“We're still in the first minutes of the first day of the internet revolution.”—Scott Cook, founder of Intuit.
Summer is here and dealerships across the country are abuzz from warm days and the sales they bring. The last few years have brought a lot of change to the auto dealership industry, but some things, like the sizzle of summer sales, are still the same. Change, however, has become the norm in other aspects of the auto industry, and no area has seen more of it in the last decade than marketing—social media, SEO and SEM, mobile marketing, and online video, just to name a few.
Websites have evolved too, and continue to be central to auto dealership internet marketing. No longer static advertisements for a dealership, today's auto dealership websites need to do more than just list inventory if you want to connect with modern consumers. Today's consumers have changed how they buy cars; they research their purchases extensively online, both the vehicle and the dealership, and you need to make sure you're a resource in that search.
Websites are still central to your internet marketing efforts, but the online landscape has changed and you need make sure your website changes with it. Dealerships are different and so are the customers they serve, so what works for one dealership may not work well for another, but in this article we will go over some of the aspects of website and internet marketing that dealerships should consider using. Take a look and visit www.dealermarketing.com for more tips and best practices for your internet marketing.
Search Engine Optimization
The first thing that every dealership website needs is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). On one level this can be a complicated topic; Google and the other search engines are constantly updating their search algorithms and rankings techniques to give searchers the information they’re looking for and avoid programming tricks that rank websites higher than they should otherwise be. SEO, however, doesn’t need to be complicated. At the basic level, SEO just means making your website rich with useful information and easy for the search engines to interpret. So if you fill your website with optimized relevant content, you won’t need to worry about what Google is doing with their algorithm this week.
Content Is Still King
Content is still king on the web and no matter how they change the formula, relevant information that is easy to find will always make your website rank higher on the search engines. Content can mean a lot of things: articles, blogs, pictures, vehicle listings, and video, are all examples of “content.” What content you place on your website should be determined by your personality and your dealership, but there are a few guidelines that apply, no matter what your content is.
Be original. No matter how the search algorithms change, original content on your website will always help you rank higher on the search page. Don’t limit yourself to one type of content either. Some customers want to see a videos, some want to read reviews and articles, and others want to see pictures and they should all be able to do that on your website. No matter what content you post, however, be sure to fill out the meta tags and give each content item a unique summary.
A blog is a great way to create original content for you website. Your blog should be a place where consumers can get to know your dealership and what you’re all about—not a place to show off your inventory. You have a homepage and inventory listing page for that.
Your blog should let consumers get to know you as people. Stay away from controversy (politics and religion e.g.), but don’t be afraid to tell them about yourselves. Has someone at your dealership just gotten married? Put some wedding pictures up. Is there a new baby that’s just arrived? Put a video of him playing with some car keys.
Your blog is a great place to let consumers know about your community involvement, too. If you sponsor a little league team, ask the coach to add weekly updates on scores, where their next game will be, and a recap of last weekend’s game to your blog. It will help promote his team and your dealership. If you’re having a charity event this weekend, put a video of yourself and the charity you’re sponsoring on your blog and encourage your readers to contribute. This kind of original content will not only help you rank higher in search, but it will help to humanize you to your dealership to consumers. The more of your “non-car dealer” side that consumers see, the more comfortable they will be with you when they are ready to buy a vehicle. It’s hard to think of someone you’ve seen tutoring handicapped high-school students as your typical car dealer.
Original content is important, but there is still a place for interesting articles, videos, reviews, etc. that you find on the web. If you’re repurposing content from other places on the web, however, the search engine spiders will find this and rank you lower on the search rankings if you don’t properly optimize it for search. This does not mean that you shouldn’t point your website browsers to articles and videos that consumers might find useful or interesting. A page with appropriate information and links to reviews and articles about your make’s newest model, for example, would be very relevant to your website browsers. What you need to do is put your own stamp on that content. Writing your own commentary for videos you republish, creating original summaries of articles you link to, and adding captions to photos are just three examples of how to make the information you republish more relevant to the search engines. Don’t plagiarize and always give proper attribution, but let your browsers know you’re the one steering them towards helpful information.
Your blog also needs to be updated regularly. Both consumers and search rankings appreciate regularly updated content. If you don’t have time to write a blog yourself, find an employee or two who do. I’ll bet if you ask around you have a few employees with interesting personal blogs. Why not ask them to take the skills they’ve gained writing their own blog and put them to use on your website?
Consumers are reviewing and talking about your dealership online. It doesn’t matter if you’re involved or not, it’s already happening, so you should make sure those reviews are helping to grow your business and not sending sales to the dealership up the street.
One of the easiest ways to get more positive reviews is to ask for them. Print up some cards with your dealership information and some links where customers can review your dealership and simply ask them to tell others about their experience. Don’t tell them how to rank you. If they’re happy they’ll give you a good review anyway, if they’re not happy, consumers might take it the wrong way and give you an even worse review.
Negative reviews are going to happen, even if you don’t deserve them, and those reviews can be extremely unfair. You need to resist the urge to fight back, however. It doesn’t matter how right you are, commenting on a negative customer review to explain why the customer is wrong doesn’t improve the situation or the review.
A better strategy is to contact the reviewer, ideally in the public comment section where others can see it, and try to resolve the situation. Don’t try to resolve everything in the comment section. Simply add a comment that says something like, “We’re sorry you had a problem with____. Our customers are very important to us and we want to make sure they’re happy. Please contact us at 800-333-4444 or email [email protected] and we will do our best to help resolve the problem.” Oftentimes problems can be resolved easily with a phone call or email and a quick trip back to the dealership.
Once the issue is resolved, ask the customer to edit their review to reflect the fact that your resolved their complaint. Five start reviews are great, but the best reviews are ones that start out at one star and are changed to five after the dealership has resolved the issue. These kind of improved reviews show consumers that you care about customers after the sale.
Of course some customers will never be satisfied, no matter what you do, but consumers understand that and if they see that you’ve made a good faith effort to resolve the issue, most consumers will forgive a few bad marks. Some people just like to complain and consumers know that too.
Positive reviews are more fun and much easier to take advantage of than poor reviews. Make sure that your website links to your positive reviews and encourage your sales people to show them to your customers. You want as many people to see your positive reviews as possible. And don’t forget to thank your reviewers for their positive reviews. It shows you appreciate your customers and it’s an easy way to build good will online.
Your Online Dealership
There is a lot more to internet marketing than can be written in one article. Whole books have been written on the subject, but in such a rapidly evolving climate, there will always be more information and ideas that can help dealers take full advantage of their website. At the core, however, the website is your online dealership and if you spend the time to make sure it’s a place consumers want to visit, the same way you do with your physical dealership, you’re on the right track to succeed on the internet.
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