SEO For Car Dealers and Automotive: Tips to Increase Web Leads & Traffic

Below you will find the SEO thoughts from our analysis of the McGrath Audi dealer site and tips for other local auto and car dealers for increasing web leads, traffic, and sales of new and used cars from the free traffic that the search engines can provide by doing SEO for their dealerships website.

Challenges The Automotive Sector Faces


Whether you are one of the large automotive companies such as Nissan, Honda, Ford, or Mitsubishi, or a local dealership trying to sell more cars or generate more online leads, the challenges that auto dealers and automotive companies (OEMs) have with internet marketing strategies such as SEO, social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, etc), and content strategy is consistent.

  • Content Regulations
  • Conversion Rate Optimization
  • Capturing Share of Voice in the Organic Listings
  • Managing Paid Search Budgets
  • Local SEO for Dealerships
  • Online Inventory Management
  • Managing Online Reviews of Cars
  • Managing Previous Year Models and CPO Strategy
  • Increasing Leads Coming from Organic Search
  • Optimizing Video and Image Assets
  • Comparison Tool Creation and Optimization
  • Organizing Content Assets to Align with User Flow and Goal Completion
  • Optimization of Onsite Search
  • Analytics Management and Dashboard Creation
  • Social Channel and Community Management
  • Reputation Management
  • Marketing Budgets Skew Towards Traditional Advertising
  • Websites Lack In-depth Content Beyond Vehicle Landing Pages
  • Long Review Processes Inhibiting an Agile Approach
  • Website Tend to Lack Rankings for Keywords Beyond Brand Terms

In this SEO for Car Dealers analysis we will be analyzing McGrath Audi in Chicago. The McGrath name is known in Chicagoland for a premium sales and service experience. From the moment you step into their Chicago facility or call them on the phone, they want you to feel comfortable and relaxed.

mcgrath car dealer chicago

Basic Technical SEO Audit


Website Crawlable: Yes
Total pages Indexed By Google: 4,240
Total Pages Crawled: 531
Total Pages 200 Header: 469
Total Pages 301 Header: 58
Total Pages 404 Header: 4

Title Tags
Search engines consider the title element to be the most important on-page location to identify keywords and associate the page with a topic and a set of keywords.

Duplicate Title Tags: There are issues with duplicate title tags in sections such as the sections below:

  • Parts Section
  • Used Cars
  • Low Millage Section
  • Accessories sections

They also have issues among other sets of pages due to pagination. All of this duplication can cause the search engines to filter pages and represent a missed opportunity for McGrath Audi to capture incremental traffic for targeted keywords.

Title Tag Structure: There is a direct relationship between proximity to the front of the title element and rankings, and the further back in the page title the keyword appears, the worse the correlation with rankings. I would suggest rewriting the title tag to follow a structure such as:

[keyword 1]: [keyword 2 and Keyword 3 in a Conversational Way] | [Brand]

Just make sure you keep it under 75 characters since that is the limit the search engines will show. Also, using the targeted keyword(s) more than twice in the title tag may be perceived as keyword stuffing by the engines, and so we recommend against it.

Description Tags
Since the meta description isn’t used for rankings, and the snippet cuts off after 156 characters, it’s unwise to have a longer meta description tag.

Duplicate Description Tags: There are multiple instances of meta description tag duplication across the website. These should be unique and focused per page.

Description Tag Structure: I would suggest structuring the meta description tag as follows, to help with CTR from the search results.

[brand]: Conversational message that includes the keyword and “a hook”.

One of the best people to utilize to help write the description tag is the person who handles the PPC for the website. They are use to optimizing snippets for click through and might have some data you can use from their paid search campaigns that can help inform optimization efforts.

Remember too, the description tag should not exceed 156 characters in length. Currently mcgrathaudi.com has over 100 pages in which that rule is broken and their description tag comes across as spammy and useless in the search engines.

Meta Keywords Tag
Search engines have, for years, ignored the meta keywords tag as a ranking signal (Bing just recently announced in August of 2011 that they might utilize it again). Although it technically does not harm rankings, it can be used by competitors as a method to extract your targeted terms.

Duplication of Meta Keywords Tag: They have multiple pages that duplicate the keywords tag across the pages that we spidered on their website.

Structure of Meta Keywords Tag: The structure of the keywords tag seems to mirror the title tag as if they just duplicated the title tag in the meta keywords tag slot. If a site is going to use the meta keywords tag, it is recommended that they take their title tag and combine it with their description tag, remove stop words, and separate the words with commas.

Also this tag should not exceed 20 words and should be unique per page.

Canonical Tag Used: Currently mcgrathaudi.com does not utilize the canonical tag to minimize duplicate content and focus metrics on 1 URL per piece of content.

Header Tags: The header tags are used by the search engines to give context to the content on the page much like a chapter heading does in a book.

  • Their current H1 tags are not formatted well, and seem to follow the same structure as their keywords tag and the title tag (example: Used 2009 Audi A4 Serving Glenview | Chicago).
  • Their current H1 tags are not keyword focused properly.
  • They have multiple H1 tags (there should be only 1 per page), the second being centered on the phone number, and thus providing little-to-no value.
  • They currently have no H2 tags defined.

