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3 Keys to Knowing if Your Dealership's SEO is Really Doing the Job

This is one of those blog posts that my team will probably hate. I can already hear them. "Stop giving away our secrets!" As I've posted before, there really should be no such thing as secret sauce in automotive digital marketing, so I'm going to share our recipe.

There are three key ingredients to a proper automotive SEO awesomesauce. You can taste for these ingredients in what you're doing today as well as in the presentations you hear from other vendors as they try to sell you SEO. If you taste it, you're on the right track. If you're missing any of these ingredients, it's time to find a better sauce.

1. Focus on Driving Great Traffic

There are many ways to send traffic to your website. We look at social media, for example, as a way to attract shoppers to your website using dark posts and shopper data, but that traffic is great, not prime. Don't get me wrong - many of the visitors that come through proper social media advertising are ready to buy a car, but they're brought there aggressively rather than passively.

Most dealers don't like to think of search traffic as passive, but that's what makes it so valuable. It's not that the traffic itself is passive. It's that the techniques are passive. No matter how well optimized you are or how much money you throw into PPC, you still have to wait for your customers to actually do the search. With many forms of advertising like social, banners, and Pandora, you're aggressively driving traffic even though they weren't necessarily in "buying mode" when they came across the ad.

People who search for important keywords relevant to buying a car are doing so because they're in buying mode. Anyone can optimize a site to drive traffic, but focusing on the keywords that are certain to be searched for when people are hot to make a purchase is the sort of traffic that you should be attacking with your SEO.

2. Focus on Driving them to Great Pages

I remember a debate I had with an SEO company a couple of years ago. We were challenging the pages they were creating for our shared client. The pages were loaded with content and had a little button half way down the page that linked to inventory. I asked them how this page was going to help convert the visitors to leads or sales and their response was something to the effect of, "that's not our job."

Incorrect. It is your job. It's not just about driving traffic to any old page that can be optimized with content. That traffic has to convert in some form or fashion. There's an old notion that if you send people to a page, they can always click on inventory when they get there. I've seen the statistics. It doesn't work.

Pages that are not designed to either generate a lead or clearly direct people to a page that can generate a lead is nearly worthless regardless of how well it's optimized. The stats are clear. People will go to the page from a search term like "New Honda Accord Houston" because that page has plenty of content about the topic, but if the page is designed specifically for optimization and does nothing to compel action, the people who visit it don't see what they want so they bounce.

Pages must be optimized and they must convert or push the traffic to a page that does. If that's not a core philosophy in your SEO sauce, you might as well pour Prego all over your website. It'll be just as effective at generating leads.

3. Traffic Should be Going Up Year Over Year

There are always factors that come into play that affect traffic, but any good SEO company today can drive more organic traffic. The market is in a good place. If you're not seeing significant year-over-year increases in organic search traffic, something's not working.

I bring this one up even though it should be a no-brainer because we ran across someone who was pitching against us the other day. They were pointing out several keywords that we weren't ranked at the top for and using that as an example of how our SEO was bad. Some of the keywords were relevant. Most were worthless.

When we pulled up analytics and showed a huge increase in year-over-year organic traffic, the conversation ended quickly.

There's a reason that around 300 companies in the automotive industry offer SEO. It's not because it's easy. It's because it's easy to sell and hard for dealers to quantify. If you apply these three keys to your SEO checking, you'll know that you've got a great sauce.

Views: 300

Tags: SEO, Search, Search Engine Optimization


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Comment by Timothy Martell on April 27, 2015 at 8:37am

Point 3 for me. Its all about the results. But I'd take it a step further. What is a "significant y-o-y increase?" 

In my opinion, you should see a minimum 50% increase in Y-o-Y rolling organic website traffic in order to justify spend with your SEO company. Understand this is the minimum benchmark for the first year of service. Once your SEO company has reached an anniversary date, then 50% y-o-y should be the ongoing metric.

All of these thing are relative to market, of course. Heading in to a recession would potentially change this. So ask your SEO company for context.

Google trends will allow you to research and compare over time how many consumers are searching for a thing. Say your traffic is down 10% from last month, but Google trends shows that searchers for your product conducted 30% fewer searches -- in that case you would be up against the trend.

As the saying goes, "figures lie and liars figure." So beware of SEO companies who still want to talk about keyword rankings. Rankings are useful for correlation but not for causation. Traffic is only one metric to look at. What did the traffic do? Did you get more leads? More phone calls? More chat requests? Did that lead to more sales? What does traffic up or down tell you? 

Context matters. If your organic traffic is up 20% this month, is that a good job by your SEO company? The answer is, you don't know because you need more context. If google trends shows a static or downward trend of consumers searching for your stuff, then its a great job. If it shows that consumers conducted 30% more searches, then you should fire your SEO company. 

In order to know, you need context. If your provider is unwilling or unable to provide that context, then that should be a huge red flag.

Great post JD.

Comment by Alexander Lau on April 6, 2015 at 7:58am
In my SEO work, it's still the same for me and always has been:

Comment by Tom Gorham on April 3, 2015 at 3:17pm

I'm going to do you one better Tyson by especially loving them all, because none of them work in isolation.  Driving great traffic to loser pages does not get results.  And SEO can never be great if it doesn't drive people to VDPs... Visit Dealership Professionals.

Comment by Tyson Madliger on April 3, 2015 at 10:05am

I'm going to especially love #1 just to bring it full circle.

Comment by Carl Maeda on April 3, 2015 at 1:16am

Great post!  Especially #3.  The proof is in the pudding.  You should also look at organic leads too.  Unless your goal is exposure, driving a ton of organic traffic is worthless if your organic leads (form leads, phone calls, chats, etc) don't increase.  Organic leads won't increase proportionally since a good SEO company is targeting areas that may be closer to another dealer but there should still be a steady increase.

Comment by Big Tom LaPointe on April 2, 2015 at 1:47pm

great piece - especially love #2. no replacement for displacement. selling cars has to be the objective for EVERY VENDOR.

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