Even though 2020 gave car dealerships favorable conditions and led to record profits in some markets, this surge is only temporary. Once the dust settles, expect the trends that formed in 2018 and 2019 to continue; namely, decreasing profits and reduced sales as third-party platforms for virtual car buying have gained popularity in the era of an app for everything. To regain the upper hand, you need to invest in car dealerships SEO.
Today’s car buyer has access to much more information and can compare prices across dealerships and other channels. This puts your business at a disadvantage unless you can become part of the car buyer’s search process. If you can enter the conversation before the buyer has decided where they want to go, you can make sure they come to you. Here at SteadyContent, we know how to position your car dealership by using the best SEO strategies.
Car Dealerships SEO: Everything You Need to Know
The Challenges of SEO for Car Dealerships
Car dealerships SEO strategies are quite different from those of other businesses. Even though platforms like Vroom and Carvana have become more popular, most people still prefer to buy cars from their local dealer. They want to try out the vehicle, and the idea of buying such an expensive item online still scares many customers. So, while most businesses just need customers to visit their website, a car dealership actually has to get the customer in the door.
Just having a very tall sign near a highway exit ramp is no longer going to cut it. You have to balance your local SEO with your overall online presence. Furthermore, you have to be in touch with your customers. People want transparent pricing and honest interactions, so if you can present your dealership as offering that kind of experience, you can expect more visitors.
Making matters even more complex is the fact that companies like Tesla are lobbying states to revoke laws that require cars to be purchased at dealerships. This could open up more avenues for online sales and push more people away from the traditional visit to the dealership. By investing in car dealerships SEO, you’ll be prepared if that day comes.
A Changing Landscape
Compare a customer’s car-buying habits from a decade or two ago with those of today, and you can see just how dramatically things have changed. For instance, back in 2010, Consumer Reports polled 1,700 individuals and asked how far they would drive to get a lower price on a new car. At the time, only one in four would have gone 100 miles or more. The median was 55 miles.
Edmunds gives us an updated look from 2021: The average is up to 65 miles now, and many individuals blow past the 100-mile mark and claim they’d go as far as a 4-hour drive away! Clearly, people are more willing to travel to save a buck, which can bode well for your business if your SEO is in good shape.
Instead of only focusing on your local SEO, you can couple it with sound SEO practices for your website in general. When customers start searching the web for their dream ride, you’ll be more likely to show up in the results.
How Customers Find Dealerships
A huge component of car dealerships SEO strategy is knowing how the average car buyer looks for a vehicle. The search process usually begins with a make and model that the customer has in mind. Perhaps they’re loyal to Ford or yearn for a brand new Beamer. During this phase, they read heaps of reviews, including ones written by actual car owners and review magazines.
Once they know what cars they’re interested in, they start searching for dealerships. The most common search is a local one: “Chevy dealership near me,” for instance. This is why local SEO is so important for your business. However, your customer might only find a couple of dealerships nearby. How can we help them find yours if it’s further away?
The key is to target several locations and create web content for each one. For example, if our hypothetical customer resides in Troy, MI, their “near me” search will reveal dealerships in neighboring towns, but none in Troy itself because there aren’t any. This is a great opportunity for your dealership to target Troy with a specific article about buying a Ford in Troy Michigan.
The Informed Car Buyer
The internet has given customers an edge when it comes to negotiating prices for vehicles. Not only can car buyers look up prices online and get a feel for the actual value before ever looking at the sticker in the window on your lot, but they can also show up with a much stronger understanding of their trade-in value and financing options. Where can you eke out some more profit when faced with an informed consumer?
One strategy that works well is to simply become the source of that same information. Imagine a dealership that posts competitor’s prices alongside their own. You’ve just saved the buyer significant time and given them an honest answer. If you’d rather keep prices offline, you can at least give customers more information about the vehicles and your dealership.
If all your website does is tell people to come on down, don’t be surprised when the phone stops ringing. You have to provide more information since that’s what car buyers want today. Fortunately, doing this will have a positive effect on your SEO, and therefore your business’s profits.
What Does Car Dealerships SEO Involve? Six Steps to Success
With a clearer understanding of what your customers are looking for, we can develop an SEO plan that will put your website front and center. While we need to prioritize local searches to bring people in the door, we also need to use targeted keywords to zero in on specific areas that you want to draw customers from. Think of it as regional SEO, instead of just local SEO.
From there, the bigger goal will be to make your website a source of useful content where customers can go to get trustworthy information. Even if they don’t end up at your dealership, providing useful information is a great way to get people talking about your site and sharing your articles.
The recipe for success follows six steps, beginning with an analysis of your current situation and finishing off with routine reviews of your content to ensure that it stays fresh and up to date.
1. Competition Analysis
Before you can start planning your SEO attack, you need to know what your competitors are doing. You can target the same areas in some cases, while also identifying areas that your competition hasn’t yet gotten into. What should you take stock of?
