Improve Local Search Results With User-Generated Content

Secure a top-three Google ranking and drive more customers to your showroom

As an automotive dealer, you already know the importance of getting in one of Google’s coveted top-three local map results. But as all business owners that rely heavily on local search to drive traffic to their store know, getting there (and more importantly, staying there) isn’t always so simple.

Over the years, Google has formed a bit of a love/hate relationship with local businesses. It’s hard to hate Google when a great first-page ranking is driving hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue to your dealership.

But anyone who’s ever seen their local search rankings drop from a top-three spot to even the fourth or fifth listing can agree that Google has the ability to affect serious change almost overnight. A seemingly minor update in how Google calculates search rank can take that revenue out of your pocket and dump it squarely into your competitor’s. That’s enough to drive any business owner crazy.

So how can you keep a strong online presence and stay at the top of local search results? Although it’s nearly impossible to create a list of definitive factors that contribute to Google’s search algorithm, one thing is absolutely clear: User-generated content from happy customers goes a long way to getting to—and staying at—the top.

What kind content is important?

User-generated content comes in a range of different types, but not all of it is equally useful for improving search visibility. You can find user-generated content in many forms:

  • Online reviews. Reviews are the most important type of user-generated content because they contribute heavily to local search rankings. They also help convert other prospective buyers by offering third-party credibility.
  • User-generated photos. Having photos uploaded by customers might help boost local and maps rankings somewhat, but what it definitely does is help convert prospective customers.
  • Online comments. Online comments, whether they’re from Yelp, Facebook, Foursquare, or other social platforms, don’t help with local rankings. But, they do help with basic organic rankings and help expand your brand awareness on social channels.
  • Social check-ins. Social check-ins can be really useful because they help with organic search visibility, and also help you reach your customers’ friends and family. Since a check-in on Facebook shows up in users’ feeds, it has the ability to reach their entire network of friends—many of whom likely live nearby and can be potential future customers.

How to get content from customers

User-generated content can be a very valuable tool, so it’s important to understand how to collect it from your customers. Even better is creating processes at different points of the buying cycle to encourage your customers to create and share user-generated content.

  • Reviews. When you’re getting started, the best thing you can do is to simply ask for content. Ask your customers for a review on Google+ and Facebook. Make sure that you tell them to leave an honest review, and keep in mind that “bribing” customers for good reviews is looked down upon, and violates Google’s terms of service. To get into the habit of collecting these reviews, make it a part of the sales process so that once a sale is finalized, a salesperson follows up a few days later to request a review.
  • Photos. Auto dealerships have a huge opportunity for collecting user-generated photos. Fun displays can encourage shoppers to snap photos, and most people love to share pictures of their new car. Encouraging buyers to snap a photo of their new car, upload it to Facebook, and tag your company’s page as a part of a monthly customer giveaway can help you expand brand awareness, build a stronger social following, and help improve search visibility. You can also have customers share their photos on Google, Yelp, and even Instagram—where they can tag and mention your brand.
  • Comments/feedback. Comments and customer feedback don’t just help you improve customer service and operational processes. They can also help you improve local search visibility. There’s a strong chance that if you hear similar questions from multiple customers, they’re questions that potential customers search for online. Use these opportunities to create a knowledge base or Q&A section on your website and your social pages. This can help you improve search rankings for targeted keywords, and it can also help educate prospective buyers before they walk into your dealership, meaning they’re further down the sales funnel and closer to making a purchase when they walk in the door.
  • Check-ins. These are a great way to help you increase your brand visibility online with little to no effort. To encourage shoppers to check in, offer a door prize to anyone who checks in on Facebook, Yelp, or Foursquare and shows a salesperson. If you offer branded door prizes, you can maximize your brand’s visibility with T-shirts and other products featuring your logo that can extend your brand’s reach offline.

Using these methods to collect user-generated content will help your dealership secure a top-three Google ranking, and keep driving customer traffic into your showroom.

Lauren Fairbanks is the founder and CEO at Stunt & Gimmick’s, which has been listed as one of the top content marketing agencies in the country for three years in a row.

Lauren Fairbanks


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