How dealers are handling their website SEO

Everyone makes mistakes, and we can learn from them so that we never make the same one again. But why do we make mistakes that other businesses have already made? Is it that we can only learn from our own mistakes, or rather that people never pay attention to what others are going through, let alone take lessons from what they see?

You decide the answer.

In the meantime, I want to share few traditions or mistakes that I have seen clients and potential clients make with their SEO.

1. We are shifting our SEO to a full-service agency

During the last 11 years, I lost a number of clients due to them wanting one agency to manage everything for them, and my agency was an SEO specialist at the time.

The reasons my clients provided were:

  • They don’t have time to manage multiple suppliers
  • Its a lot cheaper to have one agency manage everything

Under one umbrella

I agree with the above logic, however, in each case, the client just thought about convenience comfort and how to save money, while completely ignoring the business model.

After a year or so, around 60% of those clients faced the following situations:

They got stuck: the full service agency they moved to might have offered all kinds of services, but SEO was not their main one. Due to this, it was impossible for them to achieve the expected results. By the time this was realised, however, the client was stuck – unable to move their SEO business anywhere else, due to the full service contract involved.

Of course I understand that we all want to minimise business costs, especially during financially tight times, but this should not be at the cost of losing out on effective SEO.

No agency can specialise in ten different things and offer you the results you were expecting for each one. Yes it’s more hassle to manage more than one supplier at once, but if you want to look after your business properly, look for and hire the best specialist agency you can find within each field. Then, they can help you achieve your business goals. It might be a cliché, but it’s true when they say ‘no pain, no gain’.

2. Our web agency looks after our SEO 

When I call potential businesses to see if they are interested in working with me, the most common answer that I hear is that they already have web agency that also looks after their SEO.

The reasons I get for this include:

  • It feels more secure that the agency who built our website also look after its SEO
  • As they have access to our website, its a lot easier for them to manage the SEO
  • It makes sense for our web management agency to look after SEO
  • It’s cheaper for us, or our web agency offers us cheaper SEO services

Again, I agree with most of the above reasons, but also want to ask, ‘when are you going to start thinking about your business, rather than your convenience and the quest for ever cheaper services?’

I have managed a wide range of small to big projects, with web agencies of all kinds of sizes. In doing so, I have learnt that web designers and developers have many different interests and job scopes in the project. They want to build a site that functions well, and hits all the stories within the proposal. I don’t blame them, they are simply doing their job.

In most cases SEO is overlooked most of time when web agencies build the site. It’s a common perception that SEO just slots comes in once the site goes live. In reality, SEO begins the moment you start thinking about building a site.

Just like a Sales and Marketing team depends on each other and works best when each side knows the perspective of the other, this doesn’t mean that each member can be successful in both fields. It’s the same with SEO – while its success largely depends on the work that web designer and developers do, the intricacies of SEO in action is not really part of their job.

Also even if your agency whose core business is web design/development has a separate SEO team within the organisation, they are not going to push things on their web team in the same way as your in-house SEO specialist or external SEO agency would.

I have learnt that when you have two separate agencies, one for each field, it works a lot better for the client. Both agencies need to work hard to show their performance, and to work together too.

Please note: I am not saying that a web agency can’t offer SEO but the chances are that the agency whose core business is web design/development might not be able to push SEO as much as SEO driven agency or your in-house team. So bring in more SEO specialist agency.

3. We rely on advertising in classified website(s)

The other most common answer I hear from car dealerships is that their business relies on motoring classified websites like Auto Trader, Motors, eBay motors, Gum Tree etc. and therefore does not need any extra SEO support.

The reasons I hear are;

  • Classified sites deliver most of our business
  • We get more qualified traffic from these sites
  • We are used to selling our cars through classified sites – it’s like a tradition in the car dealerships world.

Again I would not dispute these reasons, but I would say the following: until you try SEO and other online marketing for your website, how can you know what the benefits might be? Plus, advertising costs are rising in major motoring classified websites and are showing no signs of stopping anytime soon.

