The 2005 edition of the NIADA Used Car Industry Report states in 2003 more than 51% of all used car dealers surveyed had a website advertising their dealership as well as their inventory. In ’04 that number grew to almost 59% and it will continue to grow for years to come. 98% of all franchise dealers advertise on the web and independent dealers want to cash in on this new form of advertising. More and more car buyers are replacing the classifieds and other forms of advertising with the Internet when it comes time to buy a pre-owned vehicle.
What many dealers are finding out is that it is not enough just to have a website. In order to make it an effective means of advertising it is necessary to do two things. First, if you are listing your inventory it is absolutely imperative to keep that inventory updated. If you do not properly manage your online inventory listings the site will become stale and customers will notice. Customers will frequently and repeatedly visit your site if they see that you are keeping it updated. Let a site go a few weeks without an update and they will stop visiting it because they do not want to keep seeing the same thing.
The second thing you need to do for your website is get the address out there. The best looking website will not bring in customers if they do not know about it. Your web address should be treated just like your phone number. Most dealers have their phone number listed in the local phone book and also put it on signs, business cards, documents and all other forms of advertising. If you do not let others know what your phone number is how could you expect them to call you? I have not found a dealer yet that has an unlisted phone number but yet, many keep their website address a secret from their customers.
The first way to let others know where you are located on the web is to include it in your Yellow Page listing. Then you should be sure it is on your business cards, your letterheads, in all your magazine print ads, and all other forms of advertising you utilize. If your customer sees your website address they will visit your site when they are in the market to buy a pre-owned car or truck.
The next way to drive traffic to your site is to let all major search engines know what your URL is. Many people surfing on the web will start at a search engine like Google or Yahoo. There they could start a search by typing “used car in Virginia”. They might get in return as many as a half million sites to go to but if you have not told that search engine about your website your site will not be one of those listed. There are things you can do to get your site listed near the top of the list but the first step is to be included in the list. If you have a company that manages your website for you then contact them to see if they have optimized and registered your site. If they have not, explore other avenues to have this done and you will increase the traffic flow to your site.
Another good way to drive traffic to your website is to have other sites link to yours. Many sites will do this for free while others will provide additional services for a fee. For instance, VIADA’s new website, VirginiaUsedCarDealers.com all members can get a free link from this site to theirs just by updating their VIADA member listing. This website has a Find A Dealer page and when people in your area search for dealers by zip code they get a list of all VIADA members in that area along with contact information, website address as well as any available e-mail address.
To maximize their inventory exposure and to get the most traffic from this site as possible many dealers are participating in the inventory listing portion of this site. This is the part of the site that allows you to list your inventory in a fashion that allows the car buyer to shop all the inventory of VIADA members in one site. If the car or truck they like the most belongs to you they would be led to your website and/or given your phone number and other contact information. There are other websites similar to this that do the same thing but for a lot more than the $35 fee members pay at VirginiaUsedCarDealers.com. Partnering with sites like these will increase traffic to your site as well as to your dealership and provide additional exposure to the vehicles you have in stock.
It is not enough just to have a web site. Just like all other forms of advertising, it needs to be monitored and regularly updated in order for it to bring customers in the door.