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3 Automotive SEO Strategies to Dominate Your Dealership Market

There are a lot of “hacks” and “tricks” that get thrown around with automotive SEO, but if we’re taking the time to do something, we like to do it right. Here’s an antidote to quick fixes – three SEO strategies powerful enough to make an impact on their own, but simultaneously crafted to compliment one another.

Whether you want to leverage the latest tech, capitalize on a current obsession, or focus on fundamentals – these are automotive SEO strategies to help you truly dominate your market. 

 

Leverage AI for Automotive SEO

For anyone that still thinks AI is “future-tech,” we have some probably unsettling news: Google has recently built AI that, get this, is better at building AI than humans. If that doesn’t set off “Terminator” alarm bells, then it should at least sound like the beginning of better, easier, and more valuable marketing. Because it is.

Here’s how AI is already shaping automotive SEO:

Let’s start by talking about RankBrain, Google’s premier machine-learning AI system for search results. While it was initially only responsible for a small percentage of traffic, RankBrain now handles every single Google search.

In the past, SEO went like this: Google’s search engine developers would make tweaks to the system and algorithm to fix problems and attempt to provide a better experience, then website owners and SEO experts tweaked  and altered their websites to take advantage of those changes. In fact, this is how a lot of dealerships still treat SEO. But things have changed, and RankBrain changed them.

Now there is a new process, not reacting to tiny tweaks and rules and exploiting these (like much of the SEO community still does), but creating exceptional and highly relevant online experiences for each and every shopper.

With RankBrain, Google’s algorithm is being updated all the time, and in ways that we can’t necessarily predict. That means more complex, and importantly, more human, SEO. This is a change to the SEO industry we couldn’t welcome more.

Now we’ve covered the situation, let’s get to what dealerships can do for their automotive SEO. This strategy boils down to: “search engines want to deliver the most relevant result, use AI to do that.” Here are the two basic steps.  

#1: Work with RankBrain:

Google’s AI prioritizes what users find useful – your automotive SEO optimization efforts should reflect that. End keyword cramming practices, review the language in your meta descriptions (do you appear useful? how do they know this is what they’re looking for?), and conduct searches to see what (if anything) makes your competitors seem more useful in search results.

#2: Apply AI:

After focusing on what Google’s AI looks at, it’s time to use AI on your own site. Dealerships can bring machine learning to their sites to create the kind of unique and relevant user experiences that users (and search engines) love. Using dealership website AI technology, like our own Behavior-Based Targeting (BBT), we can deliver customized experiences for each website visitor. Like other AI, BBT “learns” from a user’s actions and behavior, determines their goals, and serves content that will most interest them.


Pictured: Dynamic “vehicle special” content – adapted to our searcher’s interest.

Artificial intelligence isn’t “the future,” it is happening now. And it can be leveraged to provide better, more relevant experiences to your online shoppers. If your automotive SEO efforts have been seeming somewhat wasted, it may be time to invest in bringing the optimization for relevance back to your site, and taking steps to apply AI there.

 

Capitalize on the Mobile Movement

Mobile is a big deal. The majority of dealership website traffic now comes from mobile devices.   Not only is it defining this moment in SEO, mobile domination shows no signs of slowing down. Dealerships that want exceptional automotive SEO have to capitalize on mobile now or risk getting left behind.

There are two awesome solutions to this automotive SEO challenge: mobile-first design, and AMP pages.

Mobile-First Design

Mobile-first design is essential for automotive SEO these days. We don’t mean regular old responsive design either – mobile-first means your website is built first for mobile, then scaled up to work perfectly on desktop.

Between mobile-first indexing and the shift to a majority mobile audience, the time to make a change from responsive to mobile-first is getting shorter. What’s the saying: automotive SEO trend waits for no man? We don’t think that’s the traditional phrase, but it’s certainly true when it comes to mobile-first.

AMP

AMP pages are mobile web pages with limited branding and Google-cached content that load incredibly fast and appear at the top of the search results on a mobile browser. They’re delightfully handy for users looking to get information quickly, and, as you can imagine, are SEO gold.

