Google’s search engine results page (SERP) has changed significantly in the last few years affecting where and how local businesses can appear online. Staying informed about these changes and learning how to adjust your SEO strategy accordingly is critical for local businesses.
Let’s analyze how Google's SERP has evolved and impacted local SEO particularly for auto dealerships.
4 Ways Google's SERP Has Changed
More Emphasis on Marketplaces & Directories
Historically, dealer sites ranked well organically for local model searches like “Jeep Wrangler Portland.” However, Google’s algorithms have changed to favor paid ads, research sites, and car directories for model searches over dealership and OEM sites. Now, dealer sites on average make up only 30% of the organic links for local model searches.
Local Pack Results are Smarter and Shorter
A significant change to Google's SERP has been the shift towards Google Maps as the one-stop-shop for finding local businesses, especially on mobile. Specifically, Google has defined a ‘Local Pack’ of business listings that shows when someone searches for a local business. But, even this feature continues to change. The Local Pack has decreased from seven listings to the most relevant three and now pulls in hours, ratings, and categories for each local business. These changes are great for users, but they make ranking organically more challenging for local businesses.
Search Proximity is More Important
Proximity is the new buzzword, and it’s here to stay. With Google’s Possum update, the proximity of your business’ address to the physical location of the searcher, impacts where and how local businesses show up organically. Meaning you can have the best-optimized listing with great reviews, but Google will place a higher emphasis on the proximity of your physical location to the searcher than other ranking factors.
Paid Real-Estate Has Decreased
Thin is in. The biggest visual change to SERPs in the past two years may be the consolidation of paid advertising space. Over a year ago, Google removed its long-standing side ads on the right-hand side of the SERP and increased the emphasis on the 1-4 ad spots. This move has further blurred the line between paid and organic results on SERP.
4 SEO Tactics for Adapting to Google’s Changes
If there is any advice you take away from this post, have it be these two points: 1) optimize for where your dealership has the opportunity to rank, and 2) consider all the ways people are looking for you from Google Maps to review ratings. Let’s dig in.
Consider Rank-ability and Demand
As discussed above, dealers don’t have as much opportunity to show up organically for model searches, but there are multiple ways to help people find your business online beyond model searches. Potential customers are searching for dealership, parts, service, leasing, and OEM promotion terms where your site can rank organically. For example, people who get their car serviced at a dealership twice a year are 80% more likely to buy from that dealership. People are looking for all aspects of your business. Therefore, it makes sense to optimize your site holistically to maximize your business’ visibility and plant seeds for future leads.
Of course, this does not mean that you should stop optimizing for model terms in general! It simply means that there are multiple ways to help potential customers find you online. The key is marrying local search volume and rank-ability together with your business goals.
Optimize for Keyword Categories that Have Local Map Results
Capitalize on search opportunities with local intent, specifically dealership, parts, and service terms. These high demand categories result in both organic links and local map results. By focusing on areas where there is search volume and local ranking opportunity, you can expand your business’ visibility and reach. Model searches naturally have the highest demand after dealership terms (e.g. Volkswagen dealership Portland), but they have the least ranking likelihood and no local map opportunity. Focus your effort where it counts.
Don’t Neglect Offsite SEO
Make sure your crucial business information including name, address, phone number, and hours are consistent in data sources like Google, Bing, Yelp, and Yellow Pages. These sources can affect hundreds of other local listings, so check and update this information often. Consistent information is necessary for users, but it will also benefit your SEO.
Get & Respond to Reviews
Search engines pay attention to the content of your reviews, but more importantly so do customers. 54.7% of consumers say online reviews impact their decision-making progress. But it’s not just about good reviews. 59% of car buyers feel more positive about dealerships that respond to negative reviews. Responding to your customers’ concerns can gain new customers and help retain existing ones. A successful SEO strategy is now highly impacted by your online ratings and how you manage your online reputation.
3 Ways Adpearance Can Help
Industry Tested, Strategic SEO Advice
Our decisions are driven by data and our industry knowledge. We won’t build an SEO landing page or optimize a local directory just to check a box. We are here to be your strategic digital partner and recommend where to spend your marketing dollars based on our tested knowledge about what will be successful.
Integrated Digital Marketing Solutions
The digital landscape is constantly evolving and so should your strategy. As a local business, you need to be investing in different aspects of your online marketing from paid advertising to SEO to reputation management. At Adpearance, we make sure our marketing solutions are working together to bring you the most qualified leads for your local business.
Dedicated Specialist & Account Directors Who Know Your Business
We don’t believe in ticketing systems and random client assignments. You will have designated marketing specialists and account directors who work on your account and know your local market. And above all, we talk to each other! Whether it's the Account Direction and SEO teams discussing digital trends over coffee or the social team presenting industry updates, we work together to find solutions that impact you and drive business results.