Spring Cleaning Your Citations

online citationsIt’s that most welcome time of year, once again: the time when the white stuff melts and reveals an entire season’s worth of underlying dust and grit. While most people will find themselves beating rugs and washing windows, folks in our industry (of the automotive persuasion) have a spring-cleaning list of an entirely different sort — I’m talking about a good seasonal scrub-down of your online citations on the worldwide web. This post aims to elaborate on the nature of online citations (and their functions), while giving some recommendations on what to optimize and where.

Citations: What on Earth are They?

Let’s build on the basics; online citations are essentially your business’ calling card across various online properties. In their most basic form, citations are understood to communicate the Name, Address and Phone number of your dealership, also commonly referred to as the NAP information (NAPW if the citation features website URL information too).

In addition to this, there are two forms of citation: structured citations and (surprise) unstructured citations. Structured citations refer to those that appear on well-known websites geared toward providing business information/listings in a directory-style format. The underpinning intention of this type of citation is to use straightforward, codified data that a SERP could easily pull onto a search results page. Unstructured citations, similar to name-dropping, are in-text citations that mention a business’ NAP information in a more casual format.

Why Online Citations Matter

Citations are of huge importance to your business; they’re a major aspect of the way in which your website ranks on a search engine results page. In fact, it’s estimated that citation-related items comprise nearly 13% of ranking-related factors in local SEO. Why is Google so hung-up on citations? Simple: Google requires verification, and your business listings need to be validated. Search engines are in the business of providing the best possible answer to an individual user’s query, and the veracity of the search results they serve up is a big point of concern.

Dealerships change names, have colloquial nicknames, move locations, and undergo major rebranding all the time. For Google, information like this is fluid and hard to verify on its own. Barring that ability, it’ll take the next best course of action and set about looking for third party validation of your citation. Essentially, this is Google checking up on your references – a quasi-background check, if you will.

When it comes to ranking your site for search purposes, Google employs a rubric based on relevance (how well does this search result satisfy the user’s ask?); distance/location (how close is this dealership to the user’s location?); and prominence (how well-known is your dealership?). Prominence, the last of these three factors, is estimated via Google’s assessment your business’ online and social reviews, as well as the Click-Through-Rate (CTR) that your website maintains over time.

Where Should I Have Citations?

Citations are divided into four tiers that rank in respect to their levels of importance and risk threshold (a measurement of the likelihood that the citation is fabricated or false):

  • Tier One Citations: These citations have widespread recognition, retain a high domain authority, and match user intent closely. They include major listings on sites like Facebook, Bing, Yelp YellowPages, and the Better Business Bureau. Also included are more industry-specific properties such as Autotrader, Kijiji, and official OEM websites. Risk threshold for tier one citations is low.
  • Tier Two Citations: Citations of this type still hold a significant amount of domain authority; user intent is still well matched to the information provided in the citation, though the properties on which they appear are less well-known. Here we’re talking citations that might appear on sites like DealerRater, Unhaggle and Reviewsii. While risk threshold is still low, it is still a degree of certainty removed from those in the first tier.
  • Tier Three Citations: Third-tier citations are low-quality. They’re generic and they exhibit poor SEO practices like keyword stuffing. They also lack the relevance of the preceding two tiers, have a high risk-threshold, and lack serious domain authority.
  • Tier Four Citations: These citations have little or no correlation to user intent, and almost zilch in the way of domain authority. You get the idea…

What to Tidy Up First?

Look, we’re all busy. Especially those of us in charge of the online efforts for our respective dealerships. While it’s crucial that your business’ online citations are consistent across the internet, we recognize that, given time constraints, you’ll want to tackle the most important elements first.

Work on eliminating inconsistencies. Ask yourself:

  • Do my Tier One and Two citations have the same local business phone-number? – Emphasis on local numbers, not call-tracking numbers (as tempting as that might be)
  • Do my citations feature the same Canada Post-approved version of my dealership’s address?
  • Is the name of my dealership consistent? – Did we rebrand recently? Do we have a local nickname? (We were Johnny Appleseed VW before, and now we’re just Appleseed VW; we better get on this…)

Inconsistencies at the base level (such as these might seem) can really harm your business’ ability to rank atop Google’s search results page. It’s important that they’re sorted out, and they’re easy to fix, so why not?

