Google My Business (GMB) Guideline Updates: You’re Not a Business, Man

An image of an Indian office worker with a blue shirt behind his desk

 

“I’m not a businessman/I’m a business, maaaaaan.”

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. 

old man in a suit gesturing

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:

  1. operate in a public-facing role, or
  2. 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.

You Ask, We Answer: Google My Business

map with google my business written and pin on top of map

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”

Optimizing your Dealership’s Online Presence with Google

SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION CONCEPT

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”

Businesses, It’s Time to Go APE Over Google My Business’ New API!

Monkey going ape over Google API

Google’s omnipresent HAL9000-esque eye is trained on all things mobile these days, and when it noticed that local search on mobile devices is growing faster than mobile search overall, well, you better believe gears started turning. In response to the remarkable 50 per-cent annual growth in mobile search Google’s been adding new features to its SERP Knowledge Panel and Google My Business (GMB).

And then, an announcement! Google is introducing a new GMB Application Programming Interface (API). In tandem with this release, Google also revealed a new agency analytics dashboard and a new agency partner program. The API is designed to give agencies the ability to manage additional, diverse categories of business information, including merchant descriptions and Posts. For multilocational brands and small outfits alike, this new functionality promises greater control over a wide range of content. Continue reading “Businesses, It’s Time to Go APE Over Google My Business’ New API!”

Ranking Factors That Matter for Local Search

local search

This blogpost is inspired by a presentation that our very own Melina, Lead Organic Strategist, delivered at the 2018 Auto Remarketing Canada Conference in Toronto, and addresses why local search or SEO matters to your dealership.

What Is Local Search?

Continue reading “Ranking Factors That Matter for Local Search”

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.

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”

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

submarine

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”

How to Take Advantage of Google’s Latest Maps Search Testing

google_search_pin_large

Like a demanding chef constantly adjusting the recipe to a signature dish, Google has been back in the kitchen tweaking its ingredients once more—this time to the maps results page. Known as the “snack pack,” these are the business listings triggered based on local search queries. Continue reading “How to Take Advantage of Google’s Latest Maps Search Testing”

Google My Business? Tips on How to Make It Your Business

Google My Business

If you own a business and want people to be able to find you, Google My Business is something you definitely need to check out. In Google’s latest Hangouts information session, they went over some tips for business owners to make the most of this feature.

Continue reading “Google My Business? Tips on How to Make It Your Business”

Google my Business Cleans Up the Dealer Search Platform

If you’ve been following the buzz in search marketing these past few weeks, then you’ve likely heard the news about Google’s new suite of tools, Google my Business.

Because of its rather apt and obvious name, you can probably guess that this Google’s new system to help ordinary Joes everywhere (observe: the lower-case M) organize and run their online marketing, all in one place.

Well, you’re right!

After having to put up with managing multiple, competing profiles through recent years in Google Places, Google+, and Google+ Local, dealers can now organize everything they need in one spot. (One site, one login, one password—hmm, where have we heard that before?…)

Google my Business

Source: Google.com

Goodbye Google Places

Gone is Google Places, useful at one time, but now shed like training wheels for this maturing search engine.

In case you don’t remember, this was the little box in the top margins of your Google search results that listed your name, phone number, and a map to help find you, littered with a load of lettered red tabs that may or may not have had to do with your dealership.

Now that your memory has been refreshed, look forward to someday reading a BuzzFeed article about “21 Hilarious Internet Search Results Pages that’ll Totally Make You Nostalgic for 2010 (Number 17 is so true!!).”

Things look little rosier now. All your SEO juice will be, um, concentrated in a clean, straightforward, and user-friendly platform. Look forward to posting general information, photos, and even include a virtual tour of the inside of your dealership, as well as automatically tracking website insights with these tools, such as clicks and new followers.

The Google my Business user interface now combines these six search elements in one system:

  • My Business Home
  • Reviews
  • Business Insights
  • AdWords Express
  • Google+
  • YouTube

That’s right—all your AdWords data, analytics statistics, SEO-boosting social media, and dealer videos in one place.

Q: Why?

A: To get you higher visibility and “curb appeal” in Google searches, maps, and Google+. So make those dealership selfies extra chic!

Search results

Source: Google.com

Reviews

Perhaps the most welcome change of the bunch: all of your online reviews collected and compiled in one spot. Save your marketing manager the time it takes to scan each and every entry from their bookmarked folder of online review sites, and have all of those linked reviews at your fingertips, instantly.

We all know that reviews are time sensitive; you want to know what people are saying about you, when they are saying it. Not two or three days later.

Locate, review, respond, neutralize.

