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by Brian Pasch
I decided to document examples of the current traffic distribution to car dealership websites based on device types; desktop, mobile, and tablet.
The few examples I have included in this article show that there are great variations in device utilization as seen by Google Analytics.
This variance can also be influenced by the amount of mobile advertising that a dealer is utilizing.
Dealers must take a minute to inspect the traffic patterns for their own website because of a recent warning issued by Google. The warning was very clear regarding flawed mobile redirects to a mobile website that does not have the content indexed by Google from the dealer's desktop website.
Google is promising our industry that it will stop showing organic listings on a mobile device if that page content is not available on a mobile device. For some dealers, over 40% of their visitors are coming from a mobile (iOS or Android dominate) device and NOT a tablet.
I estimate that over 80% of the dealership website platforms being utilized today are putting dealers at risk of the mobile penalty. Here is how you can test if your website is not compliant with Google's guidelines, as published in this recent blog post.
Here is the test demonstrated in pictures. I selected the staff page at Irvine BMW and highlighted the URL, shown in the red box, and emailed that link to myself.
I open up the email on my iPhone and click on the link, and this is what happens:
I am redirected to the mobile home page and NOT the staff page. This is the redirection problem that Google is talking about. For most car dealers 95% of their website pages that are accessed via a link or organic search on a mobile device are being redirected to the mobile homepage.
This is not a good experience for users of Google search. As a result, Google will stop offering your internal website pages in Search Engine Result Pages (SERP) on mobile devices. Can you afford that??
This is an urgent matter that needs to be fixed regardless of Google penalties. With some dealers experiencing 40+% of their visit from mobile devices, it is significantly limiting dealers on how they can share website pages on Twitter, Facebook, emails, newsletters, etc. When mobile device users are clicking shared links they are getting disappointed and are dropped to a website that often DOES NOT have the information that was shared.
Most of you doing this test will see the same type of pattern I illustrated above, which Google says will put your dealership at RISK for losing mobile organic search results when a consumer searches Google on a mobile device.
Let me say that this is an industry problem, and not just one isolated vendor. I'm not picking on any one vendor but this is a discussion that must be started. Automotive website providers and other major industries have simply UNDERESTIMATED the preparation needed to meet the needs of mobile shoppers.
Website platform providers are also limited by third-party software plugins to websites that can not "adapt" to different device types. Our entire industry must start a conversion on standard and solutions for mobile shoppers. Think about the integration of software that is needed from companies like Black Book, CarFax, PureCars, PaymentDriver, Chat Providers, Credit Application vendors, etc. on dealership websites. It is not a simple task.
The only three website vendors on the market that seem to have solved this problem in a PRODUCTION version of their websites are Dominion Dealer Solutions , Dealer eProcess, and String Automotive. Any vendors that have a production version that I am not aware of, should send me a link so I can update this article with your company name.
Until your vendor provides a device independent website platform that displays content regardless of what device the consumer is using to research cars, there is a solution. It is actually very simple and it should not take website providers long to implement.
Short Term Cure: Only redirect consumers to the mobile website if they are coming to your home page directly and are on a mobile device. All other internal pages that might be indexed in Google, should NOT be sent to the home page of the mobile device which causes a penalty to occur. Take the mobile user to the desktop version of the page.
Since all mobile websites have pages for new and used car vehicle searches, the website provider could also provide manual redirects for these popular pages that are exactly found on the mobile site.
Website providers MUST also STOP using a popup error message box that is shown to mobile users when the page doesn't exist.
An example is shown on the right.
Not only does this not fix the Google redirect penalty but it also inflates mobile traffic back to the main website.
It will not be until later this year or in Q1 of 2014 that the major website providers will have a full rollout of responsive or adaptive website platforms for the dealer community.
For example, Dealer.com showcased their solution at NADA this year but the initial BETA testing is just starting in select markets. I will also be getting an update from Cobalt this coming week on their plans for an upgraded mobile experience, so I will keep you posted.
Until a permanent solution is implemented, I would contact your website provider and insist that you only want selective redirects. It can be only your website home page and it could also be expanded to include the New Vehicle and Used Car Search tools, which are on all mobile websites.
The redirect rule: Only pages that have exact matches on the mobile site should be redirected!
If you found this article helpful, please share it with your friends in the automotive community and encourage them to take action. Our industry MUST stop disappointing and confusing consumers who choose to use their mobile device to shop for a car.
Brian Pasch, CEO