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Dealerskins Hybrid Sites Claim State of The Art SEO

On September 8, 2009 I received a news alert triggered by a press release from Dealerskins; a company that offers car dealers website marketing platforms. This announcement was for a new offering called Dealerskins Hybrid Sites.

Since I have worked on client Dealerskins websites before, I thought I would look into what this new offering entailed.

The official press release contained a statement that caught my attention:
"Dealerskins, a division of Dominion Dealer Solutions and leader in automotive web solutions, has launched a new series of websites, Dealerskins Hybrid Sites, that incorporate state-of-the-art SEO practices with its award-winning website designs."
I wanted to see if some of my past criticism of their SEO compliance issues were corrected. Two dealers where mentioned in the press release. The first was Shaker Auto Group's Mazda dealer in Massachusetts which I tracked down to be www.wellesleymazda.com

The second dealer mentioned and quoted was Heather Moran:
"Since we started using Dealerskins, all of our sites have seen an increase in traffic and SEO searchability," said Heather Moran, director of marketing for Stevinson Automotive. "We show up on the first page for major search terms."
Since this dealer group had a number of Dealerskins websites, I picked www.stevinsonchevrolet.com in Lakewood Colorado. The press release did not specifically say that these two dealers are using their new Hybrid site technology but since they were sited as happy customers, I decided to see how their SEO designs were implemented by Dealerskins.

Google SEO Starter Guide


I use Google's own SEO starter guide as a basic of checking compliance with what Google recommends for websites. Since they control 70% of the search market, it is a good practice to read their SEO Guide. On page two of the manual, Google recommends that each page on the website have a unique title. This gives Google a way to measure what the page is targeting and it also serves as a call to action to the consumer who reads the listing on a Google SERP page.
So I checked both websites to see if their Google titles were unique using the "site:' command. Here are two screeen shots from that analysis:

lakewood-chevrolet-colorado

wellesly-mazda-massachusetts

SEO Quick Analysis


Page Titles

From the site commands taken on the same day the press release was issued, you can see that what Google considers as a "basic" SEO requirement, unique page titles, is not implemented.

In the first screen shot for Stevinson Chevrolet, their service specials page has the same title as their payment calculator page. These are two separate and distinct pages that should be titled to reflect the content on the pages according to Google. You can also see that their META descriptions have many duplicates.

On the screen shot for Wellesly Mazda, I would make the case that starting many pages with the dealership name is a waste of valuable Title tag space. If someone types into Google "Wellesley Mazda" the main website will always be #1 in Google search because the domain is an exact match for the search phrase.

One goal of Automotive SEO is to attract NEW customers who don't know the name "Wellesley Mazda". A better tag for the service page would be:

Mazda Service Massachusetts | Wellesley Framingham Newton MA


because it covers customer searches for Mazda Service and also includes key towns in their PMA.

META Description

On Page four of the Google SEO Starter Guide, Google recommends that web designers take advantage of using the META description tag. The META description tage appears under the Page Title in a Google search result page (SERP).

When we looked at the Wellesley Mazda Dealerskins car inventory pages, like the one listed below:

http://www.wellesleymazda.com/sitemap/index.cfm/new_inventory/2009-...

The META description tag was misssing. It seems that many of the car inventory pages are missing the META Description tags. We agree with Google that from our testing META tags are important and make SERP results more readable and result in a better call to action.

Here is what the Wellesley Mazda inventory pages look like to Google:

inventory-mazda

Inventory Page SEO Review


The Dealerskins inventory pages have very broad title tags that do not always include the model. The Title tags also have Wellesley repeated twice which is not needed since its in the domain name.

We do not consider these title tags optimized for organic search. The fact that the pages are missing the META description tag results in random text being displayed from the inventory page. This impacts the call to action ability that META description tags can offer.

Conclusion


The dealers listed in this press release do not pass the basic recommendations from Google's SEO started guide nor do they pass our basic guidelines for Automotive SEO. These two dealer websites do not represent "state-of-the-art SEO" practices.
Again, they were not explicitedly mentioned as using the new Dealerskins Hybrid website technology.

I hope that the new Dealerskins Hybrid Sites are much better than these two companies quoted in their press release. We invite Dealerskins to send us examples of websites that demonstrate this new Hybrid website technology to review. If the technology is truly state-of-the-art SEO, we will want to tell the industry about it on this blog.

