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Why Long Tail Search Will Change Automotive SEO and Paid Search Forever

October 5, 2013

In SEO or paid search, long tail keywords are the key to gaining more traffic and more sales. This has become even more important with Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm update, signaling huge new opportunity in search engine optimization. This is an important automotive aftermarket trend for 2013 and beyond, if you sell online.

long tail SEO, paid search PPC resultsAuto SEO and long tail search keywords defined

First, let’s define what long tail searches are and why they’re important for automotive SEO and paid search, especially in the aftermarket.

Long tail keywords are phrases used in search using three or more words, such as “Audi performance parts” or “Acura Integra GSR turbo kits.” Long tail search keyword terms and phrases are important because they make up as much as 70% of all searches according to Moz.

Long tail search terms are the opposite of “head” search terms, or the one- and two-word search terms that are most commonly used. Head terms are estimated to account for around 19% of all searches, leaving the rest of the two-word search terms in the “chunky middle.”

As of a couple of years ago, Google reported about 1 out of 6 searches were new and had never been seen before. Considering the trillions of searches done every year, it is astonishing there is such a wide variety of searches…but you’ll see why there are so many a little farther down this page.

How long tail search is used by automotive aftermarket shoppers

Now that we know about 70% of searches are for long tail keyword phrases let’s dig into how automotive parts and accessory shoppers use these phrases. Long tail searches can be divided into two groups: pre-purchase and post-purchase.

Pre-purchase long tail searches show purchase intent and are used by consumers when making buying decisions: “turbo kits for Acura Integra” or “Audi A4 suspension upgrade.” These searches are looking for reviews, specifications, recommendations, prices, availability, and technical information.

Post-purchase long tail searches are done after the consumer bought a part, or after the decision has been made on what or where to purchase: “install Integra turbo kit B18B” or “installing Bilstein PSS10.” These searches are more technical in nature and are looking for how-to instructions, videos, or reviews.

Why long tail automotive search terms are important for paid search and SEO

Automotive parts and accessory shoppers are increasingly using long tail search terms and we’ll explain that trend at the bottom of the page. The main point about long tail search is, because it is increasing, many online retailers are missing out on their share of these long tail searches which instead send consumers to discussion web sites, magazine web sites, or to YouTube.

There are two reasons for this missed opportunity. One is because many online retailers  do not have their paid search campaigns optimized to capture these long tail searches. The other, in the case of organic search, is they do not have their websites structured with correct search engine optimization (SEO) to show up for these search results.

Many pre-purchase searches, where shoppers are looking for technical information, or are using verbs like “buy” and “purchase,” or use very specific combinations of year/make/model, take shoppers to enthusiast discussion sites. Many shoppers want to end up on discussion sites anyway but online retailers can get more traffic by showing up for some of these long tail searches.

This why it is so important to understand the concept of year/make/model, or automotive part types, in automotive paid search and SEO. It’s also (…shameless plug since we’re experts at this…) why campaigns set up by agencies outside the automotive aftermarket are often ineffective.

Post-purchase long tail searches end up at YouTube, magazine web sites, or sites where enthusiasts have posted a lot of installation-related content like videos or photos. Here again, online retailers can get more traffic after the sale by optimizing for these searches, where there’s an opportunity to sell related parts.

Long tail search trend explained

Google and automotive social media trends

Google recently rolled out Hummingbird, the first major complete replacement of their search algorithms since Caffeine in 2001.

Google recently announced their new Hummingbird algorithm, designed to produce better results for “semantic search,” which tries to understand searcher intent and the contextual meaning of search terms. You can see an example of this today by searching for “Chinese restaurant” on your phone and computer at the same time and looking at Google’s autocomplete phrases. Google’s suggestions for your search on your computer might include “Chinese restaurant near me” while suggestions on your phone might include suggestions for your city or surrounding cities since mobile searchers are probably on their way to a restaurant.

Google is obviously working hard to not only improve search results for us, but they’re anticipating the future increase in verbal searches from mobile devices and cars, spoken in natural language. As natural language and verbal search increases in the future, consumers will increase their use of long tail search phrases making this a more important trend in 2013 and beyond (and natural language search is a big reason why around 1 out of 6 searches have never been seen before).

