Penguin 4.0 is Live!

After a 2 year wait, Google’s Penguin algorithm has finally been updated!  The Penguin filter was designed to capture sites that are spamming Google’s search results in ways that Google’s regular spam detection systems might not have noticed.  Previously, the Penguin filter would “catch” sites deemed as spammers, and they would remained penalized even if the site improved or changed until the next time the filter would run (which could take anywhere from several weeks to several months).

Google's Penguin 4.0 program has launched!

With this latest release, Penguin now operates in real time.  Now when Google recrawls and reindexes pages, these pages will be assessed immediately by the filter and then released or caught as a part of this process.

Penguin will now also devalue spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting the ranking of the whole site.  Previously, Penguin was a site-wide penalty, but now only specific pages on a website may be impacted rather than the entire site.

For more information on how this can affect your site’s ranking, contact one of our friendly OMM’s here at Strathcom Media!

Homepage Elements with the Highest Conversion Rates

Conversion Optimization: probably the most important topic imaginable for building car dealership websites, and a topic we’d like to shed some light on. Here’s what we at Strathcom discovered during our tests for conversion rates!Print

A Call to Action is Like Asking for the Sale

You train your Salespeople to close the deal, and the same kind of logic behind that also applies online. There’s no denying the insane importance of a Call to Action (CTA), and knowing just when and where to ask for the sale is just as important. In our tests, we excluded clicks from top-level menus. Here are the stats:

The Most Clicked-on Webpages

  • New/Used Inventory – people like to browse, so let’s suggest taking a test drive, for example
  • Specials – let’s load this page up with incentives; that’s the idea here anyways, right?
  • Service Appointment

Highest-Performing Design

Button-style CTAs outperformed “image + text” CTAs. Main CTA buttons account on average for almost half of the clicks on a webpage, making them by far the most important CTAs to include.

Best Placement

The higher above the fold, the higher the conversions.


A Convenient Quick-Search Bar

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Users want to find what they’re looking for right away and if they don’t, they’ll go somewhere else. The stats:


One of the top-performing homepage elements to encourage conversions – we found in our tests that quick-search bars average around 20% of all site clicks.


  • Placement on the homepage doesn’t matter, as it’s consistently used wherever we put it – it’s just a matter of making it accessible
  • When placed lower on a page, users will actively scroll down to use it

A Ton of Links

One paragraph on the homepage could contain links to just about every other section of the site, giving readers an easy way of searching for and finding what they need. Stats:

Most Clicked-on Links

  • Contact Info/Location/Directions/Hours – some users are customers already, and they just want to find out where and when they can drop by, so let’s be sure they can find out easily
  • Book Service Appointment
  • View New/Used Inventory

Highest-Performing Design

Links with button styles, but ONLY when used sparingly – let’s be smart about how we use buttons.

For our testing purposes, “conversions” was defined as clicks which took a user to an internal webpage. We tested using heat maps, click maps, and Google Analytics data, and our tests were done over multiple sites with differing designs.

Three Things You Need to Know About the New Bing Network

From February 18, 2016 onward, Bing Ads will further empower individuals and organizations to achieve more. How are they going to do that?

Bing has been in Google AdWords’ shadow for quite some time. With Bing’s new network (and with you in mind, of course), they’re lined up for growth and success.


First, Bing has changed–and is still changing–the way we search. Let’s look specifically at Windows 10. In this latest version of Windows, you’re able to search for items right from your Bing-integrated start menu. It seems so simple. And that’s one of the reasons Bing has seen and will continue to see an increase in their searches–it’s so simple. Bing’s capabilities span across other devices, platforms, and partners such as the Xbox One, AOL, and the Wall Street Journal.

Second, Bing is setting up points of parity by remarketing the brand and offering an Ad Editor to Mac users for improved utility and usability. Bing wants to help you “Be There” during moments that matter, so these changes were no-brainers for ensuring advertisers had access to all the tools they might need with the Bing Toolkit.

Third, Bing’s statistics for search uniqueness are very attractive to individuals who love to test and then retest. Bing reports they get 1 in 3 of U.S. searches and 15 billion monthly searches around the globe. This number continues to grow. They even say 25 percent of clicks resulting from searches are exclusive to the Bing Network. This opens the door to so much more testing; for example, keywords that don’t work well in AdWords might be successful in the Bing Network.

