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Auto Parts SEO – How to Sell More Auto Parts Online

Auto Parts SEO – How to Sell More Auto Parts Online

Between 2012 and 2019 the revenue for auto and auto-parts eCommerce in the U.S. more than doubled – now raking in more than $57 billion. So what does the increasing importance of internet retail mean for businesses that want to learn how to sell more auto parts?

Being able to create and optimize a retail site that’s best suited for shopper experience and SEO is an important step. Automotive and auto-parts SEO involves unique challenges for getting the best results and for designing a site that can be easily indexed, crawled, and ranked – especially with parts listings and product-details that best make sense for your business. As shopping continues to shift to the internet and as brick-and-mortar auto parts retail shrinks, learning how to sell more auto parts online is critical to retailers.

We’ve come up with a guide for an auto parts marketing plan that focuses on search and how people use the internet.

More than half of all web traffic comes from search engines, and 41% of all online revenue comes from search. Here’s what that means for auto-parts SEO specifically: Auto retail, OEM and replacement auto parts sales in eCommerce have doubled in revenue since 2012 – from $23.3 billion to over $57 billion. Auto parts alone have outpaced previous expectations in just this year by $1.9 billion, as this segment rapidly explodes in popularity.

It only makes sense that online retail in this space continues to grow as internet commerce becomes the new normal. In fact this segment is expected to grow another $6 billion in the next 3 years alone. The influence of digital and internet marketing is expected to boost the entire auto-parts industry by more than $160 billion – meaning that creating an auto parts marketing plan is important for learning how to sell more auto parts online

Here are the best ways to do it.

Long term focused marketing

Outlining a strategy for auto-parts SEO for retail means knowing your business goals and understanding your audience. Knowing this ahead of time is important to every other search marketing strategy – including keyword research, content, meta-data optimization, and more.

Automotive eCommerce fits into two main categories: business-to-business sales (including wholesale) or business-to-consumer. As you build out your SEO strategy, the way you approach your audience will affect your long-term success. Following B2B SEO best practices can help commercial and wholesale parts retailers expand their reach online, and gain dominance for high-traffic search keywords. In fact, SEO techniques for eCommerce sites are crucial to long-term success.

One of the biggest benefits of an auto-parts SEO strategy is that it’s great for long-term digital marketing success.

Even though SEO requires a fair amount of short-term work, the results make it worthwhile:

  • Once a site has been optimized, it can passively bring in large amounts of traffic for years to come.
  • Longtail and head keywords can help parts retailers engage shoppers at every step of the shopping funnel.
  • It can help increase brand recognition and visibility within one of the largest marketing channels.
  • It can help grow traffic to a site across organic, referral, and social-media segments.
  • It also improves product sales affordably, without an expensive ad budget.

Make an auto parts marketing plan with keyword research

An important part of SEO is keyword research since this process helps businesses find their most valuable audiences and steers what sort of traffic comes to their site. This process involves researching important search terms and isolating the right ones for your auto parts SEO strategy using tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or Search Console.

Auto parts SEO can be unique since both the products themselves and your brand’s audience will hinge on what sort of keywords are used and a good understanding of search behavior. Automotive marketing and parts do better with strategic use of key industry terminology (lots of searchers use terms like “OEM,” “replacement,” “aftermarket,” “performance,” “remanufactured,” etc.).

Example of auto-parts SEO keyword research

Incorporating these habits into your head-keywords strategy (for cornerstone content, and top-level pages), as well as your long-tail keywords (for product level pages and sub-categories) is important to capturing shoppers at each stage of the SEO sales funnel.

Finding the right keywords can help a website perform across every level of the search funnel:

  • Head keywords can help drive people to your home-page or nav-bar pages as they’re just beginning their shopping journey – this also helps build brand recognition.
  • Longtail keywords and ultra-specific queries represent people that know what they want and are more likely to make a purchase – getting products to rank for these keywords is one of the best ways of netting revenue.

H1 tags and default meta-titles

Page and product titles are important SEO ranking factors and can play a big roll in eCommerce sites – especially large eCommerce sites where customizing every product page isn’t easy to do.

Most content management systems (CMSs) will automatically pull the on-page H1 to use as the meta-title. For better SEO results you’ll want to have your CMS or product inventory management system create H1s that are descriptive, accurate and unique (and that reflect typical search behavior). The eCommerce platform/CMS can also have this information included in product details, which search engines will identify as content useful for product rankings.

For auto-parts SEO in particular this probably means including the make, model, part name, and part number, manufacturer and other key details. Keep in mind both the keywords that you find during SEO keyword research, as well as the terminology you know your target audiences is most likely to use.

A good H1 on-page title (and a meta title) might look like:

This title offers the make, model, vehicle years, and manufactures which are all good details for shoppers looking for those specifics.

Dynamic SEO for large eCommerce inventories

This is a good way of setting up a baseline strategy for auto-parts SEO on very large sites where it’s too time consuming to optimize every page.

