Selling more used cars is a high priority for almost all the dealerships across the country. This was more prevalent over the last couple years, with the decrease in availability on new, but is starting to balance out. Still, many dealerships have a need to sell more used vehicles consistently. The best way to sell more used cars is of course mining your own database, email marketing essentially, followed by Facebook advertising. In third place, though, is good ol’ organic traffic. Now, we wanted to keep things as simple as possible, so we outright ignored the local listings. Sometimes these showed up above the regular organic results, but most of the time they filled the 3rd or 4th spot on the page.
How Well Are Car Dealerships Search Optimized
So, how do car dealerships stack up for these searches? We wanted to find out, so we audited 74 different cities across the country, mostly from mid-markets, to get an idea of how car dealerships rank for “Used Cars City State” searches like “Used Cars Anaheim California.” The results were quite shocking.
First up, the top ranking spot was held by Cars.com 95.95% of the time, followed by Carfax 2.7% of the time, and a car dealership 1.35% of the time, which was equivalent to just once. That means that Cars.com is the most dominant website when it comes to “Used Cars City State” searches in the United States, and car dealerships are very unlikely to show up in the top spot.
That didn’t mean car dealerships were non-existent, though. Car dealers were in the top 3 organic spots 29.73% of the time, and in the top 5 44.59% of the time. There was only a single search where a car dealership wasn’t in the top 10, excluding local results.
Most SEO Friendly Website Provider
As for the SEO provider, it is very difficult to tell. We knew which accounts were ours, but outside of that the SEO provider is essentially hidden. So, we broke it down by Website Provider. Dealer.com had the most top dealership finishes with 41.89%, followed by Dealer Inspire with 31.08%. Dealer.com was also the only provider who had a number 1 overall ranking website, but they were not the SEO provider for that website.
This actually feeds into the next stat, which is that the highest ranking overall OEM was Toyota. Toyota has a standard piece of content that goes on the bottom of all their Used Car Search Results Pages which catapulted them into the best position, in relation to other dealerships, consistently.
Now, that doesn’t mean that Dealer.com was the best overall performing Website Provider, they were just the most consistent. When broken down into top 3 finishes Dealer Inspire actually wins with 12.16% of their websites in the study showing up in the top 3, while 10.81% of Dealer.com websites finished in the top 3. That does mean that Dealer Inspire won by just a single website. In 3rd place was Dealer EProcess, who was in the top three of 1.35% of the cities, or just once. The bigger providers benefit by having more opportunity for sure, so any provider that has a presence is significant.
What Strategies Generated Higher Rankings
Looking at just the car dealership websites we did see some consistencies. 77.03% of the dealership websites that were the top ranking dealership website had content on the page above or below the search results. 52.70% of the websites had content just below the Search Results page, while 1.35% of dealership websites had content on just the top. 6.76% of websites had content on both the top and bottom.
Of the dealership websites that ranked in the top 3 results, 6.76% had content on the top and the bottom, and 16.22% had content on just the bottom.
The one dealership website that outranked Cars.com had content on both the top and bottom of the Search Results Page.
This would suggest that having content on your Search Results Page has a positive impact on rankings as less than 30% of the top dealer sites had no additional content on the page. The highest ranking page had just 134 words of extra content on the page, so there is minimal effort needed to get these pages to do well. The Toyota websites that ranked well had over 300 words of content.
As for title tags, 52.70% of the highest ranking dealership websites had “For Sale” in the title tag of the page that ranked highest, and all of Cars.com’s pages had “For Sale” in their title tag. This one is a double edged sword. Since the highest ranking sites almost always contained “For Sale,” with the one dealership site ranking first being the exception, including the phrase would follow along the lines of best practices. However, you will also struggle to stand out because almost all other websites will match you.
How You Can Rank Better For Used Cars
- Add content to the bottom of your used car Search Results page. This has consistently shown to have a positive impact on rankings, and we would highly recommend taking the time to construct content for each of your SRPs.
- Prioritize “Used Cars” in your title tag. The highest ranking website had “Used Cars” as the first two words in the title tag 100% of the time, including the dealership website.
- Improve your internal linking. This wasn’t covered in the analysis, but every single top ranking website, including the dealership, put a large emphasis on internal linking to the used car pages.
- Make sure your SRPs index well. Some providers block Search Results Pages from being indexed, meaning that they would almost never show up high in these results. The two providers with the most rankings use canonicals to block the majority of your search results from being indexed, with just one provider in the top three providing static URLs to compensate for the blocked crawling.
- Track your rankings. Car dealerships can definitely improve when it comes to “Used Cars City State” searches, and putting a bigger focus on those terms over the next quarter could pay off quite well. Many dealerships aren’t paying close enough attention to non-brand terms.