Online reviews, and especially Google reviews, should be a huge priority for any business operating today. It takes some time and constant effort to properly execute a review management strategy, but it’s worth it: reviews provide the very foundation of your online reputation, and how you manage them can mean the difference between life and death for your dealership.
Trust-building and Brand Differentiation.
We live in an age where widespread internet access means that dealers don’t get to make the first impression when a customer walks onto their lot. With a vast majority of consumers conducting a vast majority of their research online before ever setting foot inside a dealership, dealers must be able to establish and build trust at the very outset of a prospective customer’s online journey. To this end, online reviews are critical to the initial establishment of trust for online shoppers. Research has shown that:
These numbers speak volumes about the necessity of online reviews for today’s shopper, and why including them in your reputation management strategy is no longer merely an option. Review management, as one component of a greater rep man strategy, will continue to be critical for the foreseeable future.
Reviews are also necessary for brand differentiation. Consider that the automotive industry is an almost perfectly competitive market: a consumer can find the same or essentially the same products and features at any dealership within a given segment. As a result, we must find other ways to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. One way many dealers are doing this is by creating a unique and pleasant car-shopping experience. But even if you’ve formulated a slam-dunk customer experience, how will online shoppers know about it? You guessed it: by reading reviews on the internet. Given that 90% of consumers read online reviews before deciding to visit a local business, your reviews are what will make you stand out so that buyers want to visit your store rather than the one down the street.
Making Reviews Work for You.
Like social media, online reviews are not a one-and-done thing; making them work to your advantage requires incorporating them into your larger reputation management strategy, and growing and monitoring them on a regular basis. Three of the most important factors for effectively managing your online reviews are recency, quantity, and quality.
When an internet user enters a search query into Google, Google’s aim is to serve up content or businesses that are most relevant to the search terms. It follows, then, that recency increases relevance, and dealerships with the most recent content and reviews will fare better on search results pages.
Along with being a key search ranking factor, the recency of your online reviews has a direct impact on whether consumers decide to visit your website and, ultimately, your dealership. BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey revealed several key findings that go to the importance of recency:
To sum this up, you must be constantly seeking new reviews – every day, from every customer. Getting ten great reviews in two days in order to cover up one bad review is not a viable business practice; today’s customers are more savvy than ever, and they will quickly catch on, resulting in a degradation of your dealership’s credibility and perceived trustworthiness.
Constantly seeking new reviews isn’t important only for recency, either; it goes to quantity, too. Consumers look to see how many reviews have contributed to your dealership’s overall star-rating. Think about it from a consumer’s perspective: Are you more likely to trust a business with five stars and only 2 reviews, or one with 4.5 stars and 50 reviews? Common sense points to the latter.
The star-ratings and content of reviews is, as you can imagine, hugely important, both for SEO ranking as well as for building consumer trust. On its support site, Google has said that “Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking.” Rating and content quality are important to prospective customers, too. According to Podium’s State of Online Reviews survey, 3.3 is the minimum star-rating a business must have for consumers to even consider engaging with it. And since 68% of consumers would pay more for the same product or service if assured they would have a better experience, it’s important that the substantive content of the reviews include an evaluation of the various aspects of each customer’s experience that led them to write a review.
There’s an important caveat here, though. Having a few negative reviews isn’t always a bad thing; the key is how you respond to and manage them. In fact, a large number of online car shoppers say that they’d trust a dealership that professionally and caringly responded to a negative review more than they’d trust a dealership that had no negative reviews whatsoever. If you manage them properly, one or two negative reviews can actually enable trust rather than hindering it.
The bottom line is that online reviews have a huge impact on your bottom line. If properly solicited, managed, and monitored, they can propel car shoppers to both your website and your brick-and-mortar dealership, and ultimately result in a significant lift in sales.
If your dealership doesn’t already have a dedicated YouTube channel, it’s time to get one. You may think that since you post videos on your website, there’s no need to post them on YouTube, but the opposite is true: If you post videos on your dealership’s website, you should absolutely have a corresponding YouTube channel where you post those same videos. Why? Three simple words: reach, visibility, and cost-effectiveness.
Many of us don’t think of YouTube as a search engine, but that’s exactly what it is. In fact, it’s the second-largest search engine in the world — second only, of course, to Google. Moreover, YouTube is the world’s third-most-visited website after Google and Facebook. It gets more than 30 million visitors per day, adding up to around 1.5 billion visitors each month. That’s a massive potential audience that dealers cannot afford to miss out on. And if you think people aren’t interested in watching car dealership videos, think again. According to David Mogensen, Head of YouTube Ads Products Marketing at Google, “views [on the platform] of test drives, features, options, and walk-throughs have doubled in the last year.” Even more telling is that 70% of people who watched YouTube during their car-buying journey say that it influenced their ultimate purchase decision. These are powerful statistics that illustrate a huge opportunity for dealers to grow their marketing reach and thereby expand their customer base.
