It’s been two months since COVID-19 put an unexpected pause to our daily lives. Sheltering at home has produced a corresponding increase in online activity, but how does that translate to SEO? In the past two months, our team has been trying to determine just that, by monitoring the impacts to organic traffic volume, search behavior, and make/model pageviews.
COVID-19 Effect on Automotive Dealership Traffic
Going into March organic traffic plummeted as Americans shifted their focus to the virus. I mentioned in our original post that “in the regions most affected, most people are in panic mode… This is causing organic traffic (and traffic in general) to decrease in those areas.” going on to say, “This drop in traffic is likely to slow down as people become fatigued by the news cycle and constant updates. When this happens, they’ll turn to entertainment, online shopping, and online browsing in general. This is likely to cause an increase in organic traffic.”
I undershot my prediction as traffic rebounded past pre-COVID-19 levels and well beyond the previous year. In fact in all but 3 states (NY, MI, LA) we saw year over year growth in organic traffic on average.
What should we be doing?
The main questions we received end of March were 1)” Will our organic traffic be impacted?” and 2) “Should I pause SEO in the short term since foot traffic to the stores is going to slow down?” The short answers was 1) Yes and No and 2) No if you want to read the explanation check out our original Automotive SEO COVID post.
With two months down, traffic up, and states slowly starting to re-open the two main questions we’re getting now are 1) “How can we capitalize on this new traffic?” and 2) “What can we expect traffic wise moving forward?”
How can we capitalize on this traffic?
Service, Service, Service! If there was ever a time to evaluate and revamp your fixed ops specials it’s now. We’ve seen some dealerships up 50%+ in service, parts, and body shop organic page visits.
Offer pickup and delivery service options if possible or highlight your contactless service department. Whatever approach you’re taking to keep customers safe and serviced, make sure it’s well documented and displayed prominently.
At home test drives and new vehicle delivery are a fast-growing solution to retailing during social distancing. Some dealers are flipping the typical car buying experience on its head by going to their customers.
Highlight OEM financing, payment deferment and extra warranties that are available. There are so many new powerful incentives but it’s hard to know what’s what. Make sure all of your new financing and payment options are easy to find and easy to understand.
What else should we expect moving forward?
In our first blog post we predicted a rebound in traffic towards the beginning of April. Even we were surprised by how big of a lift took place. With states starting to open back up and attention shifting back to a “return to normal” we expect our original prediction to hold true “The overall organic traffic for 2020 will end up increasing at about the same rate as 2019 (assuming things in the United States don’t escalate past current projections).”
May saw record highs in overall organic traffic with Inventory and MRP visits also on the rise. We hope to see that trend continue into the second half of 2020 but only time will tell.
Tips for June, July, and Beyond
“Your SEO efforts over the next few months are to grow your 2020 MRP traffic, to grow your backlink profile slowly and steadily, and to interact with your Social Media accounts and Local Listings more than ever! How you engage with your Social Media and Rep traffic now will dictate who your future customers will be once this virus passes.”
This continues to be our strategy. Keep focused on 2020 MRPs, look for social media opportunities like offering discounts to senior citizens or complimentary deep cleaning services on all service appointments. Right, now the goal is to become even more customer-centric and more customer-focused than ever before. Customers now need to feel safe, to know they can trust their local dealership to have their safety and best interests in mind. Do this right and you’ll win in the long run.
How is your dealership’s organic traffic fairing at the moment? Please share any insights or questions in the comments below, as we will do our best to address your questions and concerns!