SEO gone wrong

I have the dubious pleasure of shopping for a new car. Although I’ve decided on a make and model (Honda CRV), the question of what dealer to patronize is open. So off to the websites I go, looking for specials and the general tone of the various places. Like most people facing a trip to the dealer, I was in a, shall we say, pre-adversarial state of mind.

On one dealer website (UPDATE: dead link now, with awful error message), I see this (formatting in the original):

This 2010 Honda CR-V NJ New Jersey is offered by Open Road Honda of Edison and can be compared to any 2010 Honda CR-V Edison  Why pay full retail for a 2010 Honda CR-V NJ New Jersey when you can have this 2010 Honda CR-V Edison? Paying less for a Honda CR-V NJ New Jersey probably makes sense to most NJ New Jersey Honda CR-V buyers. This Edison Honda CR-V is available at a fraction of the original retail price at Open Road Honda in NJ New Jersey. See for yourself why so many Edison drivers choose a Honda CR-V Edison

What the hell is going on here? Does Honda make a special New Jersey version of the CRV? (Including EZ-Pass holder and remote gas tank door opener.) Wait, is there an Edison version too?

No, Garden Staters, Honda doesn’t love you that much.

What we have here is search engine optimization gone wrong. The dealer’s website agency — or an SEO agency — has intentionally stuffed the page with target keywords, hoping to rise in the rankings for “honda new jersey” or “new jersey cr-v” et cetera.

So far, it’s not working fully. Searching for “honda new jersey” returns Open Road at #9 in the natural results — ironic considering they are allegedly the biggest Honda dealer in NJ. The results page is dominated by the rather useful Google Local results, however. Open Road does make it to the top there, but that’s due in part to Google’s geotargeting to my location. Open Road isn’t in the top ten for “new jersey cr-v“or “new jersey honda cr-v“. They are #1 for “edison honda cr-v” but that is a minor victory; how many additional Edison residents are going to call Open Road because of that search?

But what the heck, they may have just started this SEO program. What’s the downside of this SEO program?

The biggest problem is that regular folks who read that gibberish are going to be confused, at least briefly. Do you want customers trying to decipher your English, when they’re deciding where to spend $25,000?

Good marketing means removing barriers to sale, so they ought to rework the copy.

Or, kill it altogether! Keyword frequency and formatting are of minimal importance (see here for a good list), compared to some other things they have done right (title tag, H1-formatted text, high position of keywords).

The most important thing that Open Road Honda for their SEO can do is to get links from reputable sites. How many are pointing to Open Road? Only about a hundred; a search returns 379 but most of those are for similarly named firms in North Dakota and Vancouver.

How can a car dealer get links?

Well… I’ll be glad to show them if they cut me a deal. I’m not interested in Toyotas any more.


P.S. new jersey honda cr-v.  Throw in some floor mats OK?