Zero-Click SERP Changes: Deduplication Update

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

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

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

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

What is a featured snippet?

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

 

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

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

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

What is the deduplication update?

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

Has Google deduplicated the SERP before?

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

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

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

What are the benefits to the Deduplication Update?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is My Dealership Not Outranking My Competition in Search?

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.

Continue reading “Why is My Dealership Not Outranking My Competition in Search?”

Clout is the New Click: Strategizing for Zero-Click SERPs

“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”

Google Knows Everything–Including Your Dealership Location

Network gps navigation modern city future technology

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.

Why is this tactic a problem?

Continue reading “Google Knows Everything–Including Your Dealership Location”

Chess, Not Checkers: Why Your Dealership Needs a Digital Strategy

wood chess pieces on board game. brown vintage background

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.

Strategy, according to Wikipedia, is a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim. In short, a strategy is an in-depth plan. For your dealership you should be thinking of the long-term advantages your dealership provides compared to your competition, and how you can defend that competitive advantage. Continue reading “Chess, Not Checkers: Why Your Dealership Needs a Digital Strategy”

Trust Us: Using your Site to Build Credibility

Trust banner and icons

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”

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”

Online Presence: why it is vital in today’s car buying process

typing on a laptop

As consumers, we have more information at our fingertips than ever before. It’s no doubt that the research process during the car buying experience has changed dramatically. According to studies by Google, “consumers in their early research moment, such as which car-is-best or is-it-right for me moments, are signaling intent to visit a dealership within a week”. A visit to your website is ideally followed by a visit to the dealership. So, for automotive retailers, having a strong digital presence is crucial.

According to Google, the car buyers’ thought process looks a little something like this:

  • Which car is best?
  • Is it right for me?
  • Can I afford it?
  • Where should I buy it?
  • Am I getting a deal?
Which car is best?

One of the most impactful mediums for consumers looking to make a vehicle purchase is video. In fact, when buying a car, 69% are influenced by video opposed to other mediums such as TV, newspapers or magazines. When using the search network, the most common searched terms are “[brand/make] + reviews”, “[brand/make] + specs” and “best luxury cars”. 

Is it right for me?

After consumers have narrowed down their search, they begin their hunt to find out if the vehicle is right for their lifestyle and needs. This is where the consumers discover features/options and the interior/exterior aesthetic. This is mainly a visual process, and a majority of time is spent looking at photos. The photo searches of “[brand/make]” is up 37%  and 80% of these searches are now happening on mobile.

Can I afford it? Where should I buy it? Am I getting a deal?

After the first two questions have been answered, the consumer generally begins searching for a dealership. This is where the individual dealer’s web presence will become a factor. Dealers need to make sure that they are showcasing OEM incentives, internal promotions, as well as leasing/financing information. But most importantly, prices need to be shown because that is what the customer is ultimately looking for. Dealers should also make sure that their site provides a positive user experience; something as simple as having an unresponsive webpage can impact whether or not a user decides to visit the dealership.

Dealers also need to utilize tools such as Google+ reviews, automotive forums, Unhaggle, and other mediums that customers use to help them make their decision.car salesman congratulates a family for buying car

Despite the evolving methods of how consumers access information, the end of the process always ends at the dealership. As consumers come into dealerships equipped with their researched knowledge, they expect sales staff to also be product-experts. In order for manufacturers and dealers to fully understand the decision making avenues of the buyer, they must understand the small “micro-transactions” involved throughout the entire procedure. Having a strong digital presence in each of the avenues will always set a dealer ahead of the competition.

To find out more about how to improve your online presence and get more leads, give us a call today or subscribe to our newsletter!

5 Ways to Improve Your Google Ranking

seoEveryone wants to have that number one spot on the Google Organic Search Results page.  Here are 5 simple things that can help to improve how you rank on Google:

1. Create useful, relevant content

Quality content created specifically for your intended users will not only help with user engagement, but will improve your site’s authority and relevance, which will increase your rank on the Google Search Results page. It’s also important to update your content regularly.  Regularly updated content is viewed as one of the best indicators of a site’s relevancy. Be sure not to use duplicate content throughout your website, though; this could harm your ranking.

