SEO Challenge

In recent posts I’ve mentioned working on new websites for Labadie Auto Company.  The new sites are up and running (www.great-gm-deals.com, www.labadietoyota.com, www.labadiescion.com, www.baycitycars.com) we need to optimize for search engines.  I’ve been doing a lot of study over the past few years and some of the basics still work.  However, because we are using a site template from an industry specific company this causes some issues.

ALT TAGS
I do not have the ability to modify all the “alt” tags on the site.  This is a little area that I’m not sure exactly how much weight that Google gives to but I know that it increases keyword relevance.  The biggest issue here (in my humble opinion) is the vehicle images.  Even though the entire inventory page says what the car is I would also like the “alt” tag to show the vehicle year make and model.

PAGE TITLE
The page titles I do have control over.  Here’s the question about page title:  How many words/characters are to many?  I have read that you should have no more than 7 words, in another place I read no more than 66 characters and yet another say up to 70 characters is OK.  So perhaps I should just assume that 66-70 characters is OK.  When I looked at that the website template company created it was almost 240 characters!  OUCH!  So I have been trying to whittle down the number of characters and it is hard to limit to 70.  The new technique that many sites are employing seems to be using the | instead of frivolous or “stop words”.  Stop words are words that make a complete sentance but have no searchability such as in and the. 

My first draft title on one page was, “Labadie Toyota mid-Michigans #1 Toyota Dealer | Bay City Toyota | Saginaw Toyota | Midland Toyota.”  Using www.websitegrader.comthis title is 97 characters that makes it to long for optimization.  In doing some more study it probably is not a good thing to repeat the keyword of Toyota because this could be a black mark on Google making it look like we’re trying to load the keyword.  So I decided to go with “Labadie Toyota mid-Michigans #1 Toyota Dealer | Bay City | Saginaw | Midland.”  Still 6 characters to long!  Well at this point I’m keeping it and we’ll see what happens.

META DESCRIPTION
This one I think is important for more than one reason.  This is the text that is displayed for the description of the webpage on the search engines.  I want this to read well because it will make people decide whether they want to click on my link.  It’s one this to get to the top of Google but I also want clicks.  My first version of the description was, “Labadie Toyota is a BAY CITY Toyota dealer with Toyota sales and online cars. A BAY CITY MI Toyota dealership, Labadie Toyota is your BAY CITY new car dealer and BAY CITY used car dealer. We also offer auto leasing, car financing, Toyota auto repair service, and Toyota auto parts accessories.”  This was actually the description that the website template provider software came up with.  It looked OK but not great to me.  Again I ran it through www.websitegrader.com and I get a warning that the description is to long.  The recommendation is that the description be no longer than 150 characters.  So I changed the home page meta description to be, “Labadie Toyota is mid-Michigan’s #1 Toyota Dealer.  We are a full service dealership serving Bay City, Saginaw, Midland and the surrounding communities.”  This is 152 characters.  Again is this to long?  Is it going to effect my search engine optimization because we have 2 extra characters?  I don’t know so for now I’m leaving it as-is.

KEYWORDS
Here is a big one.  In the past (and I’m talking about years ago so in Internet time it’s the WAY past) web-designers simply loaded up the meta keywords and called it good.  This is again what the template company did with our new sites.  There were 79 keywords loaded into the meta tag by the template.  Www.websitegrader.comrecommends only 10!  Only 10?  WOW what is a website owner to do?  So far I have been only talking about the home pageof the website.  So here is my idea.  In the homepage put the most popular but under used keywords to drive traffic.  Use more specific keywords on the internal pages.  This is a lot of work but each of these elements need to be changed for each internal page anyway – so be prepared to spend a lot of time.  Perhaps this is why good SEO is expensive!  Here I used the Google AdWords Keyword Tool to find out what keywords ge the most amount of volume.  Because we sell regionally I was looking for things specific for mid-Michigan – like city names.  The manufacturer names are to generic and they are going to appear many times on the website anyway.  Another pointer here; you company name is also going to appear somewhere on almost every page of your website also so don’t waste valuable keywords on your company name.  People that search your company name will find it.  We are trying to get the people that don’t know the company name and want our products or services.

Keeping with the company name issue I also decided that the only page that should use the very valuable title tag characters with the company name is the home page.  Because the title is one of the most important tags for search engine relevance I decided that this was where I was going to spend a lot of my initial energy.

These sites are to new to see what difference these changes are going to make.  However, when I compare these sites to our competitors (again using www.websitegrader.com) we are already ranking better than our competition.  And our competition is paying a lot of money for a “so called” SEO expert.

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