Moving to a new website provider – or even redesigning your current site – can be a scary thing in any industry. In the complex world of automotive websites, the intensity reaches another level.
Automotive dealer websites have a lot of moving parts. First and foremost, when you switch sites, you don’t want any lag in business. You rely on your site to engage customers and push valuable leads through in a timely manner. Any lapse could mean lost sales. And besides simply being live, you’ll want to make sure all pricing, incentives, rebates, forms, CTAs, CRM integration, inventory feeds – everything – is working properly so the transition is seamless to the customer and your internal processes.
SEO And Your Dealership’s New Site Launch
But something that many dealers neglect during a site transfer is SEO – most notably, search visibility. Too often, providers switch sites without doing any sort of pre-launch SEO audit to ensure there won’t be gaps in traffic from former site to the new site. Even worse, most providers don’t have an internal process to do this, nor the knowledge of what needs to be done to avoid issues.
A fairly standard action for providers to take when transferring a site is to install 301 redirects on top-level navigation pages. In basic terms, these 301 redirects send the user to the new site if they click on a link, go directly or for whatever reason find and click one of the “old” pages. A 301 redirect is a great tactic to make sure that users don’t end up clicking on pages that turn out to be a 404 error. Instead, customers are sent to the new site.
The process the provider uses to determine which pages get a redirect, and where to redirect them, is where it gets interesting. Typically, it’s simply a top internal page to top internal page 1-to-1 transfer using 301 redirects. But this has consequences when it comes to unique landing pages, blogs or other content marketing pages that the site may have invested in over the years.
Not redirecting these pages at all, or simply redirecting them to an internal page is going to cause a dip in traffic once the SERP position of that landing page disappears.
For example, the dealership could have an involved landing page that is ranking high for a specific vehicle model and bringing in a lot of high-quality traffic – outranking any SRP or VDP for that vehicle. This page could be a main source of leads or it may be referring a large amount of people to the inventory for this specific vehicle, which also results in leads.
For a landing page that is occupying a top SERP position, the solution of having it fall under a simple SRP redirect has a limited shelf life. Unless the page is both re-created AND redirected, the SRP itself won’t hold that same SERP position that the model-specific landing page held.
Having a Pre-Launch Plan for Your Dealership’s Website
This is where a pre-launch analysis makes the difference between maintaining SEO clout and falling off the SERP radar entirely. The incoming provider should be using Google Analytics, or other available tools, to analyze which pages need to exist on the new site and where they should be redirected.
One of the best ways for this to happen is for the new provider to be granted historical Google Analytics access. By having access to the provider’s actual GA account, a full view of website performance can be analyzed. And, as a result, landing pages like the one mentioned above can be properly rebuilt and redirected.
If the site doesn’t have Google Analytics, or the dealer doesn’t own their account, there are tools that can analyze site data nearly as effectively. Then, the same steps can be followed to allow the site to have all of the pages and redirects in place before launching on the new platform.
If these crucial SEO steps are followed, the site launch can go smoothly from an SEO perspective. At DealerFire, there is a dedicated analytics team that guides new sites through these processes prior to launch.
Follow Up on the Steps Taken
Of course, the work doesn’t end there. Post-launch, there are other immediate health checks to ensure that everything is in place and working, and that the results are bearing out. This, of course, includes the other standard steps of Google Search Console setup and many other processes.
Whether you go with DealerFire as your new website provider or not, make sure that you are getting a smooth launch that goes beyond the technical aspects of your site and ensures SEO health throughout the transition.