At our office, I talk with dealers all day. It is amazing how many dealers me tell that they aren't ready to use search engine marketing. They all seem to know the buzz about it. (I like to think we helped create that buzz.) They all agree that it is on their radar screen and going to pull the trigger on it soon. But it still begs the question – "Are you ready?"

I want to say that we are now going to enter into an age of next generation websites. These next generation Internet sites aren't going to look or feel different but the accountability is going to change. Dealers are going to look at how they spend their Internet money, how they can improve conversion on their site, and how they can get a return on investment that they are putting into their site. Dealers are catching on to the press that shows that Search Marketing provides the highest returns of any media out there.

You can drive traffic to your site all day long but if your site and the way you handle your leads isn't ready for it, then it is like advertising a car that isn't going to hit your lot for another five month. You can have a lot of interest but you don't sell anything. Along the same lines of trying to sell that car that hasn't arrived yet, you get people in the door and you sign them up for more information. Then when the car arrives you do nothing with the names and waste a whole lot of money. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

There are three key elements to getting ready for traffic besides making them search engine friendly. The first is to make the front page inviting. Make sure you menus are easy and simple. Make sure your phone number, address, and hours are easy to find. More than three clicks can get everyone confused and aggravated. Make sure that you can find anything that you need at your dealership in less than three clicks. It is amazing that it has been seven years since I have been working with dealer websites and I still find this missing on some of them.

The second key element is making sure that you can handle the incoming information. Make sure that you have a dedicated phone number and that some one answers it. Don't let everything go to voicemail or worse just let go to the front desk. Make sure that some one is checking the emails everyday. Make sure they respond. Make sure they don't type in all capital letters. (Yes, you need capital letters to work on your DMS system but not to type an email.) Mystery shop your own website every once in a while. Have a friend call the phone and see how long it takes sales to get back with them. Drop an email with a question about a car and financing. You will be absolutely amazed at some of the results you will get.

The third key element is that you have to understand what is happening on your website. You need to keep track of what is happening. What vehicles seem to very popular and maybe you should offer specials on them or stock some more. Do you know what price point that people inquire most of vehicles on your site? If you don't know – then learn.

Keep track of the phone calls off your site. The dealers that I have dealt with are amazed at the amount of phone traffic that there website generates. Our feedback is that for every one electronic contact that you get off your site (email, contact us, inventory request, finance requests, etc.); they are receiving three phone calls. Yes, I said three phone calls. If you aren't tracking your calls and counting them as traffic on your site then you are tracking the results from your website.

So ask your self the question if you are ready to for search engine marketing. I have turned down numerous dealers as clients because they wouldn't realize the benefits of search engine marketing on their site. The best way I can describe it in car terms is if you had a sale that was a great give away. Everyone comes to the show room and nobody buys any cars. So before you open the flood gates of people to your website make sure you know how to surf the waves.