With the race towards an all-electric future at full charge, the UK’s automotive industry shows no signs of slowing down.

From 2035 onwards, every new car sold in the UK will be electric or hybrid, but producing better cars and varied offerings shouldn’t be the sole focus of a marketing campaign.

Automotive businesses must stay ahead of new competition and technologies and keep sight of customer demands today.

Investing time in automotive SEO is another crucial part of the engine to help car dealerships succeed in Google’s organic search listings.

What is automotive SEO?

While history is geared towards traditional in-person car buying, online car buying is becoming increasingly popular. However, there’s no point investing heavily in a website unless you plan to implement automotive SEO best practices to assist a typical car buyer’s journey.

Driving organic traffic to your website is the best way to encourage customers to drive to your dealership. You must build and optimise your site to meet the ever-changing algorithms and high expectations of search engines.

Car buyers are likely to conduct a fair amount of research to help them find the right type of vehicle and vendor, so your onsite and offsite automotive SEO strategy needs to match their needs and interests.

Car dealerships can be much more than helping customers find the best vehicle to buy. You can showcase your car dealership’s expertise, and target other customer demands, from repair services to connecting them with a specific brand of tyres.

Linking your customers directly to your website relies on powerful SEO techniques so your dealership dominates the SERPs in relevant searches.

Top 5 techniques to improve SEO for car dealers

While finding what your potential customers are searching for is an essential step in your optimisation process, SEO for car dealers covers many other facets. For example, you won’t rank high in search results if you don’t have a well-designed, user-friendly website. 

Remember, a car buyer’s journey usually involves a wealth of digital interactions, from watching test drives on YouTube to comparing reviews of local dealerships. Come along for the ride and discover five pit stops you need to take to boost your dealership’s SEO.

How to use keyword research to pick the right keyword

It’s no secret that choosing the right keywords is crucial for automotive SEO (and SEO in general). When determining keywords for your automotive SEO strategy, you have a choice of short-tail and long-tail keywords. 

Short-tail keywords relate to the most popular automotive keywords from around the web — “electric cars”, “Volkswagen cars for sale”, etc. They tend to be more generic. 

While they have a high search volume, they are highly competitive and less likely to attract your target traffic. You can use tools like Ahrefs to check a keyword’s difficulty rating to understand their challenge in earning you a high ranking in the SERPs.

As the automotive industry is so competitive, long-tail keywords (precisely tailored phrases using more than three words) can potentially yield a high conversion rate. 

They have a lower search volume, which results in less competition and a greater chance of a searcher finding and clicking through to your webpage.

Consider specific phrases like “used Ford cars for sale”, or “hybrid cars with panoramic sunroof” that focus on answering exact customers’ needs or questions.

While deep keyword research helps uncover some of the keywords you should be using when creating your automotive content, it’s always helpful to closely monitor your competitors.

Competitors’ keywords

Your competitors publish work for a similar audience, so look at how they use these keywords and if they rank successfully in search engines.

You can then use this information to improve your organic performance and find gaps in your content, such as interesting categories or subcategories.

It also saves time and effort on keyword research as you analyse pages already ranking well in the SERPs.

User intent

Consider the intent of your users. Your first audience is your local audience. Factors in their area will affect their search criteria — weather conditions, volume of traffic, etc. For example, consumers in London will have a vastly different specification to those living in rural Lincolnshire. 

Many customers will seek a nearby dealership to inspect the vehicle and give it a spin around the block, so you must ensure you’re incorporating local market keywords into your automotive SEO strategy. 

People searching for local car dealerships will usually search for something like “car dealerships near me”. “Near me” searches have grown exponentially in recent years, especially around car dealerships. 

Optimising your dealership for these searches is crucial for ensuring local consumers find you, thus increasing your business in the local area.

Consider including localised content throughout your site to generate site visits. Locals will also find information on events, local weather, and traffic reports beneficial.

It’s also useful to monitor common keywords that address common scenarios. This way, you can produce content that answers frequently asked questions and singles your dealership out as a point of expertise. 

For example, a customer may search for “car making a rattling noise when driving”, meaning their vehicle probably needs repairs. If you can highlight the potential issue(s), it will attract customers to your website and, subsequently, the dealership.

Ultimately, search engines want to connect users to the most helpful resource. Organic searches are searches with specific intent, so your keywords and their surrounding content must align with your customer’s needs at their buyer journey stage. 

Someone with a family isn’t likely to directly search for their nearest car dealership.

They will probably start with something like “the best family cars”, so think about how you can create content your users are actively searching for or relate them to the content of your website.

Unique and relevant content

The hard work doesn’t stop there. Once your keyword research pays dividends by attracting visitors to your site, you still need them to stay there.

Your content must be informative, engaging, and relevant, enticing them for more.

The content must be great, whether blogs with tips on buying a used car, videos demoing a vehicle’s performance, or even a tool for calculating vehicle finance. 

Many car dealerships don’t keep up with a constant stream of content, often limiting their regular updates to new offers and promotions. Varied content that targets different types of search intent (informational, navigational, commercial, and transactional) is more likely to outrank your competitors. 

