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Google jihad may hurt your site

Dealer websites using the above strategies could start losing their rankings on Google.

Last year it brought in a first wave of new ranking assessment – Panda – that wiped out a lot of small sites, and wiped a lot of traffic from some not-so-small.

Panda downgraded sites that ‘over-optimised’ by keyword stuffing, replicating content from other sites, or using duplicated internal pages to make the site look bigger than it was.

Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, recently heralded another raft of changes to follow Panda, Digital marketing guru Simon Van Wyk – a founding partner of Hothouse Interactive -- says the new changes could be just as dangerous.

“With Panda, transactional sites like HotFrog in some parts of the world lost more than 50 per cent of their traffic, you ignore Google’s warnings at your peril,” Van Wyk says. The good news first: it will make life difficult for shonky sites that scrape your listings.

“If you search for used Prius, you’ll no longer be likely to get to a page where somebody has aggregated affiliate links out of EBay. I suspect those are the kind of people that are going to get nailed in this change.  That’s a call for quality rather than quantity,” Van Wyk says.

But the bad news is that a lot of smaller sites doing the right thing could also get hit, he says. “For example, if someone searches for Toyota it’s in Google interests to direct that person to Toyota’s main site, because Toyota is one of the world’s biggest brands, and are likely to have done a good job of presenting content really well,” he says.

“But if you look at the auto category, there are lots of smaller sites, niche sites, blogs and forums that are also full of good quality content. They have been out there for a long time, but I suspect these are the kinds of sites who could potentially and inadvertently get hit by this change.

“Google has been on the over-optimisation jihad for about two years. I think this next phase is going to start happening sooner rather than later – I think they’ve just fired the warning shots across everybody’s bow and said: believe me this is coming and anybody that doesn’t take it seriously is a mug.”

Carsguide’s SEO and SEM expert, Francis Lee has some pointers on how to avoid getting smashed by Google.

You can enhance your dealer website so that you rank higher on Google’s search result pages – while still avoiding the over-optimisation that will undermine your efforts and essentially send you further back in the Google search queue.

Google will penalise:

  • Websites with an abundance of “thin” content pages --  that is, pages with little to no original content that are replicated many times over to increase the size of a given website.
  • Websites with a large amount of content copied or syndicated from other websites
  • Websites with a large amount of internal duplicate content pages – that is, repeated pages with identical content, used to increase the size of a website.

Dealer websites using the above strategies could start losing their rankings on Google. This loss of ranking could mean a drop in site traffic which could negatively impact sales.

Google will reward:

  • Sites that provide relevant high-quality content.
  • Sites that have localisation relevance. Google has been heavily investing in localisation of search and providing personal search results. 

This means that Google will be providing relevant local search results for generic keywords. For example “BMW Dealer” will return BMW dealers within the user’s local area.

How to ensure that your website will not be penalised by Google:

  • Ensure your content is original. Ensure any syndicated content has the Google-approved  ‘canonical link’ tag to the original, which means Google will know you are syndicating correctly and will not penalised you.
  • If you have a “Car search” feature, make sure that it is functioning and accessible by Google. In addition to this, make sure that it is not generating thousands of “internal duplicate content” due to the car search filtering function. This is a common issue with the Car Search / Car listing feature on Dealer websites but can be fixed if the issue is known
  • To help gain additional visibility on Google for local car search terms, claim your Google Places listing. Its simple, free and quick and will give extra real estate on Google results (for example: Toyota Dealers Sydney)