- What is SEO?
- Why is SEO for Collision Repair Shops important?
- Paid Traffic vs. Organic Traffic
- Local vs. National
- What Prospects Are Looking For
- How Search Engines Work
- Auto Body Related Keywords
- On-Page SEO for Collision Repair Shops
- Technical SEO
- Inbound Links to Your Shop’s Website
- Measure Your SEO Efforts
Note: Some parts of this post get a little technical. If you’re trying to do some things yourself then you may find this very helpful. On the other hand if you just want someone to do it for you, let’s talk!
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of optimizing your website to make it easier for search engines to understand, with the intent of getting higher ranking in search results.
If SEO is done correctly, an immensely huge side effect is that your shop’s website becomes far more helpful to your prospects and customers, helping them find what they are looking for.
Why is SEO for Collision Repair Shops Important?
When someone gets into an auto accident, it’s a stressful situation - they might sit there wondering what to do. Maybe they call the police, or their insurance company, or talk to the other driver first. But very shortly they realize they’re going to need a body shop.
At this point, they’ll probably do a search for “auto body shops” and they’ll most likely do this on their phone. In most cases, they’ll be viewing the results on Google or Google Maps, where they’re presented with a list of local companies and their star ratings.
If your shop’s website is properly optimized and you have all your bases covered, such as creating or claiming your Google My Business profile, your chances of appearing in those top results increase dramatically. The facilities that appear first are the ones that people click, assuming their ratings are acceptable.
Paid Traffic vs. Organic Traffic
When we’re talking about SEO for collision repair businesses, we’re mainly focused on “organic” traffic. Paid traffic is just that - traffic you pay for via Google Ads or Facebook Ads for example. On the other hand, organic traffic implies that website visitors found your site organically. They searched for a specific phrase, such as “auto body shops in phoenix az” and your website appeared in the results, so they clicked the link.
Local vs. National
Auto body shops are by their very nature, local businesses. Of course there are large chains spanning multiple states, but people tend to lean heavily towards the shop that is closest to their home.
To overcome that inclination your website needs to be optimized to illustrate why they should choose to drive a little farther to your shop. This can include having service area pages for your location and some of the areas nearby that you serve. Just because you’re not physically located in a nearby bedroom community doesn’t mean you can’t target its residents.
Prospects will Google phrases such as “collision repair near me” or “auto body boston ma” and variations so you’ll want to optimize your site to appeal to your own city and those nearby that naturally fit your service area. You may have a realistic service area of 20-25 miles, but also consider any geographic features that make it impractical for customers to easily reach you, like lakes or mountains.
What Prospects Are Looking For
It’s obvious that a person who has been in an accident and sustained damage to their vehicle is looking for collision repair services, but the actual phrases they use to search might depend on your location. Regional dialects are sort of disappearing as the internet makes everything so global, but maybe people in your city search for a “body man” or “body shop” while people in other places use “collision repair” or “auto body”.
Each geographic location has its own language to some extent, so it helps to find out what phrases people in your area use and optimize for that. For example, where Ilive, in Decatur IL, nobody eats a “grilled cheese” – here we call them “cheese toasties” for some reason.
How Search Engines Work
Google and other search engines have to “crawl” your site. In essence this is a program that reads web pages and follows the links it finds, in order to discover web pages and their contents. If you don’t tell Google that your site exists, then the crawler can only find your site if someone else links to it.
You can and should tell Google that your site exists. One way to do this is to create a “sitemap” file and submit it to Google. A sitemap is a specially formatted file that contains a list of all your website’s page URLs.
As a crawler works through your website, it creates an “index”, which contains details of what your site is about. This is used to quickly retrieve results when someone does a search.
This information is also used to rank your site, depending on how relevant it is to a person’s search query. Whatever Google determines to be the most relevant appears first in the results. How sites are ranked is a huge and complex topic, but some of the factors that come into play for local searches are:
- The relevance of your site in relation to the phrase searched for
- Distance from the searcher to your location
- Positive reviews
- The number of citations (links from business directories)
- The number of links to your site from others
- Amount of engagement (do you answer questions, and respond to reviews)
Auto Body Related Keywords
If Google tries to match website search results to the phrases people are searching for, it should be obvious that your website needs to contain those keywords if you want to appear in those results.
