By Alex Melen, Co-Founder, SmartSites

Your dealership is most likely losing out on its most valuable traffic channel: Organic! To reach more in-market shoppers, you’ll want to focus on Local SEO.

How to Reach In-Market Car Shoppers 

Search engines – specifically Google, continue to be where the vast majority of the country (and world!) start when they want to find something online. Google now averages over 6 BILLION searches per day (as can always be spot-checked via

Organic Traffic

Google Search is still the #1 tool used for new car research and the best way to reach in-market used/CPO shoppers:

Organic Traffic

Dealership Website Traffic Channels

But what makes this more interesting is when we start comparing dealership traffic channels and then overlaying the marketing spend against that.

Let’s start with the traffic first. As is no surprise (especially after the intro of the importance of Google), a study of over 155 dealerships showed that Organic Search traffic represents more than 51% of total dealership website users (it’s actually 67% when adding in paid search).

Dealership Marketing Budgets – Where to Focus Your Efforts

So, of course, you would imagine that marketing budgets would closely reflect these traffic channels, with advertisers focusing on the channels that bring in the most traffic. However, taking a deeper dive into marketing budgets, we found that Organic Search represents the smallest part of most dealerships’ marketing budget (as low as 7% in aggregate, based on our research).

That means that most dealerships are likely losing out on their most valuable traffic channel by not investing in SEO! So, let’s take a step back. What does it mean to invest in SEO? Typically, we can split Organic Search results into two buckets: 1) Google Maps (Local Pack) and 2) Local Organic. Both have different ranking signals and areas that a dealership should focus on to improve their performance.

This chart, sourced from the BrightLocal Top SEO Ranking Factors of 2021, shows where you should focus your energy:

The Most Crucial Ranking Factors

In short, once you have optimized your Google Business Profile and have focused on your reviews, the most crucial ranking factors continue to be your:

  • On-page SEO – On-page is a combination of technical on-page optimizations and the QUANTITY and QUALITY of your overall site content. Generally speaking, you should be publishing at least 10-20 pages of content each month – the content must be unique, relevant, and attract the right kind of traffic. For example, a page about how to configure your car clock might be unique and relevant but might not be attracting sales traffic.
  • Links -The second part is perhaps the most overlooked – LINK BUILDING! Links continue to be the primary way that Google determines your rankings. The more relevant and authoritative sites that link to you, the more authoritative Google considers you to be. And the content you’re creating just gives you the opportunity to come up in search results. Think of it this way – if you didn’t write that page about setting the car clock, no matter how authoritative, you wouldn’t come up in the results since you didn’t have the content for it.
Organic Search Traffic

And to wrap it all up – with Organic Search traffic continuing to be the biggest source of dealership traffic (and usually the best converting!), dealerships really need to revaluate their marketing budget distributions to better allocate money to grow their #1 traffic source.

About the Contributor

Alex Melen is an award-winning entrepreneur and keynote speaker. He is the founder of web-hosting company T35 Hosting (founded 1997) and co-founder of advertising agency SmartSites (founded 2011). SmartSites now manages over $100MM/year in advertising spend and has six offices and over 200 employees worldwide. SmartSites has been featured in the INC5000 for five consecutive years as one of the fastest-growing digital agencies. Alex has been featured in Business Week’s Top 25 Entrepreneurs, Bloomberg, Forbes, NPR, and more.

View More Content from Dealer Magazine

This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 Issue of Dealer Magazine. You can view the latest digital edition as well as past issues of Dealer Magazine here.

Author: Alissa Frey

Digital Dealer