Car Dealerships & Mobile SEO: Have You Been Missing Out?

Since 2014 there has been a major shift in the way car buyers search for their next vehicle purchase, or shop for certain vehicle services. Isn’t it time for your dealership to join the conversation?

What we are seeing over the last couple of years, and more predominantly in the past twelve months, is a major growth in overall search volume done on mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets. Unlike traditional search – from the desktop/laptop – we are seeing a whole new style of search. This style is being defined as “conversational”.

In this article we will explain these changes with mobile search, and point out the many reasons why neglecting mobile SEO could be costing you a ton of traffic. Then we will show you how your new or used car dealership can “right the ship” before it is too late.

What Started the Mobile SEO Growth Trend for the Automotive Industry?

Since “Mobilegeddon” was announced in the spring of 2015, automotive dealerships have seen a continuous increase in total mobile traffic – not just in organic. Since Google currently dominates the mobile search share, a lot of this is a reflection of Google’s mobile search algorithmic changes, as you can see below:

google mobile traffic share
Source: netmarketshare.com/search-engine-market-share.aspx?qprid=4&qpcustomd=1

Just this past fall, Google announced that based on their search volume recorded, mobile devices have finally started to eclipse desktop searches as the number one device when it comes to quantity of search. What should be mentioned is this data reported by Google is very general and not specific to any industry, such as the automotive industry.

What CF Search Marketing has been able to see from data tracked is that the dealership’s recent traffic acquired is coming from mobile and tablet traffic, nearly at the same rate as desktop. In 2014, mobile and tablet traffic made up roughly 30 percent of the total organic traffic to dealers’ sites, and desktop made up the other nearly 70 percent. Two years later in 2016 we are seeing that mobile traffic has more than doubled, and organic traffic share for desktop has been reduced to nearly 50 percent.

mobile traffic growth 2016

Mobile Search & The Surfacing of “Car Dealer Near Me” Phrases

With search volume increasing yearly, and mobile search passing desktop in search share, we are starting to see a lot more search volume for phrases that include “near me”. This new trend, which really started to show up in early 2015, has been growing each and every month.

The use of the search term “car dealership near me” or “dodge dealer near me” is quickly becoming the replacement for more traditional geo-related search phrases that include a city or town in relation to a dealerships location. One example is “Jeep Dealer Portsmouth NH”; this was a search that many car buyers have used in the past to help find a dealership that may sell a vehicle of interest. Now we are seeing more “near me” configured search phrases not only on mobile, but on desktop as well.

How can dealerships capitalize and optimize for this growing trend for “nearby” and “near me” search phrases? CF Search Marketing provides a number of steps for car dealers on how they can properly optimize for “near me” to start capturing a lot of these new style of local dealership search.

Conversational SEO & Voice Search Optimization for Car Dealerships

The way car buyers are searching is always evolving. Google announced that over 15 percent of the billions of searches they receive on a daily basis is completely new, and never seen before. You might ask, how can this be? Our answer to you is conversational search, and voice search.

In the earlier years of search engines, the algorithm would primarily serve valuable search engine result pages (SERPs) for searches that were broad or branded such as; “jeep dealer Chicago”. This has quickly changed over the last couple of years, along with the increase in mobile search volume for car dealers. Now we are often seeing long tail phrases that are more question-based, more informational, and more conversational.

What is Voice Search & How Does It Apply to an Automotive SEO Strategy?

With search assistants like Siri, and Google’s newly announced Google Assistant car buyers are opting for voice command type searches by asking their assistant to search Google or Bing. For instance, people now ask Siri things like, “can you find me a place where I can change my oil?” Take a look at this question – do you notice how long the search phrase is, do you see how it is question-based? This is quickly becoming a common search method not just in the automotive industry, but for every local business.

Every car buyer goes through a certain search cycle, and the evolution of their search phrases has helped search engine marketing professionals in their efforts on how to better refine their search engine optimization and paid search strategies. Search strategy for car dealerships need to focus more on the intent of the search, because Google and other search engines are designed to serve results based on intent.

The first step is an informational search; this is commonly categorized by search phrases like “2016 Jeep Wrangler features” or comparison “Jeep Wrangler vs Toyota Rav4”. Car buyers at this stage are researching, and trying to figure out what vehicle they want to buy.

