You're Doing Automotive SEO Wrong

I’ll say it a little louder and more direct: Your automotive SEO company is failing you. In fact, many issues in marketing for the automotive industry stem from a lack of understanding of what SEO for dealerships actually entails and what a dealership website is.

And it’s not their fault; they truly believe they are doing you justice. They tell you how blogs are the way to go to establish your topical authority, or they will help you rank higher for long-tail keywords. While this might be true in some industries, it just doesn’t hold water when it comes to your dealership website.

Let’s look at a few reasons why they fail.


Know What You Are

You are an eCommerce business. Let that digest in your noodle a little. As a dealer, your website is designed for eCommerce, even though our transactions take place in person; you’re an eCommerce platform.

Understand that.

Your entire website is a shopping site; like Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc. It is designed to do one thing: convert shoppers to leads in order to place them in a sales funnel.

When was the last time you read an article or blog from an eCommerce site? Most of us don’t.

Why is this?

Because people separate research from shopping. There’s a difference. And there’s a behavioral difference on-site.

When people go onto a research site, they want to explore, they need to form a perception of the product or service they are interested in. They need to shape a new reality.

When people are on a shopping platform, a different behavior emerges. People are trying to tie together their new perceived reality of a product and the transactional nature of that product. Simply, they are trying to see if what they believe the value of a product is true.

Your marketing strategy should align with where your market believes your services fit in the value chain. Knowing that your direct purpose is to convert a customer that has moved past their research phase into a transactional phase is key to understanding how automotive SEO works.

There are large examples of this everywhere if you just look. Take sites like KBB and Edmunds; or even OEM. For decades, customers have started their research phases at these sites. They are looking at vehicle reviews, product differences, specs, and anything else they can to educate themselves on their upcoming purchase.

They ask questions like:

  • What’s the safest vehicle for my family?
  • What car has the best fuel efficiency?
  • Are EVs the way to go?
  • What brand breaks down the least?
  • What vehicle will hold its value the longest?

These questions and many more are asked every second on these sites. Why?

Because they have established themselves as topical authorities on vehicles and have designed their entire websites to help consumers meet these needs. In fact, in recent years they have tried to delve into being listing sites and have failed miserably. They have gradually tried to introduce eCommerce and vehicle listing tools into their platform…and it hasn’t worked.

Ask internet managers; OEM sites, KBB, Edmunds convert lower than 3rd party classified sites like, Autotrader, and they produce fewer leads.


It’s because of the position in the customer journey. These sites exist for one person, research…just like your site exists for one purpose…conversion.

You're Not an Expert

Better yet, your site is not an expert. After doing SEO for automotive dealerships and successfully doing it for my own dealership that received hundreds of thousands of organic traffic visits monthly, I can confidently say that ZERO dealership websites have the domain authority to compete with nationwide research.

So let’s unpack that a little. There’s a lot of debate whether Domain Authority is relevant or not for SEO. However, over the last few years, we’ve seen Google start categorizing sites and giving preferential rankings to sites that are relevant for the search query.

Just this last year we’ve seen a huge increase in results from Reddit and other Q&A based sites for question-based queries.

This is simply a natural progression.

Remember, Google has one mission: deliver the best search result for the intent of the search.

So think about that logically.

If Google crawls all websites and knows everything about them, then it’s natural for them to understand the intent of not only those websites but websites like them. Thereby it knows how to prioritize sites to deliver the most relevant content.

Google knows the primary intent of dealership websites is to connect a shopper with a vehicle and transact. So for transactional keywords, dealerships have an advantage compared to research-based sites.

Try this out yourself:

Type into Google “best used car to buy” and look at the sites that are returned.

Now type into Google “best used car to buy near me”.

See the huge difference? One query returns articles from the top news outlets in the world along with Reddit, Consumer Reports, and a host of other research sites.

The other?

Returns shopping based eCommerce dealership sites.

The major difference? The intent of the search query.

Understand that although not impossible, it’s very improbable that your blog that outlines the difference between X vs Y model will rank.

OK, Great. So What Should Your Automotive SEO Strategy Be?

Let’s make some very specific statements to help guide us to build our SEO campaigns:

Google’s mission is to provide searchers with the most relevant answers based on the intent of their search.

Automotive dealerships are shopping sites.

Automotive dealerships are localized.

So to get the best search engine rankings, the most effective strategy you can have is to optimize your website for local searches that are transactional in nature.

Most searches are done from mobile devices, and most phones are tracked. If you’ve spent any time Googling anything, you know that when you perform a search that has a transactional intent, local results are given preferred treatment.

Doing keyword research with SEMRUSHAhrefs, or Google AdWords Keyword Planner can give you the searches people are performing in your region. Knowing what searches are relevant for an area, you can now start designing Inventory Landing Pages that are keyword-rich and targeted, allowing your customers to quickly land on a page and convert into a lead.

This will give you the maximum exposure to the most relevant keywords for your shoppers. But it doesn’t stop there. Knowing what keywords to target also helps you do the following:

  • Optimize your Google My Business Profile Page
  • Restructure your business listings to show up in the most relevant searches
  • Use Social Media to promote landing pages you’ve created to rank higher faster
  • Increase brand awareness by having the most relevant content for your potential customers

So I leave you with this:

Car dealer SEO doesn't have to be hard.

But too many Dealership SEO companies pitch these fantastic SEO results via blogs or other research methods when in actuality it’s highly ineffective.

Some of them farm the work off to AI or some 3rd party content writer for $20 bucks an article/blog and then charge you thousands of dollars. And when you look at your report, there’s no traffic going to these.

In fact, challenge your current SEO company…. I would wager that the majority of your organic search traffic (90% +) comes from your name.

How much are you paying for that 5-10% additional organic traffic?

Know your position in the customer journey, understand the intent of customers when they are searching, and then meet the customers’ needs. It’s that simple.