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Your dealer website can make or break your business. A majority of your sales begin with your website, and If your site was difficult to find, navigate, or didn’t provide a great user experience, that customer probably went elsewhere. The question comes up often; should you consistently revamp your existing site, or start out fresh? With rapidly evolving technology, entirely new frontiers coming into play, and tried and true SEO best practices, you cannot afford to ignore your online presence, especially your website.

Your site’s architecture will provide a good clue as to the proper path to take. If your site was created in .net/XML or similar flexible architecture, your options are much broader and you will be able to consistently update and modify your site to incorporate new technology, or add or remove content quickly. If your site is more than a few years old, and you are paying a developer on a regular basis to do major reworking of the site, you probably are ready to move to one of the infinitely more flexible website platforms. Site architecture will also have a great impact on SEO.

Does your site provide the ability to create URLs that are keyword rich? Can you tailor the URL to the content on the page? As they say, “the URL is king”, and if your site does not offer this ability, it’s time to look for a new site, because you are missing out. Utilizing a keyword rich URL can lead a customer directly to the content they are looking for, and that’s the objective of every web search.

An example of a keyword rich URL:

http://www.liquidmotors.com/Dealer-Inventory-Management/Mobile_Data_Collection.aspx

If you are a Lot Services Company seeking a new mobile data collection solution, you will land right where you want to be.

Setting up backlinks is a strategy that you don’t hear much about on the automotive best practices sites. A backlink is a link that is directed to your website from another website. The quality and quantity of backlinks is an indication of your site’s relevance and will result in higher ranking in search engine results pages. Google and other search engines relate the backlink to the content of the site to determine relevance, so linking up with other sites within the automotive space makes more sense than linking up with a frozen yogurt shop. Having your webmaster actively seek and set up backlinks with relevant sites will pay you back with more visitors.

Website best practices are some of the most discussed and debated online topics, and not just in the automotive space, but all industries. Being educated, obtaining information from multiple sources, or hiring a reputable website developer to manage these activities, is certainly a smart way to keep your site relevant and driving customers to content they are seeking. Get the foundation set and grow from there with a flexible website architecture and make a concerted effort to grow your backlink relationships now, not later will put you ahead of the curve. I welcome your feedback.

When it comes to marketing any event you need to make sure everyone at the dealership is promoting it as well as making sure you are utilizing all of your marketing outlets to the fullest. No event will ever be successful unless everyone is doing their part. The great thing about partnering with some of the charities I mentioned is that they will provide most of the marketing materials so all you have to do is promote the event. Don’t forget to talk to them about it when you are speaking with them! So call your website provider and have them create a banner to display on your home page. Create email campaigns to send out to your customer base letting them know about the event. If you have the ability to send out text campaigns do that as well..but don’t forget to keep the message short and sweet! Post signs at the dealership on the showroom floor and on the service drive and make sure everyone knows details about the event so they can tell everyone they talk to. Another idea is having your receptionist mention it when he/she answers the phone. Now that I have given you examples of events that you can host at your dealership, what are you waiting for?? Not only will you be helping out your community but also selling and servicing a few cars along the way.

I know there are 1000 blogs a day about websites and the best practices associated with them. This month I would like to focus on your website before you buy it! How do you shop for a site? What do you look for? What questions do you ask? This may sound easy but if we are truly honest here, not every Internet manager or general manager for that matter has a ton, or in a lot of cases any, experience with websites.

How do you know if you are asking the right questions when shopping for your new website? Some of the most common questions I hear in the very beginning are:

1. How much are they per month?
2. Can you do a specials page?
3. Do you have a section for parts and service?

I am not saying that these are bad questions to ask but if the first question you are asking a potential website company is how much they cost, you might be shopping “backwards”. If your new website brings you 4x more visitors and cost 15% more than your previous site, would that be a smart investment? Of course cost is a consideration but when you buy a car, don’t you make sure it has all of the features and fits your needs before you truly talk price?

Let me try to break this down into two separate categories for you, look and feel and site architecture. The look and feel is what most people talk about and focus on when shopping, building and maintaining their website. Without a doubt, this is important for conversion and a positive user experience but it is the second piece of the puzzle. The look and feel of your site is just like the graphics on a newspaper ad. If the ad itself is bad, the graphics won’t mean anything. The architecture or technology that powers the website is the first thing you need to evaluate in detail. Then and only then, if the company passes your evaluation, move on to the look and feel and part two.

Both of these sites below have virtually the same look and feel: the font, basic layout, special sections, inventory tabs etc. However, they are very different websites architecture-wise as both were built by two different companies with different philosophy and approach to websites.

website

website 2

By now I hope you are starting to think, so what should I ask and what do I look for when evaluating a potential website vendor? Here are 3 simple items to look for on a website when you are comparing.

1. Page Name
a. Look to see if the page name is detailed and does it change as you navigate the site. This is an important piece to your SEO efforts it identifies to search engines what your page is about and what is important to that page.
The page name is the top blue section and you will see the details of that page including location.

