Do you go straight to Google before heading out to make a new purchase? If so, you aren’t alone. A recent study conducted by Digital Air Strike found that online reviews of car dealerships play a larger role than ever in shopping decisions of car-buyers. The study, which looked at both the social media habits of 650 dealerships and the shopping habits of 2,000 consumers, found that 81 percent of car buyers looked at reviews of a dealership in search results when buying a new car, showing that if a dealership isn’t showing well on Google and Bing, chances are that dealership won’t win customers.
Search engine rankings are becoming increasingly important to small businesses, who realize customers no longer go to the phone book to find local services. Word-of-mouth has always been a powerful factor in consumer buying habits, but social media has taken that word-of-mouth online, where it can spread to hundreds of local customers within hours, remaining online for years.
Car dealerships are learning the same lesson many small businesses have had to learn the hard way. If they don’t set up a social media presence, consumers will find information on other sites. Small businesses should pay special attention to Facebook’s new Graph Search feature since, according to the study, there is a 43 percent probability that consumers will use the feature to search for a car dealership. Graph Search is a relatively new feature, still in Beta, but the survey results prove that it is likely to become a prominent method of not only finding information on Facebook but finding information in general.
The survey also found:
- 67 percent of car buyers search for local businesses on mobile devices
- There is a 59 percent probability a consumer will trust a recommendation from a Facebook friend over online reviews
- 81 percent of car buyers using review sites said they look at review scores in search results
Especially notable in these search results is the fact that consumers are using mobile devices to find local businesses. When a consumer types in plumber on a mobile device, the closest results are displayed. Some businesses choose to pay to be first, signing up for Google AdWords. However, many consumers have grown accustomed to skipping the ads at the top of search results. So for many small businesses, the goal is to appear prominently in search results the legitimate way–using quality content and search engine optimization (SEO) skills.
If a person searches for “San Diego plumber” and you’re a plumber serving the San Diego area, you’ll need to incorporate the words “San Diego” and “plumber” into your content. It’s important to do this naturally, with well-written, relevant content throughout your site. For maximum results, include the words in each page’s meta description, which can be done through your HTML page or by using SEO widgets.
As consumers increasingly rely on the Internet for information on businesses, search engine and social media activity is more important than ever. With so many free tools available to help small businesses, a business owner can easily increase online visibility by making a few simple changes.