Car Dealer Website SEO – A Common Sense Approach
28th April 2016
Anyone with a website is likely to be approached by ‘experts’ offering to improve the Google ranking of your website. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the technique that they offer and the results that they promise, coupled with the disaster that will befall your company if you don’t act, make the offering sound quite compelling.
The cost can range from a few hundred pounds to many thousands but, before signing up, a few words of caution. Firstly, we should dispel the notion that having a new website built somehow guarantees a jump in the rankings.
It might seem galling to sign the cheque for a new ‘shop window’ and not feature higher with Google but in fact, our experience is actually just that. A sudden change in the layout, the words and the structure of a new website is likely, in the short term, to cause a drop in position.
My guess is that Google’s infamous algorithms immediately think that someone is trying to game the system and, rather than allow the results to be tainted, it penalises change. The good thing is that over the next few weeks, it stabilises and a position slightly above, or below, where you have historically sat on the search results will be achieved.
So, at this point, does it make sense to pay for the help of an SEO ‘expert’? You’ll see that in each of the mentions above that ‘expert’ is in quotes signifying that, particularly with Dragon2000 car dealer websites, we have seen some distinctly amateurish attempts at improvement which in one case, actually caused the website to crash.
In deciding your strategy, initially you need to decide what you are hoping to improve your ranking for. Our hypothetical used car dealer, Fred’s Motors in Norwich stocks 100 cars of varying age, mileage and price.
The first point to note is that someone searching for Fred’s Motors Norwich or even just Fred’s Motors will likely find the dealership on the first page of Google’s results regardless of how much effort has been put into optimising the website. It is a relatively distinct search and all of the Dragon2000 car dealer websites are likely to be on the first page when searched this way. Searching for Used Cars, Norwich is likely to bring up the dealership, Used Cars, Norfolk will feature Fred’s Motors but his positioning will be compromised by larger companies, motor groups, franchised dealers and car supermarkets. This becomes a cost/benefit equation as the size of the competitor is taken into account by Google, not just clever wording by our SEO specialists. Throw money at SEO and you may improve by a place or two but overcoming larger competitors will be unlikely.
Now we enter the more difficult area where Fred has a smart Ford Fiesta for sale, one lady owner, low mileage and all that. So, what are the chances of Fred appearing on the first page if we search ‘Ford Fiesta For Sale?’ Well, none would be our guess! If you had 1000 Fiestas for sale there would be enough concentration to get highly ranked but a dealer with a diverse stock will find it almost impossible for a single vehicle to be found this way. Those who have highly individual cars will see some success here – there are not many Pagani Huayra’s for sale at any given time but, however nice the MINI Cooper Fred has just added to his website is, it’s just not ‘special’ enough to rank highly. MINI themselves as a manufacturer, and their franchised dealer network, will always have the credibility to usurp poor old Fred’s single example in Norwich.
All this might sound like a car dealer may as well give up the idea of ever being found on the internet and abandon the idea of a website altogether. Well, no, it’s actually vitally important to have a great website as virtually all of your car sales now emanate from the internet.
The bit that SEO ‘experts’ claim to improve is your position on Google and we are all conditioned to thinking that Google is the only door-keeper. It isn’t and, in the UK at least, we have a much better mechanism for customers to find their next car and, potentially, one you have for sale.
The biggest is Autotrader but Motors, Pistonheads, eBay Motors, and a host of others act as a huge search engine for used cars. You can search by make, model, price, colour and many other criteria. Once a suitable car is located, the next stop is your website via the Visit Website button alongside the ad – and that’s how customers find you and, why your dealership needs to look its best at that moment. If your website is old-fashioned, dowdy or doesn’t scale well onto a mobile device, don’t be surprised if the customer goes elsewhere.
So, beyond someone searching for your dealership by name where you appear prominently in Google anyway, our contention would be that paying for generic SEO services to improve your site ranking on Google is, in our opinion, probably a waste of money – unless the company offering can show very specific proof of having improved the rankings of UK-based Car Dealer Websites.