Google has trialed providing its own used car inventory listings in search in the U.S. earlier this month as detailed here and the trial may be extended to the U.K.
In the U.S. AIM Group found that when a user enters Google.com/local/cars in the Google address bar, it listed Google’s own inventory listings. This was tested in Kentucky on the afternoon of April 23 and found to work, but when the same test was applied later in the day, an error message appeared because the listings had been removed.
In the U.K., using the same search criteria brings up the same message, “404. That’s an error.”
But Car Dealer Magazine has also reported that Google added ‘local/cars’ and ‘local/dealership’ to its robots.txt files late last week, which corresponds to when other industry bloggers discovered the listings and saved screenshots and when AIM Group tested the search and found over 1,700 listings in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Car Dealer Magazine report includes screenshots from Twitter user @dan_shure showing 18,600+ cars for sale under the same search term.
Pictures of the cars, the dealerships location and the price of each car were listed below the search box. Users reported the search didn’t work entirely correctly, another sign it was a test or an early pilot.
If the initiative was extended to the U.K. it could mean Google displays cars for sale in its results rather than pushing users to third party websites and competes with British dominant player Auto Trader and EBay Motor Group which owns Gumtree Motors and Motors.co.uk.
In Car Dealer Magazine’s report GForces CEO Giles Smith suggested the move could be an initiative Google worked on during the pandemic to help businesses, rather than being a route to launching its own product.
He told Car Dealer: “If the pilot becomes a reality, this has far reaching consequences for both dealers and the marketplace portals.
“Dealers could expect to see their stock promoted directly on Google via feeds to highly targeted, regional consumers and potentially for free.
“For the marketplaces, this would most certainly feel like Google attempting to cut out the middleman and will no doubt have some impact on their traffic figures.”
Google told Car Dealer Magazine that it “began working with select car dealers and data providers in the U.S. to pilot new ways for dealerships to showcase their cars for sale directly on their business profiles in search.
“We’ve heard from potential car buyers that surfacing this inventory information directly on Google helps them quickly explore and compare available cars, leading to more qualified leads for dealers.
“The car inventory information is powered by feeds shared directly from dealers or their data providers. Google is not charging a fee for this feature.”
Google said businesses in the U.S. had the option to complete a “partner interest form” to find out more. Google has not confirmed if a similar trial will happen in the U.K. but if it plans to extend the move to territories outside the U.S., the U.K. would be a natural choice.
If it did, it would have a significant impact on aggregator sites like Auto Trader because it could push down their organic search results and click-through rates would likely drop.
The move could help dealers because it could reward dealers who have well-presented stock marketed with fully optimised data.
Website design firm 67 Degrees’ CEO Laura Coleby told Car Dealer Magazine “When Shopping Ads were introduced they transformed the conversion rates for e-commerce websites.”
AIM Group asked Auto Trader for a response but the company said it was unable to provide one as it is currently in a “closed” period for reporting purposes.