Back to the Basics: Understanding SEO

When it comes to digital marketing, plenty of methods are available for increasing your dealership’s online reach. From paying for ads to engaging with customers on social media, the options for using the digital landscape to increase sales are nearly endless.

One of the top areas where dealerships can see growth in their online reach is through SEO. While the term SEO has been thrown around in the world of digital marketing for decades, many still lack an understanding of what SEO is, how it plays a role in digital marketing, and what it takes to dominate this digital strategy.

In this guide, we’ll take a journey back to the basics, providing a clearer understanding of what SEO is and the vital role it plays in your dealership’s ability to outpace the competition online.

What is SEO?

SEO is an acronym that stands for “search engine optimization.” But what exactly does it mean to optimize for a search engine?

Simply put, SEO is the strategy a business uses to increase organic rankings on search engines by creating web pages that will rank for specific search terms. And while SEO is a broad term that could include any search engine, most businesses place their focus on optimizing their website for Google. That’s because all the searches taking place at any given moment, the vast majority take place on Google. In fact, in June 2021, Google had a market share of 87.76 percent of all online searches.

To understand exactly what SEO is, let’s take a quick look at a real-life example:

Margaret is interested in purchasing a new vehicle. She is open to a variety of makes and models and wants to do a little more research on what is available near her and what vehicles near her might cost.

She opens up a web browser on her mobile device and types “new vehicles for sale near me” into Google’s search engine The moment she taps on the search icon, Google gets to work crawling the web for relevant websites to provide to her.

The next page she sees is what is the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Here, she sees a list of both paid ads and organic listings.

The paid ads show up at the top of the page and are denoted with the term “Ad.” Next, there is often a map showcasing nearby businesses. And beneath this are the organic listings.

The businesses that show up on the top of the list are the websites that Google has deemed to be the most relevant to Margaret’s search. But how did they make their way to the top of the first page of results?

The answer is through SEO. By optimizing their website based on Google’s requirements, these businesses earn their place at the top of the organic search results. And, when it comes to organic search, being at the top is critical. Very few users will click past the first few results, and rarely do people journey past the first page of results.

How Do I Boost My Rankings?

The idea of optimization is simple, but the practical application is a bit more complex. Boosting a website’s organic rankings takes the right knowledge of what Google and other search engines are looking for when they crawl the web.

Here are a few of the many building blocks for SEO:

  • Quick webpage load times: Google recommends that a webpage loads in two seconds or less. Websites that take a long time to load are less likely to rank well.
  • Understandable content: For Google to know what your website is about and to determine whether it is relevant to a search term, the website’s content needs to be optimized to be readable by both search engines and people. The use of headers and bullets, and the inclusion of relevant keywords, are all important ways to help Google rank a website for specific search terms.
  • Technical optimization: Behind the scenes, Google ascertains a lot about a website from the website’s code. Everything from meta descriptions to proper page title tags plays a role in a website’s ability to rank. The technical side of website optimization is where a lot of the magic takes place, but it requires more intricate knowledge of how websites are built and how Google reads this information.

While all these actions can help boost rankings, there is no simple way to guarantee a first-place organic result. This is due in part to two major factors:

1. Search Results Are Personalized

When you type a search query into Google and your cousin two cities away types the same search query into Google, you most likely won’t see the same results. As Google has advanced, gathering more and more data on individual users, it has personalized the search process. Part of the weight of which website ranks higher than others has to do with which website Google believes a specific user will find most relevant. The algorithm could base this on previous search history, demographic information, and location. This makes it hard to pinpoint exact rankings for your website and subsequent web pages. Instead, it is better to focus on a goal of boosting your rankings as a business overall, rather than getting caught up on the exact placement of your website for one specific keyword search.

2. Google Doesn’t Reveal the Full Details of its Algorithm

While Google provides some insights into what their search engine is looking for when ranking websites, it doesn’t fully reveal what goes into their algorithm. This is mostly due to the high amount of complexity involved in Google’s decision-making process. While you can follow every best practice outlined by Google, it is not entirely formulaic. There is still a portion of the process that is not transparent.

