Search is the entrance to your business, with Local SEO and DealerOn VP Greg Gifford


Posted on January 4, 2018 in CredoCast, SEO

Greg Gifford is a mensch, the VP of Search at DealerOn, and the owner of an epic beard. I’ve been friends with Greg for quite a few years now, and over the last few I’ve watched him grow his team over at DealerOn, focused on the auto dealer SEO space. Greg is a master at Local SEO and speaks the world over, so I was super happy to get to speak with him about Local SEO, how they sell work (consultants, listen up!), and how they are growing a high-touch agency focused on the SMB space.

Greg on Twitter

DealerOn

Transcript

John: Welcome back, everyone, to the Credo Show, where I, John Doherty, founder of Credo, talk with best in class experts, domain experts in the world of digital marketing, to unpack what they think about all day, what they talk about, what they know. I learn from them. You learn from them and everyone gets smarter.

Today I have with me Greg Gifford who’s the Vice-President of Search for DealerOn, based out in Dallas, Texas. Greg is one of my beard brothers down there. I’ve known him for quite a number of years now. Our dogs have even played together. So, Greg is a buddy of mine. I love seeing him at conferences and hanging out.

So today we’re gonna be talking about Local SEO and especially Local SEO for multi-location businesses. So how you scale SEO for businesses that have a lot of different locations, whether you’re an auto dealership or an HVAC company or whatever. Obviously, Greg knows auto really, really well. But that’s what we’re gonna be talking about today. So Greg, welcome to the show. Thanks for being here. Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?

Greg: Thanks for having me. Oh jeez, I’ve been doing SEO for ages. I actually started off as a Flash designer, which is kind of funny now that Flash died.

John: I didn’t know that.

Greg: But I’ve been doing Local SEO for probably 10 years now. I’ve been in automotive that whole time. So I’ve always specialized specifically in the automotive vertical. But I do stuff outside on the side. So I’ve done a lot of stuff with attorneys and I’ve done some stuff with restaurants and bars too. But mostly auto dealer stuff. So, lots of stuff at massive scale.

John: Nice, nice. So why Local SEO? Why’d you pick Local SEO and why automotive specifically?

Greg: Well, back when I was doing the Flash thing, I had my own Flash website company. And then I rolled that in with a couple of partners, to make it bigger and we quickly figured out that stuff wasn’t showing up in Google. Because Flash wouldn’t show up.

John: Because Flash…

Greg: Yeah. So I started off as a black hat, without knowing I was a black hat. So we figured out ways to get that content to show up. Which now I’m like, “Wow, that was way black hat.” So that’s how I really got into SEO. And then when that crashed and burned and I had to jump ship, I just happened to get a job as a Flash designer at an automotive company, 10 years ago. And very quickly they were like, “Wow, you own your own company, you’ve done all this stuff. You should be way more than a Flash designer.” So they put me in charge of the whole marketing department and that’s when I really dug into legitimate SEO. And just being the fact that it was automotive, it was, you know, a necessity to know Local SEO. And I just have been in Local ever since.

John: Awesome, awesome. So…if someone is watching this and they don’t know what Local SEO is, especially like multi-location, you know, SEO at scale, can you give me like…? Give us the quick, like, if you’re pitching a startup, how would you describe Local SEO?

Greg: Yeah. I do this all the time, because we’re talking to car dealers all the time trying to explain to them how it works. So there’s really two different kinds of SEO. You’ve got regular, traditional SEO where you’re optimizing elements on and off a site, to influence how that site shows up when somebody goes and types the keywords into Google.

But there’s a different algorithm for the local results. And so with that, there’s still a lot of overlap in the things that you’re doing, but there’s additional things you have to worry about in local. So that’s Local SEO, is the additional extra things you tack onto regular SEO. And you’re only targeting results in a specific geographic area.

The way we usually explain that to somebody that doesn’t understand it is say, “Hey, look, if you’re in your office and you type two words into Google, ‘Pizza delivery,’ it’s gonna spit out a list of pizza delivery spots right there by your office. And then if you go home at night, you type the same two words in, ‘Pizza delivery,’ and you get a totally different set of results, even though the same words were searched.”

