Does your SEO strategy belong behind bars?

Does Your SEO Strategy Belong Behind Bars?

Automotive SEO on Trial

It’s there on your bill, maybe in fine print. “SEO services”. The exact label may vary, but the reality is the same: money leaves the bank and “something” happens on the site that’s supposed to help you get more traffic and leads.

But what are you actually getting – results or swindled?

At DealerFire, we recognize the importance of attribution. If one area of marketing is doing well and another could use some help, it’s important to call that out. Even if your SEO strategy is top-notch, we want to give you the tools to prove it. SEO often seems amorphous and in a data-driven industry, it’s important that you have tangible reporting.

In an ideal world, you won’t need to go around your SEO provider to get the following bits of information. However, there should be plenty of evidence available to prove they’re living up to their promises. It’s a trial of sorts, but you’re both prosecution and jury. Your money, and the health of your site, are both on the line. Many companies employee practices that actually hurt your site.

Here are five pieces of evidence you should review before the court date:

  • Organic Traffic
  • Direct Traffic
  • Local Rankings
  • Featured Snippets
  • Google My Business

Organic Traffic

What is it?

Organic traffic is the classification for site visitors who arrive through search engines. Organic visitors tend to be a mix of new and returning site visitors. Note that while DuckDuckGo advertises itself as a search engine, due to its anonymous nature, traffic from this source will NOT show as organic.

Why does it matter?

Organic traffic is the primary measure of how many of your visitors are coming from search engines. A strong SEO strategy should lead to increased visibility in searches, resulting in more organic traffic to your site. Even beyond SEO trends, organic traffic can fluctuate depending on OEM news, new model releases, and national economic announcements.

What should I look for?

There are a couple key metrics to review in Google Analytics when it comes to organic traffic. Here are some quick definitions and their role in gauging your traffic’s value.

Users: The total amount of unique visitors for a given time period. Most metrics are based off cookies so if someone were to visit the site on multiple devices, each device would count as a separate user as well. More users is typically a positive thing, especially when comparing year over year.

Sessions: The total amount of visits to the site for a given time period. It’s common for a single user to account for multiple sessions, and a session itself usually includes several pageviews. More sessions are also typically positive.

Bounce Rate: When a user visits your site and doesn’t do anything that triggers an event (clicking a certain button, for instance) or viewing another page, it counts as a bounce. A bounce isn’t necessarily bad in some cases – like when a person is reading up on a new model or making sure a vehicle of interest is still in stock. However, if there’s an unusually-high bounce rate (typically 40% or more) or unusually-low bounce rate (under 10%), you’ll want to investigate. You should expect a site without any additional content to have an organic bounce rate between 20% and 35%, though there are exceptions. When in doubt, it’s worth asking for an explanation from your provider.

Conversions/Conversion Rate: Conversions can be deceptive in Google Analytics as most types of activities can be classified in this manner. Conversions are tracked off “Goals” created around certain criteria. You’ll want to make sure you have isolated vehicle leads as its own Goal. It’s okay to track other things, but you’ll want them set up as unique Goals. You don’t want VDP views inflating your conversion rate and you’ll want to have a general idea of your true lead volume relative to organic traffic.

Ultimately, it’s pretty intuitive to tell if your traffic is performing once you know what to look for. If overall users and sessions are up, bounce rates are stable, and conversions (vehicle leads) are increasing, that’s the ideal case. Any of these may fluctuate a bit but that doesn’t mean your site is underperforming as a whole. But even if things look pretty good, your provider should be working alongside you to continue the positive momentum.

Key organic metrics

Direct Traffic

What is it?

Direct traffic describes visitors that get to the site without using a search engine or link. Most commonly, this in the form of having the site bookmarked, typing the address in, or relying on the autofill function. As a result, many direct visitors are returning visitors. Direct traffic is also the default status for traffic that isn’t tagged properly, so email blasts, ads, and other types of traffic may incorrectly show up as direct traffic.

Why does it matter?

Direct traffic is indicative of the overall experience of your website. If it’s a positive experience, or if your inventory is enticing, you’ll see repeat visits. Direct traffic is typically a fraction of organic traffic, but viewing the two values together gives you a strong idea of the buying flow for visitors to your site. Do they bounce and never come back, or do they come back several times a week? Is your website memorable and concise, or do visitors have to go to search engines to find you each time?

What should I look for?

