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Does Your Website Pass All Google Diagnostic Tests?

The most overlooked website diagnostic software is provided free in Google Webmaster Tools (GWT).   Most dealers are unaware of the wealth of information that GWT can provide regarding the health of your website. 

 

Dealers are more familiar with Google Analytics but GWT provides additional insights not contained in Google Analytics.

 

An interesting SEO diagnostic report is found under the Diagnostics menu called "HTML Suggestions".  

 

This report displays how many pages on your website have duplicate Title Tags and META description tags.  Have you checked this statistic for your website?  You should if you care about organic search optimization and increasing website traffic. 

 

Google recommends that each website page should have a unique page title and META description tag.  When you have duplicates, Google may decide NOT to include the pages in their index.   Keep in mind that Google provides this report for a reason!  If this was NOT an important design feature, they would not include it in GWT.

 

I'll show you also how to see how many pages of your website are indexed.  This could be the symptom of a poor SEO strategy.

 

HTML Suggestions Report

 

Here is an example of the HTML Suggestions report from a car dealership website:

 

In this case, this dealership needs to identify the source of these duplicates and work with the website vendor to correct this problem.  With this many duplicates, it looks like there are system generated website pages where the programmers did not create unique tags.

 

How Many Pages Are Indexed

 

Most websites have a file called a "SiteMap" which contains a list of all the pages in the website that are supposed to be visible to consumers.  It's like a Table of Contents.

 

This sitemap file can be submitted to Google via Webmaster Tools and in turn, Google will provide you with diagnostic information about the website pages.

 

Take a look at this report that is found under the Site Configuration menu, under Sitemaps.  

 

In this case, not all of the dealer's website pages are included in Google's index.   There are valid reasons for SOME pages not be included in Google's index, but there are too many pages here to not look into why this is happening.  

 

Poorly structured pages is one common reason.  Another reason is often pages that have little content that have no search relevance.

 

In any case, if you have many pages that are NOT valuable to consumers, then you may ask why these are uncluded in the Sitemap to start with. 

 

Are You Viewing GWT Reports Each Month?

 

These are just two of many important GWT reports that dealers should use to make sure that your website is configured properly and optimized for Google search.  

 

Another important report is "Links to Your Site" report  (see image on right) which will show you which pages have the most off-site links and where these links are coming from.   Inbound links are very important still for basic SEO strategies.

 

If you don't have thousands of good quality links to your key website pages, you can't expect to have a strong organic search presence.

 

So make sure you add GWT to your digital marketing strategy and inspection process for 2012.

 

Brian 

 

Brian Pasch CEO of PCG

 

Brian Pasch, CEO

PCG Digital Marketing
Text PCGedu to 75674 get information on our upcoming conferences
Brian Pasch

Views: 704

Tags: google analytics, google webmaster tools, gwt, website diagnostics

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Comment by Niladri Sarkar on January 25, 2012 at 9:30am

Helpful post Brian.

You may want to mention that links to site section does not display all the backlinks(external links) your site has gained. You may have to rely on 3rd party tools like majesticSEO or Opensiteexplorer to gain more details about your external links. Yahoo Site explorer used to a free option while it was around.

Also note that you don't actually need 'thousands' of good quality links to your website for a strong organic search presence.  In this vertical a few good editorial links and content can do the trick. Though I am not sure after the recent changes in search personalization and local search how many dealers are actually tracking their ranking.

Best

Niladri

Comment by Jason Hamblin on January 24, 2012 at 8:39am

Good article as I preach the importance of Google Webmaster Tools on a daily basis. It really is a good check and balance for your Website Provider. We catch 404 errors all the time!

I like how Google has now integrated Google Webmaster Tools into Google Analytics under the Tab Search Engine Optimization. 

1. Queries
2. Landing Pages
3. Geographical Summary

Makes me think Google will incorporate more info from WT to GA in the near future. (Much Like they did when they added a tab for AdWords). It makes great sense to have a single dashboard for Webmaster Tools, Google Analyitcs and Google AdWords. Now if we could only add Google Place Pages!

