Covid exacerbated the online buying trend and even pushed car dealerships to move business online. However, from 2019 to 2020, Cox Automotive noted that car shoppers were actually spending less time researching and shopping for a car online.
Before the pandemic, buyers spent around nine hours shopping and researching; in 2020, search time decreased to around seven hours. Online research typically ends at the dealership sites. Each dealership may vie for traffic to their site and might strive to create a site that serves as a go-to resource for buyers. Here’s how dealerships can use SEO to drive sales and business and reach more customers.
What is SEO?
Some dealerships might drive traffic to their site by focusing on social media and engaging online. Social media is a great tool for dealerships to boost visibility. However, the search engines are a primary tool that customers use to find what they want when they are shopping.
Google is the most widely-used search engine, and it operates via specific algorithms that are designed to aid an individual’s search and place the best results at the top of the page. No one really knows how exactly these algorithms are designed, but many marketers spend their days trying to master the big riddle that is the Google search design.
Search engine optimization (aka SEO) is the term that marketers use when talking about creating content that best addresses the presumed design of Google’s search algorithms. SEO involves weaving keywords into online blogs and site pages to ensure that these particular pages and stories are featured among the first results of an individual’s search query.
Search Engine Journal explains that because so many car shoppers research online, SEO is a key method for dealerships to use to help boost visibility, business and sales. In an article, the Journal advises dealerships on how to use SEO to drive business; for example, dealerships should claim their Google business page and also pay attention to the loading dynamics of their mobile site.
What many marketers know, though, is that the algorithms are always changing. SEO is ever-changing, and content must change with the dynamics of Google’s elusive algorithm design. Sometimes the engine favors content written in feature snippet form; this includes bullet-points that serve to answer a question.
Although the rules are ever-changing, dealerships still can find a way to gain the attention of car buyers researching online. When car buyers are searching for information on vehicles, they will enter specific phrases into the search engines.
These phrases are considered SEO keywords. These specific phrases are researched by businesses and then used within online content and messaging. The idea is that when keywords are incorporated into content, the pages with these keywords will show up at the top of a consumer’s search query.
However, keywords cannot just be streamed into stories, blogs or within web pages just randomly or meaninglessly. Doing this might cause a Google penalty; it’s actually called keyword stuffing. Google tends to reward well-written and researched content, and writing cohesive content that answers the questions of online users is the goal of high-quality SEO.
Great content should include those key phrases, but they need to be included organically. The phrase must make sense within the content.
Why is the Google Profile Important?
One of Search Engine Journal’s recommendations to dealerships is that they need to claim their Google Business Profile. Claiming this profile is important. Once dealerships take ownership of their profile, Google will create and show an ad that features the business.
However, there’s a little more work for dealerships. The Journal explains that dealerships should work with their marketing pro to add schema markup on every top-visited page of the dealership’s website. The Journal notes that this code acts as a guide for Google on how to display the dealership’s info.
Once dealerships secure their profile, the Journal advises that they should ask customers for reviews. Great reviews give a nudge to the search ranking.
Mobile Sites are Important for This Reason
In the fourth quarter of 2021, mobile searches accounted for more than half of all web activity. The majority of people aren’t using a PC or a laptop; instead, they are conducting their web searches and visiting websites via their smartphone or tablet.
For this reason, dealerships should audit their mobile site. How fast does the mobile site load? Is it easy to navigate?
The mobile site should load quickly and should be designed to simplify the user’s navigation. Visitors should be able to view current inventory, pricing and reach out to a customer service rep, too. The best dealership sites might include unique capabilities like augmented reality experiences or even immersive imagery like 360 degree spin photos.
When visitors are surfing onto the dealership site, they need to be able to access all the information they need when researching a vehicle. This information can include vehicle specs, any special promotions, MSRP, slideshows, etc.
Does the dealership offer the ability to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for financing online? Some dealerships are able to offer financing options online, but others cannot. However, dealerships should be able to provide an online chat function that lets visitors communicate directly to a member of the sales team; this enables customers to inquire about financing, test drives, etc.
Optimize Website Pages
While many marketing pros optimize blog content with SEO keywords, some companies neglect content on their web pages. Optimize all online content; typically, individual web pages include a paragraph of on-page content. Include keywords that can help boost the page rankings.
Dealerships might be curious about content length? Does Google reward longer blog articles? The general guideline is to aim to write around 1,600 words for blog posts and other content.
Dealerships and marketers need to plan out content to ensure that it’s interesting and not just wordsmithing. Don’t create blog posts that say nothing in 1,600 words or that simply focus on keywords. Again, Google doesn’t like keyword stuffing and the engine rewards quality content.
Create an editorial calendar that outlines topics and blog posts for the month. Think of fun stories the dealership would be interested in sharing. Maybe there’s an expert on the team who can share car care tips. Write an article about a new model. Feature team members in profile articles.
When creating on-page content, focus on information that helps create a resource for visitors. If content is focused on the team, write about the dealership’s beginnings and history and introduce current team members. Create quality, well-written content and information that engages visitors and keeps them on the website.
Imagery Adds Dimension and Depth
Content matters to Google. Keywords can help boost content to the top of search results, but images—the right images—can keep visitors interested, too. Dealerships can use car stock photos from EVOX Images to introduce new models, highlight current inventory and invite site visitors to explore and immerse in the car shopping experience.
EVOX Images offers 360 spin photos and 360 panorama photos that encourage interaction. Use these photos on mobile sites for visitors to explore different vehicles. Spin photos let site visitors use their fingers to interact with a 3D image of a particular vehicle.
Turn the car around to see the entire design. Panorama photos work in the same manner, but they focus on the interior of the car. Site visitors can explore the interior with a fingertip; panorama photos give them the illusion that they are sitting in the driver’s seat looking around the car.
When using vehicle stock photos from EVOX Images, dealerships also can include a caption that’s optimized with appropriate keywords. With SEO, dealerships can help navigate customers to their website and encourage them to explore content and use the site as a final resource for their car buying needs.