Many dealers are coming to realize that their best opportunities come from 1st party consumer leads, like their own website. Many are also realizing that there are more than a handful of companies who claim to be geniuses when it comes to SEO.
This next statement is going to piss off a few “SEO Gurus” but it may help you save a few thousand bucks, so grab something to take notes with and get your vendors on speed dial because we’re about to have some fun.
SEO, or at least what you’ve been told it is, and what you’re buying from most vendors, is total and complete B.S. Whew, that was easier than I thought it would be. Let’s talk about what SEO is, as many vendors describe it, and why you may want to reevaluate your SEO spend.
According to Dictionary.com the definition of SEO is: search-engine optimization: the methods used to boost the ranking or frequency of a website in results returned by a search engine, in an effort to maximize user traffic to the site: “The first step in SEO is to generate keywords that are relevant to your site’s content.”
An article on Google’s own Webmaster Tools site says: “Deciding to hire an SEO is a big decision that can potentially improve your site and save time, but you can also risk damage to your site and reputation.”
Why would Google say that I could risk damage to my site if all my experts are telling me that SEO is the way to go? It’s simple my friend; because people have a squirrelly view of SEO. Today, I hope to help you redefine SEO at your Dealership and hopefully help you improve your business for 2015 and beyond.
Fact: We won’t be able to cover everything in one article.
Fact: I will give you a few links to continue your research.
Fact: I’m a car guy so I’m going to explain things like a human.
We all know why we’re digging into different SEO tactics; it’s to get more people on our websites. Ok, now that we know why, let’s talk about what really determines whether or not we’re visible.
SEO Tip #1: Give searchers what they want. In a post on Search Engine Watch, Google’s own Matt Cutts is quoted saying “…if you keep a mental model of, what is Google trying to do – we’re trying to return great search results for users…we’re going to want to return high-quality pages that you’re making.” So what Google is telling us is that it’s not about trying to think like Google, it’s about trying to think like a customer. If I search for new Ford F-150 prices in my local market, I want to see information on new Ford F-150 prices.
SEO Tip #2: Understand that searchers are open to relevant options. In Google’s 2013 Digital Drives Auto Shopping study we learned that 72% of search sessions involve cross shopping. This means that if I search for an F-150, there’s a high likelihood that I’m open to your Chevy Silverado or Ram 1500 so if you want to be relevant, have comparison data on your website showing me why your truck is better than your competitor. This not only makes you relevant for me as a Ford F-150 shopper, it also makes you relevant to Chevy Silverado shoppers and Ram 1500 shoppers.
SEO Tip #3: Stop doing the black hat keyword overload crap you’re doing now. Black hat tricks still work, but they suck, and eventually your site rank will suck too because of it. Black hat tricks are the B.S. you see on a bunch of sites where they’re putting our competitor’s cities on our website in a mishmash of paragraphs that don’t make any sense in an effort to draw that out of market business. Sure, it may work to get you ranked for now but as Google’s algorithms improve, your relevance will decrease in those foreign markets. If you want to be sure you’re visible in those markets you may be better served making a few videos to put on YouTube letting customers in those markets know why it is worth the drive to your dealership. Heck, pay for some pre-roll campaigns out of market to get some attention that way but for God sakes stop trying to act like your website and dealership are in 20 freaking cities!
Some of the ‘top’ website companies in our industry are doing this and to be blunt, it’s garbage and if your web provider is doing it, you may want to have a talk with them.
SEO Tip #4: Redefine SEO. Instead of thinking of SEO as Search Engine Optimization start thinking of it as Smart Engagement Opportunities. Your ultimate goal is to engage with a consumer that is interested in purchasing a vehicle, and turn them into raving fans who will buy again and refer their friends right?
I’m sure you’d agree that the best quality consumers are repeat buyers, referral buyers, and local in market shoppers. If we know that to be true, why are we trying to chase people a million miles away who we know won’t be loyal, won’t service with us, and won’t tell their friends to drive hours to do business with us?
Smart Engagement Opportunities are created by focusing on what matters most to the customer. Many people say that the internet has killed customer loyalty but I would argue that our desire to chase business everywhere instead of focusing on our current customer base and local shoppers is what truly kills customer loyalty.
Smart Engagement Opportunities come from creating a website that targets our local area, that shows great competitive and comparison information so that we’re relevant to the 72% of people who actively cross search.
Smart Engagement Opportunities come from creating ways for customers to convert based on their preferences. This means balancing multiple conversion opportunities without being annoying. Sure most people don’t like lead forms but some do so have a simple form that doesn’t require much info from the shopper. Give people a visible button to engage via chat, without pestering the hell out of them using a pop-up on every page. 90%+ of text messages get read and it’s the #1 way people communicate, so use it to offer instant incentives. Is your local landline text-enabled? If not, why? Use enticements for more than just discounts! How? What about an enticement that tells the customer “Let us call you to schedule your service appointment, click here.” Use informational video instead of ‘commercials’ to grab attention. 84% of Auto shoppers will watch videos before buying, are they seeing yours?
Smart Engagement Opportunities come in all shapes and sizes, all we have to do is care enough to create them. As you start planning for 2015, consider your SEO game plan and decide if you want to keep trying to change how Google functions in order to gain page rank (which is not realistic) or if you want to create powerful, profitable, Smart Engagement Opportunities.