Example:

mouse over website

2. Mouse-over’s
a. A mouse-over, in the simplest terms, is built-in SEO. You can see when I hold my mouse over the New Honda InstaQuote picture or link a little window opens with detailed text. This text is searchable by search engines.

Honda

3. URL’s
a. As you navigate through a website, look at the page URL’s and see if they change. I refer to this as dynamic URL’s. You should ask if you have the ability to change these URL’s on the fly per vehicle. This gives you the ultimate in flexibility.
Look at the gray text in the URL

search

You will notice in this URL the terms used for SEO:

Certified 2006 Honda CRV 4WD EX Pleasantville NJ.

If this car had leather or navigation, you should be able to add those terms in the URL to increase your SEO and be more specific to consumers search terms.

I know I said 3 simple things but here is a bonus question you can ask.

4. Site map
a. Search a website the company has built for the site map and see how many pages are created on the site. The site map is important for the search engines to navigate and find information on your site.

TIP: Try to get a website URL that helps your website and marketing effort.

Example:

Dallasdodge.com

This URL has the city and brand which is highly searched by consumers.

Good luck with your next site and please feel free to leave your comments or questions.

What if I told you that it’s not all about the sales department? Gasp! I know it’s hard to believe since the main focus at any dealership tends to be selling cars but let’s not forget the other part of a dealership…the service department. So let’s now discuss events that will drive people into the service department but at the same time help out the community. Here in Dallas we the North Texas Food Bank. In every community there is probably something similar but you can contact them and they will provide you with collection boxes that you can put on the service drive and on the showroom floor. You can then send out a marketing campaign to all of you customers letting them know that you are partnering with the local food bank and for every 3 cans of food they bring in, when they come in for service, they will receive $5.00 off their oil change or maybe even offer a FREE oil change! On the sales side you can promote a “Stuff the Truck” campaign and park a truck on your showroom floor with the goal being of filling up the truck with canned goods! Check out this dealer that did a “Stuff the Truck” campaign for school supplies, a great alternative to canned food. The Salvation Army is another wonderful organization to partner with. Get in touch with your local chapter and sign up to sponsor an onsite Angel Tree. Again you can offer discounts on service and you can tie in the sales department by offering a discount on the purchase of a new or used vehicle when they sponsor a family. Now here in Dallas it doesn’t get too terribly cold but in some parts of the country temperatures can drop below 0…brr! So if you reside in those chilly parts of the United States think about hosting a coat drive. Same concept as the canned food drive but for coats. And let’s not forget about Toys for Tots another great organization. Did you know they also have Cars for Tots?? How great would you feel if your dealership was able to donate a vehicle to a family in need???

Hopefully these last few blogs have sparked some interest and has made you think about ways your dealership can help out the community this holiday season and maybe even year round. If you are planning on hosting any of these events or partnering with any of these charities make sure you get in touch with them immediately and set a date. The holidays sneak up on all of us and most of these charities stop collecting food, toys, coats etc. on a certain date so they have enough time to deliver the items to those receiving them. By starting early it will also give you enough time to send out email campaigns, notify the local TV stations, send text messages and direct mail campaigns letting your customers know about the event.

Google Instant is the latest enhancement Google has made to their search engine. There are a few visible changes with this enhancement with the most obvious being the real-time updated list of search results as you type.

If you go to Google.com and start typing a search term, you will quickly see this demonstrated. The returned results update quickly and this allows you to stop typing as soon as you see what you want.

Another visible change you will see as you type is that Google will ‘guess’ at the word and phrase you are going to type. The search engine best guess is displayed in gray in the search bar and additional results are displayed below. You have the ability to select any of these best guesses using the keyboard arrow keys and the displayed results will update accordingly.

Below is a Google video demonstrating their new search functionality:

Depending on your personal tastes, Google Instant can be a mix of fun to play with, visually stimulating, seizure inducing, or just a plain distraction. However, you must always keep in mind that your website must meet the needs of as many potential customers as possible. While your opinion matters, the opinions of countless potential customers (think revenue) are critical. With that in mind, how will your Google Instant affect your website?

To put it simply, Search Engine Optimization becomes even more important. Previously, when someone searched on Google, they had to type in their entire search phrase and then they would receive a single set of search results. Now, they are receiving many more potential results as they type. So your site needs to rank well on multiple key words in order to maximize your visibility.

It is important to keep in mind the algorithms Google uses to rank their search results are still in effect. So attempting to keyword spam will not benefit you any more than it did before. You need to have your site properly optimized with valid content, page urls, alt tags, and all the other critical pieces of SEO that were important before.

Google Instant may change the way some people search but websites designed and hosted by Liquid Motors are already optimized to take full advantage of these latest changes.

