This is a transcript of MM Podcast Episode 012: SEO and Content Marketing For Auto Dealers with Mark Frost.
Ashley: Welcome to episode 12 of the Motorcar marketing podcast. In this episode’s main segment I’m going to be interviewing Mark Frost from Wikimotive. Mark is an expert at SEO and content marketing for auto dealers. We go into some real nitty-gritty details about how car dealers can use SEO and content marketing to sell more cars so stay tuned for that.
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We’ve just completed putting together a quick start auto dealer marketing guide. You can get it for free by going to motorcarmarketing.com/guide. It’s completely free. You just put in your email address and the lessons will be emailed to you over the course of the next few days. We’ve tried to concentrate on the high-leverage things you can do with each marketing channel so you can get the maximum results in the shortest amount of time. We’ll be adding more lessons to this guide in the future, but to start out, we’ll show you how to increase your ROI and sell more cars on craigslist, how to quickly set up a Google pay per click campaign, how to begin generating leads from local search engine optimization, and how to effectively use email marketing to generate leads and correspond with your past customers. Again, this guide is completely free. Just go to motorcarmarketing.com/guide.
So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m going to be talking with SEO and content marketing expert Mark Frost. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome, Mark, to the Motorcar Marketing podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show.
Mark: I really appreciate you having me.
Ashley: So to start out, I wonder if you can give us a quick overview of your career and how you got into automotive marketing and then specifically into SEO marketing.
Mark: I started out back in 2008 with a website called dig.com. Now before this I had been mostly building small websites and blogs, and I discovered Dig through just—you want to promote a website, where do you go online? You search, so I searched and found dig and I kind of figured out hey, this is a really cool place; I can promote my website here. I can write interesting articles and people will find them and discover them. Over time I discovered that you could become a power user and you could really utilize other people in a network. And I kind of did that for awhile, and I realized that I could utilize that in my professional career, and I was discovered by someone at who took me on and gave me a blogging gig. I did that for awhile and then I moved on and did a lot of freelance work. And I maintained this big network of people who I met through Dig and they’ve really helped me build a career of social media. But at the same time I’ve also been doing writing and web design. So I kind of have a unique skill set online that not a lot of people do and that I have done marketing, writing and design. After awhile I moved on to Pack College which is one of the biggest college blogs on the web. I did writing on there for awhile and then I took over as editor-in-chief last year. I still do that on the side, but here at Wikimotive, I met up with one of my old colleagues, Erin Ryan, and she is our director of social media, and she came to me with a job opportunity in social media here. I said the automotive industry is taking off online. There is more and more demand for digital marketing. That’s something where I want to be. So I took the opportunity, ran with it and not too long later, they needed someone to take on the content side of things so I jumped into that and that’s where we are today.
Ashley: Okay perfect. So I remember Dig, and I remember back in 2008, I never really got into it. I remembered hearing about it, and I remember going on. Definitely there were those power users were getting their stuff on the first page, and I never quite figured it out. I wonder what kind of stuff were you promoting? Like you just had your own personal website. Were you doing it for money just for the fun of promoting something on Dig to drive traffic back to your website?
Mark: At first yes. I ran a lot of small sort of marketing, design, and video game-type blogs. I was a teenager, and eventually that was when I met up with a lot of people who were doing it professionally. This was on the cutting edge of things. There was no social media industry back then. I soon discovered people are being paid on the side for this, and it’s something that’s very public now but back then it was very secretive. So yes, I started making money working for a lot of different companies promoting stuff on Dig and stumbled upon insights like that.
Ashley: Okay. So let’s dig into SEO for car dealers a bit. Maybe you can just outline kind of a basic strategy. A lot of the dealers that I work with, they work with basically they’re on cars.com, auto trader and craigslist. And they’re looking for new ways to bring in some new leads so what’s kind of a good starter SEPO strategy for these dealers that are not really doing much with their website or SEO in general?
