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Did SEO Ever Really Help Sell Cars?

Alexander Lau

Under the Bridge
Feb 11, 2015
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Alex
If Carguru's had a dealership website SEO pkg., I'd be all over that MOFO!!!!
Funny as hell, I was thinking that same thing when I saw this resurface. It really is as simple as that. CG is eating a large portion of Cars, AT and Edmunds' lunch due to much better organic tactics.
 
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Casey77

Full Sticker + Prep
May 18, 2018
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Casey
This thread was the inspiration for today's video

Thank you for sharing valuable thoughts Ed.

What you have said is absolutely right. Customers, especially car buyers are neither stupid people, nor robots who will buy a car from a dealership simply because it appears as a first result in Google.

There is a comparison that came to my mind. Recently, my wife has visited a very popular SPA center. They promote themselves everywhere they can. Their marketing campaign is huge. If you type smth like 'best SPA center' in Google, you'll see their name as the first result.
However, my wife was kind of disappointed after the visit. And she said she would hardly come back there.

The reason was the attitude they expressed. She used a discount and they treated her scornfully as if she is not "a real" customer.
So, as you said, they got on the customers radar but they couldn't manage to stay there.
 
Jan 24, 2018
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Chuck
One of the smartest guys in the automotive marketing world, Eric Miltsch, wrote, “You don’t need to hire an SEO professional, you need to hire a team of marketing professionals who also understand data science, shopping psychology and user intent” under the heading Standalone SEO Gets Assassinated in his outstanding piece, “4 Predictions in 2016 for Car Dealerships”.

I’m curious; did SEO ever help dealers sell cars?

I know, I know, a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money has been devoted to automotive SEO, but my question was serious; did SEO ever help sell a substantial number of cars? Here’s the problem; shopping for a car is what marketing professors call a high-involvement purchase.

Here’s a definition, “High-involvement purchases include those involving high expenditure or personal risk – for example buying a house, a car or making investments.” High-involvement purchases almost always involve extended problem solving and extensive research. The 18+ sources discussed in ZMOT, Winning the Zero Moment of Truth is a great example of the extensive research that consumers undertake when they are looking to make a high-involvement purchase. Auto marketing folks hoped, dreamed really, that they could short-circuit the research by ranking high enough for this or that keyword on Google. The fervent hope was that they could control shopper behavior and, in effect, make the purchase lower involvement.

Of course ZMOT argued just the opposite; that the Internet was making consumer behavior more like shopping for a car even when consumers were shopping for less expensive, less consequential, products.

Was that ever a realistic hope?

When I’m in a new town, I don’t Google “restaurants”; I tend to use Yelp or TripAdvisor – simply because I’ve learned from experience that those two sites will come up at the top of a Google search anyway (and I have the apps installed on my phone already). I then conduct some quick research and then make a decision. And this is a much lower involvement decision than the ones stemming from shopping for a car.

I’m not arguing against all SEO at all. You want to show up for your own name. You want to show up for ‘Chevy dealer in my town’. Basic SEO should have already accomplished those things for you. But would that have helped you sell a car?

And I understand the dream;
  • A customer thinks about buying a car
  • They perform a simple Google search
  • They click on your dealership
  • They buy a car
All in a few easy steps. And again I ask, was this ever realistic?
But the question will remain, rank high for WHAT? Rank high for "Billy Bob's Ford"?

SEO doesn't answer basic consumer questions in a high-involvement purchase - "Is this a dealership I can trust?", "Is this the right car for me?", "Is this the right dealership for me?", "Is this right salesperson for me?" the list goes on...
That is the problem, and indeed, the beauty, of selling a high-involvement item.
You're exactly right Ed. Ed Brooks, Neither SEO or paid search can solve this problem. One of the symptoms of this problem is repetitive visits to a dealer's website, sent there by search, over and over again ($) without persuading or convincing shoppers of those points you described. Moreover, advertising itself is unable to meet those needs because people don't trust advertising. But shoppers will trust customers. Owner video reviews provide insights that persuade shoppers because owners are credible, they're all-in; they purchased. A professional reviewer simply borrows a vehicle. Customer reviews of their buying experience and their relationships with their salespeople invite shoppers to trust their dealer. Search can work just fine if it sends people to watch videos of your happy customers. Make customers happy, then make videos! http://saysoagency.com/[/QUOTE]
 

Alexander Lau

Under the Bridge
Feb 11, 2015
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750
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Alex
Does a dealer's website and its "optimization" help them convert leads and ultimately sell cars? Of course it does, however, credit has to be properly applied across a customer's journey. That's where multi-touch attribution comes into play.

