Research & Analysis

How Google’s Website Ranks Website Vendors for Average SEO, Accessibility, and Best Practice Scores

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How Do You Measure Up? We’ve now written three articles on how Google views our industry for speed and performance. We touched on Page Speed, Speed Index, SEO scores for OEMs (vs Independents) and vendor vs vendor . Next, we looked at Google’s accessibility and best practices score for OEMS. In this article, we will wrap up this four-part series with an analysis of how Google ranks website vendors for average SEO, Accessibility, and Best Practice scores. Remember, our data source is quite large pulling from over 35,000 dealer websites. No joke. Average SEO Score As everyone knows, technical SEO is a very important requirement for good website design. If your technical SEO is poor, then your site will behave like a one-legged man running a marathon.   The average SEO score for all vendors was 86%. Overall, this is pretty good and a sign that most vendors are getting their technical SEO right. This is in sharp contrast to our mobile Page Speed analysis where the performance was dismal. But let’s look at the data… What does this bar graph tell us?  The most obvious thing we see is that Sincro Digital has work to do and YourCarLot is doing slightly better than most.   Average Accessibility Score What is Accessibility and why is it important? Google’s Accessibility audit/score is rooted in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a civil rights law that “prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.” What does that mean for web providers? Simply put, websites need to be designed in such a way that they can be easy to “read” whether by adjusting sizes, maintaining strong contrasts, and/or by allowing digital readers to “read” the website out loud for someone with a severe visual impairment. Google’s Accessibility Score weighs the average of a number of accessibility audits to create the score that you see. These scores are important because if you have a low score, you are not serving your customers well AND you are possibly exposing your dealership to a lawsuit by an enterprising lawyer or two. Enough with that. On with the data: By and large, these results are good, but as you can see some providers, such as Naked Lime and Dealer.com average below 75%. Realistically, the average should be higher and technical and design adjustments to the website can improve performance. I would recommend that any provider who is below at least 85% should seek to improve their positioning. Otherwise, they are risking causing trouble for their dealers. That said, kudos to those website vendors 90% and above such as AutoFunds, Jazel, LotWizard , ProMax , SOKAL , V12 , Team Velocity , eBizAutos and SurgeMetrix . Average Best Practices Score Your Best Practices score is based on an audit of common web development mistakes, some of which serve as the root cause of scoring deductions for other scores such as those above.   A poor score here is very avoidable so the overall vendor average of 75% is something to decry and not celebrate. Realistically, you should score over 90%, but like I said above, 85% or higher is a good start. Here’s some data-driven eye candy since a “picture”, or in this case graph, is worth 1,000 words. As you can see from the data, most website vendors hover around the 75% mark with some, such as CarBase, Dealer eProcess, Dealer.com, DealerFire, DealerInspire, FusionZone, Motorcar Marketing, Naked Lime, and PixelMotion all scoring in the 60s.   Sadly, there are only two website vendors above 85%: V12Software at 88% and SurgeMetrix at 91%. The Final Word While Brian Pasch drives conversation around GA4 standards for the dealer community, we need to have the same standards discussion for website vendors as I suggested in my last article . Some standards are pretty obvious. For example, since we know that bounce rates increase dramatically the slower a website loads, we should set our speed standards according to user behavior. 3 seconds is a good goal for mobile sites although 4 is fine to start. In the case of the stats above, it is not hard to reach 90% for a performance goal for all three measures. We can do better.   If anyone wants to discuss the data we collected, have opinions and suggestions for standards, or want their site (and even their competitor’s sites) evaluated, then contact me via email or 954.507.6468. Until then, use this data to push for better performance. You deserve it. 
How Google’s Website Ranking Factors Rank Website Vendors Part One

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How do you measure up? PART ONE In our previous two articles, we wrote about how Google uses its software to assess a website’s performance, from page speed and technical SEO, to download rates and accessibility compliance. The first article looked at page speed, your speed index score, and SEO rating, while the second article reviewed Google’s accessibility and best practices score. The focus of those two articles was on how OEM websites performed relative to each other and Independents.  The topic of this article will be to review how website vendors perform relative to each other, as seen through the eyes of Google. Our data source was over 35,000 dealer websites. Google’s Speed Index Score Google’s Speed Index Score is based on the average time it takes for visible parts of the page to be displayed. For this study, we only looked at mobile devices since around 80% of car shoppers shop by mobile device, while over 90% of Hispanic shoppers shop the same way.   Let’s look at the data… As an industry, we can do better than this. I’ve identified two critical cut off points - at 5 seconds and at 10. Ideally, mobile load times should be 3-4 seconds at most. Any time longer, and you start to suffer an increasing volume of drop-offs.   I have chosen the 5 second mark just to be practical, recognizing that some OEMs require a lot of time consuming add-ons and features that guzzle load time. But even with this said, it is hard to justify the speeds we see here. I imagine some providers might not like this article and will argue that our data is faulty or should be ignored. That’s fine, they can take that argument up with Google. These are Google’s numbers after all. We need Standards Brian Pasch , a well known automotive veteran, has quite wisely launched an initiative to have the automotive community come together on some GA4 standards in the hopes of crafting common and usable standards for the industry. Based on these numbers, we would do well to apply the same thought process to automotive website performance to ensure that we deliver highly usable, fast, and Google complaint websites to our dealer customers.   To do this, we would have to identify what’s slowing down the sites (think third party code), what metric we’ll use to gauge success (think Google since it’s the 8,253 ton Gorilla in the room), and ensure that all vendors play by the same rules. Otherwise, we’ll continue to get results like you see below for Google’s sister metric to Speed Index, that is, their Google PageSpeed Score. Not good. The Final Word Like I said in my previous two articles, you can’t bury your head and try to ignore Google’s ranking factors. You have to learn how to work with them to maximize the performance of your customer’s website. Google can’t be ignored, but it does serve as a neutral metric for evaluating website performance. If your provider is listed here, see where they rank relative to their competitors and contact me for a deeper analysis, or just use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to do your evaluation. Speed counts, and your website should be as fast as possible on your customers’ mobile and desktop devices. Otherwise, you risk losing potential customers who don’t want to sit around waiting for your website to load. Part 2 of this vendor review will follow in a couple of weeks… Stay tuned.
Exploring Influential and Impactful Automotive Advertising Campaigns (Part Two)

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Disruption for the Modern Age in Automotive Advertising Campaigns From 2001 on, the auto industry took a new approach for disruptive marketing that aligned with a world that was rapidly changing and evolving. Disruptive marketing is all about standing out from the crowd. In today’s loud, digital, tech-savvy world, businesses are desperately trying to sell you something from every angle, in every space, and on every platform, making it hard to connect with an audience that is already overwhelmed and oversaturated with content and advertising.  Since the technology boom in the 2000s, disruptive marketers are the ones who have been able to cut through the noise and find success – more so than any other time in history, particularly in the auto industry, where competition is fierce, and customers are bombarded with advertising on a daily basis.  Today, disruptive marketing practices are more important than ever. From turning conventional showrooms upside down to selling cars online, disruptive marketers have been shaking up the status quo and driving sales by appealing to customers' sense of adventure and modern technology.  Automotive Marketing in a Post 9/11 World The automotive industry was one of the first to be impacted by the events of September 11th. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, GM launched the 'Keep America Rolling' campaign. The objective was to encourage people to buy GM cars to help support the economy. The campaign was highly successful and is credited with helping GM weather the economic downturn. Keep America Rolling was a massive success, with GM sales increasing by 20% in the months following the campaign's launch. It was a perfect example of how a well-executed, disruptive marketing campaign can help a company weather an economic crisis. Cashing In on Clunkers Disruptive marketing is all about making a splash and getting people to take notice. It's about thinking outside the box and coming up with creative ways to get people's attention, and with a looming car shortage in the 2000s inspired one of the most memorable campaigns in auto industry history. Launched in 2009, the program offered consumers a cash rebate for trading in their old cars for new, more fuel-efficient models. The results were dramatic. In just six weeks, the program boosted auto sales by nearly 30%. More importantly, it changed the way