Search engine optimization has improved dramatically in the car business over the last couple of years. More dealers are paying attention to it. More vendors are improving their automotive SEO services. Things are great… or are they?

I remember in the early days of SEO. I had just left the retail side of the industry to start working for a vendor and knew that the opportunities were ripe for better SEO. Things were bad in that the vast majority of dealers were not looking at SEO, let alone putting budget or effort towards it. I figured it would take two or three years to get things to the point that the industry embraced SEO and had an understanding to weed out the poor players in the industry.

That was eight years ago. The first part of my prediction came true, though a little later than expected. The second part still hasn’t happened.

It’s pretty simple for us to identify SEO needs for a dealer simply by looking at inventory searches. It’s not only the easiest way to tell. It’s also costing dealers money.


Third parties. We all love them. We all hate them. They are a dealership’s friend, but they’re also a dealership’s enemy. Yes, they can generate leads and exposure for a dealership, but at what cost? If they’re ranking ahead of you for searches that could generate leads and sales for you directly, wouldn’t you prefer to rank above them on Google and Bing?

Here are some of the reasons that allowing third-party sites to outrank you for inventory searches is costing you money:

  • You pay them. That’s fine as long as they’re delivering, right? Actually, it’s not that simple. A good chunk of the leads you buy from them were generated because the consumer didn’t give the lead directly to you. In essence, they are taking their middleman fee because they’re marketing better than you are to those customers.
  • If they’re on top, you’re lower and getting less traffic to your own site. It’s been proven that website visitors and leads are much more likely to buy a car from you than third party traffic and leads. If you can get them to your website, you’re much more likely to get them to buy a car than if they’re on third party sites that rank better than you.
  • They aren’t just serving you. They’re serving multiple dealers in your market. On your website, you’re showing your inventory. If a customer fills out a lead form, it goes to you and you alone. On third party sites, they can see several inventories. What’s worse is that many third party sites will sell leads generated from your listings to other parties, the OEM, and even other local dealers.
  • They are ahead of the search technology game. This is very clear to those who have been watching. There was a time not too long ago when third parties relied on PPC to get traffic. They learned very quickly (just as many dealers are learning today) that the ROI on PPC is much lower than the ROI on strong SEO. They invested the money and now they’re at the top for many of these important searches. Most dealers are still using the old mentality. They’ll spend thousands of dollars a month on PPC and think they’re doing okay with a $599 SEO package.

I am not suggesting that you drop third parties. All I’m saying is that you should make them work harder for the value they’re bringing rather than allowing them to take your customers and sell them back to you.

Do a search similar to the one listed in the article Are you at the top in your own city for your own cars? If not, you should let us show you how we can get you there and stop the bleeding.