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Rant Alert - let's talk about SEO and Website Vendors

BillKVMotorCo

Full Sticker
Dec 19, 2018
13
18
First Name
Bill
I'd try to put some engagement numbers together from your site and third party sites you list on. I'd think lead count and any engagement numbers would be down. Same with changes to your bounce rate and time on site. I think you can get away with it more in rural areas or...
I have not seen a reduction in any engagement metric (including image interaction) that we track in GA since we started using the eVn photos. We are a smaller dealer though so we might not be the best measure considering your point about rural dealers.
 
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Increase Test Drive Appointments!

CarlAutofusion

Made Draw
Mar 17, 2014
34
25
First Name
Carl
It sounds like the new website provider didn't transfer all the old content and set up 301 redirects. That would explain the dead links, 404 errors and the big traffic drop offs on keywords.

A high TTFB would concern me because that means nothing on the website loads for that set period of time. That's why we generate static pages for the majority of our customers for extremely low TTFB times. Most website platforms use some sort of caching system and a few (including at least one of the larger website providers) use nothing and they have high TTFB times.

But you're right, most dealerships wouldn't check for these things and even those that use dealership consultants may overlook it.
 

Tim Martell

Full Sticker + Prep
Sep 7, 2012
20
12
First Name
Timothy
Take a bow, Emily... you are a member of a very small and elite class of those in the know in auto. It’s a sad reality.

personally, I think dealer inspire offers the most freedom and flexibility because it is built on the WordPress platform and they haven’t totally ruined it. Please don’t misunderstand, they are not without their own many faults. However, you can solve nearly every roadblock and issue except the external server calls of third party app integration.

if you ever want to talk SEO, find me on Facebook. I’d love to learn more about your background. And... I’m hiring :)
 
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Reactions: Brittany

EmilyJSpellman

Full Sticker
Apr 11, 2019
19
16
First Name
Emily
It sounds like the new website provider didn't transfer all the old content and set up 301 redirects. That would explain the dead links, 404 errors and the big traffic drop offs on keywords.

A high TTFB would concern me because that means nothing on the website loads for that set period of time. That's why we generate static pages for the majority of our customers for extremely low TTFB times. Most website platforms use some sort of caching system and a few (including at least one of the larger website providers) use nothing and they have high TTFB times.

But you're right, most dealerships wouldn't check for these things and even those that use dealership consultants may overlook it.
I agree the problem is rooted in the original setup. I am trying to strategize the best way to fix it and yes the TTFB thing is very concerning to me. I have asked them for some specific information on the server but have not received a good response yet. I believe one of the issues is an ineffective cache policy. Also the way third party script are running. There doesn't seem to be a solid order to allow those scripts to load after other things. I mean the list goes on.....
 

EmilyJSpellman

Full Sticker
Apr 11, 2019
19
16
First Name
Emily
Take a bow, Emily... you are a member of a very small and elite class of those in the know in auto. It’s a sad reality.

personally, I think dealer inspire offers the most freedom and flexibility because it is built on the WordPress platform and they haven’t totally ruined it. Please don’t misunderstand, they are not without their own many faults. However, you can solve nearly every roadblock and issue except the external server calls of third party app integration.

if you ever want to talk SEO, find me on Facebook. I’d love to learn more about your background. And... I’m hiring :)

Will do! I am a total nerd so I'm always up for some tech and strategy talk :)
 

CarlAutofusion

Made Draw
Mar 17, 2014
34
25
First Name
Carl
I agree the problem is rooted in the original setup. I am trying to strategize the best way to fix it and yes the TTFB thing is very concerning to me. I have asked them for some specific information on the server but have not received a good response yet. I believe one of the issues is an ineffective cache policy. Also the way third party script are running. There doesn't seem to be a solid order to allow those scripts to load after other things. I mean the list goes on.....
If your old website provider still has a copy of the website, you can ask them to put it up so you can copy the content to the new website. While you're at it, you can download the old sitemap to help with your 301 redirects. If you switched sites recently, you can also go into Google Search Console to get a list of 404 errors - but this may not list all the missing pages you have to redirect or come up with content for those pages.

A slow TTFB is hard to diagnose from the outside. 3rd party scripts wouldn't affect TTFB because they are not run yet by the time the first byte comes in. It could be caused by many things from overloaded webservers, web hosting connectivity, bad code to ineffective caching (like your suggestion). That's up to your website provider to resolve.

FYI. For scripts, you can dictate the load order of third party scripts if you put them inside of Google Tag Manager. I highly recommend doing this because some tags don't load asynchronously and other tags (like Facebook Pixel) really screw up the load time of the website.
 
