This article was written by Josh Davis and appeared in the October 2012 issue of Auto Recycler’s Toolbox
Embrace Your Website and the Internet
Is your website generating revenue? Is your website bringing in customers? How many dollars are your website and Internet efforts bringing in each month? If you don’t know these numbers, you should.
Unique visitors, abandonment rate, conversion rate, traffic sources, fans/followers, Search Engine Optimization. If you don’t know these terms, you ought to learn them.
There is money to be made selling parts online. Lots of money. The operators who are growing every month are doing it by selling more online. Don’t be left behind.
Whether you hire a firm to do your web marketing or DIY, you need to have a roadmap. In this article, I will provide a brief guide to help you think strategically about how to increase your online sales.
Developing a Winning Strategy
Begin by defining your goals and setting expectations. This strategy session should include any firm you’ve hired, and any employees and managers who will be involved in helping your prospects find your site and make inquiries and purchases – even the part-time kid who will be writing your blog posts and Craigslist ads should be sitting in.
This meeting should help create a vision for a new site that includes the pages and functionality it will have. You need to think about why visitors come and how the site can help them get the information they need to make an inquiry or purchase. You should emerge from the session with a clear picture of what the new site or redesign will look like.
Finding the Keywords: Free Tools
If part of your strategy for bringing visitors to your site is having them find you based upon inquiries made in Google, Bing, other search engines, you need to know how people look for the parts you sell.
Your customers probably don’t ask for parts with quite the same words you use. Think of it this way – You keep track of what cars and parts sell, so you can buy more of those parts. You don’t guess what parts sell (we hope). So keeping track of the words that your customers type in to Google will help you create web content that helps them find you when they need what you have.
Google has a free tool you can use for keyword research. You start with a group of keywords and phrases that are relevant to your yard. For example, used domestic parts, used ford parts, etc. Google will then give you a list of related keywords and phrases that its users type in when they are looking for those things.
You may find some you never thought about. That’s what this exercise is for. You may also find phrases that are not relevant at all – just remove those. You should download this list. We’ll be using this later. To find the free keyword tool, go to https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal
Content is King
Creating content regularly is probably the single biggest factor in achieving better search rankings. How often you add content is less important than that you add some regularly – once or twice a week or even every day. Google favors content that is both new and useful.
Write articles and blog posts that use the keywords and phrases from your keyword research. For example, you might write an article about used Ford motors. The user of the search engine wants information that helps find the right Ford engine for his car or some other specific.
The search engine wants hints to help it determine that the content you have created is the answer that the user needs. You can give the search engine hints by placing the keywords in the right places. The phrase should be on the page in headings on the page and in the page’s title tag.
The search engine is also looking at what links point at your page and the text of those links is to help it determine what your page is about. Make it easy for both the user and the search engine to see what your pages are about and why they are the best answer to certain searches.
Converting Traffic to Dollars
Converting the user is getting them to take an action that you want them to take. That could be filling out a contact/lead form, dialing the phone number, adding a part to their basket and checking out, etc. You should have a goal of converting as many of your visitors to customers as you can.
The key to converting your users is to write compelling content, and lead them into the direction you want, with pictures, video, or words. You want to maintain a clean, flowing website that has a clear direction, focus and call to action. Make it clear what the next step is and make it easy for the visitor to take it.
Maintaining an email list is vital to your success. Most businesses fail to build an email list, mostly because they fear asking for email addresses. Have the guys at the counter ask. Pay them $.10 cents for every one they collect. Make sure you have a form clearly on your website where users can sign up for an email newsletter. Give visitors an incentive to get it.
This is a game of numbers, and small numbers over a long period can become large numbers. Before long, you will have hundreds or thousands of email addresses of quality leads and customers that you can market to at very low cost.
Other Low Cost Online Marketing Venues
Craigslist and eBay are two more places to find customers. Using Craigslist should serve two purposes. The first is to sell parts. The second is to generate paths to your website for visitors and to give your pages ranking power for your keywords by linking to them from eBay and Craigslist using your keywords. Links that point at a page are still a very important factor in how the page ranks for a phrase. The more quality links you have pointing to your website, the better your site will show up in Google’s search results.
If you’re not already on eBay, you should be. If you are, small changes can produce big results. An operator I talked to recently told me he dramatically increased sales by making small changes, such as not using stock photos. The buyer feels better about the purchase because he sees the part he needs, and sometimes even sees other parts he wants when he looks at the car. This same operator mentioned electronic modules and interior parts sell best. He stopped selling some kinds of parts on eBay because they generate too many questions from users.
His formula: Sell parts on eBay to people who know what they’re looking for. Be straightforward with them, address any issues before the sale, and reinforce your return/exchange policy with them. He has created a uniform system of processes for managing eBay and made one of his employees responsible for it. You can do the same.
Tracking Your Success
Just as you would track the number of vehicles dismantled per day, brokered part sales, warranty sales and so on, you should have a set of key performance metrics for your online sales. Without measuring, you will never really know if what you are doing is working or not. I recommend Google Analytics for your website. It’s free, and gives you a wealth of information about how your site is performing. You can track where users came from, what keywords they used to find your site, which page they left from, which websites have sent you traffic, and many other metrics. If you study the reports from Google Analytics, they will tell you what is working, what isn’t, and what to tinker with.
If you’re able to follow these steps, you should get targeted traffic (people looking for what you sell) and you should begin to see your web marketing contributing more to your bottom line.
It’s fun to see even small yards outdoing their larger competitors. Smart beats big in the online world and even a little yard can bank serious part sales by using the Internet the right way.