Used Car Websites and SEO

If you’ve been away, and I mean somewhere completely devoid of communications, then you missed the ‘crises’ in the car industry. New car sales have hit rock bottom and its been the worst year in recent times. In January alone new car sales were about 35% of the previous year’s level of sales. So, if the new car business wasn’t moving, there was (or is a growing) demand for second hand cars and seemingly an even bigger demand for cars within certain emissions categories which have the effect of reducing your overall running costs as well as the car tax. The ‘Net is a fantastic for searching for second hand cars and it would always seem safer to do this in the comfort of your own home rather than being ‘oiled’ up by Boycie on site. So, I was recently afforded the opportunity to look under the bonnet (hood) of searching for second hand cars and, on the back of that, I have committed a few interesting facts to pixels. I suppose the normal caveats should be voiced and aired: For this exercise I am looking at the second hand business using about 50 keywords none of which are ‘local’ and I mean local specific – that’s really a micro project and one that’s not for here. I appreciate that it’s the way that cars are searched, but I didn’t have the patience for this exercise alone to transverse through every parish in Ireland on a Google search to see which dealers come up first. Brands: I looked at the top five selling vehicles by manufacturers in Ireland last year, nothing more specific and no vehicle types/makes/models. But regardless of these restrictions, there are a few points to be taken from this exercise. In total there were 44 car sites looked at. The sites were the composite advertising sites, physical dealers sites and some of the corporate sites. There were 43 keywords in total, 14 of which were in some way branded keywords. The branded keywords really helped the ‘corporate’ sites and their main dealers. User Car Site Rank Above shows how each site fared – how many of the 28 generic terms did they rank in the top ten and top thirty. Out of the forty four sites, only twenty seven (shown above) rank in the top thirty in one or more keyword and that’s particularly disappointing! Twenty sites ranked on one or more keyword in the top 10- page one. Six of the sites did remarkably ranking in the top 10 results on about 22 of the generic keywords. But after the main sites there is a serious gulf – an actual void. None of the other sites seem to be fighting for any more than a handful of terms. One site dominated the generic keywords having 15+ keywords entrenched at #1 and a further ten or so, scattered between #1 and the fold! (#5). Actually, it’s worth having a look further at that site. Here are the search volumes for phrases over 1000 searches per month (on Phrase match) and the sites corresponding rank on each keyword. So this site all but dominates by ranking #1 on eight of these.

Keyword Volume Rank
Key 1 110000 5
Key 2 60500 1
Key 3 33100
Key 4 22200
Key 5 22200 1
Key 6 12100 1
Key 7 9900 5
Key 8 9900 1
Key 9 6600 5
Key 10 4400
Key 11 3600 1
Key 12 3600 1
Key 13 2900
Key 14 2400 1
Key 15 1600 1

Only seven of the websites under review were active participants in the Adwords market. The top participant bidding on some 25 of the 28 generic keywords I looked at. The ones that were left out in that particular case could have been picked up if they were bought as broad match – but I suspect they were not. In many cases, whilst websites were in the Adwords market, on some phrases the bidding was only token, bidding the very minimum in the hope of turning a click through into a nice ROI. A few of the websites reviewed looked like they were using Adwords to compensate for a lack of SEO. In two cases it looked as if they were playing a bit of ‘double down’. One site ranked about 16 key phrases in the 10, but only ranked #1 on three keywords. It was bidding on 24 keywords and, from what I could see, their bids had the intent of getting them in Adwords position one. The obverse was that one site ranked #1 on 15+ keywords and, whilst it bit on Adwords, it do so very rather cautiously. But if you are in a strong position due to SEO why would you need to bid strongly on Adwords? Before I get into a small bit on the branded keywords I want to touch on literary matters. There are 480 searches a month for the phrase ‘secondhand cars’- and if you think “so what” well six of these companies bid on it as a keyword. Sites show up for the term in search engine results, some primarily due to user intervention in making up their own ads and including that phrase. Staying with linguistics: I looked at seven ‘corporate sites’ and specifically under their own brand names – on the resale market. None of the site ranked under ‘Second Hand [Brand Name]’ bit (nearly) all managed to scrape in using “Used [Brand Name]” -I’d have to question the logic of that one. Is there a snob value to ‘used” vs “second hand” like I perceive there is for the phrase ‘cheap hotels”.

Used S.Hand
Audi 1 0
BMW 5 0
Ford 0 0
Nissan 1 0
Opel 0 0
Toyota 1 0

But for the numbers above it looks we all want to upscale – BMW being the highest sought second hand car (in search)!

Used S/ Hand
BMW 18100 480
Audi 14800 480
Ford 14800 480
Toyota 9900 480
Nissan 4400 320
Opel 720 170

Plenty of scope for some websites, some are good, visually pleasing and easy to navigate – but are doing nothing for their SEO.