5 Rules To Dealer Website Design

When choosing an auto dealer website provider, keep in mind you only have one chance to keep the internet visitor from clicking the exit button once they visit your site.

More than ever (92% of car shoppers use the internet before purchasing) your dealer website design represents your business and the face of your dealership!

For years, we have been told that when going to an interview you have 10 seconds to make a lasting first impression. There is no difference when designing your dealership website than making the first impression in an interview. You are making a first impression with the prospective car buyer who has searched the vehicles you are offering in your website design. The first impression can make the difference between getting a lead from that potential buyer or just a visitor to your website.

Rule #1.
Make sure the website provider has an unblockable and dealer editable home page pop up to show promotions and urgency for a sale or offer. Dealers should be able to turn on and off this promotion. Dealer e Process websites give the dealership full control of home page pop ups. The software is built in a way that it cannot be blocked by internet browsers.

Rule #2.
Make sure your dealer website design makes it easy for the visitor to find the navigation buttons. If a customer has to search for a navigation button to find information about the vehicles of interest or the navigation buttons are not working, the visitor may get frustrated and leave you website costing you a lead.

As a rule of thumb, your navigation buttons should be on the top of your web page because the majority of people read from top to bottom on the internet. It is also important to allow customers to find different ways to find inventory from the top to the bottom of the page. Having searches such as MPG,Payment,Fuel Efficient,Specials,Budget Row, etc are very important. Having just a vehicle search may not spark the imagination of a customer. HAVE MORE!

Rule #3.
When visitors are browsing your dealership site, have a clear indication for the visitor of where they are on your website and how to get to other pages.
You may want to put a link on each page that the visitor clicks to take them to the home page or another page relating to the information currently viewing. In other words do not confuse your visitor or your visitor may just click off the website totally.

Rule #4.
When choosing your website provider pay close attention to loading time, the time it takes your web pages to load. You can reduce loading time by reducing graphics on each page. A good website design should load under two seconds. Dealer e Process websites load extremely fast through the use of proper coding and zero flash.
The longer it takes the pages to load the more frustrating it can be to the visitor. People want it yesterday not today and definitely not tomorrow.

Rule #5.
Make sure your dealership website works in all internet browsers(Internet Explorer,Firefox,Safari). Too many times I have seem website providers that have designed websites that work in Internet Explorer 5 and 6, but not 7. I have seem some applications not work in Firefox at all. This is important as a broken lead form or chopped off vehicle pictures can turn customers away immediately. Dealer e Process websites are tested across all browsers as they are released.

SEO on Your Auto Dealership Website

I have spoken to many dealership GM’s, internet managers about marketing their dealership online and I am constantly asked “How do you get to #1 position on Google?” While this article is not specially about how to get your dealership to #1 status for various search terms – I will explain what the process is and what’s involved for you to succed.

As much as dealerships have used the internet in increasing numbers the last couple years, I am always surprised by how many GM’s and internet managers have no idea what SEO (search engine optimization) is about. Most people can tell you WHY they like to click on that first listing in the natural results (cause its at the top) but they don’t have the first clue HOW it got there to begin with. A funnier way to look at is the fact that the internet world is largely unregulated and still being figured out which basically means that everyone has their own “secret practice” and definitions of SEO.

I always tell dealers that their gut feeling of WHY they trust the first listing is because its the best result for the phrase they typed in. In layman’s terms, dealers seem to understand that. However most dealership personnel do not really understand why one dealer website would be better than another so here goes with a layman’s explanation.

What is SEO, in layman’s terms that is?
SEO is the process of configuring a website so that it has a chance to show up in a search result for a particular phrase as close to the first position as possible. In other words it is our way of telling Google, Yahoo, or MSN what we think our site is about and designing it in a way in a way it reads like a “table of contents”. Many of the search engines have a slightly different formula (algorithm’s for technical terms) for how they determine these results. But the short version is that they look at different factors and most importantly the constructions of each website page, rank them and then give those results to you. The whole idea is to have a “good search experience” for the person typing the phrase into the search engine.

So Why is SEO So Important?
Two words sum it up for me; competition & Free. There are as many as 20 billion web pages being indexed (listed on Google, Yahoo, MSN) at any given time. The major search engines do their best to go through these pages from dealer websites for example and catalog them so that they can tell you about it if you use their website to search. With so many dealership website pages out there competing for similar phrases (used cars in Chicago for example)it is absolutely critical to make sure you are using every tool at your disposal, make sure your dealer website is constructed correctly to make sure your customers can find you when they are looking.

So What Should I Be Doing for SEO On My Dealership Website?
The bad news is that doing SEO correctly for your dealership’s website is very complicated and time consuming and requires regular attention in order to maintain results. My advice unless you plan on purchasing a Dealer e Process website (We do it for you) is to ethically follow these easy guidelines for best long-term results:

Correct Dealer Website Structure; as easy as this sounds many dealerships would not even think to look at this. Every day we see dealership websites with heavy flash animation (Dealerskins websites for example), dated frame designs (Ebiz & Cobalt websites for example), pages that don’t work and broken links. The bottom line is; if you can’ as a consumer easily navigate a dealerships website without problems, chances are the search engines can’t either (technical terms “spider the website”). And if a search engine spider can’t crawl your dealer website you have absolutely no chance of showing up for a key phrase – no matter how “pretty the flash”.

Good Meta-Data; Most dealership GM’s & Internet Managers often draw a blank stare when I talk about the next this one. Meta-data is tech-speak for the page titles, page descriptions and keywords that you enter for each page. Each page on your dealership website should have a unique title and description that summarizes what that page is about. (Reynolds & Reynolds websites for example)

We often see 2 problems with meta-data. The first is that it is simply overlooked (The Netlab does this for example). I am shocked at how many sites have “Dealership name” as the page title for every page! A complete waste of online real estate.

The 2nd problem is “spamming the search engines”. Putting in a page title or description about the dealership website that does not accurately match what the page is about is considered “spamming” a search engine. Doing this on your dealership website will get your page thrown out of the index (thrown in the Google sandbox) and ruin any chance of showing up for a key phrase that you want a great listing for. Some dealer website providers do this to you and you have no clue.

Relevant Content; Dealer’s seem to understand that good content about vehicles (like custom comments on used and new cars) is really what customers are looking for when they search for a vehicle. By “relevant” we mean that the content is specific to the vehicle in question and recently updated. More and more we are seeing dealers websites that have regular updates or a dealership blog showing up higher in the search results than websites which have larger quantities of content on them. The reason being is the content is fresh!

My personal recommendation is to add well written (maybe add a Google blogger addition), grammatically correct content to your dealerships website on a regular basis. This ensures that, over time, your dealer website will become a “resource” to those looking for phrases related to the automobile business in relation to selling new and used cars, service and parts.

Link building; This is the least understood part of SEO. Search engines consider a link from another website (a relevant link) to your website as a “popularity vote”. Simply put, the more sites which link to yours, the more “votes” you have! The website with the “most votes” has a much better chance of getting a #1 ranking for a particular search term. Dealer e Process dealer built websites get free links to our network of “auto related” websites (7203 links that is)dramatically pushing you to the top of the search engines.

So there you go, SEO explained in layman’s terms. Like most things in life, it’s not really that hard but it requires discipline and focus which is where most people get sidetracked. If you would like help with SEO for your dealership website, or other internet related needs we would love to hear from you at Dealer e Process. There is nothing “internet related” that we don’t understand when it comes to dealership websites online.