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Car Dealer Internet Marketing

Is a PPC Service Really Worth 20%? The Math Doesn't Add Up.

I really don't know who I'm going to offend on this one. We've been researching so many vendors over the last couple of months that work with chat, lead-gen widgets, and website platforms themselves that we haven't taken the time to explore PPC vendors. Maybe that's why I was blindsided to find out that there are at least two vendors out there charging 20% and one that we found who is charging 25%. Is it me or is this insane? We'll put aside the 25% vendor for now. I'm hopeful that it's some sort of accounting mistake or something. Focusing on the 20% charge, it really bugs me that this may be more common than I ever knew. I've always hung around the organic side of search, so PPC hasn't been a focus. With that said, I've managed dozens of PPC campaigns over the years and I could never imagine charging anything other than a flat fee. To me (and again, I might be on the wrong side of this argument and would be very open to some education on this one), if a dealership is spending $10... Read Post

Dealertrack to Buy Dealer Authority in $1 Billion Deal

Dealertrack Technologies, a leading provider of financial services software to auto dealers, has agreed to purchase digital-marketing newcomer Dealer Authority for about $1 billion. The deal will not be finalized until it goes through regulatory approval and is expected to be complete by the end of 2nd quarter, 2014. Around half of the purchase will be made in cash with the other half coming in the form of common shares. "We thought about holding out for more, but then we recounted the zeroes in the number and decided to take the offer," said Tyson Madliger, CEO of Dealer Authority. "There's really no need to be greedy at this point." Dealertrack finished last year with another blockbuster deal, buying Dealer.com for around the same price. There hope is that this latest acquisition will add another element to their impressive digital marketing repertoire. Some in the industry are skeptical. With the news being released on April 1st, it's possible that it's all just an April Fool'... Read Post

Recycling Social Media Content is Getting Out of Hand

I get it. I understand the need for more content to serve to an ever-growing flow of content consumers. The art of recycling content is important, particularly on sites like Twitter where a piece of content can and should be used multiple times in order to get the message out to everyone. It's a chronological feed, after all, and posting it once will only get it seen by an extremely small portion of your audience. Read Post

Website Chat Should Shoot for Quality First, Quantity Second

There's a disturbing trend I'm seeing in the automotive industry when I visit websites. Perhaps it's been like this for a while and I simply took my eye off the chat ball. When I see chat windows that instantly prompt for the customer's contact information, it makes me cry a little inside. This isn't what chat is supposed to be about. I'd love to have that debate with anyone. Chat is an alternative means of instant information. In other words, it's more akin to phone calls than to anything else. If you believe in having a barrier of entry for your customers to chat, then you should have your receptionist answer the phone with, "Thank you for calling XYZ Motors. Can I have your name, phone number, and email address, please? No? Okay, thank you for calling." Click. I totally understand how this came about. Chat companies were pressured to generate leads and that became the only goal. If you, as a car dealer, believe this, then I would contend that you've either been misled or you've... Read Post

To Whoever is Calling this "Social" Media, Please Stop. You're Embarrassing Us All.

It's easy for us to take the high road and call it abysmal to utilize the strategy demonstrated below. We would never do it to two dealers, let alone dozens. We also understand the need to make a solution scalable for the sake of profits as we have worked for companies that need to scale to serve hundreds or thousands of dealers. With that said, it is still atrocious and should stop immediately. This gives quality automotive social media marketing companies a bad name when they pull this sort of stuff. When Brian West from @FusionZONE Automotive, Inc. showed this to me today, I begged him to let me expose it. He cordially allowed me and now I can't really say much about it without spewing more vitriol than I'm used to spewing. The justification that I've heard for this type of activity is that nobody will like more than one dealership on Facebook. This is a naive statement, especially considering the rise of the pay-to-play social media model, the fact that they'... Read Post

6 Personal Profile Picture Types to Help You Represent Your Business

Thanks to social media, the leaders of companies are often much more exposed than ever before. Not everybody uses social media regularly, especially business leaders who are too busy, too out of touch, or both. Those who are active on social media while running a company need to be sure their profile picture portrays the proper image. Originally, I was going to continue this post as if it were really important, but thought the satire might be lost for being too subtle. The reality is that it doesn't make a huge difference, but that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be said. There is, of course, the standard professional business shot (with or without the fist on the chin with the contemplative look), but if you want to be a little cooler than that, here are some options.   1. The Pompous Speaker What It Is: A candid picture of you on stage talking to people, preferably with a smile or other jolly look. Serious looks work as well, but they must be really, really se... Read Post

