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.
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:
If a web page listing is elevated into the featured snippet position, we no longer repeat it in the first page of results. This declutters the results & helps users locate relevant information more easily. Featured snippets count as one of the ten web page listings we show….
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:
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:
Each day, Google usually releases one or more changes designed to improve our results. Some are focused around specific improvements. Some are broad changes. Last week, we released a broad core algorithm update. We do these routinely several times per year….
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.
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”→
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”→
Your website isn’t your be-all and end-all anymore. Google is always adapting and changing to best serve users searching for businesses and what they want, and look to deliver that as quickly as possible (while generally keeping the user on the SERP). They can’t do that with your website, so that’s where Google My Business comes in. Google My Business (or GMB) helps you manage your business on both Google search and Google maps by providing users with the best information, news, promotions and ability to interact with your business via questions, reviews and more. You’ll often see this “profile” materialize on the right side of your desktop browser, or throughout your screen on mobile as you scroll when you search for a business in Google search. It also populates similarly in Maps view, an ever-increasing way people are searching for businesses, not just to find them online, but to visit in person as well.
Strathcom Media always emphasizes the importance of producing unique website content throughout its SEO and development strategies, especially when it comes to increasing organic website traffic. As Google actively penalizes websites with either duplicate content or no on-site content from the search engine results page (SERP), we often see this problem occur with automotive websites, especially when inventory pages expire on the site and direct users to a 404 error.
We all want to be number 1 at what we do, whether you’re LeBron James chasing down Michael Jordan, Nelly or a dealership outselling its competition. But it takes a lot of work to be number 1 in any field and outrank competitors, especially in the automotive industry, which always invites a healthy dose of competition.
You might assume it’s only your website that determines how well you rank in search (and sure, it does play a part), but there are a lot more factors that determine where your dealership lands in SERPs when you search for a business, question, keyword or phrase and why one dealership may outrank the other. Google’s algorithm attempts to follow what its users like best, and those users like consistent, groomed activity online. Consequently, Google also likes that same consistent, groomed activity on everything it can crawl or interact with, including everything from the technical SEO on your website, your Google My Business profile, citations and external links coming into your site.
On Kanye West’s 2005 album Late Registration, Jay-Z rapped the line above, which would quickly become a part of the pop culture lexicon. Appearing as Gary Vee-style motivational quotes, in the Instagram bios of 14 year olds flipping sneakers, and, I’m sad to say, on my Grandmother’s Facebook wall after she sold a bunch of crocheted “Kitten Mittens” on Etsy, the line was co-opted by anyone who had made a dime outside of a paycheque. Honestly, when Jay-Z said it, it was clever. The rest of you aren’t businesses, and you certainly aren’t Jay-Z.
Google Knows You’re Not a Business
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: not only is Google constantly working to improve the user’s experience, but it’s also much smarter than we give it credit for. It knows what GMB (Google My Business) listings are businesses, and which are people. As a dealership lead generator (sounds better than car salesman, no?) you are an integral part of the business, but you are not the business. Ditto for subprime finance companies, that operate within a dealership. Google would consider that lead generation within the dealership, not the dealership itself. So please, don’t create your own personal GMB listing. Google knows that you work for a company, and are not (in most cases) the company itself. Also, I’m pretty sure if we asked, Google could confidently tell us that you are, in fact, not Jay-Z.
So Who Can Have Their Own GMB Listing?
A recent update to the GMB Guideline is clear—or about as clear as Google gets—on when a person can have their own GMB listing, and when they can’t. “Practitioners,” or public-facing professionals (e.g. doctors, lawyers, financial agents, essentially anyone with a couple of fancy extra letters attached to their name), can create their own listing in the event that they:
operate in a public-facing role, or
are available for direct contact at the listing’s verified location, during business hours.
Even then, a single practitioner shouldn’t have multiple listings for multiple specializations (so if you provide both oil changes and tire swaps, those should not have separate listings). But with this update, Google has specified that “Sales associates or lead generation agents for corporations aren’t individual practitioners, and aren’t eligible for a listing.” Cut and dry. That means no individual salespeople or special sales teams within the dealership, no lead generators like subprime finance or leasing specialists, no service advisors, nada. Just the business, man.
What’s the Harm?