That’s when people kind of get the light bulb and go, “Oh yeah. That makes total sense. I get it, I’m looking for pizza delivery. I need something local and Google figures that out without me telling it.” That’s when we jump into the explanation that Google has all these searches that they can analyze, and they know for certain verticals, the user actually wants local results, whether they specify a city or a neighborhood or not.

And we’re talking to those types of businesses that know, “Okay, yeah, that’s gonna apply to me. I’m a doctor, lawyer, plumber, restaurant.” You know, Ace, Cash Express. Whatever. Multi-location locksmith kind of thing. That’s when those people go, “Oh yeah, I get that. I’m not an e-commerce guy. I do either a brick-and-mortar business or I do service in an area. Local SEO is what I need.”

John: Yeah, gotcha. And so, maybe you’re like…I mean, Pizza Hut isn’t great pizza obviously. But, like, it’s a well known pizza brand. So say you potentially own, like, five Pizza Huts in the Dallas area. Right? And so when someone searches pizza and they’re where your office is or they’re up in, like, you know, Denton or Farmers Branch or wherever. Like, if you have one in each of those areas, a different one’s potentially gonna rank for pizza delivery when you type it in either on your phone or on your laptop, right?

Greg: Exactly, exactly.

John: Yeah.

Greg: So Google’s gonna know where your location is based on either the IP address of your laptop or desktop, or by the location of your phone. And your results are actually gonna be localized based on that. So you could do the same search on your phone and drive a mile away and do the same search and your results can be different, depending on what it is that you’re searching for.

John: Fascinating. There’s recently that piece about, I believe it came out last week from the time we were filming this at the very end of August, about the number of searches, the near me searches. So like pizza near me or barber near me or tattoo artist near me, that’s actually not growing nearly as fast as other stuff. Mostly because, potentially, Google is teaching people that you don’t need to type that in, in order to get, like, very local results.

Greg: It makes sense. Because when people first moved, and that was really more of a kind of an offshoot to the fact that as you had Google Now and Siri, you’re doing your searches… And my Siri just popped up on my phone, because I said Siri. You’re doing your searches in a more conversational manner than typing in a few keywords here and there.

So as that happened, people started changing the way that they were typing in their search phrases, and they would always say “Near me” to specify I want something by me. But people have now figured out, if I’m on my phone, it’s gonna show me the closest stuff anyway. So the near me searches are tanking. Which is crazy, because everybody’s out there trying to…for the last year or two, trying to figure out, “How do we optimize for near me?” And all these people are figuring out all these correlations of like, “If you’ve got more reviews on Google, you’re gonna show up in near me searches and all this.” And now it’s like, yeah, nobody’s doing near me searches. It doesn’t matter.

John: Right. Exactly. It’s almost like a seasonal business, where, like, you can be driving a bunch of traffic and all your rankings are up. Love it. You should transcribe that and send it to me. Good work, Siri. Maybe I can order some…

Greg: Siri just said, “If you insist.” Okay.

John: Go away, Siri. That’s awesome. I love voice search, it’s crazy. So I wanna talk about two things. One, it might actually be interesting to talk about voice search for like auto and local. But first of all, what I wanna talk about is, like, so at DealerOn, you have a big team. Right? I mean, you’ve built out a huge team over, what, the last 18 months, something like that. And you work with auto dealerships. What percentage would you say have, like, multiple locations?

Greg: Oh gosh. I would say probably at least 30% or 40% of our clients are clients that have more than one location.

John: Okay. So, 50%, 60%, 70% have one location? So it’s like a Ford dealership in Dallas. But then you might also be working with…is it auto dealerships that have multiple locations in one city? Or they might have one in Dallas and one in Houston and one in Austin?

Greg: So, yeah, it’s both. So we’ve got some dealerships that are spread out over multiple cities. I’ve even got some groups that are spread out over, like, two or three states.

John: Wow, okay.

Greg: And then I also have situations where I’ve got four or five stores that are all in one city maybe even on one city block but they’re actual separate locations and separate brands.

John: Gotcha.

Greg: So it kind of runs the gamut. And then I do have a lot of individual stores, where I only have one store. But that store is part of a group that has, you know, 100 stores.

