The Headline Writer’s Laws of Attractions

By: Christine Hogg Dec 20, 2016

Headline writing is an artform. But it’s also an important element of the copywriting realm that many people don’t think twice about. Remember the good old days of writing a university paper and slapping a title on that had enough to do with your topic for a solid B+? If you really wanted that A, you might have even included a “professional” approach with a colon (Selling Your Car: The Right Way) to stand out from the crowd. If this is how you currently title your auto blogs or web pages, it’s time to stop. Right now.

The key to writing a catchy headline is the difference between people actually reading your copy versus skimming the first few lines (or worse, ignoring it completely). Consider this. When you pick up your morning newspaper, do your eyes zoom in straight for the body of text, or do they jump to the bolded words at the top? The structure of your headlines and your attention to the craft is critical to the copy your business produces. If your headlines suck, even if your content is juicy and knowledgeable, nobody will read it. What’s worse, is your inventory will sit dormant and go stale because nobody will visit your site (are you scared yet?). An attention-grabbing headline is your saving grace because that’s what will convert your audience and ultimately sell your products.

So, how do you write a killer headline?

It’s not as hard as it looks, but it definitely takes practice. The secret to creating engaging, crisp, and convincing headlines is to know your copy inside and out. After you’re informed on everything the article or content snippet advertises, put your thinking cap on and get to work.

Law No. 1: Be a Tease

The internet provides us with millions of clickbait articles, listicles, infotainment and real news to the point that it might seem you can’t go 5 seconds without seeing another “How To” or “Why You” or “Top 5” article in your social network. With so much similar content, it’s critical to really find a unique angle that’s hiding within your copy and write a headline that both identifies what the copy is about, but also implies a strong CTA. The sense of urgency should be there too as a means to lend exclusivity to your brand. If your headline looks and sounds like everyone else’s, why should readers stick around? For example rather than writing “The Best Used Cars”, why not try “The Top 5 Used Cars You Need To Test Drive in 2017”. See the difference? The first one tells us what many of us might already know, or not care about. The second invites us to book a test drive and also stirs up a little bit of curiosity from the reader which leaves them wanting more.

Law No. 2: Get Some Action

Never let your headline sit on the page for the sake of acting as a title. If you’re going to do that, it’s best to not write anything! Headlines are essentially your guiding CTA which encourage the reader to learn more through reading the copy below the headline. The headline should be useful and outline some sort of benefit. Consider the following examples: “Custom Truck Detailing” vs. “Build Your Next Custom Truck In Less Than a Day”. If you were the consumer, it’s obvious which one sounds more fun and engaging. Never write a headline simply as a means to title a page. By doing that, you’re missing out on a bunch of great new leads and interested consumers who could bring in a ton of new web traffic and business for your company.

Law No. 3: Let’s Get Technical

Headline writing in the digital age has never been more challenging. The way we search for products online is changing and has a lot to do with SEO strategy. Search engines analyze content and context, location services and keywords in order to deliver consumers with the closest match to what they’re looking for. With that being said, you must write your headlines with this in mind. What are your customers looking for? Where are they located? It’s important to do your homework on your customers and analyze how they interact with your website. Once you have that down, you have a better idea of how to write for your audience. These insights will ultimately drive traffic, increase new leads and grow your business. Conduct SEO strategies to identify keyword opportunities that can be incorporated into your headlines and you’ll be on your way to writing a killer headline in no time.

Headline writing is no easy task. But, with the right balance of creativity, a sense of urgency, emotional leverage over your customers and maybe a cup of coffee or two, your online copy will have even the pickiest readers following along. And if you're still not confident in getting it right, our content marketing team at FlexDealer is ready to help. 

Christine Hogg is a deadline driven content writer for FlexDealer who comes armed with an Honours B.A in Journalism. When she’s not drinking lattes and typing away furiously at the keyboard, you can find her practicing photography, enjoying Toronto’s downtown core, or looking for the best all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant.

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.

