Strategic SEO guide for automotive websites - Dealer Buzz

Strategic SEO guide for automotive websites

SEO marketing is critical, not just for car dealerships, but for any website. To achieve good results from SEO it’s important that you have a clear understanding of why you want to do SEO and what you want to get out of it. Without such insight and the right plan, it will be difficult to hit the nail on the head and, ultimately, it can waste a lot of your time and money.

The following guide will help you plan your SEO strategy and understand how you can achieve your goals.

Define why – start with ‘WHY’ you’re making your SEO plans

Ask yourself why you want to improve SEO on your website. Do you want to generate more visibility? Increase your traffic? Up your sales figures? Or is it simply because SEO is the current buzz word and everyone else is doing it?

I sincerely hope that you are looking at SEO because you want to generate more business through search engines. Although if you’re planning SEO because of any or all the other reasons listed above, then that’s Ok with me too!

However, you should be very clear on why you want to spend money on SEO, as wall as what and how much you want to achieve out of it.

For me, every car dealer has an excellent reason to work on SEO: to sell cars faster. Everyone wants to sell more cars through their own website, rather than simply relying on outlets such as Auto Trader, which just adds an extra cost.

Define what – decide ‘WHAT’ your SEO goals are going to be

Before you define ‘how’, its important that you are clear on ‘what’. Make sure you know:

  • Your geographical reach, or where your customers are. According to my experience, smaller car dealers trading up to 200 cars can attract customers from a 5- to 10-mile radius, whereas a car supermarket holding 1,000 or more vehicles will find its customers from up to a 50-mile radius.
  • Your top make models. What stock are you holding right now that you need to sell? What are the fasting moving models?
  • How much traffic you need to sell each car. On average, each car requires about 200 to 500 page views before it is matched with its potential new owner.

Now let’s look at how you’re going to achieve your business goals (i.e. drive qualified traffic to sell more cars).

Ranking – Find out how many miles your customers have travelled to visit your dealership. this is very important. If you’re a local dealer, do not make the mistake of targeting generic or nationwide keywords, such as ‘Used Cars’ or ‘Car Dealers’. Such targeting is not going to get you anything but a waste of money, time and resources. Define a more realistic targeted keywords list for the optimisation of your website.

For example, if you are a local car dealer, then target very local keywords:

  • Used Cars + Rushden
  • Car Dealers +Rushden
  • Rushden Car Dealers
  • etc.

If you are a car supermarket, target wider regions, town and cities:

  • Used Cars for sale in Cambridgeshire
  • Peterborough Car Dealers
  • Car Dealers in Peterborough
  • Car Dealers in Westwood
  • etc.

Traffic – If you have 200 cars, you require approximately 40,000 page views per month on average. Certainly, you’re not going to generate all these views with SEO alone, but it can provide at least 50% of them. (These figures can vary, and are open to debate, but this is the closest estimation I can provide, based on my own personal experience.)

Lead Generation – Define how many cars you need (or want) to sell. This will not only give you the level of website traffic and search engine ranking you require, it will also help you decide whether or not you need to run a PPC, email or social media campaign alongside your SEO to boost its impact.

Search Market Leadership – It’s really important for your dealership or car supermarket to strengthen its reputation in the local area to challenge your competitors. A car supermarket will certainly need to see its brand appearing above smaller local car dealers in organic searches, in order to protect the reputation of its brand. This is critically important for car supermarket brands.

Important: start by creating a timeline for each task. If you want to achieve 40,000 page views, write down when you want to have done this by. Work out what you will achieve after your first quarter and then after a year. Define a separate timeline for each goal, otherwise things will remain complicated.

Define how – work out HOW you’re going to achieve your SEO goals

Ranking, traffic, leadership and leads are all important goals, but you should concentrate on sales lead generation, ahead of ranking or traffic. Plenty of websites appear at top ranking, generating huge traffic as a result, but with low or even zero actual business conversion or sales leads. So, whatever you decide to do, always think first about how to increase your sales leads.

Here are few key steps that you can:

  • Build an SEO-friendly website – If SEO is an important part of achieving your online goals, make sure your website is built in a search engine-friendly way.
  • Never compromise user experience – Put your users first when you build the site – never lose sight of the your human audience. Build a website that engages and communicates with users. Direct them, help them, give them precisely what they’re looking for. Don’t get involved in any discussions, or get confused by debates over SEO Vs. user experience. By putting your customers first, you will not compromise your message or the quality of your website and its content. If you would like to discuss this further, or need more detail, please let us know.
  • Optimisation – Start by defining your targeted keywords list and use it to optimise key areas of your website, such as content, headings, URLs, meta data, breadcrumbs/navigation, images and internal links.
  • Build content – It’s vital for your website to continue growing in size with unique and fresh content added on regular basis. Your website needs to continuously deliver traffic under new keywords it has never delivered before. For this you can use your car classifieds, blogs, news articles and user-generated content. Another benefit of constantly building new content is that it helps you create natural links and SEO hooks, as well as encouraging your brand to go viral.
  • Build links – Links play a key role in SEO success. The more high quality, unique and relevant websites link to you, the more chances your own website has of appearing at top ranking. Link building has changed lot in recent times, and is now more challenging than ever before.

It’s important to earn your links, rather than build them indiscriminately. To do this, you must treat link building like a PR or marketing exercise. Here are few things you can do to earn links:

  • Build fresh, unique and interesting content that people will be moved to comment on and mention on other websites.
  • Allow people access to your RSS feed, so they can display your content on their own website.
  • Use social media to connect with your audience in real time and help them when they raise queries.
  • Show appreciation and thank people who purchase from you, or give you a good review.
  • Run competitions.
  • Sponsor local charities and events.
  • Always use good quality pictures.

Define progress – make sure you monitor performance

A number of tools exist  to help you monitor the performance of your website.

1. Google Analytics

This is a free tool that you can use to check your traffic growth month on month (MOM) and year on year (YOY). To analyse growth, you should always be looking at your YOY growth, rather than MOM

Your (car dealership) website results should focus more on views, so keep an eye on your total page views and where they come from. To do this, I suggest monitoring:

  • How many visitors are referred to your website, and via which medium?
  • How many of those visitors (via each medium) actually go on to view vehicle detail pages?

This goal setting can help you understand how much of your SEO traffic actually goes on to search and view individual vehicle detail pages, rather than simply browsing the main landing pages.

This data is valuable information that will help you to hone your optimisation strategy. Finding out which pages have a high bounce rate will help you fix  the leakage. You can fill in the gaps and ensure that your traffic continues travelling across your website until it reaches those all-important vehicle detail pages.

2. Advanced Web Ranking Tool

While you can check your website ranking manually, which will cost you nothing, if you have lots of keywords, this will be a massive challenge. There are number of tools available to help with this, among which Advanced Web Ranking is my favourite.

This tool will enable you to:

  • Schedule an auto ranking check – you set a daily, weekly or monthly auto ranking check and then download the latest report. I would, however, advise against checking ranking on a daily basis.
  • Keep track of your ranking trends.
  • Compare your ranking with your competitors.
  • Analyse your search market leadership, based on which site has more visibility.

3. Majestic SEO

This tool offers both free and paid-for versions. You can use it to check your link growth trends and also compare your website against the competition.

In conclusion

  • Be realistic when you select your targeted keywords list.
  • Content is king and the absolute centre of SEO.
  • Approach link building like you would a traditional PR or marketing campaign. Think it through carefully and learn how to build good quality links, rather than any old connection.
  • Have clear goals from the start and a good understanding of how to achieve them.
Qamar Rehman