Google’s ‘Mobilegeddon:’ sink or swim

Falling meteorite

Whether dealers like it or not, a new Google algorithm has been unleashed and will affect the way consumers find their websites on their smartphones.

Google’s latest mobile-friendly algorithm dubbed ‘Mobilegeddon’ ranks a dealer’s website based on its mobile-friendliness.

The search engine now gives preference to mobile-ready websites that will populate when consumers use Google on their mobile devices. Mobile-friendly includes having large text size and spaced out links so that content fits precisely onto the screen.

Fail to pass the mobile-friendly website test, and a dealer will get lost in the shuffle. That means losing considerable mobile traffic and potential customers.

Sounds scary, and not at all friendly.

“The name, although it’s very dramatic, is a good explanation of what’s happening because it’s a gigantic shift in how Google is recognizing and evaluating the value of a website,” said Morry Patoka, President at Search Optics Canada, a digital marketing company that specializes in automotive.

“I do like the name because it brings to everyone’s attention that it’s something we have to deal with and be concerned about.”

Jay Radke isn’t scared. He says that changes with Google algorithms are all part of the business of marketing, and that dealers or even anyone who has a website should have been ready for the algorithm.

“If you’re spending money on websites, you’ve known for at least two years that mobile is the way the market is going,” said Radke, chief business development officer at cDemo, which develops mobile apps to help consumers manage inventory in the automotive space.

It’s clear mobile shopping is on the rise. Dealers have learned to accept that consumers are researching vehicles on their smartphones, even while walking around the lot or showroom floor.

The actual driver behind the algorithm update in the U.S., says Radke, is there is now a 50 per cent penetration on smartphones.

He notes mobile penetration is even higher in Canada at around 85 per cent. What Google is really doing is responding to consumer behaviour and adjusting its algorithm accordingly.

Because dealers invest a lot of marketing dollars into paid searches and they work with third party vendors, Radke says the recent algorithm should not be a big issue.

Patoka says having a responsive website is not enough. What most dealers tend to miss is thinking about their mobile site from a consumer’s perspective.

He uses an analogy of a new pair of shoes to clarify what he means.

A new pair of shoes might look good, but wearing them can be a whole different story, says Patoka. The new shoes might not get you to where you need to go. Just like that pair of shoes, a responsive website might look good from the onset but fails to provide the best user experience for the customer trying to navigate through.

“It’s not just a simple changeover to go to a responsive site so that it looks nice on a mobile device. It has to function the way consumers want to experience when are thumbing our way through a dealership’s website,” says Patoka.

“It’s that balance between, ‘here is what I want to sell you and giving you a chance to show me as a dealership what’s important to you and what you are looking for.’”

Patoka says dealers should adopt the customer-centric attitude regardless of the platform on which they are operating by providing customers with relevant content and a mobile website that’s easy to navigate.

“If you give them that opportunity quickly and efficiently, then consumers will be far more responsive to absorb your message and then take action on it,” adds Patoka.

Soon enough, consumers’ behaviours will change with technology. They might even start shopping on their smart watches. So dealers and their vendor partners need to be ready if and when that happens, says Patoka.

“We’re looking at what’s next and we are going to have our finger on that pulse.”

Google has come out with some quick and easy tools to see if your website is mobile-friendly. Click on this link and then input your dealership’s URL: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

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