Did you know that one-third of auto buyers between ages 18 and 54 kick off their car buying journey on a search engine, and that a typical consumer might do 139 Google searches to find her next vehicle? 

Let’s talk about where search engines fit into the car buying journey. Understanding the role of Google, Bing and the rest should help you improve your dealership search marketing campaigns, help you optimize your auto dealership website, and keep your brand front and center. We’ll hit on three major areas: keywords, mobile searches, and voice search, and throw in some can’t-miss automotive SEO tips while we’re at it. 


Know your keywords. 

Every SEO and search marketing strategy in the book tells you to pick the right keywords. What this really means is picking the right keywords for three interconnected yet different audiences. 

The first audience is the local market. You could walk into, say, any Toyota dealership in the country and find the same basic inventory. However, Toyota buyers can be very different from place to place. 

There are a lot of reasons these differences matter, in fact, we did a whole series on the subject of audience targeting. Let’s consider the following, strictly hypothetical example. 

Pretend there are two dealerships, one that serves East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania and one in Enid, Oklahoma. East Stroudsburg is an exurb of New York City whose residents stare down one of the longest commutes in the U.S., slogging back and forth to work an average of 76 minutes each day. The typical Enid resident only spends 26 minutes a day commuting. You might look at this data point and decide that “fuel efficient cars” is a savvy keyword investment for East Stroudsburg drivers; while Enid drivers are looking for something else (it would take a little extra digging to figure out if this theory measures up to reality). There’s no difference between the 2020 Prius that gets sold in East Stroudsburg and one that gets sold in Enid, but there may be important differences in why different market segments are searching for them. 

The second audience is people who face a common scenario. Let’s forget about any differences our East Stroudsburg and Enid car shoppers have and focus on the fact that both are searching for, say, “Toyota Prius near me.” The Pennsylvania shopper and the Oklahoma shopper are facing a common scenario – finding a place nearby where they can see, and possibly buy, a Prius. 

The third audience is the search engine itself. The search engine doesn’t live anywhere in particular and shouldn’t need a Prius anytime soon. It does, however, need to know how to connect Priuses with people typing queries into the search bar. To do this the search engine looks at a mix of signals – including keywords – and uses algorithms to figure out how helpful a given website might be. The search engine combines what it knows about the searcher (including their status as part of a local audience) and the likely scenario that motivated him or her to consult a search engine and matches the searcher with the best resource. 

A good car dealer SEO keyword strategy connects all three audiences. The challenge is that there are so many differences between individual consumers, markets, and car buying scenarios – not to mention the phrasing that car buyers might use and the user intent behind it – it can be hard to know which actual keywords to zero in on.  

At LOCALiQ AUTOMOTIVE, we believe that the best approach to this is a data-driven one, and we use a wealth of consumer insights to plan website SEO and search engine campaigns. We also use approaches like machine learning to make sure your dealership search campaigns to give you the most effective campaign achievable on your budget.  


Mobile matters. 

Approximately sixty percent of car research is done on a mobile device. This has important ramifications for your dealership. 

The first one has to do with your website. In 2018, Google shifted to mobile-first indexing. What this means is that Google uses the mobile version of your website for page indexing and ranking.  This does not mean that websites Google deems mobile-friendly will always shoot to the top of the search engine results page while ones that aren’t won’t show up at all. Instead, it means is Google is using your mobile site to determine how relevant your content is to the web searcher. If you want to delve deeper on this topic, click here

Another ramification has to do with the use of modifiers in search marketing campaigns. What’s a modifier, you might ask? A modifier is a way you make the keyword you bid on show up more frequently or less frequently based on criteria like device type. Let’s walk through a hypothetical: 

Let’s say that your search marketing campaign typically bids on the keyword “Subaru Denver” (you see a lot of Subaru’s on the road in Colorado).  You might have read this article and decided that it would be wise to bid on this keyword more often when it’s done on a mobile device, and less often when it’s done on a desktop. You might also toss in a location modifier and bid on this keyword when it is 1) done on a mobile device and 2) done on the weekend. Why the weekend? Because the research tells us auto shoppers tend to use desktops during the workweek and mobile devices on the weekend. 

A third ramification has to do with the type of information mobile searchers are looking for. Google reports that seventy percent of MSRP and list price searches are done on mobile devices. Car buyers also use their devices to identify and touch base with local dealers. They also use mobile phones to get information like driving directions. 

A fourth ramification has to do with speed. Google has found that more than half of mobile sites are abandoned if pages take more than three seconds to load. Google uses mobile site speed as a ranking factor. Even if it didn’t, having shoppers abandon your car dealer website after they found it defeats the purpose. 

Google offers a few broad recommendations in regard to mobile devices. Be present, or look for ways to make sure it is showing up on the customer’s device; be useful, or look for ways to give customers what they’re looking for when they whip out their phones; and measure what matters, or use data to understand how local auto shoppers are using their devices throughout their journey.  


A word on voice search. 

By 2020, fifty-percent of all searches will be voice search. The obvious implication is that dealers will want to be optimized for voice search, which means that a good keyword strategy will take factors like natural speech and user intent into consideration. Something else to consider is that a major step in the auto shopper’s journey is visiting a local dealership. Ensuring that your address and hours of operation are accurately listed in all the right directories is a crucial step. A good listings management tool will help.  

Happy searching! 


Contact us to learn more about our auto dealer SEO services


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