We’re fans of AMP – so much so that we built our own dealership website tech to support it. We call these pages Rocket Pages. These are automatically-generated AMP-capable webpages for the most important dealership information: Vehicle Detail Pages and Hours & Directions.

Now, There’s more to mobile SEO than the devices people are using to search. Don’t just look at the device itself. Mobile use changes how shoppers well…shop. New search behaviors are emerging as mobile has become the dominant device for search among the car buying population. Your automotive SEO efforts shouldn’t only reflect that the majority of people are searching on mobile devices, they should be adapted for the specific needs and habits of these mobile shoppers.

Two of these mobile-heavy behaviors are “near me” and voice searches. We’ll quickly go over each:

Mobile Search Behavior: “Near Me”

“Toyota dealerships near me”

“Ford F-150 for sale near me”

“Tire centers near me”

These are some of the types of queries that are being driven from a large mobile audience looking for nearby solutions. These are the types of queries that can be of major interest to dealers – as they display a higher purchase (or at least visit) intent than many other queries, as evidenced by Google’s research.  

With 76% of people who made a “near me” search on their phones making a visit in the same day, mobile automotive SEO is something dealers should really be focusing on.

Mobile Search Behavior: Voice  

In 2016, Google reported that 20% of all searches were voice queries. With the improvements in voice recognition we’ve seen since, that number is sure to have grown. In fact, ComScore predicts that voice search will make up 50% of search traffic by 2020. That’s huge.

With the rise of voice search comes SEO changes like conversational queries, voice-search equipped sites, and Are these a part of your automotive SEO playbook? If not, now is the time to explore mobile-specific search behaviors.

Alright, almost done with mobile, we promise. But as a final, yet incredibly important note: Google has switched over to mobile-first indexing.

Mobile first-indexing means that mobile is now considered the primary version of your website – the version that Google crawls to determine your rank on search result pages. This change means that dealership mobile sites have to be equal to (if not even better than) their desktop versions.

Mobile-first indexing represents a major shift for many dealerships, but adjusting your SEO (and web design) plans to reflect this change (and all the other mobile changes, while you’re at ) is an important step in maintaining your market domination.

 

Succeed With Speed: Ace Your Fundamentals

We can’t mention SEO without mentioning website speed. After all, page speed is a ranking factor for mobile pages.

The goal of all automotive SEO is to show the shopper that, whatever they’re looking for, they’ll easily find it on your site. If your site is slow to load, your shoppers will have a poor experience – they’ll bounce faster, view fewer pages, perform fewer actions, and be less likely to return to your page.

These are all elements of the user experience that Google’s AI will take note of, and factor into your ranking – dropping your results further down the list as your page takes longer to load and more users abandon it rather than bother.

Thankfully, page speed can be tested and optimized quickly. First, determine your current dealership website speed standing, then tackle the problems.

The first part is pretty easy. Pingdom offers an excellent tool for determining any problems with your page speed.

You can also always rely on Google’s Pagespeed Insights, updates to which were announced at Google Marketing Live of this year.

Next, take a look at what could be slowing down your page:

  • Your hosting service: Who is you website provider? Everyone builds their sites differently, and there are many out there who don’t use the latest in speed technology. Flashy guarantees of leads are a lot more common than dedication to the customer’s experience.  
  • Your images: Dealership websites are some of the heaviest on the web, and it’s no wonder, they need to have a ton of visual content to satisfy shoppers. However, if your images aren’t optimized, they could be dragging down your page speed.

Automotive pages are very heavy.

  • Embedded media: Embedded media, like YouTube videos, are very useful, but can slow your page down. To make sure that your pages (and video) load quickly every time, you should host videos on your own server. Unlimited media is a must for dealers.
  • Your design: Flashy and over-designed elements on a site aren’t just distracting, they can slow down your page. Don’t sacrifice speed for looks.
  • Add-ons: Clutter doesn’t only apply to design. Too many or too heavy pop-ups and add-ons can slow pages way down.

Now you have a plan of attack for improving your page speed, and subsequently, your automotive SEO.