We get asked frequently what search engine optimization (SEO) is. Many automotive repair shop owners aren’t clear on what that term means and how it relates to marketing their shops, so I thought I’d post an overview and hit on the very basic parts. I’ll start with the briefest description and expand outward, that way you can jump off whenever you feel your eyes starting to roll up into your head or a really big yawn coming on.
Super Basic Explanation: SEO for Automotive Shop Marketing
SEO is the term that describes the tools and techniques used to help people find your shop with a search engine like Google, Yahoo, or Bing. There are many strategies involved, but the main parts can be broken out like so:
- Content: How the text is written for the website.
- Code: How the code (HTML) and other technical parts are written or designed.
- Backlinks: How many people are linking “back” to your website (and what kinds of websites those links are coming from).
Each one of those has lots of sub-categories, and what I might be relegating to sub-category someone else might tell you is equally as important as one of those three. Regardless of how we break it down, the point is to explain that SEO is about figuring out how to get YOUR website to show up on the first page of results that come up when someone uses a search engine to find auto service nearby.
1: Content – Satisfying the People
I’m sure you have heard people talking about “keywords” by now. They are a pretty big part of SEO. If you haven’t, well, now you have. Keyword is the official term used to describe, well, the actual stuff people type into a search engine like Google. For example, if you were here visiting my town of Roseville and you wanted to find a restaurant, you might open up Google and type: “restaurants in Roseville.” If you were looking for automotive repair, you might type: “auto repair in Roseville,” or maybe “brake service Roseville,” or maybe just “auto repair.” All of these search terms become keywords in the world of SEO.
Keywords play a big role in how you build and grow your website. Knowing what terms people use when they use Google or Yahoo or any of the other guys (but mostly Google in this particular moment in history) is a big part of an SEO strategy. You want to try to get your shop to show up on the first page of the results that appear when people use keywords and phrases that relate to what you do. (You’ll notice that I am about to type the phrase “SEO for automotive shop marketing” for the third time in this article. That is me using keywords multiple times here on CustomerLink’s website to target that phrase for this article.)
Keyword strategy is a big part of what we work on when we build your shop’s share site as part of our smrt™ 2.0 Internet marketing program, and it’s a big part of your shop’s website, whether we built it for you or someone else did (if someone else built your site, and you aren’t sure, ask them!). It’s even important to keep in mind when posting on your shop’s Facebook and Twitter pages. You want to use words and phrases on your site that most closely relate to what people will actually type when they search for automotive repair.
2: Code – Satisfying the Spiders
What? Spiders! Bleh. Who wants to satisfy spiders? I hate spiders!
Fortunately for us all, these aren’t the creepy kind of spiders. These spiders are computer programs operated by Google (and Yahoo and Bing and the rest). These spiders crawl out over the World Wide Web looking for websites like yours, ours, and everyone else’s.
Spiders gather information about websites and bring it all back to Google. Google can then sort through that information and use it in its secret algorithms (fancy mathematical formulas that nobody outside of Google ever gets to see) to determine where websites show up on the list of search results for any given set of keywords.
The spiders are why building the “back end” of your website is just as important as creating good, keyword-relevant content that people actually see on the front. While your prospective customers will probably not see your website code, Google will. What I am lumping into the term code is a lot of computer language and technical skills that web developers know how to do. For most folks, it looks like a foreign language (and, in a way, it is). Google evaluates the quality of your website, in part, by how well your website works based on that code and how it is arranged; in a way, they interpret a well designed and coded website as a signal about professionalism (quality companies have quality websites—makes sense, at least in theory, right?).
So they look to see if the site works smoothly. They check to see if it really focuses on the terms it claims as its area(s) of expertise. They look for SEO “cheats” like keyword stuffing (jamming in tons and tons of the same keyword to try to trick the spiders into thinking the site is full of content on that topic), and lots of other things.
Sites that are coded in ways that make them easy to navigate, easy to “index” for search engines, and that allow for a variety of content types including text, images, videos, and even links to other pages (both within the website and to other pages), all communicate how valuable your site is as it relates to any given set of keywords. The spiders crawl around and try to figure all that out. And remember, Google’s job is to deliver the BEST results it can to ITS customers: the people searching for information online.
3: Backlinks – Bringing Them Together
Backlinks, in short, are what they call it when someone somewhere links to your website (it’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s the core of it). For example, let’s say I’m a blogger (hah, look Mom, no hands!), and I put a link to something I like in my blog. Here, I’ll link the ATI page, since they are one of our partners:
http://www.autotraining.net/. There, that is a backlink for ATI (you’re welcome, George).
So, the next time the spiders are out crawling around, they will crawl over this article and see that link. When they see it, they will think, “Hey, there’s a link to the ATI website on customerlink.com.” The spiders will communicate this to Google as a backlink. Since Google knows that our site is an established automotive industry site, Google will see this backlink as strong evidence that ATI’s website must be a good one as it relates to the automotive industry. That is good for ATI.
The more automotive industry sites that link to ATI’s website, the more good backlinks they have. The more backlinks they have, the more evidence Google has that people out there in the industry are interested in ATI. Remember, Google is using math to decide what sites are good and what aren’t. Having good, relevant backlinks matters. Google can assume that ATI must be pretty decent if lots of people are linking to their site. So, Google will use these backlinks as a way to figure out what to show people searching for a keyword phrase like “automotive training and consulting,” or whatever someone might pick if they wanted to find service like that.
Hopefully, that makes sense.
It works the same for your shop. When you fill your site up with well-written content, nice images, and maybe some videos, and all that content is focused on what you do (say, “auto repair in Your Town” or “BMW specialists in Your Town,” etc.), then, eventually, someone will start talking about you. People mention you on Facebook, people mention you in blogs, we mention you on your share site (with lots of good SEO text and code), and all of it adds up as backlink power, or “link juice,” that helps your shop get found. A big part of this is customer reviews, but that’s another can of worms, which I will cover in another post.
So, there you go. In a very, very basic nutshell, that’s what SEO is, what it means and how it relates to SEO for automotive shop marketing.
(If you noticed what I just did right there, then you were paying attention. Give yourself a gold star!)
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