Competitive Link Analysis


The link analysis below is defined across Mcgrath Audi’s top competitors in the local results for the key phrase “Audi Dealer Chicago”.
1. mcgrathaudi.com/
2. www.schaumburgaudi.com/
3. www.laurelaudi.com/
4. continentalaudi.com/
5. www.fletcherjonesaudi.com/

It covers 3 areas as well, outlined below, for determining link value and authority of the primary domain along with 4 of its competitors.

Page Specific (Home Page) Metrics
This metrics defines the links coming into the home page. Some of the higher correlated link metrics are outline below.

  • Page Authority: How authoritative the Home Page is in the search results based on the authority of links and social metrics pointing to the page.
  • Page Rank: How important the Home Page is in the search results based on the importance of links and social metrics pointing to the page.
  • Page Trust: How trustworthy the Home Page is in the search results based on the trustworthiness of links and social metrics pointing to the page.
  • Internal Followed Links: Total number of internal followed links(links that pass ranking metrics) the home page has pointing to it from other pages on the primary domain
  • External Followed Links: Total number of external followed links(links that pass ranking metrics) the home page has pointing to it from other blogs and websites (not including the primary domain)
  • Total Links: Total lnks pointing to the home page
  • Total Linking Root Domains: Total different domains pointing to the home page. This metric speaks to the domain diversity of the sites link profile and correlates highly with rankings.
  • Social Metrics: Total social metrics that the home page has acquired

Domain Specific Metrics
This is the metrics for the domain as a whole which is all inclusive of total pages on the website (including all sub domains, so if there was a cars.mcgrathaudi.com, this would be included).

  • Domain Authority: How authoritative the website (complete domain) is in the search results based on the authority of links and social metrics pointing to the page.
  • Domain Rank: How important the website (complete domain) is in the search results based on the importance of links and social metrics pointing to the domain.
  • Domain Trust: How trustworthy the website (complete domain) is in the search results based on the trustworthiness of links and social metrics pointing to the domain.
  • External Followed Links: Total number of external followed links(links that pass ranking metrics) the website (complete domain) has pointing to it from other blogs and websites.
  • Total Links: Total links pointing to the website (complete domain)
  • Total Linking Root Domains: Total different domains pointing to the website (complete domain). This metric speaks to the domain diversity of the sites link profile and correlates highly with rankings.

There is a section at the bottom of the chart that shows “followed” (pass ranking metrics) vs “nofollowed” (don’t pass ranking metrics) links. It is important to have a mixture of both to align with what a normal website should have.

auto dealer link analysis for chicago

Where McGrath Audi’s Links Are Coming From

The below graph represents the best links that point to the domain as a whole. As you can see the pages and domains that these links are on are of low quality.
top linking pages

Domain Authority Of Links Pointing to McGrath Audi

The below graph represents the domain authority of the sites that point to mcgrathaudi.com. Most of the domains have a low authority thus labeling mcgrathaudi.com as a lower authority website.
domain authority

Page Authority Of Links Pointing to McGrath Audi

The graph below represents the authority of the actual page that the link resides on. The higher the authority the more value that page, and the link on that page, passes on to mcgrathaudi.com. As you can see, the page authorities are lower value, thus passing little value onto mcgrathaudi.com.
page authority

What McGrath Audi Does Well


Where as their link profile does not speak well of to the authority and value of mcgrathaudi.com in the search engines mcgrathaudi.com does do some things well that are helping them in the search engines.

Inventory Assets

  • New Cars: They are SEOing their new cars pretty well. There are a few tweaks that could be done to these pages as mentioned above in the technical analysis, but the simple fact that they are spiderable is a big plus.
  • Used Cars: They are SEOing their used car inventor pretty well. This is where most car dealers fall short and even where some of the larger car manufacturers miss out on. The simple fact they have made this inventory crawlable is the first step to making those pages work for the site from an SEO standpoint. There are a few tweaks that could be done to these pages as mentioned above in the technical analysis, but the simple fact that they are spiderable is a big plus.

What McGrath Audi Can Improve To Get More Traffic From Google


Valuable Content

Content is king when it comes to local results and can drive traffic for local keywords and long tail phrases that convert if the content is done well. Below are some of the key areas and article types that I would suggest mcgrathaudi.com should focus on creating. Remember its not about quantity with content creation (since the panda update) its about quality.

  • Research Articles
  • Vehicle Landing Page Info
  • Vehicle Reviews

Site Consolidation

We noticed that there is a site called gomcgrath.com that essentially duplicates the content on mcgrathaudi.com.

  • This is causing duplication in the search engines
  • The McGrath Audi Brand to be splintered
  • The links that should be focused on 1 site to be divided amongst two sites.

I would suggest doing a 301 redirect 1:1 mapping on a page level from the gomcgrath.com website to the mcgrathaudi.com website to focus links, social, and ranking metrics.

Quality Local Link Building

As noticed from the above link analysis McGrath Audi is lacking when it comes to quality links from local sources. Most of their top links come form gomcgrath.com or from unrelated websites which seem to be just giant link farms. They do have 1 sponsorship link in the bunch which is a great way to to build local links and fulfill your social responsibility as a local business.

