When trying to market anything, the first word you’re going to hear is probably “SEO”. It goes with the territory in our online-focused economy: have a website, obsess over SEO best practices.
Yes, even when you run a dealership.
According to a 2016 report released by Autotrader, only about half of customers find dealerships via walk-ins, so that means that you need to make your website stand out. Sometimes, this can be as easy as fixing up your page titles to maximize your search rankings.
Here are a few things you should know to optimize your automotive SEO and get the best results, not just for your search rankings, but for potential dealership traffic in the long run.
Title Tags: Why do they Matter?
The Title Tag (or Page Title; both are used interchangeably) is an HTML element that lists the title of the page. This is not only what will be shown on the browser tab for your website, but it’s extremely important for Search Engine ranking metrics.
In HTML, it’s going to look like this:
Say, for example, that you’re going to look up a particular website, and you type in the search on Google. The titles that you see listed are not based on the URL or on the heading tags, but on the Title tag. This is the first thing that most end-users are going to see, and it’s definitely the first thing that the search engines see.
Needless to say, your title’s effectiveness has an impact on whether or not people click the link when they see it on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)s.
How Long should your page title be?
This is a bit complicated.
On one hand, there is no set character limit here. This is because page titles aren’t limited by characters, per se, but by how many pixels they take up when they display on a screen. As a rule, they have a 600-pixel hard limit, but how they’re displayed (size, font, etc) varies depending on the search engine.
Because of this, it’s good to use Google as a baseline.
When showing search results, Google displays roughly the first 50 to 60 characters of a title tag. According to Moz, if you keep your titles under 60 characters, you can expect around 90 percent of your titles to display the way you want them to.
What are some good rules of thumb? (IE: SEO Best Practices)
SEO best practices are a bit of an art form in and of themselves – they require a bit of a balancing act to get right and may take a few tries before you get down. First and foremost, though, Meta titles should help the potential visitor understand what your page is all about.
Here are some rules of thumb:
Have a unique title for each page. If you name multiple pages the same thing and repeat them throughout your site, that can get confusing not only for users trying to navigate your pages but for users trying to find specific information on a SERP.
Make your titles easy for users to read. This can work in several ways. There are some common-sense guidelines, such as:
- Avoid writing titles in all-caps
- Make sure there are no typos
- Make sure to use relevant keywords
Then there are the more structural guidelines, which amount to making sure your titles are straight-forward, to the point, and won’t confuse the end-user. Such as:
- Make sure your title gets to the heart of what you’re selling
- Avoid jargon or technical terms for your keywords
- Make sure your keywords are easy to understand
Speaking of keywords…
Don’t overdo it on the keywords. I know it can be tempting to cram as many keywords in there as possible to try to maximize visibility on search engines. Doing this can make it a bit frustrating for the end-user, though. That, and if the title has too many keywords, it can end up being ignored by search engines, and won’t show up on a SERP, even when the user is doing a relevant search.
Instead, try this format:
Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand or Business Name
So, say that you’re a Honda dealer, and you want to rewrite the title for one of your webpages promoting an oil change coupon in a Denver location. You can write it like this:
Honda Oil Change Coupon – Denver Oil Change Special | Mile High Honda
It follows all of the suggestions listed above: It’s a unique title, it’s clear and readable, and it doesn’t overdo it on the keywords.
Still, while it’s workable, there’s always room for improvement.
Using Creativity to increase user click-throughs
Sometimes being functional isn’t enough. You need to have your title stand out from the rest of the pack potentially offering the same thing on the SERP. How do you do that?
Well, you get creative.
There are a few ways you can do this, which include:
Inject creative copy to increase clicks. This isn’t necessarily “Clickbait”, which is a bit of a dirty word outside of the marketing space. Rather, include some extra copy on top of your keywords (if able – please keep your spacing in mind) in order to make it read better and feel less…well, sterile.
You can do this by adding some action or descriptive verbs to your title, such as:
You can also give a sense of urgency to your title. Say, for example, that you want to advertise a special sale in your title that’s only going on for a short time, and you want to bring viewers in with the good ol’ Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) effect. In that case, you may want to highlight that in your title.
You could use words or phrases like:
- Limited Time
- This month’s specials
- Special Offer
Informing the potential viewer – that is, giving them specific information that is pertinent to your services or specific to your brand – is also a good way to increase traffic through your title. You can give them detailed insights into your product or use the limited space to give them information about what they’re looking for.
In the same vein, you can appeal to authority. Sometimes, it isn’t enough to simply be a good dealership. Is your brand known for something? Can you give your on-brand guarantee? Can you promise the potential viewer something that can give them the confidence to click into your site?
You can use words and phrases like these (like the earlier example, let’s say we’re writing for a Honda dealership):
- Genuine Honda Parts
Another way to improve your title is by using special characters to make it stand out. So, for example, instead of using the format like before:
Keyword – Keyword | Business
We could use:
Keyword – Keyword – // Business
Keyword – Keyword [Business]
Here’s a good list of symbols you can use in your titles:
So, let’s revisit that earlier example. With this current information, we can rewrite it to sound a little better.
$39.95 Honda Oil Change – FREE Inspection w/Service \\ Mile High Honda Denver, Co
Notice that it incorporates all of the elements mentioned earlier. It includes some information for the potential visitor, it gives a sense of urgency, it has a clear flow and reads well, and it has action words to make it feel less sterile.
For this situation, this is a good page title.
That said, this doesn’t work every time, though. You have to think about what kind of page you’re making a title for. Department pages, for example, would be a bit more static and professional. Such as:
Honda Service Maintenance & Repair Department
It’s professional, clean, and describes what it is perfectly. If the user is looking for that specific department, they’re going to want it plain and simple like this. This does the job nicely, without being too lean or over fluffed.
Knowing what you’re writing for is just as important as what you’re writing, and taking context into account is a great way to get you on the right track to use the SEO best practices and get your site out there.
Checking the Keyword Rankings from Title Changes
When you change your title, you’re going to want to see how it looks in the rankings. Using Google Search Console, there’s an easy way to do this:
- Log in to GSC
- Go to “Performance”
- Click on the “Pages” tab
- Find the page you want to check; click on it.
- Click the “Queries” sub-tab
Congratulations, you now have a list of the queries at the page level, so you can gauge the impact of their rankings and CTR over time. Make sure to take this data and build it into your ongoing SEO reporting, just so you can keep track of the impact of what you’re doing overtime.
This, admittedly, isn’t a foolproof formula. There’s always some room for error, and sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want. But this template – along with some operative keyword research – goes a long way in getting both the rankings you want and the clicks you need.
Page titles are one of the last few “quick wins” left in SEO. Managing title tags are often overlooked by SEOs because of the man-hours it takes to get them done.
Building a formal process to help you write them at scale is critical – take this post and share it with your team or SEO lead to make sure they’re executing this as a part of your overall SEO strategy.