In short, it’s important to shore up the information that features on your Tier One and Two citations first. Scratch Google’s back by being as consistent and straightforward as possible, and it’ll repay the favour by ranking you at the top of it’s search results. Once you understand the function and importance of your online citations, it’s easy to see why it’s a good idea to be diligent in maintaining them. Spring cleaning isn’t only limited to scrubbing away the month’s old veneer of road salt that’s been slowly devouring your driveway or airing a winter’s-worth of farts out of your feather quilts. It’s a time for cleaning up your online presence as well. Interested in doing so? Get in touch with us to learn more about online citations.

The Key Benefits of Google’s Local Pack Ads

Think of the last time you were out and about and found yourself in need of a good or service. Maybe you weren’t familiar with the area or just wanted to find the closest location. Our first instinct is to Google the answer, and with the Local 4-Pack, you are able to see at a glance a map with a selection of results for your area. In just a few clicks, you are connected with hours, directions, contact information and reviews. Clicking through on any of these results or on the More Places link sends you through to a larger map of your area and a fuller listing of applicable results for your area.

Imagine you are a business owner and you want to drive foot traffic into your location. You have a Google My Business (GMB) listing, and keep it up to date and well maintained. You also have Google AdSense set up to run search and display ads and have them targeted to your local area. Now you are ready to take your advertising to the next level. By linking your GMB to your AdWords and enabling location extensions, you have the option to start advertising directly into these local search results.

First announced in 2016 and rolled out in various forms through 2017, Google’s Local Pack Ads (also known as Local Search Ads) have begun to effectively integrate themselves into online advertising. Oddly enough, while these have become increasingly popular in America, we are just starting to see these sorts of ads show up in the Canadian marketing scene.

Google touts Local Pack Ads as having 3 key benefits…

Google's Local Pack Ads

Increasing Visits to Your Business

This is can be an awesome advantage for restaurants and boutique shops that want to able to target the foot traffic in their area or a home service that needs to be accessed on a tight time frame. A lot of our shopping has moved online, and while this can be an amazing everyday convenience, it does have its limitations. While a customer might research a big ticket item online, at the end of the day, going into brick and mortar store can be necessary. When these kinds of purchases happen its important for your customers to know you are in their area and ready to serve. Being listed before organic listings can help ensure your business is getting the impressions that might otherwise be lost.

Encourages Communication with Convenient Contact Options

On both Mobile Search and the Google Maps App platforms, the local search results have prominent call buttons that allow the customer to easily contact your business from the search results page. Note that this call information is linked directly to your Google My Business Listing, so its vital that this information is up to date. Additionally, this information is not trackable through Google Analytics as you might assume after working with call extensions within AdWords. This information is instead available to track through your AdWords account under click attribution. While this option is not available on Desktop, those customers instead have the option to click through to your website’s home page. Clicking through the ad will bring them to your GMB Listing, which then makes contact information available.

One-Click Overview of Your Business

When the client clicks on your ad, instead of being automatically linked through to your website, it will open your Google Business Listing. It allows the customer to get an overview of your business at a glance. Your location, hours, starred reviews, and the map are shown, as well as sections for Q&A, peak hours, and photos. The option to click through to your website and get directions are also available. This is the chance for the customer to get to know more about your business, and in particular, how your business interacts with its community.

While what Google has to say is true, its important not to let the flash of a new advertising option run away with our imagination. Its still a relatively new feature, and there are some outstanding questions on how quality score and keywords effect ad auction and position. This is a great new opportunity, and they are uniquely positioned to reach customers that are lower in the purchasing funnel, like customers that know what they want or need, and are now looking for a place to purchase it. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these ads are in their element when it comes to businesses that are looking to capitalize on spur-of-the-moment transactions. It’s also important to remember that the success of Google’s Local Pack Ads hinges on the businesses interaction within their GMB account. Are the hours up to date; are reviews being replied to; are the questions being answered; are there recent photos and updates? You need to provide the customer with a good experience when they go to interact with your listing, because in some cases it might be the only online interaction they have with you.

