Honda’s SEO and the keywords they’re missing

Honda Accord SportThis week, I took a stab at what keywords Honda might want to target for their website. I recently bought a Honda Accord (and I love it), and I tried to think of some of the more generic things I searched for in doing my vehicle research as well as specific terms that include the Honda brand, which Honda would obviously want to target. I kept in mind that Honda sells more than just cars; they also make generators, boats, ATVs, motorcycles and more.

Because users who search for long tail keywords are more likely to make a purchase, I included more detailed phrases than just “cars.” However, Google frowns upon companies with websites targeting superlatives, so I stayed away from things like “cars with best mpg” or “cars with best resale value,” even though these were popular search terms and certainly among some of the phrases I searched when car shopping. These phrases usually took me to review sites and blogs, which I don’t believe I’m alone in trusting more than a company calling itself “the best” anyway.

  • Honda
  • Honda Civic
  • Honda Accord
  • Acura
  • Fuel efficient cars
  • Hybrid cars
  • Motorcycle dealer
  • ATV
  • Quiet generator
  • Honda Marine

I included a few specific models as keywords because they were the most searched terms of Honda’s vehicles, and obviously Honda would want to rank highly for their own popular products. Honda.com or one of its pages (such as automobiles.honda.com/civic-sedan) currently ranks first organically for all of its own branded terms.

Honda keywords for Google
I didn’t include “Honda” in this Google Trends graph because it was so popular that it dwarfed the rest of the chart. Just trust me that “Honda” is way up there, and you can see the rest of this chart better because I left it out.

I also included fuel efficient cars and hybrid cars because many drivers are concerned with helping the environment and their bank accounts by filling up less often. The need for good gas mileage is one that Honda can meet, so they should target users searching for that. Honda has a right rail ad for “hybrid cars,” they don’t show up organically on Page 1. There’s no trace of Honda on Page 1 results for “fuel efficient cars.”

Fuel efficiency keywords for Google

Honda is currently on the first page for “ATV,” so I wouldn’t mess with what they’ve got going with that. But they’re not ranking highly for personal watercraft, generator or motorcycle, so I suggested making those keywords more specific.

Here's a comparison I did for longer tail keywords than just "boat" or "watercraft." As you can see, Honda Marine is actually what a lot of people search for right off the bat.
Here’s a comparison I did for longer tail keywords than just “boat” or “watercraft.” As you can see, Honda Marine is actually what a lot of people search for right off the bat. (The second term is “honda marine” and the last is “personal watercraft.”)

Here are the actual keyword meta tags that Honda’s homepage has listed: honda cars motorcycles watercraft atvs engines generators acura Honda Cars Atvs Engines Generators Motorcycles Watercraft Acura HONDA

And here’s the description: Honda.com – the official site for Honda cars, motorcycles, personal watercraft, ATVs, engines, lawn mowers, generators, marine motors, and Acura cars.

Honda-HTML
This is the top portion of honda.com’s HTML.

Notice in Honda’s keywords they have repeated some of the same phrases — first in lowercase letters and then capitalized. It may help Honda to remove the duplicate words from their keyword meta tags and instead add some of the keywords I suggested.

On honda.com, excluding the photos and logos, here’s how many times the keywords I suggested are used:

  • Honda – 16
  • Honda Civic – 0
  • Honda Accord – 0
  • Acura – 6
  • Fuel efficient cars – 0
  • Hybrid cars – 0
  • Motorcycle dealer – 0 (“motorcycle” appears twice)
  • ATV – 1
  • Quiet generator – 0 (“generator” appears once)
  • Honda Marine – 0

At the very least, Honda might consider adding its vehicle models to the menu on honda.com,  as well as targeting searchers looking for hybrid or fuel efficient vehicles. I noticed that honda.com does have an “Inspiration” section that includes things like “Safety” and “High Mileage Hondas: Mile Makers.” This could be a good spot to add something about fuel efficiency or even Honda’s good resale values.

What have you Googled while car shopping? How could car sellers use that information to better serve you?

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8 thoughts on “Honda’s SEO and the keywords they’re missing”

  1. Hey Julie 😉

    If I was car shopping I would google “consumer reviews” “best luxury cars” “or the make and model of the car I am interested in.

