Why It Matters & Best Practices
An auto dealer’s website is a direct reflection of their brick-and-mortar showroom. A good experience on a website will drive buy-ready customers toward the deal and the dealership, while a poor experience will quickly drive them away.
Website performance is one of the most important factors in delivering a good user experience on a website. It is also critical in calculation of Google search results (i.e., SEO) and in ad delivery. So, understanding and assuring website performance is critical to an auto dealer’s bottom line.
Assuring auto dealer website performance is challenging for several reasons. First, their websites are large and complex, and include a wide variety of functions, images, videos, widgets, etc., any of which can degrade performance. Second, OEMs, website providers and the dealerships themselves all have a hand in website layout and configuration. Third, websites are constantly changing, and any change can degrade performance in unexpected ways. These issues point directly to the need for thorough performance assessment on an on-going basis.
Over the past year, we have used our platform to measure the performance of approximately 2,400 websites of dealerships across the country and from all of the major OEMs. We scanned across all pages of a website measuring over 200 different features including comprehensive performance metrics (e.g., page load time, time to interactive, etc.), website health metrics (e.g., broken links, http errors, dns errors, etc.) and details of website implementation (e.g., scripts, images, tags, etc.).
We looked at a wide range of performance measurements across auto dealer websites, and even on those that performed best, they still fell well short of the three-second threshold for page load performance that is recommended by Google — some websites had page load times that were more than 20 seconds!
We believe that page load times in the six-to-nine-second range are possible for the majority of auto dealer websites, however this will require a detailed understanding of the functions and features that degrade performance and careful updates based on these insights.
There are several best practices that will assure website performance on an on-going basis. First, websites should be monitored for performance and health issues on an on-going basis. A common mistake is to assume that since the landing page is working well, the rest of the website is working well. Monitoring must assess all pages on a website as well as third-party scripts and widgets that can all degrade performance.
Second, websites should eliminate or modify scripts, widgets and tags that do not execute, partially execute or execute inefficiently. All scripts are transferred to a user’s system when a dealer’s website is accessed and if it’s not executing efficiently, it’s degrading performance.
Third, text, images, videos and other content should all be delivered in an efficient format (e.g., minified, compressed).
Finally, websites should be organized so that browsers can render content efficiently (e.g., eliminate blocking and multiple page redirects). Improving website performance is challenging, but with the right information, significant improvements can be made.
Look for an industry partner that can summarize these metrics into scores that enable your dealership to assess the performance and health of your website, one that provides detailed guidance on how to update your website to improve performance and user experience.