Establishing your digital foundations

As we’ve explored in previous columns, today’s competitive automotive market requires dealers to be running continuous digital advertising campaigns to ensure they reach customers at every stage of the buying journey. However, what is the point of investing in advertising, if your marketing foundations aren’t in place?

You wouldn’t spend large sums of money to promote your dealership, only to have people disappointed when they hit the showroom floor with degraded facilities, low stock levels and unprofessional staff. Dealers appreciate that the appearance of their premises and the presentation of their team is key to converting customers, so invest in these accordingly.

Similarly, investment needs to be made in some key, long-term marketing foundations to ensure you are always putting your best foot forward in the digital landscape: namely, your website and your search engine optimisation (SEO).

Establishing Your Digital Foundation

Websites - Your digital face

Your website is the digital face of your business so aesthetics are paramount if you want to keep a customer engaged. Website creative is a speciality that only highly qualified designers truly get right – and within that, automotive websites have a sub-set of design elements that are specific to the industry. These include the way automotive websites navigate through new car content, the inclusion of offers pages and scrolling banners, stock locator layouts, and multiple conversion points including live chat, enquiry forms and click- to-call buttons.

Furthermore, you need to ensure your website is unique to your dealership – not just a templated version of other dealership sites of the same franchise. When visiting a website, customers want to feel as though you are speaking to them, with an understanding of who they are and what they want, and this is done through content that is unique to your dealership.

The investment in a qualified designer also ensures you end up with a website that functions in a way that delivers the best user experience. With 65 percent of website views taking place on a mobile phone, it’s imperative that your site is responsive: adjusting its view, navigation and the functionality of its forms depending on the user’s device.

The load speed it also a key element in ensuring a good customer experience, and only a reputable website developer can implement the necessary strategies to ensure this is achieved. Customers today don’t like to wait for a webpage to load – they expect an instant response to their click, and if they don’t get that, they will move to another website. Load speed also has an impact on your website’s search engine optimisation (SEO), with rankings of sites being downgraded if they take too long to load.

SEO – Outrank your your competitors

SEO is a process of optimisation that ensures a website is compliant with the many regular algorithm changes that the major search engines implement. 'On-page' and 'off-page' SEO strategies are executed to ensures a website’s ranking potential is met and relevant traffic is being driven to it.

The best place to start your SEO is to have a qualified specialist audit your website: a process in which they will examine several key areas and detect any problems that may be preventing the site from ranking well. Once this is established, an SEO campaign can be set up to address the issues and attract customers to your site.

SEO is a long-term investment, not a short-term expense. With any SEO campaign, no matter what goals you have, success should be seen as value delivered over time. The best part about paying for SEO is that there is no expiry date: the benefits compound.

With the major players always improving their ranking algorithms and your competitors always looking to dethrone you, search engine rankings are constantly changing. For this reason, rather than paying-as-you-go, my recommendation to dealers is to sign a retainer for SEO with a reputable agency that shares your goals and values. This then gives you peace of mind that you have a long-term strategy in place, with a team of experts monitoring your website month after month.

Like a renovation to your premises where you would hire a qualified construction team that you trust will deliver a dealership that looks great, functions well and appeals to customers, you should take the same approach with your website. Partner with providers who will deliver a website that is going to present well, perform well and rank well, because, once these foundations are in place, like your showroom, they will act as free advertising for your business.

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