So now that I have you thinking “out of the box” let me give you some examples of events that your dealership can host! Did you know that you can call Carter Bloodcare or the American Red Cross, for example, and sign up to host a blood drive at your dealership? They will even provide you with all of the marketing material! Check out this dealer group that host’s blood drives on a quarterly basis. Or how about hosting a child safety event? Did you know that kids should be in a car seat or booster until they can be seated properly in a seatbelt? For most kids, this is around 8 years old or 4′ 9″ tall! Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website and type in your zip code for local inspection stations. Then get in contact with those places and ask them to participate in a car seat check at your dealership. You can offer free car seat inspections and they can enter to win a free car seat while they are there! You can partner a car seat check with a child fingerprinting station. Call your local police station and fire station and ask them to come out for the event and have them take pictures with the kids while they are there! If you are a GM dealer you might already be participating in something like this. In 1997 General Motors Foundation partnered with Safe Kids Buckle Up to help educate the importance of child passenger safety. For more information check out their website at http://www.safekids.org/. Check back next week for more examples of events that you can host and ideas on how to market the events.

It’s that time of year again…the leaves are changing, there is a chill in the air, windows are open in the house and Monday night football has begun! While most people are excited about this time of year it can also mean something else for car dealers in some areas….declining car sales. So what is your dealership doing to keep people coming through your doors, calling your phones and emailing in leads?? Yes, pulling out the old “tickler” file and calling people that said to check back with them in a few months, calling family members of customers that have purchased from you in hopes of getting a referral, or maybe even calling customers you sold 3-4 years ago to check in and let them know that you were thinking about them are things that have worked in the past. But what about trying something new and thinking outside of the box? Have you thought about doing something at the dealership that would invite people to come in for something other then a sale? What about inviting people to the dealership for a community event? What about sponsoring the local high school and providing cars for the homecoming parade, partnering with the local food bank and having a “stuff the truck” event or being a drop off location for the Salvation Army? These are all things that every dealer can do! This is part one of a series of blogs so check back next week for even more “out of the box” ideas!

Put simply traffic means nothing if it does not convert into business. You can driver traffic to your website all day long but if it is not converting into some sort of call to action whether it is a phone call, a request for more information, or a general inquiry on your website it is time to re-evaluate a few key points.

1. Focus on the Long Tail
a. While it would be nice to show up #1 on the major search engines for the keyword Honda (if you are a Honda dealer) you will more than likely get interest from a far wider range of searchers than if you were to focus your efforts on the longer tail of search engine marketing. By this we mean by focusing your efforts on more specific keywords or phrases which will more likely catch people further down the buying funnel than if you focus your efforts on a more generic set of key terms. If you seem to be getting a lot of traffic and little conversions it might be time to re-evaluate the keywords that you are focusing your efforts on.

2. Website issues and Conversions
a. This should need no explanation however I will touch on it because of its importance in ensuring higher conversion rates. If your website is extremely busy and hard to navigate you run the risk of people not being able to locate the information that they were visiting your website for in the first place. For example, if you are running a Google Ad Words campaign for a particular key term you should take the visitor that clicked on your advertisement to a landing page or page on your website that has the information that they are looking for. Why would you spend all of your time and money to get that person to your website only having them bail out due to the frustration of having to click on six different pages to get the information they want. Furthermore, poorly designed websites that look outdated or visually unappealing lack the stickiness factor needed to keep people on your website.

In sum think of your website as your virtual storefront…you would not want a bunch of construction going on in your dealerships lobby on a busy Saturday and the same goes for your website.

At Liquid Motors we have worked hard to incorporate into our custom designed dealer websites a platform that ensures a solid foundation for creating and maintaining a successful website. Our OptiSite auto dealer websites come equipped with a built in architecture to ensure that your site shows up on the first three pages of search results on major search engines. Furthermore, through advanced usability testing we fully understand the most optimal site layouts and navigational structure needed to keep potential customers on your website and increase the conversions coming from your online marketing campaigns.

For a FREE website evaluation give us a call at 1-877-LQD-MTRS (1-877-573-6877)

One of the useful features that you see on a lot of dealership’s websites these days is online chat. Online chat certainly is not a new idea, but you are seeing it more and more on websites. With all the text messaging, instant messaging, etc. that we all do, it’s great that you can use that way of communicating with someone as they are shopping online. An immediate response to someone’s inquiry can surely lead to more visits to the dealership. But, If you have online chat, you need to make sure you always have someone available to manage it. A lot of salesmen get excited when they initially get online chat, but the excitement fades and before long, no one is managing it. You should make sure you have at least one person designated to handle the chat leads. We did a study of 20 dealerships using online chat and only ONE of the 20 responded to our request within the first 30 seconds. And only TWO ever responded at all. If the average time someone spends on a site is 2 to 4 minutes then 30 seconds is a long time to keep someone waiting. Those stats are not good. This way of communicating is such an advantage, so make sure you manage it properly. To make sure your online chat is being handled promptly, be sure to secret shop it from time to time.

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