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By Brian Pasch
This week I was blessed to co-present a three hour workshop with JD Rucker on Automotive SEO strategies for auto dealers. The 40+ dealership employees in attendance at the workshop made for a lively discussion on a number of topics related to Automotive SEO, social signals, online reviews, and Google Cars.
So what was one of my "call to action" messages for dealers at the workshop? I asked them to stop the insanity regarding their website page title tags, also known as the "TITLE" tag by HTML programmers.
After I explained the evolution of automotive website templates I asked them to take action to correct the errors that the largest website providers propagate to this day.
What if I asked you to add the phrase "Pink Elephant Engines" to every HTML "TITLE" tag on your dealership website pages? Would you rush to do it? Of course you wouldn't do it!
You would tell me that that "phrase" would not be relevant to the content on every single page on your website.
You might laugh at that example, but today the majority of website providers add the Dealership Name to most every page "TITLE" tag on the dealership's website. It is time that we END the insanity.
Why should this practice stop? I will build the case if you care to read further. However, there are a few pages that adding the dealership name in the "TITLE" tag makes sense.
Here are a few of those pages:
The simple fact is that for most every car dealer in the United States, when a consumer searches their dealership name, Google presents their home page at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
For example, if I search for Performance Kia, here is what Google presents:
So, aside from pages that are specifically talking about the dealership, why would you waste the LIMITED 70+ characters in the "TITLE" tag with words that have no reason to be included on that page?
Also keep in mind that many off-site hyperlinks to a dealership's website are on the Dealership Name and those links go to the home page. The dealership's home page is always well optimized for a search on their Dealership Name.
Since the "TITLE" tag is VERY important is getting your website pages ranked for keywords that DO NOT include your dealership name, why would anyone waste the space? Would you add "Pink Elephant Engines" to every page?
Adding the dealership name to every page is the same as adding any CRAZY phrase to every page! This dilutes the on-page SEO strategy for every page on the website. #FAIL
A few years ago when the first Automotive Website Awards (AWA) were presented, it was not uncommon to find dealership website pages that had hundreds of "TITLE" tags that were the same on the dealership's website. It was also common to find these EXACT "TITLE" tags on other dealership websites from the website provider.
To fix this problem, website providers decided to add the Dealership Name and the City where their store is located to the "TITLE" tag to create more unique page titles. This change seemed to satisfy our industry but no one seemed to question whether the dealership name was really needed on every page.
Some companies told dealers it was good for branding; really?
I am questioning this practice and after conducting current research, I have concluded that removing the Dealership Name on unnecessary pages is one of the simplest ways to improve the SEO strength of a dealership website.
If you want to see if your website provider has added your Dealership Name to most every page, you can search Google's index for the answer. To search, use the "site:" command followed by your website URL, as shown below:
Google will show you the first 10 pages of your website, and you can advance to see the other pages on your website. Here are a few pages that I found on the Performance Kia website:
So, is adding the words "Performance Kia" to every page really helping this dealer? No!
If someone was looking for Performance Kia, Google will deliver their home page organically for free. You might also notice that this website vendor is using the SAME Meta Description tags on every page regardless of the content on the page.
This is a perfect example of how templated websites can hurt SEO for car dealers if they are not customized for each page of content. What this dealer needs is additional traffic from consumers in the Everett area that are searching for Kia vehicles.
This dealer also needs to understand that a consumer is not typing into Google the simple phrase "Under 10K". This examples shows bad SEO tagging, but that is a separate discussion!
Just know that "SAME IS LAME!"
If this Kia dealer wanted to sell MORE Kia Optima cars in Everett, they should have a better page title and SEO content strategy. Here is a much better example of what the tagging for this Kia Optima page should look like:
This website page shows new Kia Optima vehicles for Performance Kia. The page currently shows only 2013 models but soon it will show 2014 models. The recommended page "TITLE" is optimizing generic new models because this is a vehicle Search Results Page (SRP) and during model year transitions it could be showing two model years as new.
The point is that if the consumer does NOT search the dealership's name, they will be using words that need to be matched by the on-page SEO strategy. For example, if a consumer was searching for "New Kia Optima Monroe" this recommended page tagging would have a better chance of being indexed than what exists today.
Most website platforms allow dealers to edit their SEO Page "TITLE" tags. I would suggest that dealers reading this article FIRST contact their website provider and ask if they can simplify the editing by globally removing the dealership name from their templates.
Depending on the response from their website provider, I would invest the time to edit each page on your website to make sure that the "TITLE" tags are very precisely targeted to the content on the page.
Remove the Dealership name on unnecessary pages and focus on the content goal that each page is targeting. Of course, the "TITLE" tag is not the only element that impacts SEO, but this is a very simple place to start. Are you ready to take the "Pink Elephant Engine" tags off most of the pages on your website?
I hope so!
Brian Pasch, CEO