Google Analytics is a beast. Within it, you can access all the data about your website that you could ever need. Unfortunately, since it is so jam-packed with great data, it can be hard to even know where to begin. I consistently meet with car dealers who aren’t sure what reports they should be looking at and what data they should be gleaned from those reports. Today I will walk you through two reports that everyone should be looking at, from first-time analytics users to the most advanced.

I’ll also give you a few data points to watch on each report, along with some standard goals to aim for! Just these two reports give you an excellent starting point to understanding what is happening on your website. 

These two reports provide valuable information about the behavior of your site visitors and what channels are driving good and bad behavior. When you can identify this, it is easier to fix what is wrong and boost what is right.

 

The two reports are Audience Overview and Channels. 

 

  1. Audience Overview Report

 

When you first log in to Google Analytics, it might seem confusing. My advice for beginners? Ignore the home page (it aggregates data from a variety of reports and isn’t a bad thing to look at, but today we are looking at some specific reports to get specific data). Look at the left-hand side of the menu. One of the options you will see is customers who are currently on your website. This is real-time data on what customers are doing at that moment. However, it is such a small sample set that you should ignore that as well. The larger the data set, the more you can learn from it, and the 10 people that are on your site at this exact moment is a tiny data set. Instead, skip down to “Audience” then to “Overview.”  

This will show your audience (user) activity for the entire site during a given date range. I suggest setting the date range to 1 month (top right). As covered in my last blog (LINK), you want to look at data sets of a minimum of two weeks. Generally speaking, a month of data should be enough for you to make educated decisions. Here are the specific data points I suggest you look at on this report:

 

a) Users

This tells you the number of devices that were on your site during the given date range. This gives you a general idea as to how many people were on your site during the given date range, but keep in mind that a single user could come to your website from multiple devices, and each would be counted as a user. Regardless, this is the most accurate data you have today in analytics as far as the number of users. So, the question is, how many users should you be getting? Roughly 10% of a market is shopping for a car at any given time, but it is entirely unrealistic to think that you will capture that entire market. It is much more reasonable to shoot for somewhere between 1%-3% of your PMA’s population on your site monthly. The goal you set should be realistic. Consider what percentage market share your store owns in your market and set your goal, but 1%-3% of your PMA population is a solid number to set as a goal.

 

b) Sessions & Sessions per User

Next, take a look at sessions. This is how many times your users came to your site during the selected date range. Now look at number of sessions per user. Let’s say your website has 10,000 users, with a combined total of 20,000 sessions. That averages 2 sessions per user. This tells you how many times, on average, your users came to your site during the selected date range. You want sessions per user to be as high as possible because it means people are returning to your site. It’s difficult to set an optimum goal for this metric, but you really want to shoot for anything above 1. Again, the higher, the better, but some of the top sites I see range from 1.5-2.0.  

 

c) Pageviews & Pages/Session

The next metric to look at is pageviews. This tells you how many total pages our users viewed onsite during the selected date range. Now, look at pages/session. This tells you how many pages your users looked at during an average session in the given date range. This is another metric that should to be as high as possible. The more pages your users are looking at, the better. A reasonable goal for this metric is 4 pages/session and above. In general, this means that a user has been to your homepage, SRP, and a couple of VDP’s.

 

d) Average Session Duration

The average session duration shows how long visitors stay on your website. The longer they are on your website, the more engaging it is to them and, most likely, the lower in the buying funnel they are. You should aim for a 4-5-minute time-on-site for average session duration. If this number is too small, visitors are coming to your website and finding irrelevant information or are not able to find what they want.

 

e) Bounce Rate

Bounce Rate is the final statistic you should look at on your Audience Overview Report. Bounce rate is the percentage of your website traffic that visits, then leaves, without engaging with your site in any way. We should be shooting for a goal of 35%-40% in this category. You may say, well, that seems high, and you want it to be lower. Just keep in mind that bounce rate is natural and will always happen. In fact, sometimes, it makes sense. Perhaps someone googled an event you were hosting at your dealership and clicked through to a page specifically about that event. It would make sense for them to then leave the site without engaging in any way. They got the information that they came for, and then they left. You also don’t want this number to be too low. Anything around 10% is too low and could indicate a setup problem in Google Analytics or Tag Manager.   

The Audience Overview Report gives you an excellent basic overview of website performance and goals you should set, as seen in the example below:

When you look at the numbers, you will probably find your dealership is not hitting every one of them. So, in addition to the Audience Overview Report, you need to know what is driving the numbers, both good and bad. For that, you need the Channels Report.

 

 

2) Channels Report

 

Scroll down on the left side menu and click on “Acquisition,” “All Traffic,” and then “Channels.” This report is where you will identify which channels (i.e., PPC, social media, organic search) are meeting the goals that you have set, and which are falling short.  Here is an example of the Channel Report:

This report breaks down traffic by referrer, which is just where did my traffic come from? Across the top of the report you will see the metrics that you looked at in the audience overview report. This report is the exact same report that you just looked at, except broken down by channel. The channels are lifted down the left-hand side of the report.