John: Right, right. I gotcha.

Greg: So it’s kind of all over the place.

John: Gotcha, gotcha. So you might not have the whole, like, all 100 dealerships. You have just like one that’s in this family.

Greg: Or two or three or whatever.

John: Two or three or whatever. Yeah. Gotcha, gotcha. And this is a big question, but like say you have a family of dealerships that you have 10 of them, right? Where do you start? And, you know, like if I owned a car dealership or if I owned, you know, a family of car dealerships like this, how do I even know how I’m doing, how I’m performing?

Greg: Something that we do is we call it a mini-audit. So it’s actually…I can’t remember the URL. But you could probably look it up and drop it on the blog if you want.

John: I’ll put it in the show notes.

Greg: I wrote it on Search Engine Land about it.

John: Okay.

Greg: And it takes maybe 15, 20 minutes and you’re spending five minutes looking at the home page, a couple of minutes looking at internal pages, two minutes looking at links, two minutes looking at a citation report. A couple of minutes looking at social. A couple of minutes looking at reviews. So you’re hitting all of the high points and at, you know, a 20-minute investment of time, it gives you a pretty good idea of what kind of overall status they’re in.

So if they’ve got a lot of link problems, you’re gonna find that out really quick, because you’re on that link report. If they’ve got a lot of problems with site optimization, you’ll know that. That way, when we go pitch someone or talk to someone, we can say, “Hey, look, we did this audit and here’s all the deficiencies you have and here’s all the things that we can do to help you fix that.”

John: Yeah.

Greg: A lot of times too, yeah. I speak at tons of conferences, because we’ve…you know, want me out there talking to auto dealers and telling them how to do this stuff. And that’s gonna help them wanna come buy from us. And so when I’m talking to people live, I can do that same kind of mini-audit process live.

So we can sit down with a dealer and say, just pull up a laptop, “Hey, let’s look at your site.” “Hey, look. Here’s this. This would be better this way,” or “Let’s look at your links.” And so, it’s really kind of walking them through the process of these are the most important factors that are gonna influence your visibility in these local searches. And here’s the deficiencies you have and what you should do moving forward to fix it. Whether you do it with us or whether you do it with somebody else.

John: Right, right. So if I’m the owner of, you know, this family of dealerships, like, what are the things that I should be looking at? What are the things that I should know, before I even come speak with you? Because it seems like a lot of people, and I see a lot of SEO projects coming through, you know, where people are like, “Oh, we just need more business. Like, our business isn’t as big as it should be.” Or like “Our business has, you know, dropped off and we don’t know why.” What kind of investments should people do?

Greg: A lot of people don’t know the right metrics to look at to judge success. What’s crazy is you’ll have car dealers that’ll spend 25 or 30 grand a month on pay-per-click. But then they totally balk at spending a couple grand on SEO. Because with pay-per-click, it’s, “I put this money in. I get these leads. I sell these cars.”

And with SEO, it’s, “I put this money in and I know I’m getting some leads. But are they really coming from me? Or are they really coming from somebody else?” It’s just a lot tougher to prove specific ROI like they can with pay-per-click. But the thing is…what we always say is, search is the tip of the spear.

When it comes to…especially in automotive, it’s not a simple e-commerce purchase where you’re just fighting against Amazon or Best Buy or the big-box stores. It’s the second biggest purchase you’re gonna make in your life, behind your home. And you don’t just sit down and buy a car. You do months and months of research and comparison shopping.

So, regardless of where the actual lead source comes from, for either that walk-in lead or that phone call or that form lead off your site, everything starts with a Google search and people are always going to be looking on Google first. So you just simply have to be there. You have to do SEO. You have to do PPC.

John: Yeah, you have to do PPC. You have to do Facebook re-targeting. You have to be doing all of those things.

Greg: You have to do everything.

John: Yeah, totally. I mean, when someone comes in… I mean, once again, if I’m a business owner and, you know, I’m investing in SEO and, you know, people are coming in through the door, like, what can I do to find out what kind of return, you know, you’re getting on your SEO spend? Like, obviously, you can look at Google Analytics and get that, you know…like, see that traffic there and see form submits. But people actually walking in seems like a bigger, you know, a bigger problem. They look on their phone and then they drive to your car dealership.