If someone searches for “paintless dent repair” but none of your web pages mention that service, then your site is not going to factor into those search results. Maybe you have a list of services that briefly mentions PDR, but if you really want to rank for that phrase, you’ll need a page dedicated to that topic – and for every other service you offer.
On-Page SEO for Collision Repair Shops
Not only is the content on your web pages important, but how it’s created matters a great deal. Your page content should be informative. It should include the keywords that you're wanting to rank for, using natural-sounding language.
As for how a page is structured, it should have the following:
- Header tags (H1 tags for the main topic, H2, H3, etc. for subheadings)
- Links between pages, with proper “anchor text”
- Optimized images (filesize, alt tags, filenames)
- Skimmable formatting (headings, bullet points, lists, bold, italics)
- Page URLs (www.website.com/collision-repair-services rather than www.website.com/services)
- Descriptive title tags (this is what appears in your browser tab and in search results page)
- Meta description (this description does not appear on the page, but can appear in search results)
- Secure protocols (this is when you see “https” and a padlock in your address bar instead of just “http”)
On-page SEO is largely focused on information that your website visitors can see, whereas technical SEO deals more with the behind the scenes optimizations, even though the effects can be seen.
As I mentioned above, search engines crawl through your website and try to make sense of everything as best they can. With technical SEO, we can very specifically tell the search engines what certain things mean, using schema markup.
Schema Markup for “AutoBodyShop”
Schema markup is a type of code that tells computers (search engines) exactly what type of data is on your site. There is even a schema specification dedicated just to automobiles but that’s outside of our needs. We’d want to use the data type for “LocalBusiness” and the specific type of “AutoBodyShop”.
Responsive Design for Auto Body Websites
Well over half of the traffic to your site is coming from mobile devices, so if your site isn’t mobile friendly, customers will probably leave quickly. Your website should “respond” to the screen size of the device it’s being viewed on. So a desktop shows your site one way, a tablet shows some elements rearranged, and a phone looks different yet again, with some elements stacked vertically. This doesn’t require multiple versions of your web pages, just smart design that can resize and restack where needed.
Google treats this as a ranking factor, so if your website isn’t responsive, you get bypassed by sites that are.
If you’ve tried to load a site on your phone and it takes too long to load, do you ever give up and move on to another option? Lots of people do, and page speed is a ranking factor. Improving page speed can involve several factors, such as:
- Using a fast web hosting provider
- Optimizing image sizes
- Minifying code (removing all spaces and tabs in the code to compress it)
- Reducing the number of images used on a page
- Reducing the number of scripts used
- Reducing the number of fonts and font weights used
- Controlling the order in which files load on a page
Inbound Links to Your Shop’s Website
Inbound links are links from other websites to yours. You can almost view these as votes for your site, so if a site has hundreds of links pointing to it, Google treats it as an authority compared to other sites with fewer inbound links.
If you were out in public place in your city, and walked around asking for recommendations to the area’s best body shop, and everyone keeps saying “Bob’s Collision” that’s a very similar scenario. But it’s not a simple one-to-one vote. Some sites have more authority than others, so a link from a well-known popular site to yours carries more weight than your local Chamber of Commerce website, though they all count.
For example, if you ask your crazy aunt Linda (who doesn’t have a car) about the best body shop, her opinion doesn’t count as much as the Ford dealer where you bought your vehicle.
Measure Your SEO Efforts
What gets measured gets improved. If you want to improve your SEO, you have to capture a baseline and build from there. The quickest way to do this is by getting a website audit. This is usually an automated test that checks your rankings, your page’s titles, headings, speed, and other SEO factors.
Once you have a starting point, you can start making efforts to improve your site, and compare your results to the starting point to make sure you’re going in the right direction.
SEO for your body shop is a “long game” traffic strategy to steadily build out your website over months and years, improving all along the way. Over time this builds awareness, legitimacy, and authority, while helping you improve your rankings in comparison to your competition.
More traffic to your website is not the end goal in and of itself. The goal is to bring more customers into your collision repair shop, and SEO is a great way to do that.
Some of the items mentioned above are relatively easy to do, but for a comprehensive SEO and marketing plan, you’ll probably be best served by bringing on a specialist, and not just any SEO or digital marketing specialist, but one who specializes in auto body shops.
If you’re ready to get more customers in the door, let’s set up a short 10 minute call to see if we’re a good fit. No hard sell, just a quick conversation. Call or text 217-960-8580, or use the chat feature below.
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