Ignoring your business’ web presence is no longer a luxury that most automotive repair shop owners can afford. According to recent Google Internal Data figures, searches involving automotive maintenance have grown 66% over the past three years. An even more impressive statistic, and arguably more telling of the what’s happening with the industry as a whole, is that Smartphone-based search queries for automotive specific services increased a whopping 74% in January and February 2013 over the same time period compared to 2012.
With those figures in mind, it is clear why being one of the first results a potential customer sees when searching for automotive repair solutions is tantamount to your online marketing plan’s level of success. Because of this, it is important that your brand is consistently managed on the web, and since 70% of all drivers claim to use search engines as a resource for their auto repair research at some point during their purchasing process, I am going to go over the top 4 ways that search engine marketing can be used to grow your brand, and add to your overall brand management.
1. Snowballing Brand Recollection
One of the most important reasons a business would be interested in search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) is also one of the least talked about: brand recollection.
Whenever someone has a need for your services or products, it’s important that they think of your brand early on. Can your overall ranking on Google (or other search engines for that matter) effect how well people remember you? Absolutely! In fact, there is a direct correlation between the probability that your brand will be recalled by the consumer the better you rank. In fact, a Microsoft study on the subject not only discovered that there is a positive correlation between overall established rankings and the ability to recall their brand, but it also revealed that having your link clicked on in those search engine result pages also dramatically increased your chance to have your brand recalled even further. 40% of the clicked results were remembered, while only 8% of those not clicked were remembered.
The Road to Winning Drivers – Aftermarket Service July, 2013 auto repair shop study also revealed that 1-in-3 drivers are uncommitted to a particular auto service provider. 73% of surveyed consumers also suggested they would return to the service center of their most recent maintenance request. These figures suggests that not only is there a large part of the “consumer pie” left out there to claim, but that once claimed you can expect almost 3 out of 4 to be a repeat customer. Ultimately, this proves that the higher your rankings are in the search engines, the more likely you are to be recalled by your target audience, recalled more positively (which we will discuss later), and thus most likely to capture that repeat business.
2. More Brand Control
According to survey results of Moz’s The 2013 Local Search Ranking Factors study, the 2nd and 3rd largest overall ranking factors for a website directly involve your NAP’s (the way your business’ name, address, and phone number appear online), representing 16% and 18.8% of the total overall ranking factors “pie” respectively.
By taking control and managing the places that have your NAP citations displayed (these are typically directories, or places like Google+), you are taking control of how your business is presented on the web. As we can see from the above figure, it’s extremely important that your NAP’s are consistent through out the web since ultimately, Google and other search engines are using these citations to help place your business in the rankings. By doing this, you not only have more control over how your brand name appears on the web, you also put yourself in a great position to manage negative reviews.
Since the majority of places that will feature your NAP citations are also review sites, this is also a great way to put yourself in control of what reviews are visible for your business. Depending on the website and their corresponding rules and policies, this may give you the ability to respond to negative and unfavorable reviews.
3. Limit Competition Web Real Estate
It seems as if on a daily basis I receive emails asking, “Charlie, this client is already ranking well in their city. Would you still recommend SEO for them?” Almost always the answer is yes, and here is why.
Depending on your search term and location, you may be seeing anywhere from 10-20 or so sites (a combination of organic, local, and paid ads) on Google’s front page at any given time. Let’s say you have your homepage ranking great, perhaps say even number 1 for your main keyword search term. If that’s the only listing you have on the page, this means your competitors have 9-19 other opportunities to also be listed on the page with you. Even if the search term is your own brand name, it’s entirely possible that a competitor could A) rank on the same page organically, B) pay to have a paid listing appear above yours, or C) all of the above. This is why it’s important that you have a full spectrum approach when it comes to SEO, search engine marketing and brand management, leaving no stone unturned.
While you may have great rankings organically, you may be missing valuable real estate with paid ads. Or likewise, you may have amazing paid ads with incredibly low bids, but you may be missing out on all of that organic and local search real estate space.
The more web real estate you have, the more you will be seen. The more you will be seen, the less your competitors will be.
TIP: An easy and effective way to monitor your competition’s web real estate would be to fully fill out your NAP listings and market them as well. It is not uncommon for these pages to rank by themselves (think Yelp or YellowPages) ahead of several high authority websites. All it needs is a little tending to and you too can have a front-page result with multiple listings of your business!
4. Establishing Authority In Your Market
Being found on Google is one thing; being considered an “authority” by Google in your market is something completely different. Earning the coveted authority status should be one of the primary goals of any serious search engine marketing strategy. To clarify it a bit further, being considered an authority by Google means that they consider your business’ website the “go-to” website within your market. There are many benefits for being considered an authority, but the three most important benefits of being considered an “authority” website by Google are:
- You will not lose rank as easily under normal conditions, thus holding rank longer.
- Google will include extra things on your search engine result pages, such as: site links, pictures, etc. These work to increase your click-through-rate. (SeeFig 2.)
- Your website and it’s content are considered a high priority for rankings, so if you ever decide to branch into a new market or extend into newer keywords – this could expedite your ranking process exponentially!
SEO and Branding Today
It is commonplace for branding and search engine marketing to be considered at odds with each other. In fact, it used to be a successful search engine marketing strategy to focus on your rankings in spite of your brand. These days however, your brand is focus #1. When asked in October 2013 about brands and their impact on search engine results, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt had this to say: “The internet is fast becoming a “cesspool” where false information thrives…Brands are the solution, not the problem. Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.”
If one thing remains true, it’s that Google doesn’t just talk-the-talk, they walk-the-walk. If you can’t take Eric Schmidt at his word, just take a quick glance into the major updates Google has made over the past decade or so:
– Google Florida (2003) dropped the rankings of many small businesses.
– Google Sandbox (rolling out officially in 2004) penalized newer sites right off of the bat.
– In 2006, “Extended Search Results” for brands were rolled out.
– In 2009, Google Vince started placing even more weight on brands (for example, a search for “credit card” was much more likely to pull up results for Visa, or other branded results).
– In 2011, we had two major brand updates: first we had our original Google Panda update, where websites that didn’t have brand signals were heavily penalized and removed from the search engine result pages, and secondly we saw Google adding “+1” to the search engine results next to branded Google+ pages. The list doesn’t stop here.
Search engines are powerful tools, and depending on how you are listed in the result pages they can totally make or break your business. Last year’s SEO and search engine marketing strategies will not work in this year’s marketplace. The shift is happening now and it’s only getting more and more competitive. Are you taking full advantage of your brand online? If you aren’t, it’s time to hop on the train. The trend is clear – Google is promoting brands, and it doesn’t show any sign of slowing down.
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