How to Implement and Manage a Strong SEO Strategy for Your Dealership – Kevin LeSage, Autotrader

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It’s no secret that your dealership’s website performance largely depends on SEO and its integration with your digital marketing strategy. To discuss what dealers should be doing to ensure their website gets to the top of a consumer’s Google search is Kevin LeSage, Director of Digital Marketing of Autotrader. Kevin explains exactly what SEO can do for dealerships and what advantages it provides when it comes to marketing as opposed to more traditional forms of marketing. Additionally, he gives advice to dealers on how to best implement an SEO strategy and how to divide their time and their resources properly among marketing with SEO. To find out more check out the full interview with Kevin LeSage above. 

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT: 

Jim Fitzpatrick: Hi everyone. I’m Jim Fitzpatrick. Thanks so much for joining us on another edition of CBT news. Today, we’re so happy to have with us Mr. Kevin LeSage, who is the Director of Digital Marketing for AutoTrader, a Cox Automotive Company. Welcome into the show, Kevin.

Kevin LeSage: Thank you very much for having me.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah.

Kevin LeSage: Excited to be here.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Great. Great to have you on. Why is SEO crucial for car dealerships today?

Kevin LeSage: I started my career launching SEO for hundreds of dealerships across the country and it really boils down to one thing, and it’s data. When we look at the data from dealerships, SEO or search engine referral traffic always is the highest source of quality visits and drives the lowest source of low engaging visits as well. So really what SEO does is drag in market shoppers that show those buying signals on a website. It really is a longterm strategy that dealers have to be proactive with today.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. And as you know, most dealers want everything right now. They want the results now. They want to see the analytics right now, and many of them, maybe I shouldn’t say this, maybe I’m painting with too broad a brush, but some of them don’t understand the difference between digital marketing and SEO, right? Do they lump that together in a lot of cases?

Kevin LeSage: I would say SEO is part of digital marketing, but you know, the thing about SEO is it’s always changing and Google’s always rewriting algorithms. And one of the main trends we’re really seeing today is a lot of energy and attention to your Google My Business page. So that’s a page that all businesses have right on Google search listings. And it’s an opportunity for dealers to really optimize a source of traffic that’s coming to their website already showing quality. And the best part about SEO is you’re not paying per click. So you really earn that authority with Google over time. And I like to say it’s something that can’t really be taken away from you as long as you’re playing by the best practices with Google.

Jim Fitzpatrick: For the dealers that are out there that say, “Well, what if I spend a lot of time and money in building my SEO strategy? Do I still need digital marketing? Do I still need pay per click?”

Kevin LeSage: Of course. Of course. I really see them working hand in hand and I’ve always recommended to dealers to make sure that you either have your SEO and your advertising company under the same umbrella or they’re communicating on a monthly basis. And it really boils down to one thing with Google and that’s relevancy. If you have a paper click ad on a Toyota Tundra and that ad links to anything but a custom landing page all about a Toyota Tundra, you’re really missing out on a lot of value there because Google wants the ad to be relevant to the landing page and when that happens you actually drive a lower cost per click and a higher ad placement with Google because your Google’s delivering the consumer experience that we’ve all come to expect.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Gotcha. Okay. And what is the most important trend you are seeing in SEO today?

Kevin LeSage: You know, I really think it boils to that Google My Business page. It’s an effort for dealers today to go in and upload new photos. There’s actually a section in there where we’re consumers can ask questions and be answered right from the dealership and a lot of times those questions go unanswered and it’s missed opportunity for dealers. So as we move forward, I know Google’s going put more emphasis on their Google My Business pages and they’re going to want to see effort from businesses there. So if we can already prove SEO is driving a high source of quality, anything we can do to drive more of that high quality traffic, we should certainly look into.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, for sure. You talked about the loss opportunities for dealers. What’s the most common mistake that you see with dealers that do leverage SEO?

Kevin LeSage: You know, this is so common across the auto industry, but I think a lot of dealers sign up for SEO and they think it’s a set it forget it service, right? Like you said, immediate results, but in reality, this is a strategy that needs to be really proactive on a monthly basis. It comes down to business needs and really your local insight and how those two things work together to drive those results that you’re looking for. So when I always talk to dealers, it’s like you got to make sure that you’re having that two-way communication with whoever’s managing your SEO because as things change locally, maybe another dealer shuts down and you’re struggling selling used versus new, come to your SEO team with problems and they’re going to help develop content and a strategy to solve those business needs for you.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, for sure. What advice would you give to dealers who are looking to implement SEO in their digital strategy?