A Reminder About the Three Big Social Trends for 2014

I would love to tell you that this is breaking information, the type of news that you absolutely must hear in order to succeed in 2014, and that if you don't heed my advice your dealership will probably crumble in the earthquake of financial ruin by mid-March, but I just can't say that. This is a subtle post. It's a reminder of things that you should know, but just in case, we better go over them one more time. Regardless of which of the 4,739 blogs posts you read about the trends in social media for 2014, there was likely a mention of the three things below. I don't like to post poorly designed infographics even if the content is great just as I don't like to post well-designed infographics if the content is poor, but this one was simple enough to allow it to pass muster. One last caveat before getting to the data - this is about social by name, but the reality is that these three little tidbits affect social media marketing, search engine optimization, and con... Read Post

Defined by the Quest: The Three Types of Marketing in 2014

One of the most amazing parts of my job is spending time reading, watching, and testing the practices of others. It's conceivable that the true secret to my success over the years has less to do with creativity and more to do with listening and deciphering. You have to listen to the channels like Google and Facebook. You have to listen to your customers. You have to listen to your customers' customers (if you're an agency like me). The annoying part of my job is sifting through the recycled techniques and reinvented terminology that surrounds so many marketing practices. In most cases, it's the same old things repackaged into a different form or applied from a different angle. Those are valuable, but not gamechanging. Still, it's important to go through them all in order to find the hidden or not-so-hidden gems that arise. The best practices I've found over the years haven't been on the pages of Mashable, Search Engine Watch, or Social Media Today. The re... Read Post

The Social Media Resolution

Let’s keep this one short and sweet. If you run a business, you fall into one of four categories: Those who are using social media and seeing mixed or minimal results Those who have used social media in the past and stopped because they saw mixed or minimal results Those who have never really bought into social media Those who are killing it on social media It’s easy for me to say that the last option is the one that just about every business should be striving towards, but the reality is that if everyone was in category four, it would actually mean that everyone was in category one. Despite the vast nature of social media, there is still a finite amount of room on news feeds, Twitter streams, and other visible portions of social media for businesses. It’s for this reason that I am glad most fall into the first three categories – it makes my job for clients much easier. With that said, there definitely needs to be more in the last category and the lik... Read Post

Finish Strong but Plan Ahead

This is a quick reminder that nobody needs now. It's also a permanent reminder about the way that a dealership's internal marketing culture should operate (in my humble opinion based upon experience) and should be repeated every month, not just at the end of the year. It's the end of arguably the best year for the car business in a long time. I remember the last time I was working at a dealership at year-end and the excitement we felt as we were closing in on the all-time record for a 40-year-old company. I also remember a lecture I had to give to the owner that went something like this: Owner - Who were you meeting with just now? Me - A website vendor. Owner - Why are you messing around with a vendor? We have one week left to break the record! They can wait. Me - You know my philosophy on vendors. We get the best deals at the end of the month. Owner - Then talk to them at the end of next month. We need sales now! Me - I understand, but there's only so much I c... Read Post

Why Digital Marketing and Advertising are Finally Coming Together in 2014

To paraphrase the immortal movie icon, Ferris Bueller, "The Internet moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." That seems to be the case with many digital marketing practices, particularly in the realm of advertising versus marketing. Oddly enough, it wasn't too long ago that I was preaching the reverse; advertising and marketing were completely different disciplines that should be handled separately for best results. Things have changed. In 2014, the holistic digital marketing approach seems to be the best way to go (by far) and integrating advertising into the mix will allow the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts. Here's what I mean:   Search Marketing and Advertising For years, SEO was completely independent from PPC and other forms of paid search advertising. My former company didn't even offer PPC because of the differences and we were able to demonstrate that those PPC companies that ... Read Post

Reputation Management is More than Just an Email

Online reputation has been a hot topic for a couple of years now. As solutions continue to emerge and the business of reputation management as a service expands, there's a dangerous trend that should be addressed. Reputation management isn't about sending an email. It's not about filtering results by checking their sentiment first before directing them to the review sites. It's not even about trying to identify any challenges that they had with their experience. It's about making their experience strong from the start and learning from the challenges some customers pointed out. First and foremost, stop blaming the customer. If they leave a bad review, it's not because they were just trolling. It's not because they get a kick out of burning businesses on Yelp, Google Local, or DealerRater. It's not even about them thinking they should have received a better deal than they got even if you gave it away. They were unhappy with the experience and there wa... Read Post