24 Car Dealership Blog Post Ideas

By: Michael Cirillo Sep 02, 2016

READING TIME: 5 MIN

If you like the idea of having a car dealership blog but are struggling to come up with topics or ideas, you're not alone. There's a good reason why more dealers aren't blogging, and that's because it's not easy. It takes a lot of planning and hard work, but it is doable, especially when you have plenty of ideas to work with.

Blogging does pay off, though. It's one of the best ways to build relationships of trust and grow an audience that thirsts for your subject matter expertise.

Consumers are going online every single day to research your products and services. Their research helps shape the purchase decision. The name of the game is to give them the information they are looking for as quickly and efficiently as possible.

That's why we've come up with this list of automobile blog ideas that you should definitely consider when you're ready to start blogging for your store. The trick is to make your car blog post topics as shareworthy as possible.


1. FAQs post

As a dealership, you're likely getting asked the same or similar questions all the time. Take note and answer them through a blog post. You can create different categories based on departments (e.g., parts, service, finance, sales, etc.)


2. Community Events post

Get involved in the community by helping promote and talk about community events. These posts are typically time sensitive but can generate a high amount of local traffic to your site. After the event is over, you can write a follow-up review post of the event.


3. Response posts

There is no shortage of opinions on the internet. Response posts are an excellent way to leverage existing content online and offer your two cents.


4. Comparisons post

What's the difference between car A and car B? You already know that people are online searching for this exact question. Why not answer it through a blog post?


5. Checklist post

What can we say? People love checklists. Especially if it helps them achieve something desirable. You could create something simple like a checklist that walks your readers through a routine vehicle safety check before driving.


6. ‘How To’ post

How to posts are going to generate a ton of traffic to your blog if they are about topics that people care about. These posts could range from 'how to sync Bluetooth with my device' to 'how to check my credit score'.


7. Behind the Scenes post

There is something about a 'behind-the-scenes' look that appeals to the voyeuristic appetite that most human beings share. These posts are a great way to give your audience a transparent look at what happens in the places of your store that nobody else can see. Though not a promotion post, there is a subtle promotional element to giving a natural look at your store, processes and desire to serve that will draw in an audience.


8. Series post

Consider taking part of your store, product or service and breaking it out into bite-sized chunks of information. For example, if you were talking about a vehicle, you could write a series of posts that cover its technical, safety, economy, comfort, competitive features.


9. Best of post

Using Google Trends, you can identify the most viral or popular content on the web (related to your industry) and write a post that compiles all the links together in one place. Remember, it's not about creating new content, it's about making it as accessible and easy to consume as possible.


10. Prediction post

Who doesn't like a good prediction? What are your thoughts about what's happening with your vehicle lineup? Will the concept cars from 5 years ago get produced?


11. Speculation post

We see speculation posts all the times when it comes to technology. Everyone loves speculating about the new features in the next Android phone or iPhone. There are automobile enthusiasts who get equally excited about new features in the upcoming vehicle lineup, so why not talk about it?


12. Reaction post

Reaction posts are an excellent way to embed, link, or reference breaking news and then share your reaction to it. Opinions are always highly readable and share worthy.


13. Review post

From parts and service to finance and sales, there is a plethora of products and services that you can give an honest, unbiased review of. The trick to review posts is just that. Talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly and your audience will appreciate your information so much more.


14. Contest or Giveaway post

Whenever there's a contest or giveaway at your store, you should be blogging about it. Share details about how to enter and qualify, and what the rules of the giveaway are. Case in point, people LOVE contests and giveaways.


15. Community engagement post

It's time to start branching outside of the four walls of your store and start building relationships and affinity with other local businesses. Similar to community events post, this post is where you highlight other local businesses in your community. For example, you might write a post about the top 5 burger joints in town. Those business owners will likely share the link and just like that, you have traffic coming to your blog.


16. Should Ask (SAQ) post

Similar to a FAQ, the SAQ (or Should Ask Question) is a post that outlines the questions that consumers should be asking with the associated answer.


17. Enthusiast post

From Corvettes to Tesla's, there are plenty of automobile enthusiasts who are always looking for more content to consume. Whether you are a sports car or rally car dealer, you should consider posting regular content that appeals the enthusiast audience.