The goals that you set for the audience overview report still apply for the most part. I would advise speaking with your provider if you see any channels where you are not meeting the goals that you have set and discuss why they feel you aren’t at the goal you have set. Remember, certain channels will have very different results than others. For example, PPC tends to have a slightly higher bounce rate than most other channels, and display often has bounce rates as high as 90%. Because of this variation, the goals set above are a great guiding line. Still, you will need to discuss with your provider, or someone very familiar with automotive web traffic behavior to determine if there is a cause for concern in a given channel.

The final thing to note in this report is the goal completion metric. This is a metric that is not on the audience overview report. Ask your website provider to track form fills for this metric. You will then be able to see which specific channels are driving most of your website leads! You can actually track almost anything as a goal, but this is a pretty standard one for automotive websites and is a great way to help see what value your various advertising campaigns are delivering.

In summary, while Google Analytics provides a treasure trove of information that you can use, these two reports and key metrics can help you discover how to quickly and easily improve your website performance without being a digital marketing genius.  If you can isolate what is performing well, you can up your spend in that area and further improve results. And, if you can also identify underperforming channels, you can improve their performance or significantly reduce or eliminate spends on those channels.  I have been using Google Analytics for years, and these are still the first two things I look at on any site I advise on and are great reports for Google Analytics beginners and experts alike.  

 

“Back to the Future” is a fantastic film franchise. I’m just going to put my bias for it right out there from the get-go. I’m not sure about you, but I am particularly fond of 1980s science fiction movies. The 1985 classic was visionary, and the sequel where they go 30 years into the future is shockingly accurate with its technology predictions. It predicted things like wearable tech, delivery drones, video calling, and I would even argue it’s relevant enough in 2019 to have predicted ironically cool 1990s fashions making a comeback! (Bruh, you see Marty’s rad hologram hat, and Nike Mag kicks! Dude’s been on fleek for like, 35 years). I basically used Google to translate Millennial for that sentence.

So ok, we get it, but what does this have to do with automobile retailing and digital marketing in 2019? I use this film as an example to highlight how, in numerous ways, retailing automobiles is stuck in 1985 and not 2015. I’m not here to lecture this unoriginal and tired criticism of the industry that is not even true. Yet, another industry I brought up in my first post (link) has been accused of it as well, Real Estate. However, in my opinion, that industry has seemingly embraced the “future” better than we (auto industry dealers) have. Allow me some contextual examples:

Buying a home and buying a car have so much in common. I’m frankly shocked the big auto groups don’t sell houses, and Century 21 doesn’t sell SUVs. They are both without a doubt, the two most significant purchases that the vast majority of people will ever buy. They both cannot be purchased in 1-click, despite the incessant Silicon Valley prognosticators insisting they “should” be or “could” be in the future. They both involve financing frequently; they both have limited inventory relevant only to geo constraints of the potential buyer. Even shopping for the two is nearly identical. The user experience of Realtor.com is not radically different than that of a major auto dealer’s site, down to the filtering, display pages, photos/videos, etc. However, after you find what you’re looking for, that is where the two differ.

I have recently gone through the process of buying cars, homes, and financing for those items, and I can tell you the two could not be more different. The following were the three most significant differences I noticed between buying real estate and buying a car.

Less Paperwork
There is much less “paper” in the paperwork. Let me explain. In the past, buying a home involved milling a couple of California redwoods worth of paper to go through the necessary disclosures, agreements, and signature pages. As comedian Jim Gaffigan eloquently put it, why does it take 500 pages of paper to convey to you that I will owe you money for the rest of my life!” Joking aside, the industry picked up on this and began utilizing technology and software like DocuSign to take this process electronic, saving trees, saving time, and the need for me to be physically present at every signing. It makes the process so much faster and easier. The closing of my most recent home took the same amount of time as the last car I bought off a used car lot, for cash! Let that soak in for a second. It was basically signing a check and a title. The excuses for a 3-hour trip to finalize your car purchases run thin considering a real estate transaction can be much more complicated.

Financing
Financing has come a long way, and the experience is changing radically. Innovative products such as Rocket Mortgage from Quicken are taking the process of applying for credit from a tense sit down with a suit in a fancy bank building to something as simple and non-threatening as filling out essential questions from your smartphone. This, too, is coupled with the DocuSign from above even if you go the traditional, non-smartphone route. Decisions are made quickly, and again, the consumer does not have to sit and wait at the realtor’s office while banks compete for your loan, as they do currently in a dealership. They do it on their time, and most likely from home. Starting to see the trend here?

No Video Tour
Speaking only to my personal experience of several homes and dozens of cars I’ve shopped the past few years, I have only ever once received a video tour of a vehicle I was interested in. Once! As a consultant, process specialist, and digital marketer, I have been preaching this for the last decade since smartphones made this process essentially seamless. That same salesperson will check Instagram 20 times and create five snapchats to their friends, but can’t send a 30-second walkaround of a car? Yet, when I was shopping for a home in a different state and was unable to be present for every showing I would have liked, I got several personalized 30 MINUTE plus Facetime walkthroughs, drone video property overviews, personalized high-resolution photos that were not just the inventory photos. And I received customized digital inventory sent directly to me each week that matched my exact search criteria. Welcome to the 21st century, and buying a home is 2015, not 1985 (keeping up with the Back to the Future theme).