A news section covering topics relating to the brands you sell, business news, technical information, and other subjects that resonate with potential customers will help improve your organic performance.  

While your keyword research will inspire ideas for what to produce content on, don’t forget other tricks like competitor analysis, and Google’s ‘People Also Ask’ box. 

Ensure your content is well-strategised, optimised, and naturally keyword-rich, so users enjoy high-quality and useful content related. Remember Google’s E-E-A-T standards when creating content for your car dealership website.

Relevant title, H1s, and URLs

Page or post titles sit at the top of a page and are powerful for user experience and SEO as they provide users and search engines with crucial information.

The practice also adds structure to pages. For example, “7 ways to make your car’s fuel economy better” suggests the content will provide seven different habits and techniques that drivers can incorporate into everyday driving to positively impact their vehicle’s fuel economy.

Don’t confuse a page title with an SEO title. The latter appears in the SERPs and directly influences your rank for a keyword. Google will analyse this before deciding how your page ranks.

The SEO title must also be engaging and entice people to click. If your title gets people to click on it, Google will take notice, and your rankings may improve over time. 

Keep an eye on how Google displays your SEO titles in the SERPs and use Google Search Console to check for changes in your key pages’ click-through and bounce rates.

Clean URLs perform much better in the SERPs. They are the building blocks of your automotive website and should be descriptive of the content within the page.

Keep the URL short and sweet, use hyphens between words, and include a relevant keyword or variant of a keyword that satisfies search intent.

For example, a URL representing a buying a used car guide, would benefit from the popular search query “buying a used car”.

Importance of URL structure

Your URL structure needs to be intuitive so search engines and users can understand the connections between different pages on your site.

Build a hierarchical URL structure before you start building your website. Once this is implemented, it’s much easier to pick the right URL keywords for each page and avoid technically duplicate URLs.

When determining the positioning of your pages within the hierarchy, remember that search engines use URLs to calculate link value and typically rank pages higher in search results closest to your homepage. 

Don’t forget technical SEO

While we’ve covered some of the main on-page elements, there are some technical SEO elements you need to hone if you want to stay in the driving seat.  

Mobile friendly

Mobile phones are now a crucial part of the car buying process, helping buyers research prices, models, and specs from anywhere.

As many car buyer’s digital interactions happen on a mobile, it makes sense for search engines to be motivated to deliver a positive experience to car buyers on their mobile devices. 

Known as mobile-first indexing, Google will primarily use the mobile version of a webpage for indexing and ranking. Ensure your website is accessible and optimised for viewing on any device.

Site speed

Car buyers will click between different car makes and models at speed when viewing a car online. Google’s algorithm places site speed as a ranking factor, so ensure your site is well-positioned in the fast lane.

Google doesn’t want to deliver results that are slow loading and bound to frustrate users. Aim for your pages to load within three seconds or less to grab your customer’s attention, increase conversions, and retain business.

 AutoDealer schema

Using schema markup will help search engines understand your automotive website and content better, so it can present users with more informative results. 

Apply this to the top-visited pages of your site, and search crawlers can be more effective by delivering “rich results” and featured snippets alongside the standard title tag and meta description. This can result in better rankings and more clicks.

We recommend using the auto schema markup JSON-LD code for its flexibility and simplicity. You can use this code to look up a vehicle ”type” scheme and mark each vehicle. 

Don’t forget to add AutoDealer schema, which Google uses in conjunction with your Google business profile — another essential step in optimising your local SEO

It provides additional information to search engines about your automotive company, such as your dealership’s name, address, phone number, and operating hours. This will be in a display box at the top of prospective customers’ search results, helping you to attract more traffic.

Clean up old links

A neat website has a clear internal linking structure that both Google and users can easily understand. Each page on your automotive site should have at least one internal link from another relevant page so users can navigate between your content. 

In the car industry, new models come in, and old models go out every year, so you need to clean up old links by redirecting users to similar pages to ensure their experience isn’t frustrating. 

For example, 2023 saw the end of production for the 2022 Hyundai Accent. You could redirect this page to the Hyundai range category and give the user a reason to stay on your site.

Similarly, identify pages and posts without links (orphaned pages) and add relevant ones to boost authority.

Setting up Analytics and claiming Google My Business page

Setting your automotive website up on Google Analytics 4 (GA4) means you can track important website metrics, online conversions, and analyse user behaviour, which enables you to optimise SEO. It will answer questions like, “How long are users staying on this page?” and “What are our top events?”

You can quickly determine what is and isn’t cutting the mustard. From finding the best-performing keywords and URLs to top website referrals, GA4 can also be integrated with Google Ads, so you can develop a high-performing campaign that creates new interest in your motors and dealership.

As discussed, don’t forget to claim your car business listing on Google My Business. It’s a free listing showcasing your dealership when users search for it by name or location. 

You can quickly verify and update information on your listing, such as address, phone number, customer reviews, and add photos and videos to attract more customers to your car dealership. 

Dedicate the time to ensuring the information about your business is correct, and you have every chance of seeing a positive impact on online traffic.    

If your car dealership’s expertise, car models, and services would benefit from a partner specialising in SEO for the automotive industry, contact SALT.agency today.