Car Dealership

Top Car Dealer SEO Strategies You Need to Know in 2024

houseTrevor Dove, CEO May 8, 2024

How do you pull off car dealer SEO the right way?

In this guide, I'll reveal the SEO strategies that nearly all of the world's most profitable car dealerships use to capture new leads from Google Search.

We're going to cover:

  • Why SEO is Crucial for Every Car Dealer
  • How to Execute Keyword Research for Car Dealerships
  • Mastering Local SEO to Dominate Your Market
  • Effective Link Building Tactics That Bring Real Results

And a lot more. Let’s get started!

Why Is SEO for Car Dealerships Important?

Every month, more than 1.8 million Google searches are made by people looking to buy cars. The top search - "Car Dealerships Near Me" is searched over 171k times per month.

Ahrefs keyword list

These are people you can't reach no matter how many Facebook or Instagram posts you make. The only way to reach them is by having a proper SEO strategy.

All the best car dealerships know this and it shows. Let's take Southway Ford in San Antonio for example.

They're killing it on Google.

As of today, they rank for 3,029 keywords.

That means there are more than 3,000 different things you could search to find them on Google. Here are some of the keywords they rank for:

  1. Ford Dealership near me - Over 109,000 monthly Google searches
  2. Car Dealerships - More than 54,000 monthly Google searches
  3. 2024 Ford Bronco Raptor - 28,100 monthly Google searches

These are some of the best SEO keywords for car dealerships.

So how do they do it?

What's Car Dealer SEO?

Car dealer SEO is how you get to the front page of Google by targeting the right keywords potential customers are searching online. The more targeted your keywords, the more likely your website visitors are to buy.

This is the core of SEO and it's how you make money online.

Google currently uses hundreds of factors to figure out which sites should be shown and which shouldn't.

This is why car dealership SEO can be so tough. It takes lots of knowledge and expertise to do it right.

But here's the thing:

Even if you want to hire out your SEO, you'll still need to know the differences between good and bad SEO practices. The last thing you want is to waste your money on agencies that can't actually help.

Why is SEO Important for Car Dealerships?

Most dealerships already have their salesmen post on social media to some attention online. But Facebook posting and dancing on TikTok just doesn't cut it if you're looking to be the best in your city.

But why not?

The reason is that we don't go on social media to buy cars. Most of the time, we're just looking to relax or catch up with family.

Now compare that with someone who just searched "Car dealerships near me".

The beauty of car dealership SEO is that you can target people who are looking to buy a car right. Not 6 months down, they're looking for a car right now.

The best part is that car dealership SEO is not competitive at all. Even a small player could become number one in a big city. The key is having a game plan and sticking to it.

Keyword Research for Car Dealerships

The most important thing to do is keyword research. We want to find out what people are searching so we can rank for it on Google Maps and Google Search. If you want to run ads, you can use these keywords for that as well.

If you play your cards right, your SEO efforts will get you to the front page of Google.

You'll be the #1 in Google Ads for car dealers:

Car dealer Google Ads

You'll be #1 on Google Maps

Car dealer Google Maps

And you'll be #1 on Google Search:

Car dealership google search

You'll be able to dominate the local search rankings, meaning more money for the dealership every month. Instead of having to reach out to customers, they come flocking to you.

But here's something to keep in mind:

Google Search is not the whole picture. Go ahead and look up "car dealerships near me". Before you even got to the main Google Search results, you were likely shown a Search ad and some Google Maps listings.

These are the first things your customers will see no matter how high you rank on Google Search, so good SEO means getting ranked on all 3.

Doing Keyword Research for Your Car Dealership Website

So I'm a web developer. I've built lots of sites and have gotten a chance to see what works and what doesn't.

I've never seen a website get to the front page of Google without good keyword research.

Not a single time.

So How Do You Do Keyword Research Anyway?

Before you begin, you'll need something to research keywords with. There are some great websites out there like SEMrush, Google Keyword Planner, and Moz Pro, but at Sparrow Group, we use Ahrefs.

If you're not looking to spend money on Ahrefs, here's a link to Google Keyword Planner. It should be enough to get you started:

Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner

Here's how we'd use Ahrefs to do keyword research for car dealers:

(Note: The other websites I mentioned are pretty similar, so you should be able to follow along on any of them.)

First, we head over to the Keyword Explorer page. Then we put in a few keywords we think people might be searching.

Ahrefs Keyword Explorer

For car dealerships, the list might look something like this:

  1. Car dealerships
  2. Car dealers
  3. Car dealerships near me
  4. Car dealers near me

That's a shortened version. When you're doing this yourself, you'll want to shoot for a list of 10-20 keywords / key phrases. Then we click the search button.

From here, you'll be able to see how many people are searching your keywords and how hard they'll be to rank for. When you're just starting out, you want to be aiming for low-difficulty keywords with lots of searches.

