The term “Search Engine Optimization” (SEO for short) tends to scare people. They picture complex HTML tags or shady keyword-stuffing techniques. At best, SEO may not seem relevant. After all, you’re a dealership, not an ecommerce store. Right?
First, let’s dispel a few myths:
- SEO is NOT complex (we’ll show you why in a minute)
- SEO is NOT shady or black hat. Proper SEO techniques are highly encouraged by Google and other search engines.
- SEO is ABSOLUTELY RELEVANT to dealerships.
Dealerships need to be concerned about SEO. According to Google, a car buyer may conduct as many as 140 Google searches while researching vehicles. Every one of those searches is an opportunity for a dealer to get a customer’s attention.
Improving your SEO comes down to one thing: Proving your value to customers AND to the search engines. Here are four easy ways to do just that:
1. Optimize For Your Niche
In a world with more competition than ever, it’s critical to identify a niche for your dealership. That niche can be based on your inventory, customers, or superlatives like great customer service or flexible financing. Whatever your niche, make sure that customers and search engines associate YOU with that niche.
Let’s say your niche is Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicles with the best warranty in town. Your goal is to be the first search result on Google whenever a customer in your area searches for “Certified pre-owned vehicles.”
First, you need to dedicate website real estate to your niche. Don’t just add a headline on your homepage that says, “Certified pre-owned. Best warranty in town!” That’s not enough to make your case.
Think about it. If you were a customer, would that single headline convince you that this really is the best warranty in town? I highly doubt it!
Instead, create a whole website page for your niche; in this case, CPO warranties. Below is an example. And guess what? When I searched for “Certified Pre-owned vehicles” on Google, this page was the first result!
Whatever your niche, dedicate serious website real estate to explaining the what, why, and how. Customers will love it, and so will search engines.
2. Create community-focused content
Dealerships that focus on attracting local customers are up to 49% more profitable. Many dealers know this intuitively and invest time, money, and energy into their communities. They run local radio ads, sponsor sports teams, and give to local charities. Being part of the community is one of the best business decisions a dealership can make, and it’s also personally rewarding.
So how do we take that community-focused approach online? Simple: Create community-focused content.
Start with thinking about how you’re already involved in the community. Do you run a local fundraiser? Sponsor a softball team? Hold a customer cookout at the local metropark?
Use your everyday interactions with the community as inspiration for online content. Many dealerships already share these experiences on social media. That’s great, but take it one step further. Create a blog post, a short video, or both. Post it to your website and on your favorite social media sites, including YouTube.
Why does this matter? Search engines like Google value written and video content more than social media content. By regularly posting community-focused content, you’ll start showing up in search results you never imagined. This promotes brand awareness -- the digital equivalent to billboards on the side of the highway.
3. Highlight your unique service offerings
Sometimes, it’s the little things that show you care about your customers. Dealerships who have American Sign Language (ASL) and Spanish-speaking representatives clearly know this. They want to make sure that every customer has someone they can speak to.
If your dealership offers one of these things -- or any other unique service offering -- make sure it’s clearly displayed on your website. But that’s not all. You need to make sure that search engines can see it as well.
Here’s what you DON’T do: Add images to your website that search engines can’t read.
This dealership is proud of its bilingual staff, but search engines don’t know it. Google doesn’t read text in images, and therefore has no idea that this dealership has bilingual staff. If a customer searched for “Spanish-speaking dealership”, this dealer would not come up in search results.
An easy fix: include a written statement on the homepage that says, “We are a Spanish-speaking dealership” (do this in Spanish too, obviously) and, “We have ASL-speaking representatives.” This will ensure that search engines can find and index your dealership.
Better yet, dedicate an entire web page to your staff and their special service offerings. If it’s a core part of your dealership, dedicate real website real estate to it.
4. Include more testimonials and reviews
At the end of the day, SEO is a simple thing. Search engines like Google want to show the best search results. The trick for dealerships is to prove they are the best result.
For service businesses like a dealership, there’s no better way to prove your value than with testimonials and reviews. If your dealership is struggling to reach new customers, increasing your testimonials and reviews should be priority number 1.
Why? Because customers trust other customers far more than they trust the dealership themselves. According to Brightlocal, 91% of 18 to 34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (and 78% of all customers do, too).
And since customers trust other customers, so does Google. That’s why Google prioritizes dealerships with more high-quality reviews.
Arguably, the most important review platform is Google Reviews. These show up next to the search results when someone searches for your dealership. Those stars, along with the number of reviews, could make or break a deal.
Here are four simple steps to increase your Google Reviews, according to Entrepreneur.com:
- Set up a Google My Business account. Customers can’t leave reviews if you don’t have a profile! It’s easy to set up, plus it’s free.
- Just ask. 70% of customers are willing to leave a review if you just ask. However, there’s a right time and a right way to ask.
- Make it Easy. Remind customers they only have to leave a sentence or two, or even just a star review. Send them a link to “Write a Review” to make it even easier.
- Be Responsive to Customers. Be sure to respond to a customer review, whether it’s positive or negative. This shows that you actively read reviews, making customers more likely to share their honest feedback.
Improve Your SEO and Get Found Online
Boosting your digital presence is almost as critical today as your physical location. If customers can’t find you online, they’re unlikely to stop into your store.
Improving your SEO is one of the best ways to boost your digital presence. The more visible you are in online searches, the better chance you’ll have to convert visitors into customers.
Follow these four steps to improve your dealership SEO today. For more tips and insights about automotive marketing, be sure to subscribe to our weekly Auto Marketing newsletter.