people thought about car buying. Suddenly, fuel economy was a top priority for consumers, and automakers were scrambling to keep up. The Cash for Clunkers campaign was a true game-changer for the auto industry, and it's a perfect example of the power of disruptive marketing. Automotive Advertising that Electrified the Industry The Model S was a breakthrough vehicle for Tesla. It was the first all-electric car that had a range of over 200 miles. This made it a viable option for long-distance travel and helped to change people's perceptions of electric vehicles. Tesla's marketing campaigns have been highly influential in driving sales and generating buzz for the company. The beauty of this is that the campaigns were not made by Tesla itself, but rather by someone in the audience. Someone who believes wholeheartedly in the brand, so much so that they felt compelled to create their own version of an advertisement; a creation which has had over 375k views, completely unsolicited by the brand itself: Gallons of Light. Capturing the Power of Black Friday  Taking a cue from major retailers throughout the United States, car dealerships began embracing the “retail frenzy” model known as Black Friday.  Black Friday has been widely embraced as one of the most effective pieces of disruptive marketing in history.  Held on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the Black Friday campaign is widely marked as the official start of the holiday shopping season.  While Black Friday has traditionally been a retail event for big box stores or smaller shopping experiences, the automotive industry began pivoting their marketing dollars in recent years to entice consumers to purchase a car. “Marketing convinced public that that “Black Friday” is a great shopping day to get a jump on the holiday shopping season. This provided a very effective “disruption” of the norm – staying home and watching football with the family,” said Kirk Oleson, President of Graham Oleson .  Marketing While the World Stood Still The unprecedented circumstances of 2020 forever changed the face of industry, commerce, and advertising. Positioned against the backdrop of a catastrophic global pandemic, automotive marketing teams scurried to find a new, impactful advertising approach when most were sheltered in place. As car dealerships remained empty due to social distancing and health concerns, television ads began shifting their tone and approach to connect with car buyers. "While this TV ad campaign wasn't the first to promote buying a car from home, it was launched at the very beginning of COVID and was very successful," said Tony Roland, Automotive Account Executive at Spectrum Reach . "Car buyers weren't going to dealerships at the time. Many people aren't comfortable making such a big purchase without seeing it, touching it, and talking directly to a person." As demonstrated in a commercial that showcased a local car dealer, Joe Maus CDJR, this approach assured the consumer that the process could be both simple and non-threatening. "At a time when many other local dealers were talking about the measures they were taking in their stores to make them clean and safe, this alternative resonated with TV viewers throughout the market," said Roland. Modern Challenges for a New Era in Car Shopping The way consumers behave has changed dramatically in recent years, and businesses have had to adapt their strategies accordingly. One of the most significant changes has been the shift away from weekend shopping. In the past, businesses focused their marketing efforts on getting potential customers to add their products to their shopping list by Friday. In the auto industry, weekends were traditionally when dealerships offered their best deals. However, with more and more people shopping during the week, dealerships have had to adjust their strategies. As a result, the way businesses operate has changed dramatically in recent years, and companies must continue to adapt their strategies to keep up with the changing consumer landscape. Beyond the new challenges of modern shopping patterns, the media landscape has more fragmented than ever before, creating a more saturated environment to connect with audiences. With the rise of digital media, there are more ways for consumers to get their information. This has led to a disruptive marketing environment, where companies must fight for attention. One way that car companies are achieving this is by using cross demographic targeting, allowing advertisers to reach a wider audience with their message. In the auto industry, for example, companies are targeting young adults with social media campaigns. This is because they know that this demographic is more likely to be interested in new car models. By using cross demographic targeting, companies can reach a larger audience and increase their sales, such as the 2022 Acura “Your Turn” campaign with Vince Staples during the NBA Finals.  According to Torrance Hampton, Creative Director and Executive Producer for GFACTOR FILMS , “The disruptive nature of the campaign originates with Vince himself, and you can see his direct influence over the campaign visuals: the artistic 360 freeze frames, jump-cut car performance shots and kinetic camera movements all while showcasing multicultural millennials experiencing the new Acura Integra. It's not about the car, it's about the lifestyle.” Reimagining Disruptive Automotive Marketing in the 21st Century There have been many other disruptive automotive marketing campaigns in the past century. The automotive industry is constantly changing, and so is the marketing landscape. What worked in the past may not be effective today, and what's popular now may be out of style in a few months. To stay ahead of the curve, automotive marketing teams will need to continuously find new, innovative, and disruptive ways to capture the consumer's heart, imagination, and loyalty. If you missed Part One of this series, click here . 
