Search Engine Optimization: 2022 Year in Review

Three Wikimotive employees podcasting about the most important SEO topics of 2022
Posted on by Meaghan StPeter
Categories: SEO Climb Tagged: , , , , ,

2022 has officially come to a close, and what a year it was for automotive SEO. With changes coming from left and right, it might have been hard to keep track of it all. For that reason, SEO Climb host Dave Estey held a podcast-style panel to discuss the most important SEO topics of 2022. The panel included me, Meaghan Farrell, a Technical SEO Specialist here at Wikimotive, and Emily Taub, the Technical SEO Operations Manager. Boy, did we have a lot to talk about. 

From updates to Google’s algorithm to the impending death of Universal Analytics, we explained what every change was and how it could impact car dealers. Continue reading or check out the Most Important SEO Topics of the 2022 Podcast to learn more about what has happened, what’s expected in the coming year, and how you can turn these challenges into opportunities.

Google’s Core Algorithm Update: Videos & Grids

To kick off the podcast, I brought up the topic of Google algorithm updates, something that continues to, dare I say, haunt us every year. While some of the changes in 2022 had little impact on car dealerships, there was one, in particular, worth noting: the May core update. This had two parts that could mean something to dealerships.

An Increase in Video Visibility

First and foremost: video visibility. Now, we have all mentioned a time or two that videos are a great way to market your business. But did you know that videos now have an upper hand in terms of ranking? Because they do. What does this mean for dealerships? Get on it. Quality video content has the potential to rank above written content on the search engine results page (SERP) in its own feature called “Videos.” 

These videos could be vehicle reviews, maintenance how-tos, or even tutorials on how to use the technology inside a specific car. There are things people are searching for, and if you can create a video that ranks well, you have the ability to draw traffic to your site via description links and simply brand visibility. In 2023, consider creating video content for your dealership. It really could make all the difference in the world.

New Feature: Transactional Query Grids

The second piece to this core update is for transactional queries; searches with the intent of purchasing something will now lead to a grid-style shopping feature where users can compare prices and check out different products across numerous sites. This is extremely useful to people looking to purchase a specific product from an e-commerce site, but Dave is not so sure about this exact format for cars.

Almost every vehicle is unique. There are makes, models, trims, packages, and extra features that will change a car’s appeal and price. Scrolling through an on-SERP grid to compare prices may not be the best, as you won’t be able to see all of the nuances that go into pricing. Plus, as Dave stated in the podcast, “if you get into the incredible catalog of rebates and discounts that can be offered for so many different things, that’s where finding a good salesperson is really going to save you money.” So, as far as price comparisons, the grid wouldn’t be the best for cars.

That said, it is still possible for this transactional query grid to exist in the automotive space. While there may not be pinpoint-accurate pricing to compare, maybe it could show something like the distance from you to the dealer with that vehicle. Or even the ratings for each dealership that is offering the model searched. It may not look the same as e-commerce, but since when is shopping for a car the same as anything else? It could certainly still be something of use down the road, just in a slightly different format.

The Addition of Continuous Scrolling on Desktop

As we moved on, Emily brought up something we have been chatting quite a bit about here at Wikimotive: continuous scrolling. While this has existed on mobile devices for a while now, Google recently rolled out continuous scrolling, or as we call it, “death to page two” for desktop users. Simply put, there will now be six pages of results on page one. You will have to scroll a long way to reach the bottom. But as Emily said, we aren’t totally sure how this will impact automotive SEO.

Could ranking #11 not be so bad anymore? Is it possible that ranking #1 won’t be so important going forward? It’s hard to say. Of course, without the need to click to a second page, users may be encouraged to keep scrolling to find a result that looks appealing to them. But building an opinion off of that would be simply going off of the assumption that most users scroll to the bottom of the SERP.

Personally, I rarely scroll past the first five results. If I have gotten that far and none of the pages seem like they’re going to be useful, I perform a new search. Plus, we need to account for the people who just automatically click on the first link without a second thought. There is no way to know how this will change things, if at all, because we don’t know every person’s searching style. But even if we did, it’s possible this new update could end up altering some people’s use of Google.

I said this in the podcast, and I’ll say it again: Google wants you to stay on their website. It is very possible that the continuous scrolling update was made in hopes of keeping people on there longer. Combined with the continued increase in images, videos, People Also Ask features, etc., is it possible Google is going to become an informational version of a social media platform? I mean, come on, you can even shop right on the SERP! It will certainly be interesting to see how this all pans out, and you will definitely be hearing from us as we see and learn more.

