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For many car retailers, their inventory pages make up over 85% of the total content pages on their website.  Organic search optimization and search ranking are heavily skewed to reward good content and good SEO architecture. So with this in mind, every dealer should know the strengths and weaknesses of their inventory listing module.  This knowledge can then direct your efforts to promote and sell cars in the Internet.

I created the ASMA Checklist to make it easy to compare different inventory modules for their search engine optimization potential. Some dealer inventory modules are optimized for search marketing and others are not.  Use this grid to score your site for important SEO architectural factors. This document will guide you on how to collect the data for the ASMA checklist.

If all the items in the checklist are “Yes” then you have an outstanding opportunity to market your cars for model specific searches in Google, Yahoo and MSN.

Other factors, not included in the ASMA checklist, will determine the overall ability of your inventory module to sell cars once a consumer lands on the page.  The ASMA checklist is only evaluating the search marketing strengths and not design and interactive aspects of inventory modules.


Sample ASMA Checklist

Dealer

Platform

Vendor

On-Site Hosted Inventory

Unique Inventory Page Titles

Unique Inventory META descriptions

Unique Inventory META keywords

Optimized URL names

Website

MyBestCarSites

Y

N

N

N

N

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On-Site Hosted Inventory – This is the hardest one to determine unless you have asked your vendor about this in the past. You want your inventory module hosted onsite and on your URL.  The ideal SEO friendly inventory module will produce unique pages for each car that is displayed.

Offsite hosted inventory means that your inventory is sitting on an outside website or web service and the pages are displayed in a “framed” page on your site.  Off-site hosted inventory does not help your SERP rankings because the pages are not associated with your URL.   An analogy is an electronic photo frame.  The wood frame is stationary (your website) but the photos are changing from a memory card (offsite hosted inventory).  The two are not hard connected and Google will only reward your website in SERP rankings if your inventory is hard connected.

If all your car detail pages are displayed on the same page like “New_Inventory.aspx” and just the inside contents of the page change when you click on a car, this is a framed off-site inventory system.  To Google and Yahoo, you have ONE index page regardless of you have 1,000 cars in stock. 

To see if your inventory is hosted off site, click through a few cars in your used car inventory and see if the URL name changes.  If it stays the same, you most likely have a framed off site inventory module.   You can also do a “view source” of the car detail page code and search for the word “iframe”.

If the URL name contains another website address, then the inventory module is most likely being redirected to an offsite location.

 

Unique Page Titles & META Descriptions – Google Webmaster Guidelines recommend that ever page on your website has a unique page title and META description.   Google’s webmaster tools even has a page dedicated to point out duplicate tags for webmasters to correct so the knowledge is ready available.  To check to see if you site’s inventory module is producing unique data, use the Google “site:” command.

Go into Google and type in this command:  site:www.yourwebsite.com

This will list all the pages indexed in Google.  Since most dealer sites have over 100 pages, you will have to click through a few pages of search results to see all the pages in your site.  If you see pages that have duplicate titles and descriptions, the inventory module is not helping you market via organic search.  This also makes it very difficult for your site to appear for consumers search that use year, make and model.

Unique META Keywords tag – It is widely known that Google and Yahoo have ignored the META keyword tag and instead have focused on other factors of web page architecture.  I have included this in the checklist so dealers to check and see if the keyword tag is being used improperly for spamming. 

A keyword tag should have 5-10 keywords that apply ONLY TO THAT PAGE.  I have visited dealer sites to find that they have 30-50 keywords jammed in the META keywords tag.  This should be corrected immediately because you do not want Google to think you are trying to spam the index.  If all your META keyword tags are the same for every car in stock, don’t fret since that tag is basically a neutral event now.

To view the keywords on any web page, right click your mouse on the outer edge of the page and in Internet Explorer a choice will come up to “View Source”.  This will open up your text editor.  The page will look like a foreign language to many but it’s just the HTML code to create that page.  Search for the word “keywords” and you will find your META keywords tag.

Optimized URL Names – This is a very important feature since if your inventory module has unique page titles and unique META descriptions, this feature would put you ahead of the competition.  There are three common strategies for URL names, ranked from worst to bet.

Worst – One page name that has a replacing center section for each car.  These pages could be named “new-inventory.apx” and “used-Inventory.aspx” so to Google you have two pages on your site for cars and NO unique tags.

Average – One page for each car but the URL string contains a data tag that no one will ever search.  This is called a dynamic page and there are hundreds of articles on the web why dynamic pages are not helpful for organic search optimization. An example of a dynamic page is: /preowned/dsp_viewcar.cfm?vin=JNRAS08W58X205839

 

Best – One page for each car and the URL string has the year, make and model in the URL name.  An example of this is: detail-2007-bmw-3_series-328xi_sedan-3452069.html

 

When you have completed your ASMA Checklist, you now have actionable data.  If you have discovered that your inventory module is not SEO friendly, then you can look for ways to better promote your cars. There may also be an upgrade available from your software provider so call them and ask.  To be competitive in today’s marketplace, you should have an ASMA compliant site.   

You can also check your competitor’s websites to see how their inventory module stacks up.  I have tested about 20 dealer software platforms as part of this research and the results vary across the board.  If you would like examples of any of these issues that are brought up in this article, I can send you links to dealer sites that demonstrate the topic of interest.  

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