Strathcom Media Blog

Digital Marketing for Dealerships

What Do I Do If There’s a Duplicate Google My Business Listing?

Same businessman back-to-back with an x and checkmark on each side

Your dealership’s doing great online, you have a fully optimized Google My Business listing (and, if you don’t, stop now and read on my blog on it) that you’re updating and using to interact with users on a daily basis. But then you spot it, something that looks awfully familiar, but just slightly off. It has all the information (or at least the main parts of it) of your dealership, but on a GMB profile that isn’t yours. That’s a duplicate GMB listing out in the wild. We need to tame it and take control of it, or get it taken care of (humanely, of course). This handy blog that follows will guide you through what the big problem with duplicate GMBs is, how to make sure your own is verified and how to report and deal with those pesky duplicate GMB listings.

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Zero-Click SERP Changes: Deduplication Update

Gotta Catch ‘Em All: Except When You Can’t

Two identical sheep standing in a field.
iStock thinks this is a photo of Dolly the cloned sheep. I think it’s two sheep photoshopped onto a field.

I’ll admit it now: I can be a bit of a cynic from time to time. However, I pride myself in not being a “glass is half empty,” tinfoil hat-wearing, veering into the nihilistic abyss-level cynic, unlike my co-worker Taylor, who believes that “the inevitability of death casts a pitch-black shadow over us, from which even the brightest light can neither enter nor escape.” While others may get wound up about Google Homes being the equivalent of “Big Brother” listening to your conversations or Facebook suddenly delivering ads about something we were chatting about in the vicinity of my iPhone, I usually laugh it off with a snide comment about how “I hope that they can start predicting when there’s not going to be enough toilet paper in the washroom, and refill the roll before anyone’s caught without.” But yesterday, Google decided to test me with the Deduplication Update:

Can you hear that? That’s the sound of my inner cynic growing both stronger and angrier. Let me explain why.

What is a featured snippet?

Google claims that they are constantly tweaking their search algorithm for “the good of the user.” On a search engine results page (SERP), Google often implements “user-focused” widgets intended to help the searcher find their answer in the quickest method possible—and yes, those cynical quotation marks are well-deserved. The most prominent of these widgets is the featured snippet, which shows up ahead of the normal blue link organic results, and usually looks something like this:


A screenshot of a Google search engine results page for the question “What is a featured snippet?” that shows a featured snippet, People Also Ask accordion menu, and two blue link organic results.
Frankly, I’m impressed they didn’t pick themselves and create a neverending loop.

The featured snippet shows up right near the top of the SERP, and is most often only displaced by Google search ads in either text or carousel form. Because Google reports any clicks that may have come from featured snippets in Analytics as though they were any other blue organic link, it is extremely hard to track the specific success of featured snippets in terms of click-through rate (CTR). Jumpshot, a clickstream data provider, estimates the actual CTR for these features to be low; this is a completely logical conclusion, since the answer is often provided to the user straight away on the SERP—leaving no reason for the user to click if they’ve already found their quick answer. I do this often when I’m double checking internal temperatures for cooked meat, or want to confirm I’ve been using the word “cynic” correctly in this blog post. (That’d be ironic, don’t ya think?)

Last summer I shared how and why it is important to capture these featured snippets, due to the increase in zero-click SERPs. As I’ve said in the past in both webinars and blog posts, it’s a completely logical conclusion that Google would want to keep users on the SERP for two primary reasons: control and money. Keeping the user on the SERP ensures Google has control over their potential user experience, with many websites cluttered with bloated, unhelpful content showcasing what the business wants, not what the user wants. Keeping the user on the SERP also helps Google increase the number of ads delivered to the searcher, thereby increasing the likelihood that the searcher clicks on said ad triggering a “ka-ching” sound effect, as the marketing budget of the business who placed the ad is bled dry so Mountain View can add another organic-topping-only frozen yogurt stand for Google employees. Now, I can appreciate the need to make that choice from a business perspective. After all, they didn’t build a business that earned an estimated $140 billion USD last year—primarily from advertising revenue—from blue link organic traffic and sending clicks to other websites for free. But from the business perspective of those populating the internet with content? Well, a quick Google search for “raw deal phrase” should give you your answer.

What is the deduplication update?

As a concept, deduplication is where repetitive or redundant things are eliminated in an effort to provide a more streamlined experience. On January 23, 2020, Google announced that in order to “deduplicate” the SERP, any websites that capture a text-based featured snippet position will no longer be repeated in the first page of blue link organic results. This update also includes deduplication for a desktop featured snippet variant for Knowledge Panel results (usually shown at the right side of the screen), as they are moving inline with the rest of the organic results to match mobile SERPs within the following week. In an attempt to soften the blow, Google confirmed this update wouldn’t affect video featured snippets—how generous of them! With little fanfare (as is tradition), these changes were launched on January 22, 2020 to all SERPs globally. It’s important to note they’re not reflected in Google Search Console performance reporting, meaning you won’t see featured snippets being reported in Search Console as the #1 position. In other words, without using additional tools or (gasp) googling yourself, you won’t see anything other than what is likely to be a substantial increase in impressions, and a substantial decrease in clicks.

Has Google deduplicated the SERP before?

Yes, but they called it something else. On June 6, 2019, Google launched their Site Diversity update where they deduplicated the SERP in a slightly different manner. You used to be able to create multiple pages on a site that all ranked for the same query, filling the SERP with results from the same website. In the interest of “fairness,” Google did away with this for the most part, capping the number of results shown in the first page from the same domain (including subdomains too). In general, they’ve said you usually won’t see more than two results from the same domain, but in true Google fashion they’ve left the verbiage to be just ambiguous enough that if they decide it suits their needs, there may be the odd SERP showing more than two results from the same domain.

