First, I should define exactly what it is that I mean by “suck.” A website that “sucks” isn’t doing the job that it should be doing for your business. A company website shouldn’t just be a page on the internet that you use to refer customers to. A good website should be a lead generation machine, using the rules established by Google, to bring new customers to your facility.

The April 21st “Mobile-Geddon”

 
If you’ve paid any attention at all to the latest trends in Search Engine Marketing, you’ve heard dire warnings from the online marketing industry about a recent change to Google’s search algorithms, which will factor a website’s “mobile-friendliness” as a ranking signal.

If your website isn’t “responsive”, meaning it doesn’t adjust to the size of a mobile screen, therefore making it difficult to read without zooming or tapping… it sucks. And it especially sucks for a website in the collision repair industry. Consider the customer who has just gotten into an accident. Where’s the first place they’re going to search while they’re pulled off to the side of the road looking for help? They’re going to get out their smart phone and search from that mobile device.

Hopefully, you realized the importance of mobile search for body shops before Google decided to officially downgrade the search engine rankings of non-mobile-friendly websites. But if you pull up your site on your phone and it looks exactly the same as it does on your desktop, your website sucks, and it’s time to make some changes.

The Solution

 
First, you can start by testing your website with Google’s mobile usability tool to find if you do, in fact, have a problem.

Hopefully, when you run your website through the test on that page, you will see a message saying “Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly,” just like the image below. If you get a screen that lists a number of mobile usability errors, it may be time for a website redesign.

Many business owners wonder, “Should I use a mobile site?” Unfortunately, having a separate mobile site also sucks. Google’s best practices recommend that your website be “responsive”. A responsive sight changes format to be mobile-friendly. Instead of delivering a different mobile website, which is not the best practice for the search engine optimization of your site, a responsive site rearranges the text and photos on your website to make things large enough to be readable and usable on a device.

WordPress is a Content Management System that thousands of business owners use to make sure that their websites don’t suck. WordPress uses “themes” (or templates) that allow business owners to log in and make changes in a user-friendly interface that doesn’t require knowledge of coding. WordPress, especially when used in conjunction with a plugin called “Wordpress SEO by Yoast” is also very SEO-friendly. Best of all, most modern themes will automatically be built to be responsive, and will automatically take care of any mobile-usability problems.

Unfortunately, making your website mobile-friendly isn’t the only way to make sure your website doesn’t suck. Once you’ve solved that problem, there are a number of other questions you’ll need to ask yourself.

Does my website reflect the services and capabilities of my shop?

 
I’ve seen many body shop websites with only the most basic information about the shop, many times on just one page. What if someone wants to know more about your paint capabilities? What if someone is wondering if you have the right equipment for their aluminum vehicle? What if you have rental cars available on-site, but don’t have a page discussing that as the great benefit that it can be. What if someone wants to know if you’re certified for the brand of car they drive?

Think of every service you provide as an opportunity for a new page on your website. Every time you don’t create a page emphasizing those services, features, and benefits, you’ve missed an opportunity to sell yourself to that potential customer. And if a potential customer, in the market for a repair, visits your website, and an opportunity to capture that business is missed – your website sucks.

Do I have real pictures of my technicians and staff? Or is my website full of stock images?

 
Internet users search for companies because they want to know more about what you do, but also about who you are. Everyone knows a stock image of “collision repair” when they see one. If you’ve got a picture of a guy in bright blue overalls, holding a wrench, with a stock image smile on his face – you’re not fooling anyone. People want to imagine what it will be like to actually visit your facility.

Your website is sometimes your first opportunity to build trust and confidence in a potential customer. Show a picture of your front lobby (on one of the days you cleaned it, of course) with your Office Manager or Estimator standing behind the counter, with a big smile on their face. On your “Collision Repair” page, show your technicians, in their cleanest, company branded uniforms, using the advanced repair technology and tools you’ve invested so much in.

There are no good stock images of automotive refinishing or welding (at least not that I’ve seen), so get some real pictures of the people in your shop at work, doing those things. Just make sure the photographer doesn’t look directly into the arc. Stock images suck, especially when it comes to the collision repair industry. Use your website as an opportunity to introduce yourself to potential customers, and make a great first impression.

How does my website perform in terms of “usability?”

 
This goes beyond the mobile-usability issue mentioned above. You could have a website that passes the mobile-friendly test, but still fails miserably in terms of usability. By usability I mean, how easy is it for new visitors to find the information that they’re looking for through the way the website functions? Does the structure of your site make sense, broken down into easy-to-understand categories of services?

Most importantly, is it easy to find the contact form to request an estimate? Is it easy to find the phone number and address? If it’s difficult for visitors to figure out how to contact you, therefore becoming a lead, and potentially a sale – your website sucks. It should be so easy to find your contact information, visitors should be able to do it, even when they’re barely paying attention. Don’t make them scroll down, or hunt through a paragraph of dense text to figure out how to get a hold of you.

The longer it takes, the more likely they are to hit the BACK button on their browser, and go to the next search result for a competitor’s auto body shop in your area. And when if that happens on a regular basis…