First, define your competition. Are you going to consider only dealerships with similar makes and models or any dealership in the area? How far of a search radius are you going to use to determine who your competitors are? Knowing that customers will drive farther than before should encourage you to widen your search and consider competition in distant counties.
Analyzing Your Competitors’ Content
Most dealerships will have a basic website that features the vehicles for sale and usually has a section dedicated to scheduling service. Beyond this, do your competitors have blogs or articles that discuss their vehicles? Do they have pages dedicated to specific geographical areas?
Do they go further and post content related to other makes and models? Do they share prices or keep them secret? While your goal shouldn’t be to emulate your competition completely, you do need to see where they’ve gotten a head start. When it comes to car dealerships SEO, if you’re not moving forward, you’re being left behind.
2. Website Redesigns
Just as important as the content of your website is the design and layout of your website. More and more searches happen on cell phones. Outdated websites often display text and images poorly on mobile devices.
If your website doesn’t work well in a variety of browsers across different devices, you’re leaving potential customers behind. For example, most car dealership websites don’t use AMP, which is the only way to get Google to recommend your website in its feed feature on Android phones or for it to appear in the carousel on search results.
We can help you modernize your website if it’s looking a bit long in the tooth. A cleaner landing page makes a strong first impression and can give your dealership the edge it needs.
3. Content Marketing
Content marketing is a proven inbound marketing strategy that lures people to your sales page by creating lots of articles about topics that your customers might be searching for. For instance, if you’re a Jeep dealer, your customers probably want to know where they can go off-roading or what third-party Jeep accessories would be best for certain outdoor activities. If you write articles about these topics, customers might come across them while they search for that information.
Inside that useful content are links that take readers to your sales page. Essentially, content marketing acts like a big funnel that directs readers to your business. The more you write, the bigger the funnel, and the more customers you can catch.
Of course, if you’re not a great writer or don’t know how to write content with SEO in mind, you’re going to want some professional help. That’s where we can step in and help. Our team of writers can produce high-quality content in no time.
Besides the car-specific example we gave, there are plenty of ways to use content to bring people to your site. Consider adding pieces about your local area. For instance, you could write about restaurants in your area, sporting events, cultural activities, or any other notable feature of your neighborhood. Target nearby towns too, since we know customers are willing to travel for a good deal.
You can also write comparison pieces for your vehicles’ main competitors. Pit your Dodge Viper against the Corvette and boast about how your sports car beats the competition. With car dealerships, there’s really no shortage of possible content ideas.
4. Google My Business for Car Dealerships SEO
Although we need to boost your website’s presence overall, car dealerships absolutely have to prioritize local SEO. By far, the most effective way to give your local SEO a surge is to use Google My Business.
This tool allows you to update your business’s information in Google’s database. With this information, Google can give searchers accurate details about your location, contact information, and operating hours. It’s imperative that this information is always accurate.
For example, if you’re closed on Sundays, but your Google My Business profile doesn’t say that, you’re going to run into problems. People will pull up to the dealership, only to see that it’s closed. They’ll then go into Google Maps and report incorrect information on your business. Google’s algorithm often responds by reducing your business’s visibility, recommending it less often until you correct the issue.
5. Regular Updates Boost SEO
Google’s algorithm loves to see a website putting out content on a regular basis. You should make it your goal to publish at least once a week. This lets the algorithm know that you’re active online and that your website is most likely up to date. It’ll be more likely to produce your site as a search result when it believes your content is relevant and timely.
Set a schedule and stick to it. If you’re struggling to come up with more ideas for content, reach out to us and get another perspective. Even the most creative minds run dry from time to time. Bouncing ideas off of another person is a great way to explore new content areas.
Updating Old Content
Your older pages and posts should also get updates. As consumers’ sensibilities shift, it’s important to make sure that none of your old content ruffles any feathers. Likewise, you may want to include certain topics that your consumers care more about these days.
For example, you might have older content about an SUV from 5 years ago. However, today’s buyer is likely more environmentally conscious than before and would be wary of buying an SUV. Consider revising that old content and discussing why buying a used vehicle is far better for the environment than building a new one, thus making the SUV purchase a good choice for the eco-friendly consumer.
You can also add updated links to new model years. Update that 2017 car sales page with links to the 2022 model and push customers to your latest offerings.
6. Reviews and Backlinks
Once your website is optimized and is chock full of great content, you’ll want to get positive conversations started about your site. Backlinks, or links that go to your website from others, are extremely important for SEO. Consider partnering up with local businesses to help cycle web traffic between your companies.
When it comes to reviews, you always want to highlight positive reviews on your website and comment on any reviews left on other platforms. When you’re actively engaged with consumers, whether they had a good or bad experience, your business becomes instantly more trustworthy in the eyes of potential buyers.
The best way to get all of this to come together and take your dealership to new heights is to hire a company with extensive SEO experience. Here at SteadyContent, that’s what we do. We’ll help you plan your content and write every word you need to reach the top of the charts. Contact SteadyContent today to schedule a meeting and see what we can do for you.