DealerSocket’s resident SEO whisperer explains the link between pizza and winning the search-engine popularity contest.

By Dillon Ford

Winning the search-engine popularity contest in a world overrun with endless products and infinite websites is no easy task. The experts will say SEO is the answer, or search engine optimization. They’re right. Problems is, the rules for getting seen online always seem to be in a constant state of flux.

It’s true that good SEO is decided through algorithms and quality of content. But here’s a tip: Stop trying to understand the specific calculations and worry about the latter. Besides, even the experts have differing opinions and philosophies on the exact formula for attracting attention. So, again, let’s worry about something we can control: quality of content.

To do that, let’s think of something we can all understand: pizza. Now imagine you’re walking down a street with three pizza shops competing for your attention and that hunger pang. How will you decide which one gets your business? For some people, it is the aroma of baking crust, freshly made sauce, and the crisp scent of bubbling cheese. For others, it may be the color of the sign outside the restaurant or the number of people inside.

The exact formula will be different for everyone. Yes, there are some measurable qualities you can analyze, but it often comes down to an immeasurable synergy of all the qualities you observe. Well, just like the tangible world, there are a few principles that drive consumer traffic to your website, including relevance, uniqueness of content, and clear communication. Let’s examine each one.

Relevance: Be Where Your Customers Are

Relevance in our pizza scenario is related to real estate. If your pizza restaurant isn’t on the street with the hungry consumers, then you’re not going to sell many pizzas. So, how do you know which street to be on?

Your website needs to be where the action is. That means you need to give your customers as many reasons as possible to visit your shop. To do that, you need to do more than sell a product to stand out; you need to be where the community is gathering.

If you own a car dealership, your website needs to be a hub for the community — not just a place to buy a car. A blog page offering details to the local fair or the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new library represents a great way to draw in members of your community.

The tip here is be relevant. Stop selling your store and instead become a valued member of the community. Just be sure to cast a wide net. If everyone in town is preparing for the local fair, be the website that has the dates and times for the event’s activities. It’s that simple.

Again, be on the street with all the traffic. In internet terms, that means creating content for which your community will be searching.

Uniqueness of Content: Set Yourself Apart

Newspapers have articles; your website needs to have content. It may seem intimidating, but chances are you already have the material needed to create blogs, blurbs, and product pages. Even links to other websites will help. Remember, every piece of text on your website is content.

Also think in terms of what sets your store apart from your competitors. For a pizza restaurant, it may be aroma, a dining room with a view, or the look on the faces of satisfied customers. So what makes your store unique?

© Balcer / Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-2.5

New research shows that car shoppers are visiting more brick-and-mortar stores (2.5 dealerships) and submitting more leads (three lead forms, on average). Search engine optimization represents a key opportunity to be one of the dealerships considered.

A website gains popularity on Google by having unique qualities that make it stand out. The words must be attractive, specific, and written with a clear style. When Google decides which websites make first-page results, it weeds out pages that have the same quality of content. If your content smells like your competitors, then Google won’t rank you above your competition.

The solution is not a mystery. Do some research, know your product inside and out, and write something worth reading. You don’t need to be a reporter for The New York Times. You just need a style that is genuine and authentic to you. In other words, use your personality and unique perspective to paint a picture.

Clear Communication: Be Relatable

The last thing to consider is the most practical: communicate clearly. Make sure your reader knows what you are talking about. Use appropriate grammar. Write the way you speak. Readers appreciate that.

When in doubt, use the age-old writing test we all learned in grade school: Read your content aloud and listen to how it sounds. If your phrasing is choppy, then rewrite it. Use short sentences to emphasis simple points. Expand your vocabulary a little, but make sure your reader has context clues to understand what you’re saying. Get creative.

Finally, say what you’re going to say, say it, then say what you said. That’s the secret. Readers want to follow a natural flow without surprises around each corner.

Is that it? Not by a long shot. Think of this blog as the hitchhiker’s guide to SEO. Thankfully, we can leave the math to the experts. You just need to be relevant, have unique content, and communicate clearly. Write it, read it, speak it, be it. Do these things and the SEO will take care of itself.

