What Does Real SEO for Car Dealers Look Like?
Last month I published a post to urge automotive retailers that Now is the Time for Real SEO. In that post I detailed how a new client was being hoodwinked by a well-known SEO provider; and while that post alerted dealers what to look for to avoid a similar situation, I didn’t lay out what Real SEO looks like.
As I wrote last month, I’ve reviewed dozens of SEO providers in automotive retail, and I can only confidently recommend two of these companies to my clients. I wrote that because it’s true. While every SEO provider (and website vendor pretending to deliver Real SEO for their clients) gives a terrific presentation on why you “must use them” for your Search Engine Optimization, the truth is that Real SEO takes work, and most of the SEO being sold to dealers today is of the set-it-and-forget-it variety.
Real SEO Starts with a Real Review and a Real Plan
There are plenty of free or cheap tools available to review how well a website ranks in organic search for the keywords that matter. Some provide meaningful information, and some do not. Before agreeing to anything with a prospective SEO provider, you’ll want to see the results of their own comprehensive review of your website’s search visibility. Something that gives you at least the following:
- Your domain ranking and the domain rankings of at least your top three competitors.
- The prospective SEO provider’s plan to improve your domain ranking score.
- A list of all keywords (search terms) your website currently ranks for, and your website’s relative position for each of these.
- A list of the keywords the prospective SEO provider will initially target for improvement. (Real SEO providers will only target those search queries with considerable volume.)
Real SEO Continues with Real Reporting
Virtually every SEO vendor sends colorful monthly reports detailing your website’s organic performance over the previous month. Throw these away, they are worthless. I’ve reviewed these reports from dozens of vendors and there is nothing in them that shows whether the vendor’s SEO efforts are making a difference one way or the other.
When helping my clients manage their digital vendors there are only two reports I need to see to measure the effectiveness of their SEO vendor’s efforts:
- Search Console. Search Console is a tool provided by Google that:
- Confirms if Google can even find and crawl (read all the pages of) your website.
- Helps your SEO provider fix indexing problems.
- Allows your SEO provider to request re-indexing of new or updated content.
- Let’s you and your SEO vendor view Google Search traffic for your site; including how often your website appears in Google Search, which keywords show your website, how often searchers click through for those queries, and more. (A Real SEO provider will enable Search Console in your Google Analytics so that you can view this information there, without having to access Search Console.)
- Sends alerts to your SEO provider if Google finds indexing, spam, or other issues on your website.
- Shows your SEO vendor which sites link to your website.
- Troubleshoots issues with your website’s mobile usability and other Google Search features.
- SEO Log. This is the only vendor-created report I need to see. A good SEO Log is a monthly report that includes:
- Any content that was added to the website last month (like Model pages or blog posts), with links to the actual pages.
- The relevant backlinks that were created, with links to these sites.
- Any other “on-page” SEO work they completed (generally, changes to a page’s html or other work that’s invisible to the site visitor), with links to the relevant pages.
- All Google My Business content they created, and work they completed (if they are also managing your GMB pages).
- The keywords they targeted (and have been targeting). Plus, where appropriate, your website’s ranking for these keywords before and after their work.
A word of caution on that last bullet point above: I’ve witnessed some SEO vendors provide dealers with a list of keywords they targeted and then show them the wonderful results of these efforts. This would be great, except that the keywords they improved were often searches no human has ever conducted on Google.
For example, you want your SEO provider to improve your website’s search visibility for popular and relevant consumer queries like “used car dealer;” though I’ve seen vendor reports where the SEO company proudly showed how a dealer’s website improved for search terms like “Honda Odyssey cabin air filter for sale in the tri-cities area.” (While Odyssey owners in the Tri-Cities area certainly need to change their cabin air filter from time to time, the likelihood of anyone completing such a search is remote, and the value for being in the number one spot for this search term is just a tad above zero.)
Real SEO is an Ongoing Effort
Improving a website’s search visibility is not a one-and-done adventure. In fact, dealers should be leery of any vendor that wants to dump a bunch of new content on your website all at once. While this can initially give you a spike in organic traffic, the inevitable crash could put your website in a worse position than before you paid for the content.
I know of a dealer who paid for the equivalent of five years’ worth of SEO to be delivered over just a couple of months. The vendor promised to build scores of pages for the dealer’s website; and they delivered. In about two months’ time this dealer had roughly 100 pages of new content, and Google noticed. The initial spike in organic traffic was impressive… as was the inevitable decline.
The content was rushed, uninteresting to consumers, partially duplicated from other dealer websites, and even contained incorrect geographic areas. The new traffic the content delivered bounced (because the content was irrelevant to the consumers doing the searches), and Google began to rank (and continues to rank) the website lower and lower for these and other searches.
What Real SEO Will Mean for You
Google was not the first search engine, though it is the dominant search engine today for a reason. Google returns the results that satisfy the consumers’ needs. Gaming Google with dishonest Search Engine Optimization efforts may occasionally work in the short term, but in the medium and long term, your website’s search visibility can only be hurt by these efforts.
When you allow a sketchy vendor to dump a bunch of near-worthless content on your site, or don’t get what you’re paying for (as I detailed in the earlier post), your website will simply not rank where it could for the relevant searches your prospective customers are making everyday on Google and other search engines.
This means you’ll be paying more for pay-per-click advertising and third-party leads to capture the prospects your SEO efforts should’ve delivered.
Dealers pay for Search Engine Optimization to drive traffic today, tomorrow, and well into the future; and with Real SEO provided by an honest SEO vendor, you can expect to do just that. Anything less, and you’re just throwing your money away.
Automotive Sales Books by Steve Stauning: