Auto dealership websites, for a variety of reasons, are notorious for using third-party-installed plug-ins in an attempt to grab your attention and quickly gather contact information. In the competitive automotive retail market, capturing customer information online has become a vital lead source for dealerships.
Despite the value of this information, dealerships should be aware that these types of pop-ups likely diminish the visitor experience, especially on mobile devices. As a result, Google is now warning that if you don’t remove them, your site will almost certainly be penalized.
According to the Google Webmaster Central Blog on August 23, 2016:
“Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller. To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”
In other words, your site’s ranking will likely be lower if anything detracts from users’ ability to immediately access the content they hope to discover when clicking on a link from a search results page.
Why this matters
Dealer websites are infamous for these types of implementations. It’s not uncommon to see one or more of these usual suspects:
- Pop-ups displaying an offer or coupon
- Live chat invitations
- New tabs or windows automatically launched with various lead forms, such as trade-appraisal calculators and credit applications
Most of these website elements, however, do not come installed on a dealership website out of the box. Instead, third-party plug-ins and lead providers use these interstitials in an attempt to inflate their engagement and conversion metrics.
Understandably, third-party vendors want to also deliver value to their dealership clientele. To accomplish this, they must show that potential car buyers are interacting with their website utilities.
How do you ensure a website widget will be noticed? Simple: Make your call to action scream “click me and all your wildest dreams will come true!” to every visitor.
This translates into blinking buttons, overlays that slide across the screen, pop-ups, pop-unders, and colors, logos, and styles that stand out from the rest of the website.
Pop-ups affect more than page rank
At the point where a dealership installs several third-party plug-ins (which is extremely common), its website becomes a winking, blinking monstrosity—the digital version of a person’s first walk down the Las Vegas Strip at night, a confusing stimulus overload of blinking lights and invitations.
The layering of these third-party utilities often serves to diminish the quality of the user experience and potentially hurt a website’s ability to achieve a high ranking in search results. It also almost always increases the load time of any page that has the utilities installed. Page speed is, itself, a ranking signal.
There are hundreds of ranking signals that Google and other search engines use to determine how a page or site will rank. Best practices (and Google) have made it obvious that even if you aren’t already shooting yourself in the foot by diminishing user experience with intrusive plug-ins, you’ll certainly reduce the amount of users coming to your website by failing to optimize your site for them.
What dealer marketers should do
My intent here is not to berate any technology provider that offers plug-in utilities for dealership websites—many third-party vendors serve dealerships with integrity and provide value to both their clients and car buyers.
Rather, my hope is that we—both the dealerships and technology vendors supporting the automotive industry—stay prudent in the digital landscape.
It’s too easy for car buyers to dismiss dealership websites as cluttered, confusing, or slow. It’s no wonder why customers, when considering the consolidated juggernaut of vehicle retail sites, choose to add a superfluous middleman to their car-buying experience.
Don’t contribute to this dealership stigma. Instead, work on the forefront of website best practices and help to redefine the general perception of automotive retail websites. Get rid of these plug-ins before Google and your customers penalize you.
Eric Giroux joined DealerFire as an account manager in 2012 and was promoted to product manager when DealerSocket acquired DealerFire in early 2015. Giroux helps dealerships drive profitability across all aspects of their businesses with the development of DealerFire’s new website platform, as well as CrossFire, a data-integration solution for connecting the various products under the DealerSocket umbrella.