WEB

Website

Authored by Amanda Meuwissen, Brand & Content Manager

It’s time to put brand principles to use. One of the most important resources that consumers will use when exploring your brand and whether to purchase or service at your dealership is your website. Think of your website as your virtual storefront. The care and attention you apply to how your dealership looks and is experienced by consumers should be applied here as well.

The Business 2 Community said it best:

“To a brick-and-mortar business, location is everything. Opening your store in a place where lots of potential customers see you can provide a huge boost to the success of your business as it increases traffic and exposure. That said, today many businesses offer goods and services to people who’ve never set foot in their physical location, owing to an established online presence by means of a responsive website.”

This website chapter will cover the following:

  1. What’s on the page?
  2. Digital Retailing Best Practices
  3. SEO Management
  4. SEM Management
  5. Google Analytics Optimization

The importance of your digital presence cannot be overstated. It begins with the simplest of concepts: what’s on the page?

What’s on the Page?

This section is broken out into five main components to help you better understand how to create an optimal website. Let’s start with overall user experience.

User Experience

First, while we are talking about websites, user experience (UX) is not relegated to digital alone. How a consumer experiences your website should match how they experience your dealership, your social sites, your radio and TV ads – everything. So, when applying UX best practices to your website, you need to put your customers first and consider their preferences and expectations in how you build their entire experience with your brand.

You might also be confused about the difference between UX and UI, or user interface. UI can fall within UX because it’s about the look and feel, but UX goes broader.

CareerFoundry explains that “UX design is all about the overall feel of the experience,” which should connect to how consumers experience your brand and stores everywhere they find it, “while UI design is all about how the product’s interfaces look and function.”

“Have the interface and experience work effectively when someone is glancing through your website quickly. Websites are scanned – not read.”

Peter Morville of Semantic Studios notes that for there to be a meaningful and valuable user experience, information must be:

  • Useful: Your content should be original and fulfill a need
  • Usable: Site must be easy to use
  • Desirable: Image, identity, brand, and other design elements are used to evoke emotion and appreciation
  • Findable: Content needs to be navigable and locatable onsite and offsite
  • Accessible: Content needs to be accessible to people with disabilities
  • Credible: Users must trust and believe what you tell them

Layout

The remainder of this section ties back to creating a good UX, starting with layout. Entire articles, whitepapers, and books have been written about visual hierarchy and how something should be displayed based on how people generally consume information, but the basic principles to remember are:

  • Make important things larger
  • Use F or Z patterns to prioritize where things go (people read left to right and down)
  • Utilize white space effectively
  • Font matters, both weight (thickness) and consistency
  • Be careful of color pairings – some are hard on the eyes
  • Images go a long way.

On the subject of images, Shortie Designs says, “A picture can speak a thousand words, and choosing the right images for your website can help with brand positioning and connecting with your target audience. If you don’t have high quality professional photos on hand, consider purchasing stock photos to lift the look of your website.

Also consider using infographics, videos and graphics as these can be much more effective at communicating than even the most well written piece of text.”

Whether to use strictly photography, illustrations, or both has long been debated. As a dealer, you’ll automatically use photography when showing off your store and your vehicles, so however you choose to use additional imagery, make sure you are consistent with your overall store brand.

There are standards for a reason, so don’t rush to be creative. Creativity can be good, but not at the expense of common design elements that people are used to. If something is universal, such as an icon like a cloud with a downward arrow meaning to download, follow that trend. Shoppers won’t take the time to figure out your site’s uniqueness if it’s too much off the norm.

Other basic principles:

  • Logo placed in the top-left corner
  • Main navigation menu highest on the page, on the right or centered
  • Contact included in the main navigation menu
  • Call to action at the top
  • Search feature in the header
  • Sign-up form in the footer
  • Social media links (as icons) in the footer
  • Social sharing buttons available for product pages or blog articles
  • Other less frequently clicked links (like Privacy Policy) in the footer

In general, the layout of your site needs to have limited steps to reach a consumer’s goals, which are ultimately your goals too – such as to get them to book an appointment, schedule service, begin the Digital Retail process, value their trade, or engage in online chatting.

Content

Once you have your layout figured out, what is it you are trying to get people to engage with?

Be concise. Anyone surfing your site wants clarity and simplicity. Keep paragraphs short, use plenty of headings, and use bulleted lists to better focus the eye and give readers a break.

“Be concise. Anyone surfing your website wants clarity and simplicity.”

Text should be easily distinguishable to increase its readability. There are usually four levels:

  • Title (H1)
  • Headings (H2)
  • Sub-headings (H3)
  • Paragraph/body text

And of course, if it should be clicked, make that obvious, but don’t take that to mean that everything should have a popup.

