By Ryan Leslie
The ideal is an online reputation that enhances the public’s opinion of your dealership and its employees. This perception should convert to sales.
New quantifiable data shows that dealerships’ online reviews and associated star ratings do just that – drive new vehicle sales. The data (based on a recent DealerRater/Polk study that examined all franchised dealers on DealerRater.com) indicates that dealers with higher average star ratings produce a higher increase in sales as compared to dealers with lower star ratings during the study period. For example, dealers with an average star rating of 4.0 or higher had a 25% greater increase in sales compared to dealerships with an average star rating of 2.0 or less.
Online reputations can’t just happen… that’s the bad news. The good news is it’s neither complicated nor costly to foster a favorable online reputation that enhances auto consumers’ interest in doing business with your dealership and its employees.
Here are the top four steps in building an online reputation that drives business for your dealership:
1. Focus on review content that matters. Customers demand trust before they enter the purchase funnel and more of their purchase decision is made outside of the dealership than ever before. Consumers these days meet, chat and compare dealerships online. However, spreading reviews across too many third-party review sites can negatively impact a dealer’s reputation and result in a diluted and inconsistent distribution. Building reviews on review sites that appear further down in the organic search results (Page 2 and beyond) also heighten the organic placement for those sites and raise the visibility for unhappy customers to vent in the future.
2. Adopt a smart but simple Page 1 strategy. When researching dealerships online, people can choose to trust and continue or dislike and bolt in a nanosecond. Just as you strive to keep your dealership’s frontage clean and attractive, be sure to maintain your online presence as well. Without regular housekeeping, detracting clutter such as negative reviews will pollute your search results pages.
Start by doing a simple search for the name of your dealership, plus the word “reviews.” As Google auto-fills the word “reviews”, it’s likely that consumers looking for information about your dealership are going to be directed to your reviews. When the search results appear, write down the names of the two to four review websites that appear on Page one. Most consumers don’t look past page one results, so focus your efforts on these most influential web sites.
3. Don’t play it too safe when it comes to reviews. Begin by asking your happy customers to write a review for your dealership. However, once you have accumulated 30–40 positive reviews, and insulated your dealership reputation, make reviews an integral part of our sales and service processes. A good base of reviews is a sign of an active, vibrant dealership.
Be sure your Page 1 impression makes it easy for visitors and customers to easily spot and read your reviews. If customers don’t see that they can trust you online, you won’t see them in your dealership.
4. Get an offense in place. Your online reputation is not something that should be handled defensively. Some dealers are overly concerned about negative reviews and don’t want people to see them, so they miss out on the benefits of leveraging their positive reviews. An offensive approach is best. Be sure to leverage your reputation in three areas: online, in the showroom and over the phone.
Online reviews and reputation management are fast becoming integral parts of the way car dealerships attract and hold customers. Today it is an absolute necessity to have a process in place to build and proactively leverage customer reviews.
If you incorporate these core building blocks for building and maintaining your online presence, your dealership will enjoy higher ratings, more positive consumer perception, and in turn, drive more business to your dealership.
Ryan Leslie, Director of Dealer Reputation Strategy at can be reached at [email protected].