Jan 22, 2020
2
1
First Name
LeeZa
Hi Emily,

this is a great question and I'll try to answer it the best I can. I spent a total of 6 years in a dealership website agency called
D2C Media in Canada. Too bad you're in the States, they have a very strong product. During those few years, I onboarded between 100-150 dealers.

A long time ago, I also ran a very simple website agency, plus I also worked in car dealerships. I'm saying all this because these experiences got me to understand the whole thing a little bit better.

Every time I look into an issue I feel like I am opening Pandora's box. Then I have to spend weeks teaching my vendor how to do the job I pay them to do. Example:
I recently managed the build of our new website and it's a nice site. First, I had to spend months in development to get everything working correctly and looking good. Apparently, many dealers are not super particular about things and cookie-cutter is a-okay for them because these people were acting like I was fresh off the bus from crazy town when I said I wouldn't launch the site until everything was 100% right. I mean do other dealers just skim things and push "go"? Seriously, I'm asking because I don't know.

You have to understand management, with the amounts of moving parts a car dealership has at all times, changing website was either A) something they want to get done ASAP B) something they don't want to deal with I understand that.

Now I opened another Pandora's box full of idiocy. A couple months ago my GM and I noticed numbers slipping in certain categories where we should excel. He jumped into his end of things and I jumped into mine. After noticing some big drop offs on certain ranking keywords for those underperforming categories after the site migrated, I did a little SEO/Site audit and started asking questions. After I made a lot of noise, my "website advocate" (who I'm pretty sure couldn't even manage a Wordpress blog on her own) set up a call with their SEO "expert". Most of his responses consisted of phrases like "well that is just how the platform was designed" and "that won't effect your ranking". Personally, phrases like that annoy me because they indicate that someone is either lazy or technologically incompetent. I decided to brush it off in the moment and dig deeper myself. I dug deep into analytics, ads, PageSpeed insights, search console, and even had a third-party do an audit for me. Ya know, so I could prove that I'm not taking crazy pills. I mean I've been doing this for over a decade but apparently, that can't compete with the expansive knowledge base of their automated zen desk....... so I digress.....

In doing all that digging the amount of issues I found was staggering. I found everything from basic issues like dead links, duplicate content, meta garbage and 404 errors to more complex issues like a lack of a budget.json file, not utilizing the font display CSS feature and high TTFB. At first, my frustration was entirely directed towards my web provider but after that, I audited three of our top competitors to see where they were out playing us the most. What I discovered is almost the most frustrating realization of them all- they all have the same crap website structure even with different providers. Actually, ours was better even with all of our issues. In that moment, I finally realized that this is just the substandard stuff that the auto industry is accustomed to.

If I were the average owner or GM, I wouldn't even know what that stuff is let alone be able to detect a problem. I would see numbers slipping and probably start throwing money at things like SEM, display and whatever the flavor-of-the-month is. Even sadder is that I am having to hold my vendor's hand in bringing these things up to any kind of reasonable standard. They seriously don't seem to know what to do- at least the customer-facing people don't and the tech support people claim they "can't" do anything. In the 10 months I have been in the auto industry, I have encountered this issue with vendor after vendor. I have shopped vendors a lot and feel like I have some of the best but I still feel like a babysitter. What's worse is that I feel like unless I have a b****fit about these things, no one takes it seriously or it gets swept under the rug. It's exhausting.

Don't get me wrong- I love my job. I love what I do and I work with great people but good Lord, I feel like I need to start having some of my vendors pay me a consultant fee or something!!!!

See? Just a rant. Nothing educational to see here LOL

Please tell me that I am not the only one!




I understand your frustration. I know there are a lot of vendors out there cutting corners, on purpose or not.

The main issue I see is that they want to compete on price. They want to be the cheapest and think they'll get thousands of dealers this way and they'll make money. This is a mistake. This race to the bottom ensures the product is not kept at competitive levels. I mean, some charge under $200/month for tools that drive 50% + of the business today and welcome over 10,000 visitors a month. Do you really want to have the cheapest solution around?

Truth is, dealer websites are easy. Making a great website platform is hard. There are non-sense in the best even outside the auto industry (WP, Squarespace, Shopify to name a few) but still.

The next option is to create a custom website. But by the time you're done, you'll have invested A LOT of money and you haven't even started to keep it up to pace yet. The web changes, Google changes, everything changes. The dealers I have seen go the custom route only made this move once, they got spooked after. If you want to ace this, you'll need a strong dev team with a master product manager because it's really hard. And you've guessed it, this is a lot of $$$. Large groups can go this route but a single rooftop can't really do this.

Just like cars, every product has its flaws. You can bet people can find nonsense about the cars you sell. It just the way the world works.

Focus on what moves the needle. What about your site can create SALES. We all get too caught up in the tech stuff sometimes and we focus on the wrong things.

