Local SEO For Dealers: What Is It And Why Is It Important?

Updated: Aug 09, 2022 | Nick Ainge Roy | 3 mins. read

As a dealer you’re no doubt familiar with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and the important role it plays in directing traffic towards your business. Local SEO is simply SEO that is location specific, and means that Google will display local results when customers enter a search query.

These search queries may be generic (‘car dealer near me’) or specific (‘Honda dealers in Melbourne’). When a search is made using these terms or terms similar to them, Google displays the most relevant top-ranking businesses. 

SEO for dealers is about making sure that your business is, in the eyes of Google, the most relevant business for the products and services that you sell. For a dealer this means optimisng your website and your Google My Business (Recently renamed as Google Business Profile).

Why Is Local SEO Important?

Local SEO is important because it connects you directly with customers with a high level of intent.  46% of all searches on Google contain local intent, while 97% of all search engine users are searching for businesses nearby. Furthermore, over 50% of all ‘near me’ searches will result in an offline, in-person visit. As a dealer, local SEO is one of the most reliable ways of helping customers find you and getting them to step onto your yard, and to ignore it is to let sales slip through your fingers.

How Does It Work?

Local SEO is a two-stage process. The first involves Google detecting the user’s location through their IP address while the second involves ranking local businesses according to their relevance to the search terms. Location is the most obvious point of relevance: there is no point in a dealership in Sydney being shown to a user based in Melbourne, for example. Relevance is also determined by the strength of things like your Google My Business profile (we’ll talk more about this soon) website content and the number of reviews you have.

Keyword research is the core and foundation of any SEO plan

How Can I Improve My Local SEO?

Google My Business/Google Business Profile

There are a number of ways you can improve your local SEO. Let’s start by looking at Google My Business, which has the greatest impact on local SEO performance. Google My Business (or Google Business Profile, as it is now known) is a profile that helps Google understand what your business does, and provides a snapshot of this to users via a panel on the search engine results page (SERP). The example below shows our GMB profile for Retain Media – you can see that it displays things like our location, what industry we are in (marketing), as well as the number of customer reviews and our average rating.

Google uses the information within your GMB profile to assess your relevancy to local searches. Below, you can see that when we enter ‘marketing agency cheltenham melbourne’ as a search term, our business appears alongside other agencies that Google has decided are relevant to that search term. Google has pulled this information from our GMB profile and the profiles of other agencies to show the user the results that best fit what they are looking for. This is the essence of local SEO.

The more information you can provide in your GMB profile, the better Google can match you to local searches. Think of it as the front door to your dealership and the first point of contact for new customers. 

Many buyers will never visit your website. They will encounter your GMB ‘Front door’ and call the dealership or go straight to the showroom.

You want to have as much important and relevant information as you can to make things as easy as possible for customers to connect with your business.

Taking the time to properly set up and optimize your GMB profile is one of the best things you can do to start ranking for local SEO. Start with the basics such as a local phone number, address, business hours and your industry – these are the building blocks of local SEO and the points that will connect you with the greatest volume of local searches. Once these are taken care of, you can begin to focus on other aspects of your GMB presence, such as categories, reviews and posts  – for more information about the importance of GMB profiles and categories, check out this other article we wrote. 

GMB Categories

Each dealer can have 10 categories – 1 primary and 9 secondary. It is vitally important to make sure your business is in the right category. 

Too often we see Caravan OEM list themselves as “campervan and caravan dealer”  – for example this manufacturer is listed as a dealer:

When browsers search for caravan manufacturer this OEM will not display.

Same search, same location for the term ‘caravan manufacturer’.

Despite being one of the bigger OEMs in the industry, the first OEM does not appear at all.

 A car franchise dealer should have  “[OEM brand] dealer” as their primary category.

They should then populate the 9 subcategories with the other services they offer.

Below are 3 Ford dealers in Melbourne. 

All 3 of these dealers are missing opportunities by not telling Google all the services they offer, and some are missing out more than others.

Unsure which categories are right for your dealership? Get the fill list of GMB categories for dealers.

Reviews & GMB Posts

As in the real world, your reputation is key to your success in the digital space. Beyond serving as a beacon of trustworthiness to consumers, positive online reviews signal to Google that it can display your business in a prominent position as part of a local search result, and are actually weighted heavily by the Google algorithm when it comes to local search results. There are a number of review sites where customers can go to rate your business, but the best place to direct them to is Google, as it will have the greatest impact on your local search rankings. 