Resource: An Exhaustive List of Social Media Page Dimensions [Infographic]

As I've said on many occasions, there are only a handful of social media websites that you need to focus on at your dealership. Despite claims that you need to be on dozens of them, the real ones that are making an impact today and in the near future are Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest with Instagram, Foursquare, Tumblr, and LinkedIn sitting comfortably in the mix without being essential. Thankfully, here's an infographic with all of the sizes that you need to know other than Tumblr (which has different size requirements depending on your theme) and Foursquare (which doesn't really need design work). It comes to us from Tent Social. For those who do not like long graphics or want to print it out in chunks rather than one infographic, I broke it down into individual graphics on my site. Here's what Tent Social put together: Facebook Dimensions Facebook Cover photo: 851 x 315 Facebook Profile photo: 180 x 180 Twitter Dimensions Twitter H... Read Post

Your Business Social Interactions DO Mean an Endorsement

I was going through the profiles of some businesses that I follow on social media when I noticed something that was highly discouraging. Some had statements on their Twitter pages that read something to the effect of “a retweet does not mean we endorse it.” On Facebook, there were disclaimers added to the about section that read “liked, commented on, or shared content does not constitute an endorsement by XXXXXXX of the content or companies engaged.” Wrong. That’s incorrect. You could put whatever disclaimers you want on your business social profiles and it won’t change the fact that if you retweet something, you’re endorsing it. Legalizing the wording in your Facebook or Google+ description does not take away responsibility if your page comments on a some other company’s post or shares an offensive image on the feed. This is a business. Any public interactions are your responsibility and disclaimers like these do more harm than good. T... Read Post

The Pinterest Plugin that You Need on Your Blog Right Now

I'm not a big fan of redundancy, especially on social media. Under normal circumstances, if you have good plugins and widgets properly placed on your blog, there's no reason to have others. If you want to annoy me with a blog post, put an inline plugin, a floating plugin, and another one at the bottom. Oh, and throw in a "Share It" widget just in case three ways to share weren't enough. After years of fighting, I'm actually going to make an exception to the one-place-to-share-them-all rule. I have two Pinterest plugins on my blogs now and they're both useful. I have, of course, the standard inline plugin. Some like the floating plugin and that makes sense, but it slows the page down a bit too much for my liking and it often isn't visible on all devices even if your blog is responsive. I follow the unspoken rule of 5, 5, or 5 sharing options (no more, no less) and I prefer the big-5 for my particular blog (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Linke... Read Post

4 Reasons Why Required Fields are No Longer Required on Contact Forms

What? WHAT!?!? There have to be required fields on contact forms, right? There have been required fields on contact forms for two decades. Nothing could have changed so quickly that they have become unnecessary, right? Actually, they're no longer necessary. In fact, they're a hindrance. Here's why:   People aren't stupid Seriously, they're not. This isn't the dawning of the age of the internet. There are adult buyers today who have been on the internet for longer than they've been out of diapers. They have likely filled out hundreds, even thousands of contact forms in their life. Is there a chance that someone might fill out a form with their first name only or even a fake name in order to see what the price was on the other side of the form? Sure. Thankfully, they are few and far between. There's a right way and a wrong way to make a landing page contact form. Treat people as if they know what they're doing.   Different contact st... Read Post

Google +Post Ads Take the Social Network Out Onto the Web

The next age of advertising is right around the corner. With Google's announcement of +Post ads, we now have a venue through which to advertise and garner true interaction from people as they surf the web. Think of it like Facebook advertising that reaches beyond Facebook - WAY beyond Facebook. With millions of websites out there that display Google ads, this expands the business footprint of Google's social network in ways that Facebook will likely never be able to touch. +Post ads take Google+ posts and display them on various websites. The example they use from their pilot programs is Toyota who used these ads to promote the launch of their Corolla earlier this year. They took Google+ posts and put them as ads on automotive sites like Autotrader as well as non-automotive sites that likely had a demographic or retargeted preference towards Toyota specifically or automotive in general. Rather than just a plain banner that took people to the Toyota website or a landing page, t... Read Post