Turn slighted customers into happy ones, and have your happy ones post reviews on the third-party sites that people are actually following in your area. Yep, Google my Business lets you discover this, too.

Reviews

Source: Google.com

Mobile Access

The Android app has just been released, and its iOS counterpart is not far behind; screenshots of both apps look promising so far. This means that not only can you manage your search marketing campaign at the office, but on the go, wherever you have access to your cellphone or tablet. Just don’t be obvious about it in the bathroom.

 

Let Us Keep You Informed

You trust Strathcom Media to keep you up to date with the latest online automotive tech trends; trust us with Google my Business, too.

If you have any questions, or if you need to be advised on setting up you Google my Business profile, contact your Strathcom representative and prevail in local search, today!

Stay tuned for a post on How to use the new Google my Business.

Is your car dealership visible on Apple Maps?

A large percentage of the population uses smart phones to search for local services and products. While the most-used maps application is Google Maps, if you ignore the following Apple statistics you could be missing out on a big piece of the APPLE maps PIE. There will be an estimated One BILLION Apple devices active in the year 2015. Over 35% of Apple users use the default map application called Apple Maps. That’s 35% of a billion! Even without doing the math, we all know that that’s a lot of users.

Car dealerships are local businesses, and this is why a dealership must focus on Local SEO. What is Local SEO?

A specialized kind of online marketing that increases visibility for businesses interested in ranking for geographically-related searches. –Wikipedia

There are many aspects to Local SEO, and many steps to Local SEO one must perform to be successful. One important step is optimizing, claiming, managing and having accounts on map services online like Google Places and Apple Maps.

These steps will ensure your car dealership shows up in Apple Maps:

  1. Have a business Yelp Account. Since Yelp and Apple Maps are so closely correlated, just having a Yelp Account usually guarantees you will show up in Apple Maps. If your business has been verified on Yelp, there’s a good chance that it will show up on the maps.
  2. Open the Apple Maps app on an apple device.
  3. Search for your business name

Make sure you search using the location. Apple Maps can get easily confused if the query isn’t precise. As we all know, Apple Maps isn’t quite up-to-snuff compared to Google Maps and the app suffers from quirky data consistency issues. It is recommended to do the following searches, just to make sure your dealership shows up for all of them:

  • dealership name + city
  • dealership name + city + province
  • dealership name + street address
  • dealership name + street address + city
  • dealership name + street address + city + province
  • dealership  phone number

If your dealership doesn’t show up:

It means that Apple Maps does not have your business in its database or it’s confusing you with another dealership with a similar name in a different location. 

Here are some ways you can try to correct the situation:

  1. Select the page fold in the bottom right.
  2. Select “Report a Problem”
  3. Select “Location is missing,” then “Next”
  4. Position the pin to the correct location, then select “Next”
  5. Enter your business details; don’t forget to enter your dealership name
  6. Make sure you select a category (Automotive, car dealership, etc)
  7. Select send
  8. Submit your dealerhips to Localeze
  9. Localeze is the core U.S. business listing data provider for Apple Maps. If you didn’t find your dealership in Apple Maps, you can check to see if your dealership is listed on Localeze.com. If not, you can submit your information to Localeze for free. That said, the free submissions can take a while to make it into the database.
You don’ t want to be invisible on one of the most used Map applications in North America!

 

11 Criteria for Choosing a Website to Target for Link Building

Search engines use links to websites as online recommendations. The more recommendations a website has, the more authority it should have. Link building & authority building are SEO tactics that can be time consuming and frustrating as it takes time to see any results. You may wonder which sites you should be spending time getting links from, and you may ask yourself how many links should you have or should be building regularly.

You should strive for anywhere between 5 and 20 natural links EACH Month. If you are able to get 20 a month to greatly relevant sites, you are doing an amazing job.

So, what types of websites should you be getting those links from?

Here are 11 criteria on how to target the right website for your link building effort:

  1. Is the website talking about your product or service?
    • You want to choose a website that closely relates to your product or service. A good indication is if it uses the same keywords you are using on our own website.
  2. How closely is a website related to your business?
    • See the relevancy chart below; the closer you can get to your product the better, but even if it’s only somewhat related and you have an opportunity to get a link, DO IT!

