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Repair Shop Advice


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Here’s the short answer – by doing everything you should already be doing to optimize your website for regular search.

Unfortunately, there are a number of “marketing firms” out there that would have you believe that you should pay them a lot of money to help you optimize for voice search. Please don’t give them any of your money.

If your website adheres to modern search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, you should have to do very little, if anything, to optimize for voice. Let’s get into the main difference between voice and text search and what you should be doing to search well for voice.

The difference between voice search and text search

When it comes to how people use voice search versus how they use text search the most significant difference is what they put in the search box. Of course, when using voice search they are not literally putting anything in the search box, but the voice assistant inserts whatever they say into the “box.”

Moz voice search keyword chart

Moz.com Voice Search Query Chart

With text search, searches are much more likely to be shorter and often include only one to three words:

  • Auto repair
  • New tires
  • Brake repair Raleigh

With voice search, searches are longer and more conversational:

  • “Where can I get an oil change near me?”
  • “Alexa, where can I get new tires for my 2017 Honda Civic?”
  • “I need an auto repair shop to get my brakes fixed in Raleigh.”

This is what SEO experts will call the long tail search. Searches using voice are most often not as condensed as those using text. This is in part because people who often use voice search like the ease-of-use and are more likely to use it similar to how they may talk to a friend.

How to optimize for voice search

To expand on my short answer above, here’s what you should be doing to give your auto repair shop the best chance to perform well in voice search.

Write for Humans


This may seem somewhat obvious, but SEO for websites back in the day would include a lot of emphasis on keywords and writing for the search engines. That has changed over the past three to five years as search engines (especially Google) have continued to build in factors that reward writing for humans. The longer, conversational searches that we see more often in voice search lend themselves to conversational language that provides an answer. You should have easy-to-understand explanations for your services. You should also have content that provides answers to questions potential customers might ask.

Thorough Content

The longer queries that come with voice search require more depth in your content. Let’s use the example “I need an auto repair shop to get my brakes fixed in Raleigh.” There are three elements that need to be covered with this one – auto repair, brakes and Raleigh. In order to choose your website as the search result, Google is going to want to make sure you represent all three elements well. As we’ve been saying for many years, if you have a one-page website, or maybe just a few pages, you are not going to compete well in these searches. You need to be sure you have depth of content for your category (auto repair), your services and your location.

Mobile Friendly

Mobile friendly responsive design has been important for text search for years and it’s important for voice search as well. If you don’t have a mobile friendly website, you need to get that fixed right away.

Google My Business

In almost all cases a voice search that includes the words “near me” (like “auto repair near me”) will return a result directly from Google My Business (GMB) listings. This is similar to text search where the Local Pack full of Google My Business listings appears right at the top of the page and many people use that to make their choices. If you have not completely optimized your Google My Business listing, you should do that right away, for the same reasons you should have already done it for text search. Your website and your GMB profile are your most important tools for being found online by potential customers. They should be working together to attract new business for you.

As you can see, the things that you need for voice search optimization – writing for humans, thorough content and mobile friendly – are the same things you need for text search optimization. Having those key elements and an optimized Google My Business profile will give you the best chances of performing well in voice search.

We can help make sure your website and your Google My Business profile are set up for voice search success. Call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com and let’s talk through your options.


Friday, September 25, 2020

If you’re a general automotive shop, the odds are pretty good that you’re happy to see customers who need new brake pads and rotors.  When we ran an informal survey of our customers asking them which five services they most prefer to do, brakes were in the list for more than 90% of respondents.  Around half of surveyed shops also listed A/C services and diagnostics in their top five as well.

These might be great profit engines for many shops.  Should they be prioritized in your marketing?  That depends on your situation.

If you live in a rural area, and competition for auto repair customers isn’t particularly strong, these are great services to lead your marketing efforts.  Vehicles aren’t going to make it far with bad brakes, and depending on your climate and the time of year, they aren’t going to go far without A/C either.

But what if your town or city is full of other shops fighting for that business?  It might not make sense to join them.  At some point, fighting to be the shop people think of for a specific type of job only to have to participate in a price war might not end up being all that profitable after all.


