We have been using dealer.com as our website provider for the last couple years. In October we upgraded our site from their V8 to their V9 Platform and since the upgrade we have seen a large drop in our organic traffic. It has been 3 months since the site release, and while we have seen a slight increase in our organic traffic, it is no where near what it was before the upgrade. After countless phone calls with dealer.com's support staff, the company still has yet to provide us with a solution to the issue. They believe that the drop in organic traffic is not due to the upgrade (even thought the drop in traffic coincides with the launch date of the upgraded site).
Our SEO provider (we do not do our SEO with dealer.com) believes the drop in organic traffic is largely related to the excessive use of H1 tags (Header1) in the code of the new template. He believes that if these tags were changed to P1 tags (paragraph1) our organic traffic would return to what it was. He says the header1 tags for words like "About Us", "Welcome", and "Inventory", dilute our important keywords like "Cadillac", "Buick", "GMC", and our town name. Dealer.com does not agree that the H1 tags are negatively affecting our SEO, and since it is a templated site, they will not change the code to the P1 tags. They believe our site had dropped in rank because of the hundreds of landing pages we created for towns in the area that have similar content, ex. "Hartford Cadillac", "Bridgeport Cadillac", "Enfield Cadillac", etc.
I'll admit I have a limited knowledge of SEO, but it has been my knowledge that having landing pages such as these helps to bring more traffic to our site. In addition, Google has cataloged these pages, which our SEO provider says is a sign they do not think of them as duplicate content, and they should not negatively affect SEO.
In your opinions, are these landing pages negatively affecting our SEO? Is the H1 tag problem the real issue? Or, is dealer.com on track here and our SEO provider off base?
In the midst of this ongoing clash of opinions, our Internet Inquiries have dropped, and, in turn, our internet sales. I am looking for a solution to help get our sales back to where they were, and, in the long term, increase them. So, while considering both dealer.com and our SEO provider's analysis of the situation, I have also started looking at other website providers.
Our dealership recently signed on with VinSolutions as our CRM tool, and now we are considering switching to their website as well. Do you think this would be a wise decision? I am concerned about the drop in traffic when we change website providers. Are we better off sticking the course with dealer.com? For those of you who are familiar with VinSolutions websites, are they a better alternative to dealer.com? How is the site performance?
I really am looking forward to hearing some opinions outside of dealer.com, our SEO provider, and VinSolutions on this one!
Chris you have restored some of my faith in SEO agencies! Good stuff. :)
Jackie the 500/503's are something I would discuss with dealer.com. Confirm your DNS is configured correctly and redirects are correct. Perhaps a call to your domain provider (Godaddy/Network Solutions) is warranted as well but those are probably a webserver configuration issue. If they occurred right after switching I wouldn't worry about them. If they are recent, look into them.
Chris has provided you with solid advice here. I would only like to suggest that, before holding you SEO company accountable (to the degree recommended by Chris).. you first make certain that Dealer.com provides access to the areas in question. From my personal experience.. they do not. However, with some "encouragement" they will grant access to the page-level meta data. Chris is correct in so much as you should hold your SEO provider accountable to the degree he has suggested. However, they can not be accountable for that which they have no access to alter.
What can I tell you. We moved to VinSolutions and it has been a Blessing, from Website, inventory, CRM everything we do is with vinsolutions and our web presence skyrocket. If you do a search on google like this "site:cbsqualitycars.com" you see 115000 results when it used to be only 700 with our previous provider. Leads are pouring. Plus the Customer service it's awesome. Donna Stearns and Chase Abbot truly know what customer service it's all about, even after hours. We recommend Vinsolutios all the time 100% customer satisfaction. Call them at 1-800-980-7488.
If you are comfortable that your SEO company truly has your best interest at heart and they are not the type of provider who merely highlights the best data so they can get paid, then I would include them in a review of VinSolutions CMS. After all, they will be collaborating with you on every page for best SEO results. They can tell you whether they have the access they need to perform at peak level.
Though I do not have any direct experience with VinSolutions' CMS, if you have chosen them for your CRM, it makes very good business sense to use their CMS. If their templates allow you to customize as needed so you can build what you want, and your SEO team says they can access everything they need, having the CRM directly integrated with your website is a major perk. One less leaky seam...one less vendor to manage.
Thanks for your reply Chris! Our SEO provider is an independent consultant. We have been using him for a little over a year and when he first started we saw some great results. He has said a lot of the things he would change dealer.com does not give him access to. I really feel confident he is not trying to pull a fast one on us. He has even said at this point he is not sure what more he can do for us if we stay with dealer.com, and if that means we have to part ways with him he understands and he wants us to make the best decision for our company. That in mind, I did have him jump on to a call with VinSolutions and he was impressed with their product and his accessibility.
I just worry even if our current SEO provider has our best interests in mind, are his practices outdated? He has been doing SEO for over 10 years and works for a lot of other huge names, his company even does SEO for the NBA.
I know that changing site providers is a big transition and risk. Based on everyone's responses here I am wondering, is it time to change site providers or SEO providers? I am having a hard time determining the right answer here....
Let me assure you that the length of time someone has been an SEO is NOT an indicator of how well they perform SEO on sites in such a competitive market in 2013. I hate to keep bashing your SEO guy, but as the technology leader of a firm that prides themselves on SEO work, I would personally hold myself accountable in your situation.
I have been in this exact same situation with a dealer group that is on the dealer.com platform recently. Let me tell you how this went...
We needed to add about 60 pages of content and optimize all the existing page meta tags and some content on existing pages. I was provided access to Dealer.com's platform and found that I did NOT have the ability to modify meta tags. I called the Dealer.com rep on behalf of the dealer. They said that we coudl not be provided access to the meta tags and I had to send them any changes that needed to be made.
Do you think that stopped us? NO
I proceeded to have my team fill out excel spreadsheets for every single page of each dealer site within the group, including the group site. The excel docs were massive as we included the existing meta tags and the new ones we wanted to use for title, descriptions, and keywords.
You would think a company like Dealer.com would do what they said right? WRONG.
Once they saw how much work was involved in really optimizing their websites they hit us back up and said guess what, you have access to the meta tags and you can do them yourself!
So my team went ahead and did it ourselves!
It is up to the SEO company to make sure these things get done. If they absolutely can't be done then a recommendation has to be made that we can't be held accountable for optimizing a site we can't fully optimize as an SEO firm. Your SEO guy needs to make it happen. Dealer.com can be difficult to deal with, I would much rather sell the entire group our own websites, but they were locked into a contract and couldn't change right now.
In your situation you CAN change. But before making a change like that I would suggest you change your SEO firm as it will be much easier and I can assure you that you can fix all of your issues with Dealer.com if you have a good SEO firm at your side.
The 500 errors should also be addressed with Dealer.com as a start to see what they think. If they are hosting the site they may be able to help with fixing those errors.
It's great coming across this topic here as it has been a matter of contention of mine since I took over digital for our auto group. One of the things that I am putting in place and am working on with our web provider (cobalt) is this SEO silo template for each site.I've included a google drive link here : it is slow going but it ensures that everyone is on the same page and if you are ever to change providers or seo guys. The new ones will know exactly where to pic up.
Another amazing tool I use for SEO is http://www.seorch.eu/
Hope this helps I know its been helping me turn my sites around.
I've recently changed our website www.landlautomotive.co.uk and have encountered the same issues.
Website change over in Feb 2012, March 2012 traffic was -100% of previous month, however now january 2013 was 300% increase over Jan 2012.
If you'd like any more advice then please ask.