Google’s goal has always been to anticipate the answer to our search questions, and provide a result that gives all the information right in the search results page—without having to click on any website that appears in the results.
Google scours the web for a high-authority page that answers the searcher’s question. Once it finds one, Google displays the result in what’s called an “answer box” at the top of the page, ahead of all the other traditional organic results.
It also lists that page before any of the other search results below. With the answer box, Google has created yet another part of search results that dealers need to pay attention to.
Here’s an example: When car shoppers look for your dealership’s hours of business, they no longer have to visit your website’s hours and directions page.
Google can serve that day’s hours in the answer box. It will also update that answer box on days close to a national holiday that could impact business hours.
The importance of markup coding
The data shown in the answer boxes has expanded over time, and Google’s newest addition is specific to new-car searches. Google reads the new-model structured data coding in the website platform, and then displays dealership inventory.
The first screenshot shows what a shopper in St. Louis sees when looking for “new Chevrolet cars near me”: model information and MSRP price, with a link to the dealer website above all the other search results.
Google recognizes the structure built into a website platform, and considers it the authority for these type of searches.
The types of things you can highlight with structured markup coding will continue to grow, and it’s becoming the language that your website must use to “speak” to Google.
If you aren’t marking up your content, you’re passing up the opportunity to establish your website as the authority for auto-related searches.
If your site doesn’t have this markup coding, Google will pick another site for the answer box, or try to piece an answer together that may not be correct.
In the second screenshot, Google recognized a third-party site as the authority on leasing a Chevrolet, even though it’s not a website that does car leases.
Mark up with the Five Ws
Want to find out what type of content you should be marking up? Apply the Five Ws to your content: Who, What, When, Where, and Why.
Answer boxes are all about getting the correct answer to the searcher as fast as possible. Your digital strategy should focus less on keywords and more on being able to answer the question for the customer.
It’s about presenting your website to the customer one step up the funnel. If your dealership’s goal is to increase your service and parts market share, your content should focus on where people in your city can get an oil change, why they should change their oil every 3,000 miles, and how much an oil change will cost at your dealership.
Enter one of those 5 Ws into the Google Search Console, and you’ll see the potential questions you could be answering. Work with your vendor to create an organic search strategy that can help make your dealership the authority.
Google’s answer box is just the start of an exciting change for organic search results for our industry. Expect to see Google use your website as an answer for more and more searches.
Colleen Harris is a senior search engine optimization specialist at CDK Global, and has more than 13 years of digital marketing experience in the automotive, health care, and entertainment industries. Her speaking engagements include SMX Advanced, DrivingSales Executive Summit, WIT, Seattle Search Network, 501 C Commons, and the national SEMPO member conference. Colleen also volunteers locally on a digital team for new nonprofits.