Here are our 5 Google automotive SEO and paid search predictions for 2014. Regular readers of this blog may be familiar with our previous Google predictions for the SEMA industry, which we’re proud to say, have mostly been on target.
Prediction #1 for 2014: Automotive SEO and paid search continues to be a battle for real estate, not just position
We made this prediction a year ago and it’s an even more important auto industry trend SEO efforts, or paid search (PPC) marketing.
A few years ago automotive SEO and paid search was all about position—marketers wanted to be Number One! Today we know that’s a very one-dimensional approach to Internet marketing.
Yes, being at the top of the organic rankings is important. But, if you work on occupying more space on the search engine results page, there is less space for your competitors and more total click opportunities for you.
From an automotive aftermarket SEO standpoint, having the first position for a particular search term is great. However, there are so many other ways to take up more real estate including expanding your social presence with Google+ (here is the Hedges & Company Google+ page) and high-quality blog postings using proper rich snippets including authorship. Local searches can bring in other types of results including Google map results.
From the standpoint of paid search (PPC), Internet marketing can include traditional text-based paid ads like you’ve seen for years, or Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs). [Editor’s note: renamed to Google Shopping, August 2014]
For traditional ads, it’s important to do the analysis on whether paying to be in the first position for paid search is worth the investment. Sometimes reducing your PPC bid to an average of position two or three is more profitable. You can increase your real estate for paid ads are by using ad extensions. These can include call extensions with a phone number, offer extensions, dynamic search ad extensions, sitelinks extensions, social extensions, product extensions or offer extensions.
If you’re promoting one or more retail stores, location extensions can also take up more SERP real estate.
PLAs occupy valuable real estate on the search engine results page as you can see from the SERP heat map above left. Online marketers selling automotive products and accessories can’t ignore targeted PLA campaigns. This can include PLA campaigns using manufacturer brand names and custom AdWords Labels.
Prediction #2 for 2014: Google+ is your most important auto aftermarket SEO marketing opportunity (social, too)
OK, let’s get the obvious numbers out of the way first: Facebook claims over 1 billion monthly users while Google+ is “only” around 350 million.
Google+ is more than the shear numbers of regular users, it’s an important SEO marketing tool. Google+ has opportunities to improve your visibility in organic search results…Facebook, eh, not so much.
The recent Moz Search Engine Ranking Factors study also validates the importance of Google+. It showed that the number of Google +1’s (“plus ones”) was the second highest determination of page ranking for search engine optimization, from a list of over 100 factors. A recent study by Searchmetrics had the number of +1’s as the top reason. (Note: SEO is a complex topic and we can’t cover everything from these in-depth SEO studies in one paragraph. Also note there is a debate on correlation vs. causation for SEO factors which we won’t get into for this SEO blog posting).
With a Google+ page and a blog you can add authorship rich snippets to increase your opportunities to show up in organic search results for automotive parts and accessories. In the SEMA industry Google+ is greatly underutilized as a digital marketing strategy and if you set up a Google+ account now you can have a competitive advantage going into 2014. Also, be sure to utilize hashtags because Google displays Google+ postings with hashtags on the right side of the SERP, giving you yet another way to take up more real estate.
YouTube also continues to be important with video results showing up even more on the SERP. (Don’t forget, Google owns YouTube!)
Prediction #3 for 2014: SERPs will continue to evolve for automotive parts SEO
The search engine results pages are evolving so rapidly we won’t attempt to show a graphic representation. Whatever we predict or show, it’ll be different in another month. Let’s just leave it at this: SEO and paid search is becoming extremely complex and it is critical to stay on top of how SERPs are evolving and what you need to do to show up for potential shoppers.
If you manage SEO and PPC in-house, make sure you have adequate staff and invest heavily in training. If you use a digital agency for your automotive SEO and paid search, pick one that not only knows the automotive industry but also understands where digital marketing trends are evolving.
Prediction #4 for 2014: SEO automotive search will get even more complex with semantic search using human language
For the past several years Google has made a push to have more targeted organic search results based on searchers’ intent. That went into overdrive with the new Hummingbird platform in late 2013 which greatly increased the importance of semantic search: more predictive, useful and engaging. Searches using natural language is growing especially on mobile devices. “Where can I buy custom wheels” on a mobile device is a typical search, and the results have a bigger emphasis on local retail options. Optimizing web pages for semantic search SEO is a whole new ball game.
Prediction 5 for 2014: Automotive SEO marketing will be even more dependent on content quality
Never before has quality of content been more important for search engine optimization. This is true for automotive SEO and any other industry for that matter.
Google’s algorithm changes over the past year have emphasized quality. Google’s Penguin updates place a greater emphasis on content quality and a lower emphasis on backlinks. In fact, a high number of backlinks, especially new backlinks in a short period of time, can look spammy and result in an SEO penalty for your website. There’s a lot of activity right now by webmasters and SEOs, cleaning up spammy backlinks that have been acquired over the years which used to yield results but now carry the risk of a penalty.
Social queues are important, too, and Google likes genuine social sharing.
In-depth articles is more important now as well. These are articles that are 1,000 to 2,000 or more words long and cover specific topics in great detail (if you’re curious, this article contains just over 1,400 words including headlines, captions and tag links, to give you a visual idea of length). Google rolled out an in-depth article search option in 2013 and in-depth articles tend to show up in search results for broad topics as opposed to long tail searches of three or more words.
Clearly there’s a much larger time and financial investment required to produce long in-depth articles so it may not be for all Internet marketers. But we recommend at least testing in-depth articles as part of your SEO strategy in 2014.
Duplicate content is increasingly a reason to be penalized in automotive SEO. There are many online automotive retailers not investing in their own content but instead “borrowing” it from manufacture sites. If you want to be found and you have “borrowed” content for your site then fixing duplicate content issues should be one of your top SEO priorities in 2014.