Greg: Except the thing is, most of the time with car dealers, the average now is people visit 1.2 dealerships before they purchase. So you don’t have the behavior that you used to have where people will go to multiple dealerships and test drive multiple cars. At the point somebody walks in, you’re pretty much guaranteed that person’s gonna buy it from you because they’ve already done all the research.

John: Because they’ve done that research online, because they found you in pay-per-click or Facebook or Google.

Greg: Or wherever.

John: Or wherever.

Greg: They’re coming into the store because they want to do that test drive to make sure, “Hey, this is the car I really want.” But most of the time, if they’re coming in, they’re buying from you.

John: Right, interesting.

Greg: So as far as, like, attributing success, what we try to do is educate people that you can’t really use rank tracking as a metric for success when it comes to Local SEO. Because everybody’s results are so localized. Like you said a minute ago, you go a mile away and your results are different.

John: Yeah.

Greg: Now, that doesn’t mean you’ll show up here and you won’t show up a mile away, but maybe you’re number one in this physical location and you go five blocks away and you’re number three. And you go three blocks past that and you’re number two. That rank tracking software that you’re using is gonna show you one snapshot of one spoofed location, and not the real world results. And if you obsess over, “Oh my God, yesterday I was number one and now I’m number two and my SEO sucks,” well, that doesn’t mean anything.

John: Right.

Greg: So we always try to educate everyone, and I do this at just general marketing conferences too, outside of automotive, that you can’t really use rank tracking anymore in local SEO as a metric for success. You should still do it. You want that health check and you wanna know that baseline.

But the thing that really matters is, how is your organic traffic improving over time? If you’re doing good SEO and you’re coming into a business that was not doing SEO and does not have good visibility, you will see an increase of organic traffic over time. You will see an increase of leads from organic traffic over time.

John: Yeah.

Greg: Now, we do also have a lot of clients that come to us that just, you know, they’re a car dealership that’s been there for 30 years, and it’s a smaller town. Or maybe it’s a bigger town and just through sheer luck… Because a lot of car dealers are very involved in the community. So they get a lot of these local links and a lot of local mentions. They do all of the things they should be doing for SEO, without doing it for SEO.

John: Sure, sure.

Greg: But they start to realize that now automotive is a bit behind everyone else. So everybody’s really just starting to jump on the SEO band wagon. So now their competitors are starting to do SEO, and they’re worried they’re gonna lose this number one spot they’ve just naturally gotten. So we’ll get clients that’ll come in and say, “Hey, look, I’m not expecting to double my traffic or whatever. I’m number one. I wanna stay number one. So do my SEO for me.”

So those guys, it’s not a metric of, “Are you getting more traffic? Are you getting more leads?” It’s, “Are you keeping the traffic that you have enjoyed for so long? And are you keeping those leads and maybe getting a better quality of lead out of that?” So there’s no, you know, hard and fast rule of this is how you judge success. It really depends on each individual client and where they started and what their end goal is.

John: Right. So when someone new comes in to you, you know, you have a new client, what are the things that you immediately start off with doing for them? What are the major things that, you know, you can do to really move the needle or that you check?

Greg: It’s different every time. So we have…because we’ve had to scale this up and we have this big team, we basically have a framework of this is the general framework of what’s going to happen every month.

The way we do things is a little different than a lot of other agencies. A lot of agencies that work in a lot of different articles, we’ll typically have a team based approach where you’ll have a content team, an optimization team and a social team and a link building team and a PR team. So you have all these various teams that will all chip in and do things. But with us…

John: And then you have an account manager. It’s like the hub and spoke model.

Greg: Right.

John: Yeah.

Greg: So for us, because we are so specific to one vertical and we know it’s always auto dealers, sure, maybe it’s Ford or maybe it’s Chevy, but it’s automotive all the time. So for us, each consultant does everything. So one person does everything for the dealership and we have a maximum of nine accounts per consultant. So one consultant will never handle more than nine accounts.

John: Yeah.

