Make Local Search a Priority in Your Marketing Strategy

If a prospective customer can’t find you with an online search, will they find you at all in 2018?


According to by BIA/Kelsey’s “Insights into Local Advertising—Automotive Vertical” report, automotive dealers and manufacturers are projected to spend $12.06 billion on local advertising in the U.S. during 2017.

Because there are more than 16,700 new-vehicle dealerships in the U.S. alone, it’s imperative for your location to stand out in every local search to increase foot traffic.

Autotrader reports that 59% of car buyers spend time online researching, trying to find the best deals, promotions, and incentives.

Once they find the car they like, more than half of consumers will visit a dealership to test drive the vehicle and purchase in-store.

Knowing this, it’s vital for your dealership to show up in online directories and online searches.

Just think: If a prospective customer can’t find your business via an online local search, how are they going to find you in 2018? Or worse, what if they get frustrated and choose to test drive—and likely purchase—somewhere else?

Relying on traditional media can still provide some customer leads, but for individuals using online searches and social media to find their next car, without focusing on local search, you’re losing out on a ton of potential foot traffic.

With 77% of American adults owning smartphones, your dealership has to have a strong local SEO presence and strategy in place to capture new customers.

Is your dealership searchable?

When customers search for your location, their results will vary based on their physical location and their past search history, meaning every user will see different results that are both personalized and localized.

Think about it: Is your location appearing in search engine results? Or on Facebook? If customers can’t find you during their online research, you might have just lost out on a potential sale.

It’s also important to capture brand-agnostic customers searching for a particular vehicle, automotive product, or service, but may not necessarily be aware of your brand or business.

To make your dealership more searchable, brainstorm a few relevant, non-branded, automotive-focused keywords based on user query data that associate with your location or brand within online directories and search engines.

For example, instead of “Ford” or “Toyota,” try “sedan” or “best car dealers in my area.” Focusing on broad, non-branded search terms allows you to capture a wider net of customers and steer them away from competitors, while growing your own bottom line.

Encourage good customer reviews

There’s often a stigma around new-vehicle dealerships that the salesperson is simply trying to close on a sale, and does not value the customer. But you can change this.

A complimentary review on Google or Facebook can go a long way. Not only does it encourage others to visit your dealership, it also increases your location’s chances of appearing at the top of a search result because search engines heavily weigh user-generated reviews as one of the key factors when determining where your entry will appear in a search.

Don’t ignore the negative reviews, however. If an individual had a bad experience, reach out to that person and figure out why.

Having a good reputation for responding to reviews is essential to growing your online presence, instills customer trust, and can aid in foot traffic. It’s also beneficial in creating loyal customers and receiving new ones based on word of mouth.

Incorporate and optimize voice search

Consumers are increasingly turning to their mobile devices for online shopping and research. It only makes sense that voice search is also becoming a hot trend.

In fact, more than 82% of mobile users use voice search engines to search for a local business, and 50% are likely to visit the store within a day.

To make sure your dealership is taking advantage of this tactic, ensure you understand what your target audience is looking for.

Have your Google My Business listings properly optimized, including business hours, contact details, location information, and a few core keywords that are relevant to your business.

Additionally, make sure your voice search keywords are different from those you set up for online, manual searches. People speak differently than they type, so voice and online search strategies should reflect this.

Simple and short-form phrases fare better with text searches, while long-tail and conversational keyword phrases work better for voice searches.

Your auto business’ keyword strategy should mimic how people talk and ask questions in real life.


Think about the questions that people might call and ask you. How are they phrasing certain terms? Once you understand this, it becomes easier to focus on these “conversational” keywords.

For new-vehicle dealers or automotive service brands, it’s important to get a handle on your local search tactics because there are an increasing number of people conducting online and voice searches that are brand-agnostic, more research-oriented, and conducted using mobile devices.

Now is the perfect time to explore new strategies, and understand how they play a role in increasing ROI and foot traffic.

Local SEO may not be as attractive as a slick new TV spot, but it can produce a tremendous amount of incremental revenue and positive ROI if given proper attention by your automotive business.

Alex Porter is CEO of Location3, the digital marketing agency that delivers enterprise-level strategy with local market activation. He has more than 15 years’ worth of experience managing successful digital marketing strategies involving ad technology, marketing technology, and multi-location franchises.

Alex Porter

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