2014 Online aftermarket automotive sales have already crossed the US $5 billion mark, demonstrating just how rapidly the online industry is growing. With millions of automotive companies taking their business online, it has become more important than ever to ensure high visibility on the internet, making it important to incorporate automotive SEO into one’s online marketing strategy. However, despite their best efforts, a multitude of businesses find that it is not easy to acquire ideal search engine rankings and the lucrative organic traffic that comes with it.
Thankfully, when it comes to auto SEO, you’re not alone. There is plenty of information available to help you on the right path to success. Here is an inside look into automotive search engine optimization and 5 tips that campaigns can follow to succeed.
1. Choose Keywords Wisely; Don’t Get Lost in the Competition
Whether it is a new, small, medium-sized or large business, everyone is a competitor online. If you think about it, any sale made by another company could very well have been your sale. However, acquiring new customers and possibly attracting those of another business’ can be difficult. Unfortunately, that is not the only competition that auto businesses face online. It can become even more difficult if the keywords used in the content are highly competitive.
High competition keywords can pose a real problem from an auto SEO standpoint. In general, the broader the keyword, the more likely it is a high competition term. When researching keywords with a tool like the Keyword Planner by Google, the key is to find and implement the right combination of monthly searches and competition.
Most keyword research tools function the same. You look up a phrase, and you receive data on the average monthly searches and the competition, reflected as a fraction of percentages. In a general example, a keyword with competition of 0.6 means 60% of your competition is using this keyword.
When first starting your campaign, don’t think big. If you want to target a phrase as broad as “auto auctions” you can expect a long, hard road ahead. Type in your “power” keywords into Google and have a look at the sites that are ranking for them. You will probably find that they are big, established names in the auto industry. To compete with them, you will have to come up with ways to eventually grow your brand in reputation and authority online. That takes time, so in the early going, consider narrowing down the key phrase to something like “auto auctions des moines IA” — these longer key phrases, referred to as “long-tail” in the search industry, will significantly less challenging to rank for.
Quick Tip: You ideally want to choose keywords that offer a nice mix of search volumes and low-to-moderate competition ratings. Don’t simply target keywords with high search volumes. It’s tempting, because you want a lot of traffic — we understand. Still, it’s not always about getting visitors to your site. Instead, it should be about getting the right kind of visitors.
Remember that ranking for the “right” keywords can make or break your website. We recommend checking out Moz’s guide on keyword research for more information.
You will then want to write and publish original, high quality articles with genuinely useful information that your audience will want to read. These articles can be optimized to target your keywords and will form the cornerstone of your auto SEO campaign.
2. Optimize Your Content; Avoid Keyword Stuffing
Automotive search engine optimization aims to help bridge gaps and aid internet users in finding the information, product and/or service they seek. As such, in order to ensure that the content you are providing on your website reaches its audience, you should optimize for relevant keywords (i.e. search queries). This optimization process involves inserting keywords into copy to make sure search engines properly understand its relevance. Optimize properly, and the search engines should do the rest of the work, indexing your content appropriately so that it can be found when someone comes to Google looking for something relevant to their needs.
However, there are times when people take the content optimization process too far. When the lay man, unaware of SEO, can easily tell that the text they are reading is filled with the same terms and phrases over and over again. This is what is known as keyword stuffing, a practice that is now punished by Google. In essence, instead of improving visibility, keyword stuffing reduces it.
The above example about red apples is how NOT to write SEO copy. It is desperately trying to target and rank for “red apples” and is practically begging for a Google Panda slap.
Quick Tip: When optimizing a particular piece of copy for a keyword, the following steps should always be taken:
- Include the keyword in the main heading/title.
- The keyword should appear within the first sentence or paragraph.
- Add the keyword somewhere within the closing paragraph.
The keyword can appear several more times in the copy, depending upon the content’s length, but if you ever feel that the copy reads unnaturally, then don’t hesitate to remove instances of the keyword. Google is sophisticated enough these days that it doesn’t need to be beaten over the head with your keywords to understand what your content is about.
Moreover, there are other, more technical ways to optimize a web page for keywords “under the hood.” We recommend taking a look at this guide for more information on that.
3. Stay Informed about Google’s Changing Algorithms
Many businesses do their best to ensure that the content posted online is of high quality. However, as Metafilter proved, quality isn’t the only important challenge. Automotive businesses, just like any other, have to stay on top of the changing algorithms used by search engines.
Google regularly releases new algorithms and new updates, many of which can have a direct impact on automotive SEO. Webmasters with the best of intentions can end up getting their sites penalized if they are not hip to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and how to avoid getting on the wrong side of the law in the land of Google search.
Quick Tip: Bookmark Moz’s Google Algorithm Change History and study it. This will give you invaluable insight into what types of websites Google has penalized in the past and how you can engineer your own auto SEO strategy so that such things don’t happen to you in the future.
We also recommend diversifying, so that you are not totally reliant on Google to drive your traffic.
4. Build Natural Links; Avoid Link Schemes
When assessing the visibility of a website, search engines have placed a lot of clout on the number of inbound links pointing to it from other websites. In the past, virtually any link was a good link. If you were in the auot industry, you could get a link from an automotive-themed discussion forum, or it could come from somewhere totally random and unrelated, such as the blog of Madonna. It didn’t matter. As long as you had a link pointing to you, and that anchor text was optimized for your key phrase, you were golden.
Well, both Google and automotive search engine optimization have come a long way since the days of link farms. Links still matter, but they cannot be so obviously manipulated and exploited for the purpose of increasing rankings. If you want to perform well on search engine results and rank high, it’s essential to have good links; credible, diverse and natural. Unnatural links are now not only harmful for conversions, but search engine rankings as well, due to Google’s Penguin algorithm.
Quick Tip: The best way to create natural links is to write very useful, high quality content and promote it on social media websites. The content can vary between articles, infographics, videos, etc. Focus on what you feel you can do best (i.e. don’t waste time and resources on an instructional video if it may turn out amateurish and unappealing). If your content is truly useful or interesting to people, they will in turn share it. This generates you the links and social signals that get websites ranked by Google in the modern search era.
Tap into the power of social media to share links and improve linkage. Moreover, ask relevant websites and blogs within your industry to share your posts. Whatever you do, just don’t focus on the anchor text!
5. Optimize the Speed of Your Website
Contrary to what countless automotive companies may believe, the performance of a websites matters significantly and a single second delay, as Kismetrics illustrates, can be devastating. With slow transitions, picture loads and general page loading times, your visitors will be deterred by your website and will move onto the next automotive website. An easy way to overcome this challenge is to optimize your website’s performance.
A great start is to convert a traditional website into a responsive design. Not only does this improve loading times, but thanks to its fluid grid, it ensures compatibility with dozens of mobile devices and their dramatically varied resolutions. If you’re selling/reselling cars, and the images are slow to load, believe us, your visitor will have clicked off the page before that image even shows up.
Quick Tip: Google Webmaster Tools lets you analyze page speeds online and provides feedback and suggestions on areas to improve. Note that you may need the help of a web developer to tackle some of the item, such as the compression of files and coding. Also consider implementing a mobile version of your website and optimize its speed using the same techniques Google suggests as well.
Evidently, auto SEO can be difficult without the right information. Despite the difficulty described above, you can always find the right information to get you on track to success. By following the information and tips provided, a successful automotive SEO campaign is just a few inches away. Contact us today if you have any questions about your auto SEO campaign.