SEO Guide For Car Dealers

So now you have a nice website………but where are all the visitors?

Your new website is unfortunately only one of over 800 million websites available on the world wide web so don’t be shocked when it gets five visits a day.

A Buzzword you will hear a lot if you are trying to boost your web presence is SEO or Search Engine Optimisation. As the title would suggest that means optimising your website to rank for search terms that relate to your business. When we talk about SEO we are usually talking about Organic (Free) Traffic and we are talking about Google as the search engine to target. Google constitutes 90% of web searches and is know a verb……when’s the last time you Yahooed anything ?

There are Books, Forums and Conferences dedicated to SEO, it’s a pretty big industry. What follows is a very basic guide,  strictly for small to medium sized car dealers in what I hope are layman’s terms.


If you have built a website for your business then good for you. Whether you embrace the technology or were dragged hesitantly into it, web searches and particularly mobile web searches for cars are increasing all the time. I am still amazed to see dealers operating without a valid web presence. If you are a car dealer and don’t have a dedicated website then you should be trying to fix that today.


Once you have a website in place you will be approached by any number of SEO firms offering to boost your web presence and get you to the front page of Google. Some of these will be copy/paste spam emails from chancers; others will be semi legit looking proposals from local companies. Before you let them dazzle you with web speak alchemy let’s look at some of the basics so you know what to look out for.

SEO can(broadly) be broken into two parts:

On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO

On page SEO are the factors within your sites architecture that will determine what search terms your site is likely to rank for. Remember Google crawls your website using a bot (Googlebot) it’s not a manual revision by a board of experts, it’s an algorithm that scans your site for factors that would make it obvious what the sites content is aimed at. For example if you want to rank for “Used Cars, Hyde, Manchester” then your website and its content should reflect thats what it is aimed at.

Do you use that term in your websites title tag ? Your title should say something like

“ Regent Cars of Hyde | Best Value Used Cars in Hyde, Manchester”

(as well as using your best keywords the title tag will also be what is shown in Google searches so try to make it look non spammy.



Google frowns upon using repetitive keywords on a website and by doing this you can face an over optimisation penalty. If you see websites that have hundreds of “Used cars Manchester | Used cars Northwest | Used cars Lancashire”,  type keywords along the footer of the page then they are using 1990′s SEO and will get penalised eventually.

Realistically you need to make clear in your web address, your title tag, and your page and paragraph H1 tags what the site is about. After that it is fine to use your keywords once or twice more per page but you should be looking for similarly phrased related keywords like(in this instance) “Car bargains Mottram”}-{“M57 Used Motors” etc ….these are rough examples.

Images are great for SEO but most people don’t optimise them.The majority of Images on car websites will have an Alt tag of “image1325423” or similar. Don’t do this.People search Google images too. If you correctly title your images “Regent Cars Manchester-Audi A6 Avant” then they will feature in search engines. The same can be said for any graphics or videos used on your site, tag everything correctly.


That’s a very basic overview. If you want to learn more about On-Page SEO for your site then you can run your site through a free trial at
Or get a free Audit from my friends at Nenad SEO

Next let’s look at Keywords.

Keywords are the targeted terms that you want your website to rank for in organic searches. The major mistake most small garages make is trying to rank for too many terms and trying to rank for terms that are too competitive. We all want to rank for “Used cars UK” or “Cars for sale Manchester” but unless you are a large multinational dealership or classified publication with a huge budget then you are wasting your time.


You can use the Google Keyword Planner to search for Keyword ideas and get an idea of the search volume they attract.


In this case our small dealer in Hyde, Manchester, should be targeting only two or three keywords. In his case I would recommend something like “Used Cars in Hyde”}-{ “Cars for sale Hyde”. Terms like this are low volume 200-300 searches a month but they are very targeted terms. The type of person that types “Used cars in Hyde” into a search engine is a pretty qualified lead compared to someone who types ”cheap cars UK”. Aim for terms relevant to your company.

Sign up to Google Analytics and use Google Webmaster tools. It’s an easy sign up process. You or your web designer will have to copy/paste a small bit of code into your sites header tag to verify ownership but once you have set this up you will have access to a load of information that will show you where your visitors are coming from, what pages they are viewing and how quickly they decide to exit your site. Now that you have G-Analytics you should claim your Google places listing.

That should also be a five minute sign up. You will be sent a postcard with a verification code. Once your garage is verified it will show up on Google local places listings and Google maps.

For a small garage trying to target searchable terms in their area, this should be achievable with good on page architecture.


Off Page SEO:

This is the work that can be done off site to help rank your website. Commonly carried out by SEO agencies or link builders. You will get plenty of mail from SEO agencies recommending their services. Let’s just have a quick look at what’s available.

Link builders work in the terminology “Hats”,  it’s just the industry Patois and has been around SEO from the start. Traditionally there was Black Hat SEO which was considered unethical, possibly illegal and morally dubious and then there was White Hat SEO which was seen as ethical link building within Google guidelines.

