Article

Three Practical Ways Your Dealership Can Leverage SEO

March 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Michael Teitelbaum - Also by this author

Auto dealers today are quite familiar with the power of the Web to generate business. In fact, many dealers employ an Internet sales manager tasked specifically to utilize the Web to find, acquire and retain customers. Even if your dealership does not have someone dedicated to Web sales, you likely have an attractive Web site that provides solid, well-organized information and useful tools to visitors. However, getting the right people to the Web site, then compelling them to walk through your door may still be a puzzle you’re still trying to solve.

That’s where search engine optimization, or SEO, comes in. SEO refers to the process of structuring and creating content to help your Web site appear as high as possible in all relevant “natural” keyword search results. When done well and with a little patience, SEO can be the holy grail of Internet marketing, as it can drive targeted traffic to your Web site without spending a dime on paid search listings.

While SEO is often seen as a black science to the technologically challenged among us, there are some effective steps your dealership can take to leverage keywords and optimize your site for search engines. Here are three practical ways your dealership can create an effective SEO strategy:

Keywords that Stick
It’s a common misconception that SEO simply involves throwing keywords against the digital wall to see what sticks. In reality, this tactic could hamper your site’s SEO effectiveness or, even worse, get it flagged by the major search engines as a purveyor of keyword spam, which will make your Web site virtually invisible to search engines. You definitely don’t want that to happen.

Rather than stuff your Web site full of loosely-related keywords in an attempt to grab as many eyeballs as possible, pay close attention to the keywords and search terms that truly reflect your site’s content and what your prospective customers are looking for. Consider the terms that best describe what differentiates your dealership, including vehicle brands and specialties (such as SUVs or luxury cars), geographic location and service department details.

Structure Web Page Content for Easy Search
Weighing heavily on how relevant and important your Web pages appear to the search engines is the structure of your Web page content. As you begin to write copy for each page, pay close attention to the placement and format of your keywords:

  • Include your designated keywords in every paragraph of the page’s content and repeat them as often as seems reasonable.
  • Use both singular and plural forms of your keywords to increase their visibility to search queries.
  • Whenever possible, begin each paragraph with a subhead that includes a keyword.
  • Use your keywords as links to other pages of your site.
  • If your site is heavy on images (most dealership sites are), watch out; search engines can’t read images.   Be sure to build Image ALT tags into your keyword-relevant images; they’ll tell search engines what the image is all about.
  • Don’t forget to include a clear call-to-action and highly-visible contact methods on every page!

Although SEO content strategies yield longer Web pages, this structure will make them easier to read.

Frequent Updates Keep Rankings High
Search engines are smart; they can tell when a Web site hasn’t been updated in a while. Those that appear stale are dropped lower in search result rankings, which means even a well-planned Web site can lose search engine steam. For that reason, regular Web site content updates should be a key part of your SEO strategy.

Keep in mind that auto dealerships and search engines have two different things in mind as far as “regular updates.” To search engines, the vehicle inventory pages of your Web site, which may be updated daily, are invisible because the coding behind these pages is ignored when search engines crawl through your site’s content.

Fortunately, there are several other ways to keep your Web site’s content fresh. Special sales and model-specific incentives are a natural, as they occur regularly and often tie in with other advertising channels. A monthly e-newsletter is another opportunity to reinforce your brand among existing and potential customers. This content can be doubly effective, as it’s often chock-full of relevant keywords. One important tip: Make sure all text is in HTML format, as search engine crawlers can’t read through PDF or image files.

If writing a regular newsletter seems a little daunting, consider adding a page or two to your Web site that will include dealership updates or industry news. Even brief snippets will keep your Web site up to date. Keeping your site updated has positive benefits. While, it’s good for search engines, it appears relevant to new and repeat visitors, which is good for business.

A word of warning: Updating your Web site too frequently can actually be detrimental to your SEO efforts. Search engines need time to locate and index your new content; too many changes in too short a time period can raise virtual red flags. If possible, limit very frequent (think daily or every other day) changes to only a page or two of your site, such as one dedicated to latest news, and link to it from your homepage. Such a strategy strikes the right balance between frequent updates that please users without rocking the boat for search engines.

Bonus Tip: Be Patient!
One of the most common misconceptions about SEO is that it will work as soon as you publish your newly-optimized pages. In reality, it can take months before SEO helps your Web site “move the needle” and start generating an increase in targeted traffic.

Vol 5, Issue 1

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