Car Dealers, Be Aware of This SERP Change

Caution tape and warning signs wrapped around an automotive SEO professional and a phone display a SERP
Posted on by Meaghan StPeter
Categories: Automotive SEO Tagged: , , , , , ,

If you’ve noticed a big change in your rankings for model-related keywords over the last few months, this one goes out to you. As we all know, Google is constantly changing. While these changes often make the search experience better for users, they can be a pain for those of us chasing that number one spot on the search engine results page (SERP). Over the last few months, tons of dealers have watched as their number one spot for keywords like “Kia Forte for sale” and “Ford F-150 for sale” have diminished; they’re no longer ranking at all. But these changes actually aren’t related to regular organic results.

This tank in rankings stems from one thing: the volatility of the map pack. What is the map pack? How is its volatility impacting dealers? And what change in your automotive SEO strategy counteract this significant change? Let’s take a look.

What is the Map Pack?

The map pack is the section near the top of a Google results page that prominently displays the best local listings based on the search and the search location. For example, if you search “car dealership near me,” a list of car dealerships in your area will appear in the map pack. This information is pulled from the businesses’ Google Business Profiles (GBP) and includes the business name, location, contact information, reviews, and hours (think of this as your reminder to ensure your GBP is current). This is a great place for potential customers to find your business, but you can’t rely solely on your Google Business Profile to carry the weight of your organic traffic. This is because if and when the map pack is removed from an important SERP, you’ll feel it and see it quickly. 

Ongoing Map Pack Volatility

Most of the time, map packs appear on searches that include “near me” or when someone is clearly looking for a place in their area. For a long time, the map pack also frequently appeared on Google results pages for model “for sale” terms. Now? It depends. This Google feature has been coming and going off of these specific SERPs over the last few months. Some SERPs have lost it entirely, while others see it come and go daily.

This volatility is causing a massive wave in many dealers’ rank data. Semrush position tracking counts the map pack listings in their rankings. So, if your business listing shows up first in the map pack and the map pack is displayed over all the other results, Semrush displays that as your dealership in the #1 spot. If the map pack then goes away, which is always a possibility, your rank in Semrush will show a drop from #1 to nothing. That is unless you’re also ranking in an organic position. 

Organic Spots Are More Important than Ever

When push comes to shove, the real problem here isn’t the map pack volatility; it’s the over-reliance on the existence or placement of this feature. You simply can’t rely on the map pack. With this recent volatility on “for sale” term SERPs, this is only becoming abundantly clear. So, how do we move forward?

First and foremost, it’s essential that you pay attention to the type of position you hold on the SERP. If a tool says you’re in the #1 spot, check to see what that position is. Is it a regular organic spot? Is it a map pack position? If it’s the latter, don’t rely on it. You should still be working toward earning an organic spot on the SERP if it’s a keyword that is important to your business. If you aren’t ranking in the organic listings for a keyword but are ranking in the map pack, don’t check that keyword off your list; you’ll still want to target it with your SEO and content marketing strategies. If there’s absolutely anything this more recent volatility has shown us, it’s that SEO and earning organic spots on the SERP are just as important as ever before.

I encourage you to go look at your position tracking data if you have it. Have you seen a drop in your average position? Is it coming from model-related keywords? And finally, was it the map pack holding you afloat? It’s likely time to start implementing an SEO strategy that targets those keywords, and at Wikimotive, we would be happy to help. 

Reach out for a free website audit today. We will take a look at your current standings and show you where we can take you.