Car dealers and independent garages alike may be experiencing a dramatic drop in internet traffic as a result of changes made by Google to the way it ranks websites. The internet giant now rewards content-rich and regularly updated sites, propelling informative sites with new, bespoke information up the rankings, while static sites flounder further down the page.
The news comes at a time when Google is playing an increasingly central role in consumers’ search for cars. 70% of car buyers begin their search for their next new or used car via Google, while a further third of buyers use Google to locate their local dealer. Forward-looking dealers and garage owners are seeking to understand the steps they need to take to ensure they’re still top of page and front of mind for the country’s motorists.
Summary of Google’s principal updates
The two most significant updates introduced by Google in the past year are ‘Panda’ and ‘Penguin’ (seriously, these are the official names!). Panda cracks down on sites with thin, stolen or duplicate content, as well as sites with a high ‘ad to content’ ratio. Meanwhile, Penguin introduced tighter guidelines on website optimisation and seeks to combat a number of web spam factors, such as overused keywords, paid for links and minimal adjustments to existing content. Contrary to popular belief, Google says it isn’t looking to penalise businesses for trying to optimise their sites, rather it is creating a better quality web for users.
CJAM’s top tips for search engine optimisation
“It’s vital for dealers and garages to invest in optimising their websites in order to maximise their online exposure and generate all-important new business leads,” comments Christine Joyce, Managing Director, CJAM. “Those who build and maintain high quality, content-rich sites will reap the benefits in terms of customer awareness.”
• Enhance the user experience by ensuring that all pages are easy to navigate, well designed and visually appealing. A monthly website health check is a good idea to cut back on site errors and ensure everything is running smoothly.
• Update dealer websites with unique, bespoke content, including news and events, promotions and seasonal offers. All pages should be clearly written, using the latest up-to-date motor industry terminology.
• Create a means for customer interaction on your site – BMW has seen massive customer engagement since introducing the option to feedback on MINI servicing. Encourage customers to give feedback on new cars, accessories or servicing, and make sure to capture their contact details for future offers and e-newsletters.
• Ensure that a good number of reputable sites (such as consumer motoring and advice sites) are linking to your site, ideally by offering to write a guest blog or providing some top tips for their readers.
• Use Google Webmaster to make sure that Google can read and index content from your site. Webmaster will inform you of any technical errors on the site and where they are located.
• Upload high quality images of the cars, products and services you offer, as well as team images, where appropriate. ‘Google Images’ is becoming increasingly important in UK search patterns.
• Create videos that explain the services or products you offer or recount a piece of key company news. Animated videos are proving increasingly popular among online users and represent a prime means of customer engagement.
• Engage in social media and ensure that you keep all social media channels up to date – this will help to drive online engagement, with users ‘sharing’ or ‘liking’ content (see our recent blog on measuring the value of social media), while providing you with a good opportunity to interact with users who may become future buyers