4 tactics to stay ahead of your competition in search results
By Colleen Malloy
The face of search has changed drastically over the past year, and we can expect to see it change even more over the course of 2017. Google is putting more emphasis than ever on providing the best results for searchers looking for local products and businesses. The search engine giant is looking for specific signals from your dealership’s online presence to decide when to show shoppers your website, and if you’re not living up to its standards, the chances are slim that shoppers will find your dealership when they search for outdoor power equipment in your area.
Today, Google decides where your website should appear in search results based on its trust that your dealership is the best resource for shoppers looking for outdoor power equipment. It looks at overall customer experience, not just onsite search engine optimization (SEO). Google looks at a wide variety of signals from your online presence to determine if your business provides the best possible answer to the searcher’s query.
You can stay ahead of the competition by using the following four tactics to optimize your local search presence.
#1 Keep your business information up to date
Google looks for your name, address and phone number across the Internet, and having inconsistent information can have a negative impact on your dealership. Not only does having inconsistent information hurt your local search rank, but it also increases the chance that you lose out on a sale because a shopper couldn’t get in touch with you. Making sure that your dealership information is accurate on your website and any third-party directory listings only takes a small amount of time each month, and it can help ensure that you don’t lose out on sales due to a wrong digit in your address or phone number.
The first step in keeping your information up to date is rounding up all of the places your dealership information lives online. Doing a search for your dealership name on Google is a good way to dig up any listings that may have popped up without your knowledge. Make a list of the websites that your dealership is present on, and claim any unclaimed listings — this puts control of the listing in your hands. One platform that you should make sure you’re listed on is Google My Business; it sends strong signals to Google and displays a wealth of information about your business right on the search results page. If you’re not already listed on Google My Business, be sure to set up a listing there.
Once you have a handle on your online presence, audit all of your listings to make sure that they contain the correct information. Make any necessary updates, then mark your calendar a month out to return and check them all again. If any of your contact information changes, be sure to update all of the locations where your information lives to ensure that shoppers are always able to get ahold of you!
If keeping all of your information up to date across the Internet seems like a daunting task, tools like ARI’s Premium Directory Management can help you manage your listings without adding extra time to your day.
#2 Foster customer reviews
The experience your customers have with your dealership can have a big impact on where you rank in local search results. Google looks at what people are saying about your dealership online to determine where — or if — to show your website to searchers looking for a new lawn mower or snow blower repair in your area. It wants to send shoppers to highly rated businesses, because it trusts that they’ll provide a great experience.
It might seem tempting to have your employees post false reviews to boost your rating, but Google is smart enough to know when someone is trying to trick it. Instead, encourage your shoppers to leave reviews by posting signs in your store directing them to your preferred review platform (Google My Business is a great place to point them) to let you know how their experience was. Post your signs in high-traffic areas, like your store entrance and by your point-of-sale and waiting areas, to ensure shoppers see them, and have your sales and service teams remind them to review you as well.
Once you start generating customer reviews, develop a plan for responding to them. Responding to reviews — the good and the bad — shows customers that you care about their thoughts and take their concerns seriously. For positive reviews, a simple “Thank you” is enough. For bad reviews, don’t give into the temptation to respond negatively! Instead, offer a sincere apology and offer to resolve the situation. Then, take the conversation offline by giving the shopper a phone number to call to speak to someone about his or her issue.
#3 Establish yourself with strong links
Another factor that Google looks at when determining your local search rank is your prominence in your community. The search engine looks for clear signs that you’re well established in your community, and building links on your website with other local organizations is an easy way to show it.
On your “About Us” page (or another page that makes sense for your website) include links to local businesses or organizations like your Chamber of Commerce, programs you sponsor (like community sports teams or charities) or businesses you partner with. Then, ask these organizations to link back to you from their own websites. This link building shows Google that you’re an important part of your community and can help you appear in more searches in your area.
#4 Make your website a strong resource for shoppers
Plugging your website full of keywords to get found on search doesn’t do the trick anymore. Instead, focus on the experience that you’re giving online shoppers to show Google that you’re the best fit for local searchers’ OPE needs.
Not sure if your website experience is up to snuff? Ask yourself the following questions about your website:
- Is it easy to navigate?
- Does it answer common customer questions?
- Is it easy to find popular products or search for specific inventory?
- Can customers find information on service or book appointments?
- Can shoppers find sales and promotions easily?
- Is the contact information easy to find?
If your answer to any of these questions was “no,” it might be time to make some updates. Many of your customers are looking online to learn about products before they set foot in your store, so your website should make it easy for customers to find the information they need about the products you sell and the services you offer. If it doesn’t, chances are they’ll get frustrated and go back to the search results to find the next dealer on the list.
The search landscape is changing, and it’s important to change your strategy to match. Hanging on to old SEO tactics can get you buried on the search results page. Stay ahead of the competition by optimizing your online presence for local search today!
Colleen Malloy is the director of marketing at ARI Network Services. Prior to joining ARI in November 2013, Malloy served as the editor of Motorcycle and Powersports News. She is dedicated to the mission of helping dealers improve their operations through the implementation of ever-evolving best practices paired with ARI’s suite of award-winning data-driven software tools and marketing services that help dealers “Sell More Stuff!” — online and in-store. ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine, RV, automotive tire and wheel, and white goods industries. More than 22,000 equipment dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website (www.arinet.com) and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!”