At the end of the day, we should be viewing Google’s Local Pack Ads as a fantastic added feature, and not a new marketing strategy. If you already use both GMB and AdWords on a regular basis, it is a great opportunity to capture more advertising space in your immediate proximity. Interested in learning more about the benefits of Google’s Local Pack Ads? Get in touch with us at Strathcom to learn more.

If You Only Make One SEO Goal in 2018, It Should Be This

Most dealers are bewildered by the concept of search engine optimization, and it’s not hard to see why. SEO is a constantly changing landscape, and tactics that may have sat at the forefront long enough for them to learn about it are frequently relegated to the back bench no sooner than the dealers have gotten a full grasp of it. However, one thing about SEO has never been clearer:

seo-searcher-intent

Modern day SEO is all about user experience.

Continue reading “If You Only Make One SEO Goal in 2018, It Should Be This”

Automotive Conferences You Should Check Out in 2018

Group of people sitting in a row and applauding at conference.

 

Canadian International Auto Show

Toronto – February 16-25, 2018

AutoShow 2018 is excited present attendees with fast and furious opportunities and experience throughout this 10 day event! Continue reading “Automotive Conferences You Should Check Out in 2018”

Dealers Asked, Google Listened: Google’s 2017 Dealer Playbook

GOOGLE’S DEALER PLAYBOOK IS HERE!

2017 Dealer Playbook

If you attended any of the Google Think Dealer events this fall, you know that Canadian dealers have been asking for a step-by-step guide on how to advertise on Google for years, and it is finally available. Based on Canadian automotive data, whether you are a beginner looking to do the bare minimum, or a seasoned pro looking for how to stand out online, The Dealer Playbook breaks down exactly where you should be spending your marketing dollars. Continue reading “Dealers Asked, Google Listened: Google’s 2017 Dealer Playbook”

GOOGLE THINK AUTO 2017: FULL REVIEW

For those of you who enjoyed the brief highlight reel we released in September on Google Think Auto, here’s the full review. Enjoy!

Google Think Auto 2017

In September, we were fortunate enough to attend this year’s edition of Think Auto at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. The scenery of the event was different and so was the direction of the event. Instead of focusing on the four phases of the car buying journey, there was a ton of data presented on the the buyer’s persona. If you don’t remember what the four phases are, check out our 2016 recap of Think Auto for a good refresher. Continue reading “GOOGLE THINK AUTO 2017: FULL REVIEW”

Think Auto 2017

Google Think Auto 2017
Toronto Centre for the Arts, September 7, 2017

This past Thursday, we were fortunate enough to attend this year’s edition of Google Think Auto at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Although the venue changed from the usual scene at Massey Hall and the direction of the event was slightly different by not having individual dealers out (check out our blog on the upcoming Think Dealer events!), the content was useful and provided a different perspective on our ever changing Canadian car buyer market. Continue reading “Think Auto 2017”

Think Dealer 2017 Events

Think Dealer 2017 Events

If you haven’t already heard, Google changed up their Think Auto event this year. Instead of bringing everyone across the country to the centre of the universe…Toronto… they decided to bring their wealth of knowledge across the country and host Think Dealer specific events in 5 cities between October 12th and November 9th. Lucky for us, we were still able to check out Think Auto and you can read up on our quick summary of the event here! Continue reading “Think Dealer 2017 Events”

Analytics Intelligence

Google Analytics is releasing an update that will make it much easier and quicker to find the data you need.  The new tool Google Analytics will be rolling out is called: Analytics Intelligence.  Analytics Intelligence will allow you to type in what it is you are looking for and give you those results. Instead of navigating through multiple sections within Analytics, you will now be able to type in questions like “How much traffic did CPC bring in this month compared to last?”, and it will quickly show you the answer.

Man working on a project in an office using a tablet; images of analytics intelligence graphs

Beyond answering your questions, Analytics Intelligence also shows new opportunities for you through automated insights, now available in the web interface as well as in the mobile app. These insights can show spikes or drops in metrics like Revenue or Session Duration, tipping you off to issues that you may need to investigate further. Insights may also present opportunities to improve key metrics by following specific recommendations.

