Google LiveStream Event hosted by Strathcom Media in Calgary on Sept. 30, 2015

online-marketing-ideas

Learn how to boost your dealership’s profits with online marketing by joining us at Strathcom’s fourth FREE Google livestream event on Wednesday, September 30, 2015 in Calgary, AB. Almost 90% of consumers use Google to search for products and services, so you won’t want to miss out on this rare opportunity to get a leg up on the competition.

We’ll be joined by Matt Lawson, Director Google’s Search Ads Marketing, and Fred Vallaeys, Google AdWords Evangelist, who will answer your questions and teach you how get the most out of online marketing.

Bring your notebook, questions, and an empty stomach (a hot breakfast will be served!).

Click here to RSVP and get more information. Hurry! Space is limited!

World Cup BBQ

It’s the biggest game in the world. Every year, millions everywhere gather to yell, cheer, and pump their fists. Clutching to the dream that their respective clan will dominate, claiming glory to that golden cup.

FIfa World Cup

It’s one of the most fierce and competitive seasons known to man, characterized by blood, sweat, grass stains, and fans with a huge lung capacity. The never-ending sea of fans cheer and stomp their feet so loud, it echoes like thunder. The players hold the crowd’s breath captive as they dance across the field like a cheetah cornering its prey.

I have always been amazed that something so simple could bring so many people together. Hundreds of thousands of people, many who are complete strangers, put their differences aside and gather in unison to cheer, high-five, and clink drinks with each other with every play.

Today at Strathcom, we dipped our toes into the soccer world and partook in the celebration.

This included the old fashioned American burgers, German-style smokies with sauerkraut, and perhaps some German refreshment as well.

world cup bbq

We headed south of the border with some amazing homemade salsas and nachos. Don’t worry, we didn’t leave the Italians out either. We had vegetables with our veggie kabobs topped with dressing. Don’t forget the pitas, thanks to the Greeks.

fifa world cup bbq

pot luck food

Of course we had cake—is there a culture that doesn’t? We had a small detour to Switzerland and indulged in their infamous chocolate.

Nothing beats a beautiful day outside while partaking in one of the most celebrated games of all time.

Some of us took the initiative to dress the part, as well as some soccer dribbling practice during the feast while we allowed ourselves to digest.

Here at Strathcom, we gathered together as a team to share in the amazing culture of soccer the only way we know how. We ate until we could eat no more, and we have no regrets about that.

8 Visual Design Tips to Class Up Your Car Ads

There’s no denying it: we humans are visual creatures. Our methods of communication rely more on visual stimulation than ever. Just look at our social media habits.

According to a Hubspot study, Facebook photos get 53% more likes than text-based posts. Photo-based social media sites have also blown up, with Instagram garnering over 150 million users, and Pinterest capturing over 70 million. These are all indications of a visual content revolution.

There is a staggering amount of visual marketing online, and it can become overwhelming for consumers. You have just 8 seconds (according to Hubspot) to break through all of that clutter and reach your customer. That’s why you need to make your visual content interesting, engaging, and relevant. Not every car dealership has the luxury of an in-house designer, but you shouldn’t let that stop you. You can create your own visually-compelling content and integrate it into your online marketing—whether that be your website, on social media, in a blog, or email campaign. Here is an 8-pack of practical design tips for creating quality content on your own.

  1. Incorporate Colour

    Using colour in your imagery reinforces your brand identity. Add it to a simple background, to a border around your vehicle photos, or to a graph comparing fuel efficiency of different car models. Just remember to choose a colour palette that reflects your original brand colours. If you want to venture outside your standard colour palette, try to keep it minimal as a general rule by using no more than five colours.

Good use of colour background (Dodge.ca)

  1. Use Text Overlays

    Adding words to your images with text overlays is a good way to give context to an otherwise bland image. We often see this technique used in the homepage sliders of car dealership websites. It can also be effective for images in blogs and social media posts. Keep in mind that your typography should be legible and appropriate for your branding style, and complementary to your imagery.

Here’s a nice text-overlay example from Dodge.ca: Nice text-overlay example (Dodge.ca)

  1. Ensure a Logical Layout

    Whether you’re making a blog post or social media blast, it’s important to consider the layout of your visuals in relation to your text. The aim is to guide your reader through your content in a logical way. Simply put, only include images that enhance the meaning of your text, not distract or take away from it.

Here’s a logical layout example from GMC.com:

  1. Don’t Fear the White Space

    Yes, visual aids can be great. But it is important to avoid “visual clutter” and allow them room to breathe. You want to keep your content clear and easy for your audience to understand, which sometimes means going back to the basics and befriending the white space, the empty spaces in a design.

