Dealerships compete in one of the most challenging digital environments for SEO. How can dealers improve their organic ranking in such a competitive field?
Search engine optimization is never an exact science. So many factors impact a website’s ranking and optimizing a webpage to rank is never a linear equation. The more competitive the digital field is, the more difficult it will be to stand out in search engine rankings and improve organic traffic.
SEO for dealerships is one such competitive field. Not only must dealerships compete with other dealers, but they also must compete with automaker websites as well as news and review websites which have millions of backlinks, thousands of articles, and high numbers of engagement. Moreover, automaker websites and news and reviews sites tend to have very high levels of E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness). E-A-T’s impact on ranking is debated, but the fact remains that dealerships must compete with websites that have many more ranking factors.
One strategy adopted by numerous dealerships to improve their SEO and organic traffic is content. Content that is unique and published at regular intervals in blog or news sections give search engines more information on which to base their rankings of a dealer’s website.
To understand the impact of content on search rankings, NetMedia 360 analyzed organic traffic changes for 50 dealership websites across Canada that have published monthly, unique content for at least 3 months all the way up to over 7 years. This content included vehicle reviews on models sold by the dealership, comparisons with competitor models, industry news, articles on safety and connectivity technology, and articles on upcoming models sold by the dealership. Each article was unique and written exclusively for the dealership and had between 300 and 600 words. The articles were published at roughly the same time every month.
This data was compared with organic traffic for 100 dealership websites across Canada that have no content strategy or that have staggered content published every few months. Here is an overview of the results.
Change in Organic Traffic Results
|Overall Content Period
|First 3 Months of 2020
|Last Six Months
The first line analyzed the changes in organic traffic for the overall period of content on the dealership site versus a comparable period with no content.
The second line analyzed the impact on organic traffic over the first three months of 2020 where organic traffic was down overall because of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to pre-pandemic traffic.
The third line analyzes the impact on organic traffic during the last six months over the previous six months, a period that includes the November-December down period for dealership traffic and the COVID-19 pandemic compared to traditionally high periods of dealership website traffic (spring and summer).
- Dealerships with a regular, constant SEO strategy involving unique content published monthly overall increased their organic traffic by 7.28 % while dealerships with no SEO strategy or irregular content saw their organic traffic decrease by 7.34 %, a difference of 14.62 %
- Dealerships with a regular, constant SEO strategy involving unique content published monthly were less impacted by the overall drop in organic traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dealerships with content saw their organic traffic decrease by 3.09 % compared to a decrease of 10.64 % for dealerships with no SEO strategy, a difference of 7.55 %.
- Dealerships with a regular, constant SEO strategy involving unique content published monthly were less impacted by the drop in vehicle search traffic associated with November and December as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Dealerships with content saw their organic traffic decrease by 6.98 % compared to a decrease of 15.71 % for dealerships with no SEO strategy, a difference of 8.73 %.
- Regional impacts varied from province to province. Dealerships with an SEO strategy in provinces such as Ontario saw a much larger gain in organic traffic over the study period. Dealerships with an SEO strategy in cities like Montreal also saw larger than average gains. These elements will be addressed in a separate article.
- The study uncovered relevant gains in paid advertising for dealerships that also had a content strategy. Overall, dealerships with a content strategy outperformed competitors with no content strategy when it came to the effectiveness of their paid advertising campaigns. These findings will be analyzed more closely in a subsequent study.
“The overall increase in organic traffic and the ability for dealerships with a content strategy to weather seasonal and unexpected downturns in search volume is consistent with proven SEO best practices. The more quality content you have, the easier it is for search engines to understand and rank your website. Over time, you gain a significant advantage over competitors who do not have this content”, explained Charles Jolicoeur, general manager of NetMedia 360.
As this study has shown, implementing an effective SEO strategy involving professionally written, high-quality optimized content can help improve traffic to your website and help your site rank better. An SEO strategy can be a very powerful complement to a paid advertising strategy.