A long time ago, franchise and used car dealers attracted business through stand out premises and things like flags and bunting. Today, almost all initial new inquiries come through either their manufacturers, online providers such as carsales.com.au, carsguide.com.au or the dealers own website. Your website is actually your second dealership face and if it’s not as attractive as your actual dealership, then there’s every chance the prospective customer will pass you by. This is a must read SEO Guide for Car Dealers.
Think of it this way. If you erected black plastic all around your premises and took down your manufacturer signs. Arguably your prospective customers wouldn’t even look inside. The same applies to online dealerships, yet I see so many websites that are just simply unattractive, with out of date stock and ‘content’ (stories, pictures etc.) that are so out of date it’s just plain crazy or perhaps lazy. Your website needs to be a showroom to generate enquiry. Don’t for one minute think that a website sells cars. It doesn’t. What it does do and effectively is welcome the prospect into your business, it should engage them with up to date articles, stories about customer and certainly outline what you do, how you do it and who does it for you.
Many dealers allow their sales managers and staff to manage their website. Would you allow those same people to redecorate your actual dealership? Would you allow them to erect banners and signs without consultation? I think not. To achieve greatness in your online store, the decision maker needs to be familiar with marketing and Search Engine Optimization strategies for generating inquiry and maintaining that inquiry over the longer term. Here are the basics of auto SEO.
What is automotive Search engine Optimization really?
Arguably, search engine optimization is the process of building and maintaining a dealer’s website tailored for the car industry. It contains things like Headers, Page Elements and content relevant to the new or used car prospect that provides information about the dealer and their staff. Remember that the customer will have visited manufacturer’s websites, third party websites such as carsales.com.au and carsguide.com.au
The prospective customer is looking for a reason to choose your business rather than another selling the same brands. They’re after information that they can rely on to make a decision. SEO for the car industry looks at the relevancy of navigable links, headlines, Meta tags, content and importantly keywords to assist a dealerships website to rank higher in search engines through SERPS – Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Why should car dealers do SEO?
In Australia at least, Google still is the most used search engine. Bing, owned by Microsoft has improved their share over the last 12-18 months to about 14% but Google still has the lions share at around 75%. Google has become the vernacular for search. We don’t say “let’s search something” we say let’s google it.
Google is very strict with regards the ranking of websites. The Google Algorithms are modified regularly (Penguin, Panda and all their versions). It’s Googles intent to provide the most accurate and timely information to their clients – the prospective customers doing searches. If your content is out of date, the likelihood is that Google will bypass your site in preference for another site that has fresh content. That fresh content must be relevant to the customers search terms. Google has a factor named quality score – if the search term that the customer uses isn’t contained in the dealers website, then the resulting search results will place the dealer’s information on the second, third or even last page of the Google search results. By using good quality SEO, car dealers will improve the chances of their dealership ranking higher in the search engine results.
By following the Google rules, a dealership will improve the relevance and quality of their website. In turn, this helps improve exposure to your target audience – car buying prospects. Better search results provide higher traffic, more enquiries and hopefully better sales results.
Search Engine Optimization Techniques – On-page
Optimization of a website isn’t a one-time fix; it’s an ongoing process that needs to be embraced. Everything to do with the car business needs to be included and anything irrelevant needs to be removed. You need to understand what Google wants, Google should get. Using their algorithm, Google looks at content the way their program needs to, not necessarily the way that we as humans do.
Google stipulate that content must be natural. If you try to ‘game’ Google, they will certainly know and penalize your site. Keyword stuffing or in fact any ‘black hat’ ways are a thing of the distant past. Don’t be fooled by companies claiming to get you on the “First page of Google’. Generally these overseas based companies (India in particular) WILL take your money and not provide any outcomes. Readability of your content is the most important aspect of SEO. Text is still the best way to get up the Google ladder, but when combined with Images and Video, a better outcome is assured.
What follows are important techniques and best practice for all car dealerships hoping to improve their ranking through good SEO?
Meta descriptions and titles
It’s imperative to write a good Meta description for all content. Whether you’re a car dealer or any small business, if you’re trying to get a better outcome Meta descriptions are key.
The Meta description should be a short summary of what the primary topic is about. I use YOAST (for WordPress) to write my blogs and articles. Yoast holds your hand and gives you guidance on what the best practice is. Yoast (www.yoast.com) has a free plugin and a pro one too. If you’re using WordPress, try the free plugin and see what your outcome is.
Meta descriptions are limited to 160 characters. Take your time writing the Meta description and make it important but readable. (The Meta description in the illustration are the two lines of text below the star rating. The date is input automatically by Google, so don’t take that into account for your 160 characters.
Meta descriptions help improve your SEO rankings. Fact. It’s important that you use keywords in the Meta description because this is what Google searches for. Better Meta, better search results for the topic you’re writing about.
Onto the META title. That’s the bold line in our illustration. It’s the most crucial part of your post because that is the primary search title for any search engine. As an example, if you’re selling a 2016 Honda Civic and you’re providing a review, then it’s important to state what you’re actually doing.
In this case, “2106 Honda Civic first drive review” will capture all those consumers searching for a review of a 2016 Honda Civic.
The Meta title tells the robots that visit your site, what the article is all about and how relevant it is to the potential customers searching the internet. (Remember that the bots will keep coming back to your site frequently if you’re providing fresh content.)
The Meta Title tells your customers exactly what page they’re visiting and how relevant the information you have to their search terms.
You only have about 55 characters available in your Meta title. Accordingly, it’s the most important part of your post. Take your time to script it as close to perfection as you can. your viewers exactly what page they are visiting and what information they will find there. Search engines display about 50 to 60 characters of a Meta title.
In this screenshot, you’ll see that I’ve typed in 2016 Honda Civic in the search bar. Google, using their Café process, autocompletes what it thinks that the searcher is looking for. In this case, “Honda Civic 2016 Review Australia” is the exact keywords that the consumer is looking for. If your article or post says “honda civic 2016 review Australia” and that’s what the searcher is looking for, it’s likely that your article will appear higher up the organic search results than not.
Keyword research is a very important part of finding relevant words that searchers are looking for. You can use Google’s Adwords Keyword Planner or any other of the keyword search programs on the net. However I find that Google Café is just as good as the others, whilst limiting it to 4 or so results. Again referring to the screenshot above, ther are 4 longtail keyword suggestions that you can incorporate in your article.
At the bottom of the search results page there is another (in this cas