There has been a slew of recent studies which have noted that car buyers in recent years have been more willing than ever to drive a bit further to find what they feel to be the best deal for a vehicle they wish to purchase, lease, or even trade-in.
A study discussed by Automotive News states, “Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research, said consumers who research a new-vehicle purchase online now buy an average of 32.4 miles away, up from 21.1 miles in 1997. Buyers who don’t use the Internet stay slightly closer to home, traveling 24.1 miles now vs. 19.7 miles in 1997.”
This is a study that was discussed nearly three years ago, and still, there are many car buyers who are willing to drive even further to acquire a car of their liking, for a price they want, and for better customer service. This trend, and the value of internet marketing for car dealerships, has created a whole new level of competition for local car dealerships, as they battle for the top position in Google in both paid and organic search.
There are a handful of ways that SEO can help your car dealership in this regard. We will go through each of these tactics one by one. There is no single way of achieving this, because it requires the application of at least a few of these techniques to really start to see organic traffic growth to your dealership, from users outside of your close proximity of cities and towns.
Car buyers outside of your usual targeted area are more likely to search the internet for a new or used car, or even car services, with broad keywords. They do this as they are obviously less familiar with dealerships that are further away from them, and are much more willing to explore their options.
As an automotive SEO provider, we always preach about the future value of long-tail keywords, but we also understand that a car dealership’s organic search strategy needs to include broad and long-tail keyword phrases. Even though broad has a higher level of competition for those phrases, in this case it is incredibly valuable to target those broader phrases when optimizing your website.
Let’s face it; with Google reducing their local pack on the SERPs to just 3 total, it puts many dealerships who wish to target certain cities in a very difficult spot. Reason being, Google has put a lot of weighted value on proximity with their maps results. So if you are 45 miles from a city you hope to target, and there are three or four competitors in closer proximity to that city, your chances of landing in that 3-pack are slim to none. Now there are ways to improve your dealership’s chances of ranking in Google Maps, which we have discussed in the past.
Car buyers who are searching outside of their own proximate location are more likely than local buyers to click on your URL, even if it isn’t on the first results page or in the top 3 in maps. Based on their behavior they are more likely to spend a longer time considering many options, and not just a few that rank well.
You have likely heard this before, but making sure you have consistency with the information about your dealership across business listings is incredibly important. This is called NAP, or Name, Address and Phone. This is something that has always been recognized as a factor in regards to local search.
Yes, we said don’t worry about being on the first page of Google’s SERP, but at the same time your dealership needs to rank. The first step towards improving your local search is making sure you, in fact, show up in the SERP; not just your URL, but local listings like YellowPages.com, Facebook.com, and even Yelp.com. Incorrect information on any of these can really hurt your organic growth when trying to acquire local and non-local traffic.
In the past 12 months we have started to see a major shift in the way people search for local businesses and information. Mobile and voice search has quickly become the most popular device for organic and paid search. Almost every dealership we have worked with has experienced a vast increase in the percent of users who are utilizing mobile devices to search for their car buying needs. In an article we published recently, Car Dealerships & Mobile SEO, we discussed the recent changes to Mobile SEO, and brought to light the fact that if you haven’t been working on SEO strategies to improve your dealership’s mobile search, you are likely to fall far behind.
Your best bet is to make sure that your website and content are responsive for mobile devices. A study from Rezdy showed that consumers are two-thirds more likely to purchase from a business that has a mobile-friendly site, and over 60% of consumers state they would likely leave a website that was either slow, or wasn’t mobile friendly.
Consumers, regardless of whether they are choosing a dealership or choosing a restaurant, want to have a great experience. Most car buyers who aren’t local, who live 40 to 50 minutes away from your car dealership, are more likely to be unfamiliar with your brand and reputation. So what do they do? They check out your reviews on Facebook, Cars.com, Dealerrater.com, etc.
This is why as an internet marketing provider for car dealerships, we stress the importance of reputation management. As a car dealership you only have so many potential car buyers in your given town or city, as well as in the nearby towns. Most of these people are likely aware of your brand and reputation as an automotive dealership, but for those who aren’t, they may take the reviews that past customers have written about you as facts. That is why you can’t ignore those poor reviews, because one negative review out of twenty could be the one thing that deters a car buyer from driving the extra miles to visit your showroom.
Why would someone want to drive even further to be “neglected”, or “spoken to rudely” by another dealership, when they could receive the same poor customer service from the local dealership they were hoping to avoid? Again, if someone is looking to travel further, they aren’t just looking for a great deal, they are looking for a great experience.
In a nutshell, local SEO for car dealerships shouldn’t be a strategy that focuses only on the close proximity towns and cities, but should include facets and plans that will help your dealership attract more organic traffic from car buyers who may be willing to travel the extra distance to your lot, not just for the best deal, but also for a great experience. Following all of these tips mentioned above is ideal, but even working on just a few can help your dealership win over some of those non-local car buyers in the future.