Business-as-usual has been turned on its head in the past month. But one thing that hasn’t changed? Customers turning to search engines to seek updates and information.
In a typical month, we take time during the first few days of the month to review performance metrics and trends from the month and year prior. Aggregating data from the hundreds of auto dealers we work with, we compare website traffic to the previous period to better understand seasonality and align our SEO strategies with user behavior. To help dealers navigate this time of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, we’re monitoring and sharing this data weekly.
What does the data tell us?
March was an unprecedented month. Organic traffic took a big hit in the middle of the month, but the last week of March showed some positive signs as traffic from different channels saw slight gains. Now in mid-April, total website traffic is down (-9.8%) over the last 14 days, but organic traffic is up (+3.8%). Looking at the last seven days, organic traffic is up (+11.4%) compared to the previous week.
As car shoppers come back online and businesses adjust to a digital sales process and shopping experience, ranking and communicating updates in search results to capture that organic traffic becomes increasingly important.
What does this mean for your digital marketing and SEO strategy?
Organic is an earned channel. You can’t pay to increase your organic traffic numbers, and there is not a direct correlation between spend and traffic that you find with paid or referral traffic. The organic traffic you receive is primarily based on how search engines understand and rank your site. Because you can’t control traffic flow with marketing dollars, consistent on- and off-site search engine optimization (SEO) is the primary way of increasing organic traffic and improving traffic quality over time.
Google constantly crawls and reviews websites to place them in search engine results after considering hundreds of ranking factors in real-time. To earn a high ranking, businesses need their website to be easily found and understood by search engine bots and humans alike. Over time, Google will reward these active, consistent, and trustworthy websites with higher rankings in relevant search results. SEO is a long game, but because organic is the biggest traffic driver for car dealerships, it’s a marketing strategy that drives big results. Businesses need to custom-fit their strategies to their operations at this time and we understand that not every company will be able to continue SEO efforts. But because customers are seeking information and updates online during this time, if you’re able we recommend continuing even a small amount of website and local listing maintenance and optimization.
What can car dealers do today?
Put in the work now to ensure your website is easily found when customers are searching online. Optimizing for search engines is essential if you want your dealership website to be found organically in search results and maps. If you can, be proactive and maintain some measure of on- and off-site optimizations.
Here are a few SEO tactics that you can use to both communicate with customers and maintain your organic rankings:
- Add new content. Keep sales and service customers up-to-date by adding new content or resources specific to COVID-19. If business hours or operations have changed, include these details and make it easy for customers to know when and how to reach you.
- Optimize existing content. Consider the questions that shoppers have right now and make sure you have landing pages or content on your website to provide helpful insight and answers. Update the core pages of your website like your homepage, contact page, service page, inventory page, and individual VDPs. Include online shopping-friendly features such as payment or trade-in calculators.
- Clean up technical factors. Check your sitemap to make sure all page content is being indexed. Address any outstanding crawl errors. Add internal link citations, alt attributes to images, and schema markup to your address and contact information. Review your title tags, meta descriptions, and headers for accuracy and relevant keywords.
- Manage Google My Business (GMB). Use your GMB profile(s) to share changes to business hours, available products or services, and other timely updates. Update your hours, contact information, and business description. Consider Google Posts to communicate with customers through the Knowledge Graph.
- Audit off-site listings. In addition to GMB, make sure your business listings across Bing, Yelp, and other local sites are accurate and up-to-date. Consider a data aggregator to consistently distribute updates across your business listings.
- Test your contact information. Test the conversion points on your website to make sure chat and forms are properly routing leads to your sales team and CRM. Call the sales and service numbers on your website to ensure customers are reaching the appropriate person.
Even if you scale back your optimization efforts, a consistent SEO strategy will ensure you’re capturing the organic traffic in your market and maintaining your rankings in the coming weeks and months. Things move quickly, so keep an eye on your website analytics, as well as dealer and model keyword trends to align with your market.
Here to help
If you have any questions about adjusting your SEO strategy or tactics, contact your Digital Advertising Strategist or reach out. We can work with you to customize a 1-3 month plan for your dealership. We’re here for you and will continue to partner hard to help your business succeed.