2. Have a blazing fast website

Page speed is an important factor on how you will rank on Google. A slow page speed means that search engines crawl fewer pages using their allocated crawl budgets, which negatively effects your indexation. Page speed is also important for user experience. Pages with a longer load time tend to have higher bounce rates, and lower conversions.

Not sure what your page speed is? Google has a great tool to test it!

3. Make sure your website is responsive and optimized for mobile users

Responsive sites are designed to provide optimal viewing and easy navigation on any device or screen size. This makes it great for users viewing the site on a mobile device. Even though you may have a separate mobile site, Google has started to punish sites that are not responsive or mobile friendly, causing them to rank lower in the search results pages.

4. Make sure all of your citations are correct and up-to-date

Citations are online references to your business name, address and phone number (NAP). Some examples of citations are your Google+ Page or YellowPages. Google uses these citations when evaluating the authority of your business website, and is a key component in Google’s ranking algorithm.

Citations from well-established portals will help increase the relevancy of your business.  Make sure your address, website url, phone number and business name are consistent across each website.

5. Blog!

Blogging is a great way to help boost your ranking on Google. Google crawls blog content more frequently than your web page content because blogs are constantly being updated.  A blog page is essentially another web page and every web page is another opportunity to rank in the search results page.

Blogs can also help you become a local source of knowledge and with lots of great keywords written into the content you can rank for many different topics related to your brand and dealership.

If you have any other questions on how to improve your organic ranking on Google, please do not hesitate to reach out to a member of our team or subscribe to our newsletter!

NEW VIDEO: 4 Reasons to Start Blogging

Have you been thinking about starting a blog on your dealership website? You definitely should!

From driving more traffic to your site, building trust with your audience, and boosting your organic search rankings, blogging is one of the best ways to get people interacting with your online content.

Most importantly, it brings in more leads. Continue reading “NEW VIDEO: 4 Reasons to Start Blogging”

Not-Too-Late New Year’s Resolutions for Your Website

Every year when January rolls around you vow to get in shape, save money, or spend more time with loved ones. But what goals do you set for your website? In the spirit of new beginnings, Strathcom has come up with some resolutions to tidy up your website and make your dealership the best it can be in 2015.

Here are our five picks for best site improvement resolutions for the year ahead and how to achieve them:

 1. Technical Clean Sweep

There are always some pesky technical pieces that need to be checked and updated, so keep this list handy for next year:

  • Copyright date in the footer
  • Your “About Us” page: Is the map correct? Are key staff names, bios, and phone numbers updated?
  • Meta Data: Are your page titles and descriptions the right length? (55 and 115 characters, respectively)
  • Dead or Broken Links? Try running a link checker on the site to identify any link issues that need to be addressed.
  • Browser Test: Try using the website on different web browsers like Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox.
  • Lead Testing: Ever heard of eating your own dog food? Test out all your lead forms as a customer would. This is a good way to root out any problems.

2. Content Audit

Your website is an investment and the content is its most valuable currency. Some things to look for:

  • Current Model Year Info: Ensure all your landing pages reflect the latest model year information, videos, and images.
  • Inventory Update: Have you updated the descriptions for last year’s inventory? What about clearout pricing and incentives?
  • Irrelevent Pages: Check Google Analytics and determine the most visited pages. Consider adding links to less visited pages, or perhaps deleting them altogether if they don’t serve your brand or marketing goals.
  • Blog: When was your last post? Is your blog being kept up to date and being used to its full potential?
  • Duplicate Content: Use a service like Siteliner to check your site for duplicate content that could be hurting your SEO efforts. Ensure only the most relevant keywords are being used.

 3. Domains

You probably already own a domain or two for your website, but did you know about these practices?

