Auto Parts SEO: 6 Important Search Types to Know

auto parts seo search

Click to view the full-size infographic on the six primary search types used by automotive aftermarket parts buyers to find parts online.

If you’re optimizing a website for auto parts SEO (search engine optimization), or even if you’re trying to optimize your paid search campaign keywords, knowing how enthusiasts search online for products and services is very important. Knowing these basic categories is critical when trying to reach auto enthusiasts online through Google, Bing or Yahoo. A well-optimized website will be found for consumer organic searches performed on a variety of words, including long-tail keywords, which are searches using three or more words.

1). Part type searches with part type modifiers

Enthusiasts may look for parts based on part type so this is important for car parts SEO, or even if you’re optimizing your paid campaigns. This can include parts such as the basic term “brake rotor” and can also get modified like “front disk brake rotor.” This may seem pretty basic but there are thousands of pre-defined part types recognized in the aftermarket and available in various data feeds and formats, plus there are nearly unlimited variations used by consumers to search for products. For example, “cold air intake,” “CAI,” “performance air intake,” “cold air intake kit” and “cold air induction” are all synonyms for basically the same thing.

auto parts seoSome brand names or trademarks may also be substituted generically for part types, such as K&N’s “FIPK” product line.

When working with part types and your web content, it is helpful to be familiar with PIES (Product Information Exchange Standard) file requirements. The Auto Care Association is responsible for maintaining the PIES standard, which is an aftermarket data standard and includes among other things, over 20,000 product types organized into 25 categories. The Auto Care Association publishes PIES standards and the standard part type taxonomy is part of the PCdb table they publish, covering product classifications. Standard PIES product types may not be how a consumer searches but it’s helpful to understand the basic structure.

Part type terms can get modified with words for location, function, brand, or year/make/model, making part type keywords excellent candidates to be found for long-tail searches.

Part types are often organized on websites in higher level categories such as “interior accessories” or “engine parts” but enthusiasts who are shopping to buy will typically not look online using these higher level categories.

Some modifiers can be product attributes including color, finish, size, or similar attributes, and many of these are also included in the PIES standard, in the product attribute database or PAdb. This database includes more than 104,000 attributes for more than 11,000 Part Terminologies.

Many times part type searches are used early in the buying process and may be used with modifiers such as “reviews” or “best” as in “best diesel oil separator” or “air intake system reviews.” When working on auto parts SEO it is important to show up for these modified terms because the enthusiast shopper may not have yet made a decision on where to buy or what brand to buy.

It is also worth doing a check on Google for synonyms. Google is always improving on synonym recognition in semantic searches and for example, recognizes “auto” as “car.” You can do a search on a specific term, and if Google recognizes the synonyms these will also show up in the search engine results page (SERP) in bold along with the original term.

2). Year/make/model/submodel searches with modifiers

This type can be more difficult to optimize for auto parts organic optimization or to build out paid search campaigns, because there are so many variations to year/make/model/submodel. Examples of this could be “2014 Ford F-150 King Ranch” or  “2015 Subaru WRX STI.” Year/make/model can also be broken down by other types of vehicle modifiers, such as “2010 Dodge Ram long bed pickup” or “2014 Toyota Prius hybrid.”

Year/make/model searches by enthusiasts are usually modified with a part type or part function. On the other hand, new automobile shoppers (called “in-market shoppers”) don’t usually modify these searches unless it is with a word indicating purchase intent such as “2015 Ford Mustang for sale” or “2015 Ford Mustang reviews.”

Year/make/model search can be substituted with enthusiast jargon words, for example a Jeep enthusiast may search for a “YJ seat cover” instead of “1995 Jeep Wrangler seat cover.”

Year/make/model searches are almost always long-tail searches. Also, enthusiasts searching for auto parts may not include the make, and if they are educated on the year range of part fitment may not search by year but instead use a generation or platform variation such as “5th gen Camaro.” This is important for auto parts SEO work.

These searches can go through an evolution as the shopper looks online, makes brand decisions and gets more educated. “1995 Jeep Wrangler soft top” can evolve to “95 Wrangler soft top” and eventually lead to “Bestop soft top for Wrangler.”

3). Part function searches with part function modifiers

Enthusiasts may also look for products based on part function. This can be searches that include verbs such as “fuel injection,” “improve handling” or “paint protection.” Part function categories are not standardized in the automotive aftermarket like part types. There is sometimes a thin line separating part type from part function; sometimes they can be the same thing. For example, the function term “paint protection” becomes a part type term “paint protection film” with the addition of a single word.

These can also be modified with year/make/model, brand, or other modifications, such as “Jeep YJ headlight protection.”

As with part types, part functions are typically long-tail search terms.

4). Part symptom searches with modifiers

This major category is for symptoms, like “leaking radiator.” These can often be modified with words indicating purchase intent like “replace leaking radiator” and/or specific year/make/model words like “replace leaking 1990 Civic radiator.”

Part symptom searches usually have purchase intent but are often at the beginning of the search process. These searches may also be done by automobile owners looking for local service repair businesses making these types of searches important for local search and mobile search.

5). Brand searches with modifiers

Brand searches usually indicate high purchase intent. These keywords suggest that a consumer has made a brand selection – or is in the early stages of making a brand selection – and is comparing features and benefits of products from different brands.

Brand search can include the brand of the reseller, or can include the brand of the manufacturer. These searches are relatively easy to optimize for, since the brand terms are usually on product pages already. The key is being found when these brand terms are modified by the shopper with part type, part function, year/make/model/submodel.

6). Searches for part numbers

These are organic searches with high purchase intent. The consumer has done the research and knows enough to merely search at the part number level to find the preferred source. Typically, search activity for part numbers is very low.

Watch our video on these search types:

Conclusions for auto parts SEO

These search variations are part of what can make page optimization a difficult and time consuming task. A successful organic campaign, or any successful PPC campaign will analyze competitors, inbound traffic, various search terms with all variations, and then put this data into action with a marketing plan. You can’t improve organic rankings without quality content in the first place, so keep that in mind.

You must also be aware of the constant algorithm changes by search engines, specifically Google. It’s also worth mentioning that you shouldn’t turn to “black hat” methods in an attempt to game the search engines…that’s old news, but here in the office, we recently discovered a website selling auto parts online (not a client of ours!) that was actually hiding keywords on the page, by making the keywords the same color as the background. This site was not ranking very well and its hard to believe there are still some websites turning to this method today, but there are.

One final thought: as the number of websites selling auto, truck, motorcycle, ATV and other types of parts grows, there is a growing dependence on various sources of product data. This in turn can result in problems with duplicate content. This is a great opportunity to utilize best practice, because you need to optimize your content anyway.

This can quickly turn into a full-time job if performed in-house, and of course you can always turn to an experienced digital marketing agency such as Hedges & Company to ensure that you will show up organically ahead of your competition! If you have any questions on all of this in the car parts aftermarket please give us a call in the office and ask to speak with one of our enthusiast online marketing experts.

Related article on total part numbers in the aftermarket including ACES and PIES information.

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