Classifieds

How La Centrale Wins At SEO

La Centrale is one of the largest car classified websites in the world. With thousands of listings and a competitive market position, we interviewed Janate Djellit, SEO Manager at La Centrale Group, to see how La Centrale performs SEO at scale during a recent Atelier session. 

Botify: 

When we’re talking about big Classifieds websites and multi-sites, what specific issues are related to that?

Janate:

My websites are somewhat dependent on SEO because on a car forum, for example, we rely on all the traffic that a search engine can bring. So yes, the challenges on big sites like ours are accessibility: to make our website accessible, make sure that the content is always fresh, and consistently deliver quality pages. So we have typical challenges for big websites, i.e., to bring a lot of traffic from search engines, in a very competitive setting because the automotive industry is not a simple market. 

Botify:

Do you have any specific organization? How is the SEO team structured at La Centrale? 

Janate:

Before joining La Centrale, I had a team; I had agencies, I had a massive budget, so it was great! But I needed to challenge myself, so when La Centrale Group came to me, they told me they needed someone to work on all the SEO websites directly with the developers, with the editorial team, and I thought, great, I’m going for it! So now I’m alone, and I have all my tools, whether Botify or MyPoseo (to track keywords, for example). And as a result, we are organized in an agile method with the POs, the developers, the editors … It’s a treat! 

Botify:

To get to the heart of the matter, I suggest that we talk a little more about your website and the different types of queries you usually get. We know that Classifieds must know how to answer very competitive queries and others much less. So my first question is, how do you address these different queries? I imagine that it’s not always quite the same strategy behind it. And could you tell us a little more about the difference between your editorial forum vs. the Classifieds that are more Top Tail?

Janate:

Yes, each website has its strategy. Whether it’s the editorial or the Classified, we have pretty different traffic strategies. If I take the forum as an example, today, we have a community. We have an internal team dedicated to working on this forum, both developers and a community management tool. And so, it’s Long-Tail because it’s often precise and unique searches. I don’t know if you have ever searched for this type of keyword, for example: “Why doesn’t the brake pedal on my car go down anymore?” or “How do I change my wheel in the rain?” These are pretty specific searches, so there is a lot of work on the long-tail. So we work with moderators on the forum because it’s a website with a significant volume, and we try to test things out.  To work on our long-tail, at one point, we tried to work on the PAs and the zero positions; there were some successes and others a little less, and in the end, we said to ourselves that it remains a bit brief. You never know with Google, so we try to work a little on the titles and know that there is potential and gain traffic. If we see, for example, that it is poorly written, that there are mistakes, we have features on the forum precisely to highlight the best answers and have something structured to answer the long-tail.

On Caradisiac, our editorial website, I can work with the editorial team, and it’s a pleasure to be able to work on both our cold and hot content and to be able to guide the journalists on that.  On the other hand, it’s Top Tail work coupled with notoriety on a Classifieds website. Of course, the La Centrale brand helps us a lot, but in any case, there is a big competition on keywords related to queries like “used Renault” or “Renault Clio”; on that point, however, we are constantly working on our Top Tail. 

Botify: 

If we go back to the Top Tail strategy, what types of pages would be the most interesting for you to open on all the Top Tail semantics, for example, on a big website like the one you manage? 

Janate:

At La Centrale, we have a bias. Like everyone else, whether it’s an e-commerce website, a classifieds website, or a faceted system with a search engine, we prefer to open very few pages: we open up car brands and models listings. For some time now, we have also opened the whole localization part. All the searches related to geolocation are significant. So on the top tail, our bias/choice is our listing, and we already have a lot to manage with that alone. So if we were to also open pages with specificities about the year, the type of engine, gasoline or diesel, we would have no more listings than ads. So, for now, we’re sticking with the car brand and model as well as geolocation. 

We opened up the listings with SEO-friendly URLs so that Google can come back and explore and index. Then, when you have a listing page, you have the same templates all the time, you have bounce blogs, you have pagination. And we help ourselves a lot with our breadcrumb trail.  If you want to look at a listing of pages, I invite you to do a test by looking up parameters like the year and place, and you will see that you will have in your breadcrumb trail the possibility to navigate and return to pages with all the elements. So we count a lot on the breadcrumb trail to have SEO-friendly URLs. 

Botify: 

In the beginning, you talked to me about opening up both the “brand” and “geo” sections. It seems to me that there was also a lesson that you had learned with geolocation. 

Janate:

That’s right. When I joined the La Centrale group, we were not doing geolocation; we did not distinguish or highlight the URLs if you were looking for a car in Marseille or Lille. And we know very well that with the current context with the health crisis, to be able to go and buy a car, we were limited in travel. So we worked a lot on the geolocation of our contents. We worked with the professionals because they can put their content on their ads on the website. So we decided to open the brand and model listings and go for geolocation, and it’s a success. 