Strathcom at Dreamforce 2015!

What do you get when you take 160,000 people and stuff them into San Francisco for a week? One of the largest software and technology conferences in the world: Dreamforce!Strathcom was proud to attend Dreamforce '15

Continue reading “Strathcom at Dreamforce 2015!”

Ride Search Directories to the Top! Using Barnacle SEO to Sell More Cars


When Google updates its algorithms, it does so with one objective in mind: to give its users the best and most relevant search results.

And when they updated their Pigeon algorithm last year, they made a change that gave directory sites like Yelp, Yellow Pages, and Facebook more authority and a larger presence in the SERPS. For many dealers, this meant discovering that their social media accounts were now ranking higher (sometimes pages higher) than their website. Continue reading “Ride Search Directories to the Top! Using Barnacle SEO to Sell More Cars”

SEO Ranking Factors for Your Car Dealership in 2014

I’ve finally found some time to make an update on my previous post SEO ranking factors for 2013. There have been many important changes this past year and I wanted to talk about what will be important for your dealership website in 2014.

Secure Search & Hummingbird Conversational Content

Perhaps the biggest, most radical change of the year was Google’s move to 100% secure search in late September. Most SEOs had been watching the rising amount of keywords moving into the (Not Provided) keyword batch, but we didn’t think it was going to come so soon.

Secure search and the Hummingbird algorithm change were released just a few months apart, and it totally makes sense why Google did this. Google wants websites to start creating content around topics rather than specific keywords. The Hummingbird algorithm asks website owners to start thinking more about the meaning of keywords on a page.

This is another push to ensure they only rank the highest quality websites for their searchers. The Panda update was all about punishing websites with thin and low-quality content, and it followed other updates that penalized keyword stuffing.

Since Google has been pushing out so many updates focusing on ranking sites with quality content, it’s safe to say we need to continue producing  great content for our sites.

For car dealerships, that includes things like content-rich landing pages where car buyers can research vehicles and get the information they need without having to visit manufacturer websites.  Blogs are also another great way to add new content to your site and you can schedule to write them weekly to keep your content fresh.

Not Provided Meme. Source:

Tips for Thriving in the Age of Google Hummingbird

  • Think about topics rather than keywords when writing content for your website.
  • Answer searchers’ questions: Ask yourself what questions the page answers. Are there different synonyms for the keyword topics that you can use on the page?
  • Seek out legitimate businesses similar to yours to link to. Ensure that the link has something to do with the partners’ content on their site.
  • Try to get irrelevant links to your site removed. If you are having difficulty doing this, use the Google links disavow tool.

Adwords PPC Has a New Relationship with SEO

Since Google decided to encrypt most keyword data in Google Analytics, our ability to see which keywords are bringing in web traffic is limited. However, there is a loophole: this data is still available in a PPC Adwords campaign. Increasing your pay per click (PPC) budget can now help SEOs analyze the keyword data available in an Adwords campaign.

SEO PPC Source:

Google Loves a Website that Loads Quickly

Google favours websites that load more quickly than others. This makes sense: who wants to sit and wait for a website to load for more than 5 seconds? In today’s technology-saturated world, people are impatient and if they don’t get the results they are looking for within seconds, they will go somewhere else. It’s just like if someone were to walk into your dealership and not receive any service within the first few minutes. It’s not minutes online—it’s seconds.

To ensure our sites load quickly we must:

  • Keep our sites free of too many large, uncompressed images.
  • Limit the number of sliders and carousels we use per page.
  • Limit the number of images we include in our sliders and carousels.


Mobile searches have now surpassed desktop searches in the USA. Do you have a mobile friendly website? You had better! Today’s car buyers search cars for sale on their mobile phones while on the go.

Mobile search growth over desktop

Check out Strathcom’s Mobile Website Services

Rich Snippets

More information is starting to show up right in search results to tempt searchers to click on your listings.

For some websites, you can now see product pricing, if a product is in stock, reviews and ratings, authorship images, contact information and more—right on your Google search results page.

