Today, everyone needs everything faster. Faster food, faster service, faster route to work. Your customers are no exception. If your sales or service department phone rings more than five times, you will likely lose that client. If a customer comes into your showroom and waits more than a minute or two for any kind of interaction, you are telling them, in a negative way, how you conduct business.
Google is no exception. By now everyone in the English speaking world knows about Google’s May 2015 “Mobile Algorithm” update, warning all businesses large and small that penalties would be doled out to anyone who doesn’t have a “mobile optimized” website. Most dealers’ website providers have made their best efforts to accommodate this very serious development, avoiding the loss of search ranking at all cost.
Unfortunately, I have been noticing a trend on many Auto Dealers’ newly updated websites that will, ironically, actually lead to reduced search engine exposure (and reduced sales). For better or worse, many Dealers still obsess with the “Above The Fold” principle of advertising. It makes sense that the recent Google mandated upgrade to more “responsive” websites has, for the first time in years, caused many Owners and GM’s to take a direct hand in the redesign of their websites. Unfortunately, the outdated tactic of cramming the “top” of the page with as many images and messages as possible has actually lead to a slower experience for many Dealer sites.
This being a negative development may seem like common sense, but there’s no shortage of dealers in every market that are ignoring Google’s “Best Practices” guidelines, and are losing business as a result. The conversation on loss of business due to slow website load times is now turning from “seconds” to “milliseconds.” In fact, a 2012 New York Times Article quotes Google engineers when stating that “People will visit a site less often if it is slower than a close competitor by more than 250 Milliseconds (a millisecond is a thousandth of a second).” Three years later, site speed is now becoming a game changer for U.S. Auto Dealers.
Pay attention to the term “close competitor” in that quote from Google, because that’s who we are in the Auto Business…Franchises selling the same product and service a fellow franchisor, often only a few minutes away. We don’t sell cars, we develop and nurture lifelong customer relationships. Is that video of your cable commercial or that giant (slow loading) “$0 Down” ad at the top of your page worth losing that long term opportunity?
Here’s a direct quote from Google’s Search Engineering team: “If you click on a website and the first part of the website you see doesn’t either have a lot of visible content above the fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience. Such sites may not rank as highly moving forward.” Yes, it’s your website, but it’s their search engine. So what do you do?
- Take an honest look at your website “Visual Hierarchy” from a customer’s view. If you were shopping for a car, what do you want to see first, second, third? You can get a free independent analysis by signing up at Visual Website Optimizer (VWO.com), and it’s easy to use for “non IT” people like us.
- Just ask Google! Their new “Page Speed Insights” Tool is free to use, and tells it like is in just a few seconds. It’s easy to find, just search for “page speed insights” on Google. The best part is, they will draw a roadmap to actually FIXING the problem for FREE right at the bottom of your report. This includes reducing image sizes, and specific examples of which site code to “minify” to reduce customers’ load time in both your mobile and desktop versions. Forward those suggestions to your website vendor and ask for an immediate fix.
- Check your own Google Analytics, under “Behavior” and “Site Speed.” This data is available right now in your account. It will show you your “average” page load speed in seconds for the past month, the past year or any combination. If you have recently upgraded your site, pay close attention to this metric moving forward. If you don’t know how to access your Google analytics, insist on this immediately. It’s the heartbeat of your Dealership.
You spend a lot of time and money in paid search, radio, print, TV and other media to bring customers to your Dealership’s website. Don’t let an antiquated “Above The Fold” advertising obsession turn your customers away to more digitally capable competitors, or worse, to another brand entirely.