So, what’s my point? Auto dealers I have talked to often bemoan the time, costs, effort, and investment they have to deal with in order to incorporate these items, always claiming the ROI is not there. I could not disagree more. Real estate has picked up on the fact that the consumer wants to complete their buying decision before they even step foot in a house or apartment. The final visit should be final, or at least down to 1 or 2. Having quality photos, videos, and information sells homes, ask any good realtor.

Similarly, a dealer investing in a 360-degree turntable studio on their property will sell more cars. A dealer spending time and money doing drone videos of their amazing property and how easy it is to get to will get people to show up. A custom video walkthrough of their clean and professional service departments will put independents to shame. Sending customers customized lists of inventory matching desired attributes will keep them engaged with you and not the next dealer in the aggregator list. This is NOT Rocket Science. Its Real Estate.

We don’t have to look to Amazon, Apple, or Google to think of ways to innovate our technology; we can look to real estate’s transformation. Last I checked, there is no iHouse on iLand you can buy in a click, or a Google apartment ready for rent. It’s true, on Amazon, you can purchase prefabricated modular micro-housing with a couple of clicks, but you still can’t buy the land to put it on or have electrical or plumbing with it, so good luck with that. Buying a house will always be in the realm of people helping people, and so will buying a car.

Can your dealership start implementing things like electronic documentation, quick click financing, personalized video conferencing, and the highest quality inventory imaging? If so, I think we can begin to break the stigma of being stuck in the past and get our industry to the future.

Now, who can get me in touch with a dealer that has a clean, low mileage, DeLorean?

Stategies - Fusionzone automotive
In my last blog, I shared a few design tips I have seen drive website conversion rates as high as 10%. In this blog, I would like to move onto the next step and share advice about how to recognize and measure if your website changes are, in fact, effective.

Many dealerships regularly make (or request) changes to their website to increase conversion or optimize website traffic. However, it can be a frustrating process to know what is working or not. Below are four simple tips that can help you establish how to effectively track and measure if changes to your website are making a difference.

1. Set the right KPIs– To effectively track changes, you must know the key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure. This will vary by the type of dealership and individual goals, but will often be conversion rate, bounce rate, traffic growth, etc.

Some dealerships use discounted pricing found behind lead forms. In that case, conversion would be an essential thing to measure. One-price and transparent pricing dealers will probably be most interested in traffic growth, bounce rate, SEO results, etc. All of this can be tracked in Google Analytics. Discuss your KPIs with your website provider and ensure they are setting proper goals in your analytics account so that you can easily track these KPIs.

Often, dealerships grasp in the dark at various changes. Setting realistic and correct KPIs will eliminate this. What changes do we want to make? What is the goal of these changes? What are the KPIs that will track the effectiveness of these changes?

Look at the KPI for each specific change. If you are changing the lead process, establish your goal and KPI tracking for this particular change. If you are changing the lead structure, the likely KPI is conversion rate. If you are changing the SEO strategy, you will likely want to look at YOY traffic growth, bounce rate changes, specific keyword rankings, etc.

2. Discuss changes with your Website Provider–Discuss with the performance manager at your website provider what they expect to happen with any changes. Will it increase conversion rate, the amount of traffic to the site, or percentage of market on site? What is it your provider expects to see from that change? Setting and tracking KPIs should be a collaborative effort with your website provider. Keep in mind that vendors have likely seen any specific change hundreds or even thousands of times. They have a pretty good idea of how effective it will be based on your specific geographic area and the results they have seen from other dealers making the same change.

So, discuss what they feel would be the right KPIs for you to track. Often, dealers think that a particular change will have a considerable impact on a KPI, perhaps driving more leads or more traffic to the site. Your provider should know if the goal is realistic or not. Discuss it with them. Again, your website should be a collaborative process. Your provider should know the effects that specific changes will have and what realistic goals look like for each of those changes. If they don’t? Find a new provider. As a dealer, you should be an expert on selling cars. Your website provider should be an expert on how to achieve the realistic goals you want to achieve for your website.

3. Make the Changes – Now that you’ve figured out what your goals are, and have
discussed with your website provider if the proposed changes will help you meet those goals, the next step is to make the changes. But if there is one point I would like you to take away from this blog, it is that you cannot make mass changes and expect to track any KPI. That is probably the most critical point in this entire process. If you change 15 items at a time, it is difficult to know which change affected which KPI in which way. Many dealers will look through their website and say, “We don’t like these following 30 things and want them all changed.” That is fine, just don’t expect to know if any of those changes had any real impact, or which ones had the effect you were shooting for.

Limit changes to a few at a time and then track those changes over a set period. Establish what your goal is and see if those few changes make a difference. Narrow down those changes and revisit with your website provider after 1-2 months and discuss the results. If those changes don’t improve the KPIs that you want, then move on to your next change.

4. Don’t Freak Out! – Many dealers make changes to their websites and are alarmed when they don’t see an immediate impact. Frequently, I see dealers request a change and then become frustrated when nothing changes in a day or two. Give changes time to work so you can see if they are making a difference. You need, at a minimum, a couple of weeks of data to have a large enough data set to determine if you are achieving the goals you have set. The larger the data set, the better. So, if you can look at a data set after a month or two, you will have even better insight into the impacts of your site changes.

