Local SEO Ranking Factors for Used Car Dealers

One of the most common requests we receive from our calls is that the dealership needs to sell more used cars. This could be more in the sense of selling the used cars faster or an increase in overall volume. Either way, the intent is always going to be to improve the overall profitability of the used car department.

Increasing the revenue and profitability can be done through paid media, such as Google Vehicle Listing Ads, Google Performance Max Used Car Ads, or Facebook Automotive Inventory Ads, or through organic search. However, Organic Search is frequently overlooked when it comes to OEM car dealerships. Their Google Business Profile, Home Page, and most content is focused on the OEM, and rarely talks about used cars. Where it does talk about Used Cars it is often referring to the Used OEM terms, such as Used Ford.

What Are The Local SEO Ranking Factors

One of our biggest reference points for local seo ranking factors is definitely White Spark, who put together a comprehensive list. Now, these factors are definitely generalized because some industries, such as home services, aren’t just a brick and mortar. So, we would actually reorganize these ranking factors for car dealerships. When specifically looking at ranking in the local results for “Used Car Dealerships City State,” such as “Used Car Dealerships Long Beach California,” we would put them in this order:

  1. Physical Address in City of Search
  2. Primary GBP Category “Used Car Dealer”
  3. Completeness of Google Business Profile
  4. Proximity of Address to the Point of Search
  5. Proximity of Address to Centroid
  6. Landing Page Content Containing “Used Cars”
  7. Reviews
  8. Accurate Citations

We wouldn’t dive into the extended list of factors because of some of the factors being so benign, such as a keyword being used across the whole website, but these are the ones we most commonly associate with higher rankings.

What About Citations

Now, citations are one of the most commonly listed deliverables when it comes to search engine optimization. Everyone has their choice – Moz, Yext, Bright Local, White Spark, Etc. – and their reasons why they use them. However, what we found would suggest that the volume of citations overall isn’t much of a ranking factor.

Now, the Local Citation Finder tool in White Spark limits the number of citations it searches when doing or LCF searches, so this data is skewed away from the overall mass of citations and focused on the more common citations. The tool will look at common places like Manta, Mapquest, Cylex, Yelp and Facebook rather than any of the random directories that just buy their data from one of the big companies.

What We Found

The most important factor we found was of course having a physical location in that city. We didn’t find any occurrence where a dealership showed up in the top three listings using the Service Area part of the Google Business Profile. More rural dealerships may benefit by adding the small towns around them, but it isn’t something that we would recommend in any competitive market.

The second most important factor was having “Used Car Dealer” as the primary category. There was only a single instance where the top ranking dealership did not have “Used Car Dealer” as the primary category, and it was the only instance where an OEM dealership ranked in the top spot from our searched cities.

The third most important factor was really a combination of the rest of the factors. We came into the test with the assumption that the title tag and body content of the ranking websites was going to be a major factor, as this has been a very common tactic we have used for many years, but we found several instances of independent dealerships without websites ranking higher than OEM dealerships, and the majority of the top ranking websites did not put a heavy emphasis on keyword usage. While we do still think on page SEO is a factor, it isn’t nearly the factor we had assumed it was.

The other factor we had overemphasized with the citations. We have used tools like Bright Local, White Spark, and Moz for years with the assumption that these would have a major impact on rankings. However, the website that had the most citations, of the ones White Spark checked, ranked the highest just a single time. Meaning, volume had very little impact. The business with the highest volume of citations ranked in the top three under 30% of the time. We are writing off the Volume of Citations as a ranking factor for the time being.

What We Are Doing With This Information

The first step is going to be really evaluating the categories for the dealership. Common practice for OEM dealerships is to have the OEM as the primary category. However, that essentially seals the fate of the dealership not being able to rank well for used cars. Doing so means forgoing the ability to rank locally for this search. The discouraged practice would be to create a Google Business Profile for the used car department. We have one dealer partner we know doing this, and their GBP ranks second for their “Used Car Dealership City State” search. Again, this is discouraged as far as we are aware, so don’t take this as a direct recommendation.

The second is focusing on the completeness of specific citations. We frequently saw the top ranking websites have certain citations completed, and completed with that citation saying they were a “Used Car Dealership.” One of our next steps will be to focus on listings like Manta, which is one of the most commonly associated citations, to make sure they are 100% accurate and complete. The other major citations we would pay attention to are Bing, Apple, Yelp, Google, Mapquest, Zoom Info, Facebook, Youtube (set the location of your videos to the actual location of your dealership), Chamber of Commerce, and 3rd Party Listing Sites (Dealer Rater, Capital One, True Car, Etc.). We would also recommend making sure your aggregator listings are accurate. This would be websites like Foursquare, Nuestar, and DataAxle. Many companies buy their data from these businesses, so having these accurately means having accurate listings in most places.

The last part will still be the most we have always focused on, which is on page factors. Of the selected cities, which we let a random list of mid-market or larger cities choose and not our own clients, the one OEM store that outranked all the competing independents had very strong on-page SEO with a heavy focus on used car terms. This was one of our stores, and our home page copy frequently has a couple sections about used cars in it. We would still highly recommend this strategy for anyone. Create an h2 section about used cars with 150 words or more about used cars, and then put a common keyword for your search in your title tag as a secondary phrase.

Would We Still Recommend Citation Tools?

Absolutely we would! However, not for the same reason we’ve been using them for the past 5+ years. Prior to this testing we used them to help build and correct around 100 citations that we put at the top of our list. This is being massively trimmed back to around 20 citations, with a heavy emphasis on just 10 being perfect. Most of these 10 are listed above.

What we now recommend these tools for is updating your business information across a bunch of places at once. Update your business hours, descriptions, etc. from one central location instead of having to go into each individually. You can also use many of them to monitor your reviews across dozens of websites, so the reputation management factor is also huge.

If you want us to check your city and add it to our list, just send us a message!

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