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SEO Basics for Auto Repair Shops
by David Roman

Define Your Goal

Search engine optimization encompasses a whole host of different activities designed around trying to get people to find you online. A targeted approach to SEO, however, revolves around driving specific traffic from a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) to a web page via an ad or through an organic listing. This is done by identifying specific keywords that you want to target.

This is typically where I see the first failure of most SEO services.

Keyword Research

Anecdotally speaking, I was ASKED what keywords I wanted to target when I purchased my uber-expensive, fancy website.

I can't believe how foolish I was...

The amount of money I was paying should have included keyword research! They should have identified keywords that were already being heavily targeted, while hopefully finding words that weren't being targeted at all, but that also fit my core competencies. Instead, when I was asked what words I wanted to focus on, I gave what I thought was an obvious answer, "auto repair".

Duh... am I right?

Well... EVERYONE gives that answer. So, "auto repair" is heavily targeted and therefore, extremely competitive. Little ol' me in my teeny, tiny shop was trying to compete with every other repair shop in my market, including dealerships, national chains, and large, well-established shops.

I had no shot of winning the SEO-game.

You might be thinking, "what keywords SHOULD I be targeting then"?


That depends.

Where along the lead acquisition process do you want to target your efforts?

Get Your Sales Funnel In Order

Lead acquisition is a process by which someone with a need (recognized or unrecognized) finds you as a means of fulfilling that need.

We fix cars.

So, it would seem obvious that we should look for people that are trying to get that need fulfilled. However, 89% of all purchases start with a search query. What that means is that before someone chooses to make a purchase or do research on different available services, they tend to ask questions.

This is typically seen as the top of the sales funnel.

Someone at the top of a sales funnel is usually asking Google a question that rarely includes any technical verbiage. This is someone wanting to know why their CEL is flashing or what would cause the rattle that they're hearing as they go over bumps. In fancy SEO lingo, this is considered "informational intent".

You intend on getting information through your search query. Someone that is further along the sales funnel may have decided that they have a misfire on cylinder 1 because AutoZone told them they had a P0301.

Their search queries will look different as they are now trying to solve their problem with a transaction. Their search is focused on deciding who can best meet their need and the logistics involved. They're using "transaction intent" in their search.

At the bottom of the sales funnel is someone that is ready to buy and is looking for Google to provide them some direction. "I need to buy auto repair near me" or as it is usually typed into Google, "auto repair near me".

This is called "navigation intent". Information intent is rarely targeted. It requires a lot of work and is only the start of acquiring the lead.

Transaction intent is sometimes targeted. Someone doing this type of search is further along in the sales process, so they're more quickly moved to a final sale. Navigation intent is where most auto repair shops reside.

Everyone wants to target "auto repair near me" as this is usually a lead that has a need that can be fulfilled immediately. SEO services (specifically auto repair-focused ones), target keywords with navigation intent (NI) because they can show a quick return on the shop's investment. However, this comes at a hefty price. NI keywords are very expensive and sometimes require thousands of dollars in monthly ad spend before results are seen. By that time, however, you may be locked into a lengthy contract before you realize that your cost-per-lead is astronomical.

Your SEO dollar goes a lot further if you put your efforts into keywords at the top of the funnel or at the very least, the middle of the funnel.

There is less competition and requires a longer sales process as you work them down the sales funnel.

Sales funnel?!?

Yes... Sales funnel.

Analyzing Your Sales Funnel

The concept of a sales funnel is designed to attract leads and then guide them towards ultimately making a purchase with you. Leads enter a wide top and as they move down the funnel, they're moved towards the next sequential step. This culminates in a purchase at the bottom of the funnel.

The typical automotive repair shop targets those that have progressed towards the bottom of the funnel on their own. They then step in with a discount to entice the prospect to choose them over everyone else. For something basic like an oil and filter service on an economy car, this process is pretty straight-forward. The prospect enters the funnel with an obvious need and they're moved to action with a mailer touting a cheap oil change.

Someone with a more sophisticated vehicle may take the time to research their options. They'll consider reviews and even the specialty of the shop. They'll progress down the funnel at a slower pace and when they arrive at the bottom, they will likely make a decision on the information they've gathered along the way. They're also less likely to be swayed by a discount oil change. There's no reason to choose the shop advertising a discounted oil change other than price since they haven't taken the time to address the prospect further up the funnel.

A shop that steps in towards the top of the funnel has the opportunity to establish their authority and expertise. They can provide pivotal information that allows the prospect to move down the funnel. When they arrive at the bottom ready to buy, there will only be one logical choice. There is no right or wrong answer as to when to step into the sales funnel. It really depends on your business model and how you choose to attract customers.

The bottom of the sales funnel is crowded and extremely competitive. Gaining market share simply involves lowering your price below that of everyone else. The top of the sales funnel is sparsely populated. It takes concerted and deliberate action to establish authority and expertise.

There are trade-offs for each strategy. Note that this a strategic decision. One that will dictate your tactics.

What I mean is that if you're choosing to enter the top of the funnel, the copy that you'll use in your FB ads and the keywords you target with your Google Ads will be very different from someone entering towards the bottom.

Therein lies the challenge.

Review your current FB and Google Ad copy.

Are you targeting the bottom of the funnel or the top?

And, does that align with where you want to be?

Why Your Keyword Rich Content Sucks

Take a look at your website. Hell, take a look at most automotive repair shop websites.

You'll see content that reads like this:

Specific Manufacturer Repair
Since *insert year manufacturer was started*, this manufacturer has been building cars. Here's a tiny bit of information about this manufacturer that you probably didn't know, but was ripped off of Wikipedia.

We at ABC auto are these manufacturer experts.

The rest is a blurb about the shop which then gets repeated across every manufacturer's link. Unfortunately, this is a rudimentary approach to SEO as it attempts to trick the algorithm into seeing the words "Acura" "Repair" and "Your Town, USA" on the same page.

This was standard operating procedure until Google began to make updates to their algorithm. They first added recency and quality measures to determine whether or not the information on the page was relevant. This created a constant need for new and fresh content in order to achieve and keep a high rank.

In 2013, however, the big change came in the way of "Hummingbird". This update allowed Google to understand concepts and not just word repetition. In other words, just writing content that repeats the same phrase over and over again in order to rank higher was no longer a sound strategy.

Conceptual semantics began to matter.

Queries have now become longer. The use of questions and specific phrases that start with "who, what, how, where, and why" have exploded. Google is now geared towards answering those questions. They've attempted to do so using a featured snippet which is typically an amalgamation of several of the top search results. This has created a whole mess of consequences for your static, very expensive, albeit pretty automotive repair shop website.

About The Author
David Roman

David has spent 20 years in the automotive industry, having successfully managed several multi-million dollar retail parts stores in Illinois, the St. Louis area, and eventually Kansas City.

He's owned his shop since 2012.

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