Welcome to the second installment of Automotive SEO 101, our back-to-basics guide to car dealer website optimization! This entry will cover the next step in on-page optimization: titles.
Just as we discussed in regard to keyword research, it’s important to focus on only one or two phrases per page when optimizing.
This provides search engines with a clear idea of exactly what each page is about, and it prevents cannibalizing rankings from other pages. For example, if every page on your site has a title tag that’s optimized for “Honda Los Angeles,” then Google won’t know which one to serve up in results.
Getting keywords into your page titles isn’t your only concern - putting them in the right place is also critical.
Follow these best practices for structure when optimizing auto dealer website page titles to maximize their effectiveness:
- Primary keyword first: Always lead with the page's primary key phrase
- Secondary keyword: If you have a second key phrase, add it after a dash
- Dealer name: Add a vertical bar and put the dealership name at the end of the title
Here's an example:
Honda CA - Los Angeles Honda Dealer | Bruce Willis Honda to Hollywood
Because the weight Google applies to titles decreases with every word, it’s important to put your most important keyword first in the title tag. And since your site is always going to rank well for your brand/dealership, you can save that for the end of the title.
Although Google’s rules on how it displays titles in search results change often, there is still one general guideline to follow: keep the title tag to 70 characters maximum, including spaces, whenever possible.
This is considered a best practice because Google will cut your title off at 70 characters and leave an ellipsis (...) in results pages. Keep in mind that Google will also sometimes replace your pages’ actual titles with a single phrase that it believes the user is looking for. But most of the time, if your titles are concise and focused, you shouldn’t run into problems.
While the 70-character rule isn’t a strict limit, as it’s sometimes unavoidable for titles to run longer, it is vital not to let your titles run much longer than 80 characters.
The longer your titles stretch, the more likely Google is to flag your pages for keyword stuffing and over-optimization. And since the weight of keywords diminishes drastically the farther you get from the beginning of the title, it doesn’t help to cram more and more into your title. Sticking to just two keyword phrases will also help minimize the risk of running too long.
Sometimes, it makes sense to combine multiple keyword phrases into one in order to capitalize on as much search volume as possible. If, for example, you were creating a landing page focusing on the Honda Accord for your LA dealership, your keyword research may provide you with the following phrases:
- Honda Accord Los Angeles
- Honda Accord in Los Angeles
- Honda Accord for sale in Los Angeles
- Honda Accord in Los Angeles CA
- Honda Accord in CA
- Honda Accord for sale in southern CA
Since they’re all so similar, you could effectively target all of these phrases by combining them into one title tag:
- Honda Accord for Sale in Los Angeles, Southern CA | Bruce Willis Honda
In exactly 70 characters, this title is optimized for all six of the keyword phrases above.
Google+ Local & Your Homepage
The final factor to keep in mind when optimizing the homepage of your car dealer website is to consider the latest developments in local search. In November 2010, Google began rolling Maps/Places pages into searches that it detected had local intent. And in May 2012, Google Places was rolled into Google+ as the new Google+ Local.
Because so many of the searches that bring up Google+ Local pages are high-volume, valuable phrases to rank for, it’s important to optimize your homepage accordingly. So make sure that your homepage is targeting phrases that include your make, the word “dealer” or “dealers,” as well as your city and state.
Be sure to keep an eye on how you rank in Google+ Local results. This is a space that is constantly changing, so if you’re in the top three today, you might not be tomorrow. We’ll cover Google+ Local in more detail as we get to more advanced SEO techniques.
If you follow all of the guidelines above, your site’s pages will make maximum use of their titles. And since they’re the most important on-site factor in SEO, your pages will have the solid foundation that leads to strong rankings.
Image Credit: Daniel Wanbagh