Sometimes popups can be obtrusive, so when you use them, be smart about how, so that they ‘pop up’ at the right time, in the right way, with the right content to appeal to the user.

According to HubSpot, a good popup should be designed with the following aspects in mind:

  • Offer something relevant and valuable
  • Think about the way people engage with your pages
  • Use language that’s specific, actionable, and human
  • Don’t ruin the mobile experience

When someone arrives at your site, they’re likely looking for information on a vehicle to purchase or to contact you about service. For sales, have an effective search tool for vehicle types front and center. For service, ensure that your general ‘contact us’ button, schedule service button, and chatbot are clearly visible.

Live Chat

Shoppers are impatient and want their questions answered as quickly as possible, making Live Chat a must.

However, as much as consumers want immediacy, they also want that personal touch of thinking they’re interacting with someone real – and there are enough chatbot services out there that mimic a real person well enough to be efficient and cost-effective, while also providing the type of user experience people expect.

If you have an in-house team, some basic tips are:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Be friendly and helpful – don’t only ask for contact info
  • Spellcheck and review responses before sending them
  • Avoid caps, going off topic, or humor – it doesn’t always read well

The same goes for chatting via SMS. Many people will give you their phone number but prefer texting over a call. While chatting on your website, have the option at any time for them to switch to SMS, to a phone call, or to email follow-up, depending on their preference and time constraints.

Landing pages

Landing pages should adhere to all the rules already covered – maybe even a chatbot – but with more consideration on the length of time a user is likely to spend there. Be even more succinct than you would on any webpage. Unlike pages on your site, landing pages are built to drive traffic for a specific marketing campaign goal, such as driving traffic based around a specific special or service offer. Be sure to avoid unnecessary distractions and that the information that matters, especially the call to action, is front and center and relevant to why the consumer clicked there in the first place.

One thing a landing page can do that your website maybe cannot is further tailor content to each individual. The data gathered about consumers, from your CRM, DMS, website, and elsewhere, can target email, social ads, and even sometimes direct mail based on specific wants and needs, such as a specific vehicle type. A landing page can then remember who that consumer is and populate additional information or vehicles they might be interested in.

Ultimately, what all this is meant to accomplish is to achieve a goal, which is either to inform or convert, and when converting, everything in today’s world is about the customer lifecycle experience – including the retail experience, as many consumers are looking to complete more of their shopping process online.

Digital Retailing

It is important to provide creative avenues for customers and prospects to shop and purchase from the comfort of their own homes.

It is just as vital to ensure consumers know about your offerings, and your website is the obvious first place they’ll start when considering a purchase or service decision, even if they’ve been loyal to your store in the past.

If you haven’t already, consider implementing immediately: Virtual Showrooms & At-Home Services.

This is becoming more common and available, and rightly so, giving shoppers an opportunity to better view vehicles online and even make online purchases. It also keeps your dealership accessible to customers if they aren’t comfortable or able to go to the store in person.

Luther Automotive Group is just one example offering No-Contact Sales and Service, all the way from searching online to delivery. Acton Toyota in Massachusetts is another that has service (pick-up AND delivery), 100% online purchases (with delivery), and even 24-hour online service scheduling.

Offering at-home pickups and delivery services should be the norm for every dealer because consumers expect it today.

“Offering at-home pickups and delivery services should be the norm for every dealer because consumers expect it today.”

Some examples for how and where to let consumers know what you are offering are:

  • Website banner – whether as a popup, part of your top image carousel, or in your navigation, make it clear on your homepage what you are offering for a digital retail experience,
  • Social posting – that means on Facebook, Twitter, even LinkedIn, and through video where possible, so you are visible where your customers are,
  • Digital advertising – you may consider cutting back on TV and radio spend, but don’t cut digital where you can measure ROI; stay top of mind while consumers are surfing online.

A great example can be seen on the homepage for Toyota of Irving, where they include information in their image carousel to make their offerings clear.

Today’s consumer landscape is certainly different, but consumers still need vehicles and servicing on the vehicles they own. Follow the recommendations above to ensure your consumers are consistently engaged and educated.

SEO Management

Every element on your website, including button size, design, color, etc. plays a role in user interaction. These elements also impact a website’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Hopefully, you’ve already considered what main keywords best describe your dealership, your brand, and what services you offer. It is critical to use those keywords frequently on your webpages but be aware that Google puts more weight on terms that appear at the top of the page, so consider location as well.

Location and frequency of keywords do not mean success on their own, however. Google has stated that you should avoid “duplicate or near-duplicate versions of your content across your site.” Don’t repeat the exact same phrases over and over, and certainly not in the exact same way.

