If you don’t like soup, you should still read this article. If you think your search engine optimization is doing okay, you should still read this article.  In the soup and SEO worlds, what we think we like today can be usurped by something with more flavor.

It was hard to draw this comparison on a personal level because I actually enjoy broth by itself. However, a good, hearty soup with meat, vegetables, and spices is still preferred by most. Google, Facebook, and Bing have all demonstrated that they like a robust serving of content over a thin, broth-like piece of content as well.

In the modern culture of automotive SEO, most vendors and a good chunk of dealers are waking up to the concept of unique content added regularly to the dealership’s website. There has even been an awakening that embraces the fact that tons of bad content is worse than no content at all and some website providers have been changing their platforms as a result. Now, it’s time to take it to the next level.

For those who have not embraced the content revolution, we’ll go into details about today’s content marketing strategy in a future post. For now, please stipulate that unique, high-quality content is a strong base for improvements in multiple marketing areas including SEO, PPC, social media marketing, PR, buzz, reputation, and a few dozen other important components of a dealership’s digital marketing presence.

With that understood, let’s look at it as soup. Your content is the base. It’s the hub. It’s the broth that forms the delivery of a great soup. By itself, it’s good. With the right ingredients, it can be incredible. Here are those supporting ingredients that make the difference.

Quality Inbound Links

There was a mini-apocalypse in the SEO world on April 24, 2012. It was the unveiling of Google’s Penguin update. The idea was to end the plague of link-spam that had become the preferred weapon of choice for blackhat SEO. Spammy, low-quality, non-contextual links were systematically devalued.

Before Penguin, a bunch of spammy inbound links (links from other websites pointing to your website) could artificially inflate the authority of a web page and improve its rankings. Penguin and its subsequent updates didn’t just remove their effectiveness. With enough volume, a website could be damaged as a result, even penalized. SEO products started falling apart. Entire companies, even in the automotive industry, went under and disappeared. Anyone who was using this blackhat technique was forced to change their ways dramatically or find another business to operate.

This was all a wonderful thing for those of us who were positively affected by the changes, but there was one drawback. It made many dealers fear inbound links. Because the update was so misunderstood, many wiped their hands clean of this important content-supporting signal.

There’s a silver lining to all of this in the car business, though. Since everyone was terrified of being penalized, the vast majority of vendors walked away from link-building altogether. We know of a couple of other companies that do it today and we’re proud to say that our methodology of link-earning is the most powerful out there. With over 1500 websites optimized in the last eight years using the same basic strategy (modernized over time, of course), we have yet to lose a single dealership to deindexing or penalties. You just have to know how to do it right.

It’s about relationships. Dealerships that are building their own sites or trying to invest into “networks” of websites are heading in the wrong direction. It’s about taking great content and getting it placed on respected sites. It’s about communicating with automotive blogs and other publications and bringing something of value to the table such as unique onsite resources, expert quotes from the dealership about particular vehicles, and communication with local entities such as the Chamber of Commerce to build links in an organic fashion.

Think of it like this. If you deserve a link (i.e. earn it), there’s no need to rely on building a bunch of Blogspot accounts to try to generate links. This philosophy will be loved by Google and Bing until the next major paradigm shift in search.

Social Signals

As with inbound links, this is majorly misunderstood. Google made an effort last year to debunk the concept of social signals as factors in their search engine ranking algorithm. It was done in response to the growing understanding in the SEO world through testing and documentation that social signals were working.

If the data said that they work, why would Google claim that they didn’t? To understand this, one must understand what happened to Google when SEOs first realized the power of links. I was participating in major SEO forums back in 2006 and 2007 when it was starting to become very understood how link-building affected rankings. That led to an exponential increase in the number of SEOs who were “gaming the system” that Google had worked so hard to implement.

It took Google nearly five years of chasing bad SEO practices and developing dozens (maybe hundreds) of algorithms to be able to tell the difference between good links and bad links. Penguin was the result and it finally worked, but before tens of thousands of websites had enjoyed inappropriately high rankings as a result.

Google wasn’t going to make the same mistake. Once buzz started really building about social signals (including a major SEO publication showing that in 2014, 5 of the top 8 ranking factors were social signals), Google needed to nip it in the bud. They put out the debunking video and started accelerating their plans to get a better understanding of quality social signals versus spammy ones.

In essence, they are either developing or have already developed a “Penguin for Social” algorithm.

Both Google and Bing want to trust social media. Content that is heavily liked and shared on social media gives the search engines an understanding of the quality of a page from a human perspective. It’s like having hundreds of millions of unpaid employees vetting content for them. They are desperate to master the science of understanding human preferences and social signals are the right answer. Unfortunately, it can be easily gamed.

We do not advocate attempting to manipulate social signals. Just like with link-earning, dealers should build social signals through quality content. The supporting factor (the potatoes in the soup, so to speak) is in utilizing the assets at the dealership or a partner like Dealer Authority to get the ball rolling on accumulating social signals. People are more likely to share content they find and enjoy on Facebook or Twitter than if they find it originally on the website. Share your stuff. Get people to share you stuff. Put a small budget behind promoting your best content. That’s what we do and it works exceptionally well!

Internal Links

This is an easy one but is so often missed. Link to the content on your website with your website itself. Make sure you mention important pages with proper anchor text. For example, if we want a page to rank for automotive PPC, we’ll link to it… just like we did in this sentence.

Make it contextual. Don’t overload a page. Link to your most important content from your most powerful pages such as your homepage. It’s really pretty simple.

Supporting Content

It’s not all about words. The search engines like videos. They like images. Yes, you need words, buttons, content forms, and other elements within your content, but don’t forget the things that can make the page look better and draw better engagement as well as longer time on site.

A page with images and videos is more likely to be shared on social media. It’s more likely to be linked to by other sites. It’s more likely to be enjoyed by visitors. Don’t let the SEO love for unique SEO content make you blind to the other aspects of content that make a page work better.

Adding the Spices

Yep, we’re still talking about soup. The biggest complaint I have about content on dealer websites is that it doesn’t feel personal. I can’t dwell too long on the subject because it’s so hard to quantify, but make sure your content has the it-factor. Give it heart. Give it personality. Make it invoke something from your website visitors.

When you support your content with the right high-quality supporting factors and marketing practices, you’ll give it the power to rise up above other dealers in your market who are also starting to build content.