In recent times, many dealers have added a Web site to their advertising mix and, well, they should. But just how effective they are at exploiting this ad medium is another thing.
The Web has definitely made it easier than ever to reach a multitude of prospects. And more people should be attracted to your business. Unless, of course, your Web site is poorly thought out and hard to navigate. Fortunately, these days, there are simplified programs and an abundance of freelance Web designers charging low fees. So, it’s easer and cheaper than ever to have a good Web site. Whether you’re about to develop a Web site or you have one that needs work, here are some considerations from the Cuban Council, a design group for Web and print applications (www.cubancouncil.com):
• Get a domain name people can easily remember. Usually it has the dealership name in it. Don’t try to be clever – simple is key. Although .org and .net are becoming more common, most people don’t remember them and almost always type in .com. So get a .com, if possible. If you decide to use a common name, for example, skiboats.com, it’s wise to also register the .net and.org versions even if you’re only going to use the .com version. That way no one can scab your name.
• Design your Web site for your audience. It’s as much about aesthetics as it is information. The design should reflect your dealership and still appeal to your customers. Resist flashy graphics and animations unless absolutely necessary – creative designs with simplicity are still best for a Web site.
• Outsource your Web hosting rather than have your own server, which is costly and can be a headache. Existing hosts have already invested in servers, storage protection, backup systems and staff. Plans can cost as little as $20 per month for a shared server to $100 per month for a dedicated one. That will keep your costs down and your service up. Possible hosts include: (www.mediatemple.net) or (www.titled.com)
• Optimize your presence on search engines like Google and Yahoo. They’re usually the first place people will look for you. Make it easy for them to find you. Use clean (short) U.R.L.’s to increase your chances of getting indexed (listed multiple ways) in a search engine. Don’t waste money on so-called search engine optimization specialists. Search engines are quick to penalize Web sites that try to trick their filtering techniques. If your site gets on Google’s blacklist it could be there forever!
• Finally, stay ahead of technology, if possible. When building your Web site, keep it fairly simple to maximize the number of potential visitors. Today, for example, not all people use computers to browse the Web. Increasingly, the Web is accessed by cell phones, P.D.A.’s and similar fast-developing technologies that can not handle complicated downloads.