I recently attended the UnWorkshop event put on by MDA for Edmonton and Calgary automotive dealers. The moderators for the event, Jay Radke and Michael Cirillo, keep these events more hands on and collaborative—and less about being presented to.
This event was focused on local SEO with Darren Shaw, founder of the Edmonton agency WhiteSpark, and he performed a live audit in each city for one of the dealerships attending. Darren focused on 5 key areas during his audit, Google My Business, Reviews, Citations, Website, and Links. Below are a few key takeaways from the conference.
Google My Business
Since people tend to search before buying, your business’ online presence needs to be, well, present. The first thing to look at is if you own your Google My Business (GMB) page and, if not you will need to claim it. After your Google My Business page is up and running, there are several important steps you should undertake that range from set it and forget it to regular maintenance.
First, you want to make sure your company name is correct and, especially important for dealers, that you have your primary brand listed as well. These aren’t small details, so why would you gloss over them? Rather than being just a car dealer, you want anyone searching to know that you are a Ford dealer. You’ll also want to make sure you are utilizing Google Posts on your profile, which will go a long way in promoting your business, as well as current offers and incentives. These messages don’t self destruct in 10 seconds, but they do expire so make sure you update them regularly—make it a part of your social media checklist.
There’s more, but given the amount of time people spend online researching both your products and your business, these are steps that are important to add to your daily routine. For those who feel like they’re starting to get bogged down by extra work, we’ve written a blog that offers some time saving tips to increase your productivity—and we also offer local SEO packages that take care of these steps for you. But if you are willing to spend the extra time, you’ll find that it benefits your business in the long run. Steps like answering your customer’s pressing questions. If your Q&A section has no questions, then seed some yourself and get the conversation started. It can be a question you’ve answered in person on a number of occasions; remember, if one person asked there are probably many more out there who want to know. You will have the ability to flag unnecessary and inappropriate questions for Google to remove, ensuring that the conversation stays on track.
Photos on your page are a must, and not all of them have to be taken by a professional. You can personalize your dealership with fun photos and videos as well. Most of the current smartphones on the market offer excellent camera options, and we’re sure that there’s a millennial or two on your staff who spend half their day on their phone—take this as an opportunity to play to your staff’s strengths.
Depending on the size of your operation, you can have a second Google My Business for your Service department (if it meets certain criteria, which we touch upon here). You can direct reviews here and use a call tracking number to help measure the success. Again, build it out the same way with photos, Google posts, and a Q&A section to promote your business.
Google doesn’t have the lion’s share of the market by fluke, and they offer this service as a way to help businesses as much as they help customers. Part of the way they help businesses is with Google Insights and Analytics, which allow you to track and measure customer interactions, create goals for your business, and more. Here at Strathcom we are well versed in Analytics, and your Online Marketing Manager, Online Advertising Analyst, or Content Marketing Strategist can help you make sense of the data.
Reviews are an overlapping topic for both GMB as well as a stand alone for all the other review sites, whether it be Google, DealerRater, Facebook, or something else. No matter which site the review is on, you want to respond to any reviews in a timely fashion. It tells Google that you are real (and active) and it shows your customers you care. You should be aware of which review sites appear in your GMB Knowledge Panel, as Google will display up to 3 of your relevant review sites there and your initial effort should be focused on those sites first.
Make it a rule to respond to all reviews, but if this isn’t possible start with the negative ones first as shopper will usually read the first few reviews they see, then sort by lowest score to see what complaints you’ve received. When responding, keep the conversation professional and write for the audience that will be reading the reviews—but also address the issue in a non-confrontational manner.
First, what are citations? As per Darren, “A local citation is any mention of your business on the web; it is any combination of your company name, phone number, address, zip or postal code, and website address. Citations in SEO are a key factor in improving your local search results.”
A complete local citation should include the company name, address, and phone number, which is referred to as your NAP. A citation that does not include all three of these is sometimes referred to as a partial citation.
A citation does not have to link back to your website, but the fact that it mentions your business is valuable. Google gives you credit for these mentions outside of your website, so it is important to make them consistent whenever they are mentioned. Citations are time consuming —but are important to Google to help you rank— meaning consistency on how they are entered on these directories is very important. Something as simple as how you’ve written street (St. versus street) can affect you. This is one instance where it would be money well spent to hire an outside company to build this out for you and clean up your existing listings (*cough Strathcom cough*.
This may seem like an obvious one, but your website is important to Google when it comes to helping you rank for local SEO. First, from a design standpoint you will need a mobile friendly website—as Google’s latest search algorithm update puts a premium on mobile search. See, Google crawls your site for two audiences, human users and search engine bots, and both need to have a good experience for Google to rank your site higher. By building out great content on your site that has clear pathways for users to follow, you will be rewarded by Google. This is why it’s important to have a plan for what you want to rank for. Build out landing pages for what is important to your business, services you provide like oil changes, or pages on top performing models, and then make sure you include links from within your text content referring to those other pages (this is where having a blog really comes in handy). An FAQ page with updated questions from customers, or that you seed yourself, is another great way create links from vehicles to your service department. Again, making sure your name, address, and phone numbers all match here as well are an important step in ensuring your citations and GMB page are all aligned, giving your online presence a clean and professional look.
Links, like citations, can take some time and effort; they are also somewhat connected as citations can contain links back to your site. Part of your citation building plan can and should include back links in your site’s directories. Start with the charities you work with, or teams and events you sponsor. Ask, as part of your donation, that they list you and provide a link back to your site. Don’t be afraid to barter with them as part of the deal to get those links if they don’t offer them up front. Get your dealership on local business directories and leverage your existing relationships—especially if you have a good relationship and will receive a glowing review.
At the end of the day, local SEO is a long-term commitment that takes time. You need a plan and, if you are going to do it yourself, time. Lots of time. If you choose to partner with a 3rd party, choose wisely. Any company that claims to be able to improve your local SEO should have a plan that involves you and your input. They should also be able to show you how the plan is progressing, what their methods are, and how your money is being spent. At the risk of tooting our own horn (loudly), here at Strathcom we have a team of Google Analytics-certified Content Marketing Strategists who are constantly following SEO trends, and using the most up-to-date tools to track citations and respond to reviews. If you’re interested in having us help you with your local SEO, contact your Online Marketing Manager, or firstname.lastname@example.org.