That doesn’t mean you should avoid providing brake services – you’ll probably get plenty of brake business even if that’s not what you’re pushing in your advertising.  It especially makes sense to market these services to existing customers, who already trust your shop and are less likely to price shop or start their repair shop search from scratch.  It just means you might want to try a different angle when it comes to prioritizing services on your website or in any print marketing services you’re using. Here are two other ways to go:

Emphasize Ride Quality and Safety – Some shops we surveyed chose to promote suspension and alignment services, and many of these offered tire services as well.  Alignment machines aren’t cheap, so not every shop has them – and it makes sense to capitalize on them if you do!  And while tires are far from a profit center for most repair shops, they can bring in new customers, offering the potential to build a relationship and provide more profitable services down the road.

Niche Services – If you or another technician in your shop has a particularly strong knowledge of specific vehicle models, such as German or Japanese cars, promoting that expertise can bring in many new customers if your area is big enough to have a large volume of those vehicles.  Promoting yourself as an expert may require you to purchase enhanced (OEM) diagnostic tools and build relationships with parts providers, but the customers you earn are more likely to be loyal because they know you are simply a better resource for their vehicles than other shops.

You can also specialize in less common problems such as electrical, engine or transmission services if you have someone with the expertise to perform those services at a higher level.  This can even lead to referrals from competitors who lack those skills.  Just be careful not to get more specific than your market can support.  Finally, don’t feel like you have to discontinue your general automotive services to promote expertise in a specific vehicle model or automotive system!

To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help your repair shop earn more business, call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The national unemployment rate continues to drop after the largest spike since the Great Depression, reaching 8.4% in August.  That’s a massive improvement over April’s 14.7% but it’s still a number reached only once (during the Great Recession) in the past 25 years.  Economists are warning to expect unemployment to remain elevated above historic averages for years.

High unemployment is bad news for the economy, but it’s normally beneficial if you’re trying to find great new employees.  Unfortunately for auto repair shop owners, the unemployment rate isn’t going to matter much when it comes to automotive technicians.  There still won’t be enough.


The auto, diesel and collision industries are expected to need 642,000 technicians to enter the workforce between 2020 and 2024, according to the TechForce Foundation.  The number of students successfully completing programs in each of these three fields in 2018 was down compared to 2017.  And although there are signs of increased interest in studying to become a technician, it will be many years before this interest yields experienced technicians.

We’ve mentioned before that COVID-19 is having an uneven impact across the country, with some shops facing large revenue reductions while others struggle to keep up with increased business levels.  The long-term technician shortage impacts shops facing either scenario.  Shops with too little business who reduce or eliminate a technician’s hours may find that replacing them when business returns is difficult or impossible.  Shops drowning in new work and looking for new technicians now may find that, even in this depressed job market, great technicians are hard to find and even harder to afford.

If your shop is hiring, it’s not likely to be easy.  Here are some tips that will help you with employee recruitment, identification and retention:

To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help your auto repair shop grow your business, call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com


Friday, September 18, 2020

The sweet spot in the market for auto repair shops is vehicles that are 6-12 years old.  The owners of these vehicles have recently gotten rid of their car payment, are no longer under warranty and will have to start investing in their vehicle’s maintenance if they want to avoid having to buy a new one.  Even major repairs can be justified for many of these vehicles, as they are likely to have years of life remaining if they are properly maintained.

That ideal market is about to get a little larger.  The used vehicle market is on fire right now, leading these vehicles to leave car sales lots and get back on the road more quickly than ever.  Average used vehicle prices have increased nearly $2,000 since the beginning of the pandemic, and the average number of days a car sits on a lot is lower than it has been in years.


 

Before the pandemic, some households had only one car and relied on public transportation or ride sharing when car sharing wasn’t possible.  The pandemic has made each of those alternative transportation options far less appealing, so households are buying vehicles to meet these needs instead.  And since these newly purchased vehicles won’t be the primary family vehicle, many buyers are looking towards a more affordable pre-owned vehicle instead of a new one.

This means that the vehicle is much more likely to leave the lot without any dealer coverage at all.  Independent shops are the perfect maintenance choice for these vehicles due to their affordability and more convenient locations.  If your shop isn’t trying to capture the attention (and business) of people who are considering purchasing or have recently purchased a used vehicle, it’s an excellent opportunity to build trust with these owners.