19. List post

This very post is a list post, and it works for all the reasons you decided to click the link and start reading it. Everyone loves a good list.


20. Mythbuster post

You've likely heard a few myths about your products and services out there. Use the Mythbuster post to explain why the myth is bunk.


21. Picture of the week post

Share a cool picture that you or your staff have taken and write a commentary about it.


22. Content Aggregator post

I've mentioned leverage already existent content, and that's what the content aggregator post is all about. These posts are helpful because you can use content that is already being shared and talked about. It's important to link back to the source of the content though so that you're not getting penalized for plagiarism.


23. Company update post

What's new in your store? What's exciting? Who are the new hires? What processes have you changed to make the buying experience more enjoyable? Share them all!


24. Holiday post

This is not about religion, belief, faith or anything of that nature. Wishing your audience the best at the holidays shows your humanity. They may not get a ton of comments, but they will help people remember that you're not a robot, and that's a bonus in my books.


With these 24 car blogs topic ideas at your fingertips, you should never run out of things to blog about.

Perhaps the most crucial element of blogging is not to be over promotional. Keep it real. Meet your audience where they are instead of trying to force them into the 'buyer' bucket, and your blog will continue to turn the eyes of high-quality people to your website for the long-term.

What did I miss? What have you been blogging about that is getting a good response?


Michael Cirillo

Michael is the CEO and fearless* leader at FlexDealer. An enthusiastic team chearleader and defender of transparent business practices, he relishes long motorcycle rides and big ideas. As a bestselling author and keynote speaker, Michael works with dealerships of all sizes as well as fortune 100 and 500 companies to rise above the clutter and dominate the web. When he's not playing 'dad' to three crazy kids, he's shooting the breeze with industry leaders on his internationally-embraced podcast, The Dealer Playbook.

(* notwithstanding large insects)

Connect with Michael:

            

The Best SEO Tools for DIY Car Dealers

By: Michael Cirillo Jul 07, 2016

Before we get into this, can you just take a quick minute to bask in the glory of that dude's manliness? I mean, that is one heck of a beard... It would make Travis Lindenmoyer proud enough to sing "I will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston at the top of his lungs...

Okay, moving on...

When it comes to optimizing your car dealer website, having the right tools in your SEO toolkit can make the difference between pulling your hair out with frustration or winning by design.

In this post, I'm going to share some of my favorite DIY car dealer SEO tools so that you can get a head start on doing SEO the right way.

Before I do, here's the caution. SEO requires strategy. Don't just jump in thinking that these tools are the magic bullet to ranking your website. Without a clearly defined SEO strategy, these SEO tools could be the last nail in the coffin of a never-ending wormhole of digital problems. 

That's enough doom and gloom for one post, I think. With all of that in mind, let's move on to my top picks for best SEO tools for the DIY car dealer.

Local SEO

1. Local SEO Checklist

You will immediately know what's up when you visit this site. It's what you'd expect by reading its name: A Local SEO Checklist chalk-full of useful things that you can do to ensure your website is firing on all pistons.

2. Schema Creator

Created by Raven Tools (a software we also use), schema-creator.org is a simple website that helps you create structured data snippets for your site. Google (and other search engines) use schema to help make sense of all the content in your HTML code.

3. Moz' Local SEO Quick Check

This simple SEO tool lets you type in your business name and zip/postal code and checks a few sources for your NAP information. It notifies you of the listings that aren't complete or ones that you're not even using yet, such as Yelp, Bing, Google and more.

4. Whitespark Local Citation Finder

Whitespark, along with the others are LOCAL SEO tools that have been designed to help you discover and clean up your local citations. 

Whitespark helps you find where you should be listing your business online and also adds in competitive analysis as well.

5. Free Review Monitoring

This is a cool review monitoring site that allows you to enter your information to get up-to-date notifications about new reviews of your business. This is particularly useful when managing multiple locations, that is, if knowing what your customers are saying is important to you...


