Your SEO Sucks. Here's Why
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Your SEO Sucks. Here’s Why

This title isn’t bait or hyperbole. Even the most digitally savvy dealers can benefit from these SEO strategies.

Zach Billings is the vice president of client performance for Wikimotive.

The title of this article isn’t bait or hyperbole. It’s true for more than 99% of all dealerships, and it’s actually not hard to prove this objectively. Earlier this year, we decided to start offering free SEO audits to dealers who are serious about dominating their competition in organic search. A hands-on, manual audit is eye-opening for dealers and naturally demonstrates how we can help. What we didn’t expect is just how poorly even the most digitally savvy dealers are doing.

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Here, we’ll walk through the primary factors that we look at to audit a dealer’s SEO and give you enough information to get started on your own.

Website

In 2021, user experience is a significant factor that impacts your SEO. Google wants users to have an easy time loading and navigating your website, and anything that gets in the way will detract from your ability to rank in search through other SEO efforts. Start by measuring your site speed; Google “PageSpeed Insights” and click the first result. Paste in your website URL and click Analyze. The result will be a score out of 100, with one score for Desktop and one for Mobile. The Mobile score matters most to Google, and you want to have a score around 50 or more. 

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All dealer sites are unfortunately slow compared to modern standards, so 50 is good against your competitors. Any less than 25, and you need to start looking hard at your website vendor or the tools on your site.

Navigation and features are the other major considerations for user experience, and we can break this down into DOs and DON’Ts for simplicity.

Do: 
• Use simple, clear navigation that someone not in the business can understand.
• Include obvious calls to action for New Inventory, Used Inventory and Schedule Service, in addition to those found in your top navigation.

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• Include directions and a phone number that has clickable functionality on a mobile phone.

Don’t:
• Show banners higher on your homepage than your main calls to action. Data tells us that users don’t care about banners.
• Clutter your navigation with every page you think anyone might ever visit. Keep it simple.
• Make users scroll. Be sure your home page and main navigational pages have the most important options visible above the fold (before you have to scroll).

There’s always much more to look at here during an audit, but these are some great items to start with.

Content

Without leaving your website, we need to turn our attention to your content. Content is what’s written on your pages, and the first thing you need to know is that your content needs to be unique, it needs to be long-form and it needs to be consumer-focused.

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Unique — Once upon a time, Google might have penalized you for ripping off content from another dealer or from the OEM. Today, you just won’t get any credit for duplicate content. Each page, each paragraph, each sentence should be unique to your site. You can determine this by copying a passage of text that does not contain your dealership name, brand or city. Paste it into a Google search with quotation marks on either end. If your page isn’t the only result, it’s duplicate content. This is very common because most SEO vendors and all website vendors publish duplicate content to your website.

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Long-Form — Just Google “How long should my SEO content be?” You don’t need to take our word for it; your content needs to be long. One-thousand words is the minimum, but in many cases you need to shoot for 2,000 words or more. The reason is that you simply cannot write something informative to a consumer in fewer words, and Google knows it. We have yet to find navigational content, landing pages or blogs that even meet the 1,000-word minimum.

Consumer-Focused — Long gone are the days when cramming keywords into your content would get you ranked in search. Today, the opposite is true. Your content should be written to inform consumers and answer the questions implied by their search phrasing. Informative content will cause a website visitor to stick around and read your page. Google sees this user activity on your website and increases your search visibility as a reward.

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Thin, duplicate and/or spammy content will devalue your site and prevent you from gaining a competitive edge against your competitors. Content is king in SEO, and a quality content strategy is the only way to increase your search visibility and market share.

Rankings

Google rankings don’t work the way you probably think they do. You don’t have an absolute ranking for any keyword that matters to you as a dealer. If your SEO vendor is providing you with a ranking report, you need to ask them two questions for context. First, “What is the in-market search volume of these keywords?” The answer should be a monthly search volume that Google provides data for, and your vendor should define the area they used for the volume (e.g., your state, DMA or city). Second, “In what search location were these rankings measured?” In your own backyard, you’re going to have high rankings for a large range of keywords, but if you try the same searches again from five miles away, you will find yourself ranking much worse or maybe not at all.

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The key to rankings is context and location. Real SEO doesn’t just increase your ranking position; it increases the geographical area in which you can hold that position. During our audit, we use a third-party tool called SERP Checker, which allows you to set a specific search location and then perform a Google search as if we were in that location. The results are always eye-opening because a lack of unique, long-form, consumer-focused content always results in a failure to rank. Often, it is during this part of an audit that we also uncover which competitors are actively doing SEO against you because they will rank near your store, but you won’t rank near theirs.

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What’s Next?

Follow the guidance above, and you should be able to perform a basic self-assessment of your current on-site optimization. There is certainly more nuance to this subject and areas not covered in depth here. For example, Google My Business (GMB) is a critical component of local SEO, but it’s somewhat separate from your website itself. Look for a partner that will provide a GMB audit when they review your dealership’s search presence and optimization, as well as resources that will help you improve your GMB listing.

Chances are you don’t have time to audit all of this yourself or learn the additional skills required to do this completely. Hopefully, you’re too busy selling cars to be auditing SEO, and that’s where I come in.

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