Optimize Your Website Search for Increased F&I Visibility

A 2014 McKinsey & Company study revealed that almost 90% of customers shopping for vehicles use dealer or OEM websites in the early stages of their decision-making journey. With the endless amount of information available to consumers online, how can your website stand out above your competition?

The answer is simple: Optimize your website search and utilize the following easy tips to make your online marketing rise above the crowd.

Be mobile-friendly

First and foremost, be certain that your website is mobile-friendly. While this may not sound like a search optimization tactic, mobile is an important component of search. 60SecondMarketer.com reports that approximately 4 billion people on Earth own mobile phones—nearly 60% of the Earth’s population. Also, there are five times as many cell phones in the world as PC computers, per ImpigoMobile.

Having a mobile-friendly, responsive design ensures that your website provides an optimal viewing experience, easy reading, and smooth navigation on a wide range of devices. Besides mobile-friendliness aiding ease of use for consumers, this past April, Google launched algorithm changes that give better positioning in searches to businesses with mobile-optimized websites, and penalizes those that don’t.

Test your website’s mobile readiness by using tools such as the Mobile-Friendly Test and Mobile Usability Report in Google Webmaster Tools reports. Because Google is the most widely used search engine, it is likely to be beneficial to incorporate the company’s recommendations to ensure your visibility to consumers online.

Utilize local search

Next, make sure your physical address is listed on your site, and take advantage of local search as a tactic for search engine optimization (SEO). To do this, you can create free, easy-to-set-up pages using Google Places business listings and Bing Places for Business (formerly Bing Business Portal).

These pages can increase your local search performance, and often result in your site being shown at the top of rankings for users searching in your location.

Focus on finance

Finally, although you must take care of your vehicle display pages, focus on your site’s finance page. Put yourself in the shoes of consumers when they are on their vehicle-purchasing experience.

When consumers begin their research online, they may begin with a search such as “auto financing in Detroit, MI.” It is essential to use the right keywords to ensure your site is visible, and to have useful information when consumers arrive there.

Be prepared to give them helpful information to assist in their buying processes, such as explanations about leasing versus financing, details on different types of financing and options, loan calculators, and credit estimators. Most importantly, now that you’ve got them on your finance page, it’s time to engage them with an online credit application tool.

Offer online credit applications

Online credit application tools can further bolster your search rankings because they add to the content Google looks at to assess your commitment to auto financing. Once consumers are on your credit application page, they are able to to initiate the first step and provides you with solid leads.

Your online credit app should also be mobile-friendly, easy to use, and provide visible, trusted security to make the consumer feel safe. Online leads should have a central repository, which will streamline your workflow and funnel leads into the next steps of the selling and contracting process.

Establishing internal processes for follow-up when online leads comes in is necessary. Lead-notification tools are available within credit application systems. These tools will send out emails to notify specified users that a lead has come in online. To prevent delays in follow-up, notify a dedicated group of employees in case one is out of the office that day.

Know your sources and track referrals

SEO is not a one-and-done effort. It takes ongoing attention. Knowing the sources that are feeding leads to your website will help you better understand where to focus your resources, including advertising dollars. Looking at your referral traffic in Google Analytics is a simple way to find out these sources.

In addition, online credit application tools often have metrics reports that show your website’s referring domains, allowing you to pinpoint the sites that are directing the most traffic to you. They also allow you to see how many people started versus completed the credit application, unique users, and the amount of time users spent on the site.

Drilling down in these reports to consumers who use your online credit app shows where particularly interested buyers are coming from. Tracking site search and referrals can hold valuable information about your website and the searchers that use it.

Just remember to make it easy for potential customers to find you. Give them the information they are looking for when they arrive on your site, and engage them in the early stages of the buying process. They are committed, strong leads. Knowing what consumers are searching for and where they are coming from will help you funnel them into your sales team to complete the sale.

Todd Mason is chief product and marketing officer (CPMO) for RouteOne (www.routeone.com), a joint venture created by Ally Financial, Ford Motor Credit, TD Auto Finance, and Toyota Financial Services. He is responsible for managing product conception, development, and strategy, as well as implementation of all marketing-related strategy and tactics for RouteOne.

Todd Mason


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