Although you can’t outright tell customers what to say, a good way of maximising the impact of a review is to offer some guiding questions when you invite them to leave a review. Reviews that contain terms relevant to a local search provide a small boost to your ranking, so try some of the following:

-Did you buy a new or used vehicle? (keywords)

-Where do you live? (location)

-What did we do well? (positive framing)

-Would you recommend us to a friend?

Keywords in the reviews from customes impact what a dealer ranks for. Keywords for the business not so much.

The example below shows the results for a search of ‘best car dealer in Melbourne’.

Note the dealers who show for this term have customer reviews with these keywords.

Another feature of Google My Business are Posts. Posts function just like any other social media feed and are a great way of showing potential customers (and Google) that your business is active, as well as respond to questions or advertise any current promotions. Nearly every dealer has a team member tasked with running an Instagram or Facebook page but hardly any give the same attention to Google Posts, even though it has a much greater impact on your local SEO and attracting local customers.

Our recommendation for dealers is if they have a limited budget or are only going to invest a small amount in local SEO they should invest in fully optimizing and merchandising their GMB profile. If you need help optimizing your GMB profile drop us a line.

What Does My Website Have To Do With This?

As we mentioned earlier, the other factor that impacts your local SEO ranking is your website. 

As with the GMB, keyword research is the foundation.

When getting a website built it needs to talk to both the machine and the human. Too often websites are built that look great and ignore elements and opportunities to talk to the machine and tell Google what to rank for.

Below is an example of an OEM-supplied dealer site. 90% of the clicks (Yellow) come from people typing {OEM} + search term. 

Only 10% of clicks come from non-branded keywords, e.g. category terms or broad terms like “dealer near me”.  This has happened because the OEM has built a nice-looking, functional site but the architecture has not been built in a way to help the dealer rank for non-branded terms.

This happens with non-franchise dealers’ sites, and in most other industries, as well. Developers and SEO specialists are different skills and developers build for user experience. Ranking on Google is about being able to demonstrate value in your website content – value both to the customer reading it and to the search engine trawling your site. Unmemorable, generic content is never going to leave an impression on a customer and will never be ranked by Google. Likewise, related content won’t rank. For example, if a dealer sells ‘off-road caravans’ they are rarely going to rank for ‘off-road’ related terms unless they have structured their site and specific content to tell Google that it is relevant to that search term.

To rank for a local search term, your website needs high-quality content that connects your dealership with that search term. Your ‘About Us’ page is the easiest place to have information linking you to the local area, but this is just the starting point. The blog should also be used to reinforce the dealership’s place in the community

Having a blog that you regularly post on is essential to local SEO and is an easy way to start ranking for relevant search terms. Again, you want to avoid generic content and focus instead on making your blog a local destination. You could write about local events or news, or even your favourite businesses to support in the area. Maintaining a blog has the double benefit of helping potential customers build a personal connection with your business while also helping to boost you in the rankings.

When you’re writing content for your website (blog and sales pages), it’s important to align it with what customers are searching for and the language they use – avoid using dealership or industry jargon wherever possible. A simple but highly effective example of this is the terms ‘pre-owned’ vs ‘second hand’: they mean the same thing, but one is an industry term while the other is what customers will actually be searching for in Google. For example, there are approximately 1,900 searches per month in Australia for “second-hand caravans” and only 20 for “pre-owned caravans”.  

Another common one we see is the words ‘Premium’ Vs ‘Luxury’. You may sell premium products but generally, we see users search ‘Luxury ____’

In the motorbike industry, the word ‘motorbike’ has 50% more searches than ‘motorcycle’.

As previously mentioned for any SEO, understanding keywords, both in terms of volume and intent is the key / foundation to any successful plan.  

So What Do I Do Now?

Optimising for local SEO should be a major focus for any dealer looking to expand their digital footprint and bring in more customers, but it is not something that can be done overnight. Like all marketing, local SEO requires a clear and well-formed strategy to deliver the best results to your business. Working with an agency that understands the kind of customers you are targeting as a dealer is crucial to your success.

At Retain Media, we are specialists in the motor vehicle and OEM industry and know exactly what is required to connect you with customers in your local area. If you think your dealership could use a digital upgrade, get in touch to find out what we can do for you, and start taking the next steps to success.

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