Car Dealer Website SEO Technology Review

I will also be updating my whitepaper on the SEO compliance of all the major car dealer website providers in the coming month. If you would like your dealer platform included in my reviews, send me a note. My goal is to have the updated report completed by the Digital Dealer Conference in Nashville. Last year I reviewed over 15 platforms and this year the report will include over 25 platform choices for car dealers.

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Tags: automotiveseo, brianpasch, dealerskins, hybridwebsites, paschconsulting

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Comment by Paul Rushing on October 5, 2009 at 8:19am
@alex There are some really easy ways to get your main website to rank for those key "money" terms. The first one is building anchor links to your website or internal search results. With Google Caffeine, in beta, content keyphases and links will even start to draw more weight. I will be posting later today on google caffeine at www.dealerbytes.com.


Paul Rushing
912-266-1629
SEGA Systems, LLC
“Without Traffic Everything Fails”
Comment by Brian Pasch on October 5, 2009 at 8:16am
Next time your dealer platform contract is up, this should be a consideration. On November 1st, I will be publishing the 2009 ASMA report which will review over 25 dealer platforms for the SEO architecture. This report can help narrow down the list of providers that could help you take your fine SEO efforts to the next level.

It will be published on the ADM for at the end of the Digital Dealer Conference.

I also would like to encourage you to come down to the 7th Digital Dealer Conference in Nashville. I think you would really appreciate the quality of sessions and of course you wouldn't want to miss my session on Automotive SEO Content Strategies on November 1st.

You are doing some great things and the conference will give you a few more strategies that can help you dominate your market. Keep up the good work.

Influencer
Comment by Alex Sun on October 5, 2009 at 8:16am
Hi David,

We had problems with DS before but their support team has been very helpful. They do make a lot of mistakes and their 'Dealer Editable Pages' are such pain in the neck but I can see that they are trying to improve. Their webpage design is very clean and user-friendly with your proper guidance and instrucions.

When I was hired last November I was constantly monitoring our SEO content and added ourselves on a lot of review sites and maintaining them as well, maybe this add more relavancy? (All search engines and their Maps...)

Also I think from a couple month ago they can assign urls to different pages? I do have to manually tell them what urls we want to each page.

What I don't like is sometimes they make changes to your website without letting you know. But overall I like them and we will use DS as our vendor for the new dealership we will add to our group in December.

Shoot me an email maybe I could help a bit.

Thanks,
Alex
asun@shakerautogroup.com
Comment by Brian Pasch on October 5, 2009 at 7:58am
Alex,

I am very glad that you have found a way to compensate for some of the SEO basics that lack from your inventory system. This post was not a grading of your dealership's overall SEO footprint or IRM. I am very glad to see that you have very high customer reviews as well. And you rank well for many basic search phrases.

The point was whether the DS sites have inventory modules that meet my standards for SEO. For example, a search for "mazda3 boston" or "2010 mazda3 boston" could be used by a consumer shopping for that car . Your DS website doesn't appear on Page 1 and it could be due to the fact that your inventory module is non compliant.

So, yes you have done some great things to date and should be congratulated. With the proper inventory module, you could be seeing more traffic. That's the good news to consider.
Comment by David Lytle on September 12, 2009 at 2:19pm
Lot of interesting comments by our ADM members for sure. I do have experience with Dealerskins old platform..and have to say the SEO Optimized Sites were NOT optimized at all. I could type in our full name and you couldn't find us in any of the Search Engines and they had been the Dealerships Provider for over 3 Years. I came in and did some basic Keyword implementation and in a matter of 5 days you could find us first page. But the issue I also had with them, was the URL the same for every single page. I tried to do hyperlinking on our Microsites to Finance Application, Specials, etc..I could not do it, because there was one one URL. I had to call them every time and they would send me the URL Specific Page. That drove me nuts. I couldn't believe that their Inventory Pages all shared the same URL. On top of this, when ever I implemented Keywords and such..we would rise in ranking..but in a month we dropped like an anvil - out of sight again. The only things that did not drop were all the Blogs, Micro Sites, and Social Networking Sites i had built for us. We had more Traffic being created by that, than the Dealerskins Site was creating..Never saw that before of since!

Anyway that was my experience, love to see if they have made simple improvements to fix all of their problems.
Comment by Paul Rushing on September 11, 2009 at 3:40am
Larry the discussion was not about running a store it was about SEO and efficient traffic generation.

I agree that is a tremendous success 1000 cars per month via ebay and other online mediums. A well optimized website would help them sell even more at lower cost. They could even use ebays API to accomplish this.

