Smoke and Mirrors in Automotive SEO Sales

Car dealers are usually a year or two behind the internet trends. Some companies are taking advantage of that fact.

Doing search engine optimization for auto dealers is difficult, as the market is extremely competitive. Selling search engine optimization to car dealers makes doing the SEO seem like childsplay.

Since the beginning of the world wide web, the automotive industry, car dealers in particular, have been a year or two behind the trends. Whether it is their reluctance to let go of the "glory days" in the 80's and early 90's or simply a lack of time to devote to understanding the technology, car dealers seem to be the last to know when it comes to the internet.

This creates problems for those selling SEO services. There are so many companies out there who are selling services that are not adequate to use against the highly-competitive world of automotive marketing. Here are some "smoke and mirrors" tactics that are currently being used to get dealers to sign on the dotted line for "snake-oil SEO":

Myth #1: Thousand of Indexed Pages are Necessary

It has become a catch-phrase for website providers who create separate pages for each individual car.

The Pitch: "Search engines read web pages like we read books. They give more weight to websites with thousands of pages than they give to websites with dozens of pages."

The Truth: In many industries, having thousands of pages available for "long tail searches" (covered later) for individual items is a good thing. People look for "round blue widgets in ireland" and having a page for that is good. People do not search for individual cars, which leads to the next myth...

Myth #2: People search for individual cars or by VIN

The Pitch: "Pick a car from one of our dealers. If you type in the VIN (vehicle identification number) you will see a ton of listings to the website. Competitors don't list their vehicles like this."

The Truth: In the automotive industry, people wanting a new or used car will search for "minneapolis toyota" or "used cars oklahoma city". They do not search for "used toyota camry in minneapolis". According to Overture, here are the searches from January:

"used toyota camry minneapolis" - 28

"toyota minneapolis" - 32,430

Real humans search for dealers. They do not search for individual cars. They do not search by VIN. They do not search by model year unless they are looking for reviews. The search for dealers when they are ready to buy a car.

Myth #3: SEM Certification Means Better SEO

When I first heard of this, I was appalled. Some providers use their Google Certified Reseller and their Yahoo! Ambassador badges as indications of their search engine optimization prowess. This couldn't be seen as anything other than a lie.

These certifications are nice, as they mean that someone at the company took the time to learn what Google and Yahoo! wanted to teach about their Pay-Per-Click, sponsored results programs. They have no SEO benefits. There was a company that promoted their "inside track" to search engine optimization using these badges in a press release.

Yahoo! certification costs $50. Google requires a certain spend on Adwords. They both have eBooks and tests that are required. They have NOTHING to do with search engine optimization for natural listings. Sadly, most dealers do not research what the programs are really about.

Myth #4: Flash Websites cannot be optimized

The Pitch: "Our templates are completely HTML. They don't look as good, but the search engines prefer no flash."

The Truth: There are ways to allow the search engines to read flash. Even more importantly, most automotive websites that are built with flash technology are built with enough HTML content to give the search engines all that they need.

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There are so many more tactics used on car dealers, but this is a good start. In today's ultra-competitive automotive marketplace, it is so important for dealers to look at examples and to check more websites than the few that the SEO companies provide.

A company with 5,000 websites is bound to have a few that were optimized. It's in checking some of the other 4,995 that car dealers can keep from falling for the smoke and mirrors.