      authority building for car dealerships

  3. Is the content written by a real person?
    • Quality content is important, and more of it is better. But watch out for websites that churn out articles or information for the sole purpose of inserting as many keywords as possible.
  4. Is the site an association, group, supplier, or forum?
    • Find a website appropriate to your business. For example, if you own a car dealership, consider offering your specialized expertise to an automotive forum. Also watch for websites that mention your product or service in a positive light, as they may be more receptive to your link-building efforts.
  5.  Does the website have contact information and a brick-and-mortar address?
    • These are good indicators that a website is a legitimate operation and not something that could dissolve overnight.
  6. Does the website have recent blog posts?
    • A website with an active blog is a boon. Look for sites that have had AT LEAST one post within the last year.
  7. Avoid websites that reek of spam.
    • Watch out for content that has more keywords than content or more ads than content. A skillful spam site can be difficult to spot. If you are even questioning it, it’s probably a bad idea to obtain a link from such a site.
  8. Is it properly laid out?
    • Look at a website’s overall layout – does it look professionally done?
  9. Is the navigation user-friendly?
    • A properly designed website will command more authority when it comes to your link-building effort.
  10.  Are there misspellings or out-of-the-ordinary text boxes?
    • These can be signs of a spam site and sub-par content. While a typo here and there may not be a big deal, watch out for websites where the author has yet to grasp basics of the English language.
  11.  Is it not one of the 3 Ps? Pills, Porn & Poker.
    • While these sites may receive a ton of traffic, quality is sometimes more important than quantity. AVOID the 3 Ps.
  12.  Did you look at your competitor’s links? Have you tried to get similar links?
    • Look to your competitors for inspiration. Analyze their backlinks using tools such as Open Site Explorer, look at the most successful links and keywords that they have used on their own sites.

Conclusion

By far, the most important factor in your link building effort is getting high-quality links from websites that are closely related to yours. While some argue that social media links are the wave of the future, for right now traditional link-building techniques are here to stay. While social media can be a method to outreach your link building effort, it should not be the only focus of your campaign.

It’s also important to remember that link building is a slow process that can potentially bring back some big rewards, and a successful link building strategy is an ongoing process that will take time to show results. Don’t expect to see results immediately, have patience and keep working at your campaign for the best chance of success.

 

Samantha Goettel and Michael Fisher

Creative Authority Link Building for Car Dealerships

If your website were a political candidate, its votes would come in the form of backlinks on the web.  Since the late 1990s search engines have used links as votes representing the web’s democratic opinion, and the more websites you have linking to yours the higher you rank in the ballots as read by Google. Link building can be a long and frustrating process but remains the ace in the hole to reach higher rankings. There are a number of ways to build links to your site. If you have already started your own blog, you can maximize your social media impact by making easy-to-link to blog articles. For example, you can build a “101” list for an automotive topic, say “the top ten myths about car maintenance,” and then promote them through social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. The more people who share your article and link to it, the higher you move up the authority ladder.

Be a Creative Authority in your Automotive Industry

Link building isn’t easy. Traditional link building techniques have included buying links from other sites and asking them to link to yours, but today Google is cracking down on websites with suspicious backlink profiles. That means many businesses have abandoned traditional link building strategies. The new game is Authority Building, an ethical link building strategy which relies on other websites to naturally link to yours. Authority building uses a number of strategies at one time including SEO, marketing, branding, and PR. It increases the value of your business overall and its benefits last. Content is King How can you get other websites to link to yours? Quality content is one of the best answers, and a good way to add fresh content to your site is by blogging and posting relevant articles on interesting topics. When you incorporate informative pages on your dealership website you can also increase your backlinks. For example, consider adding a vehicle history page to describe the background of some of your popular car models (say “history of the Corvette”) or incorporate how-to videos and articles detailing popular car features like Bluetooth. You can do this on your own or hire a professional consultant to build your website with SEO optimization and quality content in mind.

Here are a few ideas to get you started with website authority building:

  1. Study your competitor’s links. What are the trusted websites from where they are getting links? Use a resource like Open Site Explorer to find backlink details for competing websites and see how you can replicate their strategy.
  2. Ensure you build links using different types of anchor text. Use keywords within the anchor text, domain exact match and the company name. You want your links to look natural and not “built.”
  3. Submit your website to local directories like Yahoo directory, Dmoz, Yelp, HotFrog & Google Places.
  4. Hold a contest and promote it online. Make it interesting and unique, people will share the links to your contest across social media sources. The more people are talking about your company the more authoritative you will become online.
  5. Become a sponsor for a local charity event and promote it on your website and social media.
  6. Send out a press release and syndicate it to as many article sites as possible like EzineArticles, GoArticles, iSnare and others.
  7. Release interesting infographics. They can be about anything, but the point is that they’re easy to link to and easy to share.
  8. Get well-known bloggers in your community to blog about a vehicle or experience they had with your dealership. Have the blogger link back to your website within their blog.