Make your web site more than a testimonial to its designer While it's easy enough to throw money at the web to create a web site, getting people to actually stop by is another matter. Without proper promotion, auto dealer web sites most likely will languish in cyberspace as little more than technological testimonials to their designers.
The easiest way to avoid this fate is to put together an arsenal of web site promotion tools that should be implemented the moment your site goes "live."
For example, from day one, you should seriously consider renting or buying a consumer e-mail list to begin promoting your site. This is probably one of the easiest - although maybe one of the most expensive - ways to promote a web site and company services on the web.
Essentially, firms using this technique rent exposure in an e-mail customer distribution list of a firm that is already established on the web. Often, the firm owning the list recommends via e-mail that its customers visit the site of the list renter, and sometimes includes a discount coupon for a goods or services at the list renter's site.
You also can start your own contest or give-away on line. A tried-and-true traffic generator in the bricks and mortar world, on-line contests do the same for web sites - as well as glean valuable demographic data about site visitors.
Crystal Lake (IL) Chrysler-Kia-Mitsubishi (www.clcp.com), for example, has a monthly contest drawing on line. Regularly posting on-line coupons also helps. This is another old- economy bricks-and-mortar solution that works just as well - if not better - on the web.
Coupons easily can be offered on line for easy printout, or periodically delivered directly to visitors' e-mail boxes. The advantage of e-mail delivery is that the dealership can more easily build a relationship with customers over time, since they do not have to make any effort to search for the coupons.
Mike Molstead Motors (www.mokemolstead-moters.com), based in Charles City, IA, offers a $100-off coupon on its site, as does Ford Fleet Dealer of Orange (CA) (www.ford-fleetdealer.com).
While you have potential customers at your site, also get them to sign up for an e-mail-delivered newsletter. The beauty of these promotional tools is that they're much less expensive to produce and distribute on line than in the "real" world.
Indeed, you can even experiment with the medium for free at sites like Topica (www.topica.com) and Egroups (www.e-groups.com). For a more in-depth appreciation of just how popular the medium is on the web, visit Liszt (www.liszt.com). It tracks more than 90,000 newsletters and mailing lists currently circulating the net.
Some sites are also getting into the free classified ad business as a way to drive traffic to their cyber-doors.
Plus, you'll want to get posted in the myriad auto-related web directories that have sprung up all over the web. Directories help Internet cruisers get to the sites they're seeking more quickly. At Dealers-Online.com (www.dealers-online.com), for example, consumers can access a centralized database of auto dealers. And Michigan consumers can find a local dealer at Michigan Auto Web (www.mi-autoweb.com) via its city-by-city directory.
It's also a good idea to exchange links with as many non-competitive web sites as you possible can. A.C.T. Motor Company (www.actmo-tors.com), for example, based in Pooler, GA, exchanges links with its local chamber of commerce, as does Rhodes Chevrolet (www.rhodeschev-rolet.com) in Swansboro, NC.
Bigger dealerships with the deepest promotional pockets also might want to offer a branded news ticker. This is probably one of the more innovative and sophisticated of web site promotion strategies being used on the web today.
Essentially, companies contract with professional news organizations to create a "news ticker" that stays resident on a user's computer, and pops up on the PC screen from time to time when news breaks. With every pop-up message, the logo of the company sponsoring the news ticker is displayed. Meanwhile, you can help get your site on the radar of the search engines by developing hook pages - or special interest pages that search engines steer cruises in response to a specific query. All-Car Leasing (www.allcarleasing.com), based in Middletown, PA, is one of the first links returned in response to the query "All about car leasing," in Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com), a popular search engine.
The reason: it offers a hook page on Leasing vs. Buying, as well as a general background-er on leasing.
Search engine positioning is considered an art on the web, so you may want to consider seeking out the services of a web positioning firm if you want to seriously enter the search engine listing wars.
The Web Hitman (www.web-themes.com) is one of those firms. For $795, the firm will guarantee that any site it lists will appear in the top 10 links from one of the Net's Big Eight Search engines: Yahoo!, Excite!. Alta Vista, Web Crawler, Hot Bot, Now!, Northern Light Search and Planet Search.
Other web positioning firms can be found on SearchEngineWatch (www.searchengine-watch.com).
Auto Parkway GM Super Center (www.goparkway.com), based in Vanlencia, CA, is apparently no stranger to this listing strategy. When the keywords "California auto dealer" are entered into Yahoo!, the dealership's site is the first link listed. That kind of visibility does not happen accidentally.
You also can list your site with hundreds of search engines for free at Virtual Promote. (www.virtualpro-mote.com). A superb info clearinghouse on web site promotion, Virtual Promote offers links to more than 500 sites that will help you with search engine listing.
Another option is to use a software program such as Web Site Traffic Builder, by Draper, UT-based Intelliquis (www.in-telliquis.com). Traffic Builder automatically registers your site with more than 900 Internet search engines and will automatically put your business in the appropriate category for each search engine.
Plus, you can use the software to check your site's position on the net's eight most popular search engines. A similar program, WebPosition Gold, by FirstPlace Software (www.firstplace.com), focuses on getting your site placed high up on the web's top search engines.
1. Rent or buy a consumer e-mail list.
2. Start your own on-line contest or give-away.
3. Sign up for an e-mail delivered newsletter.
4. Get posted in auto-related web directories.
5. Exchange links with non-competitive web sites.
6. Get your site on search engines' radar.