SEO Vs. Paid Ads: Which is Better?

When it comes to whether it is better to invest money into SEO or paid ads, the answer is that one isn’t better than the other. Realistically, both are critical to the success of any business’s digital strategy. And any marketing agency that recommends one without the other is remiss in its holistic view of digital marketing.

However, the big difference between SEO and paid ads comes down to the clock.

SEO is a long-term investment. Optimizing for organic rankings doesn’t happen overnight. Paid ads, conversely, are immediate. The moment you start running an ad campaign, you can begin funneling leads to your website.

For this reason, when a business needs immediate results, paid is preferred. An example might be when a dealership is about to host a sales event. Paid ads are a great option here. Paid ads allow a dealership to get its name in front of potential customers right away.

On the flip side, paid ads will always cost more per lead. Once your website ranks organically, your leads come in at no additional cost to your business. This makes SEO a worthwhile long-term strategy. Investing now can lead to a remarkable amount of savings down the road when you can cut down on ad spend due to an increase in organic leads.

In our Cape Girardeau Honda case study, we go over some important tactics you can use to help improve your clickthrough rate.View Case Study

What Are the Benefits of Investing in SEO?

As a dealership owner or a marketing manager, you have to carefully balance the amount of money you invest in any given digital strategy. And, while SEO takes time, requiring a long-term investment of spend, it can provide your dealership with an array of benefits.

  • A constant supply of leads: When your website ranks well for relevant search terms, you will enjoy a constant supply of new leads. Not only that, but these leads are also people actively searching for what you offer, which makes them much easier to convert.
  • Less ad spend: Over time, if you increase the number of search terms your dealership ranks organically, you can cut down on ad spend. This can help you lower your marketing costs without decreasing your reach.
  • Increased brand loyalty: The more relevant information you deliver to customers, the more trust you build with them. Whether it is through informative blog articles or community news posts, when you start to rank organically for searches your customers are performing, they become more loyal to your brand. This can help increase long-term sales and can boost visits to your service department.

Four Practical Takeaway SEO Tips for Dealerships

Here are some practical tips to keep in mind as you work on your SEO strategy for your dealership:

1. Don’t Expect Immediate Results

Too often, less than reputable agencies will promise fast SEO results. Realistically, it takes time to build rankings. The key is to have patience and to continue to make small improvements over time.

2. Pair Your SEO Strategy With a Holistic Digital Marketing Strategy

Ranking organically can provide your dealership with some of the best long-term savings. However, rather than placing all your eggs in one basket, it is wise to continue to pair SEO with paid marketing strategies. This can help you meet short-term goals. Additionally, when you invest in other digital marketing strategies, you can help your organic efforts simultaneously.

3. Don’t Cut Corners

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Invest in the right strategies to ensure long-term gains. When you do things the right way, which is often more time-intensive, Google will be less likely to penalize or blacklist your website.

4. Work with an Experienced Team

Optimizing your website to rank organically is a fairly complex process. Working with an agency that specializes in SEO can help ensure that your work is done the right way and meets current search engine requirements.

Need Help with SEO? Talk to J&L Today

SEO is a powerful tool for dealerships that are looking to increase that all-important online reach. By ranking for relevant keywords and search terms, you can get your brand in front of more potential buyers. Not only that, but as an inbound marketing tactic, SEO also allows you to target customers who are actively seeking your services and vehicles. This can, in turn, lower your marketing spend and increase your ROI.

If you are interested in increasing your organic reach, talk to our team at J&L Marketing today. We have years of experience working with dealerships to build a digital presence that offers long-term benefits. We will be happy to share our insights and knowledge with your team. Additionally, because we specialize in dealership digital marketing, we can offer you the latest SEO information that is relevant to your industry. With the help of our team, you can outrank the competition and build a digital presence that will continue to serve your business for years to come.

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