Imagine having a salesperson that is consistently your top performer, month in and month out, but they have three consecutive days of not closing anything. Does that mean you should fire them? No, you’re just looking at a tiny data set, when a more extensive data set based on a larger time frame would give you the full story. The same logic applies here.

In summary, set the specific changes you want to make. Set the KPIs you will use to track those changes. Discuss the expectations with your provider. Don’t make mass changes and use a large enough data set (two weeks minimum) to see the results.

Relax, make changes that align with your goals, and wait for the tree to grow. It won’t happen overnight. Make changes strategically and methodically and watch the data over some time. You should then be able to optimize your websites without running around in circles wondering why nothing is working.

Accessibility-is-Good-Business_fusionzoneThat feeling of dread – the letter arrives at the dealership with a return address from an attorney you don’t recognize, addressed to “Owner” or “General Manager.” Inside is a demand letter indicating that your website or mobile application is inaccessible as required under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). You need to contact them right away to correct it and pay their fee, or their client will file suit.

Hundreds of businesses experienced this feeling in the last year, and every company with a web presence has exposure to lawsuits for ADA non-compliance. While I could cover the legal issues, defenses, and remedies for these suits (and I have elsewhere), I want to emphasize here that accessibility is just good business.

The threat of a lawsuit is not the only reason to make your digital environment more accessible. Having a site or app that meets most of the accessibility guidelines improves website and app usability, likely enhances conversion rates and opens you up to more customers.

The immediate thought is, “Why would a blind person shop for a car online?” and while that’s a logical thought, accessibility is more than just for blind people. A few examples to think about:

  • Elderly buyers often have hearing or sight challenges where captioning and large print is useful. 
  • Today’s retirees were in their mid-30’s when the internet exploded and are likely proficient users of the web. 
  • Most adults under age 75 used a computer and the internet regularly and are reasonably tech-savvy.
  • Potential buyers with epilepsy may be challenged by flashing buttons and video. 
  • Individuals with colorblindness require higher contrasts and colors to see the information.
  • Accessibility also helps those consumers with temporary disabilities, like injury or surgery. 

 

Digital accessibility can be a complicated process. There are no clear regulations, and accessibility standards can feel overwhelming and confusing. A few basic steps to make your digital environment more inviting include:

  • Keep the site “clean.” Focus on your call to action and critical information. Clutter makes it hard to navigate and hard to access – ADA or no ADA.
  • Make sure your images all have “alt-tags” and that your tagging conveys the meaning. Images, including banners that contain offers and disclosure language, need detailed alt-tags that express the full meaning. Consider simple images and put your offers and disclosure language in plain text
  • Good technical SEO helps with accessibility. Proper heading structures, page layouts, and tagging help organize a site for both a search engine and accessibility tools.
  • Make sure your entire site is keyboard navigable. Some people can’t use a mouse.
  • Make sure your forms can be accessed and read using a screen reader.
  • Have an accessibility statement with valid contact information and someone willing to help on the other end of the email or phone.   

 

A bit of research into the alternatives and a commitment to basic accessibility will go a long way to help make your digital environment more accessible, which will get you better customer engagement and, ultimately, more sales. 

 

“Hey Alexa, order me more shampoo. Also, can you get me a trade number on customer Smith, make sure that our inventory is up to date online, improve my service drive experience, skyrocket our profitability, and find out why John didn’t show up today? Thanks, Alexa!”

 

Anyone else tired of hearing that Amazon, Apple, and Google should be the gold standard measuring stick for any business objective or industry? It’s gotten out of hand. Your dealership, your business model, your corporate culture, the customer experience, your online presence, e-commerce strategy, and just about anything that you can think of. Did you know, the utopia that is the Amazon, Apple, & Google trifecta has the answer to all business problems you could ever imagine? If you can be just like them, you’ll win at everything forever. 

 

Forgive me for the snarky hyperbole, but let’s face some cold hard truths. Buying a car will never be like buying a pair of socks. We’re not in the business of competing to serve up the most relevant search results for “how do I make potato soup?” or get more likes than the Instagram egg. Our products have usage lifecycles that last about the length of 6 iPhone releases (and stay relevant long after your phone is a paperweight).

 

Yet, this myth persists. The idea that because customers can have Alexa buy them shampoo online, have Siri give them directions to a concert, or download the latest single with 1 click, that buying a car should be just like that or at least close. While we can certainly learn about consumer behavior from these interactions, I am here today to say that buying a car should not be more like these interactions. It can be BETTER.

 

Consultants, industry gurus, and keynote speakers are trying to convince dealers to be more like these companies when their business model and products are just not relevant to the purchase journey of an automobile. I am a firm believer that businesses should look at other industries to learn valuable lessons and strategies, and this is undoubtedly the case with elements of what the Silicon Valley giants can apply to the auto industry. However, let’s take a step to evaluate what auto dealers can do to be the best at their own game, before trying to change the rules to be like another. 

