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Men in the Trenches

The other day I was in a meeting with a potential client. We were discussing automotive SEO best practices and the way that the search engines are changing the way they rank. We talked about the best ways a dealer can stay ahead of their competition for their current keywords while moving up in the competitive keywords in the area.

It was then that he made an interesting observation:

“I know that you keep on top of this stuff from a theoretical level, but I want to hear from the guy in the trenches that is actually doing the SEO for dealers.”

It was a great point. I’ve personally worked on the optimization for a couple dozen of our clients, but I’m not the guy that works on hundreds of dealers at a time. That guy is Ron Fortier, our SEO manager, so I posed the question to him. Here is what he put down as best practices for dealers, straight from the mouth of the guy leading the team that’s doing the work successfully…


Develop or Buy Tools that Help You Make Keyword Decisions Monthly

Priorities for your dealership change based on time of year, inventory levels, competition and conquest strategies. We are all resource constrained whether it be time or money, so we need tools that help us to make the best use of our investment in time. You need to have a tool or process that allows you to identify the most important keywords to work based on your monthly priorities.

Looking for more overall visitors? Your priority would be on keywords with larger impression counts. Looking to convert more of your visitors? Your priority would be on keywords that have high PPC costs and competition. Looking to conquest local dealers or make-model combinations? Your priority would be to view your rankings relative to your competitors. Want a great mix of all of the above? That is typically where we end up. Having a tool that helps you identify the best keywords to work based on your priorities allows you to spend 100% of your content and SEO efforts on tasks that are in line with your stores most immediate priorities.


Beware of Thin Content

Google rewards effort, plain and simple. Google’s quality rating guidelines are filled with how to identify low quality, useless content. Their best definition of spam is when you remove all of the template and spam elements from the page, there is nothing of any value remaining. If you are copying content from other sites, or slightly modifying keywords and thinking that you’re fooling Google, you’re not. Google rewards effort. Google rewards typing and content.

Low keyword counts may win here or there in the short run, but every change Google has made over the last 18 months has been an effort to remove thin, low quality pages from its index. Take the time to create content that is of value to a consumer when they get to a page and you won’t have to worry about the next animal-based update released from Google. Content is king and quality, useful content for consumers wins every time.


SEO Works Best in a Holistic Approach

Now that you’ve decided what to work with your time, be sure that all of your SEO efforts work in concert.

What content are you going to add to your site that works the keywords you’ve identified? What modifications will you be making to your website’s architecture and internal linking structure that signals to Google the significance of your content change? How will you support your keywords through offsite content and linking? What is your strategy to getting the content crawled and indexed quickly? If you only use one technique then you won’t be working all of the SEO signals and the effectiveness will be lessened. Does your content say one thing and your links another?

Sending mixed messages will also inhibit the effectiveness of your work. Take the time to ensure that all of your monthly SEO efforts are working in concert for maximum effectiveness.


Low Sales Funnel Keywords are Big though Small

Everyone wants to find that hidden keyword that will get them a thousand new visitors. We understand and often join the pursuit, but we also chase the keyword combos that will get you 5 visits a month. Insanity? No!

Many of these keywords are very low funnel or “right next to the money” as we like to say internally. Think of someone on a Friday night at 6:00 on Yelp searching restaurants. That search is right next to the money. That individual will eat tonight; they are just deciding where. The same thought applies to many keywords we go after. Consider a year make model search. They know what they’re going to buy. The only question is where and when. Don’t be afraid to mix in the low funnel keywords even though you know that they will be statistically insignificant in overall traffic volumes. That five visitor a month keyword could be the goose that lays the golden egg for years to come.

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Google has entered the New Car Lead business with the recent unveiling and introduction of the Google Commercial Unit For Cars (CUFC). There is very little information regarding this new lead program for dealers, but here's what we know:

  • Essentially, Google will pull the new inventories of dealerships (those participating in the program) in the area of the consumer and display the search results 
  • However, these unique search results with dealerships' inventory will only pop up when the consumer types in what Google calls "low funnel" search terms.
    • Here are an example of a few "low funnel" search terms: "New Honda Civic", "Toyota prices," etc..
  • This new program is still in BETA mode, and therefore, dealerships will have to pay per lead. It is unclear/not known whether or not this will change once in the future.
    • Worth noting: Some states deem it illegal to pay per lead, so we shall see how it plays out. 

What do you think of Google's New Car Lead Program? 

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group of diverse social people


Tired of watching your boss’s eyes glaze over every time you mention a “20% increase in likes?”

Depressed from hearing your colleagues report on revenue growth while you report on retweets?

Sick of people asking you what it’s like having “the fun job?”

This article is for you.

The truth is; most social media programs today are still lacking a true sales strategy at the core. We do have a social media strategy, you may say. On Mondays, we post a funny tweet, on Tuesday we post a car picture, and on Wednesday, we post statistics.

To this, I say, an editorial calendar is not a strategy. It’s a schedule. To take your social media to the next level, you need to start correlating it to true sales metrics. The good news? You totally can.

Here’s how to do it:

Example of a Social Lead Funnel

Step 1: Create a spring campaign for a free car wash for new Twitter followers (use a service like TwitHawk to geo-target.)

Step 2: When your followers come in for their free car wash, make sure they feel welcome. Have your staff go through shaking hands, handing out lemonade and cookies, and bringing around an iPad  asking people if they’d like to sign up for your social channels for more great offers and information.

Step 3: From there, nurture them with content marketing that balances car shopping best practices (How To Speed Through the Car-Buying Process) with marketing about your dealership (Why Lola’s Car Dealership is the Best).

Step 4: Once you’ve nurtured the relationship with about 3-5 pieces of strong content, it’s time to reel them in with some urgency. Send them a deal they can’t refuse: either a service coupon that’s only good for the next three days, or an LTO hefty discount on a car that only lasts for the next two hours. Take a cue from Groupon; the shorter the window, the more people are inclined to act, so don’t be afraid to add an element of adventure and excitement with a super-tight time frame.

This is just one example of a content marketing funnel, and there are many variations you could try.

My overall point is that it’s now fully possible to tie social media to the ROI metrics your Dealer Principal or COE actually cares about: leads and sales. You now have the means to up your game from marginalized maven to basking in the glow of revenue generation with all your digital marketing colleagues. Won’t that feel great?

What have you done at your dealership to help create a Social Funnel? Sound off in the comments! 

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