.

On Twitter

The biggest problem that most businesses face with Twitter is automation.

  • Fan Base - I've seen accounts with 1000 avid and engaged followers that have more power and get more interactions than accounts with 250k followers. This is a big problem, the ease in which people can buy fake followers to bump up their numbers. It's a joke, really. Focusing on getting real people who are active on Twitter to follow your account is gold.
  • Posting Frequency - It's not really possible to overpost on Twitter. Posting too many at once is a challenge because flooding followers' feeds will make them unfollow you, but it's possible to get a ton of posts out there every day without making people too upset. However, automated posting tools such as RSS posters or Facebook post integration is a mistake. On some of the accounts I manage, I post over 20 times a day, but every single post is done manually. I schedule them - I'm not on Twitter 24/7 - but everything I schedule is manually vetted. More importantly, they're all hand-crafted. You can get more out of a properly written Tweet than five RSS-fed Tweets any day.
  • Interactions - I'm rude. I don't reply to every single person who Tweets at me or retweets me. It's not because I don't appreciate the interactions. It's because I don't want to flood my followers' feeds with a bunch of "Thanks for the Retweet" posts. As a general rule, interact with those who put in the effort. In other words, you don't have to talk to everyone who pushed the retweet button, but if they typed something specifically at you or added their two cents to a conversation, it's best to interact right back at them. Keep it fresh and don't talk to spammers.

On Pinterest

The newest big hotness in social media is making a splash on the business side. As a result, there is a need to understand the quality versus quantity aspect as it stands now. This can change as the site continues to grow, but for now here are some best practices.

  • Fan Base - For businesses, this is the only social network where size really does make a big difference. You can still be effective without a ton of followers, but they definitely help. Just like with Twitter, there are buying services available that let you bump up your numbers. Just like with Twitter, this is a terrible idea. You can grow your following by posting regularly, tagging appropriately, and interacting with the accounts that are also posting content that you like.
  • Posting Frequency - The first thing I do when I see my Pinterest page flooded with someone else's posts is to unfollow them. The elegant way in which Pinterest displays their feed makes it easy to spot the overposters. To me, the magic number is 10 a day if you can spread it out and no more than five at a time, but some would say you can post more in a day but should post less at a time. Make your choice based upon your schedule; if you can log in and post three or four times a day, post 1-3 at a time. If you're logging in once a day, get 3-5 out there during your Pinterest session.
  • Interactions - Pinterest and Tumblr are the social networks where it's okay to operate strictly from an interaction perspective. Twitter is as well when used strictly as a communication tool, but unless a business is truly dialed in and has integrated their Twitter into their standard operating procedures, they'll get more benefit by proactively engaging. Pinterest and Tumblr are sharing machines, so even if you never post your own original content, you can still be successful by simply being a strong curator. The benefit here is that it's easier to get engagement when you're working with other people's content.

This doesn't mean that having no friends, followers, and fans is a good idea on any social network. It simply means don't focus on size. Stay true to keeping things rolling along in the right direction and the right followers will find you.
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For the past several years, content has been a component of search engine and social media marketing that fell far below the tricks and techniques that helped achieve business goals. It was possible to be successful with limited or low-quality content. In fact, there are those who were able to succeed with no content at all, fooling the search engines and social media sites with methods that proved to be more fruitful than actually creating content that the audience wanted.


Those days are finally behind us. It has been a long time coming, but now that search engines, social media sites, and people themselves have seen through the tricks, it's a whole new world in marketing. Today, content rests at the top of the marketing funnel with search engine optimization and social media marketing reduced to components of an overall content marketing strategy. Here's what it all means:

Why Content is Finally King

Despite the proclamations of many marketers over the years, content has not been "king" until very recently. It was always useful, but great content without supporting inbound links would not rank and great content without strong social media promotions would not go viral. Things have changed.


Amazing content that is useful, entertaining, or both now has a better opportunity to be seen through both search and social. Google is finding the content more easily, making it possible for it to be found without having to artificially inflate the inbound link count. Today, link-building is still an extremely important component of a proper search strategy, but it must center around quality content rather than boost up poor content.


Good links are still powerful and high-quality content can help to generate these links. With a little seeding, the links can come in more easily than in the past when most of the links that marketers created were bulk rather than quality.


From a social perspective, there's still a distinct need for some promotions. Unlike Google, Facebook and the other social media sites will not actively find your content. However, by getting it a little promotional exposure by sharing it and focusing on it from the website homepage or landing pages, the content can be found. From there, it's a matter of allowing the content to be easily shared.


Rising social sites like Pinterest and Tumblr are ideal for seeding the promotions of content. It can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ as well, of course, but the tighter communities on Pinterest and Tumblr actually create an easier path to take content viral on social media than the larger sites. There's a need for a strong account or two to promote them, but it's not as involved as building power accounts on Facebook or Twitter. One can be exceptional at Tumblr and Pinterest very quickly.


