It’s amazing how the measurements of SEO strength have remained obscured for so long. We can’t claim pure innocence here; when showing wins for our clients or presenting during product pitches, we point to rankings from time to time as well. However, this is not a true indicator of SEO prowess in most cases.

Search engine optimization in the automotive industry is all about bringing more opportunities to the dealership in order for them to sell more vehicles. That’s it. Generating traffic through organic search that is high-quality and targeted for the dealership is the key to SEO success. It’s for this reason that some in the industry have turned away from SEO. There are even those who claim that it’s not real. In some ways, that’s a correct statement. Much of the SEO we see in our industry is not beneficial and cannot be construed as a viable marketing solution.

There’s a caveat, though. Organic search can and should help dealerships see more traffic to their website. It should help to accomplish certain goals, most importantly traffic generation, and the companies that do it best often do not focus on rankings at all. That’s not to say that moving up in the organic search rankings isn’t important. It’s to say that there are more important factors that can be applied to SEO that can move the needle more easily.

For example, getting more keywords that drive traffic is far more important than moving up a few spots in a handful of terms. People no longer use the search engines the way they once did. In many ways, they have become recommendation engines. If someone does a search for “Greensboro Hyundai”, they’re doing so because they’re in or near Greensboro and they want to find a Hyundai dealership. While moving up from #3 to #1 for that particular keyword might drive a little extra traffic, the key is to get into the top rankings for more keywords rather than focusing on getting that one individual keyword ranked higher.

This is where the recommendation engine component comes into play. There’s only one Hyundai dealership in Greensboro and most in the area probably know the dealership by name. If they want to do business with that dealership, they’ll search for it directly. When they type in “Greensboro Hyundai”, they’re doing so to get more options. They want to know if there are other Hyundai dealerships in the city itself they they might not be aware of and they want to find dealerships that are also close to Greensboro. They want choices. They want to compare. Maybe they did business in the past with the Greensboro Hyundai dealership and they don’t want to anymore. Perhaps they just left the dealership and couldn’t get a deal done, so they’re looking for someone else. Either way, getting into that search is more important than getting to the top. With the effort it takes to drive a dealership to the top of that search, more keywords could have been achieved.

Getting into the top 5 is the goal. Once enough keywords are covered, then getting them into the top 3 is the next step. For some of those keywords, the push should continue to #1, but not all of them. In most cases, getting into the recommendation “zone” of the top 3 or top 5 is enough to get traffic for that keyword. Moving to the top will get a little more traffic, but not as much as getting more relevant keywords into the top 5.

Look at your sales. Look at your leads. Look at your traffic. Your rankings are fourth on the hierarchy of SEO success indicators.