Botify: 

And so, because as you open pages, sometimes there may be no more ad, there is no more BMW in Occitania, for example. How do you manage the “life cycle” of the list? Do you have a particular strategy that can often be asked when you open and wonder how to close? 

Janate:

Yes, I do. When it comes to cars, honestly, it’s infrequent that a listing is ever empty. But we don’t only sell cars; we also sell motorcycles and camping cars. On the other hand, it sometimes happens that no “Quad from the brand Yamaha” is available in Occitania precisely. For example, Before I arrived to La Centrale, they used to put 301s on the HP. So when I started, I honestly thought it was immaculate and flattened the whole SEO strategy.  What I wanted was to clean up Google’s index and tell it, “Listen, the ad is no longer there, there’s no point in coming to look at it every time.” So what we did at La Centrale was to simply put a 404, to put a little message saying that the ad is no longer available, but we offer them third-party content. So if they are looking for a Renault Clio in a specific region, we can always suggest expanding their search a little and propose a listing with a Renault Clio in another area.

Botify: 

On another note, we talked about page expiration strategy and so on. We know that content is the lifeblood of the business. For a classified website, it’s also the fact that the content is generated by users, which can sometimes be complicated to manage, especially in terms of duplication, errors, etc. So my question is: how do you ensure the quality of the data? How do you manage duplicate content internally or externally and ensure a certain uniqueness of content? 

Janate:

First of all, our websites cannibalize one another. It’s still good news that we’re doing pretty well on Google, but we do have duplicate content on our website and the competitors’. Because a professional, for example, BMW, who has a concession store, will put these advertisements at the same time on La Centrale, on their website, and on the competitors… and I can only manage my website. When we have duplicate content on two of our websites, the mother website (La Centrale) is the priority and the primary website that carries the others. So, I centralize everything on the main website, and when an ad is live on one of our professional websites, I simply put a no-index or canonical to ensure that all the power of SEO goes to the main website. And then, on the editorial part, it’s unique since we don’t use AFP dispatches. They do very few dispatches on the car industry unless there is a scandal with Carlos Ghosn. But in any case, our journalists write unique quality content, and that’s why it’s the most referenced website in the automotive sector. 

Botify: 

By the way, subsidiary question: How do you monitor such a high-volume website? What is your SEO routine? 

Janate:

As anyone who manages a big website, I think that we all do the same thing; it’s a macro check! I start by looking at the practical side. I know my average traffic from the engines, so I go directly to AT Internet every day, where we have reports and great boards. On the other hand, every morning, I also look at the Search Console to see if I got a message; we know very well that the news from Google sometimes arrives with a delay. And another significant thing, I extract my logs every morning, and I think that the Botify team knows me well for that by now :laughs: I also look if I didn’t get warnings if my answers are going well in both directions have my 404s, etc. So, at this point, log tracking with Botify is essential for a high-volume website. Otherwise, I don’t know how I would do without it. 

Botify: 

Just to bounce back, I know you have had some great success on brand pages as well. Typically, I know you’ve been working a little bit on your brand pages on which you’re competing with the brands themselves.  You have good positions on the Volkswagen Golf 7, for example. Do you have any feedback on your success in being well positioned on complex queries? 

Janate:

My positions on these keywords change every day. On the same day, I can sometimes be ahead of the competitors in the morning and then lose positions in the late afternoon. But the answer is simple; I already have all the power of the La Centrale brand, I also have the editorial control, and then it’s a work of perfecting the keywords I choose. In any case, on classifieds, let’s not lie. There is a common core, a page where you have the same template.  We have control over highlighting the title, the meta, and the H1, so I choose a certain number of pages because I can’t do it on every website. 

On the other hand, on twenty or thirty pages of the website, it’s a close work where I rework the content as soon as possible. And finally, there is no miracle; there’s also a lot of work on backlinks. These pages also have a lot of popularity already. 

Botify: 

Yes, and you also explained to me that the advantage of being in a group is to have several websites so that you can manage this type of backlinks in a clever and “surgical” way even. 

Janate:

It’s the case. As soon as one of my journalists writes a paper on the BM group, and I manage to intercept it since we have a lot of automation, I always find a way to give them a little call when it’s not done automatically. That way, I still have time to put a link in the heart of the article that brings more power than a small link at the end of the article. 

Botify: 

We have another question from the audience: Do you see an impact of the 404 pages on the perceived quality of your website? (in other words, since you send signals to Google that it is a 404, Google could say the website is not necessarily excellent)

Janate:

Not at all; that’s not how I interpret things. On the contrary, it will manage to crawl more content that responds in 200. But we do not have any problems with quality. We are pretty happy. 

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