By: Chris Tabb
Article updated July 23, 2019
Last month we reported that between May and June, Google Search impressions for Google My Business (GMB) dropped from 50% to 36% – a total decline of 28%. However, in the time since this article was originally published Google Map Packs dropped to showing 31% of the time before ultimately rebounding. A total decline of 38%. Today, the occurrence of Map Pack on SERP (or in other words how often Map Packs appear in Google Search results) has improved to 44%.
While it’s still off the pace from where we were in May, this is a positive trend. Understand this impacts SEAT performance metrics because less available impressions logically result in fewer actions being taken by searchers. On this note, unlike SEM efforts such as Google Ads or Facebook Advertising, with GMB it isn’t possible to increase impressions if Google is intentionally or unintentionally limiting visibility of one of its search features.
Whether you realize it or not, your dealership relies heavily on Local 3-Pack results that funnel Organic traffic to your website; and shoppers to your showroom. That said, watch out because Google Local Pack listings are changing in a major way. If you aren’t actively managing your listing, now is the perfect time to consider a Google My Business listing management solution.
Our latest research points to Google making changes to how often a Local Pack shows up in search engine results for automotive searches. According to SEMrush Sensor data, on May 1, 2019, the average automotive search in Google returned a Local Pack 50% of the time. As of June 11, these Local Packs have dropped down to showing 36% of the time.
This change can impact your local lead count significantly if you aren’t prepared for it. Less exposure to high intent shoppers makes an already competitive environment more difficult for generating calls, showroom visits, and website leads. And our latest research shows Google changing how often Local Pack shows up in search engine results for automotive searches.
All Categories Show Less Mobile Local Packs
Almost all categories on mobile SERPs have downshifted in how often Google shows Local Pack results. Of course, automotive isn’t the only industry impacted by this change.
Take a look at the drops in Local Pack results on mobile across major categories (as of June 10th):
- Travel: -66%
- Food/Drink: -44%
- Business/Industrial: -40%
- Home/Garden: -36%
- Real Estate: -36%
- ALL Categories: -36%
- Health: -35%
- Beauty/Fitness: -27%
Travel and food/drink show the largest drop, but you can see a decrease across the board; with an average 36% drop in Local Pack. So it’s pretty clear that something big is going on with how results appear on Google.
Search and Map Impression Data Broken Down by OEM
The PureCars SEAT team has broken down Search and Map impression data by OEM. Check out the month-over-month (MoM) drops in Search Impressions by OEMs. May Map Impressions see increases, although in all transparency these gains are impressive partly due to the decrease in Map impressions from April’s Google De-Index bug.
Chrysler, Chevy, Ford and Honda seem to be more impacted by Google’s changes, while Nissan, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia and Lexus don’t appear to be hit as hard.
Impression Data by OEM (May 2019)[table id=1 /]
Here is a good three month look (April/March/May) at search and map visibility for the automotive industry.
What’s Causing this Change?
The biggest drops in visibility occurred more recently – on May 22nd, June 4th, and June 7th. Check out the chart below to see what these decreases look like for automotive.
SEMrush put together a handy graph showing SERP volatility. The top graph shows Google SERP instability over the last 30 days; the bottom graph shows just how fast Google has throttled back Local Pack impressions over the last few weeks. The declines occur on four distinctive dates (which we explore in greater detail below).
May 22nd: Site Indexing Bug
Google confirms that there was a snafu with site indexing. In particular, the indexing problems appear related to new content.
(Click here for more info on the Google indexing bug and how the bug prevents new content from indexing).
June 4th: Core Algorithm Updates
Google announced that it was updating one of its core ranking algorithms. Google’s official statement was that nothing major was changing, and you shouldn’t have to watch out for any unexpected changes. But as some people learned, that may not have actually been the case.
June 7th: Domain Diversity Update
Google released another update (Domain Diversity) that attempts to tackle the problem of one single domain dominating SERPs on a specific search. Google noted that the update means that it will now only show up to two URLs from the same domain in search results.
Impact on Your Business Listing
As the data shows, big changes are already happening. How is this affecting your business? Here are all the details you should know:
Your Dealership/Group GMB Listing(s)
The changes we’ve tracked point to this primarily affecting mobile results on search result impressions. What this means for you is that you’ll probably see a decrease in your month-over-month search impressions and direct, discovery, and brand impressions.
Google’s restrictions will likely also decrease other performance metrics like phone calls, directions, and website visits. The drop will happen because most call-to-action responses come from the search engine page itself (rather than directly from Google Maps).
The good news here is that most OEMs saw growth in map impressions month-over-month. There are a few geos which underperformed due to local market conditions or another unknown factor. Since April’s de-index bug which primarily impacted maps, impressions have regained and surpassed pre-April numbers.
Keep in mind, Google has recently made a lot of updates to Google Maps. The majority of them are specific to the restaurant and travel industries. That’s where we often see change start and flow down to other industries like automotive. Expect adoption of Google Maps to continue growing over time and lead to long-term growth.
Long Term Monetization of GMB?
It’s no secret that Google has been working toward monetizing GMB. We just weren’t sure exactly when Google would start fast-tracking this change; and everything that’s happened over the last few weeks seems to be leading us in that direction.
What The Experts Say
Less impressions doesn’t mean no impressions. It seems that Google is tightening the impression pool to the most valuable keywords. Hence, the reason why call and direction clicks haven’t fallen off a cliff for dealers using SEAT.
Dealerships that have turned in strong GMB performance numbers in May were already ranking well on highly coveted keywords like:
- OEM dealership + near me
- OEM dealership + geo
- Proximity modifier (ex. closest) OEM dealership + my location
The Local Pack in Google Search is still a prominent section, positioned just below paid ads and above Organic content results. But now, the number of opportunities to win are cut down to the most intent driven, most sought after keywords.
Is this just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Google’s changes to the Local Pack? Only Google knows, but regardless, pay attention to your own metrics. A little knowledge goes a long way to keep your business visible – no matter what changes take place at Google.