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Local SEO vs. Organic SEO for Auto Dealerships

local seo versus organic seo auto dealer

Chances are you have probably read plenty about search engine optimization (SEO), and you understand its importance for your dealership. But is your marketing team talking about local SEO or organic SEO?

This topic might seem like a rabbit hole of information, but knowing the difference between local and organic SEO will simplify digital marketing for your dealership.

The Difference Between Local SEO and Organic SEO

Unlike a boxing match, local SEO versus organic SEO is not a fight at all. They are related efforts, and they both matter to a brick-and-mortar business. So what the heck is the difference?

It all starts with the search query.

Local SEO involves searches with a location. Here’s a quick example of what the different search queries could look like.

Organic Search: “2015 Mazda CX-5”


organic seo listing


 Local Search: “Used Mazda in Houston TX”


local seo auto listing

The search engine (Google, Bing, or Yahoo) reacts differently to a local search than it does to an organic search. A local search pulls up map listings and nearby business websites. An organic search skips the map results and shows sites that rank nationally.

When determining whether a search query will pull an organic or local result, it’s about the intent of the search as perceived by the search engine. Is the user looking for general info or something in a specific location?

If you’re debating between trying to rank for local or organic SEO, our best nugget of advice is to keep it local. Of course you want to be found both locally and organically, but we recommend letting your original equipment manufacturer (OEM) worry about covering the generic organic searches. Most local SEO efforts double as organic SEO efforts anyway, so concentrating on local SEO will not hurt your organic listings.

Focus on the following five local SEO checkpoints, and both your local SEO and your organic SEO will improve.

Top 5 Local SEO Priorities

1. Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP)

Your dealership name, address, and phone number (NAP) should be exactly the same on your website, Google map listing, social channels, and any business directories you are listed on.

Search engines will detect even the slightest variation between listings, so be very meticulous in keeping them all the same. You can keep track of all your listings and their consistency by using a free tool called Moz Local.

2. Website Content

Search engines crawl and index your website based upon the text they find — not the images, video, or other flashy visuals.

Make sure the search queries you want to show up for are integrated in your website’s page titles, headlines, and any relevant body text.

3. Meta Descriptions

The descriptive text under your search result is called a meta description. Meta descriptions are often overlooked when creating and maintaining a website, but they are crucial to increasing traffic.

Searchers want to be wooed into clicking your headline and visiting your website. As more people choose your search result, search engines recognize that your listing is more relevant than others and start ranking it higher. Essentially, it’s a popularity contest.

4. Domain Authority

Another indicator of your popularity is the number of links pointing to your website.

Domain authority measures those links and gives your website a score based on how well-linked — and hence well-liked — your website is. It’s a score to keep an eye on in case you are worried a competitor is stepping on your toes and creeping up in search results.

5. Social Authority

Yes, social media does matter — and not just for running ads. Listing your dealership on social media channels is an easy way to get quality links with consistent NAP.

Search engines also pay attention to the popularity of your dealership on social channels, as indicated by actions like reviews, Facebook likes, and Instagram followers. These numbers show your business is alive and well, so search engines want to mimic that with their search results.

How to Keep It Local

Automotive SEO can certainly be a rabbit hole . . . if you let it be.

There’s no reason to try to be a jack of all trades and do everything by yourself. Let your OEM handle broad marketing efforts so that your dealership can focus on local strategy. At the end of the day, your digital marketing touch points should be working together — from the OEM to the salesperson.

To learn more about those touch points, read our newly published 2016 State of Automotive Marketing Report. The comprehensive report takes a close look at trends and strategies used by dealerships throughout the U.S.

Banner image: Randy Heinitz