As a matter of fact I have a kid that works for me and is learning affiliate marketing and SEO. It would make a fun project to put him on. Monetizing their inventory by pushing search engine users to ebay, adsense and lead gen sites.....

Influencer
Comment by Larry Bruce on September 11, 2009 at 3:16am
Paul I will end this conversation with this. When you are running a store selling over 1000 cars per month online all over the world, we will revisit this topic. I don't agree with all of TX. Direct's principals, but I cannot argue with their results.
Comment by Paul Rushing on September 11, 2009 at 2:19am
Larry you missed the point altogether. The store that sells 1000 cars per month via ebay is relying on ebay to generate them traffic via ebays SEO/SEM and branding not their own.

If they were to make the same investment in their own online presence as they have made in ebays they would sell even more cars. $100K + per month goes a long way online

Conversion metrics and user experience are the most important part of web marketing. The best converting web property and beautiful user experience is lost without TRAFFIC. Search engines deliver a bunch of it every day....

Influencer
Comment by Larry Bruce on September 11, 2009 at 2:08am
Paul first understand that overrated doesn't mean totally ignore it. Any site you build should be optimized for the user first and for the search second and you should never sacrifice good post-click-conversion techniques for the sake of search optimization.

Second MotorTrends online the store I owned with a partner and longtime friend of mine, we did the above in just that order as well a leveraged eBay Motors and other listing sites, including the free ones heavily. At the time we sold the dealership we were selling as many cars from our own website as we were from the listing sites. This is something I know my partner who now runs all retail opps for TX Direct Auto has shared with them but they have chosen to stay with their original model at least for now. Who can blame them?

Paul you missed the whole point with the MotorTrends Online and TX Direct Auto example. With eBay motors there are 1000 of dealership competitors once a customer gets there they all have the same eBay rating system and the access to the customer in the same way. No amount of SEO is going to help you there; it’s a level playing field. So how does a dealership become the largest dealership on eBay Motors with the playing field that level? The bigger question how do a couple of computer guys with absolutely no automotive experience and little online marketing experience become the #1 eBay motors dealership, consistently grow in a down market and sell over 1000 vehicles every month. Those are the questions you should be asking Paul not speculating on what you think you know.

Here is the point… these guys do what they do BECAUSE THEY FOCUS ON THE USER (THE CUSTOMER). TX Direct Auto is as successful as it is because they focus on giving the customer the experience they want and the vehicles they want in the way they want them. Here is what they don't focus on: SEO, SEM, obsession over their website (look at it do you think they are spending a large amount of time on it? TX Direct Auto click here.) They merchandise the car in the right way, they give the customer the great experience they want and expect, and they allow demand to dictate the vehicles they carry and buy. If you read the book The Wal-Mart Effect by Charles Fishman you will see these are the same principals Wal-Mart was founded on, not exactly a bad model.

To land this plane, let me just say SEO is a guide to building a site its not the blueprint. Focus on giving your user the experience they want and you will convert more, that is what it is all about not just traffic. Paul what you should be offering up is the conversion rate on that rural store, that is the real question. How many vehicles are they selling? Traffic to my site is great as long as I am getting leads and selling cars, if not it all just academic.

Hope this helps,
Comment by Paul Rushing on September 10, 2009 at 10:46pm
There seems to be a lot of belief stating that Automotive SEO should not be a factor in marketing your dealership. As one who makes his living from the search engines, not just optimization services, it would be laudable to ignore this aspect of marketing. That is what SEO is pure marketing.

If you ignore this aspect somebody else will take your traffic, read customers. Larry pointed out that a store he was connected with that SEO was not an aspect to effectively market their inventory. He missed the fact that SEO and trust factors were probably his largest lead generation. They are just paying ebay for it. The same phenomenon occurs when you use any inventory aggregation service. So their efforts were to properly merchandise their inventory and have others drive them traffic via external SEO.

If type in traffic and dealership name searches are your largest traffic source you are missing way to many opportunities. Even the best optimized dealer website will receive 40-50% of its search engine traffic from "dealer name" searches however the difference in incremental traffic through the brand awareness is three fold from the enhanced dealership brand awareness.

The stats below show traffic from three dealership websites on the dealer.com platform. All carry a major domestic brand in a 50 mile radius of each other. The website with the most traffic is in a very rural town while the two with roughly a third of the traffic are in metros. The site with the most traffic does zero traditional advertising the other two stores rely on it very heavily and out sells stores in the larger markets.


Strong optimization is not important for those that do not understand it. The store that relies only on their ebay store is missing a ton of business and spending a lot of money to build up trust in ebay's asset.

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