The world tour continues from Europe to Baltimore. Greg is back and, this time, presenting on Automotive SEO from the Internet Sales 20 Group conference in Maryland. Check out his marvelous presentation in this week’s #LocalSearchTuesdays.

Welcome back to another episode of Local Search Tuesdays. In this week’s episode, I’m sharing my crowd favorite presentation from the Internet Sales twenty Group Conference in Baltimore last week.

After my two week trip to Europe, I came home for a day before I turned around to fly to Baltimore for the Internet Sales twenty Group Conference. Sean Bradley and the DealerSynergy team really know how to throw a kick ass event. I know a lot of you weren’t able to make it out there, so I thought I’d share my presentation with you on this week’s episode. So here you go.

How to be marvelous at automotive SEO. You know me because you’re watching my video series. But in case it’s the first time you’ve seen it, I’m Greg. I’m the chief operating officer at SearchLab, and I’ve got a weekly video series called Local Search Tuesdays.

I strongly encourage you to check it out every Tuesday morning where we release short, quick tips on how to be awesome at SEO or sometimes longer ones because, hey. Like, today is gonna be, like, twenty, thirty minutes long. So I’m also lucky enough to get to speak at conferences all over the world. And because of that, sometimes I see some presenters that really aren’t that great on stage.

Typically, they’re gonna stand behind the podium. They’re gonna talk really fast in a monotone like this, and it’s really hard to understand what they’re saying. And they don’t ever have design elements in their slides. So the background is plain white.

There’s no pictures. There’s no colors. There’s no nothing, and they pack every slide with black aerial font bullet points. And they read bullet points the entire time, and while it’s no fun to listen to that, you may not realize that they’ve proven with science that bullet points kill kittens, so we’re gonna keep all the kitties safe today and not have any bullet points.

And there’s always a movie theme when I present. I’m an absolute nut about movies, and I love to share my love of movies with my love of talking about digital marketing. So today’s theme is superhero movies. We have one hundred and nineteen superhero movie references, including at least one movie for every year in the last fifty years.

And for those of you that are Marvel fans, keep an eye out. I do have all of the Marvel movies in timeline order. So why the long face? Are you spending too much time looking up at the competition ranking higher in local searches?

You don’t have to have a big brain to succeed in local SEO even though sometimes it seems like it’s a lot of magic and voodoo, it’s really not. I’m here today with a lot of hot tips to help you crush the competition and kick ass in the search results.

Now I’ve been talking at automotive conferences about SEO for more than ten years. And the reason I can keep coming back is because Google releases thousands of updates every year.

So things are changing. But even though things are changing, really, the basics have stayed the same. So I’ve pretty much been telling you exactly what you need to do for more than ten years, but most dealers aren’t paying attention.

And most other vendors of automotive SEO aren’t paying attention, and they still suck at doing SEO for dealers. And dealerships need it more than they’ve ever needed it before because consumer behavior shifted at a fundamental level thanks to COVID. So those old strategies and tactics don’t work. You’ve gotta be better. And then I’m here today to hopefully change the way that you think about automotive SEO.

SEO is literally your dealership’s most important marketing channel. You’re gonna get more leads and more website traffic from organic visits to your site than anything else and in most cases than everything else combined. And let me get on the soapbox for a minute. The OEM approved vendor program doesn’t really operate in your dealership’s best interest. It’s a much bigger picture project, and it doesn’t really work when you really take it down to brass tax.

Those vendors, once they’re in the system, have to work with any dealer that wants to sign up. So you end up with multiple competing dealerships in the same market paying the same vendor to get them all to show up higher in Google, which doesn’t make sense. And once you’re in the program, it’s really hard to change your offerings. So most of them are using ridiculously outdated strategies and tactics. And if Google is releasing thousands of updates a year, by the time you jump through all the hoops you have to jump through to get your offering updated, you’re out of date again.

And it’s such pain in the ass that nobody really does anything to update.

So they’re gonna offer the exact same cookie cutter service to everyone. That’s actually part of the requirements of being in the program, and the cookie cutter strategy doesn’t work in today’s market because every dealership is unique and every individual location is unique. So you need a customized strategy that matches your location and your business goals if you wanna win in today’s market.

If we really boil Google down to the the simplest concept, it’s just a pattern detection program. So when you’re doing SEO, you’re giving your dealership a more attractive pattern so you’ll show up more often in search results. But today, I’m gonna share different information.