Mark: A good strategy would be to figure out exactly which user you want to target. You want to find someone who is really high-intense on buying so what are they going to be searching for? They’re going to be searching for dealers in their area. When they create content that is going to be targeting these keywords. You want to mention on your website a lot dealer in Florida, dealer in Miami, dealer in Indianapolis, your brand, Chevrolet, Ford. You want to make sure that there is a lot of content on your site that mentions these keywords that’s also valuable to the user.
Ashley: And that’s like in a blog post or just on the front page you try and customize that welcome to our website and try and customize that with keywords?
Mark: I think that’s more on the optimization side and that’s kind of what a lot of marketing companies pitch out to dealers and while it is great, if you’re optimizing your metatitles, your descriptions and your keywords throughout your site to make sure that they’re all kosher, you’re going to be all right, but you want to create some quality original content on your site that does target these keywords. So, whether it means writing a post about how to choose a dealership, or what it takes or what’s inside a great service department. You want to write about these things because not only is that going to increase the authority that your site has on that keyword specifically, but you’re creating content and that’s going to show Google and other search engines that your site’s active. It’s not just a static site that’s just sitting there. You’re creating content constantly on these keywords. That’s showing them they’re fresh, and that’s going to boost your rankings.
Ashley: So taking a step back, just to put it into context, specifically what you’re talking about is basically creating a blog. So blog.cardealer.com and then start regularly posting on this blog portion of your car dealer website. Is that sort of where you would put this content?
Mark: You put a lot of content like that on a blog or you can put how-to articles on your actual website.
Ashley: Okay. So it wouldn’t necessarily be—it would be like evergreen content potentially, just content that’s going to last.
Mark: Exactly. You want a good mix of it. I mean, what I like to write about is car-related news on a blog and then you can have your more evergreen content on the website itself. A lot of the content that you want–landing pages and that sort of thing—you always want those to, of course, be on the website, and then you want to direct the blog traffic to those pages. That’s really going to just make sure that your content is not only related to your main website but that you’re mentioning those keywords throughout those blogs as well.
Ashley: Okay. So maybe we can talk a bit—and we’ll kind of jump and maybe we’ll get back to some of the off-site SEO things—but let’s talk about content for a minute. How do you recommend that dealers create this content? Do they get their sales guys to write it; do they hire a content writer that knows the automotive industry? Do these people potentially just write it themselves?
Mark: I think it all depends on your approach. Now obviously being with an automotive marketing company, I’d say come and hire us, but if you’re unsure, test the waters. You definitely should have someone in-house to maybe write a couple of posts and really see if this is something that’s going to have an effect and if so, then you may want to take another step up.
Ashley: I wonder if you can just give us a couple of ideas to give us some specific ideas for what the title of a post would be and then what the content is. Just give us some examples so viewers know exactly what kind of content they might want to create.
Mark: So let’s say you’re a smaller dealership that operates with a lot of bad credit loans. You might want to write some stuff that people who are searching for bad credit loans might also find valuable like how to increase their credit, why they should—you know—the positives of getting a bad credit loan, meaning they’re going to report that to the credit bureau. So keep your payments on time and you’re going to receive a better credit score and you’re going to eventually be able to have better options down the road and just try and really keep things as relevant to whatever your main goal is as a dealership. So if your main goal is as a dealership is to sell more cars, write about your best-selling car. You know, if you’re a Toyota dealership, obviously you would want to write about the Camry. Write more about the Camry, make sure that if people are searching for the Camry in your area, you want to keep that going.
Ashley: Getting back to what you were saying with the geolocation, how would you maybe couch an article on the Camry—buying a 2010 Camry in North Hollywood, California, I mean, what sort of angle you could take on writing about the Camry that hasn’t already been written a thousand times before.
Mark: We’re in New England and so, not to move topics a bit but I’m new around here so I’ve seen a lot of Subarus and I would say maybe from the Hollywood angle, why Camry is a great vehicle for Hollywood, all that California traffic sitting in—you know—going zero miles an hour, you want something with good gas mileage because if you’re sitting there in a giant SUV, you’re going to be really wasting gas. So that’s an angle you could take. You could take “it’s great on gas.” It doesn’t stand out so much so you’re not going to get your car stolen, maybe not that.
