We all know we need SEO to drive traffic and make the most of our websites, but if we’re being honest … do we really know what it is 😬? And how are dealership teams with limited time and resources supposed to stay on top of changing algorithms and trends to do organic search right?
Despite its importance, many still find SEO to be a mystery with constantly changing rules. It can be difficult to stay on top of (literally), and for some it can be even more difficult to see the impact and results relative to low-funnel campaigns.
Fortunately, the experts at CARS brought the combined SEO brilliance of Cars.com, Dealer Inspire, and DealerRater together to help you better understand what exactly SEO is, why it matters so much, and how to develop a connected SEO strategy that delivers long-lasting results. This guide will help you master the fundamentals of SEO to dominate the SERP (Search Engine Results Page), just when you need it most.
It’s no secret that 2020 has been a challenging year for dealerships on all fronts. The pandemic has changed the landscape and made what was already predicted to be a down year even more difficult. New-car sales are projected to fall 26%. Now more than ever, you need cost-effective marketing solutions that help your business meet these challenges head on and drive traffic to your digital lot. SEO is just the thing.
When the pandemic hit, many dealers were forced to make hard choices about their marketing budgets — but those that were able to continue their SEO plans with Dealer Inspire saw significant results. Dealer Inspire clients that continued to invest in SEO services saw a 10% increase in sessions and a whopping 114% in conversions, while those that paused SEO missed out on more than half those opportunities. If you can, now is the time to shift your goals and focus on organic opportunities that will help you win in the current market.
Now that we’ve established why SEO is critical to your digital marketing strategy, let’s get on the same page about what SEO really is. We too often see SEO viewed as the gaming of keywords and pulling of wizard strings. While there is certainly some behind-the-scenes magic that goes into managing the more than 200 factors Google’s algorithm uses to rank websites, great SEO can actually be quite simple.
SEO success all boils down to one key thing: offering an amazing consumer experience. At the end of the day, consumers turn to search engines for answers. If you can get them the best answer in a straightforward, simple way, search engines will recognize and reward you with traffic. Consumers also want to turn to websites they can trust, which means building your authority and reputation is also important.
While we’re clearing up some SEO misconceptions, it’s time to tackle a big one. SEO is not just something you do on Google. Sure, Google has become the Kleenex equivalent of search, but it’s hardly the only engine in town. It’s important that dealers have an optimization strategy that spans both pure play engines like Google and Bing, AND takes into account auto specific engines like Cars.com.
If you only optimize for Google, you are missing out. Be sure to plan and optimize your presence to align with car-shopping behavior.
Now that we’ve settled the why and the what, it’s time to get down to business and do what we do best … show you how. This guide will give you the advice you need to build a connected search strategy that amplifies your presence across multiple platforms to dominate the SERP and drive even more traffic to your digital lot.
We’ll show you how to optimize your website, your listings, and your reviews to outrank and outperform the competition. This is the triple threat of SEO, and it will maximize the potential for in-market shoppers to find and choose your dealership, wherever and however they search.
At every step of the car-shopping journey your potential customers have questions — and each of the answers they find online ultimately lead them to what car they want to buy, for how much, and most importantly, where. Your website is the foundation of your entire digital presence. If it’s not streamlined, easy to use, and answering those questions with relevant content, it’s not delivering customers.
Let’s take a look at five ways you can make sure your website is optimized for success.
You may not think of marketplaces as search engines, but that’s exactly what they are — except 100% of the people using them are in the market for a vehicle. When you take into consideration how and what consumers are searching on Cars.com, you can optimize your inventory to drive more impressions and conversions on your Cars.com VDPs.
Not only do vehicles with photos get better placement in the search results, they also generate more consumer interest and engagement. It’s best to include multiple shots per listing to give shoppers the full picture. Here’s a shot list to get you started:
Providing a tailored video of the vehicle will also amp up your results, maximizing the time users spend on your listings and improving their performance.
Both third-party sites and search engines will rank pages with unique seller’s notes higher. On Cars.com that results in a 40% increase in VDP views.
Beyond your inventory, every Cars.com customer is also given a dealer directory page, which is powerful for your dealership website’s SEO because it’s a backlink from the most relevant authority with rich, unique content. Make the most of your page with an “about our dealership” write-up highlighting your unique value propositions.
And finally: Reviews rule the SERP. According to Moz’s annual “Local Search Ranking Factors Study,” customer reviews are among the top ranking factors. At CARS, we see this firsthand via performance of DealerRater® reviews, which appear on the first page of search engine results and Google Knowledge Graph 97% of the time for dealer name searches.
Knowing consumer experience is the foundational principle of SEO, it’s no surprise that reviews have a huge impact on your performance. In addition to being great content, reviews send a strong signal to the search engines of trustworthiness and authority.
Whether you are trying to improve your rank on Google, increase conversions on your website, or drive better performance on sites like Cars.com, implementing a comprehensive reviews strategy will help you achieve better results. Here’s how you can get started.
In keeping with its emphasis on consumer experience, Google encourages businesses to interact and engage with reviews, rewarding businesses that take the time to respond. Responses build unique content that increases your SEO footprint and build trust in your dealership.
While there is no question responses can improve your rank, it can be difficult to find the time and to train staff to respond to reviews. Tools like AutoResponse™ make it easy to respond by generating real-time, personalized, human responses to every review. Without spending additional hours managing reviews, you can still generate unique content that builds customer loyalty and SEO value.
When you combine a well-optimized website with well merchandised listings and a comprehensive online reviews presence, you’ll find your dealership has what it takes to take over the SERP.