Dillon Ford is a creative, SEO whisperer and a member of DealerSocket’s marketing team. Email him at

The proliferation of small type in online ads and social media could make dealers more vulnerable to digital accessibilities lawsuits, filing of which should increase thanks to a recent Supreme Court decision.

The U.S. Supreme Court just did something that should make your stomach turn the next time you are in the mood for Domino’s Pizza. Actually, it’s what the high court didn’t do that will have you reaching for an antacid.

See, Dominos was sued three years ago by Guillermo Robles under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The pizza chain’s customer charged that Domino’s failed to design its website and web app to accommodate screen-reading software that could read and vocalize contents. This, he alleged, prevented him from taking advantage of the chain’s online discounts after he was unable to order pizza online on two occasions.

Dominos argued that the ADA applies to its store but not its website.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. Although the ADA does not directly address websites, mobile apps, or other web-based technologies, the appellate court ruled that the chain’s website and app provided a way for customers to access its physical storefronts for delivery and pickup. This “nexus” put Robles’ complaint under the purview of the ADA.

Domino’s then asked the Supreme Court to rule that the ADA does not cover the internet.

The high court declined the pizza chain’s appeal on Oct. 7. The decision clears the way for the more than 2,250 digital accessibilities lawsuits expected to be filed this year.

For California dealers, the Supreme Court’s decision is especially damaging. That’s because California law, according to Auto Dealer Compliance’s Randy Henrick, sets a minimum dollar amount for damages of $4,000 plus attorney’s fees for each violation of the ADA. Most other states don’t have a minimum and only allow for equitable relief to be sought. However, businesses located in all but 12 states have paid between $10,000 and more than $90,000 to resolve website-related lawsuits and threats of lawsuits.

Now consider the special internet pricing you might be advertising on your site, the digital retailing tools you may offer, all those vehicle details pages you’ve created, and the fine print explaining rebate and incentive eligibility. If you employ any of that on your site, you could be a target, Henrick says.

What makes compliance tough is the definition of “disability” in the ADA is broad. Keep in mind it’s a legal term, not a medical term. That’s significant, because the ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment “that substantially limits one or more major life activity functions,” Henrick notes, adding that this includes people who have a record of such impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability. The ADA also makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person based on that person’s association with a person with a disability.

“With the Supreme Court letting the Domino’s decision stand, I would expect more of these suits to be filed by the plaintiff’s bar,” Henrick says. “Whether and to what extent auto dealers will be targeted is uncertain, but I think they have the same exposure as other retailers and the proliferation of small type in online ads and social media may make them more vulnerable.”

The big concern here is there is no standard for compliance. Yup, it’s a moving target.

The Obama administration’s Department of Justice was in the process of developing precise standards for making websites ADA compliant. Four Advanced Notices of Proposed Rulemaking were issued in 2010. Henrick says it is likely those standards would have been less costly and complex than the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which is the standard followed by the European Union and other countries since 1999.

The Trump administration, however, withdrew those notices as part of its deregulation stance. That’s why this Domino’s case is something to watch, and why DealerSocket chose AudioEye as its web accessibility partner.

Under that pact, DealerFire websites now support AudioEye’s Ally Toolbar, which allows users with disabilities to have text read to them or played automatically. The solution, which conforms with WCAG 2.0 standards, also offers automatic captioning and voice-enabled site navigation.

So, you’ve been warned. The good news for DealerFire customers is we got your digital front door covered.

“Younger buyers still want the dealership,” read the headline for Automotive News’ Aug. 12 report on a new study from Urban Science. The firm surveyed approximately 2,000 shoppers in February, 75% of whom said they would not buy a vehicle without a dealer involved.

Inspiring the headline were findings indicating that the youngest generations shop the highest number of brick-and-mortar dealerships, with Gen Z and young millennials visiting, on average, 3.8 and 2.6 stores before pulling the trigger. These are the generations all those industry studies said didn’t like the dealership experience, hated the F&I office, and might even stop buying cars.

