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Blackhat CarGurus SEO Tactics PPT that Cars.com produced

craigh

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Alexander Lau

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You should post this on more threads :thinker:
I don't think there's any evidence this is related. If it is, theoretically their numbers should jump back to where they were now that the index has been fixed for over a week.
I don't know... it might be related to it and could have caused some issues for CG. I wouldn't rule it out entirely. My guess, CG rankings will return and both Cars.com and Carfax will disappear when it comes to commenting on it.
 

ChrisR

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Debating, do I send an email to CG, and ask for a reduced bill, since they were caught gaming the system, which will reduce their listings, thus reducing my exposure on their platform. I mean, they double my bill because they get me exposure, shouldn't they halve it when they aren't getting me exposure?
 

yagoparamo

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Dec 30, 2009
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Will not advocate for cheating but make sure we don't forget a few things about SEO;

Isn't the best SEO about finding the edge of what Google's algorithm allows?
Isn't the best SEO about test/fail/test/fail/test/succeed?
Isn't the best advertising company the one that finds an edge versus our competitors?
 

craigh

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Will not advocate for cheating but make sure we don't forget a few things about SEO;

Isn't the best SEO about finding the edge of what Google's algorithm allows?
Isn't the best SEO about test/fail/test/fail/test/succeed?
Isn't the best advertising company the one that finds an edge versus our competitors?
Sure. But Google also provides a clear set of rules and guidelines. Break them, suffer the consequences.
 

yagoparamo

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Sure. But Google also provides a clear set of rules and guidelines. Break them, suffer the consequences.
Agreed that there are some clear, not just Google but plain business rules, that a company should follow. For example bringing traffic from a different country to increase numbers knowing that it will have no positive effect on actual sales. A los of those are not just "Google rules" but unethical and in some cases even justifiable for a business to feel entitled to compensation for the deception.

What I don't agree and I think far from true is that "Google provides a clear set of rules and guidelines". They don't.

They provide some, others they provide without clarity, and many they don't provide at all. There is a lot of "test and learn" with SEO.

There are two instances that are always in my mind when thinking of SEO;

At SMX Advanced in Chicago 3 years ago, the head of search for Wallmart said: "Don't just do what Google says, do what works"

Around that time Matt Cutts (then director of search at Google--I think that was his tittle) started a campaign against microsites networks that were creating false traffic and link building. His goal was to get rid of link farms. He posted a video (it is out there still!) stating that a company with multiple and unique products could still have four or five microsites to separately describe the products. One of his warning was not to link them to each other but just to the main company if needed. He also advocated for no-follow links if in doubt for microsites built for unique SEM campaigns.
But in the automotive industry a few vendors launched campaigns against microsites and dealers deleted hundreds of them. I met with dealers that told me they deleted them for things like "low quality score". Most of my clients couldn't really answer what low quality score was nor what was the difference between a website and a microsite from an architectural point of view. For example, a local Chipole website with little info other than the local hours of operation that links to a mother website is in fact a microsite.
I think that lots of dealers deleted perfectly good digital assets that in many cases, and depending on the OEM, were suited for them. For example Toyota dealers have a hard time including secondary finance terms in their sites so a microsite that served as an external landing page was very useful.

So my point was that yes, doing things that are ethically questionable because you are deceiving your client is a no go for a business (Google doesn't to explain that), but that SEO is a path of continuous changes and testing as Google continues to update their search indexing algorithm.
 
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Tallcool1

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Seems like sour grapes doesnt it?
I don't know that it is "sour grapes" as much as it is simply attempting to get everyone playing by the same rules.

As a car dealer, it pisses me off beyond words when I try to adhere to guidelines and rules and competitors simply disregard any legal or moral guidelines that exist. It isn't right that the people trying to do it the right way have to stoop into the "grey area" in order to compete with those that simply don't give a shit about the guidelines.
 
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Tallcool1

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My question is this (because I am not sure I 100% understand the referenced document).

If only 6% of the clicks originate in the United States, does that mean that 94% of my inventory views on Car Gurus are actually not legitimate opportunities to sell a vehicle?
 
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Ryan Everson

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Cars.com vs. CarGurus.com saga shows the importance of SEO (and the bad side of a Google update)
When an algorithm update slams one of your biggest rivals, that's when you should step on the gas.