 
Last edited:

GerryFoster

Peel'm off the Ceiling
Jan 19, 2018
35
29
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Gerry
You're exactly right Ed. Ed Brooks, Neither SEO or paid search can solve this problem. One of the symptoms of this problem is repetitive visits to a dealer's website, sent there by search, over and over again ($) without persuading or convincing shoppers of those points you described. Moreover, advertising itself is unable to meet those needs because people don't trust advertising. But shoppers will trust customers. Owner video reviews provide insights that persuade shoppers because owners are credible, they're all-in; they purchased. A professional reviewer simply borrows a vehicle. Customer reviews of their buying experience and their relationships with their salespeople invite shoppers to trust their dealer. Search can work just fine if it sends people to watch videos of your happy customers. Make customers happy, then make videos! http://saysoagency.com/
[/QUOTE]


How SEO is packaged and sold is often a misnomer for true SEO work. The whole search engine market has become fat and bloated and has too many bad quality agencies just looking to cash in. They often have GREAT presentation sklills, matched with "cutting edge dashboards" for people to look at. These dashboards are often meant to obfuscate data that is essential to better or even just different marketing tactics or website deployments.

At the end of the day, the more you know, the less they make. The more changes you need, the less they make. The more involved you are, the less they make.

Any SEO worth their salt knows today's SEO is a multi-faceted, T-shaped discipline. SEO is technical, it's creative, analytical, and it's VERY content driven. Don't let vendors tell you that building a landing page once a month is better than donating to a local charity and then marketing an event on their behalf...then writing content about that! Especially with dealerships. You are local. you want to rank local, and you want people in your area to think "oh yea...those guys donate a bunch of money per car sold to the animal shelter. and they do those cool events. Remember when they sponsored HS students for drivers ed?" I'd be willing to bet that drives FAR more qualified traffic (and positive reviews) than a why buy "welcome to the family of dealerships" or "model comparison" landing page. My 2 cents.
 
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Reactions: Beth_W and Ben Blanco

Alexander Lau

Under the Bridge
Feb 11, 2015
2,459
750
First Name
Alex
How SEO is packaged and sold is often a misnomer for true SEO work. The whole search engine market has become fat and bloated and has too many bad quality agencies just looking to cash in. They often have GREAT presentation sklills, matched with "cutting edge dashboards" for people to look at. These dashboards are often meant to obfuscate data that is essential to better or even just different marketing tactics or website deployments.

At the end of the day, the more you know, the less they make. The more changes you need, the less they make. The more involved you are, the less they make.

Any SEO worth their salt knows today's SEO is a multi-faceted, T-shaped discipline. SEO is technical, it's creative, analytical, and it's VERY content driven. Don't let vendors tell you that building a landing page once a month is better than donating to a local charity and then marketing an event on their behalf...then writing content about that! Especially with dealerships. You are local. you want to rank local, and you want people in your area to think "oh yea...those guys donate a bunch of money per car sold to the animal shelter. and they do those cool events. Remember when they sponsored HS students for drivers ed?" I'd be willing to bet that drives FAR more qualified traffic (and positive reviews) than a why buy "welcome to the family of dealerships" or "model comparison" landing page. My 2 cents.
I'll post this again and until the day I die.

https://forum.dealerrefresh.com/threads/seo.5015/page-3

What does Google want? They want relevant, real content on the internet that people want to read and tell other people about. If Google doesn’t bring you the most relevant content when you search, they aren’t doing their job. So by definition, even the word Search Engine Optimization (SEO) means to “game” the Google search engines (and others) to get your valuable content ranked higher than it would be if left alone to the forces of the Web. The bottom line is that all external SEO efforts are counterfeit other than: writing, designing, recording, or videoing real and relevant content that benefits those who search, within a quality user experience.

We can sit around and act like we're not trying to take advantage of Google's algorithm (would be a lie), but the fact of the matter, they change it up because SEO groups get VERY GOOD at manipulating it for organic ranking purposes. Google is quite happy fiddling with their algorithm for "best practice" reasons, but in reality, they just want to convolute the ranking equation process in order to get you to BUY more of their PAID AD space. Now that the space (itself) has been limited, it's even more competitive.

BTW, don't get me wrong, there is NOTHING wrong with fundamental SEO work and choosing quality web platforms (Dealer Inspire, Dealer Fire, DealerOn, DealerX, fusionZone, etc.). However, let's not lie to ourselves about the manner in which many SEO groups attempt to get ahead of competitors through gray and dark gray hat SEO techniques outside of core fundamental work and quality platform provisions.
 

Alexander Lau

Under the Bridge
Feb 11, 2015
2,459
750
First Name
Alex
Have you guys seen this?

http://kurls.io by gShift

Build trackable branded short URLs and optimize campaign investment in real-time.
gShift's kontextURLs is a smart URL analytics system for tracking on-site & off-site content engagement. Unlimited tags let you monitor multi-channel digital campaigns in real-time across the customer journey.
 
Jul 7, 2020
2
0
First Name
Logan
Over the past few years, the trend of online shopping has increased. You may buy anything that you want. There are lots of online shopping platform such as Amazon and ebay. So, SEO is also helpful in car selling.