For most online companies that live & die on the internet, the BEST way to get visibility is through SEO.
And, visibility is the only way to get visitors, turn them into users and finally make money from them. So ultimately, the end goal is simple — your SEO strategies should directly help you with your business.
Amit Jain, the newest shark on TV, did exactly this with his online auto startup, CarDekho!
Founded almost 14 years ago, in 2008, CarDekho still depends heavily on SEO, as ~52% of its visitors come via search. That is a total of 32.2M users per month!
So, let's break down how our new shark nailed SEO to scale CarDekho to a revenue of Rs. 1597 Cr and a valuation of $1.2 billion.
What is CarDekho and how does it make money?
CarDekho started out as an online information portal for cars. Today, it has become an e-commerce store of new and used cars.
Primarily users come to CarDekho to perform general searches on cars, compare car models of different manufacturers, get proper on-road pricing, and many technical details.
But, CarDekho's main business comes from its e-commerce marketplace of used cars. Users can sell their cars, get a certificate and in turn buyers can buy used cars on the platform. There is a neat search and filter feature for the same.
Apart from this, CarDekho also offers other financial features like loans and insurance.
Revenue Model & Expenses
Now, the question is, how does CarDekho make money with this current model? Well, there are a few different ways they do that:
1) Commission from car dealers
Whenever a user searches for a car model on CarDekho's website, they can directly book the same model from the nearest dealer. The dealer then gives a commission to CarDekho for the purchase.
CarDekho is an incredibly niche and high-intent website. People arriving on the website usually are looking to make a purchase. So, car companies, mechanics and other related professions run their ads on CarDekho's pages for a certain placement fee.
3) Sale of used cars to dealers
Now, the above 2 are obvious businesses, but CarDekho's majority of revenue comes from its business of used cars. Basically, they buy used cars from users and sell them directly to dealers. In FY22, this sale made them Rs 799 crores in revenue, which is 50% of their total revenue that year.
4) Insurance and loan segment
Since they have a high purchase intent user base, CarDekho also sells insurance and offers financial solutions like car loans through their subsidiary website InsuranceDekho and Rupyy. Altogether, they are dealing with dealers, manufacturers and users directly.
From the above 4 revenue sources it's apparent that the key to CarDekho's success is its high and strong user base. And, what drives this user base is obviously SEO. So, let's explore that further!
So, how does CarDekho perform SEO-wise?
CarDekho's SEO numbers are spectacular!
- They get monthly traffic of 32.2M users.
- They rank for over 1.1M keywords. Out of these 99% are branded keywords.
- They have over 1.1M backlinks and a DR of 72.
- Over ~52% of their total visitors come to CarDekho's website through search.
Let's investigate CarDekho's different feature pages
Now, to understand CarDekho's strategy, it would help to see where all this traffic is coming from.
Here are CarDekho's top subfolders:
Immediately you can see that most of its traffic comes from folders of the type <[car-company-name]>, example: tata, mg, Kia, maruti.
All the car model pages from each car manufacturer come under these sub-folders.
- cardekho.com/mahindra/thar ➝ 627K traffic
- cardekho.com/tata/punch ➝ 569K traffic
- cardekho.com/maruti/brezza ➝ 405K traffic
But, as we know, apart from these pages there are also other interesting pages on CarDekho's website.
- Used Car Pages ➝ altogether these pages bring 1.2M users to the website.
- Compare Pages ➝ altogether all the compare-type pages bring 334K users to the website.
- Calculator Pages ➝ altogether these pages bring 138K users to the website.
Let's understand the intent of all these users and how it plays into CarDekho's strategy.
CarDekho's brilliant SEO initiatives
CarDekho targets 4 different types of keywords with different user intent.
- Car model pages
- High Volume Keywords
- Intent ⇒ general search + slight purchase intent
- Used Car pages
- High Intent Keywords
- Intent ⇒ research and purchase a used car
- Compare pages
- VS type keywords
- Intent ⇒ compare 2 car models
- Calculator pages
- Tool-based keywords
- Intent ⇒ opt for a car EMI
Let's take a look at each of them one by one.
