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With less than 8 percent of online search traffic making it to the second page of Google search, it’s clear that search ranking matters now more than ever before – but it also can take time to get up to the coveted first page of Google search.
When considering investing in SEO and PPC, many dealership owners are eager to know how to get on the first page of Google, and “how” to get the top ranking on a search results page. They want the satisfaction of being able to win instantly, but it's not always so easy.
The short answer is, “no one really knows” – not even the people who work for Google. But rather than just leaving it as a blank answer to a very difficult question, let’s investigate the reasons behind the response.
Unfortunately We Aren’t Google
In addition to their periodic major updates, Google also has a fresh batch of smaller updates that are constantly causing small fluctuations in rankings. They also have much deeper updates that can run on a predictable cadence that indexes a much larger portion of the Internet. Then there is the calculation and propagation time to value every link, every page, and every website and then rank those against billions of search queries. It takes time to process all of that information.
In short, no one (not even most people at Google) can know how all of these factors affect each other and the overall formula for search rankings. It's almost like a guessing game. Just consider this Example: X - P + C x Q = 1 (Who Knew?)
What we can do is focus on a snapshot in time of what the current site looks like in comparison to a competitor’s site and identify areas that will likely improve their rankings over time. We can then apply a general timeframe for when we can expect to see results based off past experience. In addition, we can adjust the strategy to help enhance certain search signals to increase overall effectiveness. I know it sounds like rocket science, but if you focus on one improvement at a time you can usually improve your ranking without hiring outside sources.
Website Quality Does Affect Your Ranking
I know what you are thinking, How does Google determine the quality of my website? They will determine the quality of your website in the exact same ways your customers do. If your dealerships website is seen as low quality or isn’t updated often, it can take longer to climb those search rankings. A lot Longer! In addition, if your site has been penalized in the past, you must first determine the issue, fix it right and fix it quick, and then submit a reconsideration request before you can begin to reestablish yourself in search engines.
You Can’t Control the Competition
By developing a plan to improve your rankings, you are making the assumption that your site will push your competitor’s rankings down and help yours jump up. However, it is highly likely that your competitors aren’t just standing still waiting for you to run untouched for an 80 yard touchdown. They are going to hit you with everything they have. Will you break their tackle?
Who are potential customers finding first? You or Your Competitors.
If your competitors are actively marketing their site, you need to not only match them, but you must far surpass them to gain any ground. You can't take 2 steps forward and three steps back when it comes to Google rankings. In some cases, they may have several years of a head start and it could take some time to close the gap. Additional resources can help, but sometimes it just takes the slow, persistent, and aggregated authority built over time to rise in the ranks of the almighty Google.
What If You Don’t Want to Wait?
It’s understandable that dealership owners want to quantify and calculate an immediate ROI for their marketing dollars. However, it takes technical implementation and best practices to achieve a high ranking. To do this, you must convince Google that you deserve and have earned your desired ranking. You must also convince the intended audience that you are a trustworthy site with valuable content, top-notch products, or services. Being the best is always a good thing. Do you remember who lost the Super Bowl in 2010? No cheating!
A Search Marketing Campaign Does Not Have an End Date
It is a long-term branding methodology that is at the core of your business. It defines your audience, learns what they are looking for, engages with them, nurtures that relationship, and in return, rewards you with their business. By understanding that concept, you’ll realize that it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get to the first page of a certain ranking, because you’ll understand that the ranking itself is not the goal. Who cares if you are #1 in Google search if you still aren't earning the customers business? Be a Professional!
Now.. Forget Everything I Just Said!
With all stated above in mind, here are some educated guesses that are usually close based on past performances.
Low to Moderate Industry Conditions (Little to No Competition) with a good consistent strategy and no other major site issues, it is reasonable to expect a 3-6 month window to move up into the top 10 results. As stated earlier, this varies based on the competition, but this is the general rule of thumb.
Difficult Industry Conditions (Stiff Competition) due to the high amount of competition, you can expect it to take a minimum of 12 months and possibly years to achieve your desired results. This timeframe may be shortened with additional resources (paid ad search).
Extremely Difficult Industry Conditions (Competing With the Best of the Best) it is possible you never reach the first page on Google. And, it could be that the cost associated with reaching the first page is not economically viable for your dealership. For larger dealerships, it will likely require a multi-year, multi-faceted approach depending on where the current rankings are.
Getting a first page Google ranking doesn’t matter if it is for the wrong keyword and doesn’t drive traffic to your dealership. And getting traffic to your dealership doesn’t matter if it is targeting the wrong audience. You can't target loyal Honda buyers if you sell Toyota's. Even getting the right traffic from the right audience doesn’t matter if you can’t convert them. You must have properly trained staff that will get the customer in the door and close the sale.
Instead, think about how you can best serve your audience by creating a unique and valuable offering and establishing a core branding and engagement campaign that is as embedded into your dealership as much as loyalty to the United States of America is embedded into the heart of a career Marine. You must have brilliant minds in all places that know your audience, believe in your brand and most importantly know how to take care of your customers before, during and after the sale in order to compete in todays market.
People - Process - Product: All three must be as solid as Mt. Rushmore.
How have you found success in increasing your businesses’ Google ranking? Share your thoughts with me below! I look forward to hearing your ideas. Good luck out there!