In the days before the internet, buyers navigated to dealerships by the highways and byways. Maybe they used a road map to find the dealership that, hopefully, had their favorite car. Ads in newspapers included the dealership address. Television commercials probably featured the dealership lot and flashed the address, too.
Buyers are now discovering dealerships virtually using the internet. Sure, they might pass by the dealerships on the way to work, but when researching new cars, they are using search engines not road maps. Unfortunately, search engines navigate the web using different compasses. Can buyers find your dealership when they search online?
Instead of navigational directions, buyers can find dealerships online using different methodologies, including:
- Search terms
- Clicking on online ads
- Social media outreach
- Links on third-party sites
Search Terms and SEO
While there are perhaps endless ways that internet users can somehow surf onto a dealership’s website, the search engines are probably the top resource that navigates the buyer onto a specific website. Search engines like Google display search results using the power of complicated algorithms, and these algorithms can get very tricky.
Google’s algorithms change often, and Google can drop a website’s rankings on their search queries for a number of reasons. These are known as penalties and SEO experts for companies must follow the rules to ensure a business ranks on top and doesn’t get booted from the search results.
Car dealerships can improve their rankings in a number of ways. One of the easiest tips to ensure that potential buyers notice the dealership’s website is to optimize content using key search phrases. These phrases are those that are commonly used by individuals in their hunt to answer a question, find a business and even uncover a perfect product.
Unfortunately, these search phrases don’t always make perfect sense grammatically. For example, a top-ranking search phrase could be “2022 models dealerships.” The magic of SEO is not just identifying the phrases that internet users type into the engines but also weaving them organically into content.
Google, it should be noted, does not like and does not reward keyword stuffing. This means that the search keywords are included nonsensically into a blog article or on-site content. When sites start stuffing keywords into content, they usually are more focused on the words than on providing readers with information or quality content. Sites that also might be hit with a Google penalty.
If a dealership does not optimize online content, the site might not rank high on Google. The dealership could be several pages into a user’s search query, which is almost equivalent to internet invisibility.
Dealerships can work with an SEO expert to best optimize content and ensure that the dealership is visible on the search engines.
While dealerships might still allocate some funds towards print advertising, many ad dollars are now spent online. After all, the internet is where most consumers spend the majority of their time.
Facebook, Google and other sites all offer online advertising options. The ad campaign that dealerships choose, though, could be dependent on their ad budget, their audience and their messaging, too.
Online advertising is unique in that it can let businesses precisely target their ads on the exact audience they wish to reach. They can focus on a specific demographic or even a geographic location. Ads can even target both.
Sites like Facebook and Google make it very easy for dealerships to create their own online ad campaigns. Facebook has an entire page devoted to automotive inventory ads. Dealerships that have not ventured into online advertising could research their options via Facebook and Google to dip their toes into this virtual type of advertising.
Social Media Outreach
Social media is free and being active on social media is a great way for businesses to be visible to potential customers, current customers and the general public. Is the dealership active on social media? If not, why?
Facebook is, by far, the most popular social media platform. The platform has nearly three billion active users. YouTube isn’t far behind with more than 2.5 billion users. Meta’s photo-centric social site Instagram has more than 1.4 billion users.
If the dealership isn’t on social media, they are missing a key opportunity to engage with potential customers and current customers, too. Most dealerships offer a service department, and current customers might take their vehicle in to be serviced at the dealership.
In addition, customers who are looking for a new car might check out the social sites of nearby dealerships. If the dealership isn’t active on any social media platforms but the nearby competition is social, the dealership is missing a huge engagement opportunity that, unfortunately, the competition is enjoying.
Links on Third-Party Sites
When car buyers are researching their car options, they might begin their research online. One of the first sites they often visit is third-party sites like Kelley Blue Book (KBB). These sites are typically resources sites that car buyers use to explore different vehicles and perhaps even the value of their car.
Third-party sites might include links to local dealerships. For this reason, keeping a website current with updated inventory could encourage more engagement from visitors who find the dealership from these third-party sites. A car buyer won’t want to stay on an outdated and clunky site.
Links can work in other ways, too. For example, the dealership might be interviewed for a local story. The owner of the dealership also could provide a guest editorial or post on another site. All these opportunities could provide links to the dealership.
Not all backlinks are good, though. Remember the keyword stuffing penalties? Google also doesn’t like backlink stuffing. This SEO technique often is synonymous with poorly written content that is created simply to backlink to a website.
Backlink stuffing also caused Google to look at ‘guest posts’ a bit more critically. This doesn’t mean that a business should never guest post on another site, but that post should be informative, well-written and not aimed at getting a link.
If the dealership has an in-house expert on certain topics, the individual could be a resource for another site or offer up editorials or articles with helpful tips for readers. Keep content organic, and make sure it’s well written. However, dealerships and other businesses also should know that Google is eyeing guest posts that appear to be aimed just for links.
Dealerships that might be feeling invisible online should analyze how easy it is for customers to find the business on the web. The roadmap to a business now often begins with the search engines. Dealerships should be mindful about optimizing content and should beware of keyword and backlink stuffing, too.
Online advertising also could be another opportunity for dealerships to be seen by customers. Facebook and Google make advertising easy, and dealerships can create a campaign that fits their needs and their budget.
The easiest way for many dealerships to remain visible online, though, also might be the cheapest: get social! Social media is used by billions worldwide. Use social media platforms to engage with current customers, be visible to new customers and to take an active part in the virtual social world.