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Dealer Body Shops Should Consider Stand-Alone Web Domains

Websites for these shops are often hidden from view. Here’s how to make sure yours stands out.

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BSB Contributing Editor Mark Claypool has more than 30 years of experience in the fields of workforce development, apprenticeships, marketing and Web presence management with SkillsUSA, the I-CAR Education Foundation, Mentors at Work, VeriFacts Automotive and the NABC. He is the CEO of Optima Automotive (www.optimaautomotive.com), which provides website design, SEO services and social media management services.

Car dealerships are a different breed when it comes to body shops. Their shops are often hidden away from public view in the back of the property. Dealer principals often view the body shop as revenue neutral or worse, and many don’t have body shops at all. Dealers don’t like to be told what they can charge for labor when they charge two to three times that for mechanical work. Who can blame them? But when they do decide to have a body shop, you may be hard-pressed to find them online, and here’s why.

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Selling Cars
Car dealerships are in the business of selling cars. Their service/parts departments are profitable, but their body shops aren’t usually anywhere near as profitable as the rest of their operations. Online, they usually include a page within their dealer site. Some of these body shop pages are hard to find. These are called “sub-domains,” or pages within a main domain. For example:

Main dealership domain:
www.cardealership.com

Sub-domain for body shop:
www.cardealership.com/bodyshop

Sub-domains rarely rank as well as local domains, which is good news for independents. These body shop pages are buried within a site dedicated primarily to car sales and auto service. They’re usually basic and seen mostly by loyal dealership customers, who are often referred by their sales or service rep. Often, the public assumes the dealership only works on the makes they sell. This is not true, of course, but perception is reality.

the original word cloud.Stand-Alone Domain
To combat this, dealerships should seriously think about creating their own stand-alone domains for their body shops. That’s exactly what D-Patrick, a group of six car dealer locations in Evansville, Ind., did with their website.

Their original approach was sub-domain pages. They had a navigation button to their body shop pages that included a dropdown to each of their locations.

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The location pages themselves were well-designed and included “calls to action” such as “request an estimate.” They were pretty impressive when compared to most dealership sites, but as sub-domains they still weren’t ranking all that well.  

The updated word cloud.D-Patrick’s Body Shop Group Director Greg Hagan had his eyes opened at a NAPA Auto Care Conference when a Web specialist showed him his company website’s “word cloud,” a tool that shows the emphasis the dealer page paid to particular words (the bigger the words on this graphic, the more they appear on the homepage and thus the more search engines understand what this site is all about). It certainly wasn’t “auto body.”

A New Approach
Hagan took what he learned at this meeting to the owner of the dealership and showed him that the body shop Web presence was virtually invisible to searches. D-Patrick bought the rights to several domain names in order to corner the market on the terms the public uses most to search for the collision repair services they perform.

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Since the public uses the term “auto body” the most, followed by the town they live in, D-Patrick chose www.autobodyevansville.com as their main domain. When someone searches “auto body Evansville,” that exactly matches the domain name and will almost always come up No. 1 on the first page of a search. That’s powerful!

A new design was created and set up online in test mode, where the details of the site were ironed out. The end result was a site that launched in June 2013. Each of D-Patrick’s four shop locations was highlighted effectively on the top half of their homepage, and each has its own dedicated page. Calls to action included their phone numbers and a link to their hours and maps.

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The homepage includes links to all their well-managed social media accounts dedicated to the body shops, not car sales. There’s also a link to a YouTube video. Google loves it when you use their stuff, and since they own YouTube, this is already helping this new site’s rankings.

More Visibility
In less than a month, this well-optimized site is enjoying some page-one rankings, including some No. 1s. And they’re starting to rank in surrounding towns as well, something they weren’t doing as sub-domains under the dealership page.

“This is exactly what we wanted when we hired a specialist to do our site: visibility,” said Hagan.

The individual location pages feature their shop managers, complete with photos of them. Also included is a photo of the location, hours of operation, a map, a directions button and a “Schedule An Appointment” button.

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Their new word cloud shows why they’re getting good rankings. Note the emphasis on auto body, their hometown and surrounding towns. The site makes it easy for search engines to determine who they are, what they do and where they do it.

As Greg Hagan puts it, “We want to be found in a search, ideally on page one.”

A website should bring you cars to fix, and this new approach will certainly help accomplish that.


BSB Contributing Editor Mark Claypool has more than 30 years of experience in the fields of workforce development, business/education partnerships, apprenticeships and Web presence management. He is the CEO of Optima Automotive (www.optimaautomotive.com), which provides website design, development, search engine optimization (SEO) services and social media management services. Claypool’s work history includes stints at Metro Paint Supplies, VeriFacts Automotive, the National Auto Body Council (NABC), the I-CAR Education Foundation and SkillsUSA. He is the founder of Mentors At Work and co-founder of the Collision Industry Foundation. He served, on a volunteer basis, as the SkillsUSA World Team Leader for the WorldSkills Championships from 2003 to 2011.

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