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Google Change Could Shake Up Dealership Web Rankings

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On Tuesday, Google introduced new adjustments to its search engine that could shake up the results users see when searching the site for RV-related material.

The search engine, which controls about two-thirds of all searches in the U.S., according to comScore.com, released a new feature that will give priority to mobile-friendly sites, such as websites with larger text, and which resize to fit smartphone screens.

The good news, perhaps, is that the changes only apply to searches conducted from mobile devices. Users with desktops or tablets won’t notice any change in search results.

The bad news is that roughly half of all website traffic comes from mobile users, comScore reports. 

“We’re seeing people use their mobile devices in ways we never expected,” said Josh Winters of Haylett RV in Coldwater, Mich.

Google uses a proprietary formula to rank the sites users see when searching the web. That formula changes periodically, and in an unusual move (Google rarely announces changes to its search features), the California-based company announced the change Feb. 22 to allow webmasters and business owners time to prepare. Google also provided a test site, where users can view their site’s mobile functionality.

The issue has been called Mobilegeddon online, a portmanteau combining the words mobile and Armageddon. 

Angela Cellucci, director of UVS Junction, an industry provider of website and CRM technology, said she’s received calls from concerned customers regarding the issue.

“Marketing companies want to sell product and they latch onto something and it becomes like a raving panic industry wide, and everyone thinks, ‘Oh my, if I don’t do something I’m going to explode.’ ”

Cellucci said that the February notice from Google gave companies adequate time to prepare for the switch, so the issue shouldn’t have the dire affect that many fear.

In November last year, Google began labelling sites as “mobile friendly” in preparation for the change.

Cellucci said the key to a mobile friendly site is simplicity, “so that its compatible with all devices.”

“If you open a video on a client’s site on an IPhone, it’s going to play in Quick Time,” Cellucci said. “If you open it on an Android it’s going to play in the Android player, but if it were a Flash player, fewer people would be able to view that video.”

The text on a mobile site also should adapt to a mobile users’ screen without clicking or scrolling, allowing for readability, Cellucci added.

Compatibility isn’t always an easy feat for dealers. Winters keeps track of the devices used on the Haylett RV website, and researches closely how the mobile site interacts with different handheld computers.

He knows, for example, that about 20 percent of the mobile traffic on his site uses Apple products and 80 percent use Android devices.

“Unfortunately there’s so many different browsers and protocols online today that you have to make something everyone can view, but in an optimal method as well,” he said.

Many customers have begun expecting dealership websites to have mobile websites, Winters said, and he sees them checking prices and features as they sit down to make a deal.

“People are using their mobile devices sometimes like their own personal price-check scanner, and most of our offices have dual monitors so the customer sees what we see, so there’s none of that apprehension,” Winters said.  

The reliance on the Internet has grown so much in recent years, that Winters can’t imagine his dealership without a mobile site because, he says, customers – and even his sales team – have begun to expect the technology and information the site provides, such as inventory, features, specs and pricing – all of which can be found on the site.

“Public expectation is everything, and you can fight it, but bottom line is you’re going to lose,” he said. “Sales became more challenging when the Internet became the primary method of people researching everything.”

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