SEO Showdown: Audi vs. BMW

I thought we would do something different for this week’s SEO Tip Tuesday. As an Audi lover myself (on my 2nd A4 Turbo), I frequently search the new models so I can mostly drool and go through the whole “I wish I had..” sentiments. And I find myself at times in a bit of a love triangle between the Audi RS4 and the BMW M5, albeit different classes. So I search a lot for various BMW products, and I love watching M5board.com and seeing the M5 take on anything from an RS4 to a Porsche C4S Turbo.

I found it really strange when searching for “audi rs4” last night that the entire first page of organic results on Google did NOT include a listing from audiusa.com. Hmmm…that’s strange. I went through five pages, and still no listing for the US Audi site. So then I did a search for “bmw m5”, and BMW has two listings on the first page; bmw.com, and bmwusa.com.audi a4 vs. bmw 335d

Could it be that BMW’s search engine optimization efforts are superior to those efforts over at Audi? Let’s dig in a little bit.

Basic Analysis
Using the Pear Analytics free SEO analysis tool, we ran a quick page analysis to gather some stats. Both sites did fairly well, Audi having 4 issues to BMW’s 3 issues.

For BMW, we could not find an XML sitemap, an H1 tag, or one of the 9 analytics tools we look for. Audi also did not have an XML sitemap, and then less important infractions of invalid HTML/CSS and a meta description that rambles on.

Both sites have a PageRank of 7 (they are both authoritative and trusted), but BMW has more than 5 times the links coming into the domain compared to Audi (555,735 to 94,782). Audi does have a better deep link ratio, which means a larger percentage of their links point to internal pages compared to the home page.

See the BMW analysis here
See the Audi analysis here

(Audi does show up for other popular model searches, like “audi a4” or “audi s5”, but they do show up under a sub-domain instead of a sub-directory, which does result in a tiny bit of SEO juice loss across domains)

Pages Indexed & Canonicalization
Now I wanted to see how many pages each site actually had indexed in the search engine. Audi seems to have over 40,000 pages compared to BMW’s 4,600. Gee, that’s a big difference. Looking a little further, I discover what seems to be a fairly big duplicate content problem for Audi.

What Audi is doing is creating a web page template for all of their dealerships, except that the content on them are exactly the same (or pretty damn close). See for yourself:

This one is for a New Orleans dealership; and this one is for an Ohio dealership. I also notice that audiusa.com is not classified as the “canonical” URL, and so what Audi seems to be doing is an SEO no-no. They have potentially hundreds of pages all with the same general content on them, which devalues their potential for showing up at the top of the listings, particularly for some of their less popular models (like an RS4 for example). Google simply doesn’t know which page to list, so instead, it doesn’t list any, unless they find a really good match from a page with sufficient inbound links. Oh well, sorry RS4.  Read why Google cares about duplicate content.

Traffic & Subdomains
According to Compete.com, BMW is getting a whopping 43% more traffic to their site compared to Audi. Could BMW be doing a better job at long tail search compared to Audi? Let’s take a look:

Type in “transmission in the bmw m5” and that results in bmwusa.com listed in the 3rd spot.
Type in “transmission in the audi s4” and that results in page from configurator.audi.com in the 5th spot (but not audiusa.com, which is what I would have expected).

So it also seems as though Audi is suffering from an identity crisis, and someone over there has subdomain-itis. Using one domain with directories (like /2010-models or /forums) without all of the subdomains (forums. or configurator. or models., etc.) would certainly help Audi fight the long tail fight, as we simply don’t see that (or as much of that) with BMW.

 

Conclusion
Both of these companies are obviously battling for market share in the U.S., and my gut tells me that BMW may be winning that game, although I prefer Audi over BMW.  BMW is  getting more traffic and they have some of the more technical (and complicated) SEO elements in place.  Audi could do a better job by:

1.  Use fewer subdomains to keep the SEO juice on the canonical URL (whichever that is);
2.  Define the canonical URL and devise a better strategy for dealership site templates;
3. Use a cleaner URL structure for dealership pages that will aid them in local search;
4.  Expand content on product pages and target them with inbound links

So, if any Audi rep out there want to maybe offer up a 2011 RS4 (or heck, even a 2010 S5 would be nice) in exchange for some SEO work, let’s talk 🙂

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