 

The sequel to this dialog (Part 2 of a 5-part exploration) will be a look into 3 industries that are NOT solely tech-focused that the auto industry can benchmark and spare you from trying to emulate the tech worlds hype inducing myopic approach to business in the 21st century. So, don’t install those nap pods into your employee lunchroom just yet and put away the customer self-serve Kombucha tap. Here are some highlights on what you have to look forward to:

 

  1. Real Estate – The two most expensive things most people will ever buy: #1 Their house and #2 their car. People shop for a new home or apartment in the same fashion that they shop for a new car. They already have an idea of what they want, they research where to get it, and they study how much it will cost them. In the case of home purchases, the majority also need financing just like a car. The similarities to the auto industry are uncanny. Inventory listings, display pages, search radiuses, quality photography, and how most have an “agent” to purchase something. We’ll explore how what is real estate doing differently than we are that works and what can we learn from companies like Zillow or Realtor.com.
  2. Hospitality – No industry knows how to better deal with the public than the hospitality industry. Indeed, there are highs and lows in terms of customer service examples. However, companies like Disney, Montage Resorts, and Virgin are all pioneers in taking the customer experience to a more positive and fulfilling place that creates zealous brand advocates worldwide. Like it or not, most customers view buying their next car about as positively as getting their next root canal. We’ve got our work cut out for us. I will dive into what we, at the dealership level, can implement from customer service innovators like Richard Branson and Bob Iger, not necessarily the tech disruption stalwarts like Jeff Bezos or the late Steve Jobs.
  3. Grocery Retail – Another industry that is in the thick of disruption from tech, many retail grocery stores are suffering from tightening margins and online competition. The popularity of meal and grocery sites such as Blue Apron and Peapod.com have grown in popularity. However, there is still fight left in the retail sector. Especially for those who can deliver a more involving customer experience, better produce, and a unique approach. Some have not clung to tradition but have embraced the disruption of competition by one-upping them at their own game.

 

I look forward to hearing from those of you interested in this topic and encourage you to comment if you have ideas for industries or examples of business that I can include that are truly outside of the “tech” box. I would have just included them all in one great post. However, I had to follow my own advice. I took a page from another industry that suggests sequels are a guaranteed way to keep people coming back. I wonder what industry that could be…

Conversion rate (internet marketing) concept. Businessman (marketer) draw growing graph of rise conversion rate.

It’s a well-known fact the best leads aren’t the ones that are bought, but those that convert on your website. These leads close faster, close at a higher rate, and close for higher gross than any other online lead. The problem is that websites are consistently converting less than 1% of their traffic into leads. Some are higher, some lower, but rarely does anyone convert at higher than 2%. Below are a few design tips that I have seen drive website conversion rates as high as 10%.

These guide consumers to where you want them to go and pique their curiosity. By eliminating choice, they drive consumers to do what you want them to do on your site, submit a lead; giving your sales team one more chance at bat with an in-market car shopper! 

 

1. Where Do We Go from Here?– Imagine driving towards a destination, in the dark with no road signs, and your GPS stops working. Sadly, that’s very similar to the experience many dealers currently offer their online customers on their homepages. 

 

90% of visitors to your site are looking for one of three things: new inventory, used inventory or service. Doesn’t it make simple logical sense to have these 

areas clearly marked at the top of your homepage? I always recommend 3 large CTA’s on your homepage, one for each of these options. If you have additional profit drivers you can add simple CTA’s for those as well (no more than 6), but again, 90% of clicks are going to new, used, and service. These should be the first 3 CTA’s on your homepage. They should be above the fold, and they should clearly indicate where they will take a consumer.  

 

Your homepage, above the fold, is the map you are providing to consumers. “Here’s how you get to the destination you came here to find.” Somewhat counterintuitively, you want to eliminate choice for the consumer. You want to direct the consumer where you (the dealer) want them to go, to your product.  

 

Another point to keep in mind for your homepage is that few consumers will scroll down on your page at all and less than 5% will ever make it to the bottom of your homepage. This means that the content found below the fold (anything you must scroll down the page to see), isn’t really for consumers. Sure, you should put some specials on sliders, and a small fraction of consumers will interact with those. Truthfully though, almost all the below the fold content is strictly for SEO purposes. You should ensure that your website provider provides quality SEO content on your homepage, but that is a topic for another article.

 

Think of the lowest common denominator and structure your website so that the dumbest person in the world can easily find their way. If you make it simple for customers, more of them will find their way to where you want them to go AND have a better customer experience along the way.

 

2. Don’t Create Friction in the Search Process– The key to continuing consumer engagement once they do click on a CTA is to deliver relevant results. Just as Google focuses on relevance, the same concept applies to your site.

 

Once a shopper clicks on a CTA, many dealer sites take them to an irrelevant page. Most are set to deliver SRPs in a specific order. In most cases, all new or used vehicles and price, high to low. The problem is that this page is often irrelevant to the consumer. 

 

Let’s say I’m shopping at a Toyota store because I am interested in a base model new Camry. I come to your site, click new inventory, and am given an SRP with all your new vehicles priced high to low. This result is irrelevant for me, requiring me to either scroll through hundreds of other vehicles to arrive at the ones I am interested in or take additional steps to filter through inventory.

 

What if you delivered relevant results instead? This really isn’t that difficult. After a consumer clicks new inventory, rather than delivering them an SRP with every vehicle you have, first take them to a page where they can filter their results. This can be done by price, body style, model, etc. This simple change will result in a lowering of your bounce rate on SRP’s (sometimes by as much as 30-40%), which means that a higher percentage of consumers interact with your inventory. This will also lead to an increase in lead volume. 