The Desktop Page Experience Update

The next topic we discussed in the podcast was the desktop page experience update. At Wikimotive, we analyze the core web vitals or page experience on a website for each new client we sign. Unfortunately, dealership sites are notorious for having poor core web vitals, which is going to be an even bigger problem now than ever as Google is going to be favoring sites with good core web vital scores.

Core web vitals, in simple terms, are factors that make up user experience on a website. This includes how long it takes for a page on your site to load and layout shifts. No one likes when they have to sit and wait for a screen to load, nor do they appreciate attempting to click on a button as it moves around the screen. And while Google will not punish your website for having these things happen on your site, sites that do not will now be rewarded with higher spots on the SERP.

Most dealership websites have issues with core web vitals, often caused by outside tools implemented on the site and especially chat tools. It is time to push back on the tool providers to fix their negative impact on your site, if not for the purpose of having a good user experience to improve your rankings. If your local competitors do not take the time to push for resolution and you do, this update is going to be very rewarding. 

Loss of Location Data with the Apple iOS Update 

Emily’s next topic was one that shocked us in mid-2022 when it caused a dramatic shift in location data. Suddenly, when looking in Google Analytics, we saw massive traffic increases in major metros like New York City and Los Angeles and corresponding increases in “city=[not set].” This came along with drops in smaller geos. To say we were initially frightened would be an understatement. Luckily, after a couple of days of research, we found that this shift was caused by an Apple iOS update that automatically opted users out of sharing their location data. 

At least this wasn’t an “us thing,” but still, not great. It’s good news for the privacy of Apple users but not so great for those of us who use the data. While geo-specific data may not matter so much for national brands, dealerships are local businesses, and this information can be useful in determining the legitimacy of your traffic. Meaning, are your content marketing efforts reaching people who are actually going to visit your dealership and purchase a vehicle? Or is this traffic coming from a major hub that is actually 150 miles away? This stuff matters. So now what?

Technically, all is not lost. Android devices are still opting users into sharing their location data, so you can filter out iOS traffic and get a partial view there. But even when we were recording our podcast with five people in the room, three of us had iPhones in our pockets. Looking at partial data like that is going to eliminate many people and potentially a whole different demographic. In all, the location data is gone, and there is, unfortunately, nothing we can do.

GA4: Changing the Way We Capture Data

The final topic discussed in the podcast was Google Analytics changes. As of July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics will cease to exist, with GA4 taking its place. What’s the difference? Quite a number of things, such as the way data is captured. For years, we have used Universal Analytics, which gathers information about traffic on your website, where it came from, and who the users are via cookies. Cookies are pieces of data from a website that a user visited and are stored in their browser for said website to then use for data collection. 

Cookies are becoming a major source of concern for the regular population, with lawsuits about personal privacy popping up all around the world. Therefore, GA4 will not run on cookies. Instead, the information will be derived from “events,” such as clicking to a new page, scrolling, or clicking on a button. This tracking will allow you to track a user’s full journey through your site. As Emily mentioned, this actually offers up the potential opportunity to see their actions in a more granular, precise way. 

So, this is awesome. But why was this so important for 2022 when the change isn’t happening until 2023? Because, as Emily said, “you need to set up GA4, like, yesterday.” Since the way data is being collected in GA4 is different from that of Universal Analytics, none of your historical data is going to transfer from one to the other. If you don’t set up your GA4 now, you will be starting from scratch when you have to rush to set it up in July. Historical data is essential for identifying trends and increases or decreases in traffic on your site. 

The other major reason to set up your GA4 account now is to give yourself time to understand it better. Again, the data is being collected differently and is going to look different. As I mentioned in the discussion, there are tons of nuances, such as Universal Analytics counting sessions that go past midnight twice, while GA4 will not. Learn the ins and outs of the program beforehand so that you can keep making the best and most informed decisions about your website. Takeaway: Go set up GA4! Like…now!

Crush Your Competition in 2023 with Wikimotive

A lot happened in 2022, and there is no doubt in my mind that just as many changes are coming for us in 2023. But that is exactly why we at Wikimotive are here to help. If you think your dealership’s website could be performing better or don’t think your current agency is taking these frequent changes into account, contact us today. We will give you a free website audit and walk you through some actionable steps you can take to stay on top of it all.