|Optimizing Dealer Websites (continued)
|1. Have a Consistent Process for Organizing Your Website's Content
It is easy to fall victim to the exciting presentations that automotive website sales professionals make, and then
to get caught up in the features and functionality of your new website. Stay focused on the concept that the
actual content (especially vehicle inventory), its accuracy and how often it is updated is what will attract
automotive consumers, keep them on your site longer, bring them back for another visit and convert them into
showroom traffic, phone calls and completed web forms. If you are getting a new website, or working on a
redesign with your supplier, get started by making a list of which pages will be designated as "Targeted
Landing Pages". These are the pages, other than the home or index page, that will be designed as entry
points into your website for both paid and organic search listings, as well as for special URL's to be used in
advertising campaigns. OK, now your probably thinking "geez Ralph, you told me to do that with microsites?"
and you are right, but just for right now, let's think about your new website, or redesign project as if you are
only allowed by the "International Dealer Website Gestapo" (can you say T-O-Y-O-T-A) to have just ONE
website... Or better yet, think about your primary website as the "Commercial Business Center" of your online
marketing efforts, forget about new models, special sales events and anything even remotely social or
relationship based... Focus on your primary eCommerce website as being simply the place that provides the
easiest way for people (who are ready) to spend money on buying cars, service, parts, warranties, financing,
etc. from your dealership (online). For everything else, we will use microsites of various types, including online
communities for social media marketing... So, for right now let's start by listing all the specific content you’ll
want highlight for search engine ranking and discovery by automotive consumers. By going through this listing
process first, you’ll be able to answer questions about content strategy, and it will help make your design
decisions a little easier. While making your "eCommerce Content Manifest" for your site (STOP with the social
crap for right now!), create content category buckets for grouping pages together in sections... Usually this is
done by department, such as "New Cars", "Used Cars", "Finance", "Service", "Parts" and so forth. But, this is
also an opportunity to get better aligned with the ways customers think... For example, in the Service category,
how about "Dropping Your Car Off" and "Picking Your Car Up" from Service? Or, how about something like
"Where's My Plates?" or "Get More Trade-In $" where you give customers a "Trade-In Value Appeal Request"
process and form that gets sent to the GM? C'mon, your supposed to be a Car Guy (I call both men and
women Car Guys), get creative and think about people who are ready to spend money and what topics, tools
and processes will get them to go "Yeah, that's what I want!". Also, when creating your content buckets, think
about using them for site navigation will allow customers to drill down into the daughter pages quickly.
|2. Go Texas On 'Em - Use Bold Fonts to Emphasize Key Words
By bolding the font for keywords in your site's content, you can emphasize certain text sections as users skim
through a page. Judicious use of bold font for important keywords also helps your SEO objectives by alerting
search engines that these are the words you consider important to the primary subject of your page's content.
Don't be an idiot about the bold font tactic... Avoid bolding too many words like some Used Car Managers use
exclamation points in their vehicle descriptions. THINK ABOUT THIS; every time you bold a word on a page,
you dilute the importance of all the other words that are in bold font until you are basically telling the search
engines that none of them are more important than the others!!! (like those exclamation marks?)
|SUPERIOR DEALER SOLUTIONSsm
|3. FLASH IS GOOD, FLASH IS GREAT, FLASH MAKES STUFF BIGGER!