Excellent response completely agree especially the insight into the race to the bottom and providers providing a cheap service and not able to keep up w/ the changes in technology and consumer behaviors... for a service that drives over 50% of your business and may impact 100% of your business.

You should most definatley trust your website provider with SEO... maybe not SEM.

Glad I found this forum!

#newbie #firstimeposting
 
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Reactions: Marc Lavoie

Leonore911

Green Pea
Nov 4, 2019
5
1
First Name
Arnold
Your problem is so similar to what I face right now. I believe I will quit soon and fly to Bali.
 
Apr 28, 2020
1
0
First Name
bosurinko
In all companies you will find people who aren’t doing their job properly. Many of them simply superficially perform their tasks leaving many unfinished work behind with hope that nobody will notice. I really love SEO because this unfinished work will sooner or later pop up and the person who was responsible will suffer negative consequences. The company which I work for (here is the link konstructdigital.com) usually fires the person or dismisses from job for a couple of months. I know this strategy is too radical but directors want to keep a clean and high reputation. The worst thing this strategy really works. You can try to implement it in the company you work as well and see if the work quality will improve.
 
Last edited:

Alexander Lau

Under the Bridge
Feb 11, 2015
2,458
747
First Name
Alex
So I have been blessed to have a varied technological and marketing background and therefore have a basic understanding of most aspects of the digital world.

Sometimes I wish I didn't.

Every time I look into an issue I feel like I am opening Pandora's box. Then I have to spend weeks teaching my vendor how to do the job I pay them to do. Example:

I recently managed the build of our new website and it's a nice site. First, I had to spend months in development to get everything working correctly and looking good. Apparently, many dealers are not super particular about things and cookie-cutter is a-okay for them because these people were acting like I was fresh off the bus from crazy town when I said I wouldn't launch the site until everything was 100% right. I mean do other dealers just skim things and push "go"? Seriously, I'm asking because I don't know.

Now I opened another Pandora's box full of idiocy. A couple months ago my GM and I noticed numbers slipping in certain categories where we should excel. He jumped into his end of things and I jumped into mine. After noticing some big drop offs on certain ranking keywords for those underperforming categories after the site migrated, I did a little SEO/Site audit and started asking questions. After I made a lot of noise, my "website advocate" (who I'm pretty sure couldn't even manage a Wordpress blog on her own) set up a call with their SEO "expert". Most of his responses consisted of phrases like "well that is just how the platform was designed" and "that won't effect your ranking". Personally, phrases like that annoy me because they indicate that someone is either lazy or technologically incompetent. I decided to brush it off in the moment and dig deeper myself. I dug deep into analytics, ads, PageSpeed insights, search console, and even had a third-party do an audit for me. Ya know, so I could prove that I'm not taking crazy pills. I mean I've been doing this for over a decade but apparently, that can't compete with the expansive knowledge base of their automated zen desk....... so I digress.....

In doing all that digging the amount of issues I found was staggering. I found everything from basic issues like dead links, duplicate content, meta garbage and 404 errors to more complex issues like a lack of a budget.json file, not utilizing the font display CSS feature and high TTFB. At first, my frustration was entirely directed towards my web provider but after that, I audited three of our top competitors to see where they were out playing us the most. What I discovered is almost the most frustrating realization of them all- they all have the same crap website structure even with different providers. Actually, ours was better even with all of our issues. In that moment, I finally realized that this is just the substandard stuff that the auto industry is accustomed to.

If I were the average owner or GM, I wouldn't even know what that stuff is let alone be able to detect a problem. I would see numbers slipping and probably start throwing money at things like SEM, display and whatever the flavor-of-the-month is. Even sadder is that I am having to hold my vendor's hand in bringing these things up to any kind of reasonable standard. They seriously don't seem to know what to do- at least the customer-facing people don't and the tech support people claim they "can't" do anything. In the 10 months I have been in the auto industry, I have encountered this issue with vendor after vendor. I have shopped vendors a lot and feel like I have some of the best but I still feel like a babysitter. What's worse is that I feel like unless I have a b****fit about these things, no one takes it seriously or it gets swept under the rug. It's exhausting.

Don't get me wrong- I love my job. I love what I do and I work with great people but good Lord, I feel like I need to start having some of my vendors pay me a consultant fee or something!!!!

See? Just a rant. Nothing educational to see here LOL

Please tell me that I am not the only one!
Be careful, you might get to be known as someone that cares for dealerships. This community's fraudulent vendors will hack at you and ask for your deletion or ability to ignore your thoughts. Don't ever expose their shitty wares, mark my words.

BTW, SEO is the biggest BS game in the history of the short-lived Internet. I've been at it since its primitive days in the early 90's.
 
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