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Jason Stum

Jason Stum Director of Strategy

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What the rise in "Near Me" Searches means for Dealerships

In a recent post on Think With Google, a compelling study shows how “Near Me” type searches are on the rise. And not just a steady rise either, these searches are up 34x since 2011.

You know the kind of search I'm talking about, right? You're in a town that you're not too familiar with and in need of nourishment so you whip out the trusty smartphone and google restaurants near me.

Search for Buick Dealers Near MeAnd just like a good Google should, up pops a list of restaurants near your present location complete with reviews, the address, the type of food and the hours of operation allowing you to make an immediate decision on where you're going to go stuff your face with food.

Google refers to these scenarios like the one I just described as "I Want To Go" moments. A consumer has a need, want or desire and they're using mobile search to provide a solution now.

In these moments, consumers aren't just getting information, they're making decisions and often heading straight to stores.

According to the Think With Google study, 50% of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a store within a day. A Day!

What About Car Dealerships?

So while the research that Google presents is compelling and gives great insight in to consumer behavior, I was thinking the same thing you probably are - yeah this is great info for restaurants and retail stores - but what about car dealerships?

Great question, I'm glad you asked.

Google didn't report on anything car dealer specific,  however they did mention this,

There are some searches or services you may not expect. People have started to search for "dermatologists near me," "plumbers near me," "jobs near me" and other things that are typically in a high consideration set.

After reading this snippet, I thought it's probably safe to include "dealerships near me" in that high consideration set. But is anyone really searching this way?

Not wanting to just guess, I fired up my browser to do some good ol' fashioned research to see if "near me" style searches were being used (and how often) for car dealerships.

In my research I discovered two things.

  1. Consumers are indeed searching using terms like "Toyota Dealers Near Me"
  2. The volume of these searches has a similar increase to other 'near me' style searches

Automotive Near Me Google Searches

What's a Car Dealer to Do?

While being aware of how consumers are behaving is important, it's another thing to understand how that behavior can impact your business.

Here are 6 things you can do to make sure your dealership is looking its best when a consumer searches for a car dealership near them.

1. Use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner

If you've never used the Google AdWords Keyword Planner before, it's a fantastic tool that helps you plan your Search campaigns and helps you learn what your customers are looking for.

Once you launch the keyword planner, do this:

  • Click get search volume and data trends.
  • Enter your keyword phrase (i.e. Toyota dealers near me)
  • Select your targeting (State, County, City, etc.)
  • Choose your Date Range (Up to 2 years)

Now you'll see the month-by-month search volume trend in your location by consumers looking for your brand of dealership near them.

2. Put on Your Consumer Hat

I'll admit that because I'm so engrossed in automotive digital marketing that sometimes I can get blinders on and not see something the way someone outside of our business would.

Because of this, it's important that we try to remove ourselves from our dealerships and become the consumers we're trying to attract.

Remember, when a customer performs a "near me" search, most are looking to fulfill a need immediately - not in a week or two.

3. Do a 'Near Me' Search

Now that you're in the mindset of a consumer, take out your smartphone and do a 'near me' search for the brand of vehicles your dealership carries.

Take note of the information that's visible to the consumer - two or three ad placements and a map displaying the car dealerships along with the users location. You'll also find:

  • A list of the closest dealers sorted loosely by distance and review count
  • Address & distance to each dealership
  • A star rating & number of Google reviews
  • Hours of operation
  • An easy-to-tap call button

4. Target "Near Me" Searches With You SEM

As you can see and as I noted above, there are also two ad placements at the top of most "near me" searches.

You may want to geo-target specific "near me" searches that you might not normally show up for in the first 3 organic map listings.

5. Reviews

You already know why your dealership needs to build reviews on Google, so no need to dive into that here.

Because you're still wearing your consumer hat (you haven't taken it off, have you?) it's easy to see how a consumer could be influenced more so from your review count and star rating that relative distance to your location.

Having a solid reputation on Google can be enough to win a consumers first consideration and ultimately their tap (click).

6. Check Your Google My Business Page

Take the time to make sure you have current photos uploaded to your My Business page. Heck you can even work with a Google Trusted Photographer to capture a virtual tour for your dealership that will show up right in your business listing.

Having a completely filled out business page complete with good photos and content will give a fantastic first impression to a consumer.

Also don't forget to check your My Business Dashboard to track number of Driving Direction Requests and Phone Calls generated from your mobile listing.

Are You Ready?

The mobile device is becoming our first screen and the one we all rely on most often. Being aware of consumer trends when it comes to mobile can keep your dealership ahead of the curve and in line with consumer behavior and expectations.

How do you feel the increase in "Near Me" search will affect your dealership? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section below.

Jason Stum
Thanks for the kind words Carl, I appreciate it. You're right in that mobile and the instant gratification mindset are changing the landscape of search. And if the whole voice search (semantic search) thing become more common where people are asking their phones questions in natural language sentences, that's probably going to present a whole other set of factors we'll need to address.
Adam Thrasher
Great post Jason. Don't forget the service department shen doing searches. Lots of service opportunities with "near me" search traffic!

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