Not Everyone’s Search Results Are The Same
5th October 2016
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) trends change constantly – it is estimated that Google update their core algorithm that determines search rankings over 500 times a year, which has a direct impact on how car dealer websites rank in their prospective customer’s search results.
Google’s algorithms are basically the set of rules and processes that they use to draw up the ranking list every time a particular word or phrase is searched. These algorithms rely on over 200 unique signals or “clues” that make sure relevant results are returned from a search. These signals include things such as specific words that appear on websites, how engaging and relevant the content is, the searcher’s region, appearances within social media and current page rankings, to name a few.
While some of these algorithm updates may only be minor, some have a profound impact on the results presented, and the order of them, with one of the biggest changes in recent years being the introduction of personalised search results in 2009. This enables google to customise search results based upon 180 days of search activity linked to an anonymous cookie in the user’s browser.
While years ago, the majority of users would have been presented with identical search results, today, the chance of two people returning the exact same results and rankings for a search are increasingly unlikely as Google’s algorithm continues to evolve to become more sophisticated in evaluating genuine, engaging and relevant content, and the authority and authenticity of the web pages they serve up in their search results.
If a google search user is a frequent visitor to a particular website, or is engaging with a business via its Facebook, Twitter or YouTube page, they are likely to see that business towards the top of any relevant searches they perform on Google. While some may argue that this prohibits people from being exposed to new businesses, Google’s position is that it is simply presenting its users with the most relevant and highest-quality results.
Dealers that monitor their competitors websites and social media pages might suddenly see their own website has slipped below the competition when they perform a search on Google, but this is likely to be personalised search results taking effect and will not be reflective of SEO rankings in general. Clearing the browser search history then performing the search again should display non-personalised results if dealers find this is the case.
Much like customers asking their friends for advice on a car or for a recommendation of which car dealer to approach, Google looks to replicate that social interaction by factoring the online behaviour of a user’s social friends in to their own search results.
So if a google search user is connected to someone on social media who has posted reviews and shared articles for a particular business, this can help elevate that business’s search ranking displayed to that user.
The more social interaction a business has, the more trust Google will place in it being a genuine and relevant result, so use of Twitter and Facebook etc should not be ignored when dealers are looking to improve their SEO.
While the country a user searches from is clearly a factor, the actual physical location is becoming increasingly more important.
If a customer types ‘Used Cars’ in to Google for example, as well as displaying the big-name online advertisers, Google will also take the current location of the user and present them with a list of nearby dealers. Of course, if you typed in ‘Used Cars Leeds’ and were physically located in Bristol, it would ignore your location and focus on finding results in the Leeds area instead.
With the majority of dealers never likely to be able to challenge the large online advertisers on a national scale, this is an opportunity to improve their ranking in a relevant local Google search.
Some key factors that dealers can influence that will have a significant impact on their local SEO standing are:
- Add relevant and engaging content on your website. Well written blog posts on your website about your company and motoring related articles will help, as well as a stock page showcasing your vehicles for sale.
- Ensure you have a listing on Google My Business, (which used to be Google Places) where it can display opening hours, phone number and directions on Google Maps. Make sure the information is accurate, as Google will either call or send a letter to verify it is a genuine business.
- Have the business name, address and phone number on every page in exactly the same format on your website (a page footer is recommended for this).
- Encourage your customers to leave reviews on google. Other directory site reviews will help, but Google should be the priority.
- Engage with Social Media and encourage interactions and reviews from customers on Facebook and Twitter.