The Three Cs of Search Engine Optimization

  Kent Lewis

By Kent Lewis

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to present at industry conferences to a wide variety of audiences on the topic of search engine optimization (SEO). My experience thus far with SEMA members is that some lack familiarity with the fundamentals of search marketing. For the love of the automotive community, I’ve created the following article to present the core concepts of SEO strategy. Simply put, the fundamentals of SEO can be boiled down to “The 3 Cs:” Content, Code and Credibility.


As outlined in an earlier SEO article, content is indeed king. Without keyword-loaded (HTML) text on all key pages, there is little chance for a website to gain high visibility in search engines. Search-engine spiders can’t read what they can’t see. Without eyes, the spider does not inherently know what an image or animation depicts or contains and, therefore, it will never give that content as much weight. Don’t forget to integrate links to social media profiles and content to improve rankings.

In order to show up in the top 10 (or even top 30) search-engine results for any given search phrase, it is important to ensure your target phrases are embedded regularly throughout the page in question. Remember to include the phrases in the headline, high up in the body copy and again at the bottom, as engines, such as Google, like the standard thesis approach to page layout. Also, look for opportunities to emphasize the phrase throughout the body copy by bolding, italicizing, underling or hyperlinking to other relevant content (example: search-engine optimization).


With the proliferation of database-driven content management systems (CMS), such as WordPress and Typepad, much of the source code behind a website that helps define the content and layout is standardized (and often bloated). Spiders have trouble with some forms of programming languages that may make it easier to build or manage a website, such as Javascript. The ideal solution to ensure your site is thoroughly indexed by search engines is to design it to widely accepted web standards. Don’t forget ADA-compliant website design, as it creates a more visible, friendly and usable experience (as well as limits your legal liability).

In addition to designing for spiders, the benefit of a web standards-compliant site is that it will be accessible to the broadest set of browsers and connection speeds, improving the experience for visitors. To round out source-code optimization, ensure that each and every page has keyword-optimized title, META and ALT tags. The keywords you select should be the same ones you focused on for the body copy on that page. For bonus points, ensure your domain is keyword-loaded, especially if the URL has a dynamic string of database parameters (all of those nonsensical letters, numbers and symbols after the .com should be replaced with keywords, such as “automotive” or “tuning”).


Now that we’ve talked about what site visitors see and what goes on behind the scenes, it’s critical to understand one more element that affects how search engines, such as Google, determine which site out of millions is displayed for a term, such as “performance exhaust.” Even if every page of your site has a reasonable occurrence of that term, and the URL and tags in the source code are optimized for the term, you still may never appear in the first 100 pages, let alone at top position on the first page.

To push yourself above and beyond the noisy competition, you need to build a sense of credibility with the search engine. The best way to do that is to acquire links from relevant automotive industry sites that are ideally popular and also visible in search for your target terms. The more popular and relevant a site is that links to you, the higher your link credibility (or PageRank) will be with Google. For more information on ranking factors, visit SEOMoz. Quality over quantity is the mantra when undertaking a link development campaign. Local SEO is a separate, but related credibility issue that requires you to claim and optimize your retail business listings.

Armed with the 3 Cs of SEO, you should now be able to create a highly visible and credible web presence that will grow your top-line revenues more cost-effectively and profitably than other forms of marketing. For more information on search engine, social media and mobile marketing–including our blog, SEO articles and white papers–visit Anvil’s Digital Marketing Resources Section.

Kent Lewis will be a featured presenter at the SEMA Online Marketing Conference, October 31 at 3:00 p.m. (LVCC N109) on the topic of search engine marketing. He is president and founder of Anvil Media Inc., a search engine marketing agency based in Portland, Oregon.