Welcome to Automotive SEO 101! In this series, we'll cover the basics of on-page and off-page optimization for car dealer websites. For the first entry, we’re focusing on the initial step in on-page optimization: keyword research.
Before you optimize any page on your site, it’s important to pick the right keywords to target. Every page should be optimized for just one or two search phrases; this avoids cannibalizing rankings from other pages on your site and also gives search engines a clear idea of what each page is about.
So how do you know which key phrases to target? Think about it in three steps:
- What is the page about?
- How does it fit in with other pages on your site?
- What does Google say are the most popular search phrases?
Let’s tackle these one at a time.
A Clear Focus
First, think about what the page you’re optimizing is about. Take your homepage, for example. Chances are that it’s targeting phrases like “[make] dealer [location].” Don’t worry about all sorts of other phrases about specific vehicles or the 15 towns surrounding your dealership. Keep it focused and think up a single topic that sums up the page in just a few words.
The Page within the Site as a Whole
Make a list of all the pages on your site, and then pick a topic for each. This process will not only ensure that every page has a separate and distinct focus, but it will also help to guide your keyword research. You will prevent your pages from getting in each other’s way in search engine results pages (SERPs), and you will save time once you begin researching by having a clear road map.
Keyword Research Tools
Now that you have a topic for every page on your site, you’re ready to conduct your keyword research. There are plenty of paid keyword research tools like Keyword Discovery and Wordtracker, but why not go straight to the source? Google provides free tools for your keyword research, if you know where to find them:
Google AdWords Keyword Tool
Google AdWords Keyword Tool is designed to help with paid search ad targeting, but its statistics are just as valid and useful for organic results as they are for paid. Set your location to United States and paste one of the topics from your list into the “Word or phrase” box. Hit the search button and see what kind of keyword ideas come up.
Click on Local Monthly Searches to sort by search volume. If you’re getting keyword ideas that are too broad, check the “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” box to filter out the broadest matches. Go one at a time through your list of topics and pick out a few search terms with good search volume for each page.
Another way to pick out a couple of extra search terms for each page is to use the Google search bar itself. Simply go to google.com, and start typing in a generic search term, like “honda dealers.” Google will then suggest a few popular terms based on your location as it tries to guess what you’re looking for based on what users in your metro area have searched.
Google Insights for Search
Google Insights for Search is a great comparison tool for search terms that allows you to filter down to the state or metro area level. This makes it a nice addition to the AdWords Keyword Tool, as that is limited to a nationwide scope.
Select United States, and then pick your state. After that, pick the metro area that you want to target, or keep it statewide. Next, drop the search terms that you gleaned from AdWords and/or Google Autocomplete into the boxes. You can enter up to 5 at a time. Hit the search button and then look at the totals bar graph as well as the line graph that tells you interest over time to help guide your decision on which search phrases to optimize for.
Armed with your data from AdWords and Insights, you should be able to make an educated decision on which keyword phrases to choose. Narrow it down to two phrases for each page on your site.
Now that you have your keywords set, you’re ready to start building out the rest of your on-page optimization: titles, header tags, written content, image ALT tags, page URLs, etc, all of which we’ll tackle in our continuing Automotive SEO 101 series.