Whether you are managing a car dealership or an established manufacturer, a search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy is crucial for generating a sustainable and cost-efficient stream of online sales. The opportunity to reach potential buyers through organic search continues to grow as more sites within the industry take advantage and can build themselves online as a trusted source.
This blog will take you through how marketers within the automotive industry can establish an online sales process by looking at buyer trends, challenges of selling online, and tips to help your business stand out using proven techniques.
Purchase trends of an automotive buyer
Buyers are expanding their online searches across more sites each year, and following this a preference for online vs face-to-face buying continues to grow.
Here is an industry example, showing interest for the search terms ‘buy used car’ and ‘buy new car’ increasing over time:
Despite difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic (over periods when face-to-face was not an option), many buyers changed their habits, and users continued to search and buy automotive products online. From surveyed buyers, those who previously completed a purchasing process offline were more eager to complete the process online in future (+20%), or consider a better mix (25%), which can save up to 2 hours at the dealership and improve overall satisfaction. 79% said it was a better experience completing the purchasing process online rather than previous dealer face-to-face buying.
An increasing preference towards online-only means buyers have a bigger selection of lenders and aren’t tied to a local area. Some of the most common reasons to choose a new online lender from surveyed users include:
- Lower interest rates / APR
- Affordable monthly payments
- Using a trusted lender
- Ease of the loan application process
Purchase rates of a finance and insurance product (F&I), such as extended warranty, gap insurance or tyre and wheel protection have also seen a related increase in the UK for the second year in a row.
Further purchasing trends include EV buyers, who prefer to purchase online to save time, while new ICE buyers do so to avoid feeling pressured or rushed in making their decision.
Challenges facing automotive businesses selling online
Organic search in automotive is an increasingly competitive landscape, a Google UK search for ‘buy used car’ returns 4,110,000,000 results, so implementing the right strategy to get in front of the right potential customers and search types is important.
Supply and wait times for new vehicles can be seen as a fresh challenge, however, user buying behaviour is changing as a result. Nearly 1 in 5 vehicles are preordered, 75% to match the customer’s specifications and features. Additionally, 50% of customers stated they would be willing to wait to get the right vehicle.
Key issues that continue to grow in importance when choosing this new supplier include a lack of familiarity and trust, which can deter new customers. A key part of any automotive strategy would be to improve both of these areas.
How SEO can help businesses with online sales
Organic search is most often the primary source of website traffic and can provide a highly cost-efficient source of online sales, as opposed to the higher costs of an overreliance on paid or outbound.
A successful long-term SEO strategy can continually generate sales year after year when compared to shorter-term solutions.
SEO provides the ability to target users at all levels of the sales cycle, including early stages such as research or consideration, which can help build better engagement and trust for users from early in the purchasing process.
Tips for Improving an automotive brand SEO
Users & Search
1.Not all users are automotive experts:
It’s not always the case that the buyer will have an interest or experience in automotive and could be a newer driver. In these cases, it can be particularly important to cater for this with detailed content and guides, such as a tyre supplier creating content to help users identify the size of their tyres as part of car maintenance.
2.Support EV intenders:
Electric vehicle sales continue to grow but can be a completely new area for many potential buyers. It’s important to consider this as part of the user journey, site content and offering, as intenders can be expected to start with their own research into common topics such as range, charging, running costs and EV or hybrid buying incentives.
3.Broad and high-volume keywords should not always be seen as a goal for every SEO campaign:
Consider all types of searcher criteria and opportunities when building a strategy. Including make (BMW, Tesla, Ford), models (BMW 5 Series, Tesla Model 3, Ford Focus), trim, derivative, budget (cheap, below 300 pcm), finance types (HP, PCP, lease, loan), fuel type (petrol, diesel, electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid), age and condition. In many cases, these users can be closer to making a purchase than users searching broader terms. So, improving the content of specific category pages could prove invaluable here.
Site & Technical
Automotive sites tend to be extremely large due to the nature and variety required in products on offer (Autotrader.co.uk has 1,190,000 pages in the SERPs, for example). This can also be common across markets such as tyres, due to the large inventory of tyres by manufacturer and size. So ensuring that the technical fundamentals are considered can be important. Google’s documentation on best practices for large sites is comprehensive for important elements like your URL structure, crawling, links and navigation. For extra-large sites, efficiently managing crawl budget can be important to get your full inventory of products indexed to achieve optimal organic visibility in search engines.
Traditionally, the desktop site experience would take precedence when designing your site, but due to a higher volume of searches taking place on a mobile device, Google naturally transitioned to mobile-first indexing in 2018, meaning that the mobile version of a site is used as primary for crawling and indexing and should not be seen as a secondary priority.
Despite the growing preference and trend towards online buying, a local network can still play a big part in the buying process, due to the nature of user search types (e.g. ‘used cars near me’ receives 14,000 monthly UK searches). Implementing a local SEO strategy for physical locations and utilising Google My Business (GMB) is important to generate footfall at dealerships of brick-and-mortar locations.