To find out more about Analytics Intelligence, check out the complete article here!

Changes to Google’s testmysite Tool

No, you are not imagining things – Google’s testmysite tool has been given a bit of a face lift.

Google's testmysite tool

If you want a quick way to see how your site is performing on mobile, Google’s testmysite tool provides a quick overview. It can tell you in seconds if your website takes over 5 seconds to load (most people won’t even wait that long for a site to load), or if there are things you should fix to make your site more mobile friendly. Continue reading “Changes to Google’s testmysite Tool”

Advertising in the Age of Ad-DHD

People are busy. With work, family, social media, and a plethora of other distractions it is getting more and more difficult for advertisers to get people to notice their ads; let alone retain people’s attention long enough for their ad to actually be recalled. Think of it as a kind of ADHD… Ad-DHD.

As people's attention spans decrease, their ability to recall ads does too.

 

According to Google, users who watch ads for more than three seconds are more likely to recall, recognize and consider your brand. This may not sound like a long time, but to keep someone’s attention for more than 3 seconds is a lot more difficult in this day and age.

In a recent Google Livestream, Google talked about the new currency: time. Google also discussed how the Old Mantra was ‘get the customer to the dealership‘ and the new mantra is ‘bring the dealership to the customer‘. So, how can do you bring the dealership to the customer? Continue reading “Advertising in the Age of Ad-DHD”

3 Misconceptions About Ad Quality According to Google

In a recent edition of Google Best Practices they laid out the difference between auction-time quality and the 1-10 quality score. Regarding your quality score, here are 3 things that matter:

  1. The User’s Device
  2. Relevance
  3. Performance on Related Keywords

Hands typing on laptop computer - there are several misconceptions about quality score on Google

I don’t think that there is anyone out there that can argue that these factors do not effect your quality score. But here are some factors that, contrary to some opinions, do not matter: Continue reading “3 Misconceptions About Ad Quality According to Google”

Clarity on Conversions: what is actually being reported to you? Leads?

Do you know exactly what your online providers call a conversion? What they call a lead? If you cannot definitively answer that question it might be time to have a chat with them.  Although there seems to be endless oversight in the automotive industry, there is no industry standard for what we call a lead or a conversion.

hand holding mobile smart phone at blurred car for sale in showroom background

Most people would agree that a form completion, email, text, chat or clicks-to-call all represent a lead as a consumer is engaging directly with your business. Sounds fair. Continue reading “Clarity on Conversions: what is actually being reported to you? Leads?”

HeroConf 2017: Recap On 3 Days Of Non-Stop PPC

T-Shirt from HeroConf 2017 that says PPC Nerd

From April 17th-20th, I had the opportunity to attend one of the largest gatherings of PPC nerds in North America: HeroConf 2017 hosted in Los Angeles.  This was my first PPC conference and I had no idea what to expect, but I couldn’t have felt more at home at the conference among other people who live and breathe PPC.

It was a busy week filled with learning, networking, and free drinks. Despite all the fun, I came home excited to share my new knowledge with the Strathcom team. Here are my key takeaways about what to expect in the world of PPC in the future.

 

It’s Time to Move on From Last Click Attribution

Attribution Modeling was one of the hottest topics discussed at HeroConf. Speakers from all industries agreed that it’s time to ditch the last click model, and focus on other touchpoints that lead to a conversion. However, there is no magical way of knowing which model is right for you. Speaker Jeff Greenfield of C3 Metrics discussed the importance of not waiting around for the perfect model, but to test and test again. The only way to prove the value of attribution models is to test until you become less wrong. Attribution modelling is extremely important in the automotive industry as we move away from the standard sales funnel, to a customer journey with multiple touchpoints. By ignoring the touchpoints a customer reaches today, we may never see them again for another 3 years.

Integrate Your Paid Social & Paid Search Strategies

Continue reading “HeroConf 2017: Recap On 3 Days Of Non-Stop PPC”

4 Ways to Make Your Mobile Site Better, According to Google Best Practices

In the latest article from  Google Best Practices, Google gave 4 Tips for a Frictionless Mobile Experience. Not all of their tips necessarily apply to the automotive industry, but these are 4 simple ways to make your mobile site better.

