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Car Dealer Internet Marketing

The Importance of DrivingSales' Exclusive and Community Blog Sections

If there's one thing that gets me riled up, it's the types and degrees of education in the automotive industry. The car business has always taken care of me, so I try to always take care of the car business. On many of the blogs and networks in our industry, there are sections for exclusive content and separate sections for "community posts" or syndicated content. Both serve an important role and I publish profusely in both. Here's why: Community Content is General There was a time when I didn't agree with posting the same article to multiple places. It seemed obtuse from a search perspective and annoying from a dealer perspective to see the same content republished over and over again on a wide variety of sites. A friend and someone who manages one of the sites changed my opinion on this. He pointed out that content of general interest to the majority of dealers are better served when a post is published in multiple places. While the vendors seem to be on all of the networks, he p... Read Post

Less is More in Calls-to-Action on Dealer Websites

The past two years has seen a decrease in the number of website leads for many dealers. We're getting more visitors and fewer people filling out lead forms. The trend has caused what I've seen as an increase in the number of calls to action on pages, particularly on inventory pages. This is a mistake. The truth is this: more is not more. It's less when it comes to calls-to-action. You don't need to have a dozen of different ways for people to contact you. You simply need to make the right ones the focus and to make others stand out. It's something that I've wanted to discuss for a long time, but only now and I comfortable doing so because I have no horse in the race. I no longer work for a company that sells websites, so it's easy for me to go after the website providers without repercussion. Call me a chicken. I can handle it. Here are some examples of great pages with their calls to action positioned appropriately: Fewer Buttons... with Standouts How many ways do people have t... Read Post

You Can't Optimize Two Dealers in the Same City with the Same Make

I can already hear the vendors scrambling to put together their rebuttals. I'm not going to dwell on the issue, but it's an important one to note. For most dealers, it's okay to be in the mix. As long as you're on the first page on Google for the major keywords, you're doing just fine. Aggressive dealers, those who truly want to dominate, cannot do so if they're getting the same SEO that's given to hundreds or thousands of other dealers. Even if you believe the argument that SEO is scalable (which it isn't when done properly) then you definitely can't believe that two dealers of the same brand in the same metro can both get excellent SEO from the same company. There's only one listing that can be ranked #1 for any given search. The math isn't hard. If a company is willing to do optimization for more than one dealer of the same brand in the same metro, there's a disconnect between what they think they can do and what can actually be done. Again, I'm not going to dwell on it. You're... Read Post

How to Make Hyper-Targeting Your Social Media Secret Weapon

If you're like many, you're sick of hearing how big social media is. It's huge. We get it. That's not the real "juice" that comes through utilizing social media for automotive advertising. The greatest benefit that social media currently offers to car dealers is through hyper-targeting. More dealers every day are taking advantage of the standard targeting components of sites like Facebook and Twitter - targeting by location, age, income, education, and any combination of these and many other demographic components available. Very few dealers are taking advantage of the stronger data that's available through a plethora of very specific data sets. First and foremost, the use of your customer database is absolutely imperative. You might be sending direct mail to your customers. You're probably emailing them. Unfortunately, your also probably missing a large number of them because of spam filters and a general distaste for junkmail. Social media offers a very direct way to get your me... Read Post

Why It's Okay for Dealers to Abandon Social Media

For the last week, I have spoken to several dealers, a couple of vendors, and members of our team about how to position social media properly so that dealers will be able to take full advantage of it. We blogged about it, prepared a webinar, and adjusted our upcoming presentation at DSES to make sure that we're getting the word out about the tangible, measurable, ROI-based aspects of social media. There was a lot of bad press going out and I felt the need to combat it. The first thing that got me riled up was the infamous "nobody shops for cars on social media" post on Automotive News. Then, it was an article here on Driving Sales that got me even more excited about teaching on the subject. It was a comment, just a single sentence, that completely changed my perspective. I'm now endorsing the concept that most dealers should abandon social media. "Shhh. Craig. Don't tell anyone about the dark posts. We don't want them to get too popular :P" It hit me like an 18-wheeler. Robert ... Read Post