Here’s an example of white space done right, by GoFord.ca: White space done right (GoFord.ca)

  1. Play with Scale

    While you want to maintain consistency in your visual messaging, it’s okay to vary the size of images and to mix large images with small ones to create visual interest. Play with image composition and use larger “close-up” images to highlight areas of interest like special vehicle features.

Below, Hyundai Genesis plays with image scale to highlight different vehicle features (HyundaiGenesis.com): Hyundai Genesis plays with image scale to highlight different vehicle features (HyundaiGenesis.com)

  1. Embrace Simplicity

    Overused phrase alert: “Less is more!” Yes, we’ve heard this a million times, but more often than not, it’s true. Don’t just throw in images without reason. Use images that help convey the point of your text, not distract from it. Your visuals should be there to serve a purpose, so keep it simple and to the point.

A good use of simplicity in visuals, from GM.ca: Good use of simplicity in visuals (GM.ca)

  1. Keep It Consistent

    Although you can have fun with your visual content, it’s important to keep it consistent with your brand image and overall communication style. In layman’s terms, all your visuals should have the same style, look and feel. Keep this in mind when incorporating colours, fonts and any other graphic elements.

Chrysler changes up colours while keeping a consistent style (Chrysleroffers.ca): ­Chrysler changing up colours but keeping a consistent style (Chrysleroffers.ca)  Chrysleroffers.ca 2  Chrysleroffers.ca 3

  1. Balance the Visual and Verbal

    The best content comes from the seamless combination of the visual and the verbal. If you want to really engage and stimulate your readers, keep your text concise and use relevant, useful visuals to enhance it.

Chevrolet does a good job of balancing visual and verbal elements on Chevrolet.com: Chevy balancing the visual and verbal (Chevrolet.com)

Put these tips into practice!

Now you’re ready to get started on creating your own images. You don’t have to be a Photoshop wizard to do this! Here are some free and easy-to-use image editing tools to help get you started:

References:

Want a professional design team on your side? Contact Strathcom Media for more information on our custom graphic design services.

New Google Panda Algorithm Update – May 2014

Matt Cutts, the head of Google Spam, tweeted yesterday that the popular search engine would begin updating its Google Panda algorithm to its latest incarnation: Panda 4.0! May 2014 Panda update tweet  Matt Cutts Panda

Matt Cutts & Panda courtesy of www.thelinkbuilders.com

Google updates their algorithm constantly. And the Panda update is one of the most famous ones, such as the Hummingbird Algorithm and the Penguin update. The Panda algorithm was created to help websites with great, quality-rich content to jump up in the search rankings, while punishing thin and low-quality content websites. This update simply ensures that websites that answer searchers’ questions are rightfully at the top of the search engine results. Google does not want to reward websites that steal content from scrapers or that don’t offer much information.  So what we have here is simply another tweak, the fourth notable one since the algorithm was first launched in February 2011.

4 Tips to ensure your dealership website doesn’t get caught in the updates

1. Don’t copy and paste any content from other websites on the Internet. You don’t want to have duplicated content from your manufacturer website or a competitor’s website. (Even if they’re in a far away region and you’re pretty sure no one will ever be able to tell. Google will!)  Google can easily spot content that is duplicated from another source online.

2. If you don’t have enough information to fill up a page, don’t bother creating one. Otherwise this creates thin content, and the Panda algorithm will most likely pick another website on a similar topic that has a full page of informational content.

For example, talk about how often one should have their oil changed, include a maintenance schedule, and add other related bits of info on the service department page. This is more informational and useful to searchers than a page that says only “We do car repairs.”

3. Create vehicle landing pages that offer information on your latest vehicle models.

4. Blog regularly to answer questions that are often asked by your clients. We’ve even included some helpful and timely blog ideas: Spring Blog Topics.

Make your website a rich automotive library and you’ll see more people linking to your content, sharing your content, and trusting you as a leader in the auto industry! And you’ll get more leads. If you have any more questions, send us an email at info@strathcom.com or Contact Us today!  

Google Warns Local Businesses – Save Your Listing or Be Removed

Google has been sending out “Action Required” emails to a test audience in Australia this month. They are giving certain local business owners 3 weeks to update their Google Places listings or the listings will be removed from Google maps entirely. Google Places

Here is the message from Google:

We are making some changes to Google Places for Business and Google Maps so we can continue providing people with the best experience when they’re looking for local businesses. As part of this process, we’re asking business owners to review and confirm some of the information in their Google Places accounts so we can keep showing it to Google users. We know this will be a few extra steps for merchants, and we apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your time. We have sent business owners affected by these changes an email entitled “Action Required: You have 3 weeks to save your Google Places Listing”.

