Conference season is upon us. As dealers go from seminar to seminar, and presentation after presentation, it can cause mass confusion about what data really matters. As a dealer, you may well be asking yourself, “What data should I really be watching at my dealership?”
Well, let’s keep it simple! Over the years I have found it boils down to two key things. Here is what you should be investigating:

  1. Conversions: Many years ago Autotrader.com was the top lead provider for dealers. As the Autotrader platform became less effective, generating fewer form leads and phone calls, Autotrader told dealers that customers were no longer filling out forms on websites. Also, according to Autotrader, customers were no longer calling dealers. They were just shopping on Autotrader.com, then they would show up unannounced at the dealership. Once Autotrader’s comments took hold, other lead and website providers went down the same path, instead of learning about today’s customer’s and how they shop.  Basically, they took the path of least resistance.

So, is it true that customers no longer fill-out form submissions on automotive websites?  I would say nothing could be further from the truth. Based on the past five years of data I have from working with Toyota, I have seen the exact opposite. Conversions have increased! Customers will still submit forms, and they are still calling the dealership.  Conversions really do matter and below are a few keys to customer engagement:

  • Have the right calls to actions on your website and VDPs.

 

  • Use automation to reply to customer’s requests immediately. Customers want immediate gratification and dealerships who respond quickly will often win the business or, at the very least, have the edge over the competition.

 

  1. Analytics: Google Analytics is perhaps the most confusing tool in the industry. For years the “experts” spoke about Time On Site, Bounce Rate, Impressions and more. However, they failed to consider how mobile device usage was affecting the data.

Guess what? Mobile has changed the game 100% when dealing with Google Analytics. Many companies are still talking about and selling Bounce Rate, or how many pages a consumer visited on a dealer’s website. As mobile usage has made double-digit climbs year in and year out, this is no longer relevant data.
It is hard to believe that companies are still making dealers swallow this dated information, as we are approaching over five years of irrelevancy. Case in point:  When a customer visits a dealer’s website on a mobile device and hits the click-to-call button, Google will report this as a 100% Bounce Rate for that visit, as the customer was on and off the website in a matter of seconds. This is entirely wrong information! The customer converted to a lead in just a few seconds. However, Google does not report it accurately. Instead, they label this customer as one who bounced. Bounce Rate does not matter in today’s digital landscape.
The exact same principle applies to Time On Site data. In the above example, the customer was on the website for three seconds and actually converted into a lead.
Most dealers are still wasting time analyzing and looking for the longer visits, assuming a three second visit was nothing but a bounce. When you compare that to a customer who is on a website for six minutes without converting, I will take the mobile customer who converted in three seconds all day long!
This brings me to my final point. Dealers set up Google Analytics on their dealership’s website 5-10 years ago. It is not set up for today’s metrics. Dealers can log-in to Google Analytics and see Bounce Rate, Time On Site, Pages per Visit and more, but this is all outdated information that no longer matters.
In today’s society of mobile-first usage, it is vital to focus on the correct data. This includes metrics on how many VDPs were visited, how many times the click-to call-button was used, and how many times a customer scrolled through photos of an actual vehicle. These data points indicate a very interested customer and are much more relevant than the outdated metrics that dealers are still relying on to make decisions, and that vendors reference as proof of performance.
As we go into NADA and the full conference season, consider this information when deciding where to invest your time. Make it a priority to visit your current vendors and ask them to show you these particular data points. Having full knowledge of and using modern data metrics that make sense will give you a more accurate benchmark, and you can see whether your website is actually performing – or whether the data being fed to you is all hot air. Good luck!


