How to Build Backlinks and Semantic Mentions to Improve Your Car Dealership’s Local SEO Performance

Local backlinks and local semantic mentions

One of the most critical ranking factors that Google uses to rank your dealer website is the number of local backlinks and semantic mentions that connect websites near you to your dealer website.  Learning how to create and manage local backlinks and mentions is critical to your dealer website’s success in attracting customers.

What are Local Backlinks?

Local backlinks are links from a website such as a local business, church, or local charity that link from that local site to your automotive website.  Pretty simple, eh?

What are Local Semantic Mentions?

Semantic mentions occur when a local website mentions your dealership by name and ideally by location too.  Since Google indexes practically everything, semantic mentions are picked up by Google’s spiders which then associate the local business’ mention of your dealership with you, thus improving your local SEO ranking. 

How Important are Local Backlinks and Semantic Mentions?

Google places local backlinks and semantic mentions towards the top of its local ranking factors.  Do I need to say more about why they are important? That’s enough for me!

How Hard is it to Build Local Backlinks?

It’s not hard at all to build local backlinks or semantic mentions.  It just takes a little organization and time. Think about all the support that your car dealership does for your local community.  You might sponsor a local Little League team, a church down the street, or a youth charity. All of these are potential sources of backlinks and semantic mentions from their local websites to yours.

Prep Work Before Seeking Backlinks and Mentions

Before you get started, contact your website provider to research localized keywords and then make sure your dealer website has been optimized with these words.  There are a number of ways to do this, but here are three things you can make sure get done:

  1. Ask the team to research local keywords using a tool such as Google’s Keyword Planner to find the best keywords for you.   
  2. Make sure the team distributes these keywords in the meta title, H1 tag, img alt tag and meta description across the website.  Remember to make the meta description short, easy to read, and use the keyword along with the towns and cities your dealership serves.  The meta description is what will display on the Search Engines Results Page (SERP).
  3. Use the keywords in the right context in your content.  In other words, make sure the keywords make sense and don’t just drop them willy-nilly.  Google now looks for the content making sense and awards sites accordingly.

Next, review your dealer website’s URLs to see where you can optimize them for a specific location and keyword.  Example? If your dealership serves a specific town, then your new vehicles page list as URL/new-cars-townname. If you serve more than one town, then you should consider some specific pages with those town names in them such as URL/contact-us-townname (and then write content specific to serving that location).

Got all that?  Ok, so let’s take a look at 5 simple steps to help you ascend to local backlink and semantic mention nirvana…

5 Steps to Build Local Backlinks and Local Semantic Mentions

STEP 1: Energize Your Google My Business (GMB) Listing!

How you manage and optimize your GMB listing and reviews is two or three articles just by itself, but for this article we will just focus on some fundamentals.  Here’s what you need to do in very brief terms:

  1. Claim you page if you haven’t done so already.  Use this article that we wrote as a reference on what to do. 
  2. Make sure all your address, store hours and other information is correct.
  3. Add photos of your dealership, friendly faces of your staff and make sure you keep the photos changing over time.  Google likes fresh content. NOTE: When you post images, make sure you provide keyword rich text when the image asks for the “alt text”.  
  4. Own your reviews!  Don’t just answer good reviews, answer all of them, especially the bad ones.  Use this article on how to do your reviews well.  Remember: Over 90% of consumers read online reviews.  If your reviews average a 3.5 and you have 75 reviews, and your competitor averages 4.3 with 327 reviews, who do you think is going to get more shoppers?
  5. Learn from your reviews!  Look for patterns in your business and correct them.  Sometimes a rude a staff member can generate a lot of bad reviews.  Get that corrected; it is costing you money and SEO favorability.
  6. Take advantage of GMB’s Updates, Events, Offers and Products.  Have an Oil Change special? Post it on the Offers. Have a Veterans Day event?  Again, use GMB and post it as an event. This keeps Google happy and increases your SEO ranking over time.
  7. Finally, and this might be a pain to hear, make sure you have a separate GMB listing if you have a service bay too.  This will definitely help you and it is a GMB best practice.

Do your GMB listing well and it is money in the bank…  And, more importantly, it is all free.

STEP 2: Get Sponsored Charities and Groups to Mention You  

Many car dealers are the lifeblood for local charities, community organizations and groups such as the local Little League Team.  Who do you sponsor? I bet it’s a lot of groups! Talk to them. Get them to provide backlinks to your dealership and provide semantic mentions.  In other words, don’t just have them put up your logo as a link, get them to write something that says your dealership’s name, location, and perhaps something about you and the support you give.  Google loves that stuff and rewards you with a higher ranking.

STEP 3: Get Local Businesses, with Whom You Work, to Share Links and Mentions

The same logic and actions for Step 2 apply here.  Who do you do business with on a regular basis? Get them to mention you too!

STEP 4: Work with Your Local Press

A lot of local newspapers are struggling, but they still have a large local audience.  Indeed, over 60% of people still rely on the local paper for local news. So why don’t you put it to work for you?  Think about all your sponsorships; that’s a story? Are there community events you sponsor… that’s another story or a posting on the paper’s community calendar with a mention or backlinks to you and your dealership.  If your local paper has been on the internet for many years, it is very likely to have excellent SEO metrics. That’s like the Golden Buzzer on America’s Got Talent… Payday for anyone who gets it! Note: When possible, don’t just get a link, but use key phrases that contribute to your SEO ranking such as “Dealer Name is the best car dealership in City Name”.  If you can get them to bold the text, all the better. That stuff works!

STEP 5: Put Local Business Directories to Work for You

Local business directories don’t have the power they used to have and they definitely don’t have the punch that GMB offers.  However, you can still put them to work for you if you do certain things. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Do some research and find the local directories for your area.  These are sites that are hyper-local such as local city information directories or even your local paper might one.  
  2. Vary your backlinks on the directories.  For example, don’t just list your dealership as a car dealer if you have a service bay too.  Do like you did with GMB, list both. This will have two links rather than just one.

Get Moving and Track Your Progress

All of this seems like a lot of work and it can be challenging, especially if you already have a lot of work to do.  However, you are in business to make money and this work is critical to that effort. If you can’t do it, talk with your web provider or agency to see if they can do it for you.  But remember that it is critical for your long-term success and must not be put off.  

Getting started is the hardest part because you will be learning something new and doing a bunch of of start-up work.  However, once you get moving all of this can be maintained with very little effort over time.  

Finally, once you get running, be sure to track your progress.  Work with your agency and web provider to use Google Analytics and similar tools to keep close tabs on the performance of your local backlinks and make adjustments if some aren’t working.  This work is well worth it and can turbo charge your dealer website over time!