SEO for Car Dealers and Dealerships – What Should Drive Your SEO Campaign?
As an automotive dealer, you have unique motives and needs when it comes to search engine marketing. It is true that there are general rules to SEO that apply to all industries, and you must indeed abide by the basics. These optimizations include technical on-page (meta-data, site architecture, etc.), off-page (link building, social media, etc.) and content creation, but it’s important to look deeper. Having worked directly in SEO for car dealerships, I know the issues and opportunities well. This article details requirements that are explicit to the online needs of your lot.
5 Things Your Automotive Dealership Needs to Do to Rank Well on Google
1. Abandon Dealer Website Templates
Next to real estate agents, car dealers get stuck with some of the worst automated website templates around. Sure, these cookie-cutter sites will get you up and running in no time at all, but they are a disaster. I’ve worked within them first hand. These templates put handcuffs on your ability to make custom edits and properly optimize the meta-data you need to rank better on Google. They don’t allow you to manipulate the h1 and h2 headings (essential), they often constrain your ability to optimize title tags and meta-descriptions, and they very rarely update software plug-ins that keep your site running fast and secure. When you combine improper meta-data with poor page speed performance, susceptibility to malware, and overall bad user experience (which increases your Bounce Rate) your SEO suffers. If you don’t have one, you will need a customized website for your dealership.
2. Strip Manufacturer Content
Duplicate content is one of the biggest killers of car dealership SEO. You slap new and used car descriptions straight from manufacturer e-brochures and repurpose it as your own to provide specs on the vehicles that you have for sale. It makes sense, and provides potential buyers with the opportunity to learn more about the vehicle as it was intended to be communicated, but unfortunately Google doesn’t see it that way. Instead, their algorithm sees that your website has taken verbatim information from a more reputable resource (the manufacturer) and used it on yours. This violates their law against duplicate content. You may escape without a penalty (a drop in website rank) but the content will not serve the SEO 101 requirement for new and original content. Instead, you will need to edit these existing vehicle descriptions so that it differs from the provided e-brochure. You must of course stick to the basic specs, but you will need to change the semantics enough to make it your own.
3. Write Unique Content for Off-site Online Resources
Consumer community websites such as Craiglist, in addition online automotive trade publications, offer you a second channel to market your vehicles. Once again, you see mass duplication of content. Let me explain. For starters, you take manufacturer product descriptions and place them on your website (already a violation). You then take these same descriptions, and place them on other online resources in order to direct customers to your dealer offering (on Craigslist, etc.). The original violation has now doubled, tripled, or quadrupled. Because these other online resources have been around longer than your dealership website, they have a better standing with Google. Thus, Google treats them as the authority, and you as the party that is taking the content and violating their terms. Now, imagine how many other dealerships are doing the same, creating an exponentially greater wave of the exact same product descriptions? You and other dealer websites run the risk of a duplicate (and then some) content violation. By writing unique product descriptions for your website and separate descriptions for the other online resources, you not only stay safe, you get a leg up on competing dealerships.
4. Provide Weekly Content Updates
Dealership product and service information is not enough to keep your website on top. You need to update your site on a weekly basis with original content (sorry, I know I’m loading you up with content requirements here). What does this new content look like? This is the fun stuff!
Start and maintain a weekly blog on your dealership website. Each week, post an article that answers a question that potential customers have. That means you will need to create articles such as “Best Cars for …”, with the “…” representing a quandary unique to your demographic reach. For example, a dealership on Oahu would post “Best Cars for Island Living”. A dealership in New York would post “Best Cars for NY City Driving”. You get the idea. Let Google auto-complete be your guide. Start typing in “best car for…” or “cars that are…” (etc.) and see what Google fills out for you. This will guide you towards a series of articles that your customers are actually looking for. If you have a graphic artist on staff, throw in info-graphics to complement your content efforts. If you don’t have a staff writer or graphics person, contact me to manage your content needs.
5. Reach Out to Get Links from the Online Auto Review Community
You sell a product that people care a lot about. Cars and gadgets populate the menu of practically every lifestyle and news website in the world. By creating the unique content addressed above, you provide them with information and graphics they need to reference in their own articles. Let them know that they can use you as that reference. Connect to local and national bloggers by adding them to your email distribution list. Connect to them on social media and note whenever they mention a vehicle make that you offer. Jump in to provide insight and link back to your material on the model/s. It’s a numbers game. The more writers/bloggers you connect with, the more likely one of them will actually reference your content via a link back to it. All it takes is one especially reputable website to link to yours to get that boost in search engine rank. If you don’t have a PR person to perform this frequent outreach, contact me to discuss.
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