 

One more thing on this point, when it comes to your SRP and VDP pages the same principal about limiting your CTAs applies. Don’t overwhelm your potential car buyers with 30 options. Keep it simple, limit to 3 CTAs with a focus on results that you want. Generally speaking, these are a lead form, click to call, and either digital retailing or a credit application.

 

3. What’s the Ultimate Goal? – The ultimate goal of any dealer’s website is to interact with the customer. The only way to convert a customer into a sale is to gain interaction. If you structure your site correctly, more customers will engage with you, leading to more sales.

 

It’s ironic that many of the things that we did in the 90s still work today. The bottom line is that – especially today – consumers need to be incentivized into giving up their information. The number one reason that consumers do not submit a lead is that they believe it will provide no benefit to them. Consumers don’t see the need to “check availability,” feeling that if the vehicle is on your site, it should be on your lot. Dealers must provide the “why” behind lead conversion. The most compelling “why” I have seen is offering a pricing concession in return for lead submission. This can be achieved by clearly indicating to a consumer that a lower price is available if they simply submit a lead. 

 

Today’s consumers are conditioned for instant gratification. Many dealer websites promise a price reduction in return for a lead but don’t deliver; instead, they  return a message, “a salesperson will call you with our price shortly.” All this does is upset consumers. Imagine you are shopping for a TV. You see a button that says, “get the best possible price on this tv instantly!” You click it, you give your name and phone number, and then a page pops up saying, “we will call you soon with your price.” That method isn’t likely to make you a fan of that business. The same principle applies here. Give a CTA that incentivizes consumers to submit a lead, and then deliver on your promise of a lower price, instantly.

 

It really doesn’t matter how much savings you offer; so long as it is provided instantly and fulfills any promise made in your CTA.

 

4. First to Make Contact Wins – In the end, typically the first dealership to contact the customer, to interact, build rapport, and set a sales appointment wins the sale. The faster a dealership can get a customer on the phone; the more likely that customer will still be on the dealership’s website and looking to buy a vehicle. There are a multitude of tools available to achieve fast connections with your consumers. However, you also have to examine your internal dealership policies. Take the time to test your lead process yourself. Go to your site, submit a lead, and see how long it takes for you to receive a response. Five minutes? Ten? Longer? Ask yourself, if I had submitted this lead on my site and my competitors who would have contacted me first? If the answer is your competitor, you have a problem! At that point, you need to identify if the problem is people, process, or product. 

 

When I work with dealers on this issue, the answer is almost always process or product.

 

The highest converting dealer websites are winning by creating a pathway that fulfills the customer’s desire for immediate gratification by delivering relevant results. They provide clear calls-to-action and respond promptly via phone and email to initiate the right kind of engagement to drive a sale.

 

Dealers who encourage customer engagement by providing precisely what they are looking for find they engage via form submissions more often and, ultimately, are more willing to work with the dealership. Customers are more likely to continue engagement either via phone or in person. And that’s how you increase time on site, decrease bounce rates and sell more cars.

Facebook Ads - Fusionzone automotiveOver the years, Google has firmly established itself as the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to search ads. After all, it is, without a doubt, the most used search engine. And, because of that, enjoys the monetary benefits from many ads. 

In the automotive industry, to gain valuable traffic from in-market consumers, dealers compete with manufacturers and third-party lead providers for key search terms. The manufacturers and third-party listing services have a much bigger search engine marketing budget than most dealers, so it can be difficult for dealers to compete. 

Ah, but what about Facebook?

For early adopters, Facebook was the buried treasure that others had yet to find. But has since grown enormously and businesses enjoy the targeted reach, branding opportunities and leads that a correctly configured Facebook ad campaign can bring. 

And now it could be getting even better. 

According to Search Engine Journal, Facebook has quietly begun testing search ads for its advertisers. What does that mean? Instead of being limited to distance, demographics, and interests, you will shortly be able to target Facebook users by their searches a la Google. 

While the data set that Facebook uses for targeting is massive, it can be hit or miss. However, similar to Google search keywords, a Facebook user searching “used cars Dallas, Texas,” or “used Chevrolets Dallas, Texas,” is likely to be much lower funnel, and much more relevant for you to target with ads. And quite possibly not even part of the targeting your dealership uses. Not every buyer is the same, and their interests vary. BUT that doesn’t mean qualified buyers don’t exist outside of your dealership’s usual targeting demographics. 

The benefit to you is that not many dealerships are yet using this feature. It could translate into an advantage over the competition. Also, you may be able to pick the low-hanging fruit, which falls outside the demographics you were previously targeting. There is nothing more powerful than targeting users by search intent. 

Unlike, Google, Facebook search results are primarily powered by the information on a dealership’s Facebook page. This information is NOT as complicated as most websites. Dealerships who properly optimize the information on their Facebook page; and who run targeted search ads on Facebook (when it is widely available); could easily enjoy a good return on investment

I’m not at all advocating that dealerships abandon Google AdWords. Instead, that dealerships utilize this new Facebook targeting method in conjunction with their existing Facebook and Google Ad campaigns. They may be able to quickly ramp up the results of search ad budgets.