Well, those studies appear to be wrong. In fact, according to a column penned by J.D. Power researcher Maya Ivanova for Auto Remarketing magazine, “Fears that Gen Y… would turn their backs on the all-American car-buying tradition are unfounded.”

The research also noted that Gen Y shoppers “mostly like to close the deal at the dealership.”

I know of a few “traditionalists” who are grinning ear to ear over these findings, believing they refute all that talk about dealers needing to step into the Digital Age. I believe the opposite. My takeaway is the stats serve as an endorsement of the industry’s efforts to get dealers to embrace the internet, and I believe they point to the digital experience growing in importance in the years ahead — that’s if we can erase the mistakes of tech marketers in recent years.

So what brings me to those conclusions? For starters, the line about Gen Y being OK with closing deals at the dealership opens with the following: “While every millennial starts the buying journey digitally…”

The Automotive News article also notes that 81% of the auto shoppers polled indicated that they “trust the information they receive from a franchised dealership.” Think about that for a second: 81% of your customers say they trust the information you send them. Wait, it gets better.

Seventy-two percent of survey respondents said the salesperson is becoming a trusted advisor. Wow, right? Well, 75% of survey respondents also said they would not want to buy a vehicle without a dealer involved.

So what happened to all that talk about consumers wanting to avoid the dealership experience? Well, thanks to your digital marketing and advertising efforts, car buyers know if stores are “retailing the same vehicle for $10,000 to $10,500, then that is the price of that vehicle.” That’s what Reedman-Toll Auto Group’s Moshe Schoopachevich said in a new report we developed in partnership with Automotive News.

“They look at Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds, too,” he noted, adding, “What the internet really did was end haggling.”

Back in 2015, Google broke down the car-buying process in the Internet Age into five moments:

  • Which-car-is-best moments
  • Is-it-right-for-me moments
  • Can-I-afford-it moments
  • Where-should-I-buy-it moments
  • Am-I-getting-a-deal moments

Now consider all the digital techniques your store employs daily and monthly to help consumers through those moments. Yeah, those studies might point to consumers not minding the dealership experience, but it’s because of everything you do online to reel them in.

As for whether those findings make an argument against digital retailing, I don’t think they do. I believe consumers are just now learning what’s possible from a car-shopping perspective. And I believe their expectation will only grow in the years to come, but not at the expense of the dealership experience.

See, I think the term “digital retailing” has gotten a bad name in our industry, mainly because of the missteps of tech marketers. They believed the best way to market their solutions was to bash the people they’re designed to help, and they used the buying habits of today’s younger generations to do so.

Hey, calling dealers antiquated because they’re process-driven is no way to get them to buy into your vision of the future. Dealers are process-driven because they know a proven process delivers results, because the state and federal laws governing their activities demand it, and because not every customer has an 800 credit score.

The good news is I think marketers are finally coming around. It’s why we see terms like “connected retail” and “omnichannel retailing” being used to describe “digital retailing.”

As I’ve always been told, buying a car is the second biggest purchase a consumer will make, and it should be treated as such. However, digitizing low-value steps in your sales process, such as filling out a credit app, should be something you embrace. It makes the process more efficient, saves labor, and allows your team to focus on high-value activities like selling cars, F&I products, and the expertise of your service department. That’s the true promise of digital retailing.

  • Millennials Value Exclusivity: Salespeople should use words like “unique”, “one of a kind”, or even “special” when selling to Millennials, because members of this demographic believe they’re unique and their rides should be as well.
  • Millennials Hate Waiting: Give them the VIP treatment by having the salesperson waiting and ready to show them cars based on the needs they shared when they chatted, texted, or messaged the dealership. Millennials hate being taken to the salesperson’s “lair”.
  • Millennials Want to Text: Must text millennials. You have to text with them.
  • Millennials View LinkedIn: Make sure your salespeople have a LinkedIn account with a photo, content that humanizes them, and connections, because Millennials will look them up to see if they can trust the salesperson.
That was the list my colleague jotted down while listening to millennial whisperer Jason Dorsey at our recent DealerSocket User Summit in Anaheim, Calif. Dorsey serves as president and lead researcher at the Center of Generational Kinetics in Austin, Texas, and he shared insights on various generations, including mine, during his keynote address on Aug. 21.

