The purpose of this article is to provide information to automotive dealers about Google’s new indexing changes and the technology and opinions related to them. The article has links to all my research for you to expand in the topic.
It is safe to assume that by now we have all heard that Google rolled out a “mobile-friendly update” (1) on April, 21 2014. It is important to understand these changes as they are the beginning of the way our websites will be accessed by our customers. We are moving from desktops to mobile devices and the way Google works for mobile changed.
The update will begin to change how Google ranks and indexes website content for mobile searches. This is an update to force website owners to improve their websites so they are mobile compatible. You can no longer ignore mobile traffic. Period.
Google’s goal is to offer mobile friendly links on search results therefore improving customer experience on their search engine.
Moz (2) analyzed the changes in traffic globally (not just automotive industry) and they haven’t been very relevant. So far this update hasn’t been a big deal as you can see in their “7-day analysis” (3). But don’t think this is over, here is why:
- The algorithm change only affects mobile (smart phone only, no tablets!) searches, not desktop.
- Most companies that were already ranking well for high value keywords were already mobile friendly.
- The changes will take time to spread, re-index, and notice changes—if any.
On a side note and quoting Google (4) about content and the effects of the mobile changes: “The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank high if it has great content for the query.” Google will prioritize indexing of high quality useful content versus just the fact that the architecture of your site is mobile friendly. In my opinion this should be specially noted for long tail searches.
Google is looking to bring content parity (5) so the websites “provide the same content to both mobile and desktop visitors”. Your customers (and now Google!) “expect to be able to do anything on their devices that they can do on a desktop”. Quickly, we are breaking the myth that consumers will not perform certain tasks on a mobile device VS desktop, data shows the opposite, mobile devices are becoming the center of how we look for content and interact with products.
You can check if your website is mobile friendly by using this free tool provided by Google: Mobile friendly test(6).
However, here are a couple things you should know about that tool. Most automotive dealerships have what is called “adaptive website platform” (7). When a customer types a URL on a mobile browser or clicks on a link on a smart phone, the server knows the request is coming from a certain type of device therefore changing what the server shows. In essence you have 2 different websites; one for desktops and one for mobile devices. The issue with that is that customer experience is not equal from device to device; not all 3rd party tools, links, calls to action, etc are always equally positioned or even existent on all devices. An “adaptive website platform” still passes Google’s test because webmaster can add a piece of code that tells the tool that a mobile version of the site exists in the server and therefore the tool approves the site.
We also have in the industry what we call “responsive websites” (8). Responsive websites are not just a way to pass Google’s test but a new way to look at how we progress into the changes from desktop to increasing mobile and tablet traffic (note also the arrival of the desktop tablets (9)). In layman’s terms (spoiler alert: we produce this website) automotive responsive website systems (10) offer customers exactly the same website regardless of the device used so the website the customer experiences is always the same regardless of the screen size in use.
There is an evolution happening in front of our eyes from a desktop sized screen to a multi sized screen. The changes are also intrinsically related to site speed; while most desktops are connected to broadband mobile devices still suffer from connectivity. Site speed is a consideration (11) for 2014 and it will increase in years to come.
Our approach to responsive at (DealerLab.com)has been a specific technology called RESS (13). RESS technology allows the websites to control the load based on device and therefore the website’s loading speed. This technology is a must for automotive websites where the SRP (Search Results Page) and the VDP (Vehicle Details Page) are loaded with image files. You can see the need of RESS when website companies have to revert to use “flex systems” that in reality are not fully responsive as they fall back in adaptive technology. There are plenty of articles to expand on RESS (14) technology and how this can benefit automotive e-commerce.
Great, so what should I do as an automotive dealer?
- Digital marketing/indexing is shifting to mobile devices.
- Content is a great indexing factor.
- Site platform is relevant to performance.
- Responsive websites are the future for consumer experience.