8 Easy-to-Fix Website Mistakes Car Dealers Make That Are Killing Their Conversions


As I’ve written before, your website has just two goals: Attract and Convert. Your site should be constructed in a way that is search-friendly so as to attract visitors; and then once they’re on your website, your only goal is to convert those visitors into buyers. That’s it; the only two goals. 

Unfortunately, while nearly every website built for dealers today is search-friendly, those managing most dealer sites continue to make the same mistakes over and over. And, these mistakes are destroying your ability to convert your existing visitors into buyers.

Do you want to generate more leads, calls and sales from your existing website traffic without breaking the bank? Great, you’ve made a strong first step. Now, if you’ve got an hour and 47 minutes to kill, skip this quick post and watch our free Undeniable Advantage training webcast covering all of the ways to Grow Your Leads and Sales from Your Existing Website Traffic.

But, if you’re like most dealers and managers I work with, you simply don’t have that much free time to dedicate to learning about this topic. That’s why I wrote this quick article to help you avoid (or correct) these eight easy-to-fix website mistakes that I see dealerships and groups making every single day.

Mistake #1: Too many chat drop-ins. Sure, having the chat pop-up appear on every page regardless of how many times I’ve closed it drives a lot of instances of chat (and keeps your chat company happy), but it also drives away visitors who don’t mind a few pop-ups, but become annoyed when they continue to close the same chat pop-up again and again and again.

Limit your chat drop-ins by using the “Three Closes Rule.” Once a visitor has closed chat three times, stick the chat message on the side of the screen and let them interact with you when they’re ready. You’ll generate more total leads and you won’t be driving away those who will never give up their information in the first place.

Mistake #2: Not using all available parasites. Parasites – for those who do not know – are a good thing for your website. Without parasites, you’d suffer through an average 2% (or worse) form conversion rate. With parasites, many dealers enjoy legitimate double-digit non-phone conversion percentages.

(Parasites, in the field of websites, are any tool or application a third-party adds to your website – generally for the purpose of driving additional first-party leads.)

Nearly all dealers use parasites, though almost no dealers use all the available parasites at their disposal. This is a mistake and it’s killing your conversion rate, as good parasites drive incremental leads and sales. So here’s a short list of proven parasites that you should add to your website immediately to maximize your conversions:

  • Chat Program
  • Pop-Up Forms
  • Website Widgets
  • Texting Application
  • Credit Score Estimator
  • On-Page Trade Tool
  • Professional Trade-In Form (not the free one from your website provider)
  • Instant Retargeting
  • Automated Specials
  • Gift Card Offer

Mistake #3: Using an OEM-provided website with too many rules. Make no mistake, the OEM website programs have a come very long way since they were first introduced. And, while they’re no longer the “jokes” most true conversion experts exclaimed they were 10 years ago, many of these programs are still so wrought with bureaucracy that getting a new solution or best practice added to your OEM website is almost impossible.

Of course, this puts users of these websites at a tremendous competitive disadvantage.

For example, we estimate that the average General Motors dealer using the OEM-approved website from CDK is missing a minimum of 53 first-party leads every month because their solution does not allow Instant Retargeting or Pop-Up parasites on the dealer websites. (Not sure if this is the official reason, but the excuse we’ve been given is that “GM cannot track the leads from third-party parasites.” Which, or course, is just not true, as all of these leads could be either copied to CDK or sent through CDK before landing in the dealer’s CRM.)

Mistake #4: Letting them just get away. While too many chat pop-ups is a bad thing, never having chat forms drop-in on a page is worse. Dealers should always employ the tools that encourage interaction, rather than just letting the prospect get away without engaging.

Other good examples of tools that give you the opportunity to engage with prospects before they’ve wandered too far into your competitor’s website are Instant Retargeting and exit widgets (those forms that appear as you try to close out a webpage). And, yes, you can and should employ both Instant Retargeting and an exit widget if your goal is to maximize leads and sales.

Mistake #5: Not proactively interacting with them. For those of you running a BDC, you’ll likely find value in tools that allow your BDC Agents to casually (but proactively) engage with site visitors. The idea is to pop-in a message that’s relevant to them while they’re still on your site. Whether it’s driving a directed chat request or just placing an arrow on the page that highlights important information, products like SaleMove can help you grow the leads and sales attributable to your dealership website by helping you be more proactive with your site visitors.

