Three Symptoms of a Sick Website

By: Jenn Dunstan Sep 20, 2016

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.

Video: How The New User Explorer Report in Google Analytics Will Help You Win More Business

By: Michael Cirillo May 19, 2016

The team at Google Analytics has recently rolled out a brand new report to their Audience suite that will help you understand your site visitors with clarity.

The new User Explorer report provides step-by-step action data that can help you understand what users are doing while on your website. In so doing, you'll be able to get a clearer picture of what pages and content, inventory, or services resonate with your audience.

Having this information at a much more granular level will help you optimize your website experience to account for real human behavior rather than relying on guesswork or assumptions. In so doing, you'll have a greater opportunity to win business by supplying the demand of your market.

Along with the marketing implications, this also will give us more validation about what users find most valuable, and how long their purchase process takes. 

To learn more about the new User Explorer report, watch this brief video below:


The User Explorer report breaks apart into just a few simple segments. Let's take a look at each of the main parts so that you can see how the information is useful and what you can learn about your site visitors. 

User Explorer Overview

You'll find the user explorer report in the Audience suite of metrics within Google analytics. Simply click on Audience and User Explorer to access the data.

Once you've clicked on the User Explorer report you will see a table of high-level data. Each column in the table reflects data that is familiar to other metric suites within Google Analytics such as, Sessions, Avg. Session Duration and Bounce Rate.

The Client Id column lists a series of id's that get assigned to a user to help track the movement and actions they take while on your site. The id is also linked to a specific device which is helpful in understanding how mobile-friendly your website is.

From the table above you can see that there are site visitors who are spending an average time of over 5 minutes per session, and in some cases have logged over 30 sessions. Cross referencing that data to their average bounce rate, and you can see that these individuals are making quite a bit of movement throughout your website.

By clicking on any of the user ids, you'll be directed to an in-depth view of that user's visits to your website.

In the right column, you'll see when the date that they first visited your website along with the acquisition source and the device they were using to access your site.

This information is helpful because it adds a layer of context to the data that we're going to look at in the next section.

Along the top of the page, you'll see some baseline metrics about the user as well. These include the total number of sessions (45) and the total amount of time this user has spent on the site over those 45 sessions (about 2 1/2 hours).

The rest of the information on the user's page gives a breakdown of what their activities were while on your website.

According to the information above, this visitor spent some time browsing the inventory, filtering search results and looking at two different vehicles. 

As the data accumulates over time, you'll begin to see patterns in search behavior that will ultimately help you optimize your website in a way that speaks to the demand of your market.

Google's Top Three Ranking Factors Finally Revealed!

By: Michael Cirillo Apr 19, 2016

When it comes to ranking your website, the topic of Search Engine Optimization has always been somewhat vague. Though we've had a list of ranking factors to consider, Google has never been upfront about what the top considerations are. When the list tops 200 factors, things tend to get a little sticky.

For example, in 2015, Google announced that site speed accounted for 1% of it's ranking algorithm. Even though that's not a very significant number, it was something. To have Google attribute a definite number to a ranking factor was a huge leap for the tech giant, and it stirred up a frenzy in the automotive industry.

Vendors and Dealers went crazy over it. It became a game of 'who has a faster website'. It's funny to see how quickly the sky can start falling inside of this industry, especially over something that only accounts for 1% of the ranking of your website.

So what are the ranking factors already?

Last year, we learned about RankBrain, which Google announced then as the third most important ranking factor. At that time, they refused to say what the first two were.

Thanks to a recent Google Q&A session with Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, we know what the top three ranking factors are for Google.

"I can tell you what they are. It is Content. And it's links pointing to your site." 


So now we know. The top three Google ranking factors are Content, Links, and RankBrain.

Though we don't know what comes first between content and links, my best guess is that the list looks like this:

1.) Content

2.) Links

3.) RankBrain

The fact that you need content to link to suggests (in my opinion) that content is the number one ranking factor for Google. 

At FlexDealer, we believe that content is one of the most valuable (and underutilized) methods of attracting high-quality vehicle shoppers.

Think about it. Every single day, thousands of automotive shoppers in your market are going online to search for information. Those that provide it win. 

In closing, my question is this. Now that you know Google believes are the most important ranking factors, what are you going to do about it?