Although Flash content is not as “SEO-friendly” as plain text, if I have to listen to another moron muttering
something along the lines of "Flash is all that is evil about dealership web sites and people who use it should
have their faces peeled off and their children sold into the sex slave trade..." I am going to submit their names
to my favorite Sarah Palin creation; "The Death Panel". Now listen up, and try to come out of that hypnosis
induced fog of stupidity that makes people in the car business think that Flash is in the same category as
Crack, Heroin and Child Molesters:
--------------- FLASH DOES NOT HARM SEARCH ENGINE RANKINGS ---------------
Now, stop shaking and close your mouth before the drool escapes... If you have led an isolated life and this is
the first place you have seen anybody say that Flash is NOT the destroyer of Search Engine Optimization
(SEO), it is understandable given the propaganda pushed forth by those selling websites to car dealers who
either don't know how to use Macromedia's billion dollar success story, don't want to pay for the software,
don't know how to modify Flash content as part of the SEO services they provide for exorbitant fees, or simply
see it as something gullible car dealers will believe that they can use to eliminate a competitor from
consideration. Please understand that you should properly segregate Flash placements, as well as other non-
text website content so that it does not block, interfere or in any way prevent your text based content from
being indexed by search engine spiders when they come to visit your site. But, YES it really is true (can you
hear angels singing?) Flash content that engages consumers and increases Visitor-to-KBA conversion rates
DOES NOT HAVE to be avoided at all costs if you want your dealership's website to show up higher in the
Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Many of the highest search engine ranked automotive websites use
Flash content, including dealerships and car companies... Here are a few examples from a variety of different
automotive web site suppliers:
|I could list plenty of examples, the point is that if anyone tells you that the use of Flash based content detracts
from a dealership website's SEO, they are quite simply WRONG! Keep in mind that Flash content, as is so
aptly explained by the people at TK Carsites, is created and used to engage consumers, drive conversions
and genrate both satisfaction with the dealers site and more return visitors... Flash is not used for SEO, that is
not what it was created for... The key to SEO success with when making use of Flash, application scripts
(payment calculators), images, videos, mapping tools, and most of anything that actually makes a dealer's
website a place people want to go OTHER THAN PLAIN TEXT, is to balance it out with well written, meaningful
and relevant text content. Yes, other than some of Google's "special" Flash indexing capabilities, it is the
written words that appear as text on your website pages that gets indexed by search engine robots (spiders),
and can be deciphered by browsers and various website crawlers that generate a wide range of lists and
indexes. The next time some idiot passing themselves off as somebody who knows something about
dealership website design and content says "oh-my-god... like, dontcha know that Flash is bad, flash is evil
and flash will make it so you can never sell another car again!!!" just nod your head politely and ask him (most
women are too smart to say something that stupid); "I've heard about the dangers of both Flash and
masturbation, but what would happen if the web designer used alt attributes to describe all the cool stuff in our
site like the Flash animations, video clips and our logos and other images using keywords that would inform
the search engines when their spiders crawled our site what all the content other than plain text was about?'
Trust me, it will be worth listening to the hemming, hawing and gibberish that comes out of the idiot's mouth.
Hey, if the only thing that mattered about a dealer's website content was what search engine spiders could
index, you would see dealer websites without any images, animation, video clips, logos, payment calculators,
mapping tools or used car pictures... Do you really want a website with nothing but plain text on every page? If
that were the case, the worst thing that could happen would be when people actually did find it using a search
engine! As soon as they saw page after page of words... blah, blah, blah and GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS!
|4. Do Not Use Content Duplication to Generate More Pages for Search Engine Indexing!
Let me confess right here and right now that I, along with a lot of other people, many of whom are a lot
smarter than me, fell into the same trap of thinking that more pages indexed by search engines must be
better... And, along with the "More is Better" insanity that many of us got caught up in regarding dealer
website content, came the pondering of "What can I do to increase the number of pages that search engine
spiders index when they crawl my dealer's website?". Of course, it doesn't take a genius to figure out where
every dealer has a mother lode of content... YES, the dealer's inventory!!!! (used car manager use of
exclamation marks is OK when I do it!) Yessssssssssssssss, we can be friggin' SEO geniuses! We'll generate
a seperate web page for every single damned new and used car in the dealer's inventory and make sure the
search engine spiders can find them... Oh my God, I am so f&^%ing BRILLIANT! Now, it gets worse... Yours
truly, yes me, has fallen for this "Fool's Gold" automotive digital marketing road to Hell not once, but twice in
my career... Both in my previous life at Reynolds and Reynolds (Reynolds Web Solutions) and in my current
life at ADP's Digital Marketing group... But, even your dog gets smarter over time, and so have I.
|Now, there is nothing that gets me more riled up than when the competition smacks down the morale of
salespeople on my team... When that happened to me in a dealership, I would do everything, including taking
stupid deals that would prove to my salespeople that we would not allow deals to be poached by Down The
Road Motors! So, right away, I thought back to the days when I worked with Stuart Lloyd and Ray Meyers after
Reynolds purchase Third Coast Media, and how those guys came up with what we called "SpiderMAZE".
