From Keyword to Keychain

From Keyword to Keychain: The ROI Cycle of SEO

The ROI Payoff of a Consistent Content Strategy

Who Reads this Stuff?

“Nobody reads blogs these days!”

It’s a common sentiment we hear from dealers – and perhaps one you agree with as well.  After all, it makes sense when we consider how blogs have commonly been used.

But a good blog is built around a proactive strategy – targeting high-traffic terms focused around automotive shoppers. The goal is to take customers from the search bar to the showroom, even though it’s often not instantaneous. People on your site may not be looking for your blog, but your blog can be a critical entry point for new prospective customers. 

It’s also worth noting that blog posts aren’t substantially different than regular site pages when it comes to SEO value. This is mostly a classification to group certain types of content related to the primary call-to-action. Ultimately, consumers are looking for answers to common model questions and what’s most important is that you provide them.

The Backbone of an Automotive SEO Strategy

We’ve talked at length about the strategies we take when building out content, but it’s worth reiterating here since we recognize some dealers may use local SEO companies or do in-house content. If the base of the strategy isn’t solid, traffic and rankings won’t grow in a steady pattern in the way we’re about to describe. Before we can discuss expectations, results, and subsequent ROI, let’s take a moment to review a few critical elements that should be present in your dealer’s SEO strategy.

  • Review competitor sites for any “custom pages” (not clones of OEM sites where applicable)
  • Assess current rankings of site through tools like SEMRush or Moz
  • Monitor organic traffic through Google Analytics to establish a performance baseline – even down to individual models
  • Make a list of common questions people ask dealership staff about – particular model features, technology, and topics like gas mileage
  • Identify local news or recurring events you will want to highlight on the site to grow your local footprint
  • Prioritize your topic list based on biggest need – pages your competitors have in place already on key models, a new trim announced from the OEM, a large metro most of your customers come from (Timeliness and total search volume are two important things to consider)

This is a bit of a paraphrase but the emphasis here is that it’s not simply enough to have content – it needs to be strategic content. It’s enticing, newsworthy content that is going to provide results in the end.

From Search to Showroom

Undeniably, showing the value of SEO is trickier than some other industries. This is largely due to the many systems involved in an automotive sale, as opposed to a true ecommerce site where the entire transaction on an item can take place online. CRM systems aren’t set to receive Google Analytics data so some of the direct attribution is admittedly lost in the process.

Even so, it’s possible to confidently deduce a content strategy is working. Here are a few things we’ll look at.

  • Organic traffic trends
  • Organic conversion trends
  • Keyword ranking trends
  • Competitor keyword gap
  • Local keyword trends

Organic Traffic Trends

The ultimate goal of an effective content strategy is to engage consumers throughout the buying funnel. Per Google, the typical buyer has over 30 touch points (physical, digital, or otherwise) prior to their buying process. Your content might not be bringing everyone in the door right away, but good content will monopolize as many of these touch points as possible.

Organic growth over a two-year period

One of the primary ways this manifests is an increase in organic visitors to the site. This is pretty straightforward and simple enough to measure in Google Analytics. It’s typically best to review a few months in.

Content results for the first few months for a dealership

It’s good to also isolate traffic a bit more using segments. Ideally, content pages are labeled intuitively so you can assess their performance apart from other pages on the site. This is another bonus to having a blog as it ensures a url structure that is unique to those sets of pages.

Year over year organic traffic increases

It’s also good to segment traffic the other way to exclude blog posts and content pages. Content pages help the site rank better as a whole, so you’ll typically see additional growth on other pages.

Organic Conversion Trends

More traffic on its own isn’t always useful – in the end, your dealership thrives off vehicle sales, financing, and service appointments where applicable.

There isn’t always a direct tie between content strategy and conversions since industry trends, OEM reputation, and pricing can be a barrier to conversions. However, it’s still good to monitor organic leads and calls for due diligence. A good content strategy will drive increased ready-to-buy traffic.

One caveat is that not all forms can be tracked in Google Analytics. If you’re using a lot of third party tools, you may lose some degree of attribution here.

Keyword Ranking Trends

Growth in organic keyword rankings in top 20 positions

Keyword trends are a good indicator of the overall trajectory of your website’s visibility. Since sites tend to rank for a lot of non-actionable terms in low positions (like how a Toyota site might rank for “2016 Subaru” in the 90th position), it’s better to review keywords on the first page of search results specifically. Naturally, these results are the ones that get the most clicks.

Of course, we must continue to stress the importance of keyword relevancy. There are a lot of terms with little to no search volume, and when you’re investing into a strategy, it’s critical you’re monitoring the results of content that is broadening your digital reach.

A good step to take would be to take a baseline measurement of your site before you begin your content strategy. Then, you’ll quickly see which terms your site is already ranking for – and can see the impact of the content strategy on those rankings.  Since these keywords are closely tied to business, they can be powerful indicators of the strength of your SEO strategy.

Competitor Keyword Gap

While it can be useful having a general sense of where your competitors’ strengths lie, this doesn’t tend to be actionable or measurable.

A competitive keyword report gives you insight into which particular keywords other sites are ranking well for. In many cases, dealer websites don’t contain any additional content beyond the core pages. In other instances, the content they have is low-quality and not driving results. SEMRush, Moz, and similar tools will give you a true comparative list of keywords between your site and your top competitors.

This list is particularly useful in several respects. First, it highlights the strong areas of your site. Second, it makes it easy to see if your competitors have any sort of SEO strategy – if they’re only ranking for generic keywords, it won’t be hard to gain traction. Third, if competitors are ranking for valuable terms, you have a list of terms to focus on when executing your own strategy.

Basically, a proper competitive analysis sheds light on an area that tends to be fairly ambiguous. It will let you know where you’re winning already and also set you up with more strategic opportunities for success.

Local Keyword Trends

Covering local topics is a strong way for dealerships to engage with their communities and connect with people at all points of the buying funnel.

One of the hardest, and most important, parts of any business is brand reputation. Not all dealerships sponsor sports teams or have the capacity to hold special events.

Thankfully, content marketing is an alternative here that pays dividends in terms of visibility. Holiday-focused posts are specifically powerful, but even simply using geo-modified keywords in landing pages can help your site reach new audiences.

Local keywords don’t have the same search volume as other types of keywords, but they’re focused on potential buyers, which makes them critical to a balanced content strategy. Just like other types of keywords, you’ll want to monitor the rankings over time and compare your site’s local keyword profile against competition.

When Can I Expect Results?

Content marketing is definitely a process that provides strong long-term results when done well. In fact, it’s the ongoing element that ensures your dealership stays relevant to consumers by providing up-to-date information on new models and features.

The initial stages of building content can be particularly slow, even when the content itself is optimized for users and search engines. Factors like geographic area or model focus can help or hinder the speed of growth of your site, but most dealers see a healthy boost in organic rankings around six months in. After a year, results tend to be strikingly clear in Google Analytics data, with dealers typically seeing at least a 30% increase in organic traffic. Of course, it’s important there is consistency in content creation. It’s often better to make a few pages each month than add a bunch of pages in a week and forget about the site for a while.

You can read stories from dealers just like you here on our case studies page.

Set Your Dealership Up for Success

Whether you need help with your content strategy from the ground up or feel like you’re not getting proper results from your current agency, we’d love to talk through things with you. Get in touch with our experts today!