On March 12, 2019 Google shook the automotive industry with updates that were drastic in shaping how websites are ranked within its results.
Dealership margin pressures combined with 90% of Google clicks within our industry occurring within the organic (free/unpaid) area of its search results place an even greater importance for all within our industry to elevate organic ranking visibility.
The fallout of the latest update has been dramatic. Some of our closest competitors lost over 20% of their organic traffic overnight (that’s MILLIONS of lost site visits).
Why did some sites win and others lose? Google continually encourages site owners to offer the best content possible. That’s what their algorithm updates seek to reward.
The sites who adhere to Google guidelines of putting the user first and offering unrivalled content are always going to be rewarded. The sites who won saw their rankings elevated within search results, which leads to visibility in the form of free site traffic and ultimately more value for the OEMs and dealerships who advertise on these sites in the form of eyeballs, quality leads and ultimately vehicle sales.
So what does all of this mean for dealers, and what can you do to keep your organic traffic flowing?
Remember first, before you start checking your analytics, that rankings change all the time. Minor fluctuations or even major fluctuations for minor keywords doesn’t mean that you are impacted by the update
Second, check your analytics. Set your segment to “organic” and look at your traffic in the weeks before and after March 12th. If you see any sharp changes in organic traffic, you may have been impacted.
And third, check your keyword rankings for important keywords before and after March 12th. If you see significant swings, it’s worth reaching out to your SEO provider to investigate.
What can you do to make sure you’re not negatively impacted by updates like this in the future?
- Follow the rules. To keep your site operating in Google’s good graces, it’s critical to follow their best practice guidelines and not look to SEO tactics promising quick fixes or ‘cool hacks’.
- Keep your site fast and healthy: Talk to your SEO provider to see what kind of site health audits and updates they make to ensure that search engines have the best possible experience on your site and see how they’re marrying that need with the needs of the users. Users should always come first, but sites should also always be technically sound, free from things like broken links, redirect chains, etc. Further, keep pushing “speed” with your website providers, and see what they’re doing to improve their platform’s speed optimizations.
- Think quality over quantity when it comes to content: You want to have fresh content on your site to be sure, but great SEO is about really answering the questions that users have, in a way that makes sense on mobile and desktop. See if your content is being crafted based on research, and if it’s really answering the questions users have.
- Look at the quality of your backlinks – not the quantity. Having “tons” of backlinks from weak, unauthoritative sites doesn’t offer you lots of value in the long run. You’re better served by backlinks from trusted, well maintained sites that your community of users respects. Talk to your SEO provider to see if they’re creating content that you can use to solicit backlinks from valuable sources, or if they’re pursuing backlinks for you, what kind of success are they having and what’s the value of the sites that they’re getting for you?
About the Author
David Greene is the Director of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) at Cars.com and is responsible for elevating site visibility within search engines such as Google. Leading a team of SEO experts for one of the most important digital marketing channels in the industry today, he has 12 years’ experience leading SEO channels within the automotive (Summit Racing) and retail spaces (Victoria’s Secret, Justice and Sears).