4 min read

How do customers use search to find their new vehicle or aftersales service?

When it comes to the automotive industry, Search is both a powerful asset for brands and a powerful tool for consumers. When buying a new car, 39% of people start the process on a search engine – before they do anything else.

But it’s not just dealerships and manufacturers that can benefit from Search. As much as 25% of all automotive searches are parts, service or maintenance related, meaning that aftersales is very much involved in the automotive digital landscape.

To be relevant in organic search we need to consider a number of factors. To keep things simple, we’ve identified two of the most basic things that will improve search visibility:


Effective keyword targeting and dominating the local landscape

1. Effective keyword targeting

To ensure you are targeting the right people, at the right time, with the right content, you have to ensure your website is optimised for the keywords they are searching for.

We’ve split out the range of automotive searches made in different stages of the purchase journey and beyond, to explore how the intent changes the keywords of the search itself.


Top level searches

“BMW 1 Series”

74,000+ MSV

These searches are typically made at the start of the car-buying journey, and usually contain top-level keywords such as car models.


Purchase intent searches

“BMW 1 series for sale”

5,600+ MSV

As the intent behind these searches becomes purchase-driven, we often see keywords with modifiers such as “for sale”, “new” and “used”, along with a specific model.


Finance searches

“BMW 1 Series finance”

900+ MSV

These searches are typically made by those intending to lease a car or looking to find out more about different types of car financing for a specific model.


Location searches

“BMW 1 Series for sale Manchester”

70+ MSV

These searches usually take place when a car buyer is ready to make a purchase, and are looking for locations where their chosen model is for sale.


Service and maintenance searches

“BMW 1 Series service intervals”

200+ MSV

Usually made after a car has been purchased, these services are geared towards looking for servicing and maintenance information and locations.


However, not all keywords are equal


As the intent behind each of these searches differs, we divided the landscape into six verticles which we used to explore which searches showed which type of results.

As we can see from the chart, there are plenty of opportunities for dealerships to see visibility in both the Car and Van Sales and Dealership Services and Initiatives areas. However, when looking at the top sites for Finance and Business searches, dealerships have less of a voice.

Service centres make up the majority of ranking sites for Service & Maintenance searches, but struggle to see visibility anywhere else.

Our chart below gives a bit more insight into where each verticle should be targeting to see results.

Knowing where there is an opportunity to rank is vital to a successful SEO strategy. Examining the intent of certain keywords should also play a role, as capturing searchers with pages that fully satisfy their searches will make for more valuable site traffic.

If a dedicated service centre tried to rank for Motability keywords, it would probably be a waste of time and resources, as searchers are clearly looking for a different type of website. Similarly, dealerships would struggle to rank for finance and business searches, as the intent behind these searches is different to what a dealership would offer so a search engine would not give irrelevant websites visibility.

2. Dominating the local landscape

With local SEO we’re able to target searches like “car dealerships in St Albans”. Local traffic is generally of a far higher quality, as visitors are more likely to reside within your target area, as well as being further along in the purchase journey.


How can we target local customers?


Google My Business and Bing Places are the easiest places to start building up a local presence. They both appear within search results in a number of different ways.

  1. Local Packs

For searches like “car dealerships in St Albans”, the results display a map and list of some of the most relevant locations that search engines think would satisfy the user. This can include company name, star rating, address and opening hours.

  1. Branded Searches

Branded searches such as “Evans Halshaw Vauxhall St Albans” can feature an entire company profile in the SERPs. Featuring the same information as the local pack, plus phone numbers with call extensions, website links, directions, customer reviews and the opportunity to feature GMB posts.

  1. Map Searches

Map searches for “car dealerships in St Albans” can pinpoint locations and display them on a map, as well as featuring key information in a list down the left-hand side. This type of search quickly identifies businesses in a chosen area, with the option to compare by star rating.

What can you do to optimise your locations?


There are a number of steps you can take to optimise your profiles for local search. These include using relevant, high-resolution imagery, responding to customer reviews, including an optimised business description and making sure all business information is up to date.

Making the most of these profiles is an easy way to stand out in local searches, and all it takes is a little bit of time and effort to make a huge difference to your online presence. There is even the option to produce posts on your GMB profile, which can then pull through to your BP account too. Short, social-like posts can help to attract new customers by showing searchers the best bits of a business.

Another way to optimise your GMB or BP profile is to encourage positive reviews from existing customers. For searchers, seeing a profile with a high number of good reviews can be a deciding factor, and can greatly increase leads. While this will develop organically over time, the process can also be incentivised to increase the number of reviews in the short term.

Key takeaways

  1. Focus on appearing for searches where you’ll be able to rank
  2. Optimise for your local audience
  3. Fully utilise the tools which are provided to us by search engines

When it comes to organic SEO for dealerships and service centres, there are loads of ways to improve online visibility. The ones we’ve touched on here are by no means the only ways of standing out in a search engine. If you’re interested in how you can improve your website’s online presence, contact us today to find out more about our digital marketing services.



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