I hear so many car dealers complaining about the rising cost of these classified sites but they still carry on with classified sites as their only selling tool. This shows remarkable loyalty to the major motoring classified sites, but as a dealer, you have to explore various approaches to generating sales leads and open your eyes to the way the market is changing.

4. We already have SEO agency

It’s great to hear dealers say they have already hired an SEO specialist agency to look after the optimisation of their website. I am always pleased when clients understand the value of working with specialist agencies.

But when I ask them, when did you last see your agency?, the reply is, all too often, that they have never met them, or that they have not had a visit from them for over a year.

If you have never met your SEO agency or team working on your account; I would consider that the agency is not very professional. I feel much more comfortable when I meet my clients in person because it helps me build up a good working relationship. I get to know more about the client’s business, which is important for me to know to make sure our SEO campaigns help them achieve their specific business goals.

So it’s very important for you as a car dealer that you meet your agency on a regular basis and feed them all the information about what is happening in your business (e.g. deals/offers etc.). This information can help a pro-active, effective digital marketing agency a lot, especially if they are running PPC campaigns on your behalf.

I would suggest that you see your agency once a month, or if not, then every two months as a minimum. That way, you can keep an eye on them and feel confident that they’re doing a good job for you. While you may know them personally, and like them as people, you should look closely at how they work, and ask regularly to see the numbers and reports.

Seeing reports is crucial. I often hear comments such as, ‘our last ranking report was delivered four months ago’ or ‘we never get the report but we know they’re doing well as our overall site traffic is growing.’

If you’re spending money to promote your website, you must find out what impact its making. Where your money is being spent, and what it is driving back to the business.

Ask your agency to deliver reports to you every month and examine how your website is performing in terms of traffic, visibility, conversion, engagement and exactly where your money is going. Ask questions about anything that is unclear.

Regular reports and meeting with your appointed agency will ensure your money is spent in the right areas that will drive you more business in the most cost-effective way.

Similarly, you should also take note of your ROI. While the ranking your site achieves is clearly important, it means absolutely nothing if it’s not driving you traffic and business. Ranking also loses its importance if it’s not under the right keywords, or traffic converting keywords.

It’s important to look beyond ranking to determine if you are getting the right ROI. Ask your agency to deliver you a detailed report that includes (in the case of SEO) ranking, traffic and search engines traffic.

5. SEO is not our cup of tea

Some of potential clients I have talked to say that SEO doesn’t work for them. they claim that it’s spam, or that it’s too expansive. They say that they don’t use their website as a selling tool, but more as a business card.

I agree that some so-called SEO agencies and individuals have spammed so much that small businesses no longer take it seriously as a way of selling online. For small businesses, SEO has come to represent spam, and unfortunately I don’t blame them for thinking this.

However, SEO and other online marketing methods actually do work if you hire the right person and agency to co-ordinate the activity for you. If you always look for the cheapest, solutions or just use a full service agency, you will end up losing out.

SEO can be expansive if you only focus on ranking and not the quality of the leads generated. You can get the best results by hiring an agency that specialises in delivering decent leads, rather than just promising good ranking.

Finally, if you are just using your website as a business card, its not going to work for you for long. You must believe in your website and use it come out of your traditional selling mode and embrace the possibilities that a greater online presence can offer.

So, what do I recommend to my clients?

Spend time learning about SEO. I’m not asking you to become an SEO expert, but it is always a good idea to know the basics, so you can see what your agency is doing and delivering for you.

Whenever we sign up a new client, we make sure that he/she has enough understanding of what we going to deliver and what we will be doing. We provide complimentary basic SEO coaching to clients who start out with no knowledge in the subject.

We believe the more your client knows about your work, the easier it is to convince them of your worth. Once they know about SEO, they can get the best out of their chosen agency and finally take proper control of their website.

Contact us if you need more information.