The car-buying journey is complex, with multiple touchpoints spread over weeks, months, or even years. If you want a chance at getting your dealership in front of these car buyers, you need to be present at every point in their journey.

An illustrated look at the digital touchpoints in a car buyer's journey.

And, because we know that the majority of consumers begin the car-buying journey by searching on a search engine, it stands to reason that getting your business found on search engines should be a top priority.

That’s where car dealer SEO comes in.

In this post, we’re going to cover:

  • What car dealer SEO is.
  • Why SEO is a must for your dealership.
  • Five SEO best practices to help you get found.

With that, let’s jump right in!

What is Car Dealer SEO?

Car dealer SEO is search engine optimization to help your dealership's website get found in search engines.

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of optimizing your car dealership’s website and web presence for search engines so you can get found for queries related to your car dealership’s expertise, car models, and services.

SEO incorporates a number of onsite and offsite optimizations to help your dealership rank in search results, like on Google and Bing, so you can attract the widest number of car buyers to your website – and hopefully – to your dealership to make a purchase.

You can dive deeper into SEO by downloading our guide here.

Why is Car Dealer SEO Important?

According to Google, a typical car buyer’s journey can include around 900 digital interactions. These interactions can run the gamut from watching video test drives on YouTube to reading reviews of local dealerships.

This graphic shows one car buyer’s journey to making a purchase over those 900 interactions.

This graphic shows one car buyer's digital interactions when looking to buy a car - SEO can influence many of these touchpoints.

Image Source

It’s highly unlikely that a car dealership’s website will be the best resource for everything a car buyer might want to know about their next purchase. Car buyers, like consumers for any product or service, like to conduct a fair amount of research to narrow in on the car they want to buy and then find the right dealership for them.

This graphic from Google shows some of the "micro-moments" car buyers are searching for throughout the car buying journey.

Google outlines the search journey “moments” for a typical car buyer.

That said, the dealership is the place the customer goes to assess, drive, and ultimately purchase their next car – whether in person or online.

Car dealer SEO matters because when it comes time for the car buyer to find the dealership from which they want to purchase their vehicle, they’re going to find that information on search engines – and if your dealership doesn’t show up for that “where-should-I-buy-it” moment, you’re most likely going to miss out on a sale.

Car Dealer SEO Best Practices

So, now that we understand what car dealer SEO is and why it matters, let’s talk about actually getting found on search engines. In order to rank for searches related to your dealership, you need to employ some car dealer SEO best practices.

Car Dealer SEO Best Practice #1: Make Your Website Design SEO-Friendly

It's important for your dealership's website to be mobile-friendly if you want to rank on search engines with SEO.

The foundation for effective car dealer SEO is a great website. While website design and SEO are two different things, they’re closely related. Your dealership isn’t going to rank in search results if you have a bad website – it’s just not possible.

So, here are some boxes your website needs to tick in order to boost your dealership’s SEO.

Mobile-friendly design.

Google now indexes the mobile version of a business’s website rather than the desktop version. And, if you can recall from the earlier Google graphic, 71% of that car buyer’s digital interactions happened on mobile – so it makes sense that search engines want to deliver a positive experience for car buyers that are largely conducting their research on their phones.

So, your website needs to be accessible – and readable – on any device. You don’t want a car buyer having to pinch in to read the content of your website. The key point is that you should design your website to work as well on mobile devices as it does on a desktop or a laptop.

Metadata.

Let’s back up a bit for this one. We’ve talked about how the purpose of SEO is for your dealership’s website to rank for searches related to your inventory and services – but we didn’t talk about how that happens.

Google and other search engines send these bots – sometimes called spiders – to crawl all the webpages across the internet, “read” the content on the site, and index the pages on the site. When a search occurs, the search engine’s algorithm ranks the indexed sites based on what it believes is most relevant to that query – taking into account a huge number of factors, like location, search intent, and more.

You can use HTML tags – like title tags, meta descriptions, and image alt text – to signal to these bots what a page is about, which helps simplify the indexing of the page and increases your chances of ranking for relevant searches.

This image shows the title tag and meta description of a car dealership's website as it appears on Google.

Website speed.

Speed has long been a factor in increasing your chances of ranking in organic SEO results; and in 2018, Google updated its algorithm to emphasize mobile speed as a ranking factor. Content still seems to be a more dominant factor, but investing in a fast-loading website and making sure your pages load at a reasonable clip of speed is a smart move.

Car Dealer SEO Best Practice #2: Choose the Right Keywords

When most people hear the phrase “SEO,” they think keywords. Keywords are important in car dealer SEO because they signal to search engines what your dealership offers.

When it comes to keywords, it can feel like the possibilities are endless – your dealership likely has a large inventory of a variety of models, specific makes, and other services – and many keywords are broad and will be extremely competitive to rank for. For example, the top automotive keyword WordStream identified is “car” with over 9 million searches.

This image from WordStream shows the search volume for top keywords in the automotive industry.

When it comes to determining keywords for your dealership’s SEO strategy, you want to get specific. One way you can think about and narrow down your keywords is by audience. There are three basic audiences that keywords can be geared toward.

Local market keywords.

The first audience is the local market. Just like you’d kick back with a can of “pop” in South Dakota and a can of “Coke” in Mississippi, local markets have different vernaculars that they might use to ask a search engine the same basic thing.