This data has been marked up using something called a rich snippet. Although it’s not a ranking factor, it does increase your click-through rate, which in turn increases the traffic to your site (which is in turn a ranking factor).

Authorship markup
Authorship markup
Products in stock markup
Products in stock markup


Review markup
Review markup

Online Chatter & Social Media

You just gotta do it! You gotta get out of traditional marketing and get into the realm of Social Media. The world is changing every day, and if you don’t change with it, you will be left behind. You just gotta get out of there!

Social Media isn’t there just for your customers to complain to you and it’s not just a fad. Social Media can actually help you sell more cars online and improve the ranking of your website. More and more Social Media platforms are being created every day, and many are booming with instant popularity. Pinterest and Instagram are some of the “newer” accounts that your dealership should be engaging in.

Today, diversification is a major trend:  it’s no longer enough to be active on a single network like Facebook.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you writing content that people will want to share?
  • Is your content easily shareable? Do you have share buttons on your website?
  • Are you active on the social networks that matter in the automotive industry?
  • Are you active on the social networks that matter to your customers?

Social Media is important, as Google’s continued algorithm updates are relying more and more on social signals. Social media accounts also spread your content around the web, marketing your site to those who don’t know who you are yet.

Google+ is one Social Media account a is complete must for any dealership. Your Google+ profile marries with your website, helping you boost your authority and increase visibility in local search queries. Since your dealership is a local businesses, it’s essential to claim your Places page and pimp out your Google+ profile.

Content Marketing is Huge

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action. – Content Marketing Institute

From an SEO standpoint, Google takes content marketing as a sign that a company or business is legitimate and something that they would want to support through a higher ranking in search engine results.

Content Marketing Complies with Many SEO Ranking Signals

  • Your searchers will have regular new content they can engage with to answer their questions.
  • Your social signals and engagement will increase.
  • “Fresh” content signals that your site is alive and growing.
  • You benefit from increased authority connected to your entire business.

There you have it. Content is still king, and it looks like it always will be. SEO is online marketing and it’s not just about keywords anymore; it’s about marketing your website online and not just offline. The more your website is talked about, shared, “liked,” “plussed” and visited, the better your chances of ranking at the top of Google’s search engine result pages.

If you have any questions about how to get started with the online marketing and SEO of your website, contact us.

~ Samantha Goettel

What Are Hashtags and How Do I Use Them?

What is a Hashtag? You’ve probably heard about hashtags, and you may or may not know what they are, or how they work. What is Hashtagging? Basically it involves tagging a word, series of words, video or picture by using a hash mark (#). For example, #BMW or #Ford. The #sign makes a searchable tag and allows users to search for a particular subject.


Who Uses Them?


According to a survey from RadiumOne, “Unlike other forms of social sharing, hashtags implicitly reflect customer sentiment and are one of the most powerful ways consumers have to vocalize their tastes and preferences at scale in a real-time fashion,” said Kamal Kaur, vice president, mobile at RadiumOne. “We conducted this survey to help advertisers better manage their brands by responding to the needs and wants of their client base through winning hashtag campaigns.” Key findings from the survey, which polled the opinions of 494 participants, include:

  • 58 percent of respondents utilize hashtags on a regular basis, and 71 percent of regular hashtag users do so from their mobile devices.
  • 43 percent of respondents think hashtags are useful and 34% use them to search/follow categories and brands of personal interest.
  • 51 percent of respondents would share hashtags more often if they knew advertisers awarded discounts for sharing product-based hashtags.
  • 41 percent of respondents use hashtags to communicate personal ideas and feelings.

Google has just announced they will now allow you to search for Google+ posts by using hashtags. This means users will now be able to search for hashtags like #Dodge and get a list of relevant Google+ posts in the right-hand sidebar.

How Are Hashtags Different from a Regular Search?

You can be found by an entirely new audience. Hashtags let users search through everything that is public. As a result, people who don’t even know your store or your page could find you if you are using the correct hashtags. Use your dealership name and your primary keywords as hashtags. Example: #GothamMotors #Cadillac #Buick #CarRepair. Use them on social media including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Vine, Instagram, etc.