Long tail searches produce more conversions: true or false

Many blogs on the Internet show a correlation between long tail search visits and higher conversion rates. Is the correlation true?

The answer is yes and no. It isn’t unusual to have lower conversions and higher bounce rates for long tail searches, if your site is not structured to take full advantage of these long tail visits. If you strategically plan with your digital marketing agency how shoppers should find your site today and in the coming years, and combine that with appropriate site content, you should be rewarded with an increase in qualified traffic as well as higher conversion rates and more sales.

It is important that you analyze your own site statistics to see if you are getting higher conversions for long tail search traffic. If you’re looking at long tail traffic from AdWords, make sure you know if you’re including your own brand term in your analysis and if your brand is one, two, or more words on its own, that will skew your analysis.


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John Wannamaker, often considered the father of the modern department store and modern advertising was quoted about 90 years ago as saying Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.”


Unfortunately, this problem holds true for many car dealerships (perhaps not as dramatic as quoted by John Wannamaker). However, there is no question that advertising seepage and waste is one of the most pressing concerns for advertisers and reducing that ALONE should dramatically improve your advertising ROI without additional investments.


Therefore, as you plan your advertising strategy for 2011 what plans are you implementing to:


  • Reduce the percent of advertising seepage?
  • Find out which ‘half’ of your advertising investment is being wasted?
  • Measure and track your advertising channels to determine which is NOT meeting your minimum advertising ROI requirements?
  • Cost benefit analysis to determine how much say a 5% reduction in advertising seepage will mean to your bottom line?
  • What specific strategies you can put in place to reduce advertising seepage?
  • What specific strategies can you put in place to stay in touch and engage your existing customers?
  • How do you plan to increase your parts, service and maintenance revenue with your existing customer base? 
  •  Have you claimed Your FREE Google Local Places Listing and is it adequately optimized and mobile device enabled?
  • Are you still advertising in the Yellow Pages? Do you know your marketing ROI for this channel?


Now, before we move on, let’s discuss WHY advertising seepage occurs. Let’s assume that you advertise only in the newspapers and Yellow Pages. You place your full page ad, with pictures of the cars you want to promote, your financing options, your phone or vanity #, address and website address. While this well and good, unless you have a short code keyword  or something that tie the two channels together, you will miss the % of your potential customers who prefer to use a mobile device to communicate and you are ignoring the largest growing segment of your potential target population.


According to EMarketer (Nov 2009), the % of mobile phone users is expected to increase at a rate of about 20% EACH year between 2008 and 2013 and as % of total US population, increase from about 16.7% in 2008 to 39.5% in 2013. In addition, according to Center for Media Research (Sept 2009), “80% of local media execs believe mobile will be the main distribution to consumers within 3 years”.


The New Multi-media Environment Calls For An Integrated Advertising Strategy.


Fortunately, there is a way for auto dealers to adopt this trend quickly, inexpensively and seamlessly into their current online and offline advertising strategies. The use of short code text messaging is already widespread. Adding this ONE keyword to all your advertising channels will vastly improve your response, leads and conversion rates.


Note that widely popular television shows such as “American Idol” and “Dancing With The Stars” give their viewers the option of calling or texting a vote to their favorite performer.


A catchy and memorable keyword in addition to a vanity # are a powerful combination to get your dealership’s name and brand message to consumers.


The multi-media car dealer will use their keyword, in the words of Thomas Hensey (Rhino Marketing), to “identify, find, touch and thrill” the target customer by offering them an incentive to text to their database. The dealer will then send the customer to their mobile website ad, featuring their specials, while at the same time sending that ad to YouTube and Social media.


In the process, the dealership builds a text messaging database of inquiries, leads, and customers for ongoing, periodic follow up. So long as the dealer continues to “touch and thrill” their database, they will be able to increase new sales, service and maintenance revenues.


The key to reducing advertising seepage and increasein sales and revenue is the ability to integrate ALL your advertising channels, and the short code keyword provides the dealer an inexpensive, quick and seamless way to do so. 


Michael Ofori is President of MVO & Associates, LLC, a multi-media advertising agency and can be reached at 978-631-0363  email

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