Greg: So that way, the level of output is just a completely different playing field than what they’re getting from all the other guys. Because the other guys have this team based approach where somebody’s just ticking down a list and writing a blog post for this guy. And then a blog post for this guy and then a blog post for this guy.

For us, since one person’s doing everything, they really understand the business and they understand the local area. So it’s just…it’s a cooler approach for us. It’s a better way to sell it, because people understand the value of, “I don’t really understand SEO, but it makes a lot of sense to me that one person’s doing everything for me.” I formed this relationship and I know this person. And I don’t have this account manager that’s the hub of…a spoke of 20 different people that might be touching my account in a month, that doesn’t really know me.

John: Right.

Greg: Now, it makes it easier for us to do that because we’re in one specific vertical. But it’s still difficult, because it doesn’t scale quite as easily. Because it’s basically every nine accounts, I gotta have another butt in the seat.

John: Right, right. Totally, yeah. Literally, the way to scale it is to grow a head count.

Greg: Hire more people. Yeah.

John: To bring in more clients, which is why you have a lot of people on your team now. Yeah. That makes sense. So it’s an interesting model. And when I worked for Distilled, we had the same model at first, then we built out, like, content teams and outreach teams and that sort of thing. So the more, like…had the consulting parts and, you know, I was doing link building for my clients that I was also consulting with, and eventually we had a link building team. And, you know, that’s kind of how we scaled it it’s changed now a bit. So I’ll actually be interested to see how your model changes over time. It will be fun to watch.

Greg: It’s one package for us, too. So it’s not like, you know, in an agency setting you may have some guy that’s over here paying 2,500 bucks a month and some other dude over here that’s paying you 25 grand a month. We don’t have that. There’s a little bit of variation in price because we have a couple of deals with manufacturers and do it at a discounted price. But we basically fall within about a, you know, $500, $600 price range of what our prices are. It’s that same framework and… I got a little sidetracked, but you had asked what we do first.

John: Yeah.

Greg: We have that framework and we just do an assessment. We do a little bit more in-depth audit at the beginning and figure out what the pain points are.

John: Yeah.

Greg: So most of the time we do a lot of content work upfront because who cares if you do everything else right and you show up well? If your website sucks, it’s not gonna convert.

John: Website sucks. You have no content and it’s misspellings all over the place. Yeah, it makes sense.

Greg: So it’s we do a lot of content work. Yeah. So we set that base with the content. Then if citations are messed up, we’re gonna go clean those up. That’s a quick one-time thing. Let’s go get these knocked out. Bang them out at the beginning. Its table stakes. It’s your ante to sit at the poker table, you know. It’s not something you have to do all the time. And then moving over…

John: And what tools do you use for that?

Greg: Do what?

John: What tool do you use for that?

Greg: So we do manual stuff and then we use Moz Local and we do have some Yext accounts too.

John: Okay.

Greg: We’re a Yext partner. I was super excited for the beacon. So if anybody from Yext is watching, bring the beacons back, because that beacon product was killer.

John: Foot traffic, right?

Greg: Yeah. So the beacons are really cool because there are beacon products out there right now but it’s basically not…the cool thing about Yext was I could have multiple beacons in a single location. So I don’t just need a beacon at the front door to know who’s coming in, because there’s multiple business centers within the dealership. They could be coming in for service. They could be coming in to buy parts. They could be coming in to buy a used car. They could be coming in to buy a new car.

So if I can put a beacon that’s, you know, maybe a 5, 10-foot radius on individual beacons in different parts of the dealership, I can start tracking who’s there for what reasons and then I can do re-targeting on Facebook later on. And these audiences update automatically. It was really kick-ass.

John: Unbelievable.

Greg: So I was really bummed at that.

John: That’s the future.

Greg: But the thing is, nobody really got it, other than me. And I wasn’t a big enough client that was gonna sell a lot of beacons.

John: Right, right. Gotcha, gotcha.

Greg: But yeah. So we do have [crosstalk 00:20:43].

John: You’re ahead of your time, Greg.

Greg: But we knock those citations out and then it’s really just kind of an assessment of, “Does this guy need a link clean up?” If they need link clean up, we’re gonna do that. If they don’t, okay, then let’s go build some links. Or maybe this guy has a whole lot of content problems that we’re gonna spend the first two months doing content. Or this guy’s got great content, but we need to optimize it.

