October 10, 2018
At Blueclaw we make a habit of casting our analytical gaze into different industries, interrogating data and exploring key statistics.
Recently we’ve been looking at the power of brand traffic, and in particular how popularity in branded search compares to sales data in the automotive sector.
It’s a compelling topic, but first let’s go back to basics – what is brand traffic, and why is it important?
Brand traffic refers to search engine visits triggered by a search for your brand. For many major companies, brand-related keywords represent a large proportion of the terms that they rank for.
At the most basic level, strong performance in branded search is a good sign that your brand is actively shortlisted by customers who are far down the purchase decision-making process.
In terms of conversion rate, Google has revealed that that brand-related keywords have more than double the sales conversion rates in comparison with non-brand, generic keywords.
Aside from increasing the volume of highly-qualified direct traffic from potential customers, strong brand awareness has other plus points in SEO. There’s evidence to suggest that strong brands find it easier to hang on to top keyword positions, even for non-brand-related terms.
Brand searches frequently trigger large amounts of information directly on the search engine results page.
This includes organic sitelinks (the links shown under the top organic result to internal pages on the brand site) and information about latest models and more.
Clicking on these models results in even more data being shown directly on the search engine results page, including pricing, pictures, features and the like.
The map view shows locations and dealers local to me who have been scooped up by Google as being relevant to my search.
With the correct SEO methodology, your brand or business can take up a large amount of the search engine results page – but it requires an active, brand-first approach, ensuring that on-site content and important listings and data sources such as Google MyBusiness is updated accurately to include the details of their physical locations, names, and phone numbers and so on.
Our research has shown that the brands that come out top in terms of the number of pure brand searches, are not always the brands that are top in sales. Comparing 2018 sales data with search engine traffic, we’ve seen some striking results.
Here’s a snippet from the top performers in brand sales –
Brands that represent an aspirational purchase are often high in search volume while the leader in sales is Ford – a more ‘obtainable’ brand – while being 3rd in search engine popularity.
Businesses who deal with car brands who are middle of the table of search performance are typically spending more per click on Google Ads. This indicates that dealers and leasing companies working with these marques are trying to take greater control of how they are seen in search engine results.
Our full report contains much more information – and we’re happy to share it – please click here to get your copy.
Interestingly, the top ten car models by sales once again do not correlate perfectly with search volume – though they are pretty close.
This implies that the searches which mention specific car models perhaps show greater intent to buy and that customers are using Google to research their options.
This doesn’t diminish the importance of branded search- on the contrary, we know that driving up interest in brands through conventional PR, content marketing, display advertising, social strategy and more can result in a significant waterfall effect on SEO.
That’s a much larger topic that requires its own blog post so for now I’ll point you to the full automotive industry report and move on to our top tips automotive industry marketer should focus on as their starting point.
From ensuring that your locations have their name, address, phone number, business hours, team members and related services up to date on-site and in all relevant business listings, to having a disciplined approach to gathering reviews, posting meaningful vehicle descriptions and accurate pictures – there’s a lot to cover in terms of best practice.
Google My Business is a first port of call for much of the information that Google show in the search engine results page about your business, and for automotive dealers there’s useful functionality to get very specific about the type of business that you are.
For example, if you’re an Audi dealer you can select categories to show that you are both a Car Dealers and an Audi Dealer – being specific can be advantageous, so long as you don’t risk cutting down your potential audience too much.
When it comes to managing the visual side of listings, on-site content and the like, rigour is again needed. Image searches are on the rise and (of course) automotive customers love to ogle over new models, and in the used market get a good idea of the true shape of the vehicle they’re interested in.
A disciplined approach to images is key, even if you have a high turnover of inventory. Giving meaningful names to your images, indicating the model of vehicle, the specific part of the car you’re showing and an alt tag highlighting your brand and location will help build search engine visibility, while helping customers to find the insight and visuals they need to make a confident decision to make an enquiry.
Automotive is a pretty competitive industry, with leasing firms, portals, buyer guides, dealerships, aficionado sites and brand homepages all taking up space in the search engine results page.
It’s important to target keywords that you have a realistic chance of ranking for – or improving rankings for – and building those commercial phrases into a structured on-site SEO strategy.
Finding the balance between good volume keywords at the right level of competitiveness is vital and once you do so, the task is to build your on-site content – images and all – around material relevant to these terms.
Anticipating customer questions is a great starting point. Focus on building on-site content that:
In automotive, like many industries, there can often be little to differentiate companies who sell the same type of product (in this case vehicles) often using descriptions, imagery and promotional material supplied to them by manufacturers.
Crafting quality on-site content is one way to stand out, but another important aspect is off-site SEO i.e. earning topical and authoritative links to your site.
Broadly speaking there are two type of link to consider of SEO purposes:
Authoritative Editorial Links
These links are the top tier in terms of trust. Mainstream media links, newspaper links, academic and governmental links are links earned most usually for creating genuinely newsworthy content, or because your site is a source of legitimate information of widespread general interest or value. Most marketers in the automotive and car industry don’t have the time or connections to build the relationships or create the content to win these types of links, so those that do can obtain a significant advantage that is reflected in search engine results.
These are the links that often come from traditional SEO outreach methods, or standard industry coverage in lower tier sites. This type of coverage can still be highly valuable, as it reflects well on the relevance of your site e.g. links from BMW fan sites to your BMW dealership will likely help in ranking for brand-related terms, even relative to other dealers selling the same models of car.
These links are often easier to come by as it makes sense of a car blog to link to a relevant blog (for example) on a car site, but typically the boost given is less than what (for example) a link from a a few broadsheet newspapers can pass on.
In both cases, content marketing and outreach are key to give journalists, influencers, car fans and website owners a reason to link – and the quality/depth of content and the level of blood, sweat and tears to secure a link will differ between each. Your brand has to decide what the best approach is for you based on the level of competition you face, and the internal and external marketing resources you have available to make it happen.
There’s a lot involved in automotive SEO and I’ve only touched the surface here. To hear more about our approaches in this challenging niche, to take a look at the full data set of brands battling it out for sales and search traffic…just get in touch. 🙂