You’ve been to conferences or at least seen webinars before or read blog post about SEO, and it’s always someone telling you this is the stuff that works. And nobody ever really proves it.

So today, I’m gonna do it differently. I’m gonna prove what works with data. I’m gonna share some data from some research we’ve done because if you know what other dealers are doing and what other dealers aren’t doing, it’s gonna help you be better with your own SEO.

So we’ve been working on a massive two year long research project into Google business profiles, and we’ve pulled over two million data points on over eighty five hundred Google business profiles across three different verticals. But when we’re talking automotive, we ended up with two thousand seven hundred and thirty four Google business profiles. The way that we found those, we ran these keywords, Ford dealer, Chevy dealer, Toyota dealer, Jeep dealer, Kia dealer, and used car dealer in these fourteen cities.

And you know how that pulls up a map pack with the map and the three results? And you can then click more places underneath that and be taken to the local finder page, which shows you everything in the area that matches the intent of that search you just performed. So we’ll take positions one through twenty for each of those keywords in each of those cities, and that gave us the list. But then we needed to remove the department business profiles because we only really cared about the primary profile for the dealership.

So that left us with two thousand one hundred and twenty five dealerships. So I’m gonna talk about two different things here, data, not dee da. I’m sorry. My designer made a mistake.

But we’re gonna talk about factors that influence ranking. Do these things right, you’ll show up better. Do them wrong, you’ll show up worse. And we’re gonna talk about factors that don’t influence your visibility, but they do influence how many conversions you’re going to get from customers.

So let’s start with the ranking factors.

We ran those seven different categories, so we should really only see seven different primary categories for the dealerships that showed the study, but that’s not what we saw. We found thirty two different primary categories. And the second most common one was the most generic one you could possibly choose, which is just car dealer, and no one should ever choose that as their primary category. It’s important to choose the right one because your primary category carries more weight in the algorithm.

So you wanna be really strategic and pick the right thing. Watch this video. It will walk you through how to do that. And there are ten category slots available.

And there are more than ten categories that apply to sales and more than ten for parts and more than ten for services. So you should always have at least nine or ten, but almost twenty four percent of the dealerships, almost one out of four only had a single category selected, and only half of them had more than five, and only fifteen percent of the dealerships had all ten category slots filled out. And guess what? These are the ones that were ranking better than the others. You should always have at least nine or ten. This video will walk you through the category choices that are available and let you know which ones you should be selecting.

And speaking of the department GBPs that we pulled out, this is a rule that Google changed specifically for dealerships to allow dealerships to have separate department Google business profiles for parts and service when according to the actual rules of what makes you eligible, you should not be eligible to have a separate parts and service business profile. So if Google’s gonna change the rules specifically for a vertical, that probably means that you should do those new things that you’re allowed to do, and only sixty percent of the dealerships had those set up. You should definitely have them set up at least for your service department and your parts department, but you can also do it for collision if you’d like to. You are not allowed to set one up for used cars or for financing or for vehicle acquisition.

And when you set these up, it’s important that the categories are unique between each of your profiles, so don’t mix categories. So sales on sales, parts on parts, service on service. And looking at reviews, the average number of reviews per location was one thousand five hundred and thirty four. But I’m not telling you that that’s how many you need to succeed because the algorithm doesn’t actually care how many reviews you have. The algorithm only cares that you have more than the local competition.

You don’t wanna get too many more though because if you far outpace, if you have ten times as many reviews as everyone else in town, it doesn’t mean people are gonna think you’re amazingly awesome.

Human nature’s gonna kick in and people are gonna think if you’re that far beyond everybody else, you’re faking it, and then it’s gonna hurt you. So you wanna tread that kinda narrow, nice edge to stay ahead of the competition, but not too far ahead. And looking at reviews again, the average rating was only a four point one.

And really the kind of sweet spot that research has shown is between four point four and four point seven. But even still, four point one fairly low, and we saw the acquisition pace really equal out to not even a review every day. Twenty twenty three reviews a month is not really that many reviews.

But make sure that you’re being proactive in asking for reviews. That will enhance your chances of getting more reviews. So make it easy for people to leave reviews and ask every customer because upset customers are gonna leave a bad review no matter what. But happy customers typically don’t feel the need to leave a review unless they’re asked. So watch this video. It walks you through how to have a better, more proactive reputation management process.