It only took me 5 minutes to find some gems like:

1. Used Cars Near Me

  • Search Intent: Purchase
  • Volume & KD: 230,000 searches per month, KD of 11/100
  • Why It's Chosen: 230,000 monthly searches is massive and an 11/100 difficulty score is still low enough for small players to rank for.
Ahrefs Data for 'Used cars near me'

2. Buy Here Pay Here

  • Search Intent: Purchase
  • Volume & KD: 53,000 searches, KD of 12/100
  • Why It's Chosen: Just like the others, it has low-difficulty and high volume.
Ahrefs data for 'Buy here pay here'

3. Car Dealerships

  • Search Intent: Purchase & Information
  • Volume & KD: 54,000 monthly searches, KD (Keyword Difficulty) of 11/100
  • Why It's Chosen: This is a real outlier. To put this into perspective, "car dealership" without the "s" at the end has a difficulty of 90/100 and only half the search volume.
Ahrefs data for 'Car dealerships'

Best Car Dealership Keywords to Rank For

Now, the best keywords are actually going to be ones related to your city. Here are some good ideas that have worked well across the country:

car dealer + [CITY]
used cars [CITY]
certified pre-owned + [CITY]
new cars + [CITY]
auto financing + [CITY]
car repair + [CITY]
auto service + [CITY]
oil change + [CITY]
car trade-in + [CITY]
vehicle inspection + [CITY]
car loans + [CITY]
luxury cars + [CITY]

If you look these keywords up for your city, you might wonder why these are better. Most of these have lower search volume. The reason is twofold:

  1. For the most part, you can only sell to people in your area.
  2. They're usually easier to rank for.

The idea is to get in front of qualified buyers, not just anybody. If someone's a thousand miles away, it won't make sense to market to them.

Optimize Your Car Dealership Website for SEO

Alright, you've got some keywords you want to rank for in your city, now what?

Well, there are two ways you can rank for these keywords. If you want to rank #1 and hit the front page of Google, you'll need both.

The first is easy enough: Update your website to include your keywords. The key to this is making sure everything flows naturally and doesn't sound clunky. You want your keyword to appear once in every 50-100 words.

But keep this in mind:

Google doesn't rank websites. Google ranks individual web pages. That means you don't want to have multiple pages targeting the same keywords because they end up competing with each other. We call this "keyword cannibalization" and it's a huge mistake.

So have a list of 2-5 keywords you'd like each page to rank for on Google and then rewrite your content to include them. But the main pages on your website will only get you so far. You'll need more firepower to win the SEO game.

The solution? Write a blog.

Sparrow Group's blog

Don't worry, you won't have to talk about your feelings. We write blog posts so that we can get ranked higher on Google.

Think about it like this:

Most car dealerships will have a website with 5 pages. Usually, it'll go something like this:

  • Home
  • Inventory
  • About
  • Service
  • Contact

This means you've got 5 places users can get to your site.

Now think about a blog.

Every post is an opportunity to score new keywords. If you wrote a blog post every week for a year, your website would grow from 5 to 57 pages. You're multiplying your online presence by a factor of 10.

But a blog does a couple of other great things, like:

  • Establishes you as trustworthy and credible
  • Helps keep your customers in the know
  • Keeps users coming back to your website more than once

It's a lot like having a service bay as part of your dealership. Most big car dealerships are losing money on maintenance like oil changes and tire rotations, but they do it because it keeps people coming back.

Mechanic shop

The good news is that, unlike a service bay, blogs don't require you to set thousands of dollars on fire to retain customers.

In fact, you can do it for free.

So, how do you write good SEO creative content anyway?

How to Put Out Great Car Dealership Content

1. Don't Hire Cheap Writers

I'll start this by saying there are expert writers you can pay to write your content for you. Some of them even do it pretty cheap.

Here's the deal:

If you hire someone to write your articles for you, they'll need to understand your business very well.

Remember how I said I've seen what works and what doesn't?

Hiring cheap outsiders to write about your industry doesn't work. Plain and simple.

I've seen people in the auto industry try this and it flat-out backfires every time. It takes years to understand the auto industry and there are too many things an outsider won't understand.

You can even run the experiment yourself. Pay someone $100 to write a blog for your company. For $100, you should get something halfway decent, right?

Not a chance.

Think about it from the reader's perspective. If you were in their shoes, would you read an article from someone who's not an expert on the topic? Someone who knows no more than you?

Time and time again, I've seen this happen. I get it, I don't think I've met a car dealer who writes blogs for fun.

It's work, but those extra steps are what separate the top players from the rest.

And compared to dealing with heat cases and the normal snafus of running a dealership, it's a pretty relaxed gig.

I mean, don't get me wrong:

It's possible to hire someone out and have them do a good job, they'll just need to understand the business very well.

For example, Win at Healthcare specializes in SEO for healthcare agencies. They're going to put out better content than someone without that expertise.

Here's what their site looks like. As you can see, they really understand healthcare:

Win at Healthcare website

Win At Healthcare

Same applies to car dealerships.

If nothing else, I recommend paying multiple writers to write a test post and comparing them against each other. The posts don't need to be super long - 1000 words should be enough to get a feel for how well they understand SEO for car dealers.

To you, these posts may just be another way to market your dealership.

