Dealer Website Lynch Pin?

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We’ve all heard the estimates about how many dealerships are going to be closing within the next year–NADA estimates that another 1000 dealerships will close in 2009 alone.  Of course this is a scary fact, but there are things that you can do to prevent your dealership from being one of them.  One of the first items is making sure people who are searching online (which 80% of those who purchase vehicles do) can find your dealership website.  Imagine missing out on 80% of all potential sales, sending them to your competitors, just because your website isn’t properly optimized.

Score Chrysler Dodge in Franklin, OH, recently shut their doors (January 5, 2009).  DealerOn wishes the best for all of their employees, as well as the community that will no doubt feel the impact from this dealership having to close.

I was curious though, how well their website ranked for relevant search terms, so I did a little research.  Their website (which is still up) looks as though it is optimized for three cities: Franklin (pop 12,000), Springboro (pop 12,000), and Middletown (pop 51,000).  The problem with this is that there are two, much more populous cities within 30 miles of Franklin (Dayton, pop 166,000 and Cincinnati, pop 330,000).

Here’s how they rank on the page for Google for the following terms (I stopped looking after the second page):

For the search term “Franklin Chrysler OH” the dealership website ranked second on the page, which is pretty good.  Except that Franklin is a town with a population of only 12,000 people.  The dealer website also appeared for the terms “Franklin Chrysler service” (16th) and “Franklin Chrysler parts” (13th).

But the good news ends there.  A news article about the dealership closing appeared when I searched for “Cincinnati Chrysler” (12th), “Cincinnati Chrysler dealer” (12th), and “Cincinnati Chrysler parts” (8th).  The dealership website did not show in the results for those terms.

Nothing about Score Chrysler Dodge showed in the first two pages of search results when I searched for the terms “Cincinnati Chrysler OH,” “Cincinnati Chrysler parts,” “Dayton Chrysler,” “Dayton Chrysler OH,” “Dayton Chrysler dealer,” “Dayton Chrysler service,” “Dayton Chrysler parts,” “Franklin Chrysler,” and “Franklin Chrysler dealer.”

Unless someone searched for their dealership name or one of the few terms that they actually ranked for, potential Chrysler buyers in this metro area wouldn’t find their dealership online.  This means that their website and dealership never had any chance to convert them into a lead or sell them a car.

You have to wonder…if the Score Chrysler Dodge website had been properly optimized so that those who were looking for a Chrysler vehicle in the Cincinnati-Dayton area would have found their site, would it have made a difference in their decision to close its doors?

Automotive Blogging

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Just like you, I’m always trying to do what I do better.  I’ve recently been reading The Corporate Blogging Book by Debbie Weil for a bit of a “back to basics” blogging lesson.  I came across a few good reminders, and wanted to share some with you.

Blogs are used for so many different purposes, but here are some of my favorite uses for auto dealership blogs.

  • Customer Evangelists – Every dealership has those customers that think the world of your dealership and wouldn’t dream of ever doing business anywhere else.  Recruit them to write a brief testimonial as to why they believe your dealership is the best.  Imagine the power this could have over a potential buyer researching your dealership.
  • Status Alerts – Is your dealership awaiting the arrival of a new model line?  Maybe you’re building on to the building?  Either way, blogs are a great way to keep your potential customers aware and updated on the status of things going on in your dealership.
  • Marketing – This one seems pretty standard, but it’s a huge reason behind creating a blog for your dealership.  It often makes your business seem more transparent and, when done correctly, will hopefully increase sales for your dealership.  Your blog should complement the marketing done by your dealership.
  • Community Building – Cover community events that your dealership is involved in.  Sponsor a Little League team?  Let your readers know how the season is going.  Know of any fundraising or community events that your dealership employees are involved in?  Let your community know about it by maintaining a community calendar or just writing about it on your blog.
  • Customer Relations – On the rare occasion you have an issue with a customer, blog about it…but only after you’ve resolved it.  This way, you can explain how your dealership was able to make a situation right, something that potential customers are very interested in.  No business is perfect, so when yours isn’t, show your customers that you know how to fix it.

How does your dealership use their blog?