Exploring Influential and Impactful Automotive Advertising Campaigns

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A look at the past, present and future of disruptive marketing in the auto industry Advertising has come a long way since its humble beginnings. There's no doubt about it – marketing remains an ever-changing landscape: What worked a few years ago may not be effective today, and what's popular now may be out of style in a few months. Nowhere is this more relevant than in the automotive industry, where new campaigns hold the potential to make or break a company. This article will explore some disruptive and impactful automotive marketing campaigns throughout the past century. We'll explore what made them successful and see how they changed the marketing landscape forever. Early Automotive Marketing that Set the Stage One of the earliest and most well-known automotive advertising campaigns was Ford's "Model T" campaign, successfully running from 1908 to 1927. The ads featured simple text and images that showed off the car's features and proved highly effective in launching the modern American motoring age. The Model T was a revolutionary car that changed the way people thought about transportation. Ford ran a full-page advertisement in the Saturday Evening Post in October 1908. The ad appealed to middle-income families with a bold headline, "Four-Cylinder, Twenty Horse Power, Five Passenger Touring Car" at just $850.00. The campaign was so successful that it helped make Ford one of the world's biggest and most successful automakers. Innovation and Imagination Throughout the Decades As time passed, new approaches to memorable and impactful marketing took shape, from General Motors' "See the USA in Your Chevrolet" campaign to Volkswagen's iconic "Think Small" approach. As the years continued, other approaches to disruptive automotive advertising blossomed. In the 1980s, we saw the first truly disruptive automotive marketing campaigns start to take shape. Automotive marketing teams needed to find new, innovative, and disruptive ways to capture the consumer's heart, imagination, and loyalty. Saab ran an ad that featured a Saab car driving behind a jet with powerful slow-motion visuals and portrayed a lifestyle admirable to many. The tagline for the campaign was "Nothing on Earth comes close." Focused on the luxury and speed of the vehicle, the ad connected with an audience eager to experience a lifestyle they aspired to. This groundbreaking ad found tremendous success and launched the career of its director, who went on to direct the highly successful movie  TOP GUN . These early automotive campaigns were disruptive because they could reach a broad audience and promote their products in a very different way from what had been done before. They set the stage for automotive marketing campaigns that would come later and continue to be disruptive. Toyota Breaks into the US Market In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Toyota was relatively unknown in the United States. They had a small market share and were not considered a significant player in the automotive industry. However, that all began to change in the 1980s. "In 1989, Toyota broke into the US market with the Lexus LS 400, a design icon at the time, and shook up the automotive industry with the vehicle and this commercial. The ad was so innovative, Nissan and Dodge copied it. In this commercial from 1989, The LS 400 is featured here at an equivalent of 145 miles per hour with 100 glasses of champagne featured on top without shattering. Toyota/Lexus was and still is a disruptor with every model they create," said Melanie Borden, Managing Member at Melanie Borden, LLC . The mesmerizing Wine Glass commercial shot the Lexus LS into the stratosphere, becoming one of the most talked-about marketing campaigns of the year. Captivating the Audience Once Line at a Time Transitioning from big, bold headlines and visually stunning commercials cleverly designed to capture the attention of their target market, the next big disruptor in the automotive marketing industry took and more direct, singular approach. According to Dane Scott, President of Windstar Studios Inc ., the simplicity of words scrolling across a screen boosted sales for dealerships on a global scale. "In my forty years of creating Tier 3 and Tier 2 automotive commercials, one, in particular, stands out: The Scroll. Words simply scrolling up the screen." "The style gives it the appearance of breaking news, so you pay attention and almost have to read it. Dealers loved it, and it was effective, easy to produce, and affordable. I don't recall how many of these we made, but it was easily in the hundreds. From a personal perspective, the Super Bowl commercial that grabbed my attention the most was KIA's Robo Dog. Like many, I am teetering on the edge of going electric. Robo gave the commercial emotion and something to connect to. Plugging the dog into the EV to bring it back to life made the car a hero." Moving Into the New Age As the auto industry continues to evolve, disruptive marketing practices are becoming increasingly important and technologically advanced. As the auto industry has become more crowded and competitive, disruptive marketing practices have had to shift with technology booms, changing social- political beliefs, and a marketing landscape that has become entirely saturated. In the second part of this series, we will explore disruptive marketing in the auto industry throughout the past two decades, and learn how some companies have effectively broken through the noise to capture attention and find success.  