So we use that framework of time to say, “Here’s what in a normal month you’d spend X amount of time on this, and Y amount of time on this, and Z amount of time on this.” But it’s gonna be individualized based on the level of overall optimization when that guy comes in.

John: Yeah, gotcha. So you’re laying that base of like, “Does your site load, you know, at all?” Does it load quickly?

Greg: Right.

John: Do you have content that’s gonna converge? Do you have high quality photos? Do you have your name, address, phone number sorted out, like, correct on every page of your site? And then going and looking at citations and then, you know, looking at competitors probably.

Then from there you’re building, like, the individualized approach to it. How does that individualized approach change, you know…how is it different between a person that has one? Like there’s one Ford dealership in the area, or if there’s like 10 of them? How do you do it at scale?

Greg: So it just kind of depends, because sometimes in a group situation, they treat each…even though the entity of the group owns these multiple stores, they still treat each individual location kind of as its own thing.

John: Yeah.

Greg: So they’re almost competing against each other.

John: Yeah.

Greg: Other situations, it’s, you know, you’re pushing out the same messaging on all these sites. So a lot of times with the group stuff, they wanna have the story of the auto group on every site.

John: Yeah.

Greg: But you can’t just throw the same thing on ever site and same messaging. Then it’s becoming creative in how many different iterations of the same story of this dealer group that you have to write. Or how many iterations of the about us page where 75% of the page is the same history and then it’s one paragraph about how this dealership is new and it’s doing its own thing.

Then you’ve got all the different deals and specials and all of the social accounts. And a lot of the groups wanna have one single social account on Facebook and Twitter and whatever, for the whole group that may have 10 different brands. And they’ll have one location to get all of their reviews. And so we always try to say, “Hey, look, it’s important for offline marketing – business cards, billboards, print, TV, radio, that sort of stuff – to have that group portal site to push everybody to. But for the individual stuff, it just doesn’t make sense.”

I was just having a conversation with a guy an hour ago on a sales call about how they had a Ford, Lincoln, Mazda store. But a lot of the manufacturers, compliance wise, won’t let you just have a single website that has those three. So they have to separate Ford and Mazda on two separate websites. Now, they can have a group site that has everything, but they have to have the individual sites.

Well, a lot of these groups are saying, “I wanna be like Best Buy,” or “I wanna be like Amazon. I just wanna have my one group site to feed all of my inventory there. So now I’ve got like 5,000 cars and anybody in the three state area can find whatever they need.” The problem is, you go from having this individual, single point store’s website where the entire website is optimized around Dallas, Texas, to now you’ve got a group site where, sure, maybe you’ve got a ton of inventory but the geo-location, keyword relevance here is 100% Dallas and here it’s maybe 2% Dallas. Because you’ve got all these other cities and you can’t optimize every page for Dallas, Texas.

So, Google just does… And you don’t have the citational stuff, because all of those citations are gonna be for the individual rooftops and pointing to the individual rooftop. So you don’t have this citation side. You typically don’t have the social side. The content side’s not gonna be as optimized.

So those group sites just never show up as well, because they don’t have all the local SEO signals that Google wants to have to rank a local business. So all these guys that wanna go that direction are trying to put all their eggs in the wrong basket, and then they’re not gonna show up as well. And plus, there’s a whole side of it. Let’s say you have 25 stores. Why would you wanna feed everything into one store and try to make that store show up, when you’ve got 25 stores that could show up really well in each individual area?

Let’s say five of those stores are all in Dallas proper. Why would you go from having five possible search results on the page to one? So a lot of it is just education, of talking to these guys of like, “Look, I get the idea of what you’re doing in your head, but we’ve gotta play by Google’s rules and by the way that customers search.” And a lot of times dealers don’t search the same way that customers do, because they’re in the industry and they use the lingo. And they don’t understand that somebody that hasn’t bought a car in eight years doesn’t search like that.