It’s an extension of the strategy described above in that it means having a system where characteristics can be pulled from the site’s design (category page, brand/manufacturer, etc.) and then be automatically combined in key areas of a site that act as SEO ranking signals – particularly meta title-tags or bread crumbs.

For eCommerce sites this can mean setting up the theme files for the site or adjusting the CMS to pull key characteristics automatically. For site structure that’s already pre-designed to focus on key search terms (like make, model, vehicle trim level, etc.) this can help boost SEO performance alongside a full on-page SEO strategy.

URL variants and canonicalization

Canonicalizing product URLs is a good strategy for simplifying an eCommerce site’s inventory – particularly with product variants. For better UX while maintaining a good auto-parts SEO structure, URL parameters can be used for product variants, with a canonical URL being used to help search engines identify a unique product.

A good strategy is to go from most important qualities to least, with the least important qualities being used as variants: vehicle make > model > vehicle trim > year > part > manufacturer > part number > sub-part number.

This strategy can improve the UX and even the crawlability of your site – while still allowing search engines to understand your eCommerce listings. Search engines are able to understand dynamic URLs, but make sure to create dynamic URLs or “product variants” that make sense to your shoppers (model year, color, vehicle-trim level, sub-part number, etc.).

Site structure

SEO for auto parts sites and automotive retail can be tricky, because a common strategy for overall site structure is to utilize “filters” where shoppers set their make, model, vehicle year, and trim level and then shop for parts that way.

But like we described above, site’s that set-up URL structure and use “dynamic” pages can end up making search optimization much more complex.

Static URLs with clear, accurate and descriptive title-tags (even if dynamically generated) are better suited for SEO performance. Even though it’s possible that search engines can discover and index a wide range of category pages, dynamically creating “category” level pages for every single make/model/year/trim variation can lead to hundreds of potential landing pages which can dilute keyword rankings and make good SEO much more difficult.

Consider your pre-site launch SEO for determining how you want customers to be able to “filter” for their vehicle or how they can navigate through categories. A “deep” site-structure with too many landing pages may not be the best way, but a “shallow” structure with generic categories may make it difficult for shoppers to find parts for their specific car or truck.

The differences between shallow and deep site structure

Many businesses opt to use a sort of hybrid of these too extremes where category pages are generalized for specific parts/components/categories, and from there shoppers can then filter for more specific options.

Vehicle make, model, and part number

Auto-parts SEO hinges on information like these details since they represent the main ways that people shop for replacement parts.

With a well-done keyword research strategy most businesses will find these keywords crucial for driving organic traffic to their site and will set-up their on-page SEO accordingly. But it’s worth emphasizing the importance of these topics since it’s a common mistake for automotive and auto-parts eCommerce sites to neglect these.

  • Make/model are going to be the primary ways people begin their journey in the shopping funnel. Catching them here is key to better conversion-rate (CR).
  • Alternatively, not everyone will search based off of the name of the part they need, many will default to typing the part number into search. Including both of these elements in your auto-parts SEO strategy is key to netting more traffic. Plus, part numbers and standardized IDs are a key way of improving your commercial/B2B keyword research (for wholesale eCommerce).

Many marketers use keyword search tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or Search Console to do keyword research. Part numbers might not get enough minimum average-monthly searches to appear in Google’s Keyword Planner tool but checking Search Console might reveal that your products are getting clicks/impressions for them anyway.

Better optimizing your product page’s for part numbers is the best way of improving your Google intent marketing – when people search for these ID numbers their intent is often very clear, and they are indicating the exact product they want, getting your page in front of shoppers here is crucial to better click-through-rate (CTR) and increased conversions.

Google Shopping as a NEW revenue channel

Google Shopping results for auto-parts

Google’s “Shopping” tab is a dedicated portion of the search engine that allows businesses to display and sell their products directly in search results.

Google Shopping resembles an eCommerce marketplace (such as retail competitors like Amazon or eBay) and it provides a way of selling products directly in Google search engines results pages (SERPs) without having visitors come to your site.

In 2020 the company announced that it would allow all businesses the opportunity for free Google Shopping organic results – giving businesses a huge new channel for eCommerce, as well as a new strategy for how to sell more auto parts.

These listings require that brands import their products and product details into a Google Merchant Center account and that products are selected to appear in “surfaces across Google,” product listings also require details that were before only required for Shopping PPC ads:

  • Product pricing markup
  • Product IDs (like a SKU number)
  • Detailed and accurate product descriptions
  • Product images
  • User rating markup
  • Linking URL to the product’s actual landing page
  • Etc.

Product page schema markup

What schema markup (also called “structured data”) does is add additional tidbits of info to the search results page – beyond just the standard title and description, this includes elements like product price, user ratings, availability, and more.

An example of product shema in a SERP

Even though schema markup is not actually an SEO ranking factor, it can help improve SEO for auto parts by improving CTR and boosting visibility in SERPs.

The most popular forms of structured data include JSON-LD, Microdata, and RDFa – but all give the same results and are all supported by Google or Bing. In fact, has set-aside specific properties for auto-parts SEO schema under AutoPartsStore (mainly for local SEO). For general eCommerce there’s still regular product markup.