For Cars.com, the popular automotive marketplace, the March 2019 core update was good: the company has seen a 49% increase in search visibility since. SEO Director David Greene said he believes a lot of the success has to do with their SEO strategy around content and site performance updates, but there was another factor at play. While Cars.com saw a post-update bump, one of its biggest rivals, CarGurus.com, saw the opposite happen.

CarsGurus.com lost hundreds of thousands of number one placements in Google after the March update. About 30% of their keywords dropped significantly in Google. And you can see from the SEMRush chart below that their visibility in Google is back to where it was in December 2017:




CarGurus.com politely declined to be quoted for this story, but Greene said he believes that the downfall of CarGurus.com’s rankings also helped Cars.com realize a lot more traffic.

SEO in the spotlight
The financial results for Cars.com were not so rosy in the first quarter. The company’s revenue fell by nearly $6 million and it swung to a net loss of $9 million for the period. But one line in the earnings release stood out to us: “SEO traffic grew 49% year-over-year, driving record traffic and leads; material shift in SEO competitive share continues to accelerate.” According to Greene, Cars.com’s top traffic driver is search, so with the increase in visibility, that resulted in a direct increase in advertiser impressions and qualified leads for their dealership partners. There was an overall growth in conversions and leads from this boost in search traffic.

“In the first quarter, our total leads grew 15%,” Cars.com CEO Alex Vetter said in the earnings report. “Keep in mind, the most material shift in SEO market share took place just at the end of the first quarter and continues to accelerate into Q2,” he added.

The company also presented a slide in their earnings report showing the post-update swap that happened between the two rivals, while other competitors mostly stayed flat.



What happened to CarGurus.com?

We asked CarGurus.com for a comment, but they politely declined. However, one thing we saw was a steep increase in link building activities in December 2017. Shortly after, CarGurus.com’s Google rankings began to sharply increase. It wasn’t until the March 2019 core update where their rankings dropped off. It is almost like Google decided to completely ignore the links they built up starting in December 2017.

What we don’t know is what type of penalty this was. While the timing lines up with the March 2019, it could also have been caused by a manual action issued through Google Search Console. It resembles a drop caused by the Penguin update, which penalizes sites for spammy link practices. But we also know that Penguin is real-time and is run continually, without an update needed. Although the timing was in line with the March 2019 core update, I didn’t see many sites get hit specifically for link purposes around that time.

In its own earnings call, CarGurus.com CEO Langley Steinert didn’t say much about their rankings drop but did mention that Google isn’t everything to the company’s success.

“I would say that I think one of the themes we saw in the public discussion was that there was — I would argue kind of an inordinate amount of focus on organic traffic growth specifically Google. And I guess our only response to that is that over the last 12 years that I’ve been involved with this company, we’ve been through ups and downs and different Google algorithm changes and in the long haul we have benefited really by building a good product. We don’t — as a company we don’t spend a ton of time, focused on how we optimize our site for a given search engine. And I would even argue that like five years ago it probably would have — any given change in a Google organic — algorithm change might have had a bigger effect on our company, but at this point given especially all the investment we’ve made in brand, organic traffic specific for any given search engine just isn’t an enormous part of our business. So it isn’t — we’ve kind of grown up as a company to have a really varied number of sources of traffic. So it’s really not — we’re not dependent on any one source of traffic.”

CarGurus.com stock was at over $40 per share and is now trading at $36 per share.

You can also see from the SEMRush chart above that the company did increase their paid search spend as they dropped in Google organic search.

The lesson here is …
It appears that, yes, CarGurus.com took a major hit with their Google rankings. It also appears that Cars.com did see success with the March 2019 core update and when you add them both together, Cars.com won big here.

But Greene said Cars.com’s strategy will remain the same. He is currently running around 100+ SEO projects, which are around building out great content and improving site performance.

Your Google traffic can come and go. When you see successes, it can be a big win for the company. When you see downfalls, it can hurt the company in a serious way. Always make sure to perform SEO by the book, within the Google guidelines and don’t try to manipulate the algorithm.

And like many algorithms, there can be false positives, so even if you do everything right, make sure you have a backup plan and diversify your traffic.

https://searchengineland.com/cars-com-vs-cargurus-com-saga-shows-the-importance-of-seo-and-the-bad-side-of-a-google-update-317148
 
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