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.

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