John: Right, right. Totally. They don’t even know the questions to ask at this point. So, yeah. Gotcha, gotcha. Yeah. I think that was actually gonna be my next question, is like the one canonical site, with individual pages for each of your franchises or whatever, versus having individual domains and individual sites. It sounds like you more go towards the second one than the individual sites, individual domains. When do you recommend that someone has a corporate site like that, with those listings? Or do you recommend that they have it but not optimized towards it and optimize these other ones?

Greg: So, typically what we will do is we’ll say, “Look, have it and use it for all your offline stuff and your business cards. Just don’t spend money trying to do SEO on it.” If you’re gonna invest in SEO, invest in SEO on the individual rooftops. Leave that group site for your offline marketing. And you can do some pay-per-click stuff towards it too. It’s just those individual rooftops. Especially if it’s the same name, like if it’s Greg Gifford Ford and Greg Gifford Chevy, and Greg Gifford Honda. That Greg Gifford auto group is never gonna show up better than Greg Gifford Ford or Greg Gifford Honda.

John: Right.

Greg: So it’s educating them on that. But then there are situations, like I talked to a guy that was in like…I think it’s Montana. But he was somewhere where his Ford dealership was the only new car dealership in like a 200-mile radius.

John: Wow.

Greg: And it’s a bunch of these really small towns. And like, you know, a lot of dealerships are selling 500, 600, 700 cars a month. This guy was selling like 25 cars a month, because it’s just super rural.

John: Yeah.

Greg: And so, he’s got a group of like 10 stores, but each of these stores is so geographically isolated, like, why do you wanna spend SEO on 10 stores when you could, in that situation, put all your eggs in one basket on the group site? Even though you have to have the individual sites for compliance. You put all your marketing effort into that one site, and you’re still gonna rock it because there’s just not a whole lot of competition.

John: Right. Totally. So it’s very dependent on the location and all of that as well?

Greg: Yeah, very much so.

John: Yeah. Gotcha. Interesting, interesting. What other questions have I not asked that we should know about, especially automotive SEO at scale?

Greg: Jeez. The big thing that really when it gets to scale, when you’re talking more than, you know, 20 or 30 locations, the really big problems that come in tend to be on the content side and the link building side. Which are really the two most important signals. And the real reason that pops in is, again, because of that group messaging. They wanna push the same stuff out to all of their sites and it just becomes very hard to write useful…and forget about unique. You can go write unique content. But making it actually useful and relevant.

John: SEO content, screw that. Yeah.

Greg: Yeah. I mean, making actually relevant, useful content for someone that hasn’t bought a car in six years and is trying to figure out if they wanna buy a car. And they may be going to two or three of your sites and if you’ve got the same messaging on every site, then that doesn’t really differentiate you or make them wanna buy from any one of those sites.

So it’s making compelling content on those sites. And then the problem with the link building too and the big situations is, you’ve got these auto groups that… Like I said, dealers are just inherently really involved in the community. They do a lot of real world, old school, real company shit, like Will Reynolds would say.

John: Yeah, yeah.

Greg: They’re always [crosstalk 00:28:50].

John: True marketing.

Greg: Tournaments and 5Ks and things like that. And sometimes it’s for marketing, and sometimes it’s just like, “Hey, we’ve been in this community for 50 years and we’re just a part of this community. This is something we wanna do to give back.”

John: Right, right. We do it every year and we enjoy it and we see our friends.

Greg: Exactly.

John: Yeah.

Greg: And so they do all that, which is great and it’s great for link building. The problem comes when you have the group situation and everything they do is branded as the group. But you’ve got 25 stores that need links, that aren’t getting links because you’re not doing this golf tournament as Jim Bob Ford. You’re doing it as Jim Bob Auto Group.

John: Right.

Greg: You can’t say I’m gonna go as Jim Bob Auto Group and sponsor this golf tournament, but I’m only gonna send links to one of my 50 stores.

John: So what do you do?

Greg: It’s really difficult to do that link building when the group think is, “I want everything to go towards my group identity.” But the necessity for SEO is you need to split stuff up among the individual stores.

John: So how do you… I mean, if you have, you know, Jim Bob Auto Group that has Jim Bob Chevy and Ford and Honda, how do you earn links to each of those, you know, different web properties?