What does the Deduplication Update mean for the average dealership website?

Well, it’s not great news. It means that if you’re targeting for the (likely) possibility of a searcher having a zero-click search experience, and have successfully created content that is both optimized for and answers a question to, capture a featured snippet, you won’t have an organic blue link on the first page in results. It means that if you capture the featured snippet (that looks like a Knowledge Panel on desktop) for your dealership, you also won’t have an organic blue link on the first page in results. Many sites that have been affected are finding their blue link on Page 2 of the search results, but Google has confirmed that this is neither intentional nor guaranteed, long-term. You could lose your organic blue link from search results entirely; which, from an idealist’s perspective, is really frustrating. From a cynic’s perspective, it kind of makes me want to reallocate a chunk of my marketing budget to gift Google a new glitter bomb every day until they meet my demands.

What are the benefits to the Deduplication Update?

Depending on how full you see the glass, this isn’t entirely bad news. It should, in theory, help with narrowing down click attribution in your reporting and SERP tracking (even if the featured snippet isn’t showing up as “position 1” in Search Console). If you use a SERP tracking tool, it should generally be able to tell you the average ranking position for any given page, and can also usually track whether or not a featured snippet is present (depending on the tool, and if your website captures the featured snippet). It probably doesn’t aggregate that data with the featured snippet holding a ranking position right now, but developers often change their tools, in an effort to combat the evil monopoly that Google is sometimes mistaken for. By this logic, if you are tracking clicks you’re receiving in Search Console—for a query you know you own the featured snippet for—you now know those clicks are definitely from the featured snippet and not an organic blue link (since one doesn’t exist on page 1). This obviously isn’t infallible, since there is a possibility that a searcher went diving into the depths of page 2 to find their answer; though the cynic in me puts the likelihood of this lower than the odds of Google donating all their profits to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Can we prevent this from happening? Should we change our search strategy?

The alternative strategy is that you can say “we don’t care about participating in zero-click SERPs” and block each page from being chosen for featured snippets entirely. You’ll retain your blue links, and carry on your merry way. My gut instinct says that this isn’t the wisest strategy, especially with the rapid growth of zero-click SERPs we mentioned earlier. If you focus on Google’s algorithm tests and updates in the past year, they’ve given us all the clues in the world that this was coming:

  • They changed the SERP on a mobile device to show icons next to blue link organic results. The labels for ads were updated to eliminate the green box, simply showing a black, bold Ad marker, (making ads less noticeable and more likely to be clicked).
  • They openly announced they would support specific structured data markup to capture featured snippets, but noted that this doesn’t affect blue link organic results (intended to increase the number of people who are intentionally optimizing for featured snippets).
  • They started reducing the number of times a single website can show up in organic blue link search results (indicating that they don’t want SERPs to show the same site multiple times).
  • They updated the desktop search results to match the mobile search results, thereby starting to show favicons next to organic blue links, while the new Ad marker took over for the old green ad marker (continuing to make ads less noticeable and, yet again, more likely to be clicked on).

And to top it all off, they offer the exact same directions every time they launch a broad core algorithm update:

They continue to tell us to focus on creating quality content and providing answers to user queries: no more, no less. They’ve even likened it to how “Top 100” movie lists change year to year, because new movies come out and bump others out of place. And what happens when someone creates a better movie than your last one? You either write a new one, or release a bloated Director’s Cut you make an update to the old one. In the case of a content strategy, my recommendation is to stay the course—even if the depths of my dark and cynical heart knows that this update does nothing to help small businesses, just the greedy corporate overlords hoping to make more money in ad revenue. Some days the glass is half-full, and some days I feel those automatic toilet paper refills can’t come soon enough.

Catch Strathcom at Dealer Huddle V This March!

Banner depicting a collage of Edmonton, Calgary, and Toronto with graphics for the Strathcom and Dealer Huddle logos layered on top

We’re going across the country again! Make sure to catch Strathcom Media at any of the Dealer Huddle events throughout Canada. As one of the sponsors for the event, we’re excited to partner with Google to bring you an exciting look (and jam-packed day) at what’s to come in the new year for Canadian Automotive.

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How Content Marketing Can Impact Crawl Frequency

Big apple tree with fresh juicy fruits on a green field in Austria.

Comparing Apples To, Well, Faster Growing Apples

We’ve often speculated about how consistent content marketing would affect how often Google crawls a site (more on that later), and hypothesized the benefits it would provide, specifically to organic traffic. Sadly, we hadn’t had the opportunity to test a true apples-to-apples comparison . . . that is, until now. Recently, Strathcom—but specifically, myself—had the good fortune of launching two content marketing packages, simultaneously, for two sites with very similar starting points and business goals. Now, while these two apples may not have fallen from the same tree, they were close enough (think a Fuji and a Red Delicious). Continue reading “How Content Marketing Can Impact Crawl Frequency”

SEO On A Budget

Whether you majored in economics at Harvard, or started as a lot attendant and ended up as the general manager, you know that your dealership needs strong marketing and an even stronger online presence. How you get there? That’s not as easy. You’ll have countless agencies, platforms, and providers, all jockeying for your time and attention. And while they’ll all promise results through different strategies, you’re bound to hear three letters repeated ad nauseum: SEO. Short for Search Engine Optimization, SEO is a major factor in boosting your digital marketing. We’re talking make, or break. With poor SEO, even the biggest and best dealerships will get buried in Google, while smaller dealerships with smaller budgets will rank higher, create more brand awareness, and rake in the sales. We’re here to tell you about how you can harness SEO’s power to do the latter, regardless of the size of your budget. Continue reading “SEO On A Budget”