Which was basically a dealer website technology that rendered separate web pages for each and every
vehicle in stock... Yes, that was it! So, me and about half a dozen other people started rallying the war cry
from within ADP... Several of our SEO gurus wrote "Development Requirements" and resources were poured
into the project to create a new dealer website inventory listing application that would render search engine
spider friendly dealer inventory detail pages. And, we were successful, and now we have dealer websites that
show up with that same "SITE:abcmotors.com" Google page counts that are off the charts... Only, ADP has
this really annoying habit of doing something called "Quality Assurance". And you know what? It turns out that
indexing 50 identical Chevy WorkTrucks with their own web pages for each one creates something that
Google and other search engines look at as "Duplicate Content". So what you say? More is better, right?
Duplicate or redundant content has never and will never be a good thing when it comes to SEO. Stay away
from providing duplicated, repeating or similar enough to be redundant content across multiple dealer website
pages. The Duplicate Content hammer comes down on a dealer's website when a search engine spider
indexes a web page, and there is text based content on the page that is considered contextually redundant to
other pages previous indexed... And, I learned the hard way that "But the VIN numbers are totally unique!" is
no defense for what looks like the same page content, vehicle after vehicle for every Chevy, Ford, Toyota,
Honda, Nissan you have in stock. Listen up all you chumps (like me and everyone else who fell for this trick),
when you create page after page of essentially the same content in a website, the content gets purged from
the search engine's indexing database... This might take a couple of hours, days, weeks or whatever, but at
some point in time Google determines that a website with page after page of overly similar content is loaded
with "Content Spam" and the site's quality score for consumer search results is reduced... A lot. Worse yet, if
Google's artificial intelligence equipped indexing computers determine that the content duplication has been
intentionally done to "fool" their system into raising the SERP position of the site, what many people call "Black
Hat" or "Gray Hat" SEP tactics, the website is punished by knocking it down in the SERP listings... By as much
as 30 positions! When it comes to artificially inflating your dealership website's page count by generating a lot
of pages that are essentially the same... Just don’t do it! And, if you have a website that already serves up
every vehicle in inventory, even if they are 90% the same, then use your site's Robot.txt files to block the
essentially redundant content from wasting the search engine spider's time and hurting your site's SEO.
Think of it this way, if there were any value to be gained by having more web pages, rather than less, and the
issues around duplicate and redundant inventory were not such a kick in the head, all the boys wonder out
there peddling web sites would take each owners manual out of every model that a dealer sells, and then
create a web page for every page in every owners manual, and voila... The SEO wars would be over! The fact
is that boring, repetitious and irrelevant content do not give you some sort of express ticker to SEO super
stardom... The search engines do not reward dealer websites for bullshit redundant and repetitious content
like creating a web page for every single vehicle that is in stock, or ever came through the dealer's DMS...
Think about that! You want a lot of web pages? More pages is better? Just go out and get one of these sites
that renders a separate web page for every unit in stock, and then set it up so that no sold inventory is ever
deleted... Yeah, that's the ticket! Hey, boss we got this SEO stuff all figured out... PLEASE, you are supposed
to be digital marketing professionals, did you every really think that a bunch of identical pages with a different
VIN number was really going to be what it takes to "Dominate the Search Engine Results? Because if you did,
how about we forget about selling you a dealership website, because i have a deal on a bridge that connects
Manhattan with Brooklyn, NY that is going to make you so much money you will forget how much I charged
you for it...
