These days, reviews are an incredibly important part of the purchase process for all retail businesses. In fact, according to a recent article, online reviews influence a whopping 93% of consumer purchasing decisions.
Car shoppers increasingly turn to reviews when deciding who they should buy a vehicle from, which is the 4th step in Google’s 5 step consumer car-buying process. At this point, the consumer is a pretty low-funnel, the only remaining step being “Am I getting a good deal?”
Car dealerships have long been trained by both vendors and manufacturers to pay attention to reviews; to respond to and interact with any consumers that leave reviews for their dealership.
Historically, one of the single most important areas on Google is a dealership’s Google My Business page. It is one of the first things to pop up when a consumer searches for a dealership. Too many bad reviews can mean the dealership loses sales without even getting to know about the prospective car shopper. That lead just goes to a competitive dealer whose online reviews makes it appear they will provide a better experience. That is why many dealerships are hyper-sensitive (and rightfully so) about maintaining a positive presence and actively solicit happy customers to leave reviews, especially if a bad review was posted and they need to balance it out.
As of now, a dealership’s Google My Business page typically includes a little information such as overall star-ratings from multiple review sites, along with a few reviews. However, a consumer has to click into the dealership’s Google My Business page to read more.
Well, things are changing – and fast! Google is about to supercharge reviews, making them more important than ever, by allowing consumers to leave comments and reviews RIGHT IN THE SEARCH RESULTS! And not only that, but searchers will be able to up and down vote comments a la Reddit. They can press the up arrow if they think the comment is helpful or insightful. While the down vote option can be used if it appears the poster has bad intentions or is disrespectful.
According to Search Engine Journal, Google is testing this feature right now. Imagine a consumer searching for a dealership name, or even a general search phrase such as “Honda dealership,” and right in the search results they see comments, up and down votes and reviews from other consumers.
Without going to a single review site, a consumer can view and like comments about a dealership, right in the search results. What if a consumer posts, “This dealership sucks!” and others like that comment enough that it is the FIRST thing that appears in search results? At this point, a searcher will probably never click on a dealership’s Google My Business page, and they probably won’t click on the LINK TO THE DEALERSHIP’S PAGE!
It’s even possible that a dealership with poor reviews could WANT their dealership’s listing to NOT show up high in organic searches. God forbid that a prospective car shopper sees other consumer’s negative comments about that dealership right in the search results, without having to visit any review site. Now the dealership has two choices. First, it can clean up its reputation and somehow get consumers to leave positive comments in the search results to counter-balance the negative one. Or, second, try to make their dealership as invisible as possible in search results — search engine optimization… but in reverse.
Stay tuned my friends, this is all very new, and reviews are going to get even more interesting. Decisions about how to handle those comments that will soon appear in your search results will need to be made. And you should have strategies in place to handle them.
Interesting times are ahead. In this highly-competitive industry it is best to be ready ahead of time, rather than play catch up when it may be too late.
Search engine optimization can be a confusing thing. As search engine algorithms frequently change, many find it hard to keep up with the latest trends and best-practices in order to maintain high website rankings.
Well, the 800-pound gorilla in the room is Google which, according to the 2018 Search Market Share report by SparkToro, commands 93.76 percent of all searches. This breaks down for all Google properties as follows: Google itself (69.3%), Google Images (21.03%), YouTube (2.9%) and Google Maps (.80%).
Sure, there are other search engines out there (and they shouldn’t necessarily be discounted completely). But, Google is, by the numbers, the single most important search engine in existence.
The problem is that many dealers don’t understand how to optimize their websites to improve rankings. As a result, many SEO efforts are falling short. But, luckily, it is not that hard to do better — you could greatly improve by simply knowing the “rules” and playing the game according to those rules.
To keep it simple, there are four key things every website should adhere to in order to stay in the good graces of Google and garner favorable consumer search result rankings. They are as follows:
- SSL Secured Sites –To ensure search engine results point to more secure websites, Google recently announced that it will start marking non-secure websites with a warning when searchers click on them.
If you have an unsecure site, this should be cause for alarm. In addition, in July 2018, Google started looking further into secure vs. non-secure sites and takes this into account in search engine rankings. This now presents a two-fold problem: First, consumers may be afraid to click on your site if it presents them with a message that it is unsecure. Second, this will affect search engine rankings.
- Mobile Friendly Sites – Today, an increasing number of consumers conduct searches on mobile devices. So, Google now looks at whether or not your website is mobile friendly and factors that into its search algorithms.
According to Google, 94% of smartphone owners search for information on their phones. With its focus on search relevance and customer experience, there’s no doubt that a mobile friendly site merits a higher ranking in their algorithm. It is vital to know if your website is mobile friendly (by Google’s definition) and make this a priority if it is not.
- Page speed – We’ve all been victims of slow-loading websites and know how frustrating that is. When online car shoppers encounter a website that takes too long to load, many simply find a new website that provides a faster experience.
While page speed is vital for mobile searches, that same consumer action (choosing a new site rather than waiting on the initial one to load) can just as easily happen on a desktop. Because of this, Google considers how fast a website page loads as one of the many factors that dictate search rankings for your webpage. Ensure that your websites load quickly, or you will be penalized in search rankings.
- Responsive Design – It’s one thing to have a mobile-friendly website, and quite another to have one that is responsive. What does responsive mean? It simply means that your website is automatically optimized to be user-friendly regardless of which device the consumer chooses to use.
In fact, responsive design is Google’s preferred design pattern, according to Search Engine Land. Google dictates which sites appear first in its search results and is (for the most part) tight-lipped about their algorithm. I therefore think it’s safe to assume that whenever Google provides “advice” on the features websites should have, they are providing clues about how to achieve better results in their rankings.
While things in the search engine optimization world can certainly change depending on Google’s mood at the time, if you do these four simple things to speed up your websites, you should have a considerable advantage over any competitor’s websites that don’t adhere to these rules.
Take some time to review your website and, if it falls short of any of these points, have a conversation with your web provider to get your website up to speed. Otherwise you will see less website traffic and conversions, and nobody wants that!