Improving Your Online Search Engine Ranking
At my shop, Center City Collision, our estimators ask every customer how they heard about us. On a recent Monday, we wrote eight estimates and all eight people had the same answer.
“Google.” “Google.” “Google.” “Google.” “The Internet … Google search.” “Google.” “Google.” “Google.”
I was astounded to learn that most people that were coming through the door were not from one of our DRPs, but from Google searches. It turns out that several of them were insured by one of our insurance partners but the way they initially heard about us was via an Internet search.
Things were not always this way for us. There was a time several years ago when I suspected the value of Internet searches was going to be big for body shops. So I started looking into what it would take to grow our online ranking. I did not like what I found. It was expensive and hard to measure the short-term impact. I interviewed several local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) companies and found that some of them were willing to give me a written proposal that actually included several usable ideas I could implement myself. But the overall cost was way out of reach for a shop of my size at that time. They wanted a couple thousand dollars upfront and monthly fees that ranged from $500 to $1,500. That was about four times my whole marketing budget at the time.
So I did the next best thing. I admitted I was a dummy! I bought the book “Search Engine Optimization for Dummies.” I devoured it. I read it cover to cover and implemented everything I could as I went along. I learned about things like meta tags, key word research, long tail search terms, hyperlinks, and the importance of directories.
Then slowly, over many months and years, my ranking started to improve. Eventually we landed on the first page for several key words I had been targeting. Once we reached the first page, the progress really slowed down, as the competition to break into the top three listings is fierce. That was when we decided we needed to hire an SEO company that had expertise that went well beyond the “dummy” level.
I have heard it said that the best time to start optimizing your website is 10 years ago. The next best time is right now. With that in mind, here are a few ideas to get you off the starting line:
1. Do some key word research. Like, right now. Type some key words into a search engine followed by your location, such as “auto body repair Phoenix” or “collision repair Detroit.” See where you land among your competitors.
2. Go to getlisted.org and see if you have filled out all of your directory listings completely. Wherever there are gaps, fill them. You want to claim all the free real estate you can.
3. Start talking to SEO companies and listen to any advice they give. They are obviously not going to give away their secret sauce for free but they might give you some basic idea of what you need to do. Remember, they want to demonstrate that they know what they are doing and how they can add value for you, so you will be likely to hire them when you are ready to make the investment.
This barely scratches the surface of what needs to be done to start ranking well. It is only a start. But keep in mind that the second best time to start is right now.