By today’s standard, every serious and sizable business is assumed to have its Digital Marketing “basics” — things such as Website, Email Marketing, maybe some Social Media presence — set in place. The next most important thing that you should focus on is to make sure that you can be found by your potential customers.
It does not matter if you have the most beautiful website in the world if nobody is looking at them. Like the philosophical question “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”, if your prospects are looking for a few options for their next car and they cannot find your models or your showroom, do you exist to them?
Being found online is critical because it directly translates to your top of Sales Funnel, which will subsequently bringing in sales leads for you. Your online visibility can be improved primarily with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and to illustrate its importance, HubSpot estimates that over 64% of marketers are actively doing SEO. Success in Digital Marketing is not just about “who knows you” but also “how many of them know you.”
Our team has been doing SEO work for a long time, and during that time we also have heard people keep using that word, and we know sometimes it does not mean what they think it means. Inconceivable.
A brief explanation of SEO
For the benefits to those who are new to this, SEO can be defined simply as ‘the practice of optimizing content to be discovered through a search engine’s organic search results’. The objective of doing SEO is to get your webpage to be shown as prominently as possible—meaning at the top—of the search engine result page (or in short ‘SERP’).
A ‘content’ refers to your digital material or parts of it that can be optimized to receive better ranking by search engine, such as: the text content of your website, an image in your webpage, the code behind your website, your social media post, your e-brochure, your blog post, and so on. Whereas ‘organic search results’ is referring to the default information given by a search engine without the influence of advertisements (more about ads in search engines another time).
Before you an optimize, you must understand Search Engines
To really understand how SEO works, first you need to know what search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing actually do. People tend to look at search engines as a mighty giant who bears the weight of the world on his shoulders, but this is probably inaccurate—and unnecessarily intimidating—as they do not own or host the millions of websites on the world wide web.
It is more accurate if you view search engines as librarians, because what they do actually is exploring the internet (they call it “crawling”, because they are using a “spiderbot”, because it is a “web”), recording it (they call it “indexing”, because that’s what smart librarians do to be able to search their records efficiently when a visitor is asking about it in the future), and ranking it (hey, even librarians have favorite books).
Putting the picture together: the internet, search engines, and buying a car
The Irish Times wrote “online research has become a significant factor in buying a car. Dealers are reporting that, whereas people used to come into their premises to learn about a new car for the first time, now they are coming in armed with knowledge, detail, and even knowing precisely which options they want.”
Even though car buyers spend hours of research before they make their decision, they will not be able to process all the information that they find on the internet. Most people will only view the first page of the search engine result page (SERP) and read the first few things listed there (not even the whole list on the first page!).
So naturally, if you want to get more leads from online exposure, you would be interested in SEO because webpages that have undergone the SEO process are ranked higher by search engines, and therefore will appear first in the SERP list before the non-optimized webpages.
How SEO improves car sales
Imagine for a moment that Flashlight is manufacturing cars with innovative headlights and a potential buyer is looking for a car that has great headlights. He types some relevant keywords into the search engine—maybe ‘ultra bright’, ‘multi colours’, ‘energy efficient’—and because we have done our SEO homework, our car model would appear in their search page first before our competitors. You know the rest of the story: better position in SERP means we get more attention from potential buyers, and a better chance for us to get that sales lead instead.
In case you have not noticed it: the potential buyers do not need to know us or specifically type our brand or car model when they are searching. The search engines are recommending us to them, because we are good at SEO.
The SEO landscape in car dealerships
Carzone found out that 50% of car buyers say that they get their inputs online, and when they are researching, they are open to recommendations. If you would like to sell more cars, it is important that you influence your buyers as early as possible, and this is where SEO comes into the picture.
To be clear: in Digital Marketing, you are not just competing with your competitors but also with content providers like ‘aggregator websites’ that collate car reviews like carsireland.ie; completecar.ie; and carzone.ie. Based on Digital Marketing Institute, the number of online visitors on car reviews websites have increased by 12%, while dealerships suffered a 2% decrease. Clearly, car dealers would need to catch up with this competition, and SEO may as well be the answer.
Should SEO be done by the car manufacturer or dealer?
Theoretically, the car manufacturers should do the heavy lifting for the product promotion, while the car dealers focus on managing the stock and customer service. Nonetheless, Carzone found out the contrary, close to 40% of buyers are getting their inputs from car dealers and 25% from manufacturers, which means car dealerships have more influence over buyers’ decisions, provided they are found online.
This is an opportunity to influence buyers should be captured, and if you want to capture it well, you would need SEO.
While car manufacturers are working to spread the awareness of the new models and making technical information available, car dealers should focus on being found online and being trusted by their potential buyers.
How search engine-optimized are you?
If you want to see your how your webpages ranked by search engine, try searching a generic keywords like ‘family SUV made in Europe’ or other keywords that you want to be associated with and see for yourself how do you fare. That will be a good starting point on where to start with your SEO efforts.