And with some new research that has recently come to light, you know, when you first go to your business profile and you go to the review section and it shows that default kind of stack of reviews that really only shows a few reviews. And then you choose whether you want the best reviews or the worst reviews or the most recent reviews.

We’re talking about that default about ten ish reviews that show up before you filter and change the order. If the review includes a photo, it stays in that default sort for a longer period of time. And if it’s got more text in it, it stays in the default sort for a longer period of time. And you can give a thumbs up to a review. So if a review has two or more upvotes, it stays in the default sort for a longer period of time.

So if we combine all those together, you can do something really cool. If you’ve got a bad review that shows in the default sort, reach out to someone who’s recently left you a five star review, ask them to add more text and upload a photo along with the review and let you know when it’s done. Once it’s done, have a couple people at the dealership give it a thumbs up, and that thing jumps right to the top of the list. You do that with two or three reviews, and you can bury that bad review. So it’s no longer damaging to everyone since it would be the first thing they would see when they’re looking at your views.

And you wanna be careful with which website vendor you’re selecting.

We saw some pretty damaging stuff in this study. Local business schema is hugely important, and more than half of the websites didn’t have schema markup. And there’s one provider that does not do that out of the box.

And that same provider is the only provider in automotive that does not have responsive websites. And Google has asked for responsive websites for years, but when it rolled out the page experience update, it started actively penalizing you for not being responsive. So eighteen percent of the websites in the study were dealer dot com sites, and they’re not responsive. You will definitely see some reduction in visibility and lead count if you’re on that platform. So I strongly suggest you use any other platform that’s more attractive to Google’s pattern detection.

And you all understand that you’ve gotta have keywords on the content of your page. We’re looking at the landing page of your Google business profile, which for car dealerships is the home page of the website. If we’re looking for Ford dealer as a term, you would think Ford dealer would be on the page, but only fifteen percent of the websites had the searched keyword phrase on the homepage of the website, which is pretty bad. And remember, another simple concept, if you wanna show up as a search result when somebody types in some words into Google, then you need a dedicated page about that singular concept on your site.

And that page should be the best answer in the local area to the question that that potential customer is asking. And if you’re writing the best answer, you’re probably gonna answer some of the subsequent questions that that potential customer would have to make it a better experience for them and make it more likely that, a, you’re gonna show up, and b, you’re gonna convert that customer. You also need to make sure that your content makes it clear to everyone why you’re so stinking awesome that they shouldn’t consider buying from anyone else. Because if you’ve got the same generic content as everybody else, you’re not gonna look different.

You’re not gonna stand out. Why would anyone care? You need to be sure also that you’re being intentional with the content that you release. You should be creating content around the concepts and ideas that you don’t show up well for.

If you already show up well for something, you don’t need to create more content around it. Like, if you’re the only Ford guy in town, you don’t need to be creating Ford dealership content because you’re already gonna win on all of those searches. But once you’ve written all this awesome content, you then need to optimize it so that Google’s pattern detection system can figure out easily what it’s about, and you’ll have a better chance of showing up in in searches. When you optimize the page elements that I’m gonna run you through, it’s really important that you use the same keyword phrase and the same city phrase in each of these elements.

No. You’re not gonna show up in five cities just because you list five cities here. So stop doing that. Your website providers are gonna do that for you.

It doesn’t mean that it works. So the most important element is the title tag. It’s what shows in the little tab above where you type in the URL. You should never put your dealership name first because you’re the only thing named that, and you’re always gonna rank for that search.

But have your important keyword phrase and single city there. The second most important element is the h one heading. That’s the big thick headline above the main body of text on the page. You should only have one h one heading on the page.

It should be a bit more conversational, and it should include the same keyword phrase and same location phrase. Obviously, you need it in the page content, but if you’ve written content, that’s the best answer in the local area that answers subsequent questions. It’s all about you and all about the local area. You probably won’t have to do anything here.

It’s already gonna be pretty good.

For your internal pages, it’s really helpful to have that phrase and location phrase in the URL for a page. Now I’m not telling you you should go back and update pages that already exist, but as you create new content moving forward, it’s helpful to include those.

It’s also important to include it in the alt text on your images. Years ago, Google couldn’t tell it was in an image. So for all standard image embeds, there was a code in the embed code called alt, and that describes the image. Now Google’s machine learning platforms will tell you exactly what’s in an image, but alt text is still part of the algorithm even though most people don’t do anything with it.

