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Navigating SEO is a DrivingSales.com exclusive series by Timothy Martell, CEO of Wikimotive. In this series, Tim breaks down ways that car dealers can improve their SEO and offers insight into how it will benefit business.
While SEO can be made to sound complicated, it's acutally a pretty simple practice. In its most basic form, SEO is all about knowing how search engines rank pages and applying that information to your site in order for it to appear more valuable to search engine users. The more valuable your site appears, the more you'll be rewarded with organic traffic.
But how does my site gain value in the eyes of search engines?
The two easiest ways to increase the value provided by your website is to create relevant, high quality content and work on building/earning links.
Content that's relevant, well-researched, and written/formatted shows search engines that you're an authority on any given subject. So if you're a Toyota dealer, you should have tons of content about Toyota the brand, Toyota vehicles, and Toyota services on your website. Don't mistake quantity for quality, though. Four pieces of high quality content can be more valuable than forty pieces of thin, low quality content. (Google hates thin content!)
Links tell search engines how your website connects to others, and is used as a quality signal. If you're linked to by high quality sites, your site will also be seen as high quality. But just like thin content, if you're being linked to by sites with little to no authority, your link building efforts won't provide results.
Now that introductions are out of the way, here's a look at five important things dealers need to understand about SEO:
Most of you probably aren't concerned about the ins and outs of SEO, you just want to know how it will affect your dealership, right? Here's how to think about it:
When a prospective car buyer searches "Toyota Corolla Los Angeles," it's pretty clear they're looking to buy a Toyota Corolla in Los Angeles. But if your dealership isn't in the first few results for this type of search, you're simply out of luck. That customer is likely going to find what they're looking for before they even know your dealership exists. Doesn't matter if you have better prices, service, or you give a free iPad away with every car sold. They couldn't find you.
With a proper SEO strategy, you'll be able to better compete for high-value keywords, rank for more unique and longtail keywords, and will receive more leads over time. The reason this is so important is because you're not advertising to [hopefully] reach car buyers. Instead, a regular supply of high-intent car buyers seek you out. You'll still have other methods of pulling in buyers, but you'll be increasing sales by better reaching people that are in the market TODAY.
If your plan is to give SEO a try the same way you'd give Netflix 30 days to entertain you, don't waste your time. SEO requires a long-term commitment in order to take effect and show tangible results. Doing the job right, there's no getting around this.
Not even the most accomplished SEOs can make magic happen. It all comes from a strong strategy, commitment, consistency, and time. I'm sorry if that means you'll never seek out SEO services, but I'd rather give you the truth now than disappoint you later.
That's not to say you can't dabble in SEO and see results, but without commitment and consistency you're cutting out a lot of potential growth.
When you hire an automotive SEO company, or an independent consultant, you expect them to provide results. Due to the nature of SEO, however, there's the possibility your site and business can actually be harmed by those who take short cuts, use black hat techniques, and generally don't follow Google's Webmaster Guidelines.
Things like duplicate content, thin content, and paid links are unfortunately still common practices in 2015, despite Google's intense crackdown via manual spam penalties and algorithm updates. The worst part is that, if you don't know what to look for, you're not going to be able to hold SEO vendors accountable.
A lot of dealers are shocked to learn how important their website and its user experience are to their success with SEO. It's not something that just works all the time, every time, regardless of how your website looks and functions. User experience and SEO are inter-connected.
This is because user behavior affects SEO. (I touched on this in last week's post, but it needs to be mentioned again here.)
If users are spending less time on your site and viewing less pages per session compared to your competition, it's logical to conclude that they're providing users with a better experience. As a result, your competition will also likely out rank you. When you work on improving the user experience of your website, you're not only able to see better results from the traffic you are getting, you're sending signals to search engines that will help increase your organic traffic over time.
We're in the car business, so we should know better than anyone else that the saying, "You get what you pay for," is almost always true. If a customer comes in and is looking to really pinch pennies on a used car, they know that $1,500 doesn't buy them a quality car.
So why would you as a dealer think that a company could offer quality service for the equivalent of beater-car prices?
If you want a hands-on, custom experience that actually gets results, you need to treat SEO like a full-time job. Whether you hire someone in-house or outsource to a vendor, you need to know exactly what you're getting and why it's worth it.
I believe this information will become more relevant and important as time goes on. Eventually, digital marketing will eclipse traditional marketing and every single dealership in the country will be giving SEO a closer look. As of today, I view SEO as a chance for dealers to hit the ground running and put themselves in a prime position of power for the foreseeable future.