Inbound Links are the Food that Fuels Your Marketing Body

There was a cry that was heard amongst many in the search engine optimization world on April 24th, 2012, as if thousands of SEOs suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. It was the day that Google Penguin broke link-building... ...or at least that's what many thought. Some of us, the ones who were focused on quality rather than quantity, the ones who would work a couple of hours to get one strong, contextual, organic link rather than building tens of thousands of bulk links in the same period of time - we came out better off than we were before the algorithm change. Google reiterated the importance of inbound links at this year's SXSW convention and those who survived the SEOpocalypse have found that the right types of links are more powerful than they ever were in the past. Link-building has, in many ways, been replaced by link-earning. You don't generate links anymore. You generate and expose the content that is worthy of being linked to by other webs... Read Post

Treat Search, Social, and Content Marketing Strategy as a Living Organism

The merging of search, social, and content marketing into a single digital marketing strategy has been happening for years. Intuitively, many of us have been guided by this fact to create the type of strategies that bring the disciplines together appropriately. As the evolution of the three reach a tipping point that is breaking down a good chunk of the practices of the past, it has become paramount to gain an understanding of how everything works together and why the flow of data between each has such a tremendous effect on digital marketing as a whole. To do this properly, it's becoming necessary to break it all down into units. The easiest way to understand this is to compare digital marketing strategy to a living organism. Every action has an effect of some sort on all of the parts. With this comprehension, you'll be better equipped to make decisions about how to craft the overarching strategy as well as how to organize the individual actions.   A Quick Breakdown ... Read Post

Just the Facts… About Internet Marketing [Infographic]

Statistics can be a wonderful thing. They can show us information that can guide our decisions and bring us to see things in better focus. They can distract us, taking us down an incorrect path based upon lack of understanding. They can entertain us. This infographic from Yoda London can likely do any of the three. As with any set of numbers, if you torture them long enough, you can make them say anything. For example, seeing that 93% of online experiences begin with search engines can be useful in that it highlights the importance of SEO. It could also be detrimental if misunderstood as “online experiences” could mean just about anything. It entertains (if you’re a search geek like me, at least). Check out the graphic: (Originally Published on Soshable) ... Read Post

Why SEO is More Important than Ever

      inShare32 2       There are those who have been spreading (indefinitely, it seems) the thought that SEO is dead. It never ends, the thought (hope?) that search engine optimization has reached its conclusion. The main reason for these calls is, of course, when “experts” in search marketing start to find that their techniques don’t work anymore. Nothing will make someone believe a practice is dead more than finding out that they’re processes aren’t working. Unfortunately for them (and fortunately for the rest of us), SEO is alive and well and growing in importance every day. The reasons are many, but here’s a quick breakdown: Mobile visibility is driving clicks on the go. Many people are no longer doing the majority of their searches on desktop computers. The computers in our pockets are doing just fine (sometimes better) at delivering the information we need. Mobile’s continuous onslaught o... Read Post

How to Handle Complaints on Social Media

There's a rule when it comes to handling complaints and bad reviews on social media. The same rule applies for compliments and good reviews, but those are easy. Handling the complaints can be challenging and you may not want to do it, but as a rule you must reply to everyone who is talking to you publicly whether it's good or bad. This is an absolute rule. There are a couple of extreme situations when you don't reply, but they are so rare that I hesitate to mention them for fear that it could downplay the message that you should reply to everyone. There's another rule that is unfortunately getting broken just about every day by many social media and reputation management companies. Canned responses should never be used. Every response should be personal, written by an actual human and not repeated. It's better to make a short, sincere response than anything that came out of an automated system. People can tell. You will never appear more insincere as a company t... Read Post

The Dos and Don’ts of Facebook Marketing

There have been and always will be right and wrong ways to go about marketing on Facebook. The only things that change are the ways to go about doing the “right” things. While some would say there are no rules on social media, there are definitely best practices to do and poor practices to avoid. In this infographic by Vertical Response, they do a great job at breaking down some of the rules that can help to generate a successful social media presence on Facebook. It’s not all about the numbers, though they are important. As cliche as it sounds, the rules on Facebook really are there to help you gain true engagement. ... Read Post

The Psychology Behind the Love of Infographics

There’s a fundamental psychology behind visualizations that make them work. Reading is fine. Audio and video are often the best. When data must be seen and engulfed in order to make an impact, this is where infographics have their niche in our attentions. In this very simple infographic from Hubshout, they explore the reasons that people like infographics, the types of infographics that people prefer, and give us hints about the direction of the infographic history. ... Read Post