Have you ever eagerly awaited the release of a great new movie? Anticipation mounts as release day approaches. Then you go and see it, only to leave disappointed. I’m sure I can name plenty of box office bombs which were initially hyped up and expected to be box office blockbusters. If you look at the factors involved in what makes a “bomb” versus a “blockbuster,” there tends to be one key thing that ruins the movie — the script.
The same principle applies to many of the new technology “shiny objects” presented to dealers for them to salivate over, especially website add-ons and widgets. They are sold with high expectations. Then, when installed, don’t perform as expected. Dealers end up disappointed and cancel the service.
The problem is, many of these “shiny objects,” while canceled, do not get removed and the script remains running in the background until infinity.
Every time you add a new widget to your website, your website vendor installs a script so that it functions properly. As you cancel services, those scripts tend to pile up. However, they still continue to communicate with the canceled vendor’s service, even though your dealership receives no benefit. In fact, quite the opposite. Those scripts left on your website threaten your Google rankings and SEO because one of the factors Google looks at when evaluating a website is site speed. The more scripts running in the background, the slower the site, meaning your dealership website is penalized by Google.
It can get pretty incredible. In fact, I recently came across a dealership that couldn’t understand why its site was running so slowly. It turned out that it had 71 old scripts still running despite having canceled the service! Those scripts were killing the website like a bunch of digital sharks attacking the dealership.
Is it the vendor’s fault? In some cases, perhaps. You can’t rely on vendors you have canceled to reach out to your website provider and uninstall the script. When it comes to your website, it pays to be vigilant.
If you cancel a service, reach out to your website provider to ensure it is uninstalled. Failing to do so can harm your website speed over time and lead to a detrimental analysis by Google in your search rankings. Also, think about all that data those scripts continue to transmit to the canceled vendors.
In the end, it is essential to safeguard your dealership from digital sharks and bad scripts. Otherwise, your website could go from a box-office blockbuster to a bomb. And that is an outcome no dealership wants!


These days, reviews are an incredibly important part of the purchase process for all retail businesses. In fact, according to a recent article, online reviews influence a whopping 93% of consumer purchasing decisions.
Car shoppers increasingly turn to reviews when deciding who they should buy a vehicle from, which is the 4th step in Google’s 5 step consumer car-buying process. At this point, the consumer is a pretty low-funnel, the only remaining step being “Am I getting a good deal?”
Car dealerships have long been trained by both vendors and manufacturers to pay attention to reviews; to respond to and interact with any consumers that leave reviews for their dealership.
Historically, one of the single most important areas on Google is a dealership’s Google My Business page. It is one of the first things to pop up when a consumer searches for a dealership. Too many bad reviews can mean the dealership loses sales without even getting to know about the prospective car shopper. That lead just goes to a competitive dealer whose online reviews makes it appear they will provide a better experience. That is why many dealerships are hyper-sensitive (and rightfully so) about maintaining a positive presence and actively solicit happy customers to leave reviews, especially if a bad review was posted and they need to balance it out.
As of now, a dealership’s Google My Business page typically includes a little information such as overall star-ratings from multiple review sites, along with a few reviews. However, a consumer has to click into the dealership’s Google My Business page to read more.
Well, things are changing – and fast! Google is about to supercharge reviews, making them more important than ever, by allowing consumers to leave comments and reviews RIGHT IN THE SEARCH RESULTS! And not only that, but searchers will be able to up and down vote comments a la Reddit. They can press the up arrow if they think the comment is helpful or insightful. While the down vote option can be used if it appears the poster has bad intentions or is disrespectful.
According to Search Engine Journal, Google is testing this feature right now. Imagine a consumer searching for a dealership name, or even a general search phrase such as “Honda dealership,” and right in the search results they see comments, up and down votes and reviews from other consumers.
Without going to a single review site, a consumer can view and like comments about a dealership, right in the search results. What if a consumer posts, “This dealership sucks!” and others like that comment enough that it is the FIRST thing that appears in search results? At this point, a searcher will probably never click on a dealership’s Google My Business page, and they probably won’t click on the LINK TO THE DEALERSHIP’S PAGE!
It’s even possible that a dealership with poor reviews could WANT their dealership’s listing to NOT show up high in organic searches. God forbid that a prospective car shopper sees other consumer’s negative comments about that dealership right in the search results, without having to visit any review site. Now the dealership has two choices. First, it can clean up its reputation and somehow get consumers to leave positive comments in the search results to counter-balance the negative one. Or, second, try to make their dealership as invisible as possible in search results — search engine optimization… but in reverse.
Stay tuned my friends, this is all very new, and reviews are going to get even more interesting. Decisions about how to handle those comments that will soon appear in your search results will need to be made. And you should have strategies in place to handle them.
Interesting times are ahead. In this highly-competitive industry it is best to be ready ahead of time, rather than play catch up when it may be too late.