This image shows how people across the US use different verbiage for the same thing - something to take into account with your SEO.

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More importantly, local conditions affect what car buyers are searching for. Consumers in South Florida likely face a different set of basic ownership conditions (heavy traffic, rain) than those in Fairbanks, Alaska (longer driving distances, winter); and are probably using different keywords to address ownership questions related to cars.

It’s important for your car dealer SEO strategy to incorporate local market keywords because you’re likely targeting your local market car buyers, so you want to make sure those local consumers are finding you.

Commonality keywords.

The second audience is people who face a common scenario. Regardless of whether a customer is in Fairbanks or Fort Lauderdale, she may have occasion to do a search for “Hyundai dealership near me,” meaning she’s likely in the market for a car. Or, she might do a search for something like “car making a strange rattling sound,” meaning she probably needs repairs for her current vehicle. Both queries deal with services you provide if you’re a Hyundai dealership with a repair center. Local automotive SEO keywords need to address common scenarios like this.

This screenshot shows a search for car rattling noise and the dealership that addresses that query in their content.

This dealership showed up when I searched “car making rattling noise” with a page for a diagnosis they offer.

Think about how car buyers are searching – even before they begin their car buying journey –and see if you can group these common questions or concerns into buckets you can target with your content.

User intent-focused keywords.

The third audience is the search engine itself. The search engine doesn’t live anywhere and has no reason whatsoever to go car shopping; it only wants to connect the user to the most useful resource. To do this the search engine looks at a mix of signals – including keywords – and uses algorithms to figure out how helpful a given website might be.

Consumer data comes in handy here because it can answer essential questions like user intent and exact phrasing so you can ensure your keywords are relevant for searchers and help search engines rank your page for related searches.

Car Dealer SEO Best Practice #3: Don’t Forget Local Listings

Your dealership local listing, or local citation, is any online mention of your dealership’s name, address, phone number, website, business hours, and other basic information on the web. Your local listing is what comes up when a user types in a search term like “BMW dealership Hawaii,” what they see in the contact info when they visit your Facebook page, and even how a third-party source like an online news website has your information listed.

This screenshot shows the Google 3-pack that appears for BMW Hawaii

An example of the Google Business Profiles that show up when I searched for “BMW dealership Hawaii.”

The customer obviously needs this information to get in touch with you. Search engines use citations to verify the quality of your website, and to a certain degree, your business.

Here are some quick tips for your car dealership’s local listings.

Make sure your business information is consistent across all listings.

If, say, a used car dealership in Stephen King’s fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine shows a business address of “1313 Pet Semetary Road, Castle Rock, ME” in some key directories and “133 Pet Semetary Road, Castle Rock, ME” in others, search engines may treat the dealership page as “less reliable” and ding it on the results page.

Check that your information is accurate and up to date often.

If you have the wrong phone number, address, or website listed on your local directory, you’re missing a way to connect with a car buyer who’s ready to take the next step and potentially buy from you. Check that your local listings are displaying the correct information you don’t miss out on a sale.

Complete your local listings.

Many local listings, like Google My Business, give you a way to add images to your profile. We know that car buyers are looking at pictures as part of their decision-making journey, and this is another place for you to display that information for them and hopefully win them over as a customer.

This dealership has included images in their Google Business Profile to complete their listing.

Pay attention to (and respond to) reviews.

While we’re talking about listings, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention reviews. Reviews are an important part of your online presence and can impact your SEO as well. Respond to all of your reviews and ask your customers for feedback to keep building up your online reputation.

Learn more about how your dealership’s local listing ties into SEO here.

Car Dealer SEO Best Practice #4: Incorporate Video SEO

Google is the world’s most popular search engine, but do you know what comes in at number two? It’s YouTube (which is owned by Google).

YouTube is a powerful SEO tool for your car dealership because not only do YouTube videos surface in Google search results for relevant searches, but car buyers are also searching on YouTube during their research phase.

Let’s revisit this graphic again:

This graphic from Google shows how car buyers are watching YouTube videos as part of their car buying journey.

This car buyer watched 14 YouTube videos throughout their car-buying journey. In order to give your car dealership another opportunity to rank on Google (and on YouTube), you need to be incorporating video SEO into your overall car dealer SEO strategy.

We go into detail on video SEO for car dealerships here.

Car Dealer SEO Best Practice #5: Get Your Site Ready for Voice Search

Voice search is something your dealership needs to be prepared for. By this year, it’s predicted that more than 35% of the U.S. population will use voice search.

This chart from eMarketer shows how voice search usage will increase.

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And, voice searches on mobile devices are three times more likely to be local searches – meaning searches for local businesses like car dealerships – than they are on other types of devices.

This means that your car dealer SEO keyword strategy will need to start accounting for the type of searches that make up voice searches – long-tail, local queries. Think consumers searching on the go for something like “What’s the best used Mercedes dealership near me?”

Download the LOCALiQ guide for voice search to learn how it plays into your SEO.

Need help getting your car dealer SEO in gear?

The LOCALiQ Automotive team is standing by and ready to help you take your car dealer SEO to the next level. Our automotive marketing experts have the experience, expertise, and industry insights to help you get found on top search engines like Google and Bing. Reach out today to schedule a consultation or learn more.

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