Greg: It just becomes…typically, when we’re working with bigger groups like that, they’re some sort of internal marketing team. It’s not like, you know, separate dealerships. There’s some sort of a corporate entity that we’re dealing with, and it’s just educating that marketing team on, “Hey, look, it’s great that you guys are doing these things, but let’s start either, you know, keeping some of the really big events that you guys have always done for 20 years as the group. But finding some smaller things that we can do and brand it for individual dealerships.” And if you’re gonna do five things in a month, let’s do one big group thing and make those four things pick four different sites that we’re gonna make it…you know, it’s Jim Bob Ford for this one specifically.

John: Let’s sponsor this soccer team with Jim Bob Ford, and this football team with Chevy, or race car with Chevy, whatever.

Greg: So it’s just figuring out ways and working with their marketing team of figuring out ways to split things up evenly among the store where it’s gonna be beneficial from a digital marketing standpoint, but not hurt their traditional marketing side of things as well.

John: Totally. It’s that brand and digital mix. And probably like they don’t need, you know, a ton of links. They don’t need like 1,000 exact match domains to be able to rank for, you know, like, Ford in Dallas. They need like four.

Greg: What’s funny about going to these marketing conferences where people are like, “Yeah, I did this content and I got like 1,500 links,” most dealers, if you’re… I mean, not looking at individual link count but looking at auto group domains, you’re talking 20, 30, maybe 50 sites.

John: And that haven’t been ranking.

Greg: I mean, I’ve had sites before where I’ve come in and they’ve got like four or five, maybe, starting off. We get them to 10 and it jumps them to number one. So you get five new sites to link to them and then it bumps them to number one.

John: Totally.

Greg: In some, you know, less competitive markets. But even in the really competitive markets, like, we’re not even in the range of 100. It’s always less than 100 links.

John: Yeah, totally.

Greg: You know, maybe it’s 1,000 something links. But we’re talking individual linking group domains. Less than 100 sites is all you need. Because again, it’s a local business. You’re not competing on a national level, where you need thousands and thousands of links. It’s you’re just trying to be better than the other guys in the neighborhood.

John: Totally, totally. Yeah, that absolutely makes sense. Greg, I wanna be respectful of your time. Thank you so much for chatting with us about this. I know I’ve learned a bunch. I think I asked you a bunch of the questions that you get every day. But, you know, Local SEO is a fantastic beast. I only work on the huge, like, a million-plus page websites that do need the thousands of links. So it’s fascinating to learn about the other side. So, where can people find you online?

Greg: You can find me on Credo.

John: Hello. He’s on there.

Greg: You can follow me on Twitter, @greggifford. You can follow me on Facebook at Greg Gifford or LinkedIn at Greg Gifford. It’s basically…

John: G-I-F-F-O-R-D.

Greg: Yeah.

John: Yeah.

Greg: Same thing everywhere. Email me at ggifford@dealeron.com. I’m mostly on Twitter. So if you really just wanna follow me and interact with me, that’s where I typically prefer.

John: Cool, cool. Meet you during conferences because you are a tweeting machine. Or if you wanna learn, don’t tweet.

Greg: It’s a great resource to learn Local SEO stuff, because I always wanna try to go follow my friends at the conferences and tweet out their stuff and give them more visibility. And just in general, not like, “Oh my God, I go to a lot of conferences.” But I speak at a lot of conferences…

John: You do go to a lot of conferences.

Greg: To keep it interesting, I have decided to make myself one of the guys that’s a live tweeter. Because I’ve probably seen that person speaking two or three times this year already, and they’re a friend of mine. But hey, I’m gonna give them some visibility and help the conference out. It keeps me from being bored and sitting through a conference of stuff where I’ve heard the stuff the month before. So I just…

John: And we teach people. Yeah.

Greg: Yeah. And it’s a good resource a lot of people don’t get to go to as many conferences as I do. So I feel like I am lucky in the job that I have, that I do get to go to a lot of conferences. So that live tweeting kind of helps spread the love a little bit and let people, you know, learn some things from conferences they probably wouldn’t get to go to.

John: Totally, awesome. Well, Greg, thank you for your time.

Greg: Hey, thanks for having me.

John: Absolutely, man. We’ll speak to you soon.