    It’s commonplace that cars are seen as status and wealth symbols.
    According to the UK periodical Mirror, Ferrari conducted a social experiment as a prank that showed how expensive, exotic cars do attract women. Fox News reported how the style and color of the car attracts or repels certain personality types. AskMen magazine has conducted experiments concerning the color psychology of cars, i.e. what the color of your car says about you, and what type of person the color of your car will attract.

    Armed with this knowledge, automakers can cleverly design SEO campaigns around these findings specific to gender, socioeconomic status, personality, et cetera.

    1. That’s an interesting study, Jason! I can’t really think of any vehicles or vehicle colors that would “attract” me, but I can certainly think of several models and colors that would cause me to stay away because of possible personality trait correlations. 🙂

  2. Congrats on your new car! Today is actually my 2nd anniversary of leasing my Accord Coupe (I got an email from Honda today about it) and I love it. Back when I was looking at cars, I did go for the superlative searches. “Best coupe” “best value” and so on. I also knew I wanted a lease, so I searched for that, too. But I understand that Honda itself wouldn’t be talking about leases much because dealerships are the ones who typically set those types of offers.

    It doesn’t completely surprise me that they made an effort to use Acura as a keyword several times, because Acuras come with a higher price tag, whereas a motorcyle probably doesn’t cost as much, so may not be worth spending valuable space and keywords on the site. But it does really surprise me that the other popular Honda models wouldn’t be listed as keywords more often.

    Anyway, I really like the way you laid this out and explained each search individually. What site/program did you use to get the charts for each search term?

    1. Hi Lexi! I was really surprised that they didn’t list exact models on the homepage. Although, for example, this page http://automobiles.honda.com/accord-sedan/ does list “2014 accord sedan, 2014 accord reviews, honda accord pictures, honda accord, 2014 honda accord photos” as keywords and “See reviews, features and specs of the 2014 Honda Accord Sedan at the official Honda Website. View pictures and learn about the latest changes for 2014.” as the description. Plus on the page, it has things like “Accord,” “Best Resale Value,” “efficiency,” “technology” and “safety.” So I guess they chose to target such things on the specific pages rather than the homepage.

      Thanks for the compliment! I took a few screen grabs of keyword comparisons I did through Google Trends. You can play here: http://www.google.com/trends/explore

  3. Wow…I feel like my blog post is inept. I blame it on you having to run a website all day!

    Back to the assignment, you make a good point. Of course if someone types Honda in a Google search Honda will have high SEO but what about people who are doing comparison-shopping. This where your observations are so accurate! Honda needs to be aware of buzzwords associated with their competition to appear high in common searches (such as fuel efficient).

    I also noticed in another one of our classmate’s posts that their company had very SEO high rankings even though their coding wasn’t filled with keywords. Why do you think that is? Coding is a new subject for me so I am finding it very interesting to see how much of an impact is has on SEO.

    1. Hi Alexis! Your post was great! You had a lot of really good observations, too. I would definitely fall into the camp of not knowing to search for “guidance shoes.”

      I’m not sure which blog post you’re referring to, but maybe part of that particular company’s SEO success has to do with people linking to them? I’m still learning, too. 🙂

  4. Hi Julie,

    Awesome post! I really enjoyed your use of charts to illustrate your points. I have an old Honda Civic I call “Little Blue,” and she’s been with me through thick and thin. However, her days are numbered, so if I were looking for a new car, I would probably search “Honda fuel efficient.” It’s very surprising that Honda isn’t trying to target this market, especially since according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a good amount of people in United States have long commutes. (http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/american_community_survey_acs/cb13-41.html)

    However, you make a great point with “High Mileage Hondas: Mile Makers.” Honda may be trying to target that market but with different terminology. Companies sometimes try to give pages creative titles when a straightforward keyword or phrase would work better. It’s better to be clear and succinct rather than misleading, especially when it comes to the web. Or Honda may just think that they’ve already established themselves as fuel efficient and dependable, so it’s not necessary to drill the information home. I know that if even nothing turned up for “Honda fuel efficient,” I would simply go to the Honda homepage and browse from there.

    1. We have to remind our reporters sometimes that clever headlines are great, but only if they’re also SEO friendly. Google doesn’t recognize cutesy or humorous headlines, it could care less about alliteration or rhymes, and puns downright confuse it. To make the “High Mileage” stuff more SEO friendly, Honda could try something like “High Mileage Hondas: The Most Dependable Cars on the Road” or “Why Honda is the Best Value: 300,000 Miles and Still Going.”

      Or “Honda: We Can’t Stop. And We Won’t Stop.”

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