Automotive Websites | Car Dealer SEO
I believe many in the automotive industry realize how important web design is in their ability to reach business goals as well as reach their customers, but do they know why? Web design includes many processes, such as SEO (Search Engine Optimization), traffic, branding, and conversion rates. In fact, your company’s web design is a major part of its marketing strategy, whether you know it or not. Web design is so much more than aesthetics or placement of content; it’s a method of bringing awareness to your dealership and to your inventory on the web, as well as converting shoppers into buyers.
There have been many studies conducted on how web design elements and content have an effect on the user’s attitude or trust towards a company, its products, and its website. One such study called “Trust and Mistrust of Online Health Sites” researched how different design and information content factors influence trust and mistrust of online health sites. Fifteen women faced with a risky health decision were observed while searching the Internet for information and advice over four consecutive weeks. In some sessions their searches were unstructured, while other sessions they were directed to review specific sites, chosen for their trustworthy design elements. Based on verbalizations and group discussions, they recognized that design appeal, credibility of information, and personalization of content projected a sense of trust towards the use of particular websites.
To realize how important the design of your website is, think about how much it would effect your business if your site was poorly designed. Think about this for a minute, your website is the face of your company’s online presence and also a sales and marketing approach for increasing traffic to the site and to your dealership. If a website is designed poorly, i.e. if the site is too busy or complex, if it has too many pop-ups, if it lacks color or a sense of good design, or if it loads extremely slow the user will simply leave your site.
A website can be great for SEO or extremely damaging, depending on how the site was designed. Search engines reward sites that implement responsive web design and it also lowers bounce rates because users have a tendency to stay on your site when they can actually view all of the content. From the structure of your code to what terms are used, web design effects SEO in a major way.
Your web design should be much more than an after thought and it is important for businesses and professionals to understand that the way a website is designed means so much more than how it looks. Web design plays a major role on the web and it is exceptionally important in the automotive industry. When you are trying to increase and retain customers, your SEO, conversion rates, and your bottom line depend on good web design principles.
In this blog post I hope to show you the bigger picture of a semantically marked up web looks like and more importantly to you, why you should already be taking full advantage of it today for your own automotive website. The Semantic Web, or Web 3.0 is considered to be the next phase of internet and it’s already happening all around us.
We hope to explain to you why the structured web is not a fad or a new buzz-word, but part of a larger movement that is the foundation for linking social signals, web development, search engine optimization, online reputation, paid search, and improved search engine usefulness in general.
What Is Structured Data?
In the past search engines have done their best to return results to users that have keywords matching the words they use to search. Yes it’s more complicated than that, but at it’s core this was the goal of search engines. They wanted to try to match words typed into their search engine with web pages that have similar words. The order of the results was basically the most authoritative site that had the words matching the words being searched.
Search engines have come a long way and are getting more aggressive than ever in their quest to return the best results based on what they think the meaning behind the search words really is (The intent of the search). Search engines want to try to comprehend the context and meaning of the keywords entered into their search engine and now they want to provide results that best match the answer to the question (sometimes answering the question right in the search results in addition to providing linked pages in the search results) and keywords entered into their search bars.
The schema.org project was created in 2011 to expand upon the RDFa (Resource Description Framework in Attributes) work begun by W3c Semantic Web Activity (World Wide Web Consortium). On-page markup enables search engines to understand the information on web pages and provide richer search results in order to make it easier for users to find relevant information on the web. Markup can also enable new tools and applications that make use of the structure. A properly marked up website utilizing a microformat from schema.org will allow machines to easily read and relate data. This allows not only search engine spiders but also assisted machine readers for visually impaired individuals to better navigate and understand the content on the website.
By utilizing structured markup on your website you can help the search engines to better understand the content of your website in much greater detail than ever before. A properly marked up website will give search engines all of the information they need to be confident in knowing if your pages will answer those questions that people are entering into their search engines. This confidence is all part of the authority you want to build on your website by hitting all the marks in the complicated search engine algorithm.
It’s important to point out that you can mark up much more than just text on your website. Videos, PDF documents and more can be marked up with structured data too!
What does a semantic web mean for the future?
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, has worked along with many others in the Internet community for more than a decade to achieve his next big dream: the semantic web.