Hashtag Etiquette

Hashtags can be ridiculously annoying; just ask Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake. So make sure you do it right:

  1. Don’t use too many words — ain’t nobody got time for that! #Checkoutthelatesttoyotacamryinyeg is not something people are looking for. If you have to use a couple of words, make sure you capitalize each word, like #FuelEconomy and #FordFusion
  2. Don’t tag every word. #We #are #having #a #private #sale is ANNOYING.
  3. Don’t tag something just because it’s trendy, especially if it’s unrelated. “I bet #Miley would love this Chevrolet Cruze! #wreckingball” — NO.
  4. Try to put them at the end of your post. It looks better and is not annoying to the reader.
    We’re having a customer appreciation BBQ. Come on by! #GothamMotors #BBQ #GothamEvents


Strathcom Tip: If you want to see where a lot of your branded car terms are being hashtagged, check out this awesome site searches all the social sites to show you a list of hashtag results!



Another Bird Has Joined the Google Algorithm Family

By now, one should not be surprised that Google has launched another huge algorithm change. Google updates their algorithm several hundred times a year, launching large updates and then tweaking those updates — sometimes almost daily.

The two largest updates in the past that affected many websites were the Google Panda and Google Penguin update.

We now welcome another bird into the algorithm family. Meet the new Google Hummingbird search engine. This change is not just an update but a whole new algorithm, which was announced during Google’s 15th birthday party on Thursday, September 29th, 2013. However, this was not the launch date of the algorithm. Google announced that the change was already set in place, and has already been running for the past few months. It is essentially an update to its Knowledge Graph, much like the Facebook Graph Search announcement from January of this year.

Google Hummingbird

Google Knowledge Graph

Knowledge Graph was added to Google’s search engine in May, 2012, starting in the United States. It is essentially an immense database enhanced with something called semantic search. Semantic search improved search accuracy by understanding searcher intent and the contextual meaning of terms as they appear in the searchable database. For example, instead of only finding websites related to keywords, Google can now parse data from strings of keywords — essentially full-length questions — and provide it right in their Search Engine Results Page (SERP). An example of semantic search in the Knowledge Graph is the informative box that pops up on side of SERP. See the Tom Cruise example below.

Semantic Search

As you can see below, when searching for “Tom Cruise,” the Knowledge Graph used semantic search and anticipated what I may search for. It has used the most popular searches about Tom Cruise and compiled them in one place, directly in the SERP so that one does not need to click into several websites to finish their search on Tom Cruise. The information below shows me his birthday, how tall he is (because he’s really short), what his upcoming movies are, recent news on him and his top movies.

Semantic Search example


As you can see, Google is now able to map relationships between many things and answer complex queries itself, all based on information compiled from many sources on the Internet.

Google can now understand more complex strings of searches, particularly questions such as this distance question below:

Google Knowledge Graph distance calculator


Just like the Facebook Graph Search, your more complex questions can now be answered without having to visit a website.

What Exactly Is Hummingbird?

The Hummingbird algorithm primarily improves the speed of these more complex searches. Hence being named after the quick and speedy hummingbird.

Thanks to

How Does the Hummingbird Algorithm Affect the Automotive Industry?

We have to remember that the Knowledge Graph and semantic search are still very new. Not everything is available in the database yet. Over the years, the Graph will become smarter and may soon answer extremely complicated queries in every industry.

For now, it doesn’t look like there is any automotive information available in the Graph. I performed several searches related to the automotive industry and no information was available; just your regular old URLs popped up.

Google search for fuel economy

Google search where is the closest toyota dealership

Google Search: Where can I get auto financing


How to Stay Ahead and Not Get Caught up in Algorithm Updates: What Does It Mean for SEO?

Nothing has changed. If you have original, high-quality content with highly relevant websites linking to your website, then your website still should rank well. The key to making proper decisions about SEO is to understand where Google is going. Google’s end goal is to provide their searchers exactly what they searched for. If your website doesn’t answer a question that a user is asking, then it won’t rank well. If your website provides information that users are searching for, it will remain in the top of the SERPs. If people are recommending your site because it has great information, then your site will rank, if no one is recommending the site online, then perhaps you need to re-think the content that you have on your website.

