Learn SEO best practices in automotive from those that do it well

SEO best practices

For any automotive OEM out there, attracting an audience is one of the most important factors in achieving success. After all, even if a business has great content and exciting offers that appeal to its target audience, none of that will matter if nobody can find the website in the first place.

In order to properly leverage your digital presence and the experience it provides, it’s essential to have a strategy for search engine optimization (SEO). Setting up your web pages and constructing your content properly will go a long way towards bringing customers to your online doorstep, which will in turn lead to more sales.

But how do you decide on and execute an automotive SEO strategy?

Fortunately, we don’t need to come up with an approach from scratch. Instead, we can look to some industry leaders for examples of best practices that can be emulated.

Cazoo goes one step further

Cazoo is a UK online car retailer founded in 2018. As such, the company has necessarily placed a great degree of emphasis on attracting digital customers to its website.

One particular approach that has seen a great deal of success is optimising their web pages for keywords that are extended to be slightly more focused. For instance, rather than focusing on the phrase, “Mercedes A Class,” Cazoo structures its website and content around the keyword, “Mercedes A Class for sale.” This not only gives the company higher positioning in search engines, but also helps attract a more purchase-ready audience in search for models of particular interest to them.

However, Cazoo does not pull only one lever when it comes to driving car sales. In addition to the company’s keyword optimization, its website has been outfitted in order to inspire engagement once the audience makes it there. Cazoo has set up a marketplace of cars that displays every model in the company’s inventory.

Cazoo UK’s homepage

Source: Featured cars from Cazoo UK’s homepage

This location offers the opportunity to begin the shopping journey online and provides potential customers with a clear way to make contact with representatives. Every model featured there includes relevant content as well as an FAQ so that car shoppers can easily get key information online. But these questions and their answers in fact pull double duty in terms of driving sales, as they are also optimised for search engines as well. This means that whenever someone enters one of these common questions into Google, Cazoo pops up at or near the top of the results.

By digitising its stock and ensuring that its website is constructed strategically to attract and engage potential customers, Cazoo has created a model online experience and an automotive SEO strategy that can - and probably should - be widely replicated.

Cinch focuses on specialisation

Not every automotive OEM or retailer will have an established reputation to rely on for a steady audience. For those businesses that are either new or niche enough, a different strategy must be used, meaning we have to choose a different model for success.

Cinch is another online car retailer based in the UK. However, with fewer backlinks and less established awareness about the brand than Cazoo, this business has had to find a different way to attract customers. To do so, Cinch has specialised their SEO strategy.

Rather than trying to compete directly with bigger and better known competitors, the organisation has instead optimised its website based on niche keywords. While these get searched less by shoppers, this sort of specialisation means that Cinch will shoot to the top of search results for customers who have more specific interests. Some examples of content that the company has published with this purpose are:

Cinch article explaining the logistics of electric cars

Source: A Cinch article explaining the logistics of electric cars

However, just like Cazoo, Cinch has a multi-layered SEO strategy. The business does not focus exclusively on a small set of keywords. Instead, every page on the company’s website is typically optimised for up to 100 keywords, though in some cases the business targets even more. By doing so, Cinch casts a wider net for potential customers, ensuring a higher rate of traffic than with a more limited approach.

With guides and other valuable content aimed at specific interest groups, Cinch has found a way to punch above its weight and compete with companies that enjoy more brand recognition. This makes the company a great example of an alternate approach to SEO for the automation industry that other businesses can use as a model.

Autotrader finds a middle ground

Of course, your approach to SEO does not need to commit to one end of the spectrum or the other. Rather than taking a specialised approach, an automotive OEM can create content intended to draw and support a broader audience, especially when name recognition is already high.

As the biggest OEM in the UK, Autotrader has the unique luxury of being well-known enough to reach just such a wide audience. However, competitors such as Cazoo are constantly threatening to change the market, which means that Autotrader can never get complacent. To maintain its leading position, the company has designed its own version of an SEO strategy fit to its particular situation.

Because of its prominence, Autotrader targets mainstream keywords that represent the most common searches for prospective car buyers, such as “electric cars for sale.” The company has then optimised the various pages of its website around those keywords so that, returning to our example, anyone looking to buy an electric car who clicks on an Autotrader link will find a marketplace listing the various relevant models for sale.

Autotrader marketplace page for electric cars

Source: The Autotrader marketplace page for electric cars

These listings also include snippets about each model and key information, all of which helps convert leads into sales. Finally, Autotrader has added common questions for each model. Every time a new car enters the company’s stock, it is added automatically into the marketplace with all of this information included.

In this way, Autotrader has charted a course that shares connections to both Cazoo and Cinch, enabling the company to appeal to both general and more specialised shoppers.

Targeting branded keywords

Speaking of large, well-known companies, there’s another major opportunity waiting out there for opportunistic OEMs when it comes to well-known brands.

Many large manufacturers rely on name recognition and brand knowledge to draw customers to their websites. In some cases, however, the pages shoppers find are not properly optimised to receive potential buyers and convert that traffic into actual sales. Whether the searched model isn’t actually present or key information is not positioned for shoppers to read, these companies do not always supply the ideal digital experience.

So, how do you take advantage?

If these manufacturers aren’t optimising their pages properly, then that gives your business a window to focus on branded keywords. With a more focused page that is properly designed to attract and engage an audience, you can draw customers that would have otherwise looked to the manufacturer for a new or used car. This is an untapped group that your business can access with the right approach to increase traffic.

Major lessons

Now that we’ve gone through these three distinct examples of automotive SEO strategies, what are the key elements to keep in mind when trying to build your own approach?

Research and target keywords

Cazoo, Cinch, and Autotrader have based their SEO approaches on a thorough knowledge of the keywords their audience is most likely to search. Knowing exactly what questions or phrases your potential customers will use when looking for an automotive retailer will guide the optimization of your web pages. Find the keywords that fit your organisation and its chosen approach, and remember that you can target a large number of keywords with every page.

Create a well-structured website

Each of our examples made it a priority to build an engaging website populated with high-quality media and pictures. Each of your web pages must be easy to navigate and should include common questions, which will provide your audience with answers in advance and appeal to search engines.

Build an online marketplace

Once you’ve built your web pages and established the keywords, Cazoo and Autotrader have shown us the value of an online marketplace when it comes to encouraging customers to begin shopping. To do so, digitise your inventory and make sure that new stock is added automatically. Every model should be supported by details, snippets, and an FAQ section, all of which further optimise the page for search engines and keep potential customers on your website.

Create a strategy of your own

Here, we’ve presented three examples of successful SEO models that you can use as models to develop your own strategy. Regardless of your situation, always remember that you’re not alone in trying to improve your SEO approach and that there are other businesses you can learn from rather than building everything from scratch.

Of course, there’s even more you can do, such as testing your website with a tool like ahrefs or Semrush to ensure that the pages load quickly. You should also ask other entities to link to your page when they reference your organisation.

Proper search engine optimization is one of the most critical factors in determining the success of your business, so make sure to take advantage of every resource and best practice out there when determining your strategy.

At Reffine, we’ve devoted a lot of time and effort to this topic so that we can offer some guidance and help you get your strategy off the ground. For those of you who want some more information, consider watching this webinar recording, in which Tom Winter, the Chief Growth Officer at Reffine, breaks down examples of best practices in detail and what you can learn from them. And as always, feel free to reach out to us directly to learn more about your options.