Car dealerships have long been driven by the brick-and-mortar business model. Customers drive onto the lot, find a car, haggle on price, then drive it away. At least, that’s how it used to be done. In today’s retail climate, consumers are starting the car shopping process online long before they ever visit a physical location.
On average, a customer spends 14 hours researching and browsing vehicles, and most of that time is spent online. The most visited websites are the ones ranked highly on the first page of Google and other search engines. So what is the key to becoming the #1 search result on search engines such as Google? SEO.
According to Moz, search engine optimization (SEO) is all about “increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic, as well as exposure to your brand, through non-paid search engine results”.
The amount of attention you give to SEO will help determine how many high-intent shoppers find your business. These seven tips will help you learn the essentials of SEO and help your dealership achieve better rankings, capture more traffic, and maximize sales.
1. Build valuable content with keywords
We should talk about keywords first.
They’re the root of any SEO strategy and are arguably the most important aspect of getting the right results. If you’re not planning keywords for every page of your website, you’re missing opportunities.
Relevant keywords—words associated with your product or service—can be determined based on the page’s theme (i.e. used cars, servicing).
Google’s Keyword Planner is an easy-to-use tool for uncovering the right keywords to build SEO-friendly content.
Some simple keyword research will help you build valuable content because it gives you an understanding of what exactly users are searching for in your domain. For example, you could be planning content around a special cash back promotion but keyword research might reveal more interest in 0% financing promotions, causing you to prioritize that content instead.
Long tail keywords offer incredible value due to their specificity. In the dealership, longtail keyword examples would include “2018 Ford F-150 brake pad replacement”, “2020 Hyundai Tucson Essential FWD”, and so on.
However, keywords shouldn’t be your main focus when building the content of the webpage. You should always be thinking about the value for the reader first. Google has gotten too smart and stuffing keywords onto pages in a way that doesn’t provide real value to customers won’t work anymore. Rather, if you focus on creating content that users love and engage with, search engines will reward you with higher rankings.
2. Rank for local search results
Because almost all of a dealership’s business is coming from within a 50km radius, local keywords (e.g. used cars Scarborough) can help you capture more local traffic.
According to search marketing website Search Engine Land, more than 80% of consumers now try to find local search results using the term ‘near me’ or ‘in [city name]’. For example, a Chevrolet Trax owner could be searching for ‘Chevy dealership near me’ or ‘Trax repairs in Victoria’.
If you can service this intent, the higher you are on the first page of search results the better it will be for business because 9 out of 10 users click listings that show up on the first page of their search. On relevant web pages, URLs, and meta descriptions, plan to sprinkle local keywords throughout.
3. Google My Business
More than ever, Google My Business (GMB) plays a critical role in local SEO. At the forefront of GMB importance is what’s known as Google 3-Pack – the top three local results that Google displays for local searches. Your goal should be to show up in the 3-Pack and stay there.
Keep your GMB information current with accurate opening hours, complete address and location listings, and up-to-date photos of your dealership. Positive customer reviews also go a long way towards boosting your ranking.
4. Leverage alt tags
Visual content is engaging, regardless of who the customer is or which department they’re searching for. High-quality photos and videos that help spread awareness of your store, introduce your people, and provide detailed information about products and services are solid gold for a dealership website.
The key to making photos and videos work for SEO are alt tags. More accurately known as alt text (alternative text), alt tags let you add text to the HTML code that simply describes the visual content in a few words. Adding alt-text is an extra opportunity to help search engines understand what the webpage is about and index it accordingly.
5. Look for link-building opportunities
You thought the days of phone book listings were over, didn’t you? They’ve just moved online. While you may not see much traffic generated from listing your site on Yelp, Bing, YellowPages.ca, Canada411.ca, or WheelsOnline.ca, it’s once again an opportunity for your website to be indexed and recognized by Google.
The more websites that link to your website, the more of an authority you become in the eyes of Google. A website that Google views as an authority in its space will enjoy higher rankings across the board.
Directory listings are simply an easy form of link building. Links are key for Google to identify your business as an authority and in turn, Google will rank your website higher.
For more information on link building, check out this helpful guide.
6. Create relevant meta descriptions & URLs
The meta description is the snippet of text that users see on search engine results pages (SERP). It describes the contents of the page in about 155 characters and helps the user determine if your website has what they are looking for. A well-crafted meta description goes a long way towards boosting the number of users who visit your website.
Using compelling language, your meta description should accurately summarize the content of the webpage and it should at least include the primary keyword. For example, a page focused on helping buyers find used SUVs should mention ‘used SUVs’ in the meta description.
Every web page serves a different intent, and your meta descriptions should reflect this. Unique pages require unique meta descriptions. Try to avoid meta description duplication because it will signal a poor user experience, and as we mentioned, a poor user experience will only help your rankings plummet.
Furthermore, when you upload a new page, try to keep your URLs as concise as possible and easy to understand by users and search engines alike. Brian Dean at Backlinko states that no URL should contain more than 4 words.
For example, this blog article’s url follows that rule: https://dealers.canadadrives.ca/blog/seo-tips-for-dealerships
7. Implement schema markup
Basic SEO is one thing, but differentiating yourself from the competition may need to take an advanced approach. Schema markup is one of the tools that can elevate a second-page search result to a highly ranked first-page result.
Schema uses behind-the-scenes language similar to HTML to help provide context for search engines and consumers alike. It will take information on your website and aggregate it for better understanding by browsers. You’ll find Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper here to see how it works.
This is in-the-trenches SEO that is best done by a professional. However, it could be managed by your dealership’s IT specialist.
So where do I start?
It can seem like a lot to tackle but with online retailing taking on crucial importance in this post-COVID era, SEO is more critical than ever. Search engine algorithms are constantly changing making SEO a moving target that needs constant monitoring and tweaking. Some of it you can do yourself and some may require professional help.
But before you do anything, you need to put measures in place to track your progress. Google Analytics and the Search Console tool can help you understand what is and isn’t working for your website, so make sure you get those tools set up before you begin your SEO upgrades.
Boost the quality & quantity of your internet leads
At Canada Drives, SEO is just one of the many powerful tools we leverage to reach more customers every day. With our sales-savvy methods and digital know-how, we deliver steady lead flow to hundreds of certified dealerships nationwide.
Contact us to learn how we can help you find more leads and close more sales.