Arguably, one of the most important marketing channels any dealership has is their website. Think about it. How much money do you spend simply to get customers there? When you combine all marketing efforts including, but not limited to, SEO, SEM, some third-party listing sites and more, dealerships spend tens of thousands of dollars (or more) per month.
Once that customer hits the dealer’s site, most dealers have the additional cost of all of the widgets it has chosen to adopt. Whether that’s a chat service, trade-in appraisal tool, inventory merchandising on VDPs, video and photo content and more, everything is designed to communicate with customers and/or provide the information that they need so they convert and purchase a vehicle.
But what about the most profitable area of your dealership? What about those customers that need vehicle service?
A huge piece of the puzzle is missing from most dealership’s websites: the service department.
According to NADA’s 2017 annual report, the average dealership’s service and parts department enjoyed sales of $6,793,905. But, when it comes to marketing, at many dealerships this profit center is overlooked.
That makes no sense whatsoever! Why would any dealership exclude marketing their biggest profit center when they could do so relatively easily?
All that money spent on SEO and SEM is mostly designed to attract car buyers. Ah, but many current customers go online when they have service-related questions, such as how to pair their iPhone with their in-vehicle entertainment system, how much does service cost, or to perhaps search for available coupons. The sad part is that far too often the dealership’s website has very little, and sometimes no service information at all. Those that do are often full of outdated information and expired coupons.
So, where do theses customer go to get that information?
While you’re completely focused on acquiring sales customers, your service customers are finding all the information they need in the worst possible place for the future of your dealership’s largest profit center… on independent repair shop’s websites!
And, at that point, where do you think those customers will go for service? It’d be silly to think that consumers aren’t motivated by low prices, offers of speed and convenience and attractive coupons.
But, the biggest problem many dealerships have in this highly competitive service space is NO MESSAGE WHATSOEVER! What is a dealership supposed to do? Why not pay attention to the very strategies independent repair shops have long used to steal your customers: implement a few of them and reclaim that service business.
Consider revamping your website and provide the information your customers are seeking — rich service and parts content, tutorial videos, effective appointment scheduling services and more. Provide your dealership with every opportunity to serve these customers, establish value in dealership service versus independent repair facilities and this will quite simply help to prevent customers bouncing from your website to an independent’s.  That rich content will also attract new service customers.
Another huge benefit of relevant, user-friendly content which is continuously posted and updated, is that it helps your dealership rank higher in Google searches. The exact thing you desire on the sales side is much easier to achieve in fixed ops. In most cases, you are not in competition with manufacturers, third party listing sites, lead providers and so on, vying for customer eyeballs. You may even want to consider creating a standalone website on a sub-URL designed specifically for service.
It’s absolutely possible for your dealership to outrank PepBoys, Firestone, Midas and Jiffy Lube! In addition, because Google search results are now location-based, you have an edge over competing brand dealers to get that local service work by ranking higher in common routine maintenance searches.
Stop ignoring your service department and start using your online real estate as a powerful marketing platform for vehicle service. Don’t be afraid to advertise service-related pricing, the independents do, and they are doing just fine. Take back the service work that is rightfully yours by adopting best practices that will drive service customers. Some of them, as you know, do convert to sales customers. The bottom line is; the more customers you have coming to your dealership – whether sales or service – the more profitable you will be and, in the end, isn’t that what you want?

