The term search engine optimisation hadn’t been dreamed up in the days when many current dealer senior management began their careers.
Search has become so deeply ingrained into the daily behaviour of consumers and marketing professionals that it’s hard to believe Google itself is not even 12 years old.
Today, Google is used for 80% of online searches and SEO should be one of the key focuses of any motor retailer’s marketing strategy.
It’s the art of ensuring dealers’ websites, offers and marketing campaigns reach their target audience using the internet.
One problem is, dealers tend to compete against each other for the same search results.
Pay-per-click, where dealers bid for placement in search listings for specific terms relevant to their business and pay when a customer clicks on its listing, is becoming increasingly costly as a result of competition.
SEO focuses on organic results, not paid for. To further challenge motor retailers, the focus of SEO is steadily evolving, just like other internet trends.
The basics of search – pay-per-click and search engine optimisation – still hold true, but social media and mobile browsing bring new layers of complexity.
Before long, SEO will not be enough to secure high-ranking search results. The amount of approval a dealer or carmaker wins on social media will also be a crucial factor.
Search used to be relatively simple. The underlying principle has remained constant.
The more people link to a website’s content – an indicator of how useful it is - the further it will be pushed towards the top of search results.
With the rise of social media, however, people are increasingly discovering content through networks such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Soon internet users will be able to ‘like’ or recommend web pages they find useful, interesting or informative, and SEO will take that into account.
Google is already piloting its Google+ social media platform and Microsoft plans to add social search to its Bing search engine in the UK.
The implication for dealers is clear – those which produce content that is liked will feature higher in search results for individuals and their circle of friends and contacts.
And people’s comments about dealers will impact on their search performance.
Microsoft group search manager Colm Bracken said ‘going social’ is the biggest change search has seen. “Search was about algorithms, but now it will also be about someone’s ’sociograph’.”
He says this will make search more relevant. Seeing a deal on a site that has been highly rated by a lot of people is not always as useful as knowing what their friends like because they know whether or not they are likely to agree with them.
Bracken said: “I can see natural search becoming all about branding, where results are improved by people liking what you are doing in social media and recommending your content, at the same time as paid-for search will be about tactical marketing.”
A suggestion is that carmakers will require online communications that entertain people, as a result of which content will be shared and ‘liked’ and pushed up natural search results.
A study by Searchmetrics led to their recommendation that video and picture content is vital in helping companies stand out in search results.
Text was seen as less useful, although keywords remain important.