Kevin LeSage: It would really be a proactive approach to it. Making sure, for example, today we’re writing content for our 2020 models that are starting to hit the lot. We’re not reacting down the road because SEO really is a race between you and all of your competitors. You’re fighting for key words that Google is going to rank you accordingly for, so make sure that you’re speaking with your SEO analysts. You have that two-way communication set up. Make sure you’re leveraging your Google My Business page, and that you’re actually deep linking your ads, right to custom SEO landing pages, and making sure their advertising and SEO are working together, and that’s going to drive the most efficient digital marketing strategy today.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Fantastic. For a guy like you that’s the Director of Digital Marketing for AutoTrader, what are some of the things that may keep you up at night about the digital world that we live in as dealers?

Kevin LeSage: Well, it’s always changing. There’s a lot of key technology changes coming today. Personalization is a big one. Digital retailing, but for the topic of SEO, I really see voice search as becoming a very big trend that a lot of big businesses are starting to invest in. At AutoTrader, we’ve become really an SEO first company. A lot of changes we make to the site all have to go through our SEO team before they go live and we’re investing in voice search right now and even as a consumer, we’re starting, myself included, I started going to Siri for what time the Celtics game is and things like that. So you know, we start to think ahead of these trends and make sure that we’re proactive with an SEO strategy because it’s critical.

Kevin LeSage: SEO can make or break a business. It’s where people are searching and dealers need to realize if someone’s searching for the inventory that you’re selling, that’s where you want to put your attention first. You know, if I was, if I was a dealer and had $1 for my marketing budget, I would look to SEO before anything else.

Jim Fitzpatrick: What do you say to the dealer that says, “I still spend a lot of money in traditional advertising such as TV, radio, maybe even some print depending on the market.” Are they wasting their money?

Kevin LeSage: I wouldn’t say they’re wasting their money, no, but what I like about SEO is I can guarantee that our dollars are being spent by people that are searching for the product we’re selling with print, TV, radio, it’s much more of a blanket approach. You know, with SEO, we’re capitalizing on hand raisers that are going to Google searching for the inventory that we’re selling.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. And SEO Strategy isn’t done once a month, or once every six months, or once a year for that matter. It’s something that’s got to be attended to every day almost. Right?

Kevin LeSage: Oh, of course. Yeah. Like I said earlier, this can not be a set it and forget it strategy. We have to be proactive. And really those search engine result pages on Google are changing every day. So you might be ranked first for a keyword today, but tomorrow you’re not. So it’s always important to make sure that we have a proactive strategy in place.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. And automotive, it’s safe to say, is kind of in a field of its own. We’ve spoken to a number of dealers in the past that said, “You know, we had an SEO company or a company, a person that did SEO for us, although, you know, they didn’t know automotive. And we found out six months or a year later that we weren’t ranking anywhere, although every single month we’d meet with this individual, he or she would tell us, ‘Oh yeah, we’re on top of it. We built you a great strategy’,” and it is an area that really is special to automotive. Right? Or I should say automotive is special to the SEO arena. Right?

Kevin LeSage: Yeah. I just think it’s so competitive in automotive, which really brings that to the surface. Yeah. Without a doubt. Yeah, definitely.

Jim Fitzpatrick: For so many dealers that are after those same key words. Right?

Kevin LeSage: Yeah. When I think of even with dealer.com, a partner company of ours, we’ve been building SEO for over ten years now and what we learned is there’s absolutely no way to fake SEO. You have to have fingers on the keyboards, you have to hire the copywriters, and you actually have to develop custom unique content relative to each dealer, and each dealership has different strategy, different business needs, different OEM programs. So rarely our two SEO strategies ever the same.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Well, Kevin LeSage, Director of Digital Marketing of AutoTrader, I want to thank you so much for joining us here on CBT news. We appreciate it very much. Our viewers get a lot out of your visits here and the others over at Cox Automotive and AutoTrader, so thank you so much and hopefully we can have you back in a couple of weeks and talk more about this topic.

Kevin LeSage: Thanks a lot. Have a great day.

CBT Automotive Network. The number one most-watched network in retail automotive. This has been a JBF Business Media Production.

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