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Once the industry darling of automotive websites, back when car dealers raced to purchase Flash based websites, Dealerskins has had a challenge recently re-energizing their brand. In fact you might say that the company has been laying low for the past year and I think I understand why.
Over the past two years I have witnessed the industry move away from 100% Flash websites and this has impacted Dealerskins’ cutting edge moniker.
In the early days of Flash based websites, the Adobe technology was a hindrance for obtaining strong organic search visibility. In effect, the original Dealerskins Flash websites were not easily optimized using proven Automotive SEO strategies.
In the past, my reviews of the Dealerskins platform from an SEO perspective have not been flattering to say the least.
I will be the first to raise a toast to the website “Phoenix” that has risen with renewed focus that will surprise its former critics. This bird is hungry and hunting!
Existing Dealerskins clients are in for a nice surprise and according to company executives; Dealerskins has a great new story to tell! This is not a full review of the Dealerskins SEO architecture and search marketing strengths of the new platform but a peak at what is coming.
The latest technology from Dealerskins will be included in the 2010 Automotive Website Awards, which will be presented on Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 8:00 am at the Mirage Hotel.
The first point to acknowledge is Dealerskins’ willingness to rebuild their CMS platform and technology while keeping their existing customers in business and thriving. That is not an easy task! The platform that we reviewed in August is a bridge to their full Content Management System (CMS) release that will be announced in the coming months.
The development team at Dealerskins should be congratulated. Their current hybrid Flash and HTML platform actually performed better in our search marketing architecture analysis this year than many of their peers. In short, this is NOT your parent’s Oldsmobile.
The current Dealerskins website technology fixed the biggest complaint that I had in the past; their inventory module was practically invisible to the search engines and not in conformance with my SEO best practices. The new Dealerskins platform has optimized website pages for every car in inventory with unique page titles and META descriptions for each car. I also liked their breadcrumb menu on each inventory page shown below:
You can see an example of their new inventory page by visiting this link for a 2009 Volkswagen Routan. The final version of their optimized inventory technology will be unveiled in their next CMS release but the current version is performing very well in our testing. I would like to see more car details integrated into the inventory URL string.
In an interesting balancing act, the Dealerskins design team kept the Flash navigation menus to add some sizzle while adding HTML navigation links and editable text areas on key website pages. In the near future, the Dealerskins homepage will be 100% Flash free which will resolve any complaints of operating systems that are not Flash friendly.
The addition of HTML content pages will also increase the search visibility for existing Dealerskins customers. According to the company, approximately 50% of their existing customers have been converted to the new platform.
The administrative tools for car dealers do not currently allow dealers to add their own content pages on the fly. A call to customer support will create as many blank pages that a dealer needs and then a dealer can add or edit content. In the final version of the platform, more robust content editing tools and a blog are scheduled to be included. As car dealer focus more on content writing in 2011, a robust content publishing platform will be a requirement for success.
The Dealerskins platform includes their own analytics technology that provides an independent audit for car dealers who have hired third party companies to run their Adwords or SEO campaigns. Their development team addressed a common concern of dealers who are paying thousands of dollars a month only to trust their vendors are being truthful about traffic, clicks and lead reports they send.
The Dealerskins team also demonstrated some of their impressive digital marketing tools which included built-in SEO ranking reports and something that dealers should look at called the “Psychic Sales Tool” (PST). The tool shows dealers all the pages and cars that the consumer visited on the Dealerskins website prior to submitting a lead. PST gives the dealer more information about any shopper before they contact them.
Dealerskins has also created attractive mobile websites that are based on the new HTML 5 standard. You can see their slick mobile technology by visiting www.gentiliniford.com from your iPhone. The mobile interface is one of the best that I have seen and very fast.
The previous silence from Dealerskins?
They were hard at work surveying their customers and getting their new release out the door to customers. Car dealers using the old Dealerskins platform are encouraged to give their account manager a call and see about the upgrade path to this more powerful website technology.
Hats off to Dealerskins for moving to address the most immediate needs of their user base. According to the Dealerskins team more features and enhancements are coming, so listen up when your Dealerskins representative calls.
SEO pundits will not have the DS dog to kick anymore!