For over a year, one of my biggest gripes with most automotive website design firms is that they indexed their inventory badly. Most promoted the idea that indexed inventory was a valid SEO tool with no side-effects. It's important to understand that there is good and bad with having your inventory indexed - if done wrong, it can actually hurt the SEO of a site.
The inventory pages, the listings, the calls to action -- all play a role in the success of an inventory module. Here, we will focus on the SEO aspects of indexed inventory.
Write 'em Like a Newspaper Liner
While many car dealers are not SEO experts, most are experts at writing the all-important "liner". It's a trait that comes with experience and an understanding that you often have 5 seconds to grab the customer's attention.
Descriptions in the search engines, often pulled from either the meta-description or directly from content on the page, can be a separator that encourages a click to the site. Whether written personally or as part of a smart description template, a liner-esque search description will help generate more leads.
Proper URL Structure
Indexed inventory is often generated dynamically and with "unfriendly URLs". A proper URL structure on each individual inventory items is enticing for both the search engines as well as the consumers. See the example below for what a URL should look like.
Enticing Title Tags
Title Tags are extremely important for SEO, but they serve a dual purpose. The title tag is displayed as the link on search results, so it must help the page rank as well as encourage people to click on the link.
A strong way to combine the two into a "perfect" title tag would be to include both keywords and calls to action. In the case of the example below, the title tag has the make, model, year, and metro area. It also has a subtle "call to action". The term "For Sale" is a natural click-inducing phrase because that's what people are truly looking for: a car for sale.
After They're Sold...
This is the biggest problem with indexed inventory if not done properly. One thing Google and other search engines do not like is being "fooled". If they present a page in their search listings, they want that page to go somewhere. When an inventory item is sold, standard practice for nearly all inventory solutions is to use a "custom 404" that takes visitors back to the homepage.
This is bad.
Some use redirects to the inventory search page. If it's not the proper redirect (and in nearly every case it is not), this can be bad as well.
Ideally, a page that is listed in searches will remain as an active, content-rich page even after a vehicle is sold. Visitors should then be given "Similar Vehicles" options so that they can find the vehicle that they were looking for even if the initially clicked vehicle is sold.
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Indexed Inventory can be a very good thing for generating traffic, leads, and sales IF it is done right. If it's done poorly, you're better off with a framed solution rather than one that hurts the site. For more information, just Google Indexed Inventory