Direct traffic uses many of the same metrics as organic traffic. One key thing to monitor is the relationship between direct and organic traffic. If you’re seeing a high increase in organic visitors from the previous year, you’d expect to see more direct visitors as people come back to the site. There’s no magic ratio but if direct traffic drops or is pretty flat while organic traffic soars, you’ll want to review the site reasons why people may not be coming back.

Ratio of direct and organic traffic

Local Rankings

What is it?

Local rankings describe two things. First, it encompasses which positions your site shows in searches for people in your area. Some of this is contingent on Google My Business, which we’ll talk about later in this article. Secondly, it describes the visibility of your site when people include localized terms in their searches.  Typically, this involves looking for dealers in specific cities or events in a certain area. An example would be “Honda dealers in Chicago”.

Why does it matter?

Naturally, local rankings are critical for business. You want to make sure your dealership is at the top of the search results as often as possible, and you certainly need to be on the first page of results.  Your site will naturally show for some terms, but a strong SEO strategy will expand your site’s organic keyword profile. More people will find your site, you’ll show up for more searches, and more shoppers will find your inventory.

What should I look for?

Featured Snippets

What is it?

Featured snippets are coveted spots at the top of search results, typically taking form of a box that gives a bigger snapshot of a page than what a typical search result would provide. This is prime real estate when it comes to providing model research and answering common questions as the featured snippet is the first thing searchers will see – or hear, if they’re using voice search assistance.

Why does it matter?

Featured snippets are a status symbol for your dealership. Most queries have millions of results so getting a shout out from the search engine itself is no small feat; only high-quality, structured results can hold this position. While featured snippets are a topic of debate concerning many SEO specialists (with search engines having a monopoly on the information), they certainly still get plenty of clicks as a results.

What should I look for?

Featured snippets are pretty easy to identify as they share a common look and feel. Here’s a quick example, based on a search for “2020 Honda Accord Colors”.

Featured snippets in automotive SEO

The harder job is finding which featured snippets your site already has, if any.  It’s an exhausting task to search hundreds of permutations of phrases in the hope that your site comes out on top. This is where tools like SEMRush and Moz give a nice advantage. Running a featured snippets report is pretty simple – and this should be something your SEO agency can provide. It’s a great way to demonstrate that your content is truly top-tier.

Featured Snippet Report

Google My Business

What is it?

Put simply, your Google My Business profile is your digital phone book listing, albeit with some extra features. Google uses this listing for local searches when it shows its map of relevant businesses. However, it’s a great place to simply provide contact info for your store or post periodic updates. You can also share photos and videos. It’s also where your Google reviews are housed.

Google My Business listing for a dealership

Why does it matter?

Google My Business serves as your primary hub for business information that Google uses in a variety of ways. It’s important to make sure the phone number you use on your business listing matches the one on your site (as well as ensuring other pieces of information are congruent as well). Google uses factors like reviews to determine where you show in the local listings and having a strong Google My Business profile can help with improved site SEO and overall visibility.

Google places local listing

What should I look for?

Google My Business isn’t a big driver of traffic usually, but it’s still possible to track it through some link tagging with the website you have on your business listing. You’ll want to use the campaign url builder and put the source as GMB or something similar for easy reference. You’ll ultimately get something like this:

Then, put that link as your website on your Google My Business profile. Traffic will ultimately go to the same place, but you’ll be able to identify it a bit easier in Google Analytics.

More primarily, the main benefit of Google My Business is making your store more accessible – make sure you have the correct address and phone numbers listed so people can reach you.

Lastly, encourage customers to write reviews AND make sure you take time to respond to them as well.

The Final Verdict

Just like a court case, reviewing your website and advertising is a delicate process that should not be rushed. Switching providers can be a time-consuming or costly endeavor, even if the end result is very positive. Though these are a small a subset of metrics you should look at, they’ll still warrant a thorough investigation.

Ultimately, though, information should be actionable and you’ll come away with a better understanding of how your site is performing. How will you respond?

-Your site is doing great. Your provider is proactive with new strategies and you see results online and offline. Your investigation only affirms the value of your partnership.

-Your site is a bit stagnant. Growth is happening but it can’t be attributed to anything in particular. It’s time to make some small changes and see how your provider can better help you reach your goals.

-You’re wasting your time and money. You’ve given your provider a fair shot to work through issues but you’re not seeing results. Reporting is skewed or sparse. Numbers are inflated or not tied to business goals. You want to make a change because you’re spending more money and selling fewer cars.

Whatever you decide, make sure it’s informed… and then crack the hammer. You’re the one who makes the final verdict.

If you’re looking for a team serious about SEO, content marketing and award-winning sites, contact us today!