VSEO and Your Inventory—A Profitable Combination
No matter what part of the country you live in, most of your customers find you on the internet. For many of those customers the search engines, especially Google, are how they find you. Of course, none of this is news to auto dealers.
The internet has been central to how consumers shop for cars for years now and dealerships have been upgrading their websites, investing in search engine optimization and marketing (SEO and SEM), putting their website URLs on all their marketing materials, and many other strategies to increase their search engine rankings and bring consumers to their websites—many of these efforts have been effective.
One area where many dealership online efforts have been successful is inventory listings. Dealerships have learned that their inventory listings must have detailed, vehicle-specific descriptions that contain the information customers want (mileage, vehicle condition, price etc.) and lots of pictures. This has benefited customers, because they can find the information they want about the vehicles they’re considering quickly and easily; and it benefits dealers, because the detailed information and images keep potential customers on their website and increase their search rankings.
Today, most of the inventory listings you find online will have the kind of pictures and descriptions that inventory specialists and internet marketers have been encouraging. The problem is that dealers have become victims of their own success. Now that the majority of dealers use them, detailed descriptions and loads of pictures, aren’t enough to keep you at the top of the search page anymore. Dealers need to find a new strategy to make sure their inventory ends up on top.
As broadband access has become the norm, more and more consumers are watching video online—everything from instructional videos on how to create websites to dancing cats. Google, of course, has noticed this and increased the importance of video in their search algorithm. Not surprisingly, this also applies to vehicles and it creates a great opportunity for auto dealerships.
If you go to Google and search for your any make and model in your city (e.g. “Honda Civic Seattle”), the search results will almost always include YouTube videos on the first page. This is a great opportunity for dealers to connect with consumers searching vehicles on the internet. Whether the customer is looking for a new or used vehicle, video makes a connection that text and images just can’t.
Used Vehicle Videos
Used vehicles are unique; there is a world of difference between a 2003 Toyota Tacoma that has been driven around Alaska for the last eight years and one that has spent that time in Southern California. Customers know this and they don’t expect an eight year old vehicle to be in perfect condition, but they do want to know what the true condition is.
Pictures can tell part of the story. A picture can show that the body is in good shape, the interior is clean, the steering wheel isn’t cracked, and a whole lot of other important visual features, but what about everything else? With video, you can tell the whole vehicle story—and you can tell it yourself.
With a video you can take the customer on a “video test drive,” you can show how smooth the engine runs, how great the stereo sounds, and give the customer a much better idea what it will be like to actually drive the vehicle. The best part though is that you don’t have a block of text between you and the customer. With video you’re able to describe the vehicle in your own words, the way you would if you were talking directly to a customer. And when the customer can see your (or your salesperson’s) face, they will feel more comfortable when they enter the dealership and see the same face greeting them and taking them on a test drive.
New Vehicle Videos
New vehicles, unlike used, don’t have dented fenders and tires that need replacing, but that doesn’t mean a video won’t enhance your vehicle listing. Customers like to see the actual vehicle they are considering. A stock video from the OEM doesn’t provide them the information they’re looking for and it doesn’t introduce your dealership to the customer—you need original videos.
Take the customer on a “video test drive” the same way you would with a used vehicle. The only difference is that, with a new vehicle, you won’t have any dents and dings to point out. Let the customer get to know you and your dealership, show off the new model features, and tell them about the warranty—just like you would in person.
Video Search Engine Optimization (VSEO)
Once you’ve created your video, it needs to be uploaded and optimized. Uploading is the first step. You can host the video on your own site. It’s easier and faster, however, to use one of the many video hosting sites available on the web. There are quite a few options for this, such as flickr.com, photobucket.com, vimeo.com, and others, but YouTube is still king. In fact, according to Alexa.com, it is the third most visited website in the world, behind Google and facebook.
Setting up a YouTube channel is easy. Simply visit www.youtube.com and click “Create Account” and follow a few easy steps. It’s a good idea to create a dedicated email address for you YouTube channel, so it is not tied to any single employee. And don’t forget to write down your password!
Once you have your channel, you can start uploading videos. When you upload, you will also be asked for a title, description, and keywords/meta-tags; this is where the “optimization” part of VSEO comes in. The title, description, and keywords are what the search engines use to find your video. If you don’t fill them out, your video will likely never be found.
The title should include the make, model, and year of the vehicle. This is usually the first thing browsers see. Don’t use broad titles; browsers will simply skip your video and go to the one that lists the vehicle they’re looking for.
Your video also needs a detailed description. They important word here is “detailed.” If a customer finds your listing on YouTube instead of your website, they should see the same level of detail in the description as they do on your website listing. There’s no guarantee that a customer will click through to your site, so give them the vehicle information right along with the video and don’t forget to include your contact information.
Lastly, don’t skip the meta-tags/keywords. These are an important part of how the Google algorithm finds your videos. Be sure to include, not only, the vehicle make, model, and year, but your dealership name, website, and more generic terms, e.g. sedan, pick-up, two-door, etc.
Once you’ve created your video, uploaded it, and optimized it for search, it’s easy to place the video on your site. Simply click share and copy the “embed” code into your inventory listing. It’s that easy.
Have a little fun
Don’t be afraid to have some fun and let your personality show through in your videos. These are not meant to be slick, perfectly edited corporate videos. Consumers can find those anywhere. These videos should show the unique vehicle you’re selling and the unique individual who will be helping them through the sales process.