Content is at the top of the marketing food chain. It's the spark that generates search marketing links and social signals. It's also the source of social media sharing. Rather than use content for SEO or social media marketing, smart marketers will switch it up and use the content as the central point through which search and social marketing can flow.

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As the convergence of search and social continues to become a reality, it's important for dealers to understand that they need content on their websites that can be shared. People will not share inventory on Facebook. They won't tweet specials out to their followers. They won't click the Google +1 buttons on your pages unless you specifically ask them to, and there simply isn't enough people to ask to really have an impact.

For the social signals component of SEO to work properly on a car dealer website, there has to be content that people are willing to share. This is a challenge because it goes against everything we've learned over the years about staying focused and posting only what is relevant to selling more cars, getting more people into the service bay, or increasing parts and accessory sales.

First, let's get an understanding of how social signals work for your websites.

What Are Social Signals?

There are certain tiers of social signals that may or may not affect search rankings. At the top level, we know based upon testing and SEO industry insights that Google+, Facebook, and Twitter all have an influence on Google rankings while Facebook and Twitter have an affect on Bing rankings. Anyone who contests this isn't paying attention to what is happening in the outside SEO world or they don't have a solution to account for it so they're sticking their heads (and the heads of their clients) in the sand in hopes that it will go away.

The next tiers of social signals are debatable and it's best (for now) if dealers only use them if they have the time and manpower to dabble. If you are pressed for time and need to focus on what definitely works, the big three listed above are plenty. If you can mess around with Pinterest, Tumblr, Foursquare, Instagram, or any of the other emerging social sites, go for it. They do not have tested and proven affects on search rankings but many believe they do.

Why Are They Important

Google and Bing are both heading in a relatively new direction with their algorithm. For a couple of years now they have been more focused on the idea that social signals give their insight the human-curated they have always craved, but this year the dabbling into social signals has emerged into something tangible.

For Google in particular, the results have been dramatic. We've been able to move extremely challenging keywords up in the rankings quickly using just social signals and proper internal linking structures. With some attributing up to 1/3rd of the tangible algorithm influencing factors to social signals (with inbound links and onsite content accounting for the other 2/3rds), not having a social signal strategy means you can get, at best, 67% of the optimization potential if you do everything else perfectly.

It happens on two levels: the page and the domain. Each page that gets social signals has an opportunity to rank better, period. That goes without challenge. The second component that some would debate but that testing has proven to be correct is that social signals affect the overall optimization of a domain. In other words, posting great pictures of an individual car and getting a good amount of Google +1s, Facebook likes, and Tweets can help other pages on your website rank better as well.

The Examples

Now that you hopefully understand what social signals are and why they're important, let's take a look at the four things you can post on your website today that can bring additional social signals. First, here's a portion of a webinar we did on the topic. It's not the entire webinar, but it covers the four examples we talk about here:


1. Great Cars

You are a car dealer. You have great cars. Post them on your website! I'm not talking about pictures of your Ford Focus inventory. I'm talking about the cool, sharable cars that you have. Most dealerships have cars whether hot new vehicles or cool trades that grace their lot. If you run out of those, find images. A Chevrolet dealership could find a handful of cool pictures of the 1973 Chevy Camaro, for example.

2. Local Images

Every dealership in America is surrounded by interesting places. If you're close to a major metro, there are probably landmarks or skyline images that people in the area would love to share on their social media. In the example in the video, a Seattle-area dealer had a page dedicated to the Space Needle.

If you're not in a metro area, you likely have wonderful natural settings that can make for a great image page. These images can be loosely relevant to your website because it focuses on the local area that you are targeting, but the most important thing to remember is that these images, once shared on social media, help your website increase its overall social signals for the domain.

3. Local Organizations, Events, and Charities

This is where videos can really make a difference. Your dealership is likely associated with some local events, charities, or other activities that are relevant to the local audience. Getting the locals to share these activities as they're posted on your website is much easier than getting them to share your inventory or specials.

4. Infographics

Social media is a visual realm. With thousands of infographics easily available to post on your website, you have an untapped source of content that people will be willing to share. The key is finding the right ones and writing up some quick but thoughtful text about it.


A Tree Falls in an Empty Forest

It's not enough to post the content. You have to be able to get it shared. For many, you'll have to rely on your employees, friends, and even family to get the signals rolling. The more it's shared, the better. Unfortunately, this is a "fake it until you make it" strategy, but it works.

Over time, you'll be able to either build up your own clout in social media to get it out there or you may want to consider promotional teams to get the word out. Either way, it starts with the content. Once you have the content that is worth sharing, getting it shared is possible. It's not easy, but you've done harder things than getting something popular on social media.

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