Search engine optimization (SEO): What is it and how can it result in more phone calls or online reservations for your independent auto rental business?
Keywords on your website — among a long list of 200 or so other factors — determine what page you land on in Google, Bing and Yahoo. And to make it more complicated, the way these search engines determine what is most relevant to any given search constantly evolves. Web experts even have a hard time following all this noise.
There are general principles, though, that small operators like you can keep in mind that will drive your websites higher in relevant online searches — ultimately improving your bottom line. One of the most important points lies in your website’s keywords, or words on your site that a person might search for, such as “Los Angeles car rental.”
“Who cares if you have a great website — or a poor one — if no one can find you?” asks Roger Laurendeau, owner of The Web Guys, a web design and search marketing service company that has helped numerous small auto rental companies optimize their websites.
Greenberg Rent A Car, owned by Matt Holowinski in Chicago, is one of them. Holowinski says that previously his online marketing focused on being an affiliate in order to get listed on Orbitz and Expedia, “but the charge is so high that I couldn’t compete with the major car rental companies, so automatically I was not able to gain any reservations.”
The intricacies of online marketing and using search engine traffic to gain leads and reservations is why many companies opt-in to web service companies like The Web Guys. “I needed help getting to the front page of Google and Yahoo — I couldn’t get there,” says Kelly Spirra, owner of New Jersey-based Value Auto Rental. “I had competition in the area that was dominating the first page of Google organically and I didn’t know where to begin or how to improve our site to get it to the first page.”
Ranking on page one takes a much larger effort than just making sure you’re using the right keywords. “Some of it is local SEO, and some of it is directories and Google Places optimization. There are just so many things,” Laurendeau says. “That’s why we wrap up everything we do and call it ‘Internet marketing.’” Other efforts include using social media, email marketing and interactive customer service to manage a company’s online reputation.
But before any of this can happen, one of the first tasks The Web Guys embark on is identifying the client’s target market.
Using a Target Market to Boost Your Page Rank
What’s your specialty: van rental, luxury rentals, economy car rental? As small operators, owners might want to hone in on what makes them unique to the bigger brands in their area.
“Everyone we’ve encountered wants to be first for car rental,” Laurendeau says, adding that “car rental” and “car rentals” are the top searched terms for the industry. But this means that every car rental operator in the area is competing to land on page one of a Google search for those keywords.
“In term of volumes in search, without question ‘car rental’ is king of the castle, but there are many other search terms — 92 exactly as far as we can tell — that drive quality search traffic,” he says. “So we go through all those words and tell the customer, ‘hey there are some wins to be had here without being first for ‘car rental.’”