And if they are putting alt text on images, they’re definitely not optimizing that alt text. So get a little bit of an edge on the competition by doing this. And also include those phrases in your meta description. Now this is behind the scenes, and it doesn’t influence ranking, but it does control what shows in those two little gray sentences underneath your blue link when you show us a search result.

So writing something compelling here will get you more conversions.

We also looked at the number of words on the landing page, and the landing page of the Google business profile for dealerships is the home page. So we saw an average of eight hundred and thirty two words. Now we didn’t count stop words like a, and, of, and, v. So still that’s a pretty good word count.

There’s no magic number, but it’s really hard if you’re gonna write the best answer that answers subsequent questions that’s all about you and all about the local area in just the three or four hundred words that most of the providers are gonna give you. We also checked out inbound links. We saw an average number of eighteen thousand seven hundred and thirty or seven hundred and fifty four inbound links, but that was eighteen thousand links from only an average of two hundred and eight sites. When you’re looking at your links, don’t really get lost in how many individual links you have because there’s diminishing return in getting more links from the same site.

What you really wanna pay attention to is how many different websites are actually linking to you, and you should be getting those links from local websites and local businesses because those carry more weight in Google’s local algorithm. And that’s really easy to do if you’re involved in the community. And guess what? Dealerships are involved in the community.

They do give back. They are philanthropic. So it’s pretty easy to get links. But if you need some ideas for other things that you can do, I’ve got an awesome video for my series here that walks you through exactly what you need to do.

Now let’s finish up and talk about those conversion factors that will help you get more leads even though they won’t necessarily help you get more visibility.

Again, Google updated the rules and allowed dealerships to show a live list of their inventory on their Google Business Profile, something that other businesses can’t do.

So you should probably do it. And twenty percent of the dealerships still don’t have it even though it’s been out for years.

And I’ve talked about adding UTM tracking. George Nenni’s done it. A lot of people have talked about adding UTM tracking on your website links because due to privacy concerns, the referral information isn’t passed to Google Analytics, and it happens fairly often in mobile. So a lot of your organic traffic is actually attributed in Google Analytics as direct traffic.

So when you add the UTM tracking, it forces Google Analytics to attribute the traffic the right way, which means you get better data and analytics, which helps you make better decisions for your marketing. So here’s a video that walks you through how to add that UTM tracking to your links. And there’s a questions and answer section that I love. It’s really cool.

We saw an average of about nine questions per dealership. It allows anybody to ask you a question, and any random person can answer the question for you. But customers think that it’s chat and that there’s somebody at the dealership on the other end waiting to answer the question as soon as it’s typed in, but it’s really a community discussion widget so that anyone in the local area can answer those questions. You’re even allowed to ask yourself your own questions.

Upload those common questions that you hear from customers. Nobody’s gonna go to an FAQ page and read through fifty questions to see if theirs is there. They want an instant answer, so they’re gonna click ask a question, again, because they think it’s chat.

Now when you’re uploading these questions, put actual questions customers would ask. Don’t try to stuff things in because you think it’s gonna help you with Google. I’ve seen a lot of questions lately where it’ll be like a Ford dealership, and the question will be, do you sell new Ford models? Well, of course they do. Or do you take trade ins?

Of course, dealerships do that. Don’t ask silly questions. Ask the questions customers might really ask because it’s really cool the way that Google built this. If someone’s typing a question in and a similar question has been asked and answered in the past, Google will not only autocomplete the question, they’ll pop up an answer. So they get an answer as they’re typing their question before they’ve even asked it. That’s faster than what they would get if they were talking to a person or using some sort of AI chatbot.

Because it’s community discussion, questions can get multiple answers, but the answer that comes from the dealership is labeled as an owner answer. So you need to make sure that you’re upvoting your dealership answers so that the owner answer is the primary answer to every question in your Q and A section. And when we looked through this, it was pretty shocking. Not even twenty percent or just shy of twenty percent of the questions had a primary answer from the dealership.

Google posts are awesome as well. We saw an average of about two and a half posts a month from dealerships.

And, really, it was pretty skewed. That’s the average. Most of the dealerships didn’t do it at all, and then there were quite a few that did a lot of posts. But watch my whiteboard Friday episode that I did for Moz. It’s thirteen minutes of densely packed tactics on how to be successful with posts, but the most important thing to remember is that they truly are free ads that appear on your business profile. Do not treat them like social media. That’s where almost everybody screws up in the automotive world.