  • Renew your domains for as long as possible: Usually it’s cheaper that way, plus search engines favor long-term sites so it’s an additional SEO boost.
  • Ensure URL redirects are done: Make sure all variations of the same domain point to the same place (.ca, .com, .net should all point to your primary domain).
  • Your primary domain should be your oldest: Use a domain age checker to see which is your oldest domain and make the most of its rank authority.
  • Buy negative domains: Purchase any domains related to your brand, even the negative ones. Buying your own equivalent to mydealershipsucks.com can save a lot of headaches in the long run in case a competitor or irate customer decides to buy it instead.

 4. UX Performance

Whenever you talk about websites, you need to consider the user experience. Whether it’s through slick graphics or excellent content, the user is really the one you should please—not yourself. Some items to check to keep your users happy:

  • Homepage: This is huge. Your homepage should be interesting and inviting while relating the primary objective of the website—to sell cars. Before making any large changes, consult your data. It might not be necessary to do a complete overhaul; usually, a small tweak like changing colors or adding a new graphic can give it a boost.
  • Relevancy: Old content can become frustrating if it becomes out of date or inaccurate. It should be revised, archived, or removed.
  • Make data a priority: If you don’t have user tracking on your site, now is the perfect time to add it. Incorporate heat mapping, or click Scrolling Tools to really see how your customers engage with your site.

5. Sitespeed

Sluggish website performance is terrible for SEO. How quickly does your site load? Could it be speedier?

  • Use Google Page Speed Insights to find what slows your site down. Sometimes, simple changes can improve your load speed. If you have a score over 70 then you’re doing well, but aim for 80s.

 

There you have it! Some quick and easy things you can do right now to start 2015 off in the right direction for your dealership.

Can a Car Dealership Blog Increase Web Traffic by 55%?

Having a blog on your car dealership’s website shows customers that you are an authority in your industry. By posting unique content you not only show customers that you know what you’re talking about, but you also show Google that your website is a valid authority.

That’s important, because getting in Google’s good books is the key to boosting your website’s placement in SERPs (search engine results pages). Stats compiled by Hubspot found that websites with a blog had 55% more visitors on average than sites without, 97% more inbound links, and 434% more indexed pages.

Car Dealer Blog

What does this mean for you?

  • More online visitors mean more leads, conversions and sales.
  • More inbound links boost your authority in search engines, helping your customers find you.
  • More indexed pages increase your website’s visibility in Google.

How Do I Get My Car Dealership Blog Started?

how do you start a blog?

You can get your car dealership’s blog added right to your website domain with Strathcom Media’s Blog Package. By having your blog on your car dealership’s website domain, your main site will gain the benefit of the additional traffic brought in by your blog and rank better in Google. Want to know more? Contact us for more information on this new service.

If you’ve already signed up and you’re wondering how to take the next step, check out our ideas on 15 topics you can use to get your blog started.

Some Things to Keep in Mind

Check out this video for key points to keep in mind that separate successful blogs that bring in valuable traffic and leads with blogs that flop from the get-go:

  • Post unique content:

Copy-pasting content from the web WILL NOT HELP. Keep it original. Why would Google rank a blog post that was already written somewhere else? It’s just logical that they are going to rank the original owner of duplicated content.

  • Always link to other pages on your site:

This encourages users to visit other areas of your website and reduces bounce rates.

  • Pictures speak a thousand… you know the rest.

Blog Posts with pictures are more likely to attract readers, especially when the photos are entertaining. Browse Google Images and save any image that pertains to your post. Add relevant keywords to your titles, including your city’s name. For example, if you have a photo of winter tires, a good title would be “[City Name] Winter Tire Sale.”

  • Remember to add SEO title and description tags:

WordPress defaults the SEO Title to the title of your blog post, but if there is extra room add some more key words. Your description only allows 156 characters including spaces, so try to use all the space provided. Be sure to mention your city name in the description to improve local traffic.

  • Share it out!

Don’t forget to share your blog post across all social media outlets including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.