How Google’s Website Ranking Factors Rank OEM Websites (vs Independents) Part Two

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How Do You Measure Up?  PART 2 In Part 1 of this two-part series on website ranking factors, we discussed Page Speed, Page Index, and Technical SEO scores. We look at the results of our AntiguRecon tool which surveyed over 35,000 dealer websites using Google’s algorithm to drive its calculations. We found that independent dealer websites tend to be faster than franchise websites and that we have some work to do if we want to improve our industry’s performance overall. In this article, we look at dealership website Accessibility and website design Best Practices scores. Let’s have some fun… Average Accessibility Score What is Accessibility and why is it relevant? In the past I’ve written about this topic in detail, but for here let’s just say that your website should be designed so that it can be “read” by people who have limited sight, or are sight impaired in full. In the latter case, a screen reader needs to be able to “read” the page in an understandable way. All of this is required because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990 and lawsuits have been on the rise for non-compliant websites. All that said, there is good news in that while there is room for improvement, the ratings are not as horrible as the page speed and index ranking factors. If we look at the graph below, Independents over-perform OEMs again with an average score of 83.4 to an OEM rating of 73.9 . Mazda got the lowest average rating at 67.1 , while the highest score went to Bentley at 87.1 . Average Best Practices Score The final score in Google’s Lighthouse algorithm gets into the best practices that are employed in the creation of a dealer website. This score tracks common mistakes made by web developers. Google’s algorithm weights elements based on risks they might pose, among other things. Google itself states that this quality score is a “helpful diagnostic tool, not a key performance indicator”. Nevertheless, a low score tells you that you should talk with your provider to see what might be improved to improve performance. Often you will find that some of the best practice issues have to do with optimizing file use which in many cases can improve speed. So how did our intrepid OEMs and Independents do? Let’s look at the table below. Bentley, following its previous trend, is the top performing OEM, while Hyundai has work to do at 57.8 . That ranking definitely says that there is room for improvement on their websites. Further research could tell us why those sites score so low, but we’ll leave that for another article. Finally, Independents outpaced OEMs at 76.7 . The Final Word - Part 2 What all this data tells us is that there is a lot of room for improvement in how we construct dealer websites. OEMs and their website providers would do well to look at the data and think seriously about how they can reduce the impact, or volume, of third party code on their websites.   This is a bigger conversation than what you might think. In my view, many dealer websites have become cluttered and clogged with distractions that slow down the site’s load time and lose sight of the purpose of the website, that is, to generate leads and business for the dealership. With mobile by far outstripping any other tool that is used to view a website, it would behoove us to have websites that really are designed with a mobile first mentality and a commitment to speed.   I can only hope for change, but in the meantime we’ll keep collecting the data and releasing it to spur conversation and improvement. Should anyone want to discuss this article, or the tool we used to collect the data, you can reach me here .