Mistake #6: Using homegrown trade-in and service appointment forms. Here’s the dilemma many dealers face: “Do I pay $XXX for a website trade appraisal tool from a third party, or have my website company put together a free version?”

Free sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? It does, until you do the math.

We looked at four dealers who were using their respective website provider’s “free” trade appraisal form and then tracked their results as they switched to a professional form for an average of about $400 per month each.

During the three months prior to the switch, these dealers averaged fewer than 8 trade leads each per month and about 1 sale per store attributable to these leads. Why? Simple: the free trade appraisal forms were too long, lacked the credibility of a third party and contained way too many required fields.

Once these forms were swapped out for paid tools, and the dealers followed the best practices outlined by the respective third-party provider, their monthly average trade leads per dealership jumped to more than 30 and they were selling between 4 and 6 units each per month to trade lead customers.

(Don’t get me started on homegrown service appointment forms. Let’s just say these are usually delivered to a black hole in most dealerships.)

Mistake #7: Thinking your website is “stale.” You see your website multiple times every single day. It’s stale to you. It’s stale to your team. But… it’s not stale to your customers – they simply don’t visit it often enough to have an opinion about its relative freshness. (Besides, do you think any other websites you frequent are “stale” besides your own? Chances are you do not.)

Your website has just two goals: Attract & Convert. Give me a “stale” site that converts over a “fresh” site that does not.

If you feel you must make changes to your website to keep it “fresh,” then at least make only small changes that you track and measure before and after the change. This way, if your conversions or your traffic declines because of the change, you can always revert back to where you were before you made the change.

Mistake #8: Changing website providers as often as you change socks. Within one week of helping a dealer-client save over $5,000 that his website company was wasting every month on worthless Search & Social efforts, the same client emails me a proposal from a competing website company with nearly identical services for roughly the same amount of money! (Forgetting, I suppose, that we determined together that these amounts were a wasted spend.)

We just cut over $5,000 from his current website company; so why in the world doesn’t this dealer just stick with the devil he knows and begin to build from there? Why intentionally put yourself through the hassles and the learning curve that comes from changing website providers?

Stop changing website companies like you change socks! Every time you do, you invariably do something that leads to lower conversions. From 404 page errors in your prospect’s face (because your new company set up their site incorrectly) to drops in search rankings (because you have a brand new website) to lost continuity in tracking (because your new website company wants to use their own Google Analytics account) to actual lost leads (because someone fat-fingered your lead delivery address), so much can and does go wrong when you make these changes unnecessarily.

In fact, even with the big groups, I have rarely seen this transition go smoothly.

Here’s a dirty little secret: Most car dealer websites are pretty much the same in terms of their only two goals: Attract & Convert. So, if you’re already with a decent one, there is very little reason to change.

In fact, the only time it makes sense to make a wholesale change is when a new provider can demonstrate (without any doubt and in the presence of your current provider) that their solution does a distinctly better job at achieving these goals.

Bonus Mistake: Someone at your dealership or group is a Digital Marketing Snob. You know what I mean, right? Most groups and a lot of dealerships I interact with have now hired some know-it-all from the “Too Cool For School Crowd” and they’ve given this genius carte blanche to run (or is it ruin?) all aspects of digital marketing (and sometimes even the internet sales efforts).

You’ll know if you have one of these Digital Marketing Snobs now in charge of your eCommerce efforts if he or she:

  1. Has all the answers;
  2. Rejects any outside idea as “too old school;” and
  3. Has successfully reduced your overall first-party leads since his/her arrival.

The problem with the cool kids in this group is they think their homegrown solutions are all your websites need to drive the maximum number of leads, calls and sales. But, of course, they’re wrong. (And, you know it, but you haven’t the heart or the guts to wrestle these decisions away from them… even though they are killing your conversions.)

Attract & Convert

Interestingly, most of these easy-to-fix website mistakes are caused by you or someone else overthinking your website’s goals. It only has two: Attract & Convert. Once you fully understand this, you’re poised to put away the ego, the opinions, the air of superiority and ready to start growing your leads, calls and sales attributable to your dealership’s most important online asset: your website.

Good selling!