Twenty years ago, the average car buyer started their auto-buying experience by heading down to the nearest lot and starting their search in person. Today, though, twice as many shoppers start researching on the internet as opposed to in-person.
These buyers don’t just use Google to learn about their next vehicle — they also use it to figure out which dealership to trust. According to a 2019 study performed by Cox Automotive, 41% of today’s car buyers make a purchase after visiting only a single dealership. How did that dealership earn their trust? Simple — with their online presence.
Of course, before you can start to win over a prospect, that prospect has to be able to find you — and that’s where your SEO strategy comes into play. By making it easier for your customers to find you online, you can enjoy organic leads, a steady stream of prospects who are ready to buy, and a healthier bottom line.
First, though, you’ll need to learn how to climb those search engine rankings — and that’s where this guide comes in.
When you search for something online, you’ll notice that the results are laid out in descending order. The higher up on that list a certain website is, the more clicks it will get.
So how do you get to those top spots? You use a variety of techniques and strategies designed to convince the search engines that your website is the best link to their search query.
These strategies and techniques are collectively referred to as “SEO” or (Search Engine Optimization).
While it might not seem important, SEO can have a massive impact on your business. Here are just a few benefits that effective SEO can give you:
You don’t have to work on your SEO, but if you don’t you’ll be giving some other dealership a free crack at that top spot.
Just because you understand that SEO for car dealers is important doesn’t mean that you know how to do it. While SEO is a complex topic that can’t be explained in complete detail in a single article, here are a few tips that will give you a leg up on the competition.
Getting all the free traffic in the world won’t do you much good if you’re sending those clicks to a website that looks like it’s from 1999.
Your site should use original, high-quality images and be laid out in such a way that people can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. (Decrease your bounce rate)
There are a few things you need to include on your site that are essential for dealership SEO. Your home page should have a healthy amount of original content (at least 400 words), and your contact information should be shown on every page.
Not all keywords are created equal. Some have more buying intent than others, and people in your area might be searching for terms that are quite different from the rest of the country.
There are a variety of tools out there that make searching for these keywords easy. The biggest is Google Ads’ Keyword Planner, which is a free service that suggests keywords and lists them according to their search volume.
There are plenty of paid subscription services out there that will provide even more information to help you plan your keyword strategy. Each of these has different strengths and weaknesses, but it’s probably a good idea to invest in at least one to get an idea of what areas you might need to look at in more detail.
Once you know what keywords you want to target, you need to provide the kind of content that the search engines love.
You can have a mix of evergreen and topical content, but try to make sure that everything is fresh and up to date. That means regularly updating your existing content while continually adding more.
Not only will this improve Google’s opinion of your site, but it will make your leads feel that you’re trustworthy and knowledgeable — and that’s before they ever set foot on your lot.
You want to use the keywords that you’ve found as frequently as you can — but only so long as using them seems natural.
Unfortunately, you’ll likely find that it’s easy to run out of places to put those keywords without making your content sound forced and unrealistic. When you get to this point, it’s time to look at optimizing other features of your website.
You can add keywords to the alternate text of your photos, in the URLs of various web pages, in title tags and meta-descriptions, and a whole lot of other places. This will help search engines discover and rank your content without ruining the experience for visitors.
If you spend a lot of time looking at local dealerships who are trying their hands at automotive SEO, you’ll soon notice a variety of glaring mistakes that could potentially sabotage their efforts. This is good news for you. As long as you don’t make these mistakes, you should be able to quickly overtake these other sites and claw your way to the top of the search results.
Using targeted keywords is important, but as mentioned above, it absolutely must sound natural. Many sites try to game the system by cramming as many keywords as possible into every paragraph.
If you’ve ever seen a site with content like...
“For the cheapest cars in Dallas, come down to Dallas Nissan for cheap cars! Our cheap Dallas cars are the cheapest you’ll find in Dallas, Texas!”
...then you’ve seen keyword stuffing in the wild. Not only do modern search engines hate it, but it will alienate your customers as well.
There’s no point to performing SEO for car dealerships if you’re not going to know if your efforts are having any effect. You should track your results regularly to make sure that your site is bringing in the targeted traffic you need, and adjust your efforts if they aren’t.
Many dealerships regurgitate the same content over and over — after all, the reasons why you’re having a sale this Labor Day are probably a lot like the reasons why you had a sale last Labor Day.
Unfortunately, the search engines frown on this, as they see it as you trying to game the system. You should come up with fresh content regularly — it may be a bit of a pain, but no one said reaching the top would be easy.
GMB stands for “Google My Business,” and it’s a free service that Google provides. It basically provides your dealership’s contact information to anyone searching for cars in your geographical area.
Take the time to sign up for the service, and make sure that your contact information and business category are both correct.
If you’re already getting good results from internet lead providers, you may be tempted to skip car dealer SEO altogether. We won’t judge you — but by doing so, you’re leaving a ton of money on the table.
The most obvious advantage that dealer SEO has over a lead provider is that it’s free if you do it yourself. Once you reach the top of the results for a given keyword, you’ll likely stay there for a long time — and you’ll get plenty of free leads as a result.
Also, automotive SEO is like owning an asset whereas using a lead provider is like renting it. As long as you’re paying someone else for a service, you’re at their mercy, and they could raise their prices or change their terms at any time, leaving you high and dry.
You should also keep in mind that using automotive SEO doesn’t have to replace buying leads. You can still use both. After all, no dealer has ever complained about having too many eager prospects walking through their doors.
Once you get your dealer SEO in tip-top shape, you’ll likely find that you have more leads than ever before. That’s a good problem to have.
Better yet, the people who walk through the door of your dealership will already be familiar with your brand, making it easier for your sales staff to get them behind the wheel of a used vehicle.
Not bad for a free marketing technique.
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