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Navigating SEO is a DrivingSales.com exclusive series by Timothy Martell, CEO of Wikimotive. Each Friday, Tim breaks down ways dealers can improve their SEO and offers insight into how it will benefit business.
As Google and other search engines change, SEO changes along with it. One of the biggest changes to SEO recently was an increased focused on local rankings.
Completely separate from organic rankings, local rankings are special packs of businesses that show up for specific keywords. The purpose of these packs is to make it easier for users to get quick information about local businesses.
This information often includes name, address, phone number (NAP), reviews, and a link to the business's website. If your business is doing things right, it will show up for all sorts of locally-focused keywords that will send you more and more visits from ready-to-buy users.
But even if you are showing up, that doesn't ensure you'll always show up or maintain your current rankings. A focus on local SEO keeps you ahead of the curve, and prevents competitors from getting an upper hand on your business with their own campaigns.
Local SEO: Put Simply
SEO is optimization for organic results. Local SEO is optimization for local results. As stated above, local results are business-focused and completely separate from organic results.
While many of the same organic rankings factors apply to local rankings, there is specialized work that must be done to boost rankings.
The most important local-specific ranking factors include:
Understanding Local Ranking Factors
Unique local ranking factors are fairly simple to understand when compared to traditional, organic ranking factors. While there's a lot that goes into the rankings, getting your business on the straight and narrow is not as difficult as traditional SEO.
Online Listings a.k.a. Structured Citations
Your business is likely listed on YellowPages.com, Yelp, Foursquare, and many other locally-focused sites. These listings are often referred to as structured citations when talking about local SEO.
The quality of these matters just as much as quantity. By having your site listed on top sites for your industry, as well as major sites like those listed above, your citation profile will be in great shape.
Google My Business Page + Reviews
Your Google My Business page is the heart of your local SEO campaign. This is what's attached to your Maps listing, and the page that contains all of the information consumers want to know about your business at a glance.
A great My Business page will have a title that contains keywords people will be searching for to discover new businesses in their area. For instance, if I ran a used car dealership called "ABC Motors," I'd want to describe my business better than just ABC Motors, right? A great way to do this would just be to put "Used Cars" after the name of the dealership. (E.g. "ABC Motors - Used Cars")
From there, you want to ensure your main My Business category is set to "Used Car Dealer." You can then list your categories, such as "Car Dealer" or "Auto Repair Shop." When adding categories, Google will provide suggestions to help you maximize this feature.
Reviews are also an extremely important factor, as they not only can help boost local rankings, but improve website CTR (click-through rate) and increase in-person visits. (If you're out and about, would you choose to visit the dealer with a 4.5 rating and 100 reviews or the 3.0-rated dealer with only 10 reviews? Pretty obvious!)
A model review profile on Google My Business will have a 4.0 or higher star rating, a large number of reviews compared to other listings, and a regular flow of new reviews being left across the web.
Your location is a huge factor in Google's local results. These are based on your business's proximity to the centroid, which is the city center according to Google, or proximity to the individual searcher.
This factor gives a big boost to businesses located near the centroid, and those located near heavily-populated areas. What this means is, those located miles outside of their target city, or those located in a less-densely populated area, will likely rank lower than those favored by Google's proximity-based factors.
That puts your business at a slight disadvantage, but focusing on citations and organic SEO factors can help you outrank competitors at locations Google favors.
Next week I'll discuss ways you can fix issues with your local presence and give advanced tips for local SEO success.