Web-host Selection: Sometimes You Have to Reevaluate Your Priorities

February 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Craig Criswell - Also by this author

Last month, I addressed my initial dealings with various automotive Web-hosting companies. My current dealership is using a provider I was grandfathered into, but in my estimation, it is only a middle-of-the-road offering. I am now ready to continue the quest for an upgraded Web presence. However, I have additional concerns and considerations that need to be addressed before selecting the right company to entrust my dealership’s online development.

My quest to find a Web-hosting and design company that could give my dealership a one-of-a-kind look was rather difficult. Upon reflection, I understand why. Most dealerships do not have someone with previous Web development or marketing experience like I have. There is a real need to keep the Web site template-based, so someone with very little programming knowledge can modify it. After all, aren’t dealerships in business to sell vehicles, not create premier Web sites? The purpose of the site is to make buying that next vehicle easier. It must attract and engage the ever-growing number of people doing research online for their next vehicle purchase.

Armed with that knowledge, I revisited the notes I had from conversations with previous Web-hosting companies and adjusted my priorities. If I wanted a totally unique presence, I would have to either build it myself, which is not going to happen, or hire someone with little true automotive experience (not a good idea). I have refocused my efforts on finding a company that:

  • can give me a little uniqueness 
  • can give me some ability to modify existing templates 
  • knows the idiosyncrasies of search engine optimization

What good is it to build a fantastic looking Web site if no one can find it? None whatsoever. The goal is to be found so you can engage the online buyer. The longer they are on your Web site, the better the chance you will get either an Internet lead you can work or a prospect who will either come into your dealership or pick up the phone. It’s been proven many times that the highest close rate for Internet buyers comes from your own site.

Some key questions you need to ask a potential, or current, Web-hosting company are:

  • What do you do in your coding of the Web site to enhance our site’s positioning? (e-mail me for a list of several items that should be on their list)
  • What research have you done in our local market area about the keywords that online buyers are using? Where did you get that information, and how will you incorporate it to drive more traffic to our dealership?
  • What are you doing about additional domain names that our competition may purchase with the idea of taking business away from us? If they do not know what you are talking about here, you have the wrong company!
  • How do you measure success? (What good is top positioning on keywords that few people use? You must be able to see the visits to your Web site grow, and with the right Web-host and site, they should spike upwards)

I have currently narrowed the search for our next Web-hosting provider down to two possible companies. By the next article, I will have made that determination for my dealership. I will not get rid of our current site, but instead build a second site. I want to see how the new site stacks up against our current site. Ultimately, it should result in more sales for the Internet department and measurable sales for the dealership as a whole.

Vol 5, Issue 2

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