It’s time to change how you think about SEO. Google has released several major updates the last few years that have profoundly affected SEO, yet far too many dealers and automotive marketing agencies are still using the same tactics they’ve been using for 5+ years.
Let’s jump the big hurdle first – SEO does not equal adding lots of “location landing pages” to your website. Google wants to see quality content – quantity doesn’t really matter. Several years ago, Google released a statement that said the algorithm rewarded fresh content, and everyone ran off in the wrong direction, thinking that constant addition of content equaled higher rankings.
It wasn’t right at the time, and it’s even less right today. Google’s algorithm wants to see quality content that answers the questions that users are asking. I’d much rather add one page to a dealership’s site that’s really awesome than add 10 low-quality pages because there’s a page for each different city the dealership wants to target.
Here’s where it’s important to change another misconception – Google uses multiple algorithms, not just one. For auto dealers, and anything related to dealerships, Google uses the local algorithm. Various elements are weighted differently than in the standard algorithm, and additional items are considered that don’t matter at all for traditional ranking.
Physical address and proximity are massive factors in the local algorithm – which means they’re huge factors for all dealers. It matters where your dealership is located. In a competitive market, users who are searching near your dealership will see you ranking much higher than users on the other side of town.
Adding weak pages targeting nearby cities won’t help you show up in those cities. In fact, if you overdo it, you’re risking a penalty. Google calls those types of pages “doorway pages” – low quality pages that are meant only to rank for a phrase and then funnel users to main site pages.
SEO is so much more than just your website. One of the most weighted signals that Google uses to rank sites is inbound links (other sites linking to your dealership’s site). It’s one of the most beneficial signals, but most dealers don’t do anything with it, and most providers avoid it. Building links from other sites is difficult and time-consuming, and it’s easier to prove perceived value with pages of content, since dealers can “see” what’s being done.
The biggest thought shift you need to make this year is that your website is the end-all-be-all source for SEO.
In fact, all the Local SEO experts are predicting that the most important aspect of Local SEO in 2019 will be your Google My Business profile. I disagree – that shift has already happened.
Your Google My Business profile is your new home page. For years, you’d hear that your website is your new showroom, and that you have to have an awesome home page because that’s your first impression with customers. Now, it’s your GMB profile.
Every dealership site used to get tons of traffic from users who would go to your site to get your phone number, or to see when you’re open, or to get directions to your dealership, or to check out testimonials. All of that info (and more) is available in your GMB profile now. Those users don’t need to go to your site, because Google is serving them that information to the right of the search results.
Your Google My Business profile should be your number one priority in 2019. You need to be sure that every element is filled out completely. Make sure your dealership name is correct, as well as your address. Upload lots of great photos and videos, and make sure you come back and add more photos and videos every month.
It’s absolutely vital that your GMB profile includes a local phone number – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do call tracking! Google has finally updated their algorithm, so call tracking on GMB won’t hurt your visibility. If you want to track GMB calls, simply enter the tracking number as the primary number, then enter your local number as the second number. The primary number will show to users, but the local number is still associated with the profile, so you won’t get penalized for not including one.
Category choice can also affect visibility in searches. Choose only the most exact categories that actually fit what you do. Most franchise dealers will only need (brand) Dealer, Used Car Dealer, and Auto Repair Shop. Don’t try to use other categories that aren’t meant for dealers. For example, we often see “Appraisal Service” listed, because dealers say they appraise the value of a trade-in. The Appraisal Service category is for a completely different kind of business, and when Google sees categories for unrelated businesses, it can cause visibility problems.
You should be sharing Google Posts weekly. They’ve been around for over a year, but most dealers don’t even know they exist. You should be sharing promotions, since Posts are seen before customers even get to your site. Most Local SEO experts have seen visibility boosts for businesses who use Posts on a regular basis. More importantly, it’s a competitive advantage, because it’s likely that you’ll be the only dealer in town using them.
GMB is hugely important – we’ve seen tons of instances where customers will ask questions in Q&A that could be EASILY answered on the site, yet users won’t go to the site to get the answer… They just submit a question and expect the dealership will answer. That’s an unmistakable sign that most users view the GMB profile as the definitive “answer set” for the business – not the website.
The GMB Questions & Answers section is another huge opportunity. The vast majority of dealers don’t know that Q&A even exists. We see tons of dealers who have multiple questions submitted, but no answers from the dealership. Even though the Q&A section displays directly under the dealership’s address and phone number, we see tons of questions asking for the dealership’s phone number. These questions are often service leads – and they’re left in limbo because no one answers.
You can even upload your own questions, and then answer them. It’s like a pre-site FAQ page. Remember, your GMB profile is your new home page, so don’t expect that potential customers will click through to your website and read your FAQ page. Pre-load your questions, and put in great answers, and you’ll see more clickthroughs to your site.
Start 2019 with a bang and change how you think about SEO. Put more emphasis into off-site signals and concentrate on your Google My Business profile – you’ll show up in more local searches and convert more local customers.