Beating Third-Party Sites in SERPs Takes Grit and Strategy

By | October 11, 2018 | Automotive Marketing

The early days of automotive digital marketing saw the rise of third-party sites like AutoTrader. Many dealerships spent their budget to display inventory on these aggregators while neglecting their own website. Dealers soon realized the power of their own online presence, presenting them with a conflict:

They needed to implement their own paid search strategy and compete against third-party sites while also paying them to drive traffic.

So what’s the way forward for dealerships?

The solution isn’t simple, but it’s effective.

The Formula to Beat Third-Party SEM Competitors

Let CarGurus, AutoTrader, and manufacturers duke it out for basic searches, like “2018 Toyota Camry.”

Dealers should focus their budget on low-funnel, in-market search terms. Searches that include modifiers like “for sale” and “lease offers” should receive the largest portion of a dealer’s spend. Once dealers own these search queries, they can pursue broader terms and adjust the budget according to each ad’s performance.

Unless the dealership is located in a major metro — such as New York City or Chicago — third-party sites aren’t pursuing high-intent, low-funnel keywords based on analyzing local shopping behaviors. By focusing on local search terms and implementing the right strategies, dealerships will have a higher Quality Score and pay a lower cost per click.

To make this approach work effectively, you have to leverage Google Analytics and Google Ads. You’ll naturally build content around search intent and the expectations of your local shoppers. To be able to capitalize on what actual buyers are looking for, GA and Ads can give you insights such as the following:

  • What queries are bringing in the highly qualified traffic?
  • Which ads are performing better?
  • How are people behaving on your site after they click through?
    • Are they bouncing?
    • Are they viewing SRPs and VDPs?
    • Are they spending time on the site?

Examining this data will help you prioritize or remove keyword sets.

If your efforts satisfy the benchmarks you set, you will always realize a return on your investment.

Content Is the Backbone of the Strategy

To create the most effective paid search campaigns, you need to build custom content around your market’s search volume, which likely includes new cars, used core series, service and parts, lease information, and finance offers — things that customers search for each day.

By constantly updating and refreshing that content, you can rank in SERPs ahead of, AutoTrader, and CarGurus. That’s because good content gives the customer reasons to come to your site, stay on your site, and come back to your site.

Content is more than just landing pages. It includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Correct metadata
  • Easy navigation
  • Homepage to inventory
  • Comparison pages
  • MRPs, VDPs, SRPs
  • Full inventory
  • High-quality photos

For each content strategy, you need to follow Google’s best practices. Here are the year-over-year results of two dealership groups who followed the rules outlined.

Image showing metrics of two automotive dealerships

If you need help creating and implementing strategies that help your dealership rank above sites like and AutoTrader, you can reach out to us for a free digital audit. In the meantime, subscribe to our monthly education newsletter and never miss out on our insights.