Ashley: I think the Camry’s actually one of the most stolen cars out there, Honda, Accords and Camry. Okay. So now a dealer has built a blog; they’ve gotten some high-quality content on it. What can they do to promote this content? What are sort of—again, just some easy strategies for the dealer that’s just getting started where they can maybe see some results quickly? What can they do to get out there and start to bring some people to this?
Mark: You definitely want to start on social media. Social media is easily the most basic way to promote things. So your dealership needs a Facebook page, a Twitter page, Pinterest is one that’s coming up, Google-Plus, you want to have those basic four down, and you just want to keep syndicating these posts out. For these evergreen site posts that we like to create here, we send these out multiple times a week, and those can generate traffic without having to do much extra work other than scheduling them out.
Ashley: And what are some of the tools that you use to schedule these tweets and Facebook posts?
Mark: Our social media team uses Buffer. We also use Sendable for the more advanced scheduling so that will send things out every so often, every seven days if you want it, every five days. It just depends on how often you want a specific post to go out.
Ashley: But that’s what it does. You can load in basically a tweet and then you can say I want it to go every Monday for the next six months and it will just keep tweeting that out.
Ashley: Are there some guidelines you have? I would be a little bit cautious to send the same tweet out for six months. I mean, are there some guidelines you do once a month, I mean, even a nice evergreen post. It seems like your users might get a little sick of it.
Mark: Right. And that’s something that’s a little more extreme if you don’t have a lot of content. When it comes to dealerships that we work with, we’re always producing new content so we don’t always have the same posts go out every five days or so. If it’s a really good one that’s shown that people really are interested in it, all your users aren’t going to be able to see all your content every single time you post so you definitely want to kind of remind them we wrote this really awesome thing. You should really come check it out.
Ashley: So let’s talk a bit about some off-site things. One of the big things in SEO obviously is in-bound links. Do you have any advice for dealerships that maybe are trying to get in-bound links, how they can get them. I even think it would be good to mention some of the blat-hat tactics even if just to mention them so that dealers know what they are and can potentially avoid them because I think a lot of SEO people are contacting dealers. They’re like “hey, this guy contacted me. He can get me on the first page of Google; he’s going to get me this and this. I’m like well, I don’t know that you want that guy getting you all these in-bound links that he claims he’s going to get. So maybe we could just talk about some of the in-bound link strategies that you guys use.
Mark: So I think—you know—just to start out with the blackhead stuff, you’re going to probably find a lot of dealers saying you can buy a thousand links for $2,000, something crazy like that, and sure, you’re going to see those links maybe pop up in the future, but they’re going to be from some pretty low-quality sites and eventually if one of those sites gets hit by Google, you’re probably going to get hit as well which means your rankings are going to plummet and if you’ve been spending thousands on SEO, you’re going to be hurting. So you’re going to have to spend a lot of time disavowing links and that sort of thing. So that’s something you definitely don’t want to do.
For positive in-bound links, mostly it just depends on what you want. If you want to get on Forbes; you want to get on some crazy website, mostly it doesn’t really have to do with going out and asking or sending out a press release. Mostly it just has to do with putting good quality content on your site and really building relationships with people who are willing to link to your stuff.
Ashley: So that’s really what you’d say is the key like building a relationship with that guy at Forbes. I guess from a dealer, maybe it would be more automotive-related. You have the automotive magazines and those kinds of stuff.
Mark: I would say that it’s more about really recognizing where you want your links to be, and in automotive you definitely would want an automotive website linking to your stuff. But mostly it has to do with you don’t just want someone linking to your home page. You want them linking to something relevant on your site because, as much as you would want them to link to your home page, that’s not always going to fly with users. So I would say the best strategy is to definitely create the great quality content that you can and then find out where can I put this, build those relationships and get them out there.
