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I think we have a pretty great attitude in the auto dealer online community. For as long as I’ve been a part of it, I’ve observed dealers helping each other by sharing marketing tactics and Internet strategies. The daily posts about new ideas and enthusiastic cheers reinforces the idea that we’re all in this together. But the auto industry is a competitive marketplace, and sometimes dealers might forsake a friendly perspective in exchange for an edge over the competition.
So says this article that Ralph Paglia reblogged on ADM a few days ago. Though a dealership is prohibited by trademark law from using a competitor’s proper name in the text of a paid search ad, some wily dealers are buying their rivals’ names when bidding for search terms to direct traffic. Dealership A might buy Dealership B’s name as a search term so that when shoppers search for Dealership B, they get a Google Ad that directs them back to Dealership A. Pretty sneaky, right?
Google claims that this practice is legally sound, but dealers usually have “gentlemen’s agreements” not to buy each other’s names. However, some dealers breach this unwritten rule just to throw a wrench in the competition’s spokes. What can you do about this problem?
Bid on your dealership’s domain name. You can get around this problem entirely if you’re up on your Adwords campaign. Google holds a continuous auction for specific ad words and phrases that allow dealers bidding the most for those phrases to attain top position on a Google search page. Since advertisers only pay when shoppers click on the ad, you may really want to consider bidding on your dealership name.
Search for your store frequently. See your search results through a customer’s eyes by frequently running searches on your own dealership. You’ll know if someone else has bid on your name if you see a competitor’s paid ad appear. Make sure to protect your ad position by checking up on your search practices!
Personally, I consider this practice predatory and borderline unethical. There are tons of ways you can increase your website presence without resorting to lowballing other stores around you. Follow the unwritten dealer code, and remember that we’re all in this together.
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