Auto dealers looking to connect with consumers have little choice but to go through Google. Still the unequalled giant of online search, Google stands as the single most popular vehicle for automotive information-gathering. Your consumers are using the search engine to find the car they want for the price they can afford—and it’s imperative that your website be there to greet them.
Staying on top of Google is never an easy job, though. In fact, it can be downright vexing, especially because Google is by no means a static entity. The search engine’s algorithms are constantly in flux, which means that auto dealers need to stay on the ball as they seek to keep up with the times.
But what are the trends to note in the early days of 2017? Here are a few significant search engine rumblings to keep on your radar.
Micro-Moments Will Continue to be Meaningful
What do we mean when we talk about micro-moments? Basically, the high-impact touch points that carry so much weight for the consumer, and therefore for the search engine. People want Google to provide them with the desired information quickly and conveniently, and often without them even having to click on a link to figure out what it’s about. To fare well in Google rankings, your dealership should be providing this kind of quick, at-a-glance information.
Think specifically in terms of rich answers to search engine queries, and even rich cards, which provide search engine users with easily scannable answers to their queries. Your dealership’s rich card might include information about your hours of operation, or the number consumers can use to contact you; this rich card display might enable the consumer to figure out what they need to know about your brand from the search engine results page itself, the kind of micro-moment that Google increasingly rewards.
Our basic recommendation: Try to provide quick answers to common consumer questions; use rich card displays and similar search engine strategies to make those answers highly visible.
User Experience Will Remain a Top Priority
It’s nothing new for website developers and online marketers to say that user experience is the be-all and end-all—but in recent years, Google’s algorithmic changes have truly forced the adoption of a user-centered mindset. We expect that to continue in 2017, to the point where sites that do not follow certain user experience criteria may find themselves sharply penalized on the SERPs.
The important thing to understand here is that Google wants to provide its users with high-quality content, which means sites that are spammy, poorly designed, or badly written will continue to decline in their SEO rankings. A fast loading time is also important. Search engine users—especially those using mobile devices—are only willing to give a second or two for a page to load. If your page doesn’t load quickly on all mobile devices, that’s something to address with your developer sooner rather than later.
The AMP Effect Will Spread
Speaking of fast loading times, Google will continue to push its accelerated mobile pages (AMP) technology in the coming year. This goes back to Google’s desire to provide a satisfying user experience and quick access to information. AMP pages allow for just that—online content that’s specifically coded for speed, and to prevent mobile users from long wait times. The AMP rollout was one of the big search stories of 2016, and we think it’s going to be even bigger in 2017.
Right now, AMP is used primarily for news sites, but Google has signaled that it intends for this technology to spread. It may be something you’ll want to use on your site or your blog in the coming year; certainly, it’s a technology to keep an eye on.
Videos and Images Will Become Increasingly Critical
For years now, online marketing professionals have heralded the importance of videos and images. Certainly, websites and blogs that don’t feature some rich imagery or video snippets are at a disadvantage, and that’s only going to become more pronounced in the months to come.
What this means for your dealership is that providing consumers with different kinds of content will provide you with a competitive edge. If yours is the only dealership in your market that regularly posts behind-the-scenes YouTube videos, infographics, and attention-grabbing images, you can expect to have a leg up on the other dealerships in your market. Original, high-quality photos and videos are simply imperative for any digital marketing campaign—and the good news for dealerships is that new cars and trucks are naturally photogenic!
Paid Search Will Skyrocket
A final prediction we will make for 2017: Paid search will become even more important than it is now. Currently, organic search accounts for more traffic than paid does—but just by a little bit. The balance will shift in 2017, and those who want their website to be found will need to invest in a mixture of paid and organic search strategies.
That Google wants people to pay to get their websites prioritized is a no-brainer, and in fact it’s something that’s been telegraphed for a long time now. You may remember that there was a major change to the SERP last year, placing even more paid ads at the top of each page. For some queries, there are as many as four paid search listings before the organic ones begin, which is a good indicator of how serious Google is about the paid strategy.
Google changes all the time, and there are going to be some changes this year that nobody could see coming. With that said, this set of predictions is one that we feel pretty good about, and we hope that you’ll use these trend lines to plan successful marketing endeavors for the coming year. Remember that Google is the best window you have to your consumers, so it’s critical to play by their rules.