When I’m speaking with dealers at seminars and conferences, they frequently ask me to critique their sites and tell them what they could do better. So I thought I’d put together a list of 10 best practices to keep in mind when you’re evaluating your website or looking for ways to increase online sales.
1. Make Sure Your Site Loads Quickly: This is becoming increasingly important for multiple reasons. Google uses site speed as a ranking factor for their search engine results. Google’s algorithm appears to penalize websites that load slowly, so websites that load quickly are more likely to have better natural search rankings.
Regardless of the search engine optimization (SEO) implications, websites that load slowly are more likely to have high bounce rates and lower conversion rates. Make sure big files like images, auto-play videos and sounds are used minimally and that your website provider builds fast-loading sites.
2. Focus on SEO: Make sure your website provider employs search engine optimization in everything it does. SEO should be one of the driving forces behind your site. Focus on the keywords that match what your customers are searching for and use those search terms in relevant content. Also, each vehicle should have its own page designed specifically to rank for inventory search terms. Make sure your website provider builds your site using a URL structure, title tags, and content to ensure you’re ranking as high as possible.
Forty percent of dealership website visitors prefer using their mobile device to their desktop computer. That number can only grow. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile visitors, you could be losing customers.
3. Know What You Can (And Can’t) Measure: Take a look at the reporting offered by your website provider to determine what you can track. You need to be able to measure visits, visitors, and leads by traffic source (direct traffic, nonpaid search traffic, paid search traffic). Being able to measure these stats allows you to track key metrics like leads per day, conversion rate and ROI. Knowing those numbers will allow you to measure the effectiveness of your marketing resources.
As you become more sophisticated, you can start to test and optimize changes to your website or your online marketing mix. Over time, you can optimize your site and your marketing spend to meet your dealership’s online goals — be they for leads, sales or profit. But this is only possible if your website provider offers that functionality.
4. Get Google Analytics: No matter how sophisticated your website provider’s reporting platform is, having Google Analytics on your website is a no-brainer. Remember President Reagan’s advice to “trust, but verify” when it comes to your website provider’s analytics. Compare them to Google Analytics numbers. It is not reasonable to expect them to match exactly, because your provider may use filters and rules that aren’t precisely the same as Google’s. But they should be fairly close and they should trend in the same direction.
You should also augment your provider’s data with Google Analytics reporting in case you switch providers at some point. You need a complete history of your website’s performance from an unbiased third party. Also, Google Analytics is a flexible platform that allows you to create reports and track key metrics that your website provider may not provide.
5. Calls to action offer actual benefits: Don’t force website visitors to scroll down to find the most important information. Make sure you have links to the most popular pages, such as “New and Used Inventory,” “Contact Us” and “Specials” visible when the page loads. Your phone numbers should be in large, bold font. And they should be located in a prominent place so customers don’t have to scour your site to contact your team.
Any calls to action should be above the fold. You don’t want to miss out on leads because your customers can’t find the form at the precise moment they want to submit their contact information, credit application or price request. There’s no easier way to increase your website’s conversion rate than to move all your lead forms above the fold.
6. Simplify Your Lead Forms: Another way to get more website visitors to submit their information is to make your website’s lead forms easy to use. Don’t require information that isn’t absolutely necessary for you to do your job and follow up with each customer.
Every field you require a consumer to complete lowers your lead volume to a degree, so make sure that you need and are actually going to use every piece of information you require in your lead forms. Avoid reversed type or large graphics. Research has shown that consumers typically overlook these types of text and information.
7. Add Compelling Calls to Action: Your website visitors aren’t just going to fill out a lead form because you put one on the page. Consumers submit their lead information to get something in return. Make your calls to action actual benefits. Examples would be: “Get Your Financing” or “Schedule a Test Drive.” Put more than one call to action on each page, when appropriate, and ensure there is at least one above the fold.
8. Have Relevant Content: Visitors getting to your site via a search engine or paid ad use a keyword that lets you know what they are looking for. Website visitors coming from a link on another site also have an idea of the information they will find upon arrival. When someone visits your website from a search engine, make sure they are landing on a page that reflects the search terms used. Make it a point to check where your referral traffic is coming from. Is this traffic being sent to a page that reflects what those visitors are expecting to find?
9. Optimized for Mobile Visitors: According to the Google Analytics installed on each DealerOn website, traffic to dealership sites is roughly 60 percent desktop, 30 percent mobile and 10 percent tablet. According to a study conducted by Nielsen, xAd and Telmetrics, roughly half of mobile automotive searchers were looking to make a purchase within a day of their search.
Also, 44 percent of online shoppers are looking for your dealership location, 43 percent are comparing prices and 36 percent are looking for a phone number. If your website isn’t optimized for the 40 percent of your traffic that is seeing your site on a mobile device, you’re missing out on the opportunity to convert that traffic.
10. Make Sure Your Content is Current: Your dealership website is a virtual representation of your store, and the content should reflect that. It is extremely important to have things like specials, inventory, staff, and contact information up to date on your site. Specials, vehicle photos and a fantastic, complete staff page are all building blocks of a great website. However, out-of-date specials, missing photos, and blank staff pages are worse than having nothing — they make your dealership look bad.
Customers aren’t going to notice a special that you never created, but they will notice one that’s been expired for four months. Having outdated information will upset customers and could expose your dealership to financial risks like having to honor specials that are no longer running.