“We’re Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts and we can get you #1 on Google or Yahoo in your area by using our secret (hush hush) strategy.” They drop words like “meta tags” or “embedded codes” and “hyperlinks” and “secret keywords,” but the only thing they’re optimizing is their ability to fleece you for whatever they can get.
Bryan Fikes, the managing partner and chief strategist at Zenergy Works in Santa Rosa, CA, works with an assortment of mechanical and collision repairers to enhance their websites, social media and SEO and is an endorsed vendor of the Automotive Service Councils of California (ASCCA).
“Be careful when someone promises you top rankings and makes outlandish guarantees,” Fikes said.
“If someone tells you that they can get you the #1 ranking in your city on Google, for instance, that’s a definite red flag. We never promise the top position to any of our clients, because that’s an impossible claim. It all depends on the market you’re doing business in and how long you work at it. In a narrow market with 5–10 players, it’s obviously easier. But, if you’re in a larger market with 20–50 shops competing against you, guaranteeing a top position is ludicrous.”
Ideally SEO efforts work in close conjunction with a plethora of other media and have to be maintained carefully to reap positive results, Fikes explained.
“SEO is just a spoke in a big wheel. We do a competitive analysis for each client, to determine what their needs are and how to build a plan. It might include pay-per-click marketing, blogs, online reputation defense and certain forms of social media, as well as the search optimization strategies that are specific to each customer.”
Zenergy Works provides long-term solutions that take time to achieve top results, Fikes said. “Many shops want it tomorrow, but I tell them there’s never an overnight fix. There’s no easy button when it comes to SEO, because if your competitors are also hiring people like us, everyone is vying for those top spots. The shops that have embraced this science and know how to use it will have a definite advantage now and a very distinct one in the next 5–10 years.”
Mark Claypool is the Chairman and CEO of Optima Automotive, a company that works with body shops nationwide to enhance their presence online. He has more than 25 years of experience in collision and is considered a cutting-edge expert in SEO and social media.
Claypool shared some useful tips for shops that are currently developing or re-working their websites and/or trying to improve their SEO.
“First off, you need to refresh and add new content to your site periodically, because otherwise you’re missing a wide range of SEO advantages over your competitors. We analyze approximately 50 body shops’ websites every month, and one of the things we see is that many of them have been sitting dormant for way too long. I find sites that haven’t been changed in 8–12 years, in some cases. If you don’t change with the times, you get left behind and you can lose your ranking fairly quickly.”
Claypool offered three quick tips about how to improve your SEO. “First, you need to add new content all the time, because the search engines are attracted to original, fresh content. You also need to make sure that your keywords are the best you can have. There are free tools from Google available to help you in determining that. And lastly, you should constantly be looking around to get involved in new things like Google Places for Business, mobile apps and emerging social media.”
Managing your SEO isn’t something you should assign to one of your techs or front office people to do on a part-time basis, Claypool said. Staying on top of the most recent changes with Google, Yahoo and Bing, for instance, is a huge, unending job.
“Google and Yahoo are changing their algorithms all the time,” Claypool said. “They’ve changed them at least 400 times over the years and the only way we can find out is by accessing blogs on the subject. Google just recently changed their algorithm twice and set SEO on its ear in many ways. It’s very challenging, because the only way to learn is to constantly use the search engines. We can’t predict what’s happening next, because companies like Google don’t tell us. If you’re even just 60–80 days behind the times, you’re lost—especially in a busy area where other body shops are also vying for improved search rankings.”
When it comes to SEO, finding and implementing the best keywords available is crucial, Claypool said. “Devising superior keywords is a science and based on hours and hours of research. This industry wants to get away from calling them ‘body shops’ and moving toward phrases like ‘collision repairers’ or ‘collision centers.’ But, the public still uses words such as ‘body shop’ or ‘auto body’ and ‘autobody shop’ much more than anything that contains the word ‘collision.’ Knowing the users’ habits is a big part of devising keywords that work.”