The next step is shopping for deals and comparing car dealers. After a car buyer knows what vehicle or vehicles they are considering on buying, they will then start searching for dealers in their area with phrases like, “Jeep dealer near me” or “car dealers near Boston”. This is where having a great reputation management strategy in place will pay off. Most car buyers will likely read about your dealership’s reputation through past customer experiences on Google My Business reviews. Then they would compare and contrast only just pricing, but past customer experiences.

Apart from having a good quality and quantity of reviews on Google My Business, you must also have a Google business listing that actually shows up for competitive search phrases on Google Maps results. There a number of factors that go into how to rank better on Google Maps, and it start with how you optimize your dealership Google My Business page.

The last step? Branded search. When a car buyer has finally done all of their research, and they have compared dealerships, they have finally created their short list of dealerships they wish to visit or further research. So naturally their next search will be branded. When they do a branded search it pulls up the dealership’s website and their knowledge graph. On mobile the knowledge graph makes it a lot easier for users to click and call via their smartphone, or to ask for directions to the dealership they are interested in buying from.

Should Dealers Start Optimizing Everything for Mobile Search & Not Desktop?

The answer to this is simply no. Yes, mobile search volume and traffic is increasing each new month, but the fact is there is still 40 to 50 percent of search that is done on desktop still. In fact, arguably the most valuable search done by car buyers is still done from their personal computer. We are talking about conversions and form submits. Even with how easy it is to click and call from a mobile search, many car buyers are filling out contact forms or referencing tracking phone numbers to call dealerships for service or setting up appointments.

search device conversion rates
Source: smartinsights.com/ecommerce/ecommerce-analytics/ecommerce-conversion-rates/

Desktop is still converting at a rate 3x as much as mobile. This is because mobile is mostly being used for research, and quick reference type searches. Desktop is used primarily for longer organic search sessions, meaning the user is dedicating more time to search the internet for what they are looking for, which in many cases will lead to more conversions.

For those of you who might be saying, “if desktop is showing more conversions, then why even waste time on mobile optimization for our dealership’s website?” Great question, but as it was explained before in this article, there is a known process that a car buyer goes through, and nearly 50 percent of this process is being done on mobile, and the other half is done on a personal computer.

How Can Your Dealership Optimize for Mobile Search?

You have to start by making sure your website is mobile-friendly by Google’s standards. If Google concludes that your website is not mobile-friendly, then your web developer needs to bring your website up to date. In regards to mobile search, Google has made it clear that they will give rank priority to websites that are mobile-friendly.

If you have great content that does incredibly well on desktop searches, you need to make sure that they have responsive design. Responsive design is web design crafted to provide a better viewing and interaction experience for users, and offers resizing across a wide range of devices such as; tablet, mobile and desktop.

Try to create content that is part of the discussion. By this we mean create content that is conversational. It could be something as simple as adding Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to your content, or adding more natural and informative content. The bulk of conversational search is question-based, so if your content can provide a great answer to that question, chances are you will rank very well for that phrase, and for a wide range of similar searches. If you’re not writing new and unique content pages each month for your dealership’s site, you are likely missing out on a lot of great informational searches that could turn into valued customers.

Make sure you track performance and adjust. Once you have implemented some or all of these changes, it is very important that you track mobile organic traffic and behavior. Setup a baseline in month one, and start tracking how mobile traffic is performing each new month. You need to make sure you pay attention to not just the number of sessions your dealer receives from mobile traffic, but you need to also pay close attention to the behavior, as well as the behavior flow of that traffic. See what content pages are performing well, find ones that aren’t performing well, and figure out why that is. Lastly, check how much time users are spending on each page, in addition to checking their bounce rate and conversion rate.

Understanding user behavior is incredibly important because bounce rate, time on page and other facets of search behavior are important ranking factors.

Conclusion on Mobile Search Traffic for Car Dealers

This year will likely be the year that we will see mobile traffic really pull away from desktop when it comes to organic traffic share for car dealerships. How much more? It is hard to say, but Google has released a string of updates that include things like; AMP pages, SERP layout redesigns and better performance tracking for mobile search.

Mobile SEO is something that your dealership should have been aware of for well over a year now, however, many dealerships are still trying to grasp the full effect of how mobile search is influencing lead generation. Luckily, there is still a grand window of opportunity to change up your automotive SEO strategies, and many ways that you can take advantage of this increased mobile search.