Choosing a Dealership Web Site & Host: The Foundation of Your Internet Marketing Plan

March 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Craig Criswell - Also by this author

It is a proven fact in the automotive Internet marketplace that a dealership’s own Web site provides the highest closing percentages for Internet leads. Therefore, it is extremely crucial for a dealership to have the best Website possible. It should be one that provides a great impression, loads quickly, is error-free, allows easy access to changes, promotes the dealership’s uniqueness and can be located easily in the search engines. Does yours? If not, do you know how to find one that does?

When I took over as Internet director at O’Rielly Chevrolet in Tucson, Ariz., I was grandfathered into using the Web host already under contract and OEM-endorsed. As a Web site designer in a previous business I had the advantage of being able to spruce up what was a very mediocre Web presence. However since that contract was ending soon, I began researching for a new, more powerful Web site solution.

The two most important elements to strive for when getting your Web site to optimum performance are the uniqueness of the site and the groundwork established prior to building the site for search engine optimization (SEO). I contacted one company I  believed had a leg up on the competition on those two points.  After numerous requests to various people during the last several weeks, they have yet to respond.  I have crossed them off my list.  If their sales follow-up is this bad, what does that indicate about post-sale support? 

Looking deeper at our current Web site provider and wanting more options, I discovered they had a second site full of Web site templates I had never seen. These offered some distinct possibilities. If we could keep the same provider, it would be an easy switch since the data would port from one to the other seamlessly. Additionally, they were already doing an adequate job with our search engine placement. However, due to OEM restrictions, we were told those better templates were not available to us, and that ended any research into continuing with them.

On a positive note, I had worked with a company who provided some great tools for established Web sites in the past and discovered they also offered Web sites and hosting. They have a great understanding of the mechanics behind SEO; so good in fact, they faxed us a contract. However, when I looked closely at the offerings for Web site designs, all discussions changed. They only had one basic design and then numerous minor changes to that look, but all of their sites looked and felt the same—no uniqueness. Thus, no contract was signed with this provider.

Unexpectedly, I received an e-mail from a completely different company – an award-winning design firm who has some impressive sites. The variety of their offerings is great, but the search engine approach was not even close to what the previous company offered. It makes no sense to build an absolutely fantastic Web site if you can’t drive people to it. Frustration began to set in.

Where did that leave us? We had an average site that was doing better than most other dealerships, but it was not where we wanted it to be. The company with the great search engine optimization approach said they would be open to building a custom site for us if we can describe for them what we like and want. Those discussions are forthcoming and look to be promising. Watch our Web site ( for those developments.

If you are considering changing your dealership Web site and Web host, you must have conduct similar research. For the specific companies I researched send an e-mail to [email protected] and I will share my research with you. The company you host with and the Web site design you choose are the most important piece of your Internet plan. Don’t shortchange your future online business by accepting anything less than the best.

Vol 5, Issue 1

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