These days those terms have blurred significantly. By Google guidelines any attempt at non organic link building is in contravention of their webmaster guidelines so there is very little that passes as White Hat these days apart from writing and sharing quality content. It’s important you understand this before you employ an SEO company to do any work for you.


99% of cheap SEO companies will be using automated software such as Zennoposter, GSA Search Engine Ranker or XRumer to blast lots of spammy backlinks to your website.
This technique can still give you the initial results you paid for but your site will most likely disappear from search engines forever within two months.


This sort of low level spamming is called “Churn and Burn” and is popular with throwaway sites in competitive niches such as “Pay day Loans”  The reasoning being they rank well for a few weeks and then throw the site in the bin when its penalised. Companies that operate like this will have a new site up the next day.

For obvious reasons you don’t want to be getting involved in this shambles when you are trying to build your brand for the long term. I have to mention it though,  as numerous good garages get sucked into paying £350 for a cheap SEO fix that they have been promised is “Google safe “ or “Panda and Penguin safe”(Google Algorithm updates) It’s definitely not safe and you are playing with fire.

Even established companies that charge well and claim to be offering “White Hat SEO” are still creating some unnatural backlinks. This would be considered “Grey Hat” and although it is far safer and also more effective it still comes with some risk. I will write a proper guide on off page linkbuilding in the future but for the moment if you are looking to employ some Grey Hat tactics I would recommend less is more. i.e. I would prefer to see ten quality Niche related backlinks through guest posting that five hundred spammed links on non motoring related websites.

I would also point out that a lot of SEO companies will promise “First page of Google Rankings Guaranteed”, Getting to the first page of Google is not entirely difficult but all the action on the first page of Google happens in the top four spots.  Position one gets sixty percent of the clicks and Position two gets about fifteen percent. Being Position nine in Google is not going to get you much traffic.

So Without risking your website or spending thousands per month what else can you do to help your website rank ?



Web 2.0s are a good way to help your site get a little bit more exposure. Web 2.0s are basically blog type sites that you can register on for free and build a free page for your garage. There are hundreds of these available but here are some I would recommend.

Thats a few for starters. If you do a Google search for “web 2.0s”you will find qualified lists. I would aim to try and register a web 2.0 with the garage name or search keyword. You will get better results for better efforts. If you put together a very basic webpage then you won’t get much traction but if you write up some helpful car tips with some good quality pictures or videos then these properties will give you some traffic.


Get Social.

I am uncertain of how powerful social media traffic actually is. Be aware that there is an entire industry that has sprung up around social media and the majority of the industry is built on hype. I don’t believe Tweeting your every movement and getting hundreds of Facebook likes daily are as important to search engine rankings as are touted by social media experts.


Many companies for example have built their entire web presence around Facebook only to find that the new monetised Facebook only shares their updates with 2-4% of their fan base.
However all social media outlets are web real estate and you should be claiming and registering as many as you can. For now and for future use.
Sites such as
As well as Facebook and to a lesser degree Google +
I mentioned earlier that signing up to Google Webmaster tools was a good idea. Apart from the obvious benefits you are also able to track what sites are linking in to you. This site is a non profit blog that I put up in my spare time and doesn’t employ any SEO techniques. However in the last year the site has been linked to by two well known publications and also by Wikipedia. Without webmaster tools I wouldn’t have been aware of those links.


However there is another reason why you want to keep an eye on the backlinks that Google has indexed for your site……Negative SEO.


It probably won’t affect you as it is only prevalent in “Money” Niches but if you ever see ten thousand new backlinks appearing overnight in your webmaster tools there’s a good chance that you have been spammed by a competitor and have not in fact gone viral.


You can find information on how to disavow “Badlinks” within your webmaster tools; If I get a chance to do a more thorough guide in the future I will illustrate the best way to do it.
That was 2000 words more than planned!
Here’s the Too long Didn’t read version.

Be realistic on the keywords you can rank for

You are better off ranking for targeted keywords such as  “used cars hyde,Manchester” than catchall huge terms like “UK used cars”

Unless you are in a known “car sales area” competing  against hundreds of big retailers then you should be able to get your site ranked just by using good onsite guidelines.

Don’t be tempted into shortcut SEO, you are trying to build your brand for the longterm.

By all means use a SEO Professional if it suits your needs but be perfectly aware of what work they have done before and what work they will be doing now. Set realistic targets, the SEO Professional that can rank your site in two weeks probably won’t be able to do that consistently in the long term, at the same time your site should be seeing results once any work is being carried out.

Use Google Webmaster tools they will help you make sense of your website traffic.

Web 2.0 Blogs and Social Properties are your web real estate go out and claim them before someone else does.

Be aware that negative SEO exists and check your site metrics at intervals to analyse any strange looking activity.



If you are a car dealer thats currently experiencing search engine pain, feel free to contact me and I can give you some personal pointers.

© 2014, MD. All rights reserved.