The SEO world erupted on Tuesday, December 12th, as Google announced updates to their world famous SEO Starter Guide and Webmaster Academy, the most recent update since a small (and largely unnoticed) update in 2010. To keep you abreast with the newest in SEO, we’ve broken down the important SEO Starter Guide changes below.
One of the most significant moves Google has made with the SEO Starter Guide updates is the removal of the Webmaster Academy and the old Starter Guide. The old Starter Guide lists best practices for auto industry SEO professionals to make it easier for search engines to crawl, index, and understand content on websites. The Webmaster Academy has served for a long time as a source of information and tools to teach users how to create a site and have it found on Google. These sources have both been extremely valuable over the years, but the two together have a significant amount of overlapping information, and several areas with little or no information that have needed to be updated for a long time. The new SEO Starter Guide will replace these resources and will solve the problems of missing or redundant information.
This change isn’t necessarily one that will change the automotive SEO landscape, but it does mean that some resources that dealerships have used to train, audit, or analyze their SEO will be gone – merged with the SEO Starter Guide. In fact, all marketers should take note, Google won’t hesitate when it comes to changing the old ways or the old sources if the value of a new way can be shown to be higher. We’ve never depended on Google to be a bastion of tradition, but now isn’t the time to start. If Google thinks that there is something that can be done differently to benefit the user more, they’ll do it.
Fewer changes to the SEO Starter Guide show the impact of 7 years more than the section for mobile. Increase in mobile use is perhaps the biggest and most impactful change to have happened in the intervening 7 years since the last update, not simply for automotive. All industries have been overtaken by the rise of mobile. Between 2010 and 2015, the first five years since the SEO Starter Guide was last updated, the number of hours of internet use for desktop computers remained almost level, at just under 2.5 hours, but mobile increased 600%.
Google publicizes the fact that the majority of searches now happen on mobile, and so in turn, they have overhauled their mobile section, updating the information to reflect the new mobile world. Google has taken out almost all of the advice they once gave about SEO for mobile-versions of a site, deciding instead to devote their advice to more user-friendly forms of mobile website – particularly responsive sites, which Google itself recommends.
Google have also put links to some of the best evaluation tools they offer for the betterment of mobile sites, like the Mobile Friendliness Test and Mobile Usability report, in this mobile-specific section. They also offer encouragement to website owners to make their mobile sites as user-friendly as possible and mention newer innovations like AMP pages, as well as linking users to their full mobile guide.
Auto dealerships still have a major problem with SEO. In fact, some dealerships still have separate mobile dealership websites, instead of a responsive or mobile-first design, a fact that has been plaguing dealership SEO for years. Google has finally updated their SEO Starter Guide to contain their best practices, and while it has been known for a long time that mobile performance is a ranking factor, we can be assured that this update means Google is deadly serious about mobile use. As more and more car shopping and research moves to mobile, automotive SEO has to follow Google’s lead and update.
Missing from previous versions of the SEO Starter Guide is the warning about linking that Google has decided to add in this updated guide. The ecosystem of links is an indispensable part of SEO, but has been plagued by issues and abuse since it became a ranking factor. In this section, Google finally addresses the caution that needs to be taken when linking.
“Be careful who you link to. You can confer some of your site’s reputation to another site when your site links to it.”
The guide also goes over some of the common ways that links are abused, such as when unconscientious users add links to their own site in your comment sections or message boards. Thankfully, Google also describes how to use nofollow to put a stop to this, and other, negative linking practices.
This update to Google’s SEO Starter Guide is a warning, one that automotive SEO personnel would do well to heed. Google warns against inappropriate link use, confirming that good SEO that brings in traffic, leads, and sales, can be undone by careless linking practices. All dealerships should check on their SEO linking strategy and cross-reference it with the recommendations and cautions from Google.
In an oddly promotional move for a company like Google, the authors of the guide actually go out of their way to offer their words of advice on hiring an SEO professional. This section, in the first chapter of the SEO Starter Guide, tells readers that, despite the valuable insights and information they will gain in the guide, they “may want to consider hiring an SEO professional that can help you audit [their] pages.”
It might seem a little odd, but the advice is actually in classic Google fashion. Just like their decision to combine the Starter Guide and Webmaster Academy, adding this section was intended to help users get the best information most efficiently. So they put the advice to hire an SEO professional right where it will benefit the most people – those who are looking to learn about SEO and who may be considering getting professional assistance. They also offer links to a variety of resources, including advice on whether or not you need an SEO professional, and how to go about hiring an SEO professional if you decide you do.
Automotive SEO is just as complex, if not more so, than the SEO for something as simple as a home decorating blog, and an SEO professional can help keep everything running optimally. A trusted automotive SEO partner can help with custom microsites, unique content, and high-quality links that deliver superior value to dealerships. After all, we should know, we do it every day.
Still absent from the SEO Starter Guide is the holy grail chapter that describes all the secrets us SEO nerds are just dying to know. If you were hoping for Google’s SEO Starter Guide update to contain the secret of automatically ranking first, you’ll be disappointed. If you are checking out the new SEO Starter Guide hoping for an updated source of automotive SEO knowledge and some inspiration, you should find everything you are looking for.
The updated SEO Starter Guide from Google is currently available in nine languages (English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Turkish), with an additional sixteen translations to follow shortly.
Finally, we’ll miss you Google Bot. Sadly, the little robot graphic that sat merrily on the sidelines of the SEO Starter Guide offering helpful comments has been retired in this updated version.