Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is constantly evolving, and keeping up with all the new developments and updates can be challenging, to say the least. While some SEO strategies may have worked very well a few years ago, the recent Panda, Possum, and Hummingbird algorithm updates have sharpened Google’s focus to discern between spammy content and quality content. Nowadays, Google’s algorithms can easily detect if your website is implementing SEO best practices, and will adjust your rankings accordingly.
In the automotive industry, the competition is fierce. If you’re not staying up-to-speed on the latest SEO best practices, you’re going to lose potential sales to your competitors. Listed below are the six most common dealership SEO mistakes that have negative effects on website traffic, along with suggested solutions to help increase visibility and leads.
Keyword-stuffing and over-optimization for locations. Keyword research and strategic placement of target keywords is a vital aspect of any SEO campaign. But one of the most common mistakes in SEO is attempting to include every possible keyword into the website content. This overuse of keywords is called “keyword-stuffing” — a practice by which someone attempts to “stuff” all possible keywords into the website content. Because search engines see keyword-stuffing as a spammy tactic, it can be harmful your website’s performance and keyword rankings.
As dealers, of course, we want to get leads from each and every city surrounding our dealership. So, many dealers include 10, 15, or even 20 nearby cities in their homepage content in order to “optimize” for all of those cities. This practice may have worked 10 years ago, but today, Google’s algorithms can detect unnatural keyword-stuffing practices. At the very least, keyword-stuffing could generate a dilution of each keyword’s relevance to Google, meaning that each keyword will have less power in influencing Google’s algorithm. But most keyword-stuffing can not only lead to significantly lower rankings for each of those cities, it could also result in lower rankings for ALL of the website’s target keywords. Try to include only a few cities in the content so Google does not flag the website as spammy. Furthermore, Google not only uses city names in order to provide better local rankings, but the search engine’s algorithm also takes into account local SEO factors.
Bottom Line: Don’t overuse your target keywords, especially city names.
 
Neglecting local SEO. Local SEO is becoming increasingly important. Google continues to show more 3-packs, or the top three Google Maps results, on its search engine result pages (SERPs). While Google definitely still draws on the city name keywords in the content, Google is beginning to rely more heavily on local factors and physical location.
The local SEO ecosystem is extremely vast and complex, and it all relies on having your business listed on all of the major local directories and search engines. As you can see from the diagram below, each local directory and search engine sends search signals to Google. These signals mean that Google’s algorithm takes into account the local directories and search engines when it ranks a particular business and determines its physical location.

Your dealership should not only be listed on all of these search engines and directories, but it also needs to display consistent information with completed listing profiles. This consistent information further informs Google’s local search algorithm, helping your business listing and website to rank better for local search queries.

Bottom Line: Claim your Google Business page, get your business listed on all relevant directories and search engines, and ensure your listing has consistent information.
 
Bad backlinks. Unfortunately, the SEO community is fraught with “black-hat SEOs”, which are people that employ spammy, unethical, and typically outdated tactics in order to try to increase rankings. The most infamous strategy consists of building a ton of spammy backlinks to a particular website. Quality backlinks are extremely important for ranking better on Google. But when someone builds a high quantity of low-quality links, this typically causes the website’s rankings to drop, and it could also result in a penalty or being completely banned from Google. The recovery process is extremely painstaking and can result in a massive loss of revenue. Don’t hire black-hat SEOs, and remember: relevant, quality backlinks are more important than the quantity of backlinks.
Bottom Line: Don’t hire an unknown, uncredited SEO company. If you already have, find a reputable SEO company to clean up those bad backlinks.
 
Neglecting backlinks. Backlinks are inbound links from outside websites that link to your website. When Toyota.com links to your dealership’s site, for example, that’s considered a backlink. The term “link-building” (attempting to generate more inbound links to your website) has received a bad reputation due to all of the black-hat SEO link-building tactics utilized over the years. Some SEOs have claimed that linkbuilding is dead, but this is certainly not the case. Backlinks are still one of the most important ranking factors in Google’s algorithm. In fact, 99% of websites that rank on the first page for high-volume keywords have at least one external backlink to that website or webpage.
Most dealerships lose out on potential backlink opportunities by inputting incorrect information. The OEM website typically has at least one backlink to the dealership website, which is a highly authoritative and highly relevant backlink for a dealer. However, many dealers have changed domains or provided the incorrect URL, so that the link from the OEM website does not work. This is a huge missed opportunity! Changing this one backlink results in a significant ranking boost and should not be overlooked.
In addition, many dealership websites miss out on link-building opportunities. Dealers may sponsor local events, participate in the local chamber of commerce, and have local partnerships. These are all potentially important backlinks that dealers can acquire. Taking advantage of these opportunities can assist in getting one’s website to rank higher for local searches.
Bottom Line: Check your backlink profile and your partner websites for link opportunities. Hire a reputable SEO company to build strong backlinks.
 
Poor page speed. Mobile traffic accounts for 60% of all website traffic, and 63% of people use their smartphones to make vehicle purchases (Auto CB 2015/2016). In our increasingly mobile world, mobile optimization has become extremely important in the car-buying experience. First and foremost, a good mobile user experience starts with page speed. If a website takes too long to load, the potential customer will bounce off the website and go to the next competitor. With tools like Google Pagespeed Insights and Pingdom, you can analyze how fast your website loads, and determine what is slowing it down. These tools will even suggest solutions to improve your page loading time and, therefore, your overall user experience. More often than not, the decrease in page speed is due to third-party applications added to the websites. It is best to reach out to those third-party companies and ask them to provide a different code for your website. Inform them that you ran a site speed test and the code needs to be optimized.
Bottom Line: Page speed is important, and with the rise of mobile, it’s here to stay. Check your website’s page speed and fix the glaring issues.
Duplicate content. While we typically hear about the negative impact of intentional duplicate content, the majority of duplicate content is completely unintentional. Duplicate content usually results from an improper technical structure of the website and lack of using certain tags. With car dealer websites, there are thousands of pages of cars and information on each site, which can easily result in massive duplicate content issues. Tools like Screaming Frog and Moz can help determine if your website has duplicate content issues.
There are a few ways to fix duplicate content problems; however, each method depends on the website in question. Here are a few common solutions:

  • A no-index tag: Use this method to prevent Google from indexing many pages of the website. Make sure that the no-index tag is only on the pages that you do not want indexed, or it could be detrimental to your website.
  • Rel=canonical tags: Use these tags to tell Google which version of the page to index. If a website has multiple versions of the same page, placing a canonical tag with the preferred URL on each of those pages will help Google and Bing determine the preferred page. This method is a great way to eliminate duplicate content.
  • 301 redirects: When there are “duplicate” pages, it’s possible to set up a 301 redirect from the duplicate page to the correct page. This change will not only eliminate duplicate content issues, but it will also help your ranking potential for the correct page, as those multiple duplicate content pages will no longer be competing with one another.

Bottom Line: Check your website for duplicate content, and use one of the above 3 methods to fix any duplicate content issues.
These 6 common SEO pitfalls can result in significantly lower rankings or even harmful penalties. It’s extremely important to address these issues immediately. Fixing these SEO problems will help your auto dealer website’s SEO immensely, and these are key steps in moving your website’s ranking closer to the top of Google.com!

~ written by Parker Evensen, Director of SEO & SEM