Car Dealers: How to Rank Higher on Third-Party Marketplaces (Without Premium Listings)

Today’s dealers still rely heavily on third-party marketplaces to move inventory. Although there are now better ways to advertise your vehicles, third-parties are still a critical marketing channel to master. 

Of course, these companies are in the business of making money, and they want you to pay for premium listings on their site. But here’s the secret: 

There are ways to improve your rankings on 3rd party sites without paying to play.

It’s true. By following certain best practices, you can play the system and boost your rankings without spending a dime. 

 

How to Boost Listings Without Paying Third-Parties

Just like your dealership, third-party marketplaces are in the customer service business. They aim to deliver the best experience for their visitors by steering them away from subpar listings.

That’s why third-parties have changed the way they rank listings over the years. Well-merchandised vehicles rank higher on their Search Results Pages (SRP) since these are the listings their visitors are more likely to engage with. 

So what exactly does a “well-merchandised” vehicle look like to a third-party? Below, we’ll cover some of the most important things third-party sites look for when deciding which listings sit at the top of the page.

 

High-Quality Photos

Including custom, high-quality photos in your listings is one of the easiest ways to increase Vehicle Detail Page (VDP) views. Data from Autotrader shows that including multiple custom photos can increase VDP views by up to 349% compared to a single stock photo.

You’ll also want to add descriptions to your image file names before you upload them. Recent stats from Google show that searches for “pictures of [automotive brand]” are up 37% year-over-year. That means the image file names and alt text for your 2017 Ford F-150 should read something like “picture-of-ford-f150-2017-red.png” and “Pictures of Red Ford F-150 2017 for sale in Kansas City.”

Make sure your inventory management tool can upload high-definition photos — some can’t. Beware of platforms that compress “HD photos” down to blurry 640×40 images. 

Product Note: With VinCue’s built-in image uploader tool, you can quickly upload images while maintaining their quality. This ensures customers are seeing the best possible photos of your vehicles no matter where they are on the web. 

 

Eye-Catching Options & Features 

Third-party sites tend to rank vehicles based on a “fair deal, good deal, great deal” system. Your listing will receive more “credit” for including the expected options, features, and packages for that vehicle.

Let’s say your vehicle comes with leather seats, but you forgot to include that in your listing. Instead of ranking higher as a “great deal”, it’s now been downgraded to a “good deal”.

Dealers can avoid this by utilizing the right feature decoding system. However, some platforms force you to integrate with other products for this kind of functionality (For example, vAuto and Homenet.com). Before you know it, you’re navigating through different tools with multiple logins. 

VinCue’s all-in-one-platform has this functionality built right in. It uses your inventory data to capture all of a vehicle’s features and options. This ensures your listings get the most credit possible from third-parties. 

 

Detailed Vehicle Comments

Your vehicle’s description is critical to engaging with prospective buyers. Third-party sites rank listings with custom comments higher because they deliver a more personalized experience to customers.

However, many dealers (and platforms) make the mistake of basing their comments off of search terms. Instead of creating engaging descriptions that attract buyers, they try to increase VDP views by including as many keywords as possible. 

The problem is that these keyword-based comments don’t actually increase views. Stuffing your comments with keywords is a recipe for landing at the bottom of the rankings.

Vehicle comments should be detailed, strong, and answer customer questions. That’s where VinCue can help. Its unique description builder puts together powerful and engaging statements for each of your vehicles. 

 

Market-Based Pricing

A lot of dealers think the best way to attract more buyers on third-party sites is by lowering their prices. They’re wrong. The fastest-selling vehicles on Auto Trader are actually priced at 99%-100% of the current market value.   

According to Karolina Edwards-Smajda, the director of commercial products at AutoTrader: “All of our research shows that retailers that price to market from day one enjoy a faster speed of sale, which means they’re selling more cars, more quickly, and for more profit.”

The obvious benefit here: You’re not only ranking higher, you’re avoiding a race-to-the-bottom on price. 

Dealers who use VinCue have access to real-time market insights that ensure they’re pricing vehicles effectively for their area as well as these sites.

 

Focusing on Value over Price

This last tip isn’t about how to rank higher, but how to rank better. To increase your dealership’s gross and turn, you’ll need to provide value above-and-beyond price. Your listings are key to communicating this value to customers. 

So where do you start? First, you’ll want to include dealer exclusive items in your listings. These include things like Lifetime Warranty, Free Car Washes, Certification, etc. 

Next is reconditioning. Imagine an active buyer in your area is looking at two identical vehicles. Car A is $1,000 cheaper, but Car B (your car) has been completely serviced, inspected, etc. Car B is the better value and the vehicle that the shopper is more likely to buy.

VinCue automatically generates listings that include these value-driven features. Dealers can update the system with information about dealer exclusive items and reconditioning; VinCue will then automatically include these in your vehicle descriptions. 

 

Switch to VinCue and Start Winning on Visibility

vincue inventory managementThird-party marketplaces keep their ranking algorithm secret. However, the tips listed above have been proven to boost listings without shelling out for premium placements.

Third-party sites are still an important marketing channel for dealers. But they’re also not the only way to advertise your vehicles. Precision advertising through VinCue lets you skip the third-parties and drive traffic directly to your website.

Whichever way you decide to market your inventory, VinCue’s all-in-one platform delivers the tools your dealership needs to connect with the most customers possible. Stop paying a premium to third-party sites and start winning on visibility with VinCue today.

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