The reality is, not only does having multiple listings mean a ton of upkeep, but it could have a negative impact on the business itself. Because one day Google is going to see listings for ‘Gary from Gary Moe Volkswagen,’ ‘Moe from Gary Moe Volkswagen,’ and ‘Gary Moe Volkswagen,’ and could delete or suspend two of the three accounts that it assumes are duplicates—at which point no amount of name brand recognition will save you. In fact, one of my colleagues just finished dealing with this for a client, and will have a case study on this at a later date. Jay-Z might’ve had a song called “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” but my guess is he’d be smarter than opening up multiple listings when Google told him not to.
Additionally, you are potentially losing out on great customer testimonials that should have gone to your primary dealership listing, but instead went to the individual salesperson’s listing. Sure, they were the primary person helping the customer, but we all know it takes a strong team to get the wheels over the curb, not just one person. And if that salesperson leaves your dealership, you best believe that they’re taking all of those customer testimonials to whatever dealership they land at next. All of your marketing dollars and effort that may have helped get the customer through your doors are now following Moe along to one of your competitors. You may have “99 Problems” at your dealership, but vehicles you’ve already sold shouldn’t be one of them.
Sometimes the simplest path is the best, and this is one of those instances. Save yourself the headache of having to verify or re-verify your account. Save yourself the trouble of constantly updating multiple listings. Save yourself the trouble of losing customers or customer reviews that you earned. Create one listing for your dealership, and you’ll reap the long-term benefits of playing by Google’s rules. Now get out on the floor, you’ve got leads to generate.
“Yes, we’ll let you crawl us, you just make sure to give us credit when we give you the data. […] We [SEOs] made Google just as much as they made us, and all they owe us is what they promised at the outset: traffic and credit.”
This is one of the most apt descriptions of the relationship between SEOs and Google, and was shared by Rand Fishkin in 2016, months after the introduction of the featured snippet earlier that year. When Rand made that statement, it was at a time where Google had all but plagiarized the bulk of the information shown in featured snippets and answer boxes, without attributing all information to the original content creators they scraped the data from. Since that time, they’ve done a better job of providing the appropriate clout from those answers to the websites who provided them, while still keeping the core answer in the search result. Today, Google continues to change the way that search results are displayed in an effort to provide answers, not websites. Great for the customer, but not so much for the business.Continue reading “Clout is the New Click: Strategizing for Zero-Click SERPs”→
Shakespeare’s Romeo once suggested, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet.” Since we usually see multiple variations of a dealership’s name strewn across every branded opportunity, car dealerships (and my inner theatre nerd) tend to agree with him. But from an SEO standpoint, this can be confusing to your potential customers. This is why choosing both your dealership’s name and domain name are exceedingly important, especially if you want your website or other online citation listings delivered in one, unified brand name for search results.
One of the most popular SEO requests we see from dealerships across Canada is to take all of their pages and add groupings of text that list all of the cities, towns, or local areas that they “serve.” Sometimes it’s simply the local areas around them (especially for dealerships that are located in a “greater” area around a major city), and sometimes it stretches far beyond what is logical. I’ve seen dealerships ask to list cities that are hours from their physical location, or attempt to rank in search for an entire province that would take almost a full day to drive from end-to-end. For the love of winter tires, I’m telling you: stop the location stuffing madness. It isn’t helping you, I promise.
Life used to be simpler, before social media democratized everything—including criticism. Now while this can be a good thing (in theory), allowing all consumers to have a voice is an incredibly difficult system to police. Arguably the most famous —slowly becoming infamous— review site Yelp has faced enormous criticism over what’s seen as a Mafioso-like approach that would leave Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola shocked and appalled. Everything from negative reviews about parking, to outright extortion. The pushback has been fierce, and Yelp has been the subject of countless articles, a 2017 documentary, and a 2015 episode of South Park—and if you’ve ever seen South Park, you know that you don’t want to be the subject of one of their episodes. Like many aspects of the digital world, advances come quick and changes come quicker. Facebook is leading the charge in this regard, and are changing their review system from a 5 star rating system into a new, recommendation system. But how will this affect your dealership?Continue reading ““They Came Highly Recommended!”: The Changes to Facebook’s Review System”→
When most dealerships are faced with the question, “Does your business have a digital strategy?”–the usual answer is (hopefully), “Yes, of course!” And this would be great, but are you truly utilizing this strategy? Or, even worse, are you not using a strategy at all? We’re not saying that not having a digital strategy is borderline criminal (though it is)–we’re just here to help.