For those that have received this message, it’s very important that they log in to their Google Places account, update their business listing and ensure that all the information is correct.

What does this mean for us Canadians?

Grumpy Harper
Source: Huffington Post
Google could soon roll this out in Canada as they always test new initiatives in smaller markets (Canada included). If you continuously maintain your Google Places listing, then your local business’s Places listing won’t be in danger of deletion even if Google does roll out this change worldwide or in North America. How do you protect your local business listing? Be sure your listing is correct, has the proper categories pertaining to your business, has updated photos and consider including announcements through your Google Places account. It’s also important that you maintain your NAP (Name Address Phone Number) consistency. Be sure you refer to your business the same way everywhere on the internet. If you need help claiming and maintaining your Google Places listing you can check out our blog post on Google Plus and Places or Contact Us if you have any questions. ~ Samantha Goettel

DIY Automotive Maintenance – What not to do

I find it can be equally useful to relay tips on what you shouldn’t do as opposed to what you should do when it comes to DIY maintenance. It can help prevent a major future headache. Here are some pro tips generated from my own woeful experience about what NOT to do for DIY maintenance.

Like many, I am the type of person to try and fix things myself. My thought process is as follows, “I could probably do an equally good job as the professionals.” As you can imagine, it didn’t turn out to be a good idea.

My first car was a Black Pontiac Pursuit. I took pride in my vehicle and always did my best to maintain it properly. During the years I drove my black beauty, it of course, developed some scuffs and scratches along the way. Being stubborn and relatively cheap, I tried to restore it myself. I went to the local Canadian Tire, picked up some GM Black spray paint, and away I went.

Needless to say, I got a little carried away and sprayed about 60% of my vehicle. This is how I learned that no matter how much of a good job you think you will do, you just won’t get the same results as a you would taking it to your dealer, who can actually match the color properly. Some of this may be common sense, but when you are an experimentalist like myself who doesn’t always know what they are doing, it takes learning the hard way.

Mistake number two was my attempt to wax my car to restore the shabby paint job had had previously done. I had never done it before, but I went out and purchased an electric buffer, wax, and away I went. Let me just say, more is not always better. I slathered that wax on like there was no tomorrow, and let me tell you, I deeply regretted this once it hardened. I ended up chiseling off the wax, instead of buffering it to a mirror shine. My Pontiac was now a partially glossy, partially matte black experiment gone wrong, including waxy swirly marks from my failed waxing attempt.

Now for mistake number three. If you are going to attempt to clean the fabric on the interior of your car, please do follow those annoying instructions in the side of the spray bottle that suggests you test on a separate piece of fabric before using. To make a long story short, my interior one tone cloth turned into a permanent two toned cloth.

One more thing, putting Febreeze bounty sheets over your old cabin filter is not acceptable as a replacement.

In conclusion, if you aren’t sure what you’re doing, please laugh feel to at me and learn from my mistakes. And visit your dealer the next time you need repairs.

Introducing TOAST Fixed Ops and Finance Online

We often hear that “Sales doesn’t make the money—it’s all made in the back.” In almost all cases, the Service Department is an integral part of the financial success of any dealership.

TOAST Fixed Ops

That’s because, on average, about 50% of a dealership’s revenue is created by fixed ops.

Taking it by the numbers, you’d think that 50% of any dealership’s advertising budget would be spent on attracting customers to fixed ops (and 50% of a car dealership’s website dedicated to this huge earner).

Continuing on this track, 50% of Facebook and Twitter expenditure would go to hunting and gathering for fixed ops—and 50% of the Google advertising budget to the “Shop.” Makes sense, right?

Excuse my rhetoric, but that just doesn’t happen. In the real world, most dealers pay very little attention to service and parts when it comes to the online advertising budget.

Not on Twitter 99 problems meme.

When it comes to service, the most that the average dealer will do on their site is put up a page showing service hours, a stock picture of some guy with a wrench, and a “contact us” link. As for the parts, it’s a pitiful showing for those guys and girls too.

It’s Time to Fight Back!

Fixed operations departments across Canada are struggling. Big businesses like Mr. Lube, Canadian Tire, Jiffy Lube and Kal Tire are controlling the ZMOT highway online, and dealers are making little or no effort to fight back.

Those crossing their fingers and hoping “things will turn around” are in for a rude awakening in the not-too-distant future.