Online Reviews-Reputation Management - Dealership Digital Marketing
Online reviews, and especially Google reviews, should be a huge priority for any business operating today. It takes some time and constant effort to properly execute a review management strategy, but it’s worth it: reviews provide the very foundation of your online reputation, and how you manage them can mean the difference between life and death for your dealership.
Trust-building and Brand Differentiation.
We live in an age where widespread internet access means that dealers don’t get to make the first impression when a customer walks onto their lot. With a vast majority of consumers conducting a vast majority of their research online before ever setting foot inside a dealership, dealers must be able to establish and build trust at the very outset of a prospective customer’s online journey. To this end, online reviews are critical to the initial establishment of trust for online shoppers. Research has shown that:
Online Reviews-Reputation-Management-Dealership-Digital-Marketing
These numbers speak volumes about the necessity of online reviews for today’s shopper, and why including them in your reputation management strategy is no longer merely an option. Review management, as one component of a greater rep man strategy, will continue to be critical for the foreseeable future.
Reviews are also necessary for brand differentiation. Consider that the automotive industry is an almost perfectly competitive market: a consumer can find the same or essentially the same products and features at any dealership within a given segment. As a result, we must find other ways to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. One way many dealers are doing this is by creating a unique and pleasant car-shopping experience. But even if you’ve formulated a slam-dunk customer experience, how will online shoppers know about it? You guessed it: by reading reviews on the internet. Given that 90% of consumers read online reviews before deciding to visit a local business, your reviews are what will make you stand out so that buyers want to visit your store rather than the one down the street.
Making Reviews Work for You.
Like social media, online reviews are not a one-and-done thing; making them work to your advantage requires incorporating them into your larger reputation management strategy, and growing and monitoring them on a regular basis. Three of the most important factors for effectively managing your online reviews are recency, quantity, and quality.
When an internet user enters a search query into Google, Google’s aim is to serve up content or businesses that are most relevant to the search terms. It follows, then, that recency increases relevance, and dealerships with the most recent content and reviews will fare better on search results pages.
Along with being a key search ranking factor, the recency of your online reviews has a direct impact on whether consumers decide to visit your website and, ultimately, your dealership. BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey revealed several key findings that go to the importance of recency:
Online Reviews-Car Dealership-Digital Marketing
To sum this up, you must be constantly seeking new reviews – every day, from every customer. Getting ten great reviews in two days in order to cover up one bad review is not a viable business practice; today’s customers are more savvy than ever, and they will quickly catch on, resulting in a degradation of your dealership’s credibility and perceived trustworthiness.
Constantly seeking new reviews isn’t important only for recency, either; it goes to quantity, too. Consumers look to see how many reviews have contributed to your dealership’s overall star-rating. Think about it from a consumer’s perspective: Are you more likely to trust a business with five stars and only 2 reviews, or one with 4.5 stars and 50 reviews? Common sense points to the latter.
The star-ratings and content of reviews is, as you can imagine, hugely important, both for SEO ranking as well as for building consumer trust. On its support site, Google has said that “Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking.” Rating and content quality are important to prospective customers, too. According to Podium’s State of Online Reviews survey, 3.3 is the minimum star-rating a business must have for consumers to even consider engaging with it. And since 68% of consumers would pay more for the same product or service if assured they would have a better experience, it’s important that the substantive content of the reviews include an evaluation of the various aspects of each customer’s experience that led them to write a review.
There’s an important caveat here, though. Having a few negative reviews isn’t always a bad thing; the key is how you respond to and manage them. In fact, a large number of online car shoppers say that they’d trust a dealership that professionally and caringly responded to a negative review more than they’d trust a dealership that had no negative reviews whatsoever. If you manage them properly, one or two negative reviews can actually enable trust rather than hindering it.
The bottom line is that online reviews have a huge impact on your bottom line. If properly solicited, managed, and monitored, they can propel car shoppers to both your website and your brick-and-mortar dealership, and ultimately result in a significant lift in sales.