  • Listen to your clients. Are there questions that are asked daily in the dealership? Consider creating landing pages and tracking their success to determine which content should be available on your website. Continue to provide your expertise on landing pages so that your website is ready to answer searchers’ questions in the automotive industry.
  • Are there new vehicle models? Create landing pages explaining what is unique about a new model.
  • Are you engaging with your clients online? 90% of car buyers use social media in their car buying process. Build relationships with your clients online and answer their questions for them. In turn, people will link to your content (more online recommendations) and begin to trust your knowledge of the automotive industry.
  • Encourage reviews. Let your clients know that if they enjoyed their experience with you, that you are online on Yelp and Google+ and you would appreciate a review. The more online recommendations, the better the rankings!
  • Are you staying up-to-date with new SEO features that are now available such as Rich Snippets?

If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us today at or call us at (780) 433-8844 or toll-free at 1 (888) 914-1444.

(Not Provided) Here to Stay – Google Encrypts All Keyword Searches

A day that many SEO and analytics ninjas feared has finally arrived. That annoying (not provided) line in Google Analytics is going to get bigger and bigger thanks to Google’s decision to encrypt all keyword searches. Originally the (not provided) line only appeared in Google Analytics when users were signed in to a Google property; that is no longer the case.

Search Engine Land reached out to Google and received the following report:

“We added SSL encryption to our signed-in search users in 2011, as well as searches from Chrome omnibox earlier this year. We’re now working to bring this extra protection to more users not signed in.”

Let’s put a few things on the table:

  • This affects everyone using Google Analytics.
  • This does not affect Bing and Yahoo searches; they will still provide keyword data.

    • Our friends at comScore report having about 67% of the search market share, Bing having 18% and Yahoo coming in third at 11%. A myriad of other search engines account for the other 4%.

  • This change to (not provided) only affects organic searches. Paid search will still provide a wealth of keyword data. If you are using a Google AdWords campaign make sure that it is linked to your Google Analytics account.

    • Conspiracy theorists believe that this is a move for Google to generate more revenue through pushing people into paid search. Only Google knows that at this point.

  • This is not the end of the world!

Google Not Provided

How Does This Impact a Canadian Car Dealer?

Well, you no longer have keyword data from the largest search engine in the world – that kind of sucks. The reality is that SEO is about great content focused on specific topics in the industry. There are still a number of ways that we can track SEO success at the page or URL level. We can still monitor the amount of traffic that is coming to your site and relate it back to your content strategy.

Moving forward, make sure that you do the following:

  1. Link your Google AdWords account to your Google Analytics account
  2. Focus on generating great content around your dealership and the industry
  3. Measure SEO success at the page level, not the keyword level

Search Marketing Expo West – SMX West San Jose 2013

I’m off to the Search Marketing Expo West edition in San Jose California March 11th to 13th, 2013 and I’m ecstatic to be attending my first SEO conference. Having worked in the SEO industry since early 2010, it’s long overdue.

What is SMX?

The Search Marketing Expo is a conference for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) folks who have careers in the online marketing industry. It is three full days of over 50 sessions and keynote presentations. SMX West was created by the editors of Search Engine Land, a website that many search marketers trust to deliver credible information in the online marketing industry.

There are so many interesting sessions that I’m having a hard time deciding which to attend. My goal is to bring back the most benefits for our dealers, and I wish I could take in every single one of the talks!


SMX West Sessions

One of the talks I’m most excited for is “How To Groove To The Google Dance.”  It discusses Google’s many algorithim changes which on a near-weekly basis, and will help answer the age-old question of how to keep Google happy and save our dealer sites from the penalty list by using White Hat SEO tactics. The famous (in the SEO and SEM industry) Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land will be moderating this talk.

Another talk that intrigues me is “The Search Police: Matt & Duanes’ Excellent Search Engine Adventure” by the ever so famous Mr. Matt Cutts, the head of Google Spam, and Duane Forester, the manager of Bing Webmaster tools. Matt and Duanne will be sharing examples of what not to do on our sites and why. I’m going to ensure that I get a front seat for this talk, so I can totally nerd out.


Stay tuned for more blog posts on the conference and awesome SEO tactics and rules to help get your car dealership to rank and bring in more converting leads.