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Consumers who need collision repair services are now almost exclusively searching for body shops online. So does your shop rank high in their search results? If not, you need search engine optimization (SEO).
Is having a website important? You bet! Consider this:
• 137 billion Web searches were conducted in 2008, a 21 percent increase.
• Local business searches grew by 58 percent in 2008, with growth in the mobile and social Web arena pushing it even higher.
• 75 percent of searches were non-branded, indicating the user didn’t decide which business they were looking for prior to searching.
• More than 70 percent of search engine users search for local businesses online.
• 59 percent of people, after they did a search online for a local business service, recommended that local business to a friend or colleague whether or not they used the business’s products or services (Source: ComScore).
Your business’s website serves one main purpose: driving traffic to your door. But before it can drive measurable traffic to your door, it must first be optimized.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the science of making a website more search-engine friendly, which boosts its position in search results. Search engines are entities like Google, Yahoo!, Bing and others. Google is by far the biggest, owning over 65 percent of the market. Over 15 billion searches were conducted in February of 2010 – people looking for information, products, services, etc. And many were looking for what you provide in your market. Did they find you?
• If you don’t have a website, people won’t find you online. A poorly optimized website is like a billboard on a deserted highway: Nobody’s seeing it! SEO is needed to boost the site’s ranking.
• To better understand SEO, it’s important to know how search engines work. Search engines are text-driven and crawl the Web using what’s known as crawlers, robots or spiders. As these crawlers, robots or spiders crawl the Web, they look for text and links so they can get an idea of what a particular website is all about – one reason why keyword-rich content is so important on a website.
• Search engines index all the verbiage on a site. The more a particular keyword is used on a Web page, the more the search engine is likely to determine that the Web page is about that keyword. So having important keywords on your site, which tell exactly what you do and where you do it, is crucial for your website to be seen by your target audience.
Key to Keywords
Let’s say you own ABC Collision Repair in Everywhere, Iowa. A developer designed and put it online for you at www.abccollisionrepair.com. You told the designer to include somewhere on the site that you do collision repair, you have a particular downdraft spraybooth and laser measuring bench, you spray waterborne paint, you’ve been in business since 1979, your techs have been trained by I-CAR and are ASE certified, and you belong to the ASA, SCRS, etc. Your developer listened well and gave you everything you asked for, and now you’ve been online for six months. People are searching for auto body shops in your area, and here’s what they enter in the search box on Google: “auto body Everywhere IA.”
Unfortunately, the only word your site has that matches this search is Everywhere. Guess what? People won’t likely find you online in this manner unless the search engines figure out, by some other means, that you run a body shop. When searching for the services you provide, in nearly all markets across North America, the public uses the term auto body first (71 percent), body shop second (21 percent) and collision repair a distant third (5 percent).
Mike Anderson of CollisionAdvice. com drove the point home about what the general public knows about our industry in one of his workshops. First, he asked some volunteers to share their websites, and he brought them up on a screen. Most of the homepages highlighted the equipment, training and certifications they had. Some mentioned I-CAR training, ASE certification, a particular brand of paint, etc. Anderson stepped out of the meeting room and a minute later came back with a stranger he had met in the hallway who was there for another event and had no knowledge of the collision repair industry. Anderson asked her if she had ever heard of I-CAR, a downdraft spraybooth or ASE. Each time her answer was “No.” He asked what terms she might use to search online for repair services after an accident, and after some thought she said, “auto body Naperville.”
The moral of this story is that the text many shops use on their websites is completely irrelevant when compared to the terms the public uses to search for them. The content on your site should be nothing like what you would write in an advertising brochure about your business – it’s really a completely different animal. You want keywords that will most likely match what the public will use to try to find the services they need.
Most Influential SEO Factors
Your URL. A URL is the web-site address you have, such as www.abccollisionrepair.com. Ideally, it should have some of the keywords people would use to find you. Your shop name is secondary to that, but most shops have URLs that contain their names for branding purposes. Think keywords. And .com is always preferred to any other extension like .net, .biz, etc.
Title tags. Title tags are what appear in the top left corner of every browser. Most developers put the shop name there, or simply “Home” – a big mistake if that’s all that’s in there because this is the most important place to include keywords. You have 65 characters, including spaces, to fill this area with the keywords people will use to find you. Use them wisely!
Headings. Having keyword-heavy headings on a Web page tells a search engine that emphasis should be paid to these terms. The same emphasis holds true for bold and italic text.
Links. The Web is a series of intricately woven links between pages. The quantity and quality of links to and from your site plays an important role in your site’s rankings. For example, a link such as ABC Collision Repair from the Automotive Service Association is far more valuable than a link that says “Click HERE” on TimmysCool Blog.com. Links to and from your businesses’ Facebook and Twitter accounts are important, too.
Social Media (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.). Ever since Google started indexing the content in social media networks, these networks are growing in importance, especially when you effectively link them to each other and your website. These networks have hundreds of millions of users, and half a million new users are being added every day. People use these sites to connect with each other around common interests. It presents business with a whole new marketing opportunity for communicating and selling online.
Does SEO Work?
No company that does SEO can promise that you’ll be ranked No. 1 in a search, or even that your ranking will put you on the first page. But skilled SEO companies can do some other impressive things. Here are a couple of examples:
Wagonwork Collision Center (www.wagonwork.com). Wagonwork Collision in northern Virginia has seen a 60 percent increase in traffic since its site was professionally optimized. In addition, a new “Request an Estimate” feature brings an extra six to eight cars a week to the shop. Wagonwork’s developer uses “heat mapping” to track what people are clicking on and changed the navigation buttons to maximize user interface with the website. This has directly resulted in getting more cars to the door.
Undisclosed multiple shop operator (MSO) (name withheld at owner’s request). This MSO paid its developer to optimize its site and retained the developer’s services on a monthly basis to stay out front in the markets it operates in. And since they’re no. 1 in each of those markets, apparently it’s working. This group of shops even has page-one rankings in two neighboring cities in spite of the fact that it doesn’t have any
of its shops in those two cities. How does that happen? Effective optimization.
This MSO is also doing pay-per-click advertising, which is sponsored listings through Google that give it top-of-the-page positioning in nearly all the most commonly used search terms in its metropolitan area.
Are You Optimized?
If you aren’t online, why not?
If you are, are you optimized? Choose a reputable firm with a proven track record of success to optimize your site. A firm with knowledge of our industry is a definite plus. Maximize your potential to bring cars to your door by bringing traffic to your website first.
BSB Contributing Editor Mark Claypool has over 27 years of experience in the fields of workforce development, business education partnerships, apprenticeships and training. He is the owner of two companies, Select Tech, which provides standard operating procedural development through www.sopmd.com, and Optima Worldwide, which provides website design, development, search engine optimization (SEO) services and Social Media Marketing Management. Claypool is a former vice president of operations for VeriFacts Automotive and the founder of Mentors At Work (now a division of VeriFacts). Claypool is the former executive director of the I-CAR Education Foundation, the National Auto Body Council (NABC) and co-founder of the Collision Industry Foundation. He was the national director of development for SkillsUSA and serves, on a volunteer basis, as the SkillsUSA World Team Leader for the WorldSkills Championships.