TOAST Fixed Ops is starting a revolution. Take up arms with Strathcom Media, and join us for this brand new TOAST session, coming to a city near you.

View Upcoming TOAST Training Sessions

Cars Now Appear in the Knowledge Graph (USA)

The Google Hummingbird algorithm was all about improving the knowledge graph. This change was not just an update, but also a whole new algorithm. The Hummingbird algorithm primarily improves the speed of more complex conversational searches. Hence being named after the quick and speedy hummingbird. Google announced their conversational search back in May. According to Google’s Senior VP Amit Singhal, “People communicate with each other by conversation, not by typing keywords” and their goal was to make Google “understand and answer your questions more like people do.” When I previously covered the Hummingbird update this past October, Google hadn’t added the automotive industry to the graph—but I cautioned that it wouldn’t be long before automotive-industry related information would appear in the database. Well, according to Barry Schwartz, News Editor of the popular SEO company Search Engine Land, that time has come. He wrote an article this month announcing that Google had added cars to the knowledge Graph.

This is his screenshot of a 2014 Mazda3 showing up in the database:

mazda-knowledge-graphThere is also a carousel of vehicles that shows up in the database:

Vehicle Carousel

Google.ca

I did similar searches on Google.ca, and soon found that this information is not yet ready in Canada. Google still hasn’t added data from the automotive industry in Canada. While there is no word on when it will be added, it could be soon. The knowledge graph was announced only two months ago and cars have already been added in the USA. I will be keeping a close eye out for any updates to the Graph.

What can a dealership do in the Hummingbird era?

1. Continue to provide a website that is useful for your searchers including:

  • Vehicle inventory, photos, copywriting and more to keep users on your site for a longer period of time.
  • Not too many sliders or large images that could slow down website loading times.

2. Be the authority in your market:

  • Host events in your community.
  • Engage in conversations and answer questions on social media.
  • Manage your online reputation properly.
  • Optimize and update your map location accounts.

3. Ensure your website has conversational text. One way is to write blog posts like these:

  • What kind of winter tires are right for a Honda Civic?
  • How do I winterize my vehicle?
  • What is the fuel economy of a Toyota Corolla?

It takes time and effort to market your company online, but the your time and effort always pays off with more online leads and vehicles sales. ~Samantha Goettel

3 New Ways to Get to Know Your Customer in Google Analytics

It used to be easy to tell who was looking at your vehicles. You could glance over at the people who were strolling through your lot or poking around the showroom and see that your customers were typically male, aged 35 – 44 and liked really big trucks for hunting or fishing (if you’re a typical Dodge dealership in Alberta, for example). But now, it’s a different game. These days, most of your customers are visiting your website before dropping by your dealership. Programs like Google Analytics provide basic (if technical) information about online visitors like their location, operating system, browser and device. While this information is helpful, it only gives us part of the picture. That is, until now.

3 New Google Analytics Audience Demographics

Google Analytics is launching additional Audience Demographics:

  1. Gender
  2. Age
  3. Interests

While these new Audience Demographics will not appear automatically on all accounts, you can get this new feature by having your webmaster make this small change in the Analytics code, if your account supports display advertising. Here’s a preview of what the new reports will look like:

Google Analytics Gender Demographics Graph
Google Analytics Age Demographic Graph
Example of the new Interests Category Graph

These new analytics open up a goldmine of information and can answer key marketing and strategy questions:

  • What interest groups make up your highest converting customers?
    • Consider sponsoring events or organizations that they also would attend.
  • Are men or women watching more video on your website?
    • Tailor your content to the type of people who are watching it.
  • Do different demographics or people with certain interests use your website differently than others?
    • How can you make it easier for them to find what they’re looking for?

Use this information to find the customers most likely to convert and target your Google Adwords or other marketing campaigns. Contact Us for More Information

Start Tracking this Information!

  1. Have your Webmaster modify your Google Analytics tracking code.
  2. Update your privacy policy. Google recommends this one: Policy requirements for Display Advertising.
  3. Have your Online Marketing Manager enable Demographics reports in your Google Analytics account.

Not sure if you have a Google Analytics account set up? Check out this video on how to set up Google Analytics for your car dealer website:

Car Wars Episode IV: Google & TOAST in Toronto

Slide1

Can’t read the text? Here’s the transcript:

Three weeks ago, in a province far, far away…………
It’s a period of great change in the Auto Industry.
Competition in the GTA is getting stronger, and the battle is now being fought online.
Dealerships from all corners of the GTA gathered together to regroup for the tough winter ahead.
During the presentation, rebel leader James Freeland of Google intercepted the Google Empire’s plans on YouTube True View and Dynamic retargeting.
Strathcom VP of Sales Duncan Cochrane shared the measurability of Google Analytics and its power to grow your empire.
As TOAST sessions in London, Mississauga and Vaughn conclude, Stu Bendall returns to continue training in Edmonton.
The quest to conquer traditional media in the auto industry is upon us. We will return to the GTA and build on our success.

