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An Intro to SEO & SEM for Dealerships

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

If you’re involved with the car industry in any way then you will have likely heard the terms SEM, SEO, and ROI strung into the same sentence. If you are an owner or GM, you probably most often hear it from your internet/marketing manager. Focusing on SEM may seem like a good solution to increasing sales and stopping the OEMs from breathing down your neck. But is that always the case? In this article series, we are going to discuss why you should take advantage of both SEO and SEM, how to take action for your dealerships needs, and how to sustain this plan within your budget. We will also layout how to avoid common pitfalls and create a clear and actionable outline of your goals.

First, let's quickly define the main terms we’ll be discussing.

SEM: Search engine marketing is the practice of marketing through paid ads that appear on search engine results pages. If SEM is done right, you have the opportunity to edge out your competition by utilizing keywords to market to your target audience. It gives you that extra bit of help to get found on search results. (It also includes display marketing on Facebook, Instagram, Facebook’s Audience Network, and Google’s Partner Network.)

SEO: Search engine optimization is the process of improving your site to increase visibility in organic searches. This means if your site is relevant, well-built, and meets several criteria, it will naturally appear first in some keyword search results without having to pay.

At first glance, it would seem that investing in both would take up too much time and money, which we all have a shortage of these days. It’s important to recognize though that both SEM and SEO can work together to qualify your leads through your sales and marketing funnels. This will help you present the same unified message to your customers across all possible channels. Many dealerships do not have this clear unified message. Now you may be saying “My dealership is different, we have it together, unlike our competition.” And that very well may be true, there are some dealerships who are crushing it. If that’s you, then give yourself a hi-five!

But just consider this, have you personally ever been through the process of buying a car at your dealership? Do you know for sure that you are clearly leading your customers through your funnel?

Leading your customer through your funnel is like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs in the forest. If your breadcrumbs are all over the place, how is your customer supposed to find you? Ensuring that your breadcrumbs, the SEO, and SEM elements, lead your customers to well-trained dealership representatives, will help customers clearly see who you are, and buy from you with confidence. They will also be able to do this with as little effort as possible so they don’t get lost in the forest of your competition. So let’s walk through this forest with a potential customer of yours. Joe lives in your city and is looking for a Used Toyota Tacoma. This is his first day of searching so he types into Google “Used Toyota Tacoma in your city”. What’s the first thing he sees when he enters the forest? Joe should see your first breadcrumbs, several paid ads (SEM) for used Tacomas.

If he looked up your dealership he should also see your Google My Business profile, which has a clear mission statement, updated photos, and current contact information (there are some more crumbs). Now Joe is not only aware of your dealership and has access to your inventory, but he also knows where to go to gain the knowledge and trust needed to purchase a vehicle from you. Are your crumbs in order? Will Joe be able to find you?

Why not try it out? Open an incognito tab on your browser and search for your dealership, see if you can follow the crumbs you have laid out for your customers.

Working on both SEO and SEM does not necessarily mean you will need to significantly increase your marketing budget. And as we’ve discussed, using both to clearly outline your customer’s path can do wonders for your conversion rates and in the long run your ROI. So how can you make the most of your current budget to work smarter not harder? The following articles will discuss how to create an actionable plan for success and where to best place those SEO and SEM breadcrumbs so that they lead your customers right to your doorstep.

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