By Dan Durick, Director of Dealer.com SEO
Coming through recent events feels a bit like we’ve time traveled. We stayed in our homes, like safe little time capsules, and emerged to a new world. In some ways, this world aligns with what we expected for the future, such as more shopping being done online – even in the automotive space. But in other ways it’s been more jarring, like the experience of social distancing, so re-opening dealerships will not be business as usual.
Let’s look at a couple ways that adjustments to business practices and consumer behavior will impact SEO strategies for sales and particularly service. We’re calling this shift “dealer home services,” as it encompasses everything your business can do away from the dealership, and in your customers’ homes.
The traditional need for being visible with phrases around vehicle models, car repair, parts, and the like remains, and now there’s a growing trend for phrases associated with buying online and shopping from home. Using Google Trends, we’re seeing an indication of increased search volume for “buy car online”.
While there are low points as we would expect through stay-at-home orders, the data through 5/16 shows a clear increase above previous highs over the past 12 months. Your SEO strategy should include tactics for capturing this traffic. Does your dealership website have a page that outlines how a customer can buy from you remotely? Do you communicate options for the customer to test drive and accept delivery of the vehicle? If not, that’s a great place to start to target these terms.
As you change your business practices, consider the content you are making to solve today’s challenges and how best to leverage online. There are countless sources for great content. For example, if you’re making a walkaround video for a potential customer, consider posting that to your blog and adding a link to the Vehicle Details Page. And while you’re there, create a second video with more general information about the model to place on your model landing page and your YouTube channel. Content is still a driving force of performance in SEO.
What people expect from fixed ops departments is changing. From experience, there’s pent-up demand for service – we have two cars waiting for oil changes and summer tires. A focus on service department marketing is critical, with additional landing page attention on how you protect both your customers and employees. On your service page, create an FAQ (marked up with schema, of course) to answer questions like: Do you offer contactless service? How often is your waiting area cleaned? How close are the seats? What about your loaner cars, are they sanitized? When you’re done with a customer’s car, do you disinfect it?
Consider what else should be communicated on your service page. Will you pick up a customer’s vehicle and deliver it? Are there services you can do remotely? Expect search volume for these kinds of terms to increase over time and optimizing your service pages for them will help capture that traffic and drive conversions.
Adjustments to your landing pages are important, but you also need to inform potential customers that are still on the search results page, before they even click on your link. Consider what space in your meta titles and descriptions you can allocate to messaging cleanliness and other precautionary measures or benefits of using your service department. Placing these terms in the title and descriptions of your service pages means Google’s users see them in the search results and will feel more confident doing business with you. When you make this change, monitor performance to understand impact of both rankings and click-throughs.
While we’re on the topic of the search results page, your Google My Business is also key to communicating to your audience. Leverage your business’ description to highlight the changes you’ve made to the benefit of your community (employees, customers). Also use Google Posts for the same.
Ensure you’ve created a separate Google My Business for your service center with accurate hours and connected it to your main GMB. Like your main, update the description and publish Posts. Focus on how your business is different today.
This is also a good time to update the photos on your GMBs. Show how clean your facility is, the space for customers to spread out from one another, and any hand sanitizer stations.
While your goal to sell cars and service your customers hasn’t changed, the market has. Things like transparent pricing on your service pages still positively impact conversions, but now you need to incorporate elements of safety. That’s a lot to cover in your service section, and while SEO is critical, make sure you have a thoughtful layout with engaging imagery to keep your visitors from bouncing.
Putting this all together, your brand is evolving. Adapt to the new market through updated business practices and take advantage of this through proper optimizations and page design. You’ll be rewarded when newly captured dealer home services traffic converts into new customers.
Of course, none of this is new. It’s been coming for years.