The Plague of Duplicate Content on Automotive Websites
Automotive websites are too often filled with boilerplate text, which is destroying the visibility of these sites on Google. This has to stop.
Watch my urgent appeal to auto dealers to stop using boilerplate text below.
One of 3,330 Automotive Websites
This little rant started with a simple question: Why aren’t our clients showing up as well on Google as they should after switching to a Dealer.com website?
Sure, we had issues at launch with Dealer.com not redirecting our links or appropriately adding our blog content, but that could not be the only reason our search engine optimization (SEO) was struggling.
My investigation began on a service page. I read this somewhat awkward phrase:
When you come home from work, the last thing you want to have to worry about is maintaining your car. That’s why so many people trust mechanics to do the work under the hood for them. As for whom you should trust with such a lofty task?
I asked myself, How many other websites used this same phrase? I copied the entire paragraph into Google and bam. Shock hits: 3,330 results.
3,330 auto websites have the exact same boilerplate text on their service pages.
This worried me, so I took a look at the service pages for a few of our other clients, this time taking a look at FordDirect sites.
I kept seeing the same smiling man and woman talking about the service being conducted. (And, of course, the man is explaining it to the woman, but that’s another topic.)
I checked another site, and wouldn’t you know it — the exact same text and photo.
I understand why this happens. It is time-consuming and expensive to write original text for thousands of websites. Web providers use boilerplate text to keep the price lower. Then, they up-sell original content or expect the dealers to do it themselves.
The problem is that most dealers are not customizing their websites.
If you are one of 3,330, why should people shop with you?
What attracts customers is a personality, a mission, an identity. (We call it inbound marketing.)
I am sure most of these 3,000+ dealers have reasons that people should choose their store over others’. If that personality isn’t reflected online, however, the majority of their potential customers who start their search online will never know who the dealer is or why they should shop with them.
The Problem with Duplicate Content on Auto Websites
The lack of original content on an automotive website is not only a missed opportunity to share why someone should shop with you. More damaging is that Google is less likely to show your website if you have boilerplate text.
In a recent online Q&A (see the video below), Google shared its latest stance on duplicate content. A big takeaway is that duplicate content is not a penalty, per se, but it is often a sign of other problems that will hurt your visibility. One of these problems is boilerplate text, like most automotive sites have.
Shaun Anderson of Hobo Internet Marketing did a great job of summarizing this conversation:
This latest advice from Google is useful in that it clarifies Google’s position, which I quickly paraphrase below:
- There is no duplicate content penalty
- Google rewards UNIQUENESS and the signals associated with ADDED VALUE
- Google FILTERS duplicate content
- Duplicate content can slow Google down in finding new content
- XML sitemaps are just about the BEST technical method of helping Google discover your new content
- Duplicate content is probably not going to set your marketing on fire
- Google wants you to concentrate signals in canonical documents, and it wants you to focus on making these canonical pages BETTER for USERS.
- For SEO, it is not necessarily the abundance of duplicate content on a website that is the real issue. It’s the lack of positive signals that NO unique content or added value provides that will fail to help you rank faster and better in Google.
Looking at the bulleted list above, automotive dealers should be especially wary of the facts that:
- Google filters duplicate content (meaning you won’t show up as high in search results).
- Duplicate content slows Google down in finding your new content (meaning your blog posts and maybe even inventory pages aren’t added as quickly to Google).
- Original content is rewarded (meaning if your content is boilerplate text, you are missing an opportunity to show up).
How to Fix Duplicate Content on Your Automotive Site
Fortunately, duplicate content can be fixed. You can rewrite the content on your pages from your dealer’s perspective.
As a best practice, make sure to include your store’s name, history, photos of your team, and any reasons your store is unique. Most dealers have deep roots in their communities. Let your customers know! Bonus points if you can include a video (or videos) throughout your site.
While rewriting your content, make sure to edit carefully and add keywords in these five important places:
- Page content
- Page title
- Meta description (not f0r SEO, but for clicks)
- Image title and alt text
The best SEO contains interesting, personal, and educational content. As a general rule, don’t write for Google. Write for your customers.
That being said, our Guide to Automotive SEO eBook would be an important read before you start to ensure you follow automotive SEO best practices.
A Custom Site Is a Visible Site
Google’s mission is to show the most relevant and popular results to people who are searching. A customized, unique website will be rewarded by Google.
In a competitive search environment, customizing your web content is most important digital marketing work you can do.
As Hobo Internet Marketing puts it:
The more you can make it look a human built every page on a page by page basis with content that doesn’t appear exactly in other areas of the site — the more Google will “like” it.
Google does not like automation when it comes to building a website; that’s clear in 2016.
Be yourself, be unique, and don’t settle for the same thing 3,330 other dealers are using.
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