May the force of Google be with you.

– Strathcom Media

We Are Spartan!

This past Saturday, two of us here at Strathcom embarked on an epic journey into the wilds of Calgary where we participated in the annual “Spartan Race” — a mud-slicked obstacle course designed by marines and ex-military to push your body beyond its limits. Proceeds of the 5K Spartan Sprint went to muscular dystrophy, which was an added incentive to strain and stretch our physical capabilities to capacity.

As we stood at the starting line with adrenaline coursing through our veins, yelling “WE ARE SPARTAN!” we knew there was a possibility we wouldn’t make it out alive. The horn blew and we set out with one goal in mind, “we don’t need to win, we just need to finish!”

It was hot, dry and dusty. Our sweat blinded us as we traversed hot coals, scaled and hurdled over walls, climbed mud-slicked ropes, dragged cinder blocks up steep hills and heaved tractor tires through the dust. With fatigue setting in and the sun beating down on us, we kept repeating, “we just need to finish.”

We envisioned the finish line as our prey: as it neared, each of us was like a cheetah in the tall grass, ready to pounce on an unsuspecting water buffalo. We leaped over a line of fire and narrowly avoided being pummeled by two Spartan warriors guarding the finish. The checkered flag wilted in defeat as we crossed the line.

Basking in the rays of pride and glory, we came home conquerors.

Sarah Guenette & Michael Fisher

aah

Smartphone Shoppers Are Invading Your Stores!

A new research study by the Google Shopper Marketing Council says that 84% of smartphone shoppers are now using their phones while in a physical store. Does this mean it’s time to panic? Will chaos, destruction and a loss of sales ensue? No! Not when you have Strathcom to set the record straight.

smartphones everywhere

 

You already know that having a mobile site is imperative to your business. If you have checked your Google Analytics lately and seen the mount of mobile traffic to your site, you’ll know that 84% of smartphone shoppers represents a huge number of users. But how does this affect your business, and how can you take advantage of it?

Mobile Customers Need To Find You Online

Mobile shoppers use their smartphone from their home, their vehicle – your competitor’s car dealership – and everywhere in-between. Make it easy for your customers to find you by providing your location, phone number and hours of operation on your mobile site. According to the Google study, of in-store smartphone shoppers:

  • 53% make price comparisons
  • 36% find location/directions
  • 35% find hours
  • 39% find promotional offers

The Role Of The Salesperson Has Changed

Today’s customer is more informed. Your salespeople aren’t just there to educate customers on the features of a vehicle; they need to be put an emphasis on building relationships. That means dealership reviews have just increased in importance.

“82% of shoppers use search engines when browsing product info in-store” – Google Shopper Marketing Council

Glengarry Glen Ross SalesmanTips:

  • Encourage customers with positive experiences to review your dealership online.
  • Place QR codes on vehicle windows and the exterior doors to your parts and service departments to help customers get information while on your lot.

Optimize Your Inventory

Today’s customers take the initiative to educate themselves before going to a dealership. That’s why the pictures, descriptions and pricing for vehicles on your website need to be bang-on and up-to-date.

“1 in 3 shoppers use their smartphones to find information instead of asking store employees”

Tips:

  • Descriptions shouldn’t be a generic list of product specs. They should be unique stories that give the customer a feel for the vehicle.
  • Customers will be looking at reviews of makes and models on their smartphone. If they have a question, your salespeople need to be well informed about all of the vehicles you carry.
  • Since mobile shoppers value saving time and money, they will also be searching for vehicle specials and promotions while in your dealership.

Focus on Parts and Service

It’s crucial that these profitable departments be easily accessible on your mobile site. The probability of converting a customer in your dealership into a service customer goes up significantly with the ability to book an appointment from the mobile site. Google’s study also found that users significantly increased their order size when given the opportunity to order through a mobile site.

Conclusion

A well-thought-out mobile site that properly represents your inventory, parts and service departments needs to move up your to-do list or competitors will be stealing your business. The in-store experience and the mobile experience need to compliment each other, and will allow you to offer better customer service by building relationships and helping customers save time and money.

The Automotive industry has changed, have you?