As Backlinko states, this rule applies to every piece of content on your website, including:

  • Title tags
  • Meta description tags
  • Ecommerce product pages
  • Landing pages
  • Image alt text
  • Category pages

If you publish a page on your site, the content on that page must be 100% unique. This can be difficult for dealers when you have hundreds of vehicles and similar products, but being unique, just like providing a more personalized experience for consumers overall, will make you more successful.

Some other simple tips are to optimize your loading speed, which should be a goal anyway, optimize images, and use internal linking to help drive consumers to different pages. Older pages, while not as up-to-date, tend to have more weight for a Google search. If you link newer pages and content to older pages for reference, you can help increase search rankings for what’s new as well as your overall website.

All recommended website improvements also improve SEO, which is the funnel for how many consumers reach you. Another part of that funnel is marketing.

SEM Management

SearchEngine Journal says that “growth marketing is essentially the path to attracting the right visitors to your business. Not just the low-hanging-fruit, top-of-funnel visitors, but those who are ‘sticky’ and likely to lead to a conversion or sale.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the unsung hero — and the secret weapon — for today’s growth marketing leaders.”

“Growth marketing is essentially the path to attracting the right visitors to your business.”

First, consider your goals. Just like with deciding the purpose of each page on your website, what is the purpose of your marketing efforts? Once you know your goals, align your marketing to accomplish them.

Do you want sales, service, loyalty from current customers? Likely all three and more, but each campaign should keep a narrow focus on that goal.

Next, be sure that you are delivering value to each person who meets your target audience, so they have a reason to complete your calls-to-action.

Are you targeting at the next level or just the way you always have?

Build out specific personas for who you’re targeting, choose keywords that align with each, and keep consistent with your messaging – both in your marketing, search engine related or otherwise, and where consumers land on your website.

And finally, be smart about Paid Search. Did you know that customers who click paid search or social ads are more likely to buy and spend more, and that running search and display at the same time can double your conversation rate?

You know it’s important to have an amazing website, so work on better ways to get people there and to engage them when they arrive.

Google Analytics

You now have a lot of tangible action items for improving your website and how people find it, but the only way to truly see what’s working after you make some of these changes is to measure your efforts.

The gold standard to achieve that successfully is through Google Analytics (GA).

Measurement will be covered in more detail in a later chapter, but for now, some best practices to consider with GA on your website is:

  • Put GA on your website
    • If it’s not, get it there now, because it will show you a multitude of information on who traffics your website and what they are experiencing while there, which better informs you on how to improve it.
  • Consider your goals
    • This will continue to come up in every facet of marketing planning, but especially with your website and overall digital presence – know what you want to accomplish so you can measure toward it.
  • Link your AdWords account
    • The best and easiest-to-digest reporting comes from being able to see everything in the fewest of places. If you use AdWords, link that data to your GA.
  • Create Filtered Views
    • Make sure the data you’re seeing is accurate, and one way to do that is by excluding traffic from internal IP addresses. You don’t need to know that your internet marketing director is constantly checking how the site looks. GA currently offers:
      • Search-and-replace filters,
      • Advanced filters,
      • Exclude internal traffic,
      • Filter domain referrals,
      • Filter on geography,
      • Custom filter fields, and
      • Social network filters.
    • Watch Source/Medium rankings
      • Regularly look into who is most often driving traffic to your website to determine which external partners and marketing efforts are working. Who’s in the top 25, top 10, top 3, and who is lagging on the next page of data.

There is a lot to look at in GA, so a few other tips to consider are which metrics are vital. Check out Outsell’s recent infographic on The Metrics You Can & Cannot Ignore.

“The digital marketing metrics that matter end in conversions and increased ROI.”

Conclusion

This chapter covered how to improve the overall user experience of consumers visiting your website, including layout, content, usage of live chat, and landing pages.

Best practices have also been provided for digital retailing, and how you can improve your SEO and SEM to get more people to your website.

Additionally, the importance of Google Analytics to measure and help you optimize your website over time is critical for your success.

While following any of these tips can increase your website’s effectiveness, acting on all of them can give you an edge over the competition at a time when customer lifecycle marketing is more important than ever.

About the Author

Amanda Meuwissen, Content & Brand Manager at Outsell

 

Amanda Meuwissen is an accomplished marketer and published author. Amanda has over ten years’ experience managing website, blog, marketing automation, and social media content for both publishing and SaaS companies, as well as creating other online and advertising collateral.

Hubspot certified with HTML, graphic design, and a professional editing background, Amanda wears many hats in both the marketing and publishing industries.

Amanda Meuwissen
Content and Brand Manager
Mobile: +1 612.236.1519
Email: Amanda.meuwissen@outsell.com
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amanda-meuwissen-b7678215/

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