Good and Bad Examples of Social Media Image Marketing

If you're reading this, you're probably failing at social media image marketing. That's not me being cynical. By examining dozens of business social media presences every week, I get to see what so many are doing and the unfortunate fact is that 9 out of 10 are doing it wrong or not doing it at all. I'm being conservative with that estimate. The "unfortunate" fact really isn't that unfortunate, especially for those who are reading this. You see, you can actually do it right, which means that you're going to have a leg-up on the competition. When things are too easy or too well known, they have a tendency to become universally good. When they're universally good, that means that everyone is average. Image marketing on social media is not about taking advertisements and posting them as images. It's not about talking about your big sale next week in the form of a banner that you post to Twitter or Instagram (though there's a way to do that... Read Post

5 Types of Infographics

In the ever-changing world of online marketing, one of the tools that has stayed relatively consistent in its results over the past few years is the infographic. I remember first getting started with building and marketing infographics back in 2008. Things haven't changed a whole lot since then. Two things that have definitely changed are the saturation and the search value. The industry is so saturated today that it's nearly impossible to get the same type of exposure now that we once saw a few years ago. It was once possible to get a great infographic in front of millions of people by having it published on major blogs and websites. Today, the saturation has made it to where getting one posted to Mashable or the NY Times is extremely challenging. The search value has changed as well. Google is very well aware of the use of infographics for inbound links and they've taken measures to make sure that this ultimate form of "link baiting" is not overpowered. That... Read Post

With New Google "Ad" Tag, Craft Your Message For Value

Some of you are probably seeing the new ad format that Google is testing out. It's not technically new - they've been testing it on mobile devices for some time now - but it's relatively new to desktop searches. The shading in the background to identify ads is gone, replaced by a big yellow "Ad" tag. This is potentially good for two reasons. First, it highlights the fact that it's an ad (even though some will say that taking away the shading is just another Google ploy for more ad clicks) very nicely, meaning that you have an opportunity to craft an advertising message for your PPC campaigns a little more specifically than before. The second potential positive is that it may reduce wasted clicks and irrelevant visitors to your site. Psychologically, people are more careful about what they click on when they're clearly tagged. This is a minor point, not enough to make anyone worry about drops in traffic, but enough to make a minor dent in conversion rat... Read Post

Make a Social Media Weekend Plan

I know the feeling. Despite having worked every weekend for the last two years, I know the desire to let it all go and just focus on the important things in life like faith and family. I'll get there, someday, but you can get there now and still be strong at social media management. See, the challenge is that social media for business is ever-so important. The weekends can be, for many pages and social media profiles, have the highest potential for engagement and interaction. A good chunk of people check social media more regularly on weekends than during the week. It's also a time when money is spent in different ways so having the right engagement to go after the weekend dollars or the dollars that will be spent in the coming week can be achieved more readily on the weekends. Unfortunately, you probably don't have a weekend team watching and controlling everything for you. You're stuck with it, even if you have weekends off. This translates into one of two most li... Read Post

Tumblr as an SEO Tool

Many of us who have been doing the hybrid search/social game for long enough remember what it was like to discover Tumblr. I got in pretty early and was able to get Social News as one of my Tumblogs, a pretty decent subdomain that is (unfortunately) completely underutilized and really just focuses on my Instagram pictures. That doesn't mean that you have to sit around and let Tumblr not work well for you. SocialMediaToday community contributor Mark Scott posted an interesting piece about using Tumblr as an SEO tool. While there are things in there that aren't 100% correct such as the concept that all "links you add to all posts on your Tumblr blog are do-follow links" (some are nofollow), but otherwise he gives very sound advice about how to use the platform for something that it's frankly not very good at for its own self: SEO. Yes, it's a great SEO tool and yes, it's possible to optimize a Tumblog to do well in search, but it's the benefits that ... Read Post

The 30 Minute Social Media Management Schedule

In an ideal world, you’re the social media and content manager for your company. You spend eight hours a day harnessing the power of sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ while developing content for your blog and YouTube channels. It’s tough, but you’re making it happen. In the real world, you’re probably responsible for a ton of different things and social media was tossed onto your pile of work. How can you cope? Is it possible to have a strong social media presence without devoting a ton of time to it? Yes and no. Yes, you can have a pretty decent one, but 30-minutes as detailed below is the bare minimum to be considered truly active. I’ve seen people do it in about 2 hours a day and have a super strong presence. For those of you who are having to hold it together until help (or more time) arrives, here’s a great infographic that can work as a daily checklist of activities that you need to accomplish to maintain the minimum level of socia... Read Post