Recently Google created a Tsunami of change by integrating Google Places into organic search results. Dealers called me to ask what I thought these changes would have to their Automotive SEO strategies. I was not quick to answer because I think that Google is still refining their balancing act of SEO, SEM, and Google Places.
With that said, I am feeling much better about the changes that are in play. I was worried that the new Google Places integration would start at the top of organic listings which would favor websites connected to a Google Places page. From what I can see, Google is still rewarding exact match domain names and highly optimized websites before the “mosh pit” (in green) is displayed.
In the example below, a broad search phrase like “Los Angeles Dealers” produces a list of car dealers that have Google Maps, but before those listings, three company websites appear.
In the search results shown above, you can see that an “exact match” domain with good content, links, and relevance PRECEDES the massive block of results shown in green that are enhanced by Google Places data. You can also see the other two websites that rank above the Google Places block are not slackers at all: Automotive.com and Cars.com.
Google SERP Find Exact Matches First
I’ve said this before and will repeat it again, Google always tries to present, on a search results page (SERP), the best matching assets in its database. Google, Yahoo, and Bing all weight exact matching domains very high as long as the websites have relevant content. Redirected domains that are not hosted will never appear in search results so all those parked domains you may own are not helping you. It may be time to get those parked domains on a real content publishing strategy!
Don’t Forget The Stars
When Google integrated Google Places, the normal 8-10 organic listings were changed dramatically which created a “jump ball” once again in the search marketing Olympics.
I would like to remind all car dealers that they MUST develop a comprehensive Internet Reputation Management (IRM) strategy to increase participation of their clients to posted reviews. My recommendation is that a successful dealer should have TWICE the number of positive reviews “stars” of their nearest competitor. That may be harder in years to come but all dealers should have a few HUNDRED reviews posted from authentic customers.
Testing Search Results Start To Show A Trend
From recent testing that I have done, websites hosted on great domain names may actually have an edge over local car dealer websites. Take a look at the search listed below. The websites that Google felt were best matches and NOT in Google Places were listed first. Then the local dealers were listed.
Once again, the TOP websites above the integrated and enhanced Google Places organic listings are two heavyweight contenders UsedCars.com and Yahoo Autos. For the car industry, the bigger, more established inventory advertising websites could be getting more traffic because they are NOT in the green Google Places area and shown at the top of the page.
This trend continues as you type in even broader searches, and you can see that websites that are EXACT matching or that have high SEO inbound links on targeted keywords, appear on Google Page One before the Google Places block. So, in essence, Automotive SEO strategies are still in tact and dealers that have EXACT matching microsites with great content are getting a boost.
The Future Automotive SEO
Since I am an advocate of Automotive Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies, you would expect me to defend this marketing strategy but I will be the first to say that the changes with Google Places is still a dynamic event. I’ll keep you posted on what I find and make recommendations to take advantage of opportunities I see.