Ashley: Do you have any advice for re-purposing content and avoid duplicate content. I mean, if you write a great post and you post it on your blog, maybe you can easily spin this thing and then get it posted in other places as well. Do you have any advice on something like that just in terms of how dealerships might be able to successfully re-purpose some content?
Mark: Can you give me a quick example?
Ashley: Well, like as I said, if you write a really great post on driving Toyotas in Hollywood, you might want to rewrite that article slightly and then try and put it on, using your example, forbes.com, just re-purposing that content, putting it onto other sites. I mean, I know these people who are basically selling these black hat SEO packages. I mean, that’s essentially what they’re doing. They’re writing one article; they’re spinning it a thousand times, and I think that there is a place for that if it’s done correctly. Again, you want it to make sense. A lot of this black hat stuff is just pure gibberish, spun in a way that doesn’t really even read properly, but I think that there is some opportunity to re-purpose content so you’re not constantly rewriting the same, constantly having to come up with brand new stuff every week.
Mark: That’s not something we’ve ever thought of as re-purposing just because we want to avoid duplicated content as much as possible. But I can see how if you wrote a really great article on leasing is better than buying, that you would want to kind of take the meat from that and maybe spin it a bit and create something on a different site.
Ashley: Let’s talk about some of the—like, in the old days it was like the Better Business Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce—have you seen dealerships able to get links from some of those types of high authority sites in their local area?
Mark: I think that all depends on the dealership itself. I don’t think our job is really to get those types of links; it’s just a little more difficult and it also just takes a lot of time in order to acquire those. If a dealer really wants those, getting their reputation out there definitely can get those.
Ashley: So, let’s talk a bit about Wikimotive and what you do there. Maybe you can give us sort of the two-minute elevator pitch for what you guys do and how you can help car dealers.
Mark: We’re pretty much a full-service automotive marketing company. We provide SEO, social media, and reputation management. The SEO side of things is what I manage, and I manage a lot of the content. So what we really focus on is creating long-form evergreen content for these dealers, targeting the keywords where we do a lot of keyword research, constantly finding which keywords are going up, going down, and figuring out which of these are the most high-intent meaning if I’m searching for a car, am I going to search for this keyword or that keyword? And then we want to target that keyword and create content around it and make sure that our dealers are ranking for it.
Ashley: Perfect. So that’s great. Mark, you’ve been very generous with your time. I think you’ve given some great tips for us. I really appreciate your coming on the podcast.
Mark: I appreciate it. Thanks so much.
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On the next episode of the motorcar marketing podcast I’m going to be talking with Amanda Ryan from Wikimotive. She is a social media marketing expert. I recently read an article she wrote about Pinterest for car dealers. Pinterest isn’t something I really know anything about so I asked her to come on the show and explain it to me. In our discussion we really dive into the details of using Pinterest effectively so keep an eye out for that episode next week.
Just a quick thought on today’s interview with Mark. At the end of the podcasts, I come on and make a case for getting out there and at least trying some of the things that we talked about in the episode. I would say SEO and content marketing which is really just a part of doing SEO is something you might consider outsourcing to a reputable company like Wikimotive, the one that Mark works for. SEO is great and it can obviously work really well, but it’s not easy and it can take a long time.
With a lot of the things that I’ve talked about on the podcast like craigslist marketing or Google pay per click or Facebook ads or even email marketing, you can see at least some small results fairly quickly and those modest results can guide you and help you to get to know the channel better. With SEO it’s a much more complicated formula. There is a lot of ins and outs; there are a lot of shady companies out there that can really hurt you in the long run and sell you a bunch of tools that really will not help you. It’s not uncommon to take three or even six months to really see any tangible results from SEO so you’ve really got to be invested and make a commitment to it. It’s not something you can just quickly do. So if you’re going to try it for yourself, that’s great, but definitely realize it’s going to take quite a long time to get up to speed and see some actual results.
Anyway, that’s our show. I hope you got some value out of it that can help you grow your business. Thanks for listening.