1) Information portal — High Volume Keywords
The car-model pages look like a general knowledge-based repository or information portal. The URL structure of the hierarchy of these pages is pretty simple:
Car Pages ⇒ cardekho.com/newcars
Brand Pages ⇒ cardekho.com/cars/Maruti
Specific Model Pages ⇒cardekho.com/maruti/brezza
All these pages are internally linked with each other. Now, the specific model pages rank for most general car-model keywords like: "maruti brezza 2022". All the Maruti cars are now part of the "Maruti" subfolder and are hence internally linked.
But, that's not it. After capturing general car-model keywords like "maruti brezza", CarDekho goes further to capture different long-tail keywords. These keywords have lower volume, but their search intent and conversion rates are much higher.
- /maruti/brezza/price-in-mumbai ⇒ brezza on road price Mumbai ⇒ 1.9K volume
- /maruti/brezza/mileage ⇒ brezza mileage ⇒ 20K volume
- /maruti/brezza/specs ⇒ brezza dimensions, brezza engine cc ⇒ 3.8K, 5.4K volume
There are more such subcategory pages that rank for different queries that together bring a lot of traffic.
- Keyword research is key to ranking on Google. If you find the right keywords, half your job is done.
- A proper URL structure and internal linking can vastly improve your SEO results, as its easier for search engines to index all the pages on the website.
2) The used cars filter search — High Intent Keywords
- Users can search for different second-hand cars by applying filters on CarDekho'suused cars marketplace.
- Every time a filter is applied the page gets updated and the filter applied is reflected in the URL.
- So, when the filter applied is "maruti" the URL gets updated to "cardekho.com/used-maruti+cars+in+mumbai"
- This is important because when a user searches a query with the mention of exact filters then the corresponding URL with applied filters appears in the search result.
- Keywords ⇒ second hand petrol cars
URL slug ⇒ /used-petrol+cars+in+mumbai
- Keywords ⇒ used automatic type cars
URL slug ⇒ /used-automatic+cars+in+mumbai
To target increasingly specific keywords, make sure you create unique pages and optimize it for each such keyword. Your URL should reflect the specific terms in your query.
3) Capture the comparison keywords — Diversify your Keywords
Capturing comparison-type keywords is a very clever SEO strategy. It not only helps users but also captures people with high purchase intent who are looking to buy a car but are confused between a few models.
They have a very simple tool for this that lets you add cars and then programmatically generates a page that compares them.
Example: Hyundai's Creta VS Toyota's Hyryder
Most importantly, CarDekho cleverly internal links to other popular car model comparisons, so the traffic flows from one page to another.
Internal linking helps immensely to let the SEO juice flow from high-authority pages to other pages on your website.
4) Tool model: EMI Calculator — Tool-Based Keywords
Another entry point to CarDekho is their EMI calculator pages. CarDekho's calculator easily ranks first for the "car emi calculator" type queries. So, the tool captures users for its loan and insurance segment of the business.
- Google's first priority is to fulfil user intent. So, understand the intent of your target keywords before you jump to create the pages.
- Use programmatic SEO and buildd a simple tool to easily capture traffic from tool-based keywords in your niche.
How is this good for business?
Now, through these 4 sets of pages, CarDekho grabs users with specific intent and sells them their specific services to make money.
- For example, the majority of its users come through the car model page. CarDekho immediately makes ad revenue through these high-traffic pages.
- Now, to make commissions from selling new cars, you want to push the user to make a purchase. For that, specific sub-pages under car-model pages that give pricing info, mileage info, specifications and the compare pages help.
- Also, all these pages are internally linked. So, the users can easily flow from high-volume pages to other page types. That means users can flow from car-model pages to used car pages that make the most amount of money to CarDekho.
- Finally, through the calculator pages, CarDekho sells its loan and insurance services, covering all 4 important segments of its business.
These pages basically form different entry points that drive CarDekho's business and capture mutually exclusive segments of the user base. An elegant solution to become THE Indian auto-ecosystem on the internet!