--> Click here to schedule a complimentary SEO strategy session <--


Keyword Analysis

1. SEM Rush

Though SEM Rush isn't free (if you want the real goods), it provides a slew of helpful information not just on keywords, but about PPC, competitors keywords, and PPC. It's a great way to hack competitor keywords and see what's performing well for them. 

2. KW Finder

The fastest and easiest ways to do keyword research. Trust me, just go check it out and follow the prompts. You'll be addicted.

3. Keyword Tool Dot IO

Another really simple website for keyword ideas. Keyword Tool leverages the data contained inside of search engines' auto-complete functionality to deliver you raw data on what people are searching.

4. Über Suggest

Über Suggest is another service similar to Keyword Tool. All you have to do is type in your keyword, and it will come up with loads of keyword suggestions for you. They even have a Google Chrome extension called KeywordEverywhere that will help you get search volume and CPC for free.


SEO Tracking

1. Google Analytics (obvi)

If you're not using Google Analytics by now, uhhh, whaaa?

2.) Raven Tools

I mentioned Raven Tools earlier. They provide a robust view of your website data so that you can learn more about where you're winning and losing online.


In closing let me just say this. There are hundreds upon hundreds of SEO tools out there. I've included a few of my favorites here, but that's only because I didn't want this post to be 80,000 words.

My encouragement would be to check these tools out (no I'm not an affiliate for any of them, but even if I was, they are still tools that I use), and get familiar with what they do.

Ultimately I encourage you to work through a strategy. If you're having trouble, hit up our live chat or send us an email and we'd be happy to provide a complimentary strategy session. It's something we normally charge for, but 'what the hey', let's do this! 

Click here to schedule a complimentary SEO strategy session


Michael Cirillo

Michael is the CEO and fearless* leader at FlexDealer. An enthusiastic team chearleader and defender of transparent business practices, he relishes long motorcycle rides and big ideas. As a bestselling author and keynote speaker, Michael works with dealerships of all sizes as well as fortune 100 and 500 companies to rise above the clutter and dominate the web. When he's not playing 'dad' to three crazy kids, he's shooting the breeze with industry leaders on his internationally-embraced podcast, The Dealer Playbook.

(* notwithstanding large insects)

Connect with Michael:

            

The 28-Point Local SEO Checklist for Car Dealers

By: Michael Cirillo May 06, 2016

By now it should be no secret that SEO is alive and well. In fact, it's more important than ever when trying to increase visibility online.

Ranking on Google has always been a bit of a mystery. There are over 200 ranking factors that webmasters need to consider when working on a website, but no one has ever actually known what ranking signals receive preferential treatment. 

Until now. 

In my last blog post, I revealed what the top three ranking signals were and what you should focus on to help your long-term SEO strategy.

But we also know that Google loves mobile and that you need to have a solid mobile strategy to assist the visibility of your website from smartphones and other mobile devices.

In 2015, mobile usage surpassed desktop usage which means that if your website isn't mobile-friendly, this is a good time to consider making that happen. 

Credit: eMarketer / SmartInsights

There have been many debates about what mobile protocol works best for car dealers, but hopefully knowing that Google prefers responsive websites should help sway your decision in what direction to take.

And that's also where local SEO makes its entrance to the stage.

Since your phone knows your present physical location, that data is used to offer more relevant search results to mobile users. That means that when a consumer is out and about conducting commerce related searches, it's in your best interest to show up.

That's why we've published our 28-point Local SEO Checklist for car dealers. 

Download your copy of the local SEO checklist here

Inside the checklist, you'll get access to the 28 most important actions you can take to get your website (and dealership) more visible for local related searches. 

You'll also get access to a list of 50 directory sites that you should consider submitting your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) information. 

Credit: BrightLocal

SEO is something that you need to pay close attention to, especially with more and more users migrating to mobile search. It's crucial to have a responsive website that will offer the same access to information for mobile users as it would on a desktop. 

As a local business, it's even more important to make sure that you're soaking up as much local search real-estate as you possibly can. 

Start implementing the actions included in the 28-point local SEO checklist so that you can rise above the clutter and dominate local search!

Download your 28-point local SEO checklist here

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?