YouTube-Dealership-Digital-Marketing-Video
If your dealership doesn’t already have a dedicated YouTube channel, it’s time to get one. You may think that since you post videos on your website, there’s no need to post them on YouTube, but the opposite is true: If you post videos on your dealership’s website, you should absolutely have a corresponding YouTube channel where you post those same videos. Why? Three simple words: reach, visibility, and cost-effectiveness.
Reach
Many of us don’t think of YouTube as a search engine, but that’s exactly what it is. In fact, it’s the second-largest search engine in the world — second only, of course, to Google. Moreover, YouTube is the world’s third-most-visited website after Google and Facebook. It gets more than 30 million visitors per day, adding up to around 1.5 billion visitors each month. That’s a massive potential audience that dealers cannot afford to miss out on. And if you think people aren’t interested in watching car dealership videos, think again. According to David Mogensen, Head of YouTube Ads Products Marketing at Google, “views [on the platform] of test drives, features, options, and walk-throughs have doubled in the last year.” Even more telling is that 70% of people who watched YouTube during their car-buying journey say that it influenced their ultimate purchase decision. These are powerful statistics that illustrate a huge opportunity for dealers to grow their marketing reach and thereby expand their customer base.
Visibility
Not only does having a YouTube channel expand your reach in a huge way, but it can drastically improve your dealership’s online visibility, as well. The three major search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) have now started blending their search engine results pages (SERPs) to include mixed media like news, images, and video. This, in turn, has created yet another great SEO opportunity: When a user searches for a brand or model that you carry, a properly-optimized channel can create an additional link on SERPs, increasing your potential visibility to that user.
Having a dedicated dealership YouTube channel can also increase your SEO authority. According to Launch Digital Marketing, “Google’s job is to give searchers the best answer to any question, and their algorithm has started to rank YouTube results and web pages with video as the best (most helpful, useful, engaging) answer for many search queries — particularly tutorial-, how-to-, review-, and test drive-related queries.”
Cost Effectiveness
As a marketer, your job is to gain maximum exposure, traffic, and conversions while spending as little of your budget as possible. And let’s face it: this can be a tough feat in today’s ultra-competitive digital marketing world, especially for car dealerships. But not all marketing efforts require a massive chunk of ad spend. Take, for example (you guessed it!), YouTube. Creating a YouTube channel for your dealership is completely free! And considering the reach and visibility it offers, the wildly popular video platform can be one of the most cost-effective ways of advertising and promoting your inventory and dealership.
What to Post
Now that you’ve decided to create a YouTube channel for your store or dealer group, the question remains: Where do you start? What types of videos should you post, and how often? Stay tuned for the answers to these questions later this week.

We talk to many dealers who are frustrated by having an OEM-mandated website program. But there IS a way that dealers can deal. Check out the video below to learn more.

Want your website to convert at a (much) higher rate? Click here for a free demo.

Website bounce rate directly correlates to site speed; it’s a hand-in-hand combination. Our research and tests have found that when a site takes longer than three seconds to load, bounce rate will increase by up to 150% per second. This fact, combined with the announcement by Google that, starting in July of this year, site speed will be a major ranking factor for mobile searches, means that a fast website will be a significant game-changer to your online storefront.
So, what does this mean for dealerships? In his presentation in April at the Digital Dealer 24 Conference and Expo, fusionZONE CEO Brett Sutherlin addressed exactly that. Click play to watch the presentation and learn how your site speed is affecting your business.

The purpose behind Google’s new Speed Update is to reward business whose websites cater to today’s consumer. Therefore, faster page speed will result in:

  1. Lower bounce rates
  2. Increased consumer engagement
  3. Higher rankings on SERPs

Google encourages you to check your own website speed using its official PageSpeed Insights tool. This will help you find out the average load time of every page on your website.  It provides simple visuals to help in analysis: between green, yellow, and red scores. You want to be in the green. If you’re not, you’ll want to ensure that you are meeting Google’s guidelines to avoid getting penalized in SEO performance when they crack down next month.
It’s just that easy!
Set your target for your site to load in less than 3 seconds. If you can decrease that to 2 seconds, you’ll notice an even greater increase in conversions. Why? Because your customers are finding your website before they are finding your competitors.
Contact fusionZONE Automotive today to double your website leads, guaranteed. Known for building the fastest websites in automotive, we’ll not only help you navigate the playing field – we’ll help you dominate it.

