It seems like recently I’ve had a lot of people ask me how to go about getting an automotive dealer website up to par with search engine optimization. The simple answer to this question isn’t simple. I’ll give you the quick answer ahead of time though… it’s all about relevant content. There’s no short route to being the kind or queen of automotive SEO in your market area. It will take consistent, hard, work. The following is by no means meant to the the answer for everyone, but I hope it’s of help. Here’s a basic walk-through of what I look at on a automotive retailer’s website and then begin to improve the SEO value of their website.
Page content considerations
The content of the page present a strong value proposition to the consumer. In other words, a page ranks well with search engines because it delivers the information the client was looking for when they initiated the search that lead them to the page. Each page of a website must deliver on this value proposition.
How do I do this?
I provide on page content that stands apart as well as ahead of my competitors. If I do this by a significant enough margin, my content is found to be more relevant and informative to the needs of the client, thus being more useful to them and because of this, more highly scored for its quality by the search engines.
Pages are structured to contain relevant content, but not obviously self-promoting of the store or franchise I’m advertising. Instead, the usefulness of a page will lead a visitor to the natural conclusion that my business is the one that they will give their trust and therefore their money to. Text, photo, and sometimes even multimedia content are provided that are remarkable (complimentary of the product or service being offered on the page) so the client will be more unlikely to use the back button to seek out a different search result, and if for some reason they do, I want my pages to be the standard by which all others they encounter online are measured. In other words, I want to set the bar very high and clients can see this in the quality of the content I provide. Quality provides relevancy, relevancy provides times on site, time on site provides engagement, engagement provides conversion, conversion provides a sales opportunity.
How do I measure page content quality?
I utilize Google Analytics bounce rate percentage, page visitation flow, page depth, and time on site as primary quality pre-conversion indicators. High bounce rates can indicate a lack of valuable content on the page because the bounce is indicating that this was the last page they visited on the site. A high bounce rate on the initial page visited is even more problematic. Time on site / time on page are also excellent content quality indicators because they show engagement with your product or services. Like time on site, the page depth of a person’s visit is also great indicator of engagement because in order for this to happen, the content of the site must have drawn the person deeper into it , therefore making it a place of relevant research and discovery.
User experience considerations
If a website page doesn’t excel from a user experience point of view, it cannot score well with the search engines. Even worse, if the user experience isn’t elevated, they may not stay on the site long enough to experience your high quality content that will lead them to convert to a sale.
How do I do this on automotive websites?
The design of the pages must be polished, pleasing to the eye, but still fit with the store’s own identity. Brand awareness is often a concern as well, ie, a manufacturer’s brand identity and / or compliancy restrictions. I weigh all of these into consideration when producing any page.
Another consideration is that design of each page must be polished as well as pleasing to the eye, but also load quickly. By quickly, I mean the primary page load occurs in less than .5 seconds (slightly longer than the human eye takes to blink) and the entire page’s content must load in under 4 seconds. These figures are considered Google standards of excellence and should always be observed. A load load time any longer will be perceived as a difficult site to use to the consumer and not remarkable to the search engines. On automotive websites, load times are often heavily affected by the file sizes of images displayed. This can be most problematic on vehicle display pages. Proper care needs to be taken to ensure these pages are loading quickly and often requires measuring results in house and working directly but with the site provider and any inventory feed partners. For custom / one-off pages and home pages, I typically use Photoshop’s Save to Web feature and manually dial down the quality to achieve the right balance of image quality versus image load time.
Page navigation is also an area a high degree of attention is paid. The on-page navigation has to be pleasing to both the user and the search engine. Navigation menus that are concise, contain text descriptions that are short, and allow for as few clicks as possible to reach desired destinations are always used.
Pages must load quickly across all major browsers as well as mobile platform, so that each client, regardless of experience platform, received the same excellent online experience. Ideally, I prefer my sites to be reactive / scalable, or be hosted for multiple platforms. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but I’ve found that the multiple platform setup is most advantageous because it allows me to have separate images, menus, and functionality for each device platform, not just take a desktop experience and scale it down for a phone, for instance. In many cases, the way clients use desktops, tablets, and phones to consume content is quite different, so I customize the user experience to the device whenever possible.
How do I measure the results?
User experience results can be studied in the behavior area of Google Analytics. Site speed is measured in the behavior area of the data when slow rates of speed are discovered, I use Google’s speed suggestions tool to locate offending images or video frame-ins, so that I can then make the necessary corrections.
Navigation and site / page design can be studied using in-page analytics within GA. I look at the most used navigation items and see how they can be improved for easier access, reordering them in the drop-down menus, or perhaps moving them to their own on-page hot button, etc. Another important consideration for me is the relationship between individual page visitation volume on the site and where navigation to that page exists on the website homepage or website menus. I do this because user experiences can be enhanced by letting them navigate to their most desired pages faster. By taking most popular pages and making sure links to them are easy to find in the site’s navigation, I can better ensure a more positive user experience by getting them to their most desired locations on-site in a shorter amount of time.
Page and website rendering across different browsers can be studied through third-party software, like Browser Shots. I will typically test pages there as well as manually, by opening new or newly refreshed pages in multiple browsers (the one indicated by the site’s user analytics in GA) and mobile platforms. I personally check rendering in Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and IE. Mobile platforms like iPhone, iPad, and Android are also checked.
Local citations, online reviews, miro-sites, etc. are also used to enhance SEO. Over time, I’ve curated hundreds of local citation sites per brand, dozens of online review locations (discussed elsewhere in this text) and brand, inventory, or purpose specific micro-sites. The intentions of all of these digital properties is to produce more relevancy, content authority, linking, and SEO to my main websites. I utilize Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder, Google Webmaster Tools, Google Adwords, SpyFu, SEOMoz, and more in order to perform off page SEO work and have a deep working knowledge of each.
On page, subdomain hosted, blogging is utilized for each website I administrate. Since each blog is on a subdomain of the site represented, each post produces a new page for the website thus enlarging the digital footprint of each site. Each post has an SEO & client interest specific goal and they are carefully planned one month in advance so that myself and the team members I manage can pre-write and schedule all posts well in advance.
Properly keyword-targeted pages are the backbone of any on-site organic search engine optimization. The content of a page has to be as much about connecting the consumer with the information they were searching for as it is about making that content obvious to the search engines.
How do I do this on websites?
Keyword selection is highly important to any on-page SEO. I’ve found the best way to select keywords for targeting with website page content is to leverage paid search campaigns for impression and conversion rates on terms being used in those campaigns. In order words, I locate high conversion terms in my paid campaigns and then further pivot that data to identify the most profitable of those high conversion terms. This allows me to work on content building in a most potentially profit driving down directional.
I always ensure the page URL is concise and that the keyword term the page is targeted for appears in the URL.
The URL makes the page’s content obvious.
The primary keyword phrase is always the first words of the page title.
Images used on the page contain keyword rich alt-text.
The primary keyword phrase is found 2-4 times in the body of the page text.
Content is clearly written for reading by consumers, not just search engines.
Each page targets only one keyword phrase. Quality over quantity.
Each page contains two links to other pages on that website, internal links, as well as a link to the site’s homepage if the page doesn’t contain a company logo with the link imbedded.
I hope all of this gets you thinking about ways you can improve your dealership’s value to your clients as well as to the search engine. More details on each of the topics discussed is coming soon. In the meantime, let me know what you think. As always, if I can be of help to your dealership, just reach out for a consultation anytime. Thanks!