What brings you the most value from Webmaster Tools? 

Comment by Bruce Etzcorn on January 23, 2012 at 11:39am

From a developer standpoint, I can tell you that it's quite a challenge to make Google happy and maintain a dynamically scaleable web solution.

 

@Scott, we've ran into the same problem @Joey talks about a few years ago. All of the title and meta information didn't provide room for variations or push the title and description to represent the vehicle (or search being performed) well enough. With Google's WMT in mind, we developed a system that lets us produces unique title and description snippets that describe the content we'll be serving to visitors. Most of the information is automated but we hand-tailor the results to fit the dealers visibility strategies. It's not flawless due to the nature of dynamic content. It requires maintenance to fix the long and shot description warnings from time-to-time and we definitely don't charge for our time. We look at it as more of a responsibility than a feature.

 

Google's WMT HTML Suggestions section should be used to clue you in to potential problems with your site but don't get too hung up on crafting the perfect description, Google's gonna do what Google does with it. They give you HTML suggestions to fix meta descriptions but don't necessarily use it. Most of the time they craft their own description. I guess that's why they're called "suggestions".

 

This should be part of dealers analytics and inspection process. I think you've helped dealers overcome the technical hurdles that prevent understanding the data in your day-to-day visits, seminars and speaking engagements. Vendors can add multiple users to the webmaster tools without too much fuss so access should be a reasonable request.

 

Your statement, "if you have many pages that are NOT valuable to consumers, then you may ask why these are included in the Sitemap to start with." needs clarification. Google recommends including all URLs of your website in the Sitemap, especially if your pages are produced dynamically. They allow you to add a priority indicator to tell search engines how important this page really is in respect to all other pages on your site.

 

I think what you meant to say was "if you have many pages that are NOT valuable to consumers, then you may ask why these are included in the Sitemap to start with." which is a much bigger problem today.

Comment by Joey Abna on January 23, 2012 at 6:56am

Great post as usual Brian. This is important information and as you point out a lot of the duplicate titles and meta descriptions are from auto generated pages. In my case the vast majority of these are from vehicle detail pages. Many of these are for different actual pieces of inventory but with just one different piece of content usually the vin #.

For example GWT is showing me with duplicate title tags for the following pages:

/2012-chevrolet-traverse-ltz-tyler-texas/vd/8515067

/2012-chevrolet-traverse-ltz-tyler-texas/vd/8631076

/2012-chevrolet-traverse-ltz-tyler-texas/vd/8860962

/2012-chevrolet-traverse-ltz-tyler-texas/vd/8999157

Inventory listings do present a challenge as these pages have to be created automatically but we need a better solution for giving them more variations of unique titles and meta descriptions. After all those are the money pages in most cases.

Comment by Tom Gorham on January 23, 2012 at 3:53am

Very useful information about an under-utilized tool.  Thank you Brian.

Comment by Scott Falcone on January 22, 2012 at 7:28pm

Brian,

Good advice. One point that dealers may not be aware of is the fact that Google will not report ALL of the inbound links for fear of showing their hand regarding their algo. Now that Yahoo Site Explorer is defunct, dealers need to be working with an SEO company that utilizes tools to provide the complete picture of this component or purchase them on their own. 

Additionally, those dup title tags you mention are mostly out of the control of the dealer as the provider is typically generating these dynamically. Until the top providers offer an easy solution or educate dealers on how to adjust these, or do it correctly from their end, it will be an ongoing issue. Wondering if you have any suggestions on this. The ones that are created manually by dealers are typically not the problem, but if the provider is just adding articles of duplicate content across the common manufacturer based sites of dealers and calling it "SEO for $499 month" without some differentiation , it is a very real issue and of little value to the SEO efforts they are selling, as I am sure you are aware. 

Comment by Ralph Paglia on January 22, 2012 at 6:27pm

Brian - Thank you for an excellent article that truly illustrates the irony around most dealer's predilection towards investing in new technology when they have not yet leveraged what is already available to them at little to no cost from sources such as Google.  You have also showcased the need for professional services and training around the use of various Google Apps and Tools.

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