But remember, they'll be representing your business on the biggest marketing platform in history.

The right question to be asking yourself is "Do I feel comfortable with this person representing the dealership?".

The answer 9 times out of 10 will be an instant "No".

2. Know Your Customer

Great, so you've got someone to write your articles.

But what do you write about?

Again, you'll need to think about it from the reader's perspective. If you were someone looking to buy a car, what kind of posts would you actually read?

Off the top of my head, I can think of a few that would be pretty appealing:

  • The pros and cons of your dealership's best-selling model.
  • A guide on how to pick a new car
  • A guide on how to trade in your car for a new one

Now, these might seem very basic and obvious to you and me, but not everyone knows these sorts of things. These are people wanting help buying a car, so writing for them makes sense.

For example, "How to trade in a car" has a difficulty rating of 0/100 and has 2,800 monthly searches. It's so easy to rank for, I might accidentally do it just by mentioning it.

If you get into a rhythm of posting new content every week, your website traffic will balloon over the coming months.

But remember:

SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Results can take months to see the full effects. Stay patient and trust the process. This is a long-term investment in your dealership's success.

Local SEO for Car Dealerships

Good news:

We've just covered the most difficult part of SEO for car dealerships. Now comes the easy part.

For local SEO, the first thing you'll want to do is get some local citations under your belt.

Local citations are listings on websites like Yellow Pages or Yelp.


The reason we want to get these citations is twofold:

  1. It helps people find you in more places
  2. It gives you backlinks

Backlinks are when another website links to your website. Google ranks your website based on how many other high-quality sites point back to yours. There are more factors, but this is the most important.

You want to get listed on as many reputable websites as possible. For my clients, I personally recommend getting listed on anywhere from 30-50 websites.

But if spending countless hours uploading pictures, writing descriptions, and adding contact info to dozens of sites isn't your idea of a fun time, I'm with you.

Luckily, you don't actually have to do it all yourself.

There are lots of great websites that automate everything for you, but my favorite is BrightLocal. They charge $3 for every citation, so $90 for 30 and $150 for 50.

Brightlocal website


Not bad.

So now you're listed on all the local directories. What now?

The only thing left is getting listed on Google Maps.

Google Maps

Google Maps is important. Really important.

Of course, it's important for customers to know how to get to your dealership, but there's something else.

Go ahead and look up "Car dealerships near me".

If you got lazy, don't worry, I've got you covered

The first thing you'll see are the Google Ads for car dealerships. But you probably could've guessed that.

The interesting part is what's underneath it: Google Maps listings for car dealers.

This means that, even if you ranked #1 in Google Search, customers would still see the Maps listings first.

So, how do you optimize for Google Maps?

How You Can Optimize Your Google Business Profile for Local SEO

1. Make a Google Business Profile and Optimize It

The first step is creating your Google Business Profile. This is what pops up when someone finds you on Google Maps.

The process is pretty straightforward: Just search "Google business profile" online and it'll be the first result.

Google Business Profile setup

Get Listed

From there, just go through the steps Google lays out and you'll be set.

Pro tip: Google will ask you to list your main business category, but make sure to add lots of secondary categories. More categories means more places Google will show your profile.

2. Get Good Reviews

Now that you're all set up, you'll need good reviews.

The best way to get lots of reviews fast is by adding reviews to the sales and service process.

A long-time customer comes in and gets an oil change? Do a great job and ask for a review.

Just sold a car to some newlyweds? You better believe you're asking for 2 reviews.

Above everything, Google values consistency. They want to see a steady stream of reviews coming in over time and not random bursts.

And if you really want to supercharge the process, make it a competition. On your sales leaderboard, you can add a section for how many reviews they got that month. The one with the most gets a special parking spot or a gift card to a nice restaurant.

3. Post Weekly on Your Google Business Profile

This is the easiest part of the whole process. Your Google Business Profile allows you to post updates for your dealership. They're a lot like social media posts.

The more you do it, the higher you'll rank on Google Maps.

My general recommendation is to post just once every week on there. It's enough to put you ahead of any other dealership in your area, but not so much that it becomes too much work.

How Much Does SEO for Car Dealerships Cost?

If you're looking to outsource your car dealership SEO, expect prices to for high-quality SEO packages to start at $2k/month on the low end. In big cities with lots of competition, prices can reach as high as $10k/month. Your average car dealership can expect to pay roughly $5k/month for an all-inclusive program.

But you can get the basics for relatively cheap.

For example, our basic car dealership web design + SEO packages start as low as $279/month. But again, those are just the basics to get you started. We quote all our in-depth projects on a case-by-case basis.

Conclusion: The Future of SEO for Car Dealerships

Understanding how SEO works for car dealerships isn't just about boosting traffic; it's about driving the right customers to your lot. Like wiring a house, you want the job done right the first time.

Handling your own SEO might seem cost-effective, but without expert knowledge, you might just be spinning your wheels.

So, can you afford not to invest in professional SEO? That's a decision only you can make for your dealership. If you're ready to see how professional SEO can rev up your business, we're here to help shift things into high gear.

Car Dealership SEO