How Google’s Website Ranking Factors Rank OEM Websites (vs Independents)

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How Do You Measure Up?  PART 1 Google measures everything, from your website’s Page Speed Score, to your SEO or Best Practices Score. Why? Because from Google’s point of view, all of your website data feeds their algorithm’s ability to rank you relative to your competitors.   Since understanding and manipulating data is the key to success online, it would serve you well to know important ranking factors that Google uses to rank you.   Let’s look at Google’s website ranking factors, and what each means: Page Speed Score - Refers to how quickly a user is able to see and interact with content on your website. Speed Index Score - Is based on the average time it takes for visible parts of the page to be displayed.  SEO Score - A calculation of the user-facing and technical aspects of a website. Accessibility Score - A technical review, or accessibility audit , of how well users can access content and navigate a website. Best Practices Score - Based on an audit that checks common web development mistakes. How We Rank Dealer Websites We wrote a tool called SurgeRecon that we use to measure individual dealers against their competitors for a whole range of KPIs (besides just Google ranking factors), but since I don’t know you or your dealership, we’re going to have fun and rank OEMs against each other (since our tool can do that too). If, after reading this, you want an evaluation, contact me here or call me at 954.507.6468. Average Page Speed Score A page speed score refers to how quickly a user can see and interact with content. There is a lot that goes into this calculation, but that explanation is close enough for simplicity’s sake. As you may guess, mobile site speed is a LOT more important than desktop speed ,since most people browse by phone. Over 80% of average car shoppers typically use their phones, while those in the Hispanic community are typically above 90%.   A couple of weeks ago, we ran a SurgeRecon mobile site speed report for over 35,000 dealers and then divided the list based on OEM franchises vs Independents. Remember: These are Google’s numbers, not ours. The results are not good, to put it mildly..   Looking at the table below, you can see that GM had the worst speed score at 15.6 while Independents walked away with the best score.  Admittedly, this list does not include all OEMs since we took the liberty to remove those OEMs who had a very small footprint. That said, when you look at the results, you see some winners and losers (with Bentley as the top performing OEM and GM with the lowest score).   It’s not all bad news though. The average OEM speed has improved since a year ago. Last year, the average site speed for OEM sites was around 13.   Average Speed Score: Franchises vs Indies It’s interesting to note that Independent dealers are the fastest of the bunch. The average speed for OEMs is 25 , while the speed for Independents is twice as good at 51.3 ! What’s causing this difference? Why is Google’s algorithm seeing Independent sites as loading twice as fast on mobile devices? If we had the time, we would have run a third party review to see all the stuff that is probably clogging up site speed, but since we’ve run such reports before, we can say that third party code is usually the cause of speed issues along with other load speed clogging items such as sliders. We’ve also seen that Independents don’t use as many third party tools (particularly OEM-mandated tracking and analytics tools), thus have improved performance. The bigger question is what can be done to minimize third party tools on sites, especially when we know that the more you have, the slower the load speed. But I’ll leave that to another discussion in the future. Average Speed Index Score Google’s Speed Index Score measures how fast the contents of a page are visually displayed. Based on data from Google, as page load time goes from 1 second to 6 seconds, the probability of a bounce increases over 100%. Jump to 10 seconds, and you’re looking at 123%. I wrote a whole article about this a few years ago with David Kane and Tom Kline, and the data is as relevant today as it was then. Look at the graph below, we can see that OEM mobile websites take about twice as long to load as Independent sites. Not good. Despite the poor performance, however, there is good news in that load times have improved since we wrote our article 2 years ago. The average speed index at that time was over 13 seconds. There’s hope… Average Technical SEO Score All in all, the average technical SEO score is quite good for both groups. For Independents, the average score was 87.4 , while for OEMs, the average score was 85.4 .   Who was highest and who was lowest? Volvo happily pulled a score of 96.1 . That’s quite respectable. BMW, on the other hand, scored an 82.1 .   It is not hard to find out what might be undermining your SEO score. Usually, you’ll find a myriad of small adjustments which can correct any performance issues. You can probably get this information from your provider, or if you read the next paragraph, you’ll find out what you can do on your own. 😉 The Final Word - Part 1 You can’t ignore Google no matter how much you might want to do so. Google plays an outsized role in our world so we must work within their rules as well as the rules of simple reality, especially when it comes to device performance for our websites. The data above shows us some website performance winners and losers, but it should also give us hope because we can identify what is hurting load times (for PageSpeed and Index Scores) and SEO performance. We have that data and you can too if you use simple Google tools such as PageSpeed Insights (or contact us for help). With all that said, there is more to the story.  Look forward to it here: Part 2 will be out next week!