You may have never heard of automotive SEO before, but it is a real thing. Moreover, it is an important thing. Much has changed in the retail automotive sector over the last several years. Between the emergence of virtual dealers and the explosion online shopping, the future of car sales is online.
Believe it or not, some 60% of all car buyers are now more likely than ever to buy a car online. At least 25% of all buyers expect online solutions to offer end-to-end service. And among those buyers still planning to go to the dealership to buy, most will have already made a decision before showing up. They will have gotten all the information they need online.
What does this say to you? It says that your dealership has to compete online. Automotive SEO is the foundation of that competition. By applying white hat SEO principles to the fundamentals of how car dealerships do business, you can do more than compete. You can dominate your market.
SEO, or search engine optimization if you prefer, is that collection of strategies and tools used to improve search engine performance. It is all about SERPs.
SERPs stands for ‘search engine results pages’. For any company to effectively compete online, it has to show up on the very first page. Showing up within the top five results is even better. The better a website ranks, the better it competes.
Why? Because 90% of all traffic that SERPs generate comes from links on the very first page. Just 4.5% come from the second page. Which page do you want your website to show up on?
Automotive SEO focuses on two primary areas to maximize SERPs performance. They are on-page SEO and off-page SEO. Both are employed for the purposes of driving traffic to your site, where you can turn casual visitors into active car buyers.
On-page SEO is just as its name suggests. It concentrates on those elements that exist on your website. Google and the other search engines utilize those elements to determine website relevance and ranking for certain keywords. So the more your site impresses Google, the better it will rank on SERPs.
Google still relies primarily on keywords to understand website content. We research the keywords most likely to improve your site's performance at any point in time. Then we build content around the results. This gives Google more information to better analyze and rank your site.
Pictures are an important part of any auto dealer website. We can help dealer websites perform better by applying image alt tags to every single picture. Those tags make it easier for web users to find the cars they are looking for.
The nature of retail auto sales dictates a large volume of individual pages featuring everything from car categories to individual makes and models. Title tags are critical to helping search engine algorithms sort it all out. We make use of title tags to improve SERPs.
Automotive websites that offer relevant blog content perform better in SERPs. They also help to improve customer loyalty. We believe both are important to automotive SEO. See the Blog Content section below for more information.
Meta-descriptions give search engines bite-size chunks of information that tell them what a particular page is about. This information also shows up in SERPs underneath the main title. It can give your customers important information as well.
Google now counts website responsiveness and page load times high on their list of ranking factors. It is all about mobile. We optimize automotive websites so that they load fast and work correctly irrespective of the device being used.
You should know that automotive SEO is built on a long-term approach to success. Just like you did not build your dealership overnight, a strong SEO strategy will not generate overnight success. Competing online in a sector as tough as retail automotive requires a steady methodical and analytical approach.
Off-page SEO is just the opposite of its on-page sibling. It deals with a variety of elements that exist at other online locations, elements that should drive traffic to your site. Off-page SEO covers a variety of things from social media outreach to guest posting.
Backlinks Are the Backbone
The backbone of off-page SEO are backlinks. These are links on other sites that point back to your site. These are important for three reasons:
They demonstrate site authority
They demonstrate site relevance
They take advantage of a conscious decision to click
A customer clicking a backlink to your site has made the decision to learn more about the topic at hand. In the sales world, this would be considered a qualified lead. In the e-commerce world, it is an opportunity to convert a casual visitor into a paying customer.
Guest Post Content – Publishing guest posts drives traffic back to your site through backlinks. Guest posts are one of the best ways to improve online reputation and drive traffic that would otherwise have probably not gone to your site.
Paid Advertising – Though most automotive SEO concentrates on organic search results, paid advertising cannot be ignored – especially in the highly competitive automotive industry. Strategically placed ads on search engines and social media channels can drive traffic.
Social Outreach – Social media channels are the communication channels of the modern era. Strong automotive SEO seeks to take advantage of the word-of-mouth nature of social media for both marketing and brand building.
Both paid advertising and social outreach are enhanced by landing pages. The landing page is a temporary page put up to advertise a special deal, point customers to a new promotion, generate buzz for a customer loyalty program, and other such things. Search engines love landing pages thanks to their specificity.
Landing pages offer a tertiary benefit as well. By their nature, landing pages are not intended to be the visitor’s final destination. They are intended to be a springboard to the main website. How do we accomplish that? By including an internal link.
Internal links help SEO as well. So by utilizing landing pages, we can target specific audiences and generate more relevance through internal linking.
It has been our experience that automotive websites – particularly car dealerships – do not give a lot of effort to blog posting. Yet ignoring blog content wastes a tremendous amount of potential. A well written and regularly maintained blog can be the one thing that guarantees you win your market.
Your dealership is probably not the only one in the local area selling the nameplates you sell. Other dealers are selling the exact same models with the exact same features at comparable prices. And remember, most buyers will visit only one dealership. They will have already made a purchase decision after shopping online.
It is critical that buyers go to your website first. If they don’t, they may never make it. Strong blog content gives you the edge by giving potential customers a reason to visit your site. It also gives existing customers a reason to return. The more often they visit the more likely they will buy from you.
Blog content should be relevant and helpful. A good automotive blog covers a variety of topics, including:
general maintenance tips
used car spotlights
safe driving tips
new car reviews
A blog that customers find useful is one that gets followers. A blog with lots of followers is a blog that strengthens brand loyalty. It all adds up to better SERPs and more sales
The most optimized site in the world will be of little value if visitors hate using it. Knowing that, we believe the user experience is a critical part of automotive SEO that should never be ignored. Customers should find your site easy to use and pleasing on the eyes. They should leave your site knowing they had a good experience.
It all begins with site navigation. A general rule in the SEO industry is that visitors should never have to click more than three links to find the information they are looking for. Unfortunately, the complex nature of shopping for cars online makes that difficult. We work to make it happen by designing a site hierarchy that minimizes navigational headaches.
Improving user experience also includes choosing the right color palettes, being judicious in the use of graphics, managing page load times, and making information easy to understand.
Car shopping is moving online. Like it or not, the virtual dealership is on the doorstep. It is time for your dealership to offer an optimized website that caters to the needs of the modern buyer. Are you ready to dominate your market? Then let us work together to optimize your site.
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