You have to believe the automotive industry has changed

The complete change in marketing for auto dealers in the past few years really is enough to make one’s head spin. There has always been a sink or swim attitude within the car biz, and that has continued with managers now expected to be experts in social media, SEO, SEM and Google Analytics. There is, for the most part, a slap dash attitude towards online marketing. For those in high places it can be an intimidating and often difficult task to ask for help.

Many managers I speak to whilst on my travels find relief in telling me that they learned a lot, or are looking forward to learning a lot more about online marketing.  But they often wait until after the TOAST presentations, when the room has cleared, to talk candidly about their shortcomings. I recently joked with a couple of managers from BC that there is an “AA feel” to proceedings, of course nowhere near as serious. But the similar “we need help, but we just don’t know where to start” phrase is something I have heard across Canada when it comes to online marketing. In addition to this, there is pressure from above to make results tangible and highly visible. That, I believe, is wherein lies the problem.

In olden times, spending on an ad could be justified with an audible radio advertisement or star-burst-filled, three-to-choose-Canada-day-special center spread in a local rag. Such expenditures cannot be so similarly justified online: Adword campaigns, Blogs and well-written web content are of the utmost importance. They also cost money and time to produce effectively. But the results cannot be seen or heard on completion of their design or implementation. They cannot be “paraded” at a Saturday morning meeting with the promise of “making the phone ring.” They are more effective than that, and they are ongoing. And success can be measured.

Online marketing can be measured with incredibly accurate tools such as Google Analytics or even something as simple as the “back end” of one’s own website provider. But for upper management, the attitude should be changing: you have to believe that online marketing works. It is difficult to quantify and measure, and it is certainly more difficult to see and hear, but it is there, and it is the most cost-effective means of marketing to ever exist. But you have to believe.

 

Show Your True Holiday Spirit – The Ugly Christmas Sweater.

  Truly, nothing says Christmas like a really good (erm…bad) Christmas Sweater. I know, historically it was the gift we all dreaded most (right after fruit cake). We would try to hide our revulsion as we pulled out the acrylic blend monstrosity from the box. A tribute to multi-colored tackiness with bright patterns and Christmas images, you’d politely thank your Grandma, Great Aunt, crafty friend for the gift and before the Turkey hit the table the sweater would disappear in the back of your closet (under the bed, anywhere unseen) forever. But I say bah-humbug to that. Pull out that sweater and don it with pride.

Today is National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. What better way to show your holiday spirit in all its over-the-top glory. A great holiday sweater gift says you have a sense of humor and shows how much you love the Holidays. Wear it to work, to school, to go shopping and see how it makes the people around you smile. Like dogs in people clothes, it may be tacky, but you can’t help but laugh. In fact, why not get your pet a Christmas sweater too?

And truly, an ugly Christmas sweater has become the hip gift to give. Everyone is buying ugly Christmas sweaters and giving them as gifts. Once relegated to the racks of Goodwill and Thrift stores, Ugly Christmas sweaters can now be found in some of the trendiest shops and there is a flood of them online. Personally I still advocate for the thrift store buy because the proceeds often supports local charities. It just adds to the spirit. Or, if you are the crafty friend, why not make your own?

And speaking of spirit, why not help a local charity by throwing an ugly Christmas sweater party. Ask friends, family and co-workers to wear their tackiest sweater to your party and bring a small donation. Hold a vote for the tackiest sweater and the donations go to the charity of their choice. Between the sweaters and the giving, the spirit will overflow. To all our readers’ customers and friends, we here at Strathcom wish you Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a wonderful New Year. By Adrienne Hill

Form Validation: Avoid Frustration for You and Your Customers

Without functional and clear client-side validation, an online form becomes next to useless. Client-side validation checks the form when the user presses the submit button and does not allow it to go through until it passes all validation checks. Some of the simplest checks see if the user has filled out all the fields, but increasing your validation clarity and scope beyond the basics can make a form easier for a customer to fill out properly.

Red fields are immediately recognizable as required.

Form Error Messages

The previously popular method of showing errors for a form was with an alert box, a method that has become outdated with the easy-to-use jQuery library. An error message should always be shown next to or below the field it represents, to make things easy for your customers. Using traditional stop-slow-go colours can make a design a less visually appealing, but can simplify error recognition. A user can easily distinguish a red field as being bad, and a green one as being good. Don’t ever leave the user hunting for the problem – show them exactly where it is. One nice addition you can add to your form is to animate the page to the first error message by using the jQuery animate and scrollTop function. Error messages should always say exactly what format the field is looking for. Telling the customer that their entry is simply invalid is not enough and can easily become frustrating when the required format is not clear.