Woman using tablet at night, visiting a mobile site

Make it Responsive

Continue reading “4 Ways to Make Your Mobile Site Better, According to Google Best Practices”

The Blurred Line Between TV and YouTube: what it means for advertisers

As more and more people turn to YouTube for their entertainment, it is getting more and more difficult to track exactly how many viewers a TV program gets. For example, I think everyone has watched – or at least heard about – Saturday Night Live’s skit in which Melissa McCarthy impersonates White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer. We all know SNL airs on NBC on Saturday nights (duh), but is that when and where you watched it? Or did you watch it on YouTube?

Watching YouTube videos on smart TV with home media sharing technology.

In a recent Think with Google article, Google discussed how more viewers are watching TV programs on YouTube, and even casting what they are watching on YouTube to their televisions. According to their research, adults are 5x more likely to prefer online platforms over cable TV.

In another Think with Google article, they discussed how programs like ‘Carpool Karaoke’ on the Late Late Show with James Corden – despite being a successful TV program – frequently gets more views on YouTube than on TV.

“The blurred lines of video consumption have changed the way success of any TV show should be measured. That’s particularly true for us since we originally air after midnight. We’re in the relevance business. The first thing we do when we come in in the morning is look at how our videos performed on YouTube. Our executive producer, Ben Winston, says, ‘The overnight ratings just tell us who managed to stay awake past midnight. The YouTube numbers tell us which bits flew.’ I couldn’t agree more.

Case in point: Viewership of ‘Carpool Karaoke’ on YouTube regularly eclipses viewership on the show itself.”

So what does this mean for advertisers? It could mean that the money being spent on TV ads (about $72 billion last year) could be better suited for YouTube. This is one reason that YouTube is now rolling out a Web-TV service called YouTube TV. For just $35/month, customers can sign up for a package consisting of about 40 channels. It has also been speculated that YouTube TV will get about 2 minutes of ad time per hour to sell to advertisers.

It also means that Google’s targeting methods can now be utilized in the TV space, and Google can now sell their advertising in the network ad slots that would have typically gone to cable operators. But Google is insistent that they are not trying to take money away from TV, they just want to play in the TV space.

Will you sign up for YouTube TV if it comes to Canada? Will you be willing to spend $35/month? Let us know in the comment section!

Google Externship

Last week, Strathcom Media had the pleasure of hosting an exclusive 2-day “Google Externship” with Googler, Caitlin. As a first-time Edmonton-visitor, Caitlin was pleased to learn more about our Canadian culture and hear that Edmonton (yes, just Edmonton) was hosting 9 sold-out Garth Brooks concerts!

During her time with us, she was able to share her expertise of Google products and optimizations in order to help us improve some of our AdWords accounts. In addition to doing deep dives into specific accounts, she also provided us with insider tips and tricks on how to improve efficiency in our daily tasks and shared new insights and different ways to use Google products.Close-up view of Google apps on an Android smartphone, including Chrome, Gmail, Maps.

We all know the importance of Google and its impact on our daily lives. Whether it’s to learn more about a topic or to settle an argument, anyone can just “Google it” and find everything they need. In fact, 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine, and the use of search engines is expected to increase by another 15% in 2017. Additionally, 84% of new car buyers and 68% of used car buyers use Google in their shopping journey. Also, 75% of users do not scroll past the first page of search results, hence the importance of advertising.  As a Premier Google Partner, Strathcom understands how to get you noticed on the search results page.

Our ad operations and sales teams greatly benefited from Caitlin’s visit and we are now refreshed and ready to smash your advertising  goals out of the park!

A Future Without Passwords?

"My password 123456" written on a paper with marker.The idea may seem far-fetched, but Google has already begun testing an alternative to the traditional alpha-numeric password.

Imagine being able to unlock your devices, profiles, personal accounts and much more without ever having to touch a keyboard. As it stands, the average consumer now has an average of 100 passwords to remember, and this number is continually on the rise. Google began the project, “Abacus”, with the intention to develop new indicators for users to use as passwords.

