Illustration of cars and lorries driving around the letters SEO

SEO has increasingly become an essential for brands looking to attract new consumers (as well as reassure or add value for existing customers) but in the realms of car marketing, it needs to be a much more evolved proposition in order to support the lengthier customer journey and new consumer behaviours that exist now when it comes to buying a car.  It's also vital in understanding the nuances of how people search, the keywords and word strings that they use. 

Buying a car is a very different proposition to most purchases. It’s one of the most expensive products we ever look to buy – and as a result, we spend much more time researching and considering than we do with other products.  

Subsequently, any SEO car campaign needs to sync with our purchase behaviour (particularly in the light of our new post-pandemic shopping habits) where the consumer is looking to do much more online - only doing what they have to in the real world.

Automotive SEO and the customer journey 

New McKinsey consumer research reveals that brands and businesses need to be visible at the moments that matter in the consumer journey – and often this can be a protracted experience with the customer seeking to access relevant but differing information at various stages in their decision making.  

Car SEO for acquisition

In the first instance, consumers will consider an initial set of brands based on their brand perceptions and exposure to recent touchpoints – as a result, word of mouth, real world (or dealership) interactions and past experiences or brand perceptions help frame their initial choices.

From this stage, they move to an active evaluation stage, researching brands and products – naturally, this is where any automotive SEO needs to play an important part, ensuring the brand is visible in Google to meet their searches. 

As the consumer dives deeper into their research, other factors will come into play as they add and subtract brands from their choices. In our Automotive Report which was informed by consumer surveys as well as social media data insight, we saw that the key messaging that affect decisions include price (of course!) but also safety, fun, the environment and technology.  

This type of information is important for different types of consumers and so should have a direct affect on SEO and any automotive content marketing – as well as the content provision off site.  

For example, we know from our report that online discussions around safety not only focused on the safety of the car itself, but the dangers relating to it in regard to animals and children. And talking of pets, Google research points to the specific information consumers want when it comes to buying a car which include car seats, covers, hammocks, seat belts and steps for dogs. As Google says,

‘With every query typed into a search bar, users provide a glimpse into their considerations and intentions.’

Admittedly, this may feel trivial, but consumers want what they want.  

So, at these key moments, brands have a chance to influence consumers' decisions when it matters the most.

For example, at the time of writing, there were 90 searches a month for ‘safety rating Hyundai i10’. Who better to provide this kind of information than the brand itself? The knock-on effect, is that the brand can seek to control or at least have its say in any discussion by providing authentic, informative and relevant information.  

Of course, this isn’t the only time that car SEO and automotive content marketing is valuable – as consumers seek to become more efficient, they’re also looking to conduct related-research online too; finances and warranty information should also be part of the optimised approach for brands: consumers prefer to fill in these kind of applications online especially.  

In the various incarnations of the research phase, consumers are making decisions not only on brand but as to these specific details that are important in their lives and are seeking to draw down information that is both relevant and time efficient for them.  

Automotive SEO for retention

Marketers must learn to influence these ‘consumer-driven’ touchpoints. This is as true in the acquisition stages for a brand as it is in the retention phase.  

In the McKinsey research mentioned above, the post-purchase experience shapes the consumer’s opinion for every subsequent decision in the category they’re shopping, so the journey is an ongoing cycle.

While the automotive post-purchase experience is handled by dealerships – consumers are likely to go online for more basic needs and support that don’t necessarily warrant a time-consuming visit to the dealership. Answering users’ questions and providing information normally found in any accompanying handbook should be vital for car brands in order to build a long-term relationship with their buyers.  

In addition, post-purchase, consumers go online to conduct further research. We know from our experience with Harley-Davidson's Harley Owners Group that a key aspect of engagement is users seeking to connect with others as well as discover ideas, drives, experiences and accessories – all opportunities to upsell, cross-sell and drive loyalty. The latter is especially important when that moment of purchase comes round again.  

EVs and hybrid SEO

SEO is particularly important for EVs and hybrid where consumers are particularly looking for information to support their choices. There is a huge amount of distrust and misinformation in this space in particular.  

Data from New AutoMotive shows that over 190,000 electric vehicles (EVs) were sold in the UK last year, making up 11.65% of the new car market with 2022 looking to be another record-breaking year. 

Yet there’s still a lack of knowledge among consumers. There is distrust around the market being artificially pushed by the government, better technology existing that favours hydrogen and low carbon fuels, but most significantly that green credentials are unproven or that EVs are worse for the environment than their existing fossil fuel counterparts.

Admittedly, there is some information available on car brands’ websites about their electric vehicle credentials but often, the information provided isn’t addressing these initial barriers to entry.

There are a significant number of searches a month for the phrase ‘how environmentally-friendly are electric cars?’ in the UK. Yet not one car brand was in the top results.

With the average price of an electric car sitting around £50,000, those approximate 100 searches a month translate into a £5 million opportunity leading consumers to other sites rather than to manufacturers' or dealerships' digital presences.   

Maybe brands don’t think that they have to address the big issues but it would certainly help build consumer trust and - as we wrote above - often the consumer is looking for a range of information beyond basic warranty, basic charging details and car functionality.

We can help you with any of your SEO issues, take advantage of our FREE SEO content consultation here.

Automotive SEO: other factors

The above approaches focus on key messaging which relate to content marketing and yet, this is only one part of the picture of course. Considerations also need to be given to building links (in, out and internally) as well as technical factors.

When it comes to building links, having a good online automotive PR and outreach strategy is vital. Just like building relationships and connections with people in the 'real world, it's the same digitally. Websites benefit from connections too, so ensuring backlinks from other sites in the same sector is important,. These need to provide relevant content using keywords that are related to your site or page. Providing your own useful content to customers is one way to help improve the way that other website owner points to yours. 

When it comes to technical concerns, we've tackled these in our Beginner’s Guide to SEO and cover everything from optimising images through to the importance of an XML sitemap.

In conclusion

Like other organisations, car brands need to increasingly adopt core digital practices to compete in the digital space. SEO is a necessary part of the mix and something that is ever-evolving as consumers become more sophisticated; adept at blocking out more ‘traditional’ approaches like digital advertising and drawing down information that is relevant to them. It’s a good time for car brands to take stock.

Useful resources

Moz 
Ahrefs 
New McKinsey research

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