People have been hopping across county and even state borders to get a better deal on their vehicle of choice—or to get the car with the perfect set of options and/or in the right color—for a long time. The Internet has broadened the competitive landscape from the regional to the national, though, especially with dealership networks and partnership options like TrueCar (far and away the most successful among several similarly-oriented services).
While a dealership in Maine might not end up selling a car to a buyer in Arizona, he competition really does stretch that far, and there are ways for that Maine dealership to take advantage of shoppers in Tucson. The Internet makes distance completely immaterial in the early stages of the car buying lifecycle, and the more consumers you can capture in the early phases the more sales you’ll see when car buyers are ready to finalize the deal.
The reason you need to think of your dealership competing on a national scale boils down to the way the Internet works. Search engines like Google are always trying to deliver the best possible results for their users’ searches—when someone searches for the world’s best pizza recipe, Google’s algorithm gets to work, trying parse all of the data it’s indexed from all of the websites it’s crawled all over the world, trying to determine which site has the best information that is most relevant to the user.
Chances are the results will include some local pizza restaurants; even though that isn’t precisely what the search is for, Google’s algorithm is clever enough to assume that users might end up wanting to just go grab a slice of the best pie in town.
More of the results will be from popular food blogs and pizza-themed sites that have high authority—that have a track record of user engagement that tells Google there’s some really great information on the site relevant to this particular user’s search. It doesn’t matter if these sites are attached to a physical business, let alone where that business (if it exists) is located; the information can criss-cross the globe in milliseconds, so if Google thinks the best result for a pizza-obsessed searcher in Alaska is an site run by a pizzeria in Naples, that’s the site Google will put at the top of the results.
The early car buying phase, for most car shoppers, is purely about information gathering. If your dealership can provide the best possible information about the cars people are searching for, location won’t matter in the search results. Your dealership will show up in the top handful of search results, and the more user interaction and engagement Google sees the higher your site will climb.
All of this increased national (and even international) action on your website will make you rank that much higher in local results—among searchers who might conceivably travel to your dealership to buy a car, in other words—meaning that your national exposure will have a direct impact on your local and regional market share.