Many of the people reading this article will recognize the name of an ADM Professional Community member,
and who I also consider a friend, colleague and respected SEO professional by the name of Brian Pasch.
Brian wrote a complete and through analysis of inventory applications used in dealer websites from the major
providers, and in that same report Brian makes several statements regarding duplicated content, such as
inventory page titles. Here are a couple of Brian Pasch's comments regarding duplicated content generated
specifically by dealer inventory indexing:
"Take a Look at Your Indexed Pages
One of the most eye opening checkups an Internet Sales Manager can do is to list all the pages that Google
has Indexed on your website. For many dealers, this is hundreds of pages. The key is to scan through the
listing to see if you have dozens or hundreds of pages that have the SAME TITLE. If you do, take this as a
warning. Get the matter fixed immediately!"
Brian goes on to state:
"Google specifically warns in their guidelines that each page should have a UNIQUE page title"
Ahhhhh... See any duplicate Page Titles in the snapshot of the Google.com search "site:bradfrancischevy.
com" a few inches above? Now, before i get all the phone calls and nasty-gram emails from Mike Dececco,
Dean Evans and the other stakeholders over at Dealer.com, let me clarify a couple of things... First of all, I
genuinely consider Dealer.com to be a company that provides high quality dealer websites at competitive
prices. Secondly, the company I work for has made similar mistakes in regards to duplicated Page Titles,
redundant content due to indexing every vehicle inventory detail page, etc. Heck, I was in the same chorus
line as so many others at ADP and BZ Results that sang the "We Gotta Index Every Inventory Detail Page"
song... However, there are plenty of dealer website companies that commit far greater sins than overly
redundant Page Titles, but if I pick on Kobalt, they pull the strings they have attached to puppets in positions
of power in Detroit, and the next thing that happens is I am dodging bullets!
Besides, I like picking on Dealer.com about this now debunked "feature" of their dealer websites because I
always kind of sensed that there was a bullshit odor in the air about their claims related to showing dealers
how to "Dominate Google".... PLEASE, did anyone really believe that a dealer website company based in
Burlington, Vermont has discovered Kryptonite for use on Google's Superman search engine cape?
Not only that, but I know several of the people at Dealer.com and they are not only great people to work with,
they are strong enough to handle a little criticism based on their salespeople making exaggerated claims
related to their product features... Of course, this may be something most car dealers will have a hard time
Lastly, it wouldn't be fair for me to quote Brian Pasch from his Car Dealer Inventory Modules SEO Ratings
Report without citing his conclusions after evaluating 15 of the top dealership website providers... Here's what
"The only inventory platforms to get a perfect score were eBizAutos and DealerON. The Pasch Consulting
Group is not affiliated with any of the car dealer platform reviewed in this article. The Pasch ConsultingGroup
has not been compensated for this research by any car dealer or automotive dealer platform."
But, you are saying "waaaahhhhh... I want all my inventory indexed!". OK, quit stamping your feet and whining
like an investment banker who has a $500,000 cap on annual bonus payments because his bank took TARP
funds... Google makes it VERY easy to submit your entire inventory every single day to Google Base so that it
is always updated and available for consumers searching for what you have in stock... It's called Google
Base. OK, stop yawning... Otherwise, just get over it, there is simply no way to use duplicated and obviously
redundant content that has little unique value to the consumers using search engines, like listing every single
one of your inventory detail pages with its own web page to somehow get the upper hand in your digital
marketing strategy... Just try to remember this when being seduced by claims of "Yes, YOU too can dominate
Google doggy style like our other dealers by..." If you really want to use website content to your advantage,
start by writing lots of genuinely unique and interesting content that automotive consumers actually would like
to see and read... Doh. Wouldn't that be a lot easier then paying for Digital Snake Oil?
Sheesh, why not start building web pages for every part you have in stock, starting with the year, make and
model the part is for as the Page Title followed by the OEM part numbers.... OH NO, Here we go again!
|PART 1 of 2