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3 Keys to Knowing if Your Dealership's SEO is Really Doing the Job


This is one of those blog posts that my team will probably hate. I can already hear them. "Stop giving away our secrets!" As I've posted before, there really should be no such thing as secret sauce in automotive digital marketing, so I'm going to share our recipe.

There are three key ingredients to a proper automotive SEO awesomesauce. You can taste for these ingredients in what you're doing today as well as in the presentations you hear from other vendors as they try to sell you SEO. If you taste it, you're on the right track. If you're missing any of these ingredients, it's time to find a better sauce.

1. Focus on Driving Great Traffic

There are many ways to send traffic to your website. We look at social media, for example, as a way to attract shoppers to your website using dark posts and shopper data, but that traffic is great, not prime. Don't get me wrong - many of the visitors that come through proper social media advertising are ready to buy a car, but they're brought there aggressively rather than passively.

Most dealers don't like to think of search traffic as passive, but that's what makes it so valuable. It's not that the traffic itself is passive. It's that the techniques are passive. No matter how well optimized you are or how much money you throw into PPC, you still have to wait for your customers to actually do the search. With many forms of advertising like social, banners, and Pandora, you're aggressively driving traffic even though they weren't necessarily in "buying mode" when they came across the ad.

People who search for important keywords relevant to buying a car are doing so because they're in buying mode. Anyone can optimize a site to drive traffic, but focusing on the keywords that are certain to be searched for when people are hot to make a purchase is the sort of traffic that you should be attacking with your SEO.

2. Focus on Driving them to Great Pages

I remember a debate I had with an SEO company a couple of years ago. We were challenging the pages they were creating for our shared client. The pages were loaded with content and had a little button half way down the page that linked to inventory. I asked them how this page was going to help convert the visitors to leads or sales and their response was something to the effect of, "that's not our job."

Incorrect. It is your job. It's not just about driving traffic to any old page that can be optimized with content. That traffic has to convert in some form or fashion. There's an old notion that if you send people to a page, they can always click on inventory when they get there. I've seen the statistics. It doesn't work.

Pages that are not designed to either generate a lead or clearly direct people to a page that can generate a lead is nearly worthless regardless of how well it's optimized. The stats are clear. People will go to the page from a search term like "New Honda Accord Houston" because that page has plenty of content about the topic, but if the page is designed specifically for optimization and does nothing to compel action, the people who visit it don't see what they want so they bounce.

Pages must be optimized and they must convert or push the traffic to a page that does. If that's not a core philosophy in your SEO sauce, you might as well pour Prego all over your website. It'll be just as effective at generating leads.

3. Traffic Should be Going Up Year Over Year

There are always factors that come into play that affect traffic, but any good SEO company today can drive more organic traffic. The market is in a good place. If you're not seeing significant year-over-year increases in organic search traffic, something's not working.

I bring this one up even though it should be a no-brainer because we ran across someone who was pitching against us the other day. They were pointing out several keywords that we weren't ranked at the top for and using that as an example of how our SEO was bad. Some of the keywords were relevant. Most were worthless.

When we pulled up analytics and showed a huge increase in year-over-year organic traffic, the conversation ended quickly.

There's a reason that around 300 companies in the automotive industry offer SEO. It's not because it's easy. It's because it's easy to sell and hard for dealers to quantify. If you apply these three keys to your SEO checking, you'll know that you've got a great sauce.

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