Their vision of the future of the internet is a web of related data that is machine consumable because of a unified structure which will bring in a new era of data usability. Web 1.0 and 2.0 phases were built around humans consuming information through websites. Web 3.0 will be about letting machines consume the data in a way that they can understand. This will allow machines to do all of the heavy lifting for humans when it comes to information. A human can ask the internet through a search engine portal a question and fully expect to get a highly relevant answer to any question form an authoritative source. In many cases the machines will be able to aggregate data and provide simplified recaps from a variety of sources.
It is not hard to imagine your Web-enabled microwave oven consulting the frozen-food manufacturer’s Web site for optimal cooking parameters. and automatically altering the proper time and power setting to microwave a food you give it, this is the power of the semantic web!
How about a doctor able to gather the latest treatments for a rare disease based on accredited publications from around the world in an instant? In today’s archaic world the doctor must attend seminars and subscribe to research publications, making it virtually impossible for any human to retain real time data about every disease and treatment. This is just one example of the incredible usefulness and power of the future of a semantic web and machines capable of utilizing it for the betterment of humankind.
Why Use Semantic Markup For Automotive Websites?
My interest in the semantic web movement has been growing for many years. My position as the COO of Drive Digital Group allows me to implement it in an industry that is perfectly suited to structured data! Vehicles are a product like any other. E Commerce applications for structured data have been aggressively implemented in a variety of other industry already with major players such as:
- New York Times
- Facebook (The Open Graph protocol)
- Google (The Knowledge Graph)
- BBC (World Cup 2010)
- Boeing (Testimonials)
- O’Reilly (Semantic SEO)
- Rotten Tomatoes
I have found that many automotive website providers have implemented semantic web markup in only the most rudimentary of ways. Typically we will see a dealer’s website address, phone number and sometimes a vehicle price being marked up. This is an incredibly feeble attempt to embrace structured data in the automotive industry!
There are a variety of markup languages being utilized depending on the data and usage of that data. Open Graph technology is great for websites that want to use social media as the primary marketing method of sharing their website data. Microformats like RDFa, Microdata, and JSON-LD are much better suited to product data such as manufacturer, year, make model, vehicle options, vehicle features, color, VIN number, mileage, sales price and so on.
If you want to ensure that your business is doing everything possible to take advantage of this growing technology, you need to make sure that you are partnering with a company that fully understand and supports it. Yes structured data does play a role in both how you rank and how your data that you rank for is displayed in the search results pages. This WILL have an effect on your bottom line so there is no reason to not take full advantage of a technology that will have increasingly greater importance now and into the future.
Lets be honest with each other, the subject matter we just covered in this blog post is far more advanced and nuanced than your typical GM, GSM, Owner, Internet Director, etc. is used to having about their digital strategy. My first recommendation to people when we talk about our implementation of semantic web is cover your basics first. You need to have a strong foundation to build upon if you really want to get serious about more advanced digital strategies. A well coded fully responsive website platform that can be fully marked up with structured data for semantic SEO is a great place to begin.
Once your foundation is solid you can focus on social media signals, social media engagement, your online reputation and what your local citation situation looks like. Each of these things plays a part in your overall search engine reputation which all ties back to your digital storefront… your dealership website. These are not separate things which can be treated independently any longer. The dealership of the future needs to have a clear roadmap for 2015 and beyond which will have a robust and unified digital marketing strategy in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
If you would like my team to provide you with a free digital analysis that will show you exactly how you are performing well or need improvement in every area of your digital strategy, simply request a free evaluation and we will be more than happy to present it to you with no obligation.
“I wanted to let folks know that I’m about to take a few months of leave. When I joined Google, my wife and I agreed that I would work for 4-5 years, and then she’d get to see more of me. I talked about this as recently as last month and as early as 2006. And now, almost fifteen years later I’d like to be there for my wife more. I know she’d like me to be around more too, and not just physically present while my mind is still on work.” – Matt Cutts
You heard it….or read it. Head of spam team Matt Cutts is going on leave through October! How will this affect your automotive website? It won’t!
“Thanks to a deep bench of smart engineers and spam fighters, the webspam team is in more-than-capable hands. Seriously, they’re much better at spam fighting than I am, so don’t worry on that score.”
Here is a list of helpful resources that you can turn to for all of your automotive SEO needs!
So have no fear. The spam fighting will continue on and your automotive websites will be safe!