According to my colleague, his message was well received. In fact, she noted in her email that one general manager in attendance emailed Dorsey’s speech notes to his team and told them to review it and be ready to discuss when he returns. My colleague was kind enough to also send me those notes before being shuttled to the House of Blues to watch celebrity band Royal Machines during our DealerSocket After Dark party. How nice of her, right? She concluded her email with the following: “This might make for a good blog.”

Yeah, she’s always thinking about me.

My colleague’s thought about the blog was a good one, but I wondered how millennials would feel about the list. I mean, it kind of makes them sound entitled — that’s until I reread the list.

Yeah, “unique” was the reason I bought my current vehicle four years ago. I just hadn’t seen very many of them on the road or in the parking lot at work, and the thought of having a vehicle no one in my family had made this Gen Xer forget about the issues pointed out to me in the reviews I read.

As for the VIP treatment, why not? Heck, I know of a few dentist offices that could heed that advice. But, yeah, if they came ready to buy, shouldn’t you be ready to sell. Besides, isn’t your dealership’s sales process designed to keep customers moving so they don’t have time to second guess their decision to buy. So I guess being ready for them and not making them wait isn’t asking too much, right?

I totally agreed with the texting recommendation. In fact, I had a millennial colleague at my previous gig who came to me for advice on buying a car. A couple of days after we talked, she returned to show me how the deal went down. I write “show”, because she handed me her iPhone to show me the texting exchange she had with her salesman. In his last message, he told her she owed him for getting management to agree to her price. He then asked her out for coffee, which you probably shouldn’t do.

I also agree with the LinkedIn advice. The social media site was my go-to source for learning about people I needed to interview for a magazine article. And I just hated it when an interviewee’s LinkedIn profile had no photo and his or her “Experience” section only listed company names and titles.

In fact, I’ve used LinkedIn to look up my son’s baseball coach and fielding instructor, his tennis coach, teacher, an email solicitor, and someone who liked (or hated) a social media post I made or an article I wrote. And, yes, I even looked up the guy who sold me my last car.

So I guess that list contains solid advice, and maybe this Gen Xer was just being — as Dorsey describes my kind — his typical “skeptical,” “cynical” self. By the way, Dorsey also says Gen Xers make great managers and leaders because we dive into the details. Who am I to question an expert, right?

What I find interesting, and I’m sorry for the shameless plug, is many of our most recent updates to our DealerSocket CRM address Dorsey’s recommendations. Last month, for instance, our product teams rolled out a new mobile-optimized widget for our DealerFire websites. It’s designed to connect car buyers who request a text conversation to users of our CRM through our SocketTalk texting tool.

Earlier this year, we rolled out the capability to send walk-around videos (up to 500 MB, or roughly two minutes) and vehicle images through SocketTalk. The texting tool can also receive images and videos, a capability your used-car manager can use to get a head start on appraising a customer’s trade. Oh, and we also added an emoji keyboard to SocketTalk.

The CRM release that really speaks to Dorsey’s recommendations, particularly tip No. 2, is SocketCredit. After having a positive exchange via SocketTalk, imagine being able to text a link to our SocketCredit credit application or a request to perform a soft pull on the customer’s credit. Heck, you can even mention to them that the soft pull won’t harm their credit. Hey, Gen Y knows how hard credit pulls ding their scores, thanks to their baby boomer parents.

Talk about a connected retail experience, right?

Dorsey also offered great insights in “Decoding Gen Z the car buyer,” a report DealerSocket developed in conjunction with Automotive News. Born after 1996, Gen Z is entering the workforce by the tens of millions while wielding roughly $3 trillion in purchasing power. The article breaks down the vehicles Gen Z wants and how they want to buy them.