Keyup validation gives immediate results.

Keyup Validation

A nice addition to your forms is validating on keyup rather than only on submit for text fields. This means the field a user is working on is checked as they type, giving them immediate feedback. A simple way to do this is turn a field green when it validates, or red until it does.

Don’t make phone numbers a hassle for customers.

Validating Phone Numbers

Online forms often require a certain format, often shown in the label or error message as something similar to XXX-XXX-XXXX. This can be aggravating to the user, especially if they are trying to enter a normally valid format such as (XXX) XXX-XXXX, which would produce an error. Luckily, there’s a great way to avoid this problem. The first step is to not ask for a format at all! Once a customer has typed in a value, use a jQuery replace function to delete all symbols, letters and spaces so the field is only left with numbers. After you’ve done that, simply check if there is at least 10 characters left in the field.

Validating Email Addresses

Email addresses can be tricky to validate because they’re more complicated than a simple text field. The way to check if a customer has entered an email address is by using the jQuery filter function to see if they have entered an @ symbol sometime after the first character, a period sometime after the characters after the @ symbol, and at least two characters after the period. Phew! A very handy premade filter for this formula is /^([a-zA-Z0-9_.-])+@(([a-zA-Z0-9-])+.)+([a-zA-Z0-9]{2,4})+$/.

 

Could you please ship it to 18500 111st Select a Country?

Validating Dropdowns

Make sure a customer cannot choose an identifier as a valid option (for example, don’t let them choose “Choose an Option” from the dropdown). This can be done by checking the dropdown value against any identifier values.

Less guessing equals more successfully filled out forms.

Reduce Guessing and Increase Conversions

Although server-side validation can be important for security, proper client-side validation is more responsive and more useful to the customer. By using all the tips above you will wind up with a form that is both clear and easy to fill out and submit. The key to a good form is to keep things simple as well as obvious – from the general layout to the final validation.

Form Creation: Avoid Frustration for You and Your Customers

If you’ve ever had to fill out a form online, you’ve probably run into some of the problems that arise with them. When you don’t put care and consideration into creating a form, they can easily become frustrating for both the customer filling them out and the company receiving them. There are many ways to simplify the process, from label awareness to simple design considerations. Setting up your form right in the first place will keep a customer from getting scared away when first visiting the page or while filling out the form.

Give Yourself Some Space

One of the huge advantages to online forms is that they are not limited to the size of the paper they are printed on. Increased padding and space between sections can make the form easier to read and fill out. Separating sections distinctly with background colours or borders can make it easy for a customer to skim the document and double check individual sections.

Seperating your fields into sections simplifies a form.

Labels

Labels can make or break a form’s functionality – literally, in some cases. Keep labels as simple as possible for easy skimming, and make sure they are clear and concise. Placing labels within a larger titled section can shorten them: for example, skip writing “Your” in front of every single contact information label by putting the entire section under a “Personal Information” header. You can also make labels more functional than simple text. If you assign a “for” property to a label, you can assign a matching id to the corresponding input field. This makes the label clickable and automatically places the typing cursor in the text field, increasing the area a customer can click to start typing. Neat! You can make this feature even more obvious by adding label{cursor: pointer} to your css. For checkbox or radio fields, labels can also increase clickability and ease-of-use. Wrap your entire checkbox field and text description in a label to make the entire area clickable. Adding a “for” label and matching id to your form fields also allows blind or sighted customers using a screen reader to easily identify form fields.

Clickable labels increase usability.

Tab Order

Depending on how you’ve set up your layout, tabbing through a form might not produce the desired results. Tabbing can make form completion very quick, for those used to using it. To assign a custom tab order to your form, use the tabindex property on your input fields. The default tab order of a form is the order they have been placed within the html. To aid a customer tabbing through a form, instead set your fields to tab from left to right, in reading order. Start your tabindex at one for the first field, and work your way down!

Keep the height and number of fields down to keep your customer on the page.

Minimize Form Fields and Required Fields

Nothing is more daunting than an online form with a tiny scrollbar and dozens of fields. To keep your customer on the page, minimize the number of fields wherever possible. If the information is not absolutely required or not immediately useful – skip it! Generic email contact forms should be reduced to Name, Email, Message, and an optional phone number. Keeping the number of required fields down will also help a customer feel more comfortable filling out the form, especially if they are only asking a simple question about the product and don’t want to fill out their entire address to do so.

Responsive Fields

Another advantage of online forms is the ability to control what options are shown to the customer. You can minimize your form fields and reduce confusion by hiding options that are not available to the customer. For example, if you have a Yes/No question asking if the customer currently owns a car, you can hide the fields asking about the vehicle if they select no, and show them when they select yes. This can be done using a simple jQuery onchange statement.

