The Internet has forever changed the way consumers shop. Today, competitors are always just a click, text or email away. In this new age, simply having an online presence isn’t enough.
Shop owners who want to succeed must develop a comprehensive online marketing strategy designed to both attract and retain customers.
Just a few years ago, it was common for online shoppers to look for goods and services on a laptop or desktop computer. These days, smartphones and tablets are the devices of choice. Two years ago, there were 144.5 million smartphone users in the United States. That number is expected to jump to more than 207 million this year. Now, consider that 70% of mobile users search for businesses on their phones, and that more than half of all mobile searches lead to a phone call for the business that was searched. The statistics suggest that whatever online marketing tactics you implement should be designed with mobile users in mind.
So, the first step in your online marketing plan is to ensure that your website is mobile-friendly. That means that all of your images and text should scale to fit the screen size of whatever mobile device is being used. In addition, the site should perform well — meaning its pages shouldn’t take forever to load or stall out completely. Research has shown consumers will wait only five seconds for a page to load before leaving.
Another key is to ensure that your site is easy to navigate and features simple images and messages that will appeal to a wide variety of audiences. It might be tempting to incorporate large images and embedded video on your site, but those types of elements can actually just slow down your Web page. Remember, a mobile-responsive site will not only allow you to reach a wider audience, but will also help your search rankings because some search engines such as Google favor sites that render well on mobile devices.
The Other Part of the Puzzle
Having a site that’s mobile-friendly is only one part of the puzzle. Your site also needs to highlight what makes your brand unique. Visitors to your site should be able to quickly determine what your expertise is, what your value proposition is and gauge the trustworthiness of your shop. Featuring customer testimonials prominently on the home page will help establish your expertise and credibility, while listing specials and benefits (such as a customer shuttle or any warranties you offer) will allow you to quickly communicate the value you provide.
Social media is another important component to consider when building an online brand. I know many in the industry like to outsource this task, but I always recommend having shop owners serve as the voice of their shop because the result is more authentic. Don’t worry if you’re not a wordsmith or social media guru. Your customers aren’t judging you on your prose, but your heart. Keep your posts short and focus on specials, events in your community and even pictures of cool cars to keep your audience engaged.
As far as where to focus your energies, I suggest sticking to Facebook, Yelp and Google Places. While Google is still more of a search engine, having reviews on Google Places is important because it can influence your rankings. Remember to always encourage customers to leave reviews on social media and be responsive on those channels when complaints arise in order to maintain a strong online reputation.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a huge factor to keep in mind when creating an online marketing strategy. There are a variety of ways to address SEO — both organically and through advertising. Before embarking on a pay-per-click campaign, ensure that you are utilizing your organic options by keeping content fresh on social media and reminding customers to post reviews. Be sure to also mention the area you serve on your website since 67% of search results are impacted by the location of the person searching. If you specialize in serving a certain make or model, that text should figure prominently into your site and might merit separate landing pages to maximize SEO.
When it comes to Google AdWords, don’t try to cover every possible combination for which a car owner might search. If you have a specific focus, emphasize that; if you work on everything, look at your repair orders and identify the higher cost jobs. Your keywords should be based on the services and models from which you are yielding the highest revenue (e.g. transmission repairs for Toyota Highlanders). Narrowing your focus will give you a better chance of owning the key terms that are most important to you, rather than trying to compete for a much larger group of words that may not be as relevant.
Finally, don’t forget to list your business on all applicable directories, including Yelp, Google and Yellow Pages. Make sure that your name, address and phone number appear the same way on every directory and match what’s listed on your website. If you’re unsure about how to check the directories in your area, consider using a tool such as Moz Local to help you navigate where you are and where you should be listed.
Internet marketing is always evolving, so being flexible in your approach is important. However, having a mobile-responsive website, active social media engagement, an eye on SEO and a consistent presence on all of your local directories will position you well to compete in the 21st century.