Anyone who has been involved in automotive internet marketing for a while knows that despite all of the fancy new techniques and intriguing social platforms, search engines remain the most important source of relevant traffic to your website and physical dealership. It has replaced the phone book, augmented the map, and is the place that the majority of your customers go first when in the market to buy a vehicle.
We also know that organic search is still the dominant traffic driver, but with the rise of mobile devices and Google’s favoring of Google Local listings over organic (and in some cases, paid search), there is a lower percentage of clicks to websites from organic searches than ever before. This trend will continue, but not nearly fast enough to worry; well-optimized sites that were seeing over 80% of their traffic coming from organic search are still seeing over 75% today, so mobile is changing the game at a good pace. There may come a time when organic search is much less relevant, but that day has not come quite yet.
One trend that is rising quickly is the trust factor in Google’s organic listings. People understand Google and Bing much better today than they did even a year ago. They realize that the organic listings are ordered based upon importance, authority, and relevance. They are starting to trust that Google and Bing are excellent filters against the “spammy” pages out there and they believe that ranking high organically is not something that can be easily manipulated the way it used to be. Quality on the search engine results pages (SERPs) has improved dramatically over the last couple of years. Regardless of whether they know about Google’s Panda or Penguin updates isn’t important. They’ve seen the improvement and as a result they use Google and Bing to determine real relevance.
Consumers widely consider a search engines top ranked results to be the most relevant and authoritative pages on the web. ~ Website Magazine
Take that comprehension a step further and you’ll start to see what Google and Bing have hoped for over the years and are finally achieving. They both have always viewed their organic rankings as a trust-building tool. That’s how they’re able to sell ads, by having a product that the people trust. They’ve reached that tipping point and in many ways organic search has become as much of a public relations tool as a pure traffic driver.
When people do searches and see an unexpected result in the organic listings, they are intrigued. We’ve seen results like the one displayed above generate the type of traffic increases that we do not normally see with “expected” high ranking results. In this case, the dealership in question that’s ranked #1 for “Milwaukee Chevrolet Dealers” is well outside of Milwaukee. There are plenty of Chevrolet dealers in Milwaukee, but the fact that Google ranks a dealership in Fond du Lac at the top is telling.
It’s the people’s understanding of search that is really at play here. They know that the ads are ads – pay to play, so to speak. They know that the local listings are based upon proximity to them (if on a GPS-enabled mobile device), their area (if on a WiFi connection), or the city in which they searched. They know that Google selects the “winners” based upon some authoritative algorithm that they don’t fully understand but trust based upon the hundreds or thousands of other searches they’ve done over the years.
Ranking high on search engines is no longer just about getting traffic. It’s a true PR play, now.
There are all sorts of opinions and strategies that have been pulling away from SEO over the last year. Many have said that SEO is dead. Others say that it can no longer be done. The truth is that SEO is extremely alive, growing in prominence, and more challenging than ever. The last part is a good thing. As companies start falling off the SEO bandwagon due to failures to adapt to the changes, strong SEO strategies are emerging that can make a greater impact than ever before for savvy and discerning dealers. Those who want to truly succeed are embracing SEO for the traffic as well as the PR. Don’t get me started on the reputation management aspects of SEO. That’s for another article.