Lessons from SMX Advanced Day One

Day 1How content and another barrage of Google updates have changed the game for Automotive Search Marketers

SMX Advanced is now behind us and digital marketers have finally landed back at home to digest all of the great information gleaned from the conference. Within the SEO industry, content creation has become a major part of what we do. For the good ones, it’s become second nature. If it hasn’t, you’re no longer an SEO, or, at least you will be soon looking for a new job. As a result, this year’s SMX Advanced Seattle based a huge majority of its presentations around Content Marketing and how to properly create and execute Content Marketing strategies.

On a more technical level, there were also a few lessons to be had for how to tackle the most recent Google Updates and how to better optimize sites for local search engine traffic. The latter is extremely important for Tier 3 Automotive as dealerships greatly rely on a steady stream of local customers.

If you couldn’t make it out to SMX Advanced for yourself, here’s a presentation-by-presentation breakdown of the first day through the eyes of an Automotive Search Engine Marketer.

Google My Business Dashboard
Google My Business Dashboard

Let’s Talk Local Search: Super Therapy Session for Advanced Local Marketers

In the automotive industry, local search is becoming an ever-more important part of what we do as SEOs. After all, it’s the people within 50 miles of a dealership that will make up a huge majority of your customer base.

Just prior to SMX Advanced, a major social media update was announced by Google. Google My Business was unveiled as a major update/replacement of the old Google+ and Google Places pages. This update will affect automotive dealerships and other businesses, large and small. In later Grease Monkey posts, we will go further in depth with how to optimize Google My Business pages, but for right now, here’s the gist: You can choose between three different types of business: Storefront, Service Area and Brand. This addresses one of the major issues with the old Google Places and Google+ properties: the complete inability of Google to discern between brands and their storefronts/franchises.

Like most Google updates, once it was announced, it’s basically been already implemented. Right now, the old Google+ and Google Places pages are already in the process of being converted to the new Google My Business Pages, and is largely complete. Much like the old pages, they must be claimed if you already have not done so.

The information from these Google My Business pages is pulled directly into the Knowledge Graph, but unlike the old pages, you can better optimize these pages for images, as they are pulled in much more quickly than from the old Google+ pages. This addresses a major issue with the outgoing Google+ and Places properties.

ORM’s place within SEM

This presentation also addressed Online Reputation Management and its place within search. While it’s been long established that ratings do not directly affect rankings, they can be used as brand building factors that can affect foot traffic. It’s also why it’s one of our company, and many other companies’, services. In any service industry – especially automotive, ratings can make or break you as it can discourage potential customers from even setting foot in your door – even if pricing is extremely competitive.

Rating sites that are most important to focus upon include Google Reviews as they are pulled directly into the Knowledge Graph, so any search of your dealership’s name will pull up that star rating. Plus, Yelp reviews are extremely important as those ratings are pulled directly into iPhone searches in much the same way. While you can’t control ratings and the ratings themselves won’t get you ranked higher on Search Engine Results Pages, they can persuade and dissuade potential customers from ever walking through your business’s doors – especially when search platforms are pulling these ratings into their user interface.

25 Social Media Ideas for the Advanced Search Marketer

As the old adage goes in SEO, Content is King. But how exactly do you come up with that content without wasting your time on creating content that will never see anyone’s eyes? The secret, according to this presentation, was to rely on the Scientific Method and research, test, repeat.

But how do you research on the internet? There are several tools and metrics that can be used to capture this research and create really good content that can help you not only build rankings, but build your brand.

Keyword Research, while much of the true traffic information is still hidden by Google, still has a major place in SEO. If you create content for keywords that won’t have any search traffic, then actual, human eyes will never see it, will never link to it, and it will never truly help you build a voice on the internet.

Other research can be had through Social Media itself as people put a stupendous amount of data about themselves into their social media properties. You can pull a huge amount of demographic data about people who are already interested, and engaged with, your brand. You can pull insights like age, education level, and more from your social media properties and also see what kind of content resonates with your fanbase, and in turn, your potential customer base.

Matt Cutts (left) and Danny Sullivan duke it out on the stage at SMX Advanced Seattle
Matt Cutts (left) and Danny Sullivan duke it out on the stage at SMX Advanced Seattle (Image Courtesy of Search Engine Journal)

You & A With Matt Cutts

If there’s anything that’s a must-see at a major Search Engine Marketing conference like SMX, it’s the delicate SEO/Google Engineer dance between Search Engine Land Editor Danny Sullivan and the Google Head of Webspam Matt Cutts. Sullivan, an SEO, asks rapid-fire questions while Cutts desperately tries to not divulge too much information while giving us just enough to keep us interested.

In the middle of several rapid fire questions by Sullivan, Cutts jokingly said, “That’s why Google Engineers don’t go to conferences like these, because we get asked questions like this.”

Despite his better judgment, Cutts made several big announcements thanks, in part, to the poking and prodding of Sullivan. One such announcement was the rollout of the second part of the Payday Loan 2.0 update, which we, as SEOs, all thought was over a couple of weeks ago. Instead, Cutts said that what hit webmasters alongside the Panda 4.0 update affected spammy websites while this week’s update will be affecting spammy queries. The Payday Loan 2.0 update specifically affects sites about casinos, Viagra and short term loans, hence the nickname.

While this update didn’t directly affect automotive, this should make automotive SEOs wary as it shows that Google is more than willing to go after specific industries who are more than willing to take part in Black Hat SEO.

Speaking of updates, Cutts also hinted that a Penguin update may be on the horizon as the last few big updates have been devoted to Panda. Penguin specifically affects sites with spammy/unnatural links that have little to do with the site. In order to insulate SEOs from future Penguin updates, much was made about Google’s Link Disavowal tool in Google Webmaster Tools. SEOs may have to be much more mindful of this tool in the future with yet another Penguin in our future.

Other rapid-fire confirmations included the fact that earing Author Rank will be more ever-more important and, of course, that having a responsive site is an absolute must in today’s internet. Also, while Google may have spammy sites down pat, spammy videos have had a free pass up to this point. Cutts said that his cadre of engineers are working on a solution that will knock down videos with deceptive titles, etc. Videos may be the big golden frontier for simple SEO right now, but we must be willing to create excellent video content to insulate ourselves from any potential updates in the future.

All in all, not a bad first day at SMX. Stay tuned! You’ll get the full breakdown of SMX Advanced Day Two tomorrow.

Dan Patrick is the Digital Media Group Manager at Dealer Product Services. He also served as a SEO Analyst and Copywriter at Walgreens, CouponCabin, and LocalLaunch! Prior to his career in Search Engine Optimization, Dan was an award-winning newspaper and magazine journalist in the Chicagoland area. In his personal life, Dan is a major automotive enthusiast, having attended major events including the Rolex 24 at Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and the Indianapolis 500. Thus far, he has attended major events for Indycar, NASCAR, NHRA, TUSCC, ALMS, GRAND-AM, TRANS-AM, and more.

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