Not only does having a YouTube channel expand your reach in a huge way, but it can drastically improve your dealership’s online visibility, as well. The three major search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) have now started blending their search engine results pages (SERPs) to include mixed media like news, images, and video. This, in turn, has created yet another great SEO opportunity: When a user searches for a brand or model that you carry, a properly-optimized channel can create an additional link on SERPs, increasing your potential visibility to that user.
Having a dedicated dealership YouTube channel can also increase your SEO authority. According to Launch Digital Marketing, “Google’s job is to give searchers the best answer to any question, and their algorithm has started to rank YouTube results and web pages with video as the best (most helpful, useful, engaging) answer for many search queries — particularly tutorial-, how-to-, review-, and test drive-related queries.”
As a marketer, your job is to gain maximum exposure, traffic, and conversions while spending as little of your budget as possible. And let’s face it: this can be a tough feat in today’s ultra-competitive digital marketing world, especially for car dealerships. But not all marketing efforts require a massive chunk of ad spend. Take, for example (you guessed it!), YouTube. Creating a YouTube channel for your dealership is completely free! And considering the reach and visibility it offers, the wildly popular video platform can be one of the most cost-effective ways of advertising and promoting your inventory and dealership.
What to Post
Now that you’ve decided to create a YouTube channel for your store or dealer group, the question remains: Where do you start? What types of videos should you post, and how often? Stay tuned for the answers to these questions later this week.
Local mobile SEO only continues to grow in importance for today’s automotive dealerships. Use our Local Mobile SEO Checklist to improve your online presence for users searching locally on their mobile devices.
We talk to many dealers who are frustrated by having an OEM-mandated website program. But there IS a way that dealers can deal. Check out the video below to learn more.
Want your website to convert at a (much) higher rate? Click here for a free demo.
When you consider that almost half of mobile search traffic has local intent and over 85% of mobile engagement with brands is local, it becomes clear: local mobile search is here to stay, and it’s only growing in importance. Use this checklist to ensure your dealership’s online presence is properly optimized for local mobile SEO rankings.
This goes against everything you learned in SEO 101. But while long-tail keywords are a well-known best practice for desktop SEO, the same is not true for mobile. Not surprisingly, people do a lot less typing on their mobile devices than they do on their desktop devices. So, it makes sense that they also enter shorter keywords and phrases when conducting searches on mobile.
Location, Location, Location
Keep it close to home, literally. To rank for local search, be sure to include your keyword and location in all of the following elements:
- Title tag
- Page title (h1 tag)
- Within the page’s content itself
- Image alt text
Paid Search & Promoted Pins
I just told you to prioritize shorter keywords when optimizing for local mobile SEO. But it’s harder to rank using shorter keywords and phrases, so boost your SERP rankings by utilizing paid search. You can also take advantage of Promoted Pins. This feature on Google Maps allows your dealership to stand out by displaying your custom logo directly on the map.
Mobile Ad Extensions
Ad extensions expand your ads to include additional information. According to Google, these extensions “typically increase your ad’s click-through rate by several percentage points” by providing greater visibility and conspicuousness on SERPs. Some ad extensions that can be particularly effective in terms of local mobile SEO include:
- Location extensions
- Sitelink extensions
- Click-to-call buttons
- Call extensions
The bottom line is that people doing local searches are looking for local results. Taking the time to optimize for local mobile SEO can put your dealership at the top of the heap and lead to a dramatic increase in both foot traffic and overall conversion rates.
Website bounce rate directly correlates to site speed; it’s a hand-in-hand combination. Our research and tests have found that when a site takes longer than three seconds to load, bounce rate will increase by up to 150% per second. This fact, combined with the announcement by Google that, starting in July of this year, site speed will be a major ranking factor for mobile searches, means that a fast website will be a significant game-changer to your online storefront.
So, what does this mean for dealerships? In his presentation in April at the Digital Dealer 24 Conference and Expo, fusionZONE CEO Brett Sutherlin addressed exactly that. Click play to watch the presentation and learn how your site speed is affecting your business.
The purpose behind Google’s new Speed Update is to reward business whose websites cater to today’s consumer. Therefore, faster page speed will result in:
- Lower bounce rates
- Increased consumer engagement
- Higher rankings on SERPs
Google encourages you to check your own website speed using its official PageSpeed Insights tool. This will help you find out the average load time of every page on your website. It provides simple visuals to help in analysis: between green, yellow, and red scores. You want to be in the green. If you’re not, you’ll want to ensure that you are meeting Google’s guidelines to avoid getting penalized in SEO performance when they crack down next month.
It’s just that easy!
Set your target for your site to load in less than 3 seconds. If you can decrease that to 2 seconds, you’ll notice an even greater increase in conversions. Why? Because your customers are finding your website before they are finding your competitors.
Contact fusionZONE Automotive today to double your website leads, guaranteed. Known for building the fastest websites in automotive, we’ll not only help you navigate the playing field – we’ll help you dominate it.