Cars.com Have you looked at your dealers' SEO rankings since March 12th 2019?

Mar 28, 2019
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David
Search Engine Optimization (SEO), is arguably the most important marketing tactic for dealerships today, yet still remains the slowest and most confusing of all channels to master.

But that free area of Google (the results without the ‘Ad’ label next to them) cannot be ignored. Especially when 90% of Google clicks within our industry occur within the organic (free/unpaid) area of its search results, placing utmost importance for all within our industry to elevate organic ranking visibility.

Making a difficult job even harder is the constant shifting of the Google landscape, where algorithm updates can throw months of hard SEO work out of the window overnight.

Google did just that, shifting its landscape once again on March 12, 2019 with significant changes that shook the automotive industry. Their algorithm update and the resulting fallout was drastic. Some of our closest competitors lost over 20% of their organic traffic overnight – that’s MILLIONS of lost site visits!

Why did some sites within our industry win and others lose? Google continually encourages site owners to offer the best content possible. That’s what their algorithm updates seek to reward.

What can you do? Check out following video we put together at Cars.com and Dealer Inspire which offers some practical and realistic SEO pointers to help you navigate this critical channel for your business:

Below: Average ranking for the competitive set leads to clear winners & losers | Source: SEMRush
IMAGE 4 All competitors.png
 

Jeff Kershner

Founder
May 1, 2005
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Jeff
@David Greene - thanks for sharing this. This is quite alarming and a huge swing on the organic front. Seems as if someone from Cars.com knew what was going to happen before it happened. :-)

With this increase in organic traffic, has this also increased SRP/VDP views and conversions (calls, leads, etc.) for dealers? Looking at our stats, it seems as if our conversions are up a bit... though it's still a bit too early say that's the reason.
 
Reactions: David Greene
Mar 28, 2019
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David
Thanks @Jeff Kershner you are right that this a wake up call for some websites within our industry, the best tactic you can ever utilize in SEO is to put the user first and not try to game the system. A lot of those in our industry who recently saw losses did not follow these rules, Google will always catch up with you. An increase in SEO traffic will lead to more SRP/VDP visits but as you highlight it may be too early to see the impact on conversion especially with the influence seasonality has to the mix. Don’t forget that SEO visits tend to be higher up the funnel (as those visits are more research orientated) so you may see leads influenced by SEO increase via other channels lower down the funnel i.e via direct site traffic, display or social based channels, as always time will tell!
 

Eley Duke

Sr. Refresher
Nov 30, 2009
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Eley
Interesting post. I was just about to ask the community who is doing the best job at SEO since we are looking for a new SEO partner. Unfortunately being a GM dealer we have the mandated CDK sites. But I hear that GM is vetting some new websites by the end of this year.

So with this change in SEO what direction should dealers take and who is on top of the game with this changes that dealers should look at.
 
Mar 28, 2019
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David
Thanks @Eley Duke, take a look at some of the pointers in the video which will be a helpful start. Additionally if you don't have Google Search Console installed on your site get it, it's free and takes 2 minutes to install. It provides a wealth of information provided by Google for you to leverage in your SEO efforts, from ranking data to tools that can help you manage your visibility within Google search results.

Most importantly invest SEO energy into your own dealership, the user and on your local SEO initiatives; while keeping an eye on the competition is important 99.9% of your SEO effort should be directed at you. I hope it helps.
 

Alexander Lau

Sr. Refresher
Feb 11, 2015
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606
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First Name
Alex
Interesting post. I was just about to ask the community who is doing the best job at SEO since we are looking for a new SEO partner. Unfortunately being a GM dealer we have the mandated CDK sites. But I hear that GM is vetting some new websites by the end of this year.

So with this change in SEO what direction should dealers take and who is on top of the game with this changes that dealers should look at.
You should take a gander at the SEO link here (bunch of groups listed): https://forum.dealerrefresh.com/threads/seo.5015/

Google wasn't lying when they said, "our algorithm is gonna change every so often." :-)
 
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Jeff Kershner

Founder
May 1, 2005
3,484
1,080
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First Name
Jeff
Interesting to see how CarGurus took such a significant hit. SEO has always been their bread'n butter and what really help them get on the map to begin with. I wonder if this decline it still happening for them or if they were able to turn it around or at least prevent it from declining anymore that what it has. I'm also surprised to see AutoTrader yield the swing they did. Back in the day, their SEO strategy was near non-existent.

Comparing ORGANIC traffic only for the month of March 2018 vs March 2019 for our dealership website:

130% increase in New Users
70% increase in Sessions
 
Mar 28, 2019
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David
Thanks @Jeff Kershner in examining the array of 3rd party SEO tools on the market, those who initially experienced declines post 3/12 Google update have only seen the declines continue. Very impressive YoY comps btw, you obviously have a solid SEO strategy at play!
 

Alexander Lau

Sr. Refresher
Feb 11, 2015
2,189
606
113
First Name
Alex
Interesting to see how CarGurus took such a significant hit. SEO has always been their bread'n butter and what really help them get on the map to begin with. I wonder if this decline it still happening for them or if they were able to turn it around or at least prevent it from declining anymore that what it has. I'm also surprised to see AutoTrader yield the swing they did. Back in the day, their SEO strategy was near non-existent.

Comparing ORGANIC traffic only for the month of March 2018 vs March 2019 for our dealership website:

130% increase in New Users
70% increase in Sessions
True statement, but I'll hazard a guess and say they'll fix that and in a jiffy.
 
Mar 28, 2019
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David
Thanks @Alexander Lau unfortunately there are no fixes with core algorithm updates like the one that occurred on March 12th 2019.

Following the 3/12 update Google restated that with broad core search engine algorithm updates "There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.”

Naturally time will tell. A great article explaining why no fixes can be implemented this time around can be found at the following: https://searchengineland.com/google-has-released-a-broad-core-search-algorithm-update-this-week-313905
https://searchengineland.com/google-has-released-a-broad-core-search-algorithm-update-this-week-313905
Hope it helps!