Three Symptoms of a Sick Website

calendar Sep 20, 2016 user Jenn Dunstan time Read time 5 min

Sluggish? Unsteady? Disoriented? No—not you, silly. Your website! Much like a balanced diet and regular exercise, making healthy choices for your digital storefront will dramatically improve its performance. Often, the assumed remedy is a cosmetic design change or the laborious migration from one CMS to another. Our team at FlexDealer is begging you to consider a second opinion. 

Your symptoms aren’t new and they’re unfortunately quite common: stale traffic that’s increasingly paid, yet refusing to convert. Why is that? Consumers are buying faster and researching smarter. This leaves you, the dealer, envying your competitors while hunting for an elusive conversion antidote.

The bad news: there isn’t one. The good news: your website—which often is OEM-mandated—is good enough to get better results. It just takes a balanced helping of content and a bit of regular maintenance. 

Pre-Op

Let’s get one thing straight: the ultimate goal of any dealership website is to appear in the top local search results when a prospective customer is looking for product or service information that is relevant to that dealership. 

Regardless of your budget for digital outbound marketing channels like Facebook or Google AdWords, nurturing a healthy, well-ranking website will always be the best investment. In order to improve your key site performance metrics, you need to convince Google that each of your webpages provide the very best answer to an in-market shoppers’ search query.

Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? At FlexDealer, we believe that small steps are still steps. So let’s slap on some rubber gloves, take a deep breath and dig into your website diagnosis—one symptom at a time. 

Symptom No. 1: Seeing Double

Are you operating a franchise under General Motors? So are 456 other rooftops across Canada. Many of whose websites are plagued with duplicate text. Difficult to spot at first glance, the offending content is often copied from an OEM site or grandfathered into the page during a new site launch.

Take this snippet of copy from toyota.ca, for example: 

Our team of dedicated Service Advisors and factory-trained Technicians is committed to delivering quality service using only Toyota Genuine Parts.

Great message. But there are 85 other websites saying the same thing. Therefore making each one completely ineffective at a) ranking the page in search and b) differentiating the dealer from its competitors. Feeling dizzy yet?

Recommended Treatment:

Form an opinion. Then communicate it. 

Whether you’re revealing a new semi-autonomous tech feature or the FAQs of a publicized recall, share the news in a voice that represents your business, in language that connects with your customer-base. Why is this news relevant? What does it mean, in layman terms? 

Immediately distance yourself from the copy-and-paste mentality. Duplicate content is infinitely worse than having no content. Not only is it negatively affecting your SEO, (bad for Google)—it likely cost billable time to put it on your website, (bad for business).

Symptom No. 2: Hunger

Are you starving the search engines? Dealership websites are loaded with handy tools from their OEMs and third-party vendors. Tire Finders, Credit Applications and Maintenance Schedules are solution-finding juggernauts of the website world; tools that are never adequately leveraged by the dealer. Quite often, these webpages are the product of good intentions and boundless opportunity—that inevitably fall short, due to poor execution. 

Take for example your ‘Book A Service’ page. With an iframe contact form and an H1 tag (your page title), this page is merely two strings of overlooked code to Google’s site crawlers. From a search perspective—no one will find it organically.

These are actionable pages that allow customers to schedule their appointment, to ultimately provide your Fixed Operations some revenue. It’s foolish to assume that this sophisticated lead form can independently convert every page visitor by itself. 

The lesson here: we can do better. 

Recommended Treatment:

Complement the tech with a side of digestible content. Set your goal for a minimum of 250 words; now tell us why we’re here. What amenities can be expected during a typical service appointment? Brownie points for adding crosslinks to relevant specials or departments. 

Ranking on Google? Check! Providing your visitors value? Check! 

Symptom No. 3: Feeling Bloated

The omni-channel marketing approach is growing in popularity, and rightly so. In-market shoppers are being targeted with advertising on the radio, television, social media, print and in search. This escalated presence across mediums can trigger rookie mistakes during execution, so it’s imperative that each channel be treated based on its unique needs. Your website, the heart of your digital strategy, requires a little extra TLC.

Rest assured, you’re not the first person to upload a newspaper ad to the Specials page and consider your digital needs met. Don’t ignore your gut instinct—that innocent upload can trigger numerous UX issues, including:

1. Decreased pagespeed: the typical visitor will give up on your site after 4 seconds. Large images, especially ones designed for printing purposes, take time to load.

2. Unreadable content: much like those IFrames, Google needs text to determine what your page has to say. An image is an image is an image. And it’s not conveying anything more than <img src=“http://media.flexdealer.com/media/fall-service-special.jpg” />

3. Not mobile-friendly: even on a responsive website, your promotional graphic (and its itty-bitty copy) will become virtually illegible on smaller screens.

Recommended Treatment:

Satisfy Google’s site crawlers by giving them something to read. To ensure your promotion can be discovered through local search, pair a complementary promotional graphic with some indexable words and a clear call-to-action. (And make sure there’s a form or phone number nearby, for heaven’s sake!)

Looking for a clean bill of health? 

Whether you’ve recently migrated your dealership’s CMS platform, or are itching to audit your existing site, there are numerous diagnostic tools available that can be used to identify website performance issues. (We’re fans of Google’s Page Speed browser extensions, a free product that enables you to audit page-by-page.) Start with a checklist of your site’s biggest pain-points and call in your team of experts, in-house and vendor-side, to address them. 

We typically prescribe 2 or more rounds of heavy site maintenance, followed by a renewed commitment to content best practices. Side effects may include: higher search ranking, faster site speeds and happy customers.

Jenn Dunstan is the over-caffeinated Marketing Director for FlexDealer. Despite refusing treatment to remove the iPhone permanently affixed to her hand, Jenn remains passionate about cleaning up our industry's promotional clutter and antiquated notoriety—one dealership at a time.