This markup can add detail and improve the information provided in search “snippets” for product pages and it helps search engines understand key elements of the page, including:

  • Department
  • Product ratings (as an aggregate rating)
  • Product brand or manufacturer
  • Item condition (used or new)
  • Size or weight
  • GTIN codes
  • Model number, part number or store SKU
  • Etc.

Meta data optimization

Meta data is one of the most important search optimization elements there is – and it’s a big part of why on-page SEO is important. Parts of a site like meta-title tags and meta-descriptions are the most effective way of optimizing auto-parts SEO and one of the most controllable parts of SEO.

Your meta data will be in the HTML code of each page – but both the title-tag and the meta-description are shown as part of the snippet in the search results page (SERP). This means they’re crucial to both rankings, as well as improving click-through-rate (CTR).

Having your meta data optimized with good keywords and detailed content will help users and search engines know what your page has to offer. This strategy is short and sweet and makes it easy to target specific keywords – an important part of gaining rankings. According to Google itself, title-tag best practice is to be “descriptive and concise.

Title-tags, and meta-descriptions should also be accurate/honest – otherwise they can hurt SEO performance.

A good title tag should be written clearly, short enough that it doesn’t get truncated (about 60 characters) and will have the target keywords included (keywords that represent what’s actually on the page.

In the image above the title tag is written to target not just branded keyword traffic, but queries for “compact tractors,” “utility tractors,” “agriculture tractors” and “4wd tractors” meaning that it can target multiple high-traffic queries at once.

Inbound SEO with content and blogs

One of the biggest issues with automotive retail, aftermarket car accessories, and auto-parts SEO is that eCommerce businesses struggle to bring in traffic outside of low-level keyword traffic for products.

Building out high-quality, cornerstone content is a critical part of expanding SEO performance and taking online business to a bigger level using an inbound marketing strategy. For brands that want to know how to sell more auto parts or increase their brand-recognition, content is the only way.

Why is content marketing so important? High-quality content is what search engines use to understand a website, understand subject-matter and to determine keyword rankings. It’s an important algorithmic signal that helps improve organic traffic – it can also help improve your auto-parts SEO campaign by giving you opportunities for keyword density, LSI, and even BERT optimization.

Building out content in key areas of the site is also a great way of expanding your brand visibility in multiple stages of the shopper journey (for both high-traffic and longtail keywords):

  • Blogs are great way of gaining search traffic for “intent” driven search queries and for non-eCommerce focused search queries.
  • Guides/instructional pages can drive traffic for mechanics, DIY customers, and potential customers who may be shopping for replacement parts, accessories, OEM components.
  • FAQ page SEO can answer questions before they’re asked and decrease barriers to conversion, helping to improve your eCommerce conversion rate.
  • Nav-bar content and category page content helps improve keyword ranking for important landing pages and helps your site target intent driven “head” keywords.

Sitemaps for large eCommerce sites

One challenge for auto-parts SEO and automotive retail marketing is getting a large eCommerce site indexed in search engines like Google or Bing.

Search engines use indexing “bots” to index sites, and they rely on “sitemaps” to find important pages, crawl them, and add them to the search index.

For a very larg website, you might need a sitemap if you want to avoid unreliable indexing, having your product pages dropped from Google’s index, or having deeply-buried pages not indexed at all. For extra-large sites (like marketplace sites or large eCommerce sites with more than 50,000 URLs), it might be necessary to use a “sitemap index file” – this is very similar in format to just a regular sitemap – but one that includes other sitemaps. In effect, it’s a sitemap of sitemaps.

You can use Google’s guidance on how to build and submit sitemaps using this style.

An example of a sitemap index format

Your sitemap should only include status 200 URLs on your site. Do not include redirected URLs, 404 pages, or non-static URLs such as session generated URLs. This will improve efficiency and improve SEO for auto-parts by making sure products are visible to shoppers.

Avoiding common mistakes

To sell more auto parts, accessories, and OEM components online it’s important to build out a digital marketing strategy while avoiding problems that could sink your traffic and reduce revenue.

The most common SEO mistakes to avoid for auto retailers and eCommerce sites include bad keyword strategy, bad on-page meta data, little (or no) content, as well as site-structures that aren’t suited for search engines.

Plus one of the single biggest issues for eCommerce sites is indexability; 404 URLs and out-of-stock/obsolete products can really bog down your business.

For the best results businesses need to do good keyword research and optimize their pages for title-tags and keyword based meta data, as well as with content optimization. All of these elements need to work together for SEO. But individually researching product keywords, writing meta data, and optimizing content involves a lot of time and effort and it’s a big part of why many businesses decide to hire an SEO agency or service.

SEO agencies can help businesses avoid mistakes and they offer a wide range of benefits like account management and constant communication, auto industry/eCommerce experience, data monitoring, monthly reporting, and a dedicated team for auto-parts SEO on your site.

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