Providing a discounted or free inspection for recently-purchased vehicles will make it easier for the buyer to visit your shop for maintenance than other shops. If you really want to get crazy you could even offer a free inspection for used vehicle before someone purchases it.  These inspections can effectively build trust, and a pipeline of future business by providing both the customer and your shop with a list of maintenance and repairs needed to keep the vehicle safe and reliable.  And it’s an opportunity for you to demonstrate that you’ll help them make informed decisions instead of pushing for a sale.

If your current customers’ family members are considering a used vehicle, it’s an especially good opportunity for new business.  Since someone in the family already trusts your shop, it’s more likely that the newly purchased vehicle will find its way back to your shop for major repairs when they come due.  Advertising a free inspection of recently-purchased used vehicles in your shop or on your invoices will make it more likely that current customers will see it.  Referrals are one of the most effective ways to earn business – and family referrals are among the most trusted ones!

To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help you get more vehicles into your shop, call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.


Thursday, August 20, 2020

The economic impact of COVID-19 varies tremendously from region to region.  Some shops have faced such steep revenue declines that they’ve already been forced to close their doors.  But many of our customers are telling us a very different story: they can’t keep up with all the work.

Several factors are leading to the torrent of requests.  Before the pandemic, many people delayed major repairs because they didn’t want to be without their vehicle for a week.  That’s less of a problem in the “safer-at-home” era.  Others couldn’t afford big repairs, despite the clear need.  The stimulus check provided them with enough money to get problems fixed, delaying a car payment.  Some states postponed inspections penalties, but have recently put them back in place. That’s led to several months of inspections flooding shops all at once.  Whatever the reason, many shops are struggling to keep up.

When you’re working long days just to get the cars out the door, the last thing you want to do is stop and think about strategy while the requests pile up.  But focusing on these three things will pay off even in the short run.

Focus on Your Priority Work

Not all jobs benefit your shop equally – some are more profitable than others.  The most profitable work is different from shop to shop, depending on your technicians’ expertise, your equipment and your shop configuration.

Make sure your marketing is more narrowly focused when you’re overbooked.  For instance, if you make any Facebook posts, make sure they aren’t focused on lower-profit services.  Make sure your website’s home page is promoting your most profitable services towards the top of the site.  And if you subscribe to any services that send out reminder postcards or have coupons on your website, it’s a good time to put those on hold.

Pulling back on lower-profit services serves two goals.  First, it may reduce the amount of work that you have coming into your shop – and when you’re booking people several days or weeks out, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Second, it ensures that the business that is coming your way is profitable.  After all, if you’re having to work overtime to handle all the work you’re getting, you may as well get paid for it.  And when your calendar does slow down, you’ll be happy to resume those postcard mailings and coupons and get that business in the door.

Think Efficiency

Write down the steps your employees take for each customer, from the time the customer drives into your lot until you hand them their keys back.  For each step, ask if there’s anything you can do to speed it up.  A little creativity can create a lot of time – just take a look at the fast-food industry

In central North Carolina, Chick-Fil-A has always been busy, but their business is up dramatically during COVID-19.  To address this, they’ve completely reconfigured their parking lots, making one way entrances and exits.  This has allowed them to create two lanes for drive-through, even though there’s only one menu and speaker.  That’s not a problem, because you don’t order at the speaker.

Employees are stationed outside with tablets and card readers to show customers the menu and take orders.  They ask for your order when there are ten cars ahead of you, rather than five.  This gives them more time to prepare your order, which means nobody waits at the window for their order to be prepared.  They even have runners stationed at the order delivery window, allowing them to provide food for up to three cars at once.  All of this allows them to serve twice as many people per minute as other fast-food restaurants with the same size building.

Don’t Ruin Relationships.

Customers know when you really value their business – it’s one of the things that keeps people coming to independent shops instead of franchises or dealerships.  But there are times when you really would prefer not to have another person calling you and asking for a time slot that you don’t have tomorrow.

You can’t let your phone service suffer, even when it’s costing you time and money.  Even when you’re busy, it’s important to answer the phone, and make the person on the other end think that they’re the only thing you’re focused on while you’re talking to them.  Apologize, and explain that you’re so busy that you’re booked out for several days – and tell them it’s uncommon for you to be so busy.

If you seem as rushed as you actually feel, they’ll notice.  Later on, when you need that business, they’ll be calling someone else for their maintenance and repairs.

And if you don’t have too much business, call Repair Shop Websites to learn how we can get more you more business at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.

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