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The bad part about search engine optimization in the automotive industry is that there are so many companies that report on what they do for SEO rather than what they're accomplishing with their efforts. We've seen this hundreds of times when bringing on new clients and it's time to set the record straight.
It isn't hard to track the key performance metrics through which to hold your SEO or website vendor accountable. The most important thing to remember as the client is that you should have control over the data that you want to receive in reporting. That's the whole point. Letting them show you what they want you to see is not as effective as letting them know what you want to see.
There are plenty of things that go into SEO that a dealer could ask for in reporting, but I've broken it down to the three basic KPIs that should truly tell you whether you're getting a benefit out of their efforts or not.
There will be ups and downs in traffic to your website. Your advertising budget can go up or down and affect the amount of visitors to your website. The market can go up or down. Your inventory levels can go up or down. All of these things can affect the number of people that visit your website in any given month, but organic search traffic alone is less influenced by these factors.
If you're using Google Analytics, you can set your filters to show you organic search traffic and compare it to how you were doing the previous year. This is an indicator of progress, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you're getting results. For that, you'll want to watch...
Every good SEO company will show you the keywords that they want to get the most. Work with them and be sure to agree to target keywords right from the start. These keywords should be "strong" keywords, not necessarily really long-tail keywords that nobody searches.
For example, if you're a Honda dealer in Chicago, you would want to go after keywords like "Honda Chicago", "Honda Dealers Chicago", "2014 Honda Accord Chicago", and the like. Find out where you stand when you hire the company and the watch progress over time. There will be wins and losses. Nobody moves up for every keyword every time. However, you should be able to track some pretty strong advances that outweigh the setbacks. We go into more detail about this on our blog.
All of this is fine, but at the end of the day the most important factor is...
You have the ability to track the entry path of people who are landing on your website. By applying this tracking and goal setting, you'll be able to see how many people come on to your website through organic search and whether or not they're filling out leads. Once you know who's filling out leads and where they're coming from, you can see if you're getting more sales as a result.
Again, things go up and down. Your SEO company is not responsible for selling cars for you, but they can give you more opportunities to sell those cars. When all is said and done, isn't everything that you do from a marketing and advertising perspective supposed to help you increase business? SEO is no different and you should be able to see improvements if your SEO is strong enough.