In order to stand out within the automotive website creation space, you must have effective dealership marketing strategies in place from the get-go. And as the needs of clients and the demands of the industry change, so must the company.
In a world that was once focused on getting the client into the storefront itself for face-to-face interaction, dealership marketing has shifted to creating an online presence that enables the customer not only to find your dealership but to actually close the deal. It’s true that maintaining established relationships is vital within the digital marketing realm, but dealers must evolve with the times in order to survive.
Many website providers have become more technology-driven, pushing things like “buy online” tools, attributions, and online retailing — working hard to convince you that a shopper will not take the time to fill out a lead form. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Driving customers to your site. Amidst all the seemingly innovative online tools that are inundating the market, it’s necessary to look at the hard, factual data. The conclusion that can be drawn is what we’ve been telling our dealer peers for years: A focus on speed + conversion will drive customers to your website. It’s important to go back to the basics of dealership marketing, because at the end of the day, a fancy website that is difficult to find, packed with links, and running high-tech programs isn’t going to sell cars.
What sells cars? The answer is quickly being able to connect with a potential buyer and turning that lead intoto a conversion. The more leads a dealership website can deliver, the more cars the dealer can sell, period.
If you’re looking for year-over-year growth (and who isn’t?) with an impressive 5% conversion rate that shows no signs of decreasing, the answer is simple: speed + conversion. A correctly optimized website leads to a thriving, profitable dealership.
While times are changing, with many dealership marketing vendors innovating for themselves rather than for the dealer, the fact remains that if you cannot find a way to connect with your customer quickly and in a way that is easy for them, you won’t close the deal. Conversion and site speed are here to stay.

When it comes to website speed, slow and steady will never win the race for market share.
Think of your website like a race car. Pole position on the racetrack is important, but it doesn’t guarantee a win. When you consider its value and performance relative to selling cars, a blazing fast website is your marketing cornerstone.
Speed matters. According to Google, website speed has been a ranking factor for several years. However, it has primarily focused on desktop searches. This changed on January 17 of this year, when Google announced that page speed will be a mobile ranking factor beginning in July 2018. They’re calling it the “Speed Update” and they say it will affect mobile websites that deliver the slowest experience to searchers. If your website is the slow car, this is bad news. If your website is the slow car and no one wants to drive it, this is even worse.
Staying on the track matters.
Stay focused on getting the most out of your website before spending time in the echo chambers of our industry, or you might find yourself blindly following ideas and trends that amount to wasted time. Digital retailing, attribution, and BI tools are just a few of the hot topics I hear about daily. Unfortunately, it’s usually from dealers who have given up or don’t know how to hold their website provider accountable. While some of what’s new may be good for dealers, it’s easy to be distracted when you’re ignoring bigger issues, like website speed. When you disregard the performance of your most important marketing tool, you make yourself a prime candidate for those offering solutions to problems you don’t actually have.
Conversion matters.
Take it from a car guy who grew up in the business and then built a successful automotive website company from the ground up: website leads are not dead! No dealer should be happy with a website struggling to convert 2% of its visitors. When you consider how much money your dealership spends to drive traffic to its website, increasing your conversions becomes a high priority. Someone telling you consumers no longer fill out forms on websites is someone selling worthless websites.
See you in the winner’s circle.
It’s true, new technology and variations of existing tech continue to impress us and often easily steal our attention. But it’s crucial to focus on tuning your website for higher
performance so you can grip the wheel and start winning some races. If your engine has already blown cylinders, make a change soon, because no one enters a race hoping to lose.
The formula for your dealership to win is simple: speed + conversion wins the race. Focus on these two things, and you’ll sell more cars — guaranteed.