What Google Updates Happened in 2021 | PCG Digital

As expected, 2021 was a big year in the automotive industry.

From navigating chip shortages and inventory issues to dealing with the lasting impact that 2020 had on the world as a whole, dealers are still having to continually pivot their SEO and digital marketing strategies now more than ever before.

In the same vein, 2021 also brought some highly anticipated algorithm updates, product rollouts, and game-changing updates to the world of SEO. (Which is a world that can sometimes feel about as unpredictable and ambiguous as Google algorithm updates themselves.)

As we wrap up 2021 and head into 2022, let’s take a look at some of the biggest things that happened in the SEO industry this year, and discuss how they’ll impact dealer marketing strategies and the automotive industry as a whole moving forward:

1. Google Analytics 4

One of the biggest announcements that came from Google this year was the release and rollout of Google Analytics 4. And if you’ve logged into your Google Analytics account at any point in the last 6 months or so, chances are you’ve probably seen a message prompting you to make the switch.

So what exactly is Google Analytics 4? The short version: It’s a significant new update to Google Analytics, and Google’s way of preparing for the “cookie-less” future.

More specifically: GA4 is built around users and events (rather than sessions), and allows for the collection of user data without relying on cookies or other identifiers. There are other important updates like a deeper integration with Google Ads, cross-device measurement capabilities, updates to real-time reports, and more that make the rollout of Google Analytics 4 important across all marketing channels— not just from an SEO perspective.

What this means for dealers: At the moment, dealers can still access their Universal Analytics accounts. They won’t disappear, so long as you don’t choose to fully upgrade right away. 

In the meantime, dealers can get ahead by: 

  • Creating a new GA4 property to run alongside their standard GA. This property can be used for getting acquainted with the new system, setting up practice reports, etc. It will also be helpful to have as much historical data as possible for when you do decide to make the switch.
  • Asking their current website provider if they support GA4.
  • Asking their current marketing vendors if they have a plan in place for the GA4 transition.

2. Core Web Vitals Update

About mid-year in 2021, Google rolled out the highly anticipated Core Web Vitals update (also known as The Google Page Experience update), which focused on overall website user experience.

Specifically, Google’s objective was to set the standard for what a “good” user experience looks like by measuring website pages through its defined Core Web Vitals, which include:

  • Loading
  • Interactivity
  • Visual Stability

*Note: These are not the first or only user-experience ranking factors introduced by Google. Secure browsing, page speed, and mobile-friendliness are all factors that are already taken into account by Google, among others.

Using the Core Web Vitals and the determined target thresholds for each metric, Google ranks website pages as “good,” “needs improvement,” and “poor.” After assessing, Google’s overall goal is to continually improve search and user experience by offering up the best pages and websites as options more frequently in search.

What this means for dealers: As PCG Digital’s SEO Director Jamie Paton wrote in her blog post on the update earlier this year: “Car dealers are in a unique position to weather the storm together as many utilize the same website platforms. Meaning page experience is pretty uniformly poor across the board.” 

In other words, Core Web Vitals standards are rarely, if ever, within dealers’ control. That’s why, in the wake of the algorithm update, it’s important to continue to prioritize the SEO strategies that you can control, like creating high-quality, informative website content and optimizing your Google My Business listings for search. 

Have more questions? Head to our post What Google’s Page Experience Update Means for Car Dealers for more in-depth information on Core Web Vitals!

3. Google My Business is Rebranding to Google Business Profile

One of the more recent SEO updates that dropped this year came just this past month with Google’s announcement of the latest Google My Business rebrand. (“Latest,” as in, this will now be the platform’s sixth name change over the past few years.)

It’s true: Google Business Profile will be the new name going forward for Google My Business. Now, users will now make any and all updates to their business profiles directly in the search results or Google Maps. When logged into your Google account, you’ll see a series of cards that will only be visible to you that will allow you to update important business information like hours, phone numbers, URLs, etc.

For larger businesses with multiple locations and listings, there will still be a web interface to manage listings through— it will just be renamed to Business Profile Manager. It’s likely that there will also likely be more updates to the web interface that will be announced in the coming months.

What this means for dealers: Google will be rolling this rebrand out for everyone within the next couple of months, so don’t worry if you’re not seeing it right away. For now, keep an eye on your listings, and if it is available to you, now is a good time to start getting acquainted with the new system.

Get Ready for More Google Updates in 2022!

If the last few months are any indication, 2022 is going to be just as big for Google, organic search, and the automotive industry as a whole.

If you have any questions on what’s to come or how to best market your dealership organically on Google moving forward, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team here at PCG Digital!

Picture of Emily Malkowski
Emily Malkowski
Emily is an SEO Specialist at PCG Digital with a passion for all of the fascinating ways that SEO and content intersect. She enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and cheering on the Buffalo Bills!

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