Concise, simple, and clean are the rules to follow for form design.

A Clean Form is a Happy Form

Combining the tips above with traditional design rules will give a good first impression to a customer visiting your form. It will also increase their ability to fill out your form quickly and easily. Combine these tips with proper client-side validation and you’ll end up with a form that both your customers and your company find simple to use and understand.

Google Research for Car Dealers

Google has changed the way we access information.  For the last 15 years, it has slowly impacted every portion of our lives, in most cases, making finding information easier and more relevant, and settling late night arguments a snap.  Given how good Google is at providing us data, they also have an unbelievable amount of information on the habits and patterns of people who use.  With that data, and 2300 or so volunteers who bought or leased a car in the last 12 months, they came out with some pretty cool information for Car Dealers on the impact of Search and other emerging technologies like Mobile, Video, and Social.  I’ve combed through their Google Think report a dozen times now and wanted to share some of the data I thought was impressive and how leveraging this information can help your dealership gain a competitive edge in 2013 and beyond. Consumer Influence In 3 years, the window of time a dealer or manufacturer has to influence a new consumer has shrunk from 36 days in 2009, to 30 days in 2012.  Dealers have less time to market to and convince a buyer that they have the right vehicle for them.  33% of buyers spend less than 2 weeks researching and investigating vehicles before purchasing, which is an incredibly short window. Information sources have also changed, with Online (75%) and In Dealership (76%) neck in neck for importance to consumers researching what car to buy.  Traditional media is still steadily declining with Radio at 36% and Newspaper at 31%. Specifically with online sources, there are also deep shifts in the sources used by consumers: Shift in online sources used by car shoppers Ad Recall is also changing significantly across various mediums with Print and TV declining, Keyword Ads and Radio Neutral (No Change), and Display Advertising online increasing by 9%. Online Video 18% of online shoppers who bought a vehicle watched online videos during the buying cycle.  73% of them did it on YouTube.  Here is what they were looking at: What Kind of Videos Car Buyers are looking at Mobile Mobile is a fast growing area with the proliferation of Smartphones, Tablets and other portable devices.  It is also significantly impacting the automotive space.  33% of shoppers used their mobile devices during the buying cycle. 27% of them searched for a dealership specifically, 32% visited a dealer by finding directions on their device, and 33% used click to call to get in touch with a dealer.  During the research phase of buying their car here is the information they were consuming: Mobile Browsing information for Car Buyers Social Media Everyone talks about Social Media and car buyers are no exception.  Social Media so far is primarily used as a barometer for customer service, with 57% of car buyers using social media using it to read reviews vehicles, and 42% using Social Channels to read Dealership specific reviews.   These patterns look like they will hold true for the balance of 2012, and well into 2013.  Is your dealership ready to compete online in Search and Display advertising, Mobile Websites and Experience, Video Development, and Social Media and Reputation Management?  Strathcom has the the tools and the know how to help your dealership succeed in any or all of these mediums.  Give us a call today to get started.

Ranking on highly specific search phrases in the car dealer industry – What is a long tail keyphrase?

Having your car dealership’s website rank on the appropriate keyphrases is always a challenge in such a competitive industry. The automotive industry is one of the most competitive industries on the internet along with the travel industry. It would be nice to rank on the word “cars” right? Or maybe some other ideal keyphrases you may hope to rank on could include “used cars” or “car dealership”. These keyphrases are actually called short tail keyphrases. It seems great to deal with keywords that have 5,000 searches a day, but in reality, these “popular” search terms actually make up less than 30% of the searches performed on the web. Another example of short tail would be “cars”. Someone searching for “cars” may be researching cars, they may be looking for pictures of cars, they may be looking for the Disney movie Cars.. Who knows…..

Chasing the longtail in SEO

The remaining 70% of online searches lie in what’s called the “long tail” of search. The long tail contains hundreds of millions of unique searches that might be conducted a few times in any given day. Long tail usually converts better as they are more specific of a search term. An example of long tail would be “buy used grey Honda Civic in Edmonton”. As a dealer, you know this searcher practically has their wallet out.

When using long tail keyphrases on your website you are optimizing it for both the large search volumes of short tail & for the more specific search terms of long tail. Short tail keyphrases are often present within the long tail keyphrases. For example: Short Tail = Used Civic Long Tail = Buy used grey Honda Civic in Edmonton. “Used Civic” is still present within the long tail keyphhrase. This way, you get the best of both worlds.