For any business, credibility is key in maintaining a high level of customer service and, in turn, a high level of customer loyalty. This is especially important for the automotive sales industry, the long-time favourite butt of many a joke aimed at the quintessential “used car salesman” and his well-greased “what do I have to do to put you in this car today, sir-or-madam” approach to business. How then is a dealership best advised when it comes to building a reputation that the consumer will trust? Focusing on the area of online presence, this post will outline a few of the steps you should take (or, frankly should have already taken) to help ensure that the legend of the sleazy car lot doesn’t haunt your reputation on the net!Continue reading “Trust Us: Using your Site to Build Credibility”→
Welcome back to another installment of “You Ask, We Answer!” (*intense music plays*). Because when you’ve got questions, we won’t rest until we find the answers. Well, there was that one time when one of the temps fell asleep while searching for the answer, but we doused them with a bottle of cold water–because that’s the type of intensity we bring to our webinars!
Today, we tapped our Lead Content Strategist, Google Local Guide, and moral beacon Melina Beeston to talk about Google My Business. Not only have we embedded the video below, but we’ve transcribed the whole damn thing (while I may subscribe to the infinite monkey theorem, it isn’t the best practise as a business). Continue reading “You Ask, We Answer: Google My Business”→
Welcome to the first of many thrilling installments of “You Ask, We Answer!” (working on the production value, in the meantime just imagine a gong sound in the background), where you send in your questions, and we answer them in our webinars.
We figured we’d start out strong with our Director of Product Development, CrossFit strongwoman, and all-around good gal, Carrie Oliva, talking about On-Page and Technical SEO. We’ve embedded the video footage of the webinar below, and then painstakingly transcribed (read: edited what the app transcribed for us) the answers to the questions below that. Continue reading “You Ask, We Answer: Technical SEO”→
Fact: today’s car shoppers do most of their research online before even stepping foot in a dealership. So the older generation can complain about “those darn millennials being on their smartphones” all they like, but those smartphones are influencing their purchasing decisions. According to Google, the average car shopper visits two dealership websites when researching a new vehicle. That’s why it’s now more important than ever to be highly visible on Google in the competitive and complex car industry. Many dealerships are multi-faceted, offering new and used cars as well as maintenance and repairs. It then only makes sense that their digital marketing strategy should equally be as dynamic—starting with an optimized online presence. And, without further adieu *drumroll*, here’s a few tips to optimize your dealership’s online presence. Continue reading “Optimizing your Dealership’s Online Presence with Google”→
You know that little blurb at the bottom of the link on Google that kind of tells you the answer when you hastily searched for “weird growth on big toe”? That’s a meta description. They’re often used to preview text from the content when sharing to social media, but we here at Strathcom Media think it’s so much more than that. Even though Google recommends you to only write up to 155 characters, we’re going to tell you how you can make the most out of this small box of information. Read on to learn more about the importance of optimizing your meta descriptions for better visibility on a search engine results page (SERP). Continue reading “What Are Meta Descriptions?”→
How can you best maximize your chances for sales success and brand loyalty, vs. losing sales opportunities in both the short and long-term? For starters, this can be done by having a deeper understanding of the preferred car shopping experience that today’s customer is looking for, both online and offline, and then adjusting the dealership’s business practices accordingly. Today’s customer, who also happens to be the customer of tomorrow, are those who were born between 1977 and 2000 — commonly referred to as millennials. It is estimated that by 2020, 40% of new car buyers will be millennials; furthermore, according to a study byBrandwatch, 88% of current millennials use the internet to research a new car purchase.
Simply put, this means that a dealership’s sales and marketing team must ensure that their shopping experience, both online and off, is up-to-date.
So how can your dealership ensure that its online and offline experience is up-to-date for today’s potential customer, while staying true to your brand? It starts with understanding today’s customer, particularly the millennial, and doing what’s necessary to integrate the online and offline brand experience for them, in one seamless flow. And no, that doesn’t necessarily mean memes or viral videos (which, if used incorrectly, are the online equivalent of the giant inflatable green dancing tube man).