Automotive Digital Marketing

Best Car Dealer Websites 2015

I had to reach for the title of this post. Why, because most Automotive Websites are not good at converting visitors into leads and ultimately a car sale, service sale, or parts order.

In the following paragraphs I will attempt to dissect the current state of monthly leased websites. That is the primary way websites are consumed in the auto industry. I will not spend much time on my favorite alternative website, WordPress CMS car dealer sites that perform really well. The inventory display pages look clean and since the sites are already built on the world’s most popular blogging platform, dealer could actually fire up the dreaded blog. Dealers have been reluctant to embrace a viable opportunity to generate substantial organic traffic.

This is a common phrase typed into a Google Search field by a typical car dealer. You might type, “best performing website for car dealers” or “what is the best website for car dealers.” The answer to this question (that nobody really knows) is the “One That Sells The Most Cars!” As you can see from the examples below, the search results have nothing to do with who actually offers the “best” website for car dealers 2015, but who is rather who is spending the most to get your clicks.

best car dealer websites
best car dealer websites


I would say that 90% of all franchised car dealers still lease a website. They reason is two-fold. Number #1, they do not employ the knowledge and expertise to maintain a custom coded website. Number #2, The manufacturers once again “force” (mandate) that car dealer’s must have certain website providers website product.  There is usually very little a car dealer can do about it. There are some exceptions on this requirement depending on who’s brands you currently sell. Honda dealers for example are free to use “xyz website” company as long as that provider can prove it is a “compliant” site approved by this OEM brand. There are some really nice products available to car dealers, but don’t understand why car dealers won’t buy a custom website. The fact that it’s $599 per month, or $7200 per year, or $21600 for 3-years, and you still don’t have any control of customization, coding, anything. The site will look almost identical to the next nearest dealer representing the same brand. Many of these website providers have large contracts to service 10’s of thousands of dealers across the USA. Canada has different circumstances and providers and and so do European providers. One website example closest to me, is Cobalt, now called CDK Digital Marketing. They are based out of Seattle, Washington and owned by ADP, Automatic Data Processing. (very large $11 Billion in sales) The company website says they have 26,000+ customers in automotive, marine, powersports, and others. They provide website solutions for 7 out of the top 10 largest dealer groups. Some of these providers are huge.

There are usually strong regional players in the website world that can compete with the big boys. Some of them will have 150, 200, 250, 300+ car dealers who are leasing website properties on a monthly basis. So as you can easily see, the small “mom and pop website shop” (hey, that rhymes) can generate a very healthy  $1,000,000+ in annual revenues! There’s big money in auto dealer websites.

This aspect of digital marketing within the auto industry has forever been a convoluted mess. You see, the toughest part of coding these websites is the “inventory” section and VDP (vehicle display pages) I have seen dealers spend $20,000 – $50000 (yes, I know that’s a bunch) for custom coded, beautifully crafted and aesthetically pleasing websites. Although the dealer had the right idea of finally owning a custom website they could call their own, the “inventory” pages could not accept the nightly updates and feeds from the dealership DMS. (dealer management system) Can you believe that?

best car dealer websites
Art Gamblin Cobalt VDP


The inventory portion of a car dealers website is fairly complex. At least it appears that way from a programming standpoint. I am not a coder or website programmer, so not sure show to best help you understand. The inventory pages are dynamic and change throughout the day. A dealer may be updating prices in the morning and once again later in the afternoon. This information is exported to the website providers, read, understood, and formatted into the website. In most cases it’s fairly seamless.

How do you determine the best car dealer websites 2015

Oh sure, some are more attractive to look at then others, some website providers charge $99/month while others playing in the franchised dealer arena may be $999/month or more. If you add in a CRM feature, it could be $1200. I don’t know the actual numbers for sure. It’s been almost a year since I last compared dozens of website offers and looked at pricing side-by-side. I believe a typical, single rooftop,  family owned store to be $599/month. The point worth stressing is, what does “Best” represent? Does it have anything to do with the hard coded SEO, organic traffic generating features, how local SEO is built in the site or if the site provider has provisions for the use of structured data on the dealers websites. Don’t expect the Dealer Principal, GM, or GSM to know about structured data, so don’t ask them. Instead go to your Internet Director or Internet Sales Manager and ask them to look into this by calling your website provider. A car dealer with a leased website will not have any access to the coding and cannot enter the required information. Most car dealer’s have never visited to learn how this works. I am not going to cover it here, but if your curious about boosting your SERP and getting more website traffic, reach out to me or contact your website provider. It is possible they have implemented in your current site or can assist in getting it setup. Have structured data on your website can help the search engines figure out what your site is all about. This process is really important for anything local because it can include basic NAP (name, address, phone) which may pop-up in local search.

Automotive Digital Marketing ProCom is a 10,000 member community dedicated to Auto Dealers and Service providers. They had a Best Website Ranking, but I could not locate a link. You can start here on my profile and hopefully discover it. I looked while writing this blog and did not see it easily. What I wanted to mention was not all “Best of” searches regarding automotive website service providers will mention specific criteria that allows for the basis of the rankings.

Is anyone asks what is the “Best Car Dealer Websites 2015”, the correct answer is, “nobody really knows” but I can tell you I want the “One That Sells The Most Cars!”