Abacus plans to kill passwords off not with one “secure” replacement, but by mixing multiple weaker indicators into one solid piece of inventory which collectively work to prove your identity. Beyond the obvious biometric indicators, such as face shape, smile and voice recognition, the program also hopes to incorporate some lesser known measures of identification (the way you move, swipe the screen, and hold the device, for example).

As separate entities it would be foolish to rely on any of these factors as security measures, but when combined they collectively serve as a measure that is 10x more secure than a single fingerprint.

Soon these features will be made available to third parties for testing, and some Android devices will have this as a beta option by the end of the year!

You Have Been Warned: Google’s Intrusive Interstitial Penalty Is Now In Effect

Google Search on a smartphone

Not all heroes wear capes? Google just saved the day with the introduction of the intrusive interstitial penalty. Of course, whether Google is a saviour is a matter of perspective because it is highly unlikely that all advertisers are thrilled about it.

The introduction of intrusive interstitial penalties, as always, is to improve the user experience especially in the mobile platform. One of the key annoyances for mobile customers is the unexpected (annoying) pop ups when they go to a page. Given the smaller screen on mobile devices, chasing the little ‘x’ symbol to close these ads is not something that is widely appreciated.

What are interstitials? According to a blog by Bright Edge, these are “ads that land on a page on your site, where the user intended to go”. Usually these ads either contain an option to skip the ad or an expiration after a short time.intrusive interstitial ads

As stated earlier, Google wants to improve the landing page and customer experience. Failure to abide by the new rule will result in a poor ad rank, especially on mobile. That’s a risk no advertiser wants to take given the increase of mobile use over the years and the rise in competition in every industry. This penalty only affects “intrusive interstitials that happen directly after going from a Google mobile search result to a specific page” (Search Engine Land; January 11, 2017).

The only acceptable interstitials are: legal requests for cookie tracking, age verifications, logins and banners that only use a reasonable amount of the screen and can be easily dismissed (Max Traffic, January 1, 2017). Now the most important information – what can you do to prevent the penalty? The blog, Will New Google’s Intrusive Mobile Interstitial Penalty Affect Your Business, has a great set of details on how to prevent them:

  • Analyze the performance beforehand: if your ads are generating enough traffic and leads to risk losing points, then by all means ignore this warning.
  • Reasonable amount of screen: simple as having smaller banners that do not take up the entire screen.
  • More control for the users to dismiss your interstitials: simply place the infamous ‘x’ as visible as possible.
  • Don’t show pop ups to all incoming visitors: approach at the very end, when the user is about to leave. This will keep the frustrations minimal as they already interacted with the content of the specific page.

At the end of the day, this penalty is beneficial for everyone involved, so Google really is a saviour! How, you ask? Other than the loss of site rank, customers are less frustrated and bothered, which decreases the bounce rate and increases the chances of conversion on your site. In the automotive industry, this is key as with multiple dealerships offering various makes and service, and the convenience of navigating to a different page with similar content, risking the penalty would not be not a stride in the right direction.

Marketing to Generation Xers on YouTube

Woman hands holding an Apple iPhone 4. iPhone 4 displaying "loading video screen" of Youtube application. We all know that millennials are discussed a lot these days, but Google has just released results from their research on Generation X and their behavior on YouTube. As a Gen Xer myself, born between the mid-1960’s and late 1970’s – my generation saw a lot of changes in the way the world communicates. We witnessed the birth of life-changing innovations such as the internet, boomboxes, mobile phones, VCR’s, and DVD players. And yes, the boombox changed my life, as did my beloved Walkman.

YouTube has become something of a time travelling device for this nostalgic generation. I know my hubby and I have, on more than a few occasions, used the power of YouTube to show our children old cartoon clips, commercials and songs and effectively blew their little minds.

According to Pixability, Generation X accounts for over 1.5 billion views everyday on YouTube.  To grasp a better understanding of Gen Xers’ preferences in regards to their YouTube activity, Google conducted a survey-based analysis along with Ipsos Connect and Flamingo. They discovered that Gen Xers’ behavior on YouTube reflects their ability to self-start, their desire to be in the know, and their love of nostalgia.  Continue reading “Marketing to Generation Xers on YouTube”