An interesting thing to note about dealership websites is that many dealers have very little ultimate control over their sites. Most businesses (hopefully) decide on the need for a website, go out and find a vendor, and then create an interesting and pertinent website which does their business justice. If the vendor doesn’t provide a good product, they can be replaced. But because dealers represent specific brands, many times we don’t have the benefit of holding our vendors accountable because of choices our manufacturers make.

Fortunately for some brands we do; for example, Honda holds top marks in our minds because they don’t tell us who to use, but rather have a comprehensive set of brand standards which we are held to. We can pick any vendor – and for us it pretty much has to be a website company which specializes in automotive – and Honda simply audits our websites and makes us change any issues that come up. Pretty straightforward, reasonable and fair.

At the other end of the spectrum are 2 of our more luxurious brands, which mandate that we can only use one specific vendor. This is great for the manufacturer, since they can tightly control the look and feel of the dealer websites. If the vendor was top notch it still wouldn’t be great for our SEO – after all, if all local dealer sites look the same and have much of the same content, it doesn’t help differentiate us from other dealers – but we could live with it. Unfortunately we are saddled with a vendor that has old technology, an archaic CMS infrastructure, and chronically understaffed support. It’s a shame – after all, how do you present a cutting-edge brand via our most important marketing channel when dealers are handcuffed with a poor product? At least if we had an actual choice, we could hold vendors accountable.

That being said, another manufacturer does give us a choice of 2 vendors, but unfortunately both vendors are awful. So there’s that.

And then we have Porsche. They used to have a single mandated vendor, which was at least palatable because the company was solid. But in the past year they have changed things so that we have a list of approved website vendors, with about a half-dozen companies, some of which are top notch.

In the end – even if the company we have to use is mediocre – it is up to us dealers to craft a website which functions the best that it can for our customers. That means accurate inventory with correct info, up-to-date specials and incentives, custom and relevant content, etc… But it sure would be nice if we had the ability to hold our vendors accountable for the sometimes fecklessness of the product provided.