Don’t share those delivery photos of a happy customer with their car. That doesn’t work in a Google post. And don’t create a post that just links to one specific model because you’re wasting valuable space to link to one car that’s probably sold tomorrow anyway. The main thing to worry about, though, isn’t the content that you’re putting in there.

It’s what the thumbnail looks like because Google will automatically crop to a smaller version of your photo, and you can’t control the crop, and it’ll only show a few lines of text. And if that smaller photo and few lines of text aren’t compelling, nobody’s gonna click on them. So for better control over what shows up in the images, I created a Photoshop template. You can download it at the link right there, and it looks like this.

Anything in the grid is safe and will show up. Everything outside of the grid will show up once they’ve clicked the thumbnail, and they see the full post. Last important cool thing to talk about, we have a scoring matrix that I created for when I speak at twenty groups, and I made this about probably ten years ago. We also use the matrix to score any dealerships that think about working with us or people at conferences that raise their hands and just want to see what their scores are.

So I collected all the scores that we’ve done since the beginning of twenty twenty two, which was just over a thousand dealerships, and I kind of sliced and diced the numbers to see what we might see. And this is basically a mini audit that scores the four areas that influence your visibility in search results, which is the content on your site and how it’s optimized, the links pointed to your site, your Google business profile, and your reviews and how you respond to your reviews. And the scores are then weighted to approximate the importance of each of those areas to to Google’s local algorithm.

I do like to point out that we score this on basic tactics, not on strategy. And a lot of people use those terms interchangeably, but there’s a really important difference.

Strategy is which direction are you going, and tactics are the steps that you take to get there. Because we look at basic tactics, it’s more universally helpful. If it was too much on the strategy side and I gave this to somebody at a twenty group, they could take it back to their current in house marketing guy or their their vendor partner and say, look. These scores are awful, and that person could say, say, oh, this is just a sales tool.

They’re trying to get leads. They don’t know anything about you or your dealership in the local area. This is way too generic. It just doesn’t apply.

Just ignore it. It. But when we score the really basic SEO tactics that anyone that knows SEO would agree are important to be handled, it’s more helpful because strategy won’t matter if you don’t have the right basic tactics in place.

So the scores are added together for score up to a hundred points. The overall average we saw was only about fifteen out of a hundred. So if we were doing, like, high school test grade scores, that’s a fourteen point nine percent, and You’re needing at least a seventy for passing, so that’s not great. The average score for links is one or I’m sorry.

That was the average total score. This is the average score for the on-site section is just one point two out of forty four points. That’s a two. You got a two on your test score.

That’s not great. For links, it was one point three out of ten. Easy math there. That’s a thirteen percent. For Google Business Profiles, it was eight out of thirty two. Again, easy math, twenty five percent. And for reviews, it was four point four out of fourteen, which is thirty one point four percent.

But content is the most important thing.

Doesn’t content that’s optimized well on your site, you’re not gonna show up in searches. And when you look at those percentages altogether, you can see that that content is where dealers are really missing out on the basic SEO tactics. So if you’d like to get us to score your site, pull your phone out, shoot that QR code, send us your URL, and we’ll score your dealership’s website. Let you know.

We’re trying to score as many sites as we can so that when we come back in the future and speak at other dealership conference presentations, we have even more data to talk about and a better idea of what really works and what doesn’t work. So customize your strategy and improve your patterns so it’ll show up better in searches. But realize it’s not an immediate fix. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.

You’ve gotta give it time to work. Typically, you’re gonna start to see some traction at about six to eight months, and you really see the good results a year to a year and a half in. So thanks so much for sitting through that fire hose of information. Hopefully, you won’t be depressed when you’re thinking about your visibility and local searches because you got all those hot tips today.

That’s not the same joke. This goes to Reddit too. Your dealership will no longer be the underdog in search results, and everyone will be happy. Thank you so much for watching the presentation today.

There’s my email address. If you have any questions, please shoot me an email, and I will be happy to answer them. Or if you’d like a copy of the slides, I’d be happy to send those to you as well, and you should get a copy because it’s got all of the superhero movies at the end listed by order of release date. Thank you.

Thanks for sticking around to watch the whole thing. That’s definitely all the time we’ve got left for today’s episode. So you know what that means. Put your hand on the screen right here.

We totally just high fived because you learned something awesome. Thanks for watching and we’ll see you again next week for another episode of Local Search Tuesdays.