Marketing for Shops: Marketing Guru Schools Shops on All Things Google

Marketing for Shops: Marketing Guru Schools Shops on All Things Google

Nick Schoolcraft, president of Phoenix Solutions Group (PSG), works with hundreds of body shops to set them up for success when it comes to both their digital and customer marketing.

Recently, he took the time to share his insights about things such as Google's mobile first indexing update, the importance of understanding how digital impacts the collision customer, as well as a trend he's been following called "digital dieting."

Q: What does it mean when Google releases updates and changes to its algorithm?

A: Each update serves a purpose. For example, Google released an update called Panda in 2011 to reward websites with higher-quality content. Its goal was to remove search results that lead searchers to sites with poor quality or little content. Also, it focused on filtering sites that were "keyword stuffing." This update was significant in that it changed how Google ranks pages. It was a clear sign from Google that incorporating practices that didn't benefit the user, like creating pages with little content to drive better search ranking, would no longer be tolerated.

That said, not all updates are bad. For example, Hummingbird, which was announced by Google in 2013, was seen as a complete overhaul of their search algorithm. This update was massive because it started to incorporate natural language processing, which helped Google to match the searcher's intent with relevant content better, which is why we always suggest writing your website content in simple language instead of focusing on industry-related terms.

Hummingbird had minimal impact on search results; however, it was a massive update in how search results are displayed, which signaled Google's focus on ensuring they deliver the most relevant search results that match the user’s intent.

Q: What is Mobile First Indexing and why is it important?

A: Starting July 1, Google will start indexing the mobile version of your site as the default index method. In the past, they used the desktop version to help with ranking your website. This change is meant to help mobile users find what they're looking for more quickly.

Google sees that people are using their mobile devices more often in search, so they're making a strong effort to address that.

More importantly, what a shop owner should recognize is that their digital presence is a reflection of the type of experience a customer will receive when visiting the actual shop. Shops should look at these updates as Google's way of adapting to their user's needs. If a shop doesn't understand, they should consult a digital industry expert like Phoenix Solutions Group to better understand the implications these changes have on their digital presence. 

These updates happen frequently. To ensure a shop is set up for ongoing success, they should make sure their site aligns with their user's needs and with Google's published requirements. 

Q: What will your mobile evaluation tell us?

A: We recognize that a lot of shops don't have the time to keep on top of all these changes. As digital becomes more of a tactical element of the collision buying journey, shops need to make sure they are delivering at least an "at par" experience. Unfortunately, we find that most shops believe that because their site is responsive or "mobile friendly" they are already prepared. There is a lot more that goes into making sure you perform well with this update. Our evaluation looks at a variety of technical and structural factors to ensure that they are not only mobile-index ready but also they are optimized for the future of search—voice.

Q: Google has said that over half of the pages shown in search results are mobile-first indexed. Is this the new standard and why is July 1 significant?

A: Yes, Google started talking about mobile indexing in 2016 and as you'd expect, an update of this size takes time and planning. The most important fact is that starting on July 1, mobile first will be the default index method.

Q: Does this update have anything to do with the trend you are following called "digital dieting"?

A: Not really—“digital dieting" focuses on the overabundance of digital marketing noise in our lives and how people are becoming more intolerant of unnecessary digital interruptions.

"Digital dieting" refers to the increase in "unsubscribe" rates and the consumer's search for more personalized interactions with brands. 

It's vital to realize fads will come and go and while technology will continue to play a disruptive role in our future, shops should remain focused on the one element that hasn't changed since the beginning of time—the value of delivering differentiated customer experiences. This is what PSG has done for nearly 30 years through products like hand signed, personalized post-repair follow-up letters that help shops stand out from their competitors, remain top of mind with their customers and build brand loyalty.

Q: What does research tell us about collision repair customers and their online vs. mobile search habits?

A: This is a hard question to answer, mostly because all body shops aren't created equal. However, one commonality that we see across all of the 160+ sites that we manage is how people end up at a collision website from search. Using Google Search Console, we find that in most cases, 90-95 percent of shop site traffic is coming through branded keywords terms (i.e., some variation of the shops' name). This data is significant for a lot of reasons. One, because it affects every type of shop—from the ones who spend a lot of money on SEO to the ones that spend very little. 

Secondly, these types of searches are indicative of customers who are in the late stages of their purchase decision and already have an awareness of the shop before entering search. This knowledge allows us to help our customers focus on the things that matter most to collision customers, while others focus on the things that produce a marginal impact. Google Analytics and Google Search Console should be a shop's first digital reference point, as they will most likely expose a more tactical interaction than the assumed consumption-based interaction of more traditional websites, which should help a shop owner better understand the real ROI of their marketing spend.

Q: What are some additional items a shop can do to capitalize on this new algorithm?

A: Our suggestions to our customers have always been to make sure your site is keeping up with the shift in expectations, which should start with focusing on what your analytics are telling you. 

The bottom line is, shops should work with companies that not only understand this industry but apply these latest updates and trends to ensure maximum impact on their business.

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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