How can you build links to local businesses? Check out our local business link building tips.

URL Structure

As we have talked about many times in our SEO case studies, URL structure is important from both a technical standpoint and from a user standpoint.

URLs should follow basic rules from a technical standpoint such as:

  • They should be all lower case
  • They should be no more than 2 levels deep (or more than 100 characters)
  • URLs should have “-” (dashes) for spaces and not “+”, “_”, or any other special character
  • Be keyword focused, but not overdone

You can find more URL rules for SEO here

These rules will help the search engines index your URL’s better, help them attribute ranking metrics more accurately, and help users find and link to your pages easier.

Brand Value Based On Website Design

When we see a car dealership commercial on TV it’s usually the owner talking about how great their dealership is, how they will take care of you and get you the best deals, or how they are not like other “car salesmen”. The problem arises when someone actually goes to the dealership and is put through the whole “sales process” of “what can I do to get you into this car today” mentality.

We all know the drill when the sales person goes and gets their manager and he/she comes out and tries to play the game of good cop/bad cop to try and get the most money out of you as they can. There is a huge disconnect between the “we are there to help you” mentality from the TV commercial, and the “car salesman” approach when you go to look at a car.

The reason I bring this up, is that more and more people are going online to research cars and dealerships. It is important that the same “quality/helpful” mindset is represented by your website (since most people judge the quality and trustworthiness of a business by how they present themselves online). Your auto dealer website needs to be polished and focused on the user, if you expect to gain the trust online and get people to submit a lead request form through your website. The worst thing that you can do is create the same “car salesman” approach with your website, that you are trying so hard to fight at the dealership.

10 SEO Tips for Car Dealership Websites


  • Local Links: Reach out to the community for sponsorships, community involvement, and get listed in local, relevant directories.
  • Quality Content: Do the keyword research and find quality keywords, questions, and long tail key phrases that will drive targeted traffic. Once you have found these you need to create high value content around these keywords.
  • Asset Management and Exposure: Make sure you are exposing (making it crawlable for the search engines) and optimizing all the assets you have at your disposal. This includes images, video (add transcripts), new and used inventory, parts, accessories, etc.
  • Local SEO: Make sure you have a focused local presence. Remember that all these different listings should have the exact same contact information, written in the exact same way.
    • Register your local business with the local services that all the major engines have (Google Places, Yahoo Local, etc.).
    • Claim your local listing on major local websites (Yelp, City Search, Yellow Pages, etc.)
    • Get listed and mentioned in key local newspapers, and on local radio and tv stations.
  • Technical Optimization: Make sure you have a healthy website with little-to-no technical concerns that would keep metrics from flowing through the site or getting applied to the most important pages (those which covert and drive traffic).
  • Reputation Management: This might be the most important since most car dealers get a bad rap. Make sure you monitor your reputation online by doing searches in Google for your brand name coupled with things like scam, rip off, etc.
  • Auto and Dealer Reviews: This holds alot of power when it comes to driving traffic to your dealership. Make sure your vehicle pages have reviews on them to help with adding value and additional content to those pages. Also make sure that your dealership as a whole has reviews from satisfied customers to help build trust and value with new customers.
  • Website Represents Your Brand: Don’t use auto dealer templates. There are many websites that offer “templates” and templeted websites for different industries. I would strongly suggest that you don’t utilize these templates as is (make sure they are customized). Your dealerships website is the face of your business and needs to represent the quality and value (through its design) that your auto dealership offers to its customers.
  • Get Social: This is a no-brainer. You will need to build your social networks on Twitter and Facebook. This is not about spamming the social communities with deals, sales or garbage content. It’s about building a community focused around your dealership. To accomplish this you need to present quality content and interact with the communities to build a brand location within the larger community that is on Facebook, Twitter, or other social networks. This is a delicate process, but once your community is build, they can be utilized to spread your value and messages.
  • Don’t Be a Car Salesman: Your website should offer more than just deals and marketing jargon. Make your site interactive, informational, social. Ask yourself, “would someone who came to my dealer website “share it, link to it, or tell someone else they needed to visit it because it offers insightful content”, or is it just another loud, annoying, poorly designed site that adds no value to a user.

Remember, when doing SEO for your local dealerships website, seo is not easy and not a quick fix, it takes time, effort and perseverance, but the payoff is what builds strong brands, drives quality traffic, and increases online sales.

3 thoughts on “SEO For Car Dealers and Automotive: Tips to Increase Web Leads & Traffic”

  1. Great information. I would also advise any company to start a blog and have it attached to their site URL (i.e. cardealer.com/blog). This helps add fresh keyphrase dense content and indexes the site with search engines.

  2. The Content on this website is amazing , we are amateurs to this but found a lot of simple explanations to things we have to do

  3. Great post. I think the two biggest points that I took away from the post was the local SEO perspective and the fact the industry is going more social in nature. Either way embracing the online market and understanding how to effectively leverage the medium is going to be key for future success for car dealers.

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