 

One critical best practice that helps drive more traffic to your website is to continuously create new content. Google crawls websites to find relevant content to provide more accurate results to searchers. However, it is sometimes hard to come up with content ideas that will be of interest to your audience.

 

Pounding your head against a desk, trying to think of good content ideas simply makes it more frustrating. Ever heard of writer’s block? It’s the same thing. Even bestselling authors experience it.

 

But the best thing about providing new content on the dealership side is that there are so many possibilities. The trick is to ensure that it is content your consumers want to read or watch.

 

Sure, you can create all of the “Why is a radiator flush important?” or new model reviews and all sorts of other information. Don’t get me wrong, these topics are a great start. However, you want your website to stand out. The problem is that many of these topics are already employed by your competition. At least those dealers who are actually trying.

 

So, how do you know what type of content will set your dealership apart from your competition? Listen to your customers and prospects!

Your prospective and existing customers will give you a roadmap showing you all the relevant topics you should create content around. And the way to discover the information they want to know is to listen to the questions your customers most frequently ask.

Your customers are your most valuable source of content inspiration that you have. And in many cases, the questions you are receiving are also questions that other consumers are searching for.

 

An article in Search Engine Journal shared a couple of good ways to identify the best questions to ask.

  1. Call Tracking: Many dealerships employ a vendor for call tracking. These services also record conversations which management and employees can access and listen to. These recording can provide a wealth of content ideas. And they are easy to identify. You know, the ones where you roll your eyes and cry out, “Not this question again!” These are the EXACT topics which make the best content ideas!
  1. Your CRM: Your dealership likely gets a constant stream of questions from consumers that are in contact with you. Whether those communications are via website leads, chat conversations or some other source, they should all go into your CRM.

 

Take a look at your CRM conversations, and you should be able to find some handy repetitive questions.

  1. Your Employees: If you have a BDC, Internet Manager, or someone in your dealership responsible for handling customer communications, ask them for the top 5 questions they continuously have to answer. If they created a template because they are so tired of answering them, that’s an even better indicator that content on that topic is needed.

 

Providing fresh, new, relevant content consistently, helps you answer those questions consumers most want answered. It also helps you attract more eyeballs to your website through relevant search results. Your website becomes an information source to your existing customers. And, prospective customers are more likely to find you simply because you have answered the questions they want to be answered.

 

Also, that is what search engines will recognize. It is also why they will deliver your content to searchers first and how you will get more people on your website. This can only result in more sales and service revenue.

 

Stop banging your head against the wall in search of content ideas and start listening to the questions people ask. As a result, you should attract more customers, increase your organic search page rank, convert more site visitors into customers, and increase customer retention.

In a quick review of dealership’s websites, I find that many are almost entirely sales focused and tend to neglect the one department that brings the most significant percentage of profit… service. Go ahead. Take a look at a few dealership websites. Service tends to be the red-headed stepchild; often neglected and forgotten. Yet it accounts for 50% or more of a dealership’s revenue.

 

In fact, just 10%, or even less of most dealer websites are dedicated to service, according to an article in Automotive News. Sounds like a bit of an imbalance, doesn’t it?

 

One dealer decided to change that. Feldman Automotive Group increased service-related content on almost all of its websites and, since late 2018, has seen visitor traffic increase by 60%. Perhaps more importantly, customer pay revenue increased by 32% in the first 3 months of 2019!

 

Service-related content is frequently searched for by consumers, yet many dealerships neglect to provide any information at all about this section of their business. In many cases, service coupons and specials are either outdated or non-existent. Keep in mind that any consumers who look at your dealership’s website for service information – and then find none – will simply continue to search and, in many cases, will find that information provided by an independent repair facility such as Jiffy Lube. And they are aggressive, transparent, and current in their pricing and services – which consumers seem to like.

 

In this highly competitive market, it makes sense to produce more service-related content for your website. Be sure to keep your service coupons current, be transparent, and provide information and pricing for your most popular service packages and what they include. Consider having a service director shoot a quick video about why customers should service at your dealership – what the benefits are of getting their vehicle serviced at a franchise dealer versus an independent, for example.

 

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a customer come in for routine maintenance and not just warranty service? If you fail to provide the reasons why a customer should choose you over an independent, the consumer may well choose price and convenience, even if your dealership is competitive.

 

Most dealerships share the reasons why a consumer should buy a car from them. That’s a no-brainer. But too few share why consumers should service their car there as well. In my opinion, the ultimate outcome of neglecting service content and information on your website is just one thing – lost revenue.

 

Hey, it has been proven to work. If Feldman can increase customer pay by 32%; surely it’s worth putting at least a little time and effort into creating that service content. Think about creating blogs (both written and video) with topics such as how to pair your iPhone to the in-vehicle entertainment system, as well as specific services you offer and why they are essential. It is also great to highlight your service personnel, their achievements and training, along with the same message of quality, customer service, professionalism, and convenience that you probably already market in your sales messages.

