Being well-placed in Google search results is vital to potential customers finding your collision repair shop, though recently announced upcoming changes to Google’s search algorithm could affect where your shop appears in the rankings.
That’s according to the people at Business Actualization, a marketing firm that specializes in working with independent repair shops, collision repair shops, and dealerships. In fact, company founder Adam Kushner came up in the collision repair biz. He says he held down a number of positions at his family’s Volvo/SAAB collision repair shop in central Pennsylvania, helping it thrive, before setting out on his own.
“I worked myself out of a job in the day-to-day operations of my family shop, then started doing consulting with other auto repair shop owners, then grew that to just focusing on the niche of marketing, which was always a strong point with me, just growing up in my family business,” Kushner says.
According to Business Actualization digital services associate Joe Pfender, Google, based on his reading of an announcement the company made earlier this year about upcoming changes to its algorithm, “[has] never been this transparent” about its plans.
The algorithm changes will happen in 2021, Pfender says, and Google will make a public announcement six months prior to them taking effect. He says once the changeover happens it appears Google will be focusing on three website characteristics, all of which relate to how user-friendly the site is.
Site speed and loading time
Google will be scanning websites for how quickly they load and perform, and that will be taken into account for search ranking. Per a report written by Pfender on the Business Actualization website, a number of items could slow down a shop’s site—images, videos, third-party code, or Facebook widgets—so it’s important to identify such elements and keep them in mind when trying to optimize site speed.
Search ranking will also be affected by a site’s interactivity, as in, how well and how fast can users accomplish what they went to the website to do? Kushner and Pfender point to site features like chatbots or chats answered by real people as ways to boost interactivity, streamlining a customer’s experience on the page. They note that such features are catching on as more shops and customers get used to less or no contact during jobs, out of necessity due to COVID-19, relying more than ever on text messaging to communicate.
Pfender does pump the brakes on the idea of jumping into a chatbot without having a sales strategy suited to such a feature. He also says he sees plenty of auto shops with websites using chat boxes that are slowing site speeds and load times.
As noted in Pfender’s report, visual stability is all about smooth, uninterrupted loading of elements like videos. “Oftentimes, we see visuals jumping around from the top of your screen to the bottom of your screen” on less visually stable sites, the report says. “Google will notice any hiccups in the content loading process.” Shop owners can speak to their website provider to work on fixing such issues.
Pfender and Kushner say the three elements Google will be looking at all fit together, and optimizing the trio will be simply a best practice for a shop’s site to perform well in Google’s search ranking.