 

Now, while adding service content to your website is great, taking it one step further is even better. Personally, I recommend specialized service websites as they are a great way to bring more customers into your automotive service and maintenance facility. These sites should be optimized with unique content about all things vehicle maintenance, repair, and service. Let your potential and existing customers know that they can count on you to not only sell them a great vehicle but to keep it in excellent condition. If you drive traffic to your service website, it will also drive more traffic to your main website, meaning you’ll have more people viewing your inventory, so it’s a win-win!

If you up your digital footprint as far as vehicle service is concerned, you should see an increase in service revenue and customer pay ROs. These customers can quickly become loyal brand advocates who you can win over as lifetime customers and also capture future sales from referrals.

 

Make your service department easy to find by providing the type of content consumers are looking for. Become the resource they turn to for information and your efforts could soon result in precisely what your business wants… more profit and more customers.

 

Everyone wants to be number one when it comes to search engine results. Many dealers are fighting an uphill battle because they’re competing with not only their manufacturer but also massive third-party sites. This competition has the benefit of working on a single website that can use its authority to push dealerships out of relevant search terms. In essence, they’re just doing one thing: creating relevant content. It sounds simple because it is simple.

When dealers think “content,” most think about creating fresh new content. They overlook the vast amount of content that is already on their site. Every VDP on your website is a piece of content; as are any blog articles, model research pages, community pages, and videos.

Two of the most important factors for ranking are relevancy and authority. The more authoritative and relevant your content is, the higher your odds are to rank. In a basic description, when you type a query into Google, it compares your search against any content it deems relevant. It will then go through that list to find which sites have the most authority and lists them on the page. Of course, it’s a simplistic explanation as there are many factors, but that’s the gist. If you can nail those two factors, you can do well in SEO.

Google is looking for websites that make sense. When you want to create content, it should also make sense why you would want to read it. There’s no hidden trick to generating traffic. If you read a title to a content piece on your site and think “I want to know more,” then you are on the right track.

DCH Paramus Honda is an excellent example of how to build great content. On a Performance Review call, the dealer and I were discussing content ideas to generate traffic. We weren’t happy with a lot of the usual “blog-type” content that was being produced. You know the type; the “top 10 Honda vehicle trunk space”-articles that no one reads and doesn’t impact your traffic. We started asking, “What would I search and read if I needed help?”

After some keyword research, we found that one of the most common search terms in his area was about the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). You know, that light on your dashboard that looks like an exclamation point inside of a bucket. Most of the time, it prompts you to break out the manual to figure out what it means.  

We created a short article but kept it simple. We explain what the TPMS does, how to turn it off, and what to do when it won’t go away. We created a nice simple layout with images assisting our explanation and called it a day. Remember, we want to be as relevant to the search query as possible.

Unsurprisingly, the page took off.

Now, DCH Paramus is the top search result in the nation for “how to reset Honda TPMS.” No location modifier necessary. Google has even rewarded Paramus Honda with a rich snippet, which is commonly referred to as “position 0.” It virtually guarantees a searcher will explore their site first.

What does this look like in terms of traffic? Roughly about a 1027% increase. Yes, there’s no period in that number. One thousand twenty-seven percent. The page has built up an incredible amount of authority and hasn’t been dethroned in over a year.

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Earlier, an argument was made to use your current content on your site rather than creating brand-new content. And then I just went and wrote about adding new content. For shame. But the next example will show you the power of using your current website content and how it can transform your organic presence.

Every time you add content to your site, you are running the risk of two pages competing for similar keywords. When that happens, Google will have to pick between the two when ranking, and it can often leave a search engine puzzled and go with a different result over yours. Search engines want to serve up a page that best matches the search term.

To avoid this “keyword cannibalization,” each page on your site should fulfill a unique purpose. You should create as few pages about your inventory, fixed-ops, financing, anything, as possible to increase the odds that a single page will rank well and build authority as a search engine’s go-to source for queries.

Almost every dealership that comes onto our platform has its models, service department, finance pages, and company pages already built out. However, they often leave them at a paltry two hundred to three hundred words on a page with sparse details. They’re often just a pencil banner and content. Not exactly the most exciting read.

Fixed ops is often the biggest loser in this category, with multiple pages serving the same purpose and none of them being comprehensive. We got to thinking — what if instead of adding several individual pages on a menu, we condensed it into one super-hub that served as a launch point for all the other, more specific, content pages.

It would contain links to your service team, collision center, tips and tricks, and where to schedule an appointment. It would be clean and dynamic, and funnel clients directly to the source of their query. Remember, we want to capture as many questions as possible for relevancy and doing so on one mega-page will help accumulate authority.

Unsurprisingly, the page, once again, took off.

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Paramus’s Service Center page grew a massive 86.15% in organic traffic and over 565% as a landing page (which means traffic straight from a search engine). It now maintains that large increase and grows roughly 4.5% each month. It was a hit.

It cannot be understated how important it is to refresh and re-use current content on your website. Search engines crawl thousands of pages on an average dealers site due to different inventory configurations. Most sites have around fifty existing pages without including inventory pages. They’re a gold mine for improving your organic presence. Too often we brush them aside in lieu of something new.

So be sure to ask your current SEO provider what their plans are for re-using and updating existing content on your sites just as often as you drum up ideas for new content. By mixing the two, you’re guaranteed to succeed.