A Case for Managed or Backup Chat

It seems as if every couple of months I find another reason to hop on my soapbox and make the case for a product that we don't even sell, but I have to mention again that chat going offline is a big problem in our industry. Since leaving the world of websites, I have come across this challenge more than any other. Perhaps I had a sheltered existence, but I never knew how common it was for dealers to turn their website chat "offline" for extended periods of time. I know there are plenty of people out there who believe that chat is a minor component of their websites. One guru even told me he thought chat was worthless. I've explored the numbers on dozens of websites with numerous chat services at play and I can say with a certainty that communication, website visitor experience, and leads are all improved with the right chat. Why do they go offline? Why do many dealers allow the only method of real-time late night communication to go unmanned? How can dealers afford to have chat off... Read Post

To Build the Best Landing Pages, You have to Think Mobile

You've all seen the statistics. You've read the studies. You've probably heard about it at some point on the news and you've definitely been told this by a marketing guru of some sort over the past couple of years. The car buying world has gone mobile and your ability to get your message out to potential customers must be viewed by how it's seen on mobile devices first, desktops second. In a discussion with a client today, we were looking at the way their traffic was being distributed on their website. Present on this "power call" was String Automotive who was delivering a market analysis, Remora who handles the website and search marketing, Automark who delivers the lead generation tools for the website, and my team which handles the social media. This savvy east coast dealer likes to make sure we all meet together monthly to discuss his marketing (a best practice that I strongly recommend to all dealers - get your vendors talking to each other). We noticed that the traffic and le... Read Post

Suckered into Social Media Advertising (and that’s not a bad thing)

Today, using the “free” social media platforms as a marketing tool without spending money on them is about as useful as playing the first level of the freeware version of iPad game. It used to be so exciting to think about how to market a business on social media. We would read articles, watch videos, go to conferences, exchange ideas, try things out, and come up with the very best way to reach the people. Just a few years ago, it was exciting to be in the social media marketing world. Things have changed. Many of my contemporaries who have been working in social media for nearly a decade have talked to me lately about how it’s all going downhill, how organic reach is gone and that the pay-to-play model has ruined the industry. They say things like “money makes the crap float to the top” or “there’s nothing creative about paying for exposure.” I agree with them during these conversations, not because I believe what they are saying, but because I’ve found that the ... Read Post

Putting to Rest the Concept of “Organic” Social Media

There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile. Okay, so that’s not really original. Any opportunity to plug in a line from Gladiator, I’ll take it. Despite the overly serious tone of the quote, it plays well with the dream that was social media. The idea of having a set of free venues through which businesses could interact with consumers and the consumers could interact back presented itself as a grand concept to be desired and cherished. Unfortunately, the dream is dead. Success on modern social media requires one of two things: serious fame or cash invested. Unless you’re Justin Bieber, your brand needs money in order to be relevant on sites like Facebook. There’s no other way to look at it. Even Twitter gets exponentially more useful when a little money is applied to it. LinkedIn, YouTube, and possibly Pinterest and Instagram are all heading down the road of pay-to-play if you really want to... Read Post

Why 24-Hour Chat is So Important

I've taken some criticism over the last week for selecting CarChat24 as the dealer website chat provider that I like the most. Angry calls. Angrier emails. Nobody wants to hear that their product was not selected and I understand the vast majority of the criticism from other chat providers in the industry. One piece of criticism that I do not understand comes when providers try to convince me that 24/7 chat isn't important. In the digital age, availability is often the deciding factor for consumers. Perhaps I get this from personal experience. I know that I work during the day, have dinner with the family, spend some time with them, and then begin any online activities that don't pertain to my business. This time, late at night, is when I do research (in my case, I'm looking for a house AND a car), order things online, and surf the web before going to bed. My wife is different. She wakes up early. She does all of her planning, research, and shopping for the day before the kids wake... Read Post

The Future Arrives: Why I'm (Finally) Joining the Responsive Web Design Bandwagon

In October, 2013, I posted a controversial article about the differences between responsive and adaptive websites and came to the conclusion that, at that time, properly coded adaptive websites were performing better than responsive websites in the automotive arena. I stand by that assertion as long as the timestamp is attached. In other words, adaptive was better in the automotive industry than responsive in October, 2013. Today, I am happily reversing my opinion. The industry has caught up. There are a handful of companies in our space that have not only improved on the earlier iterations that I did not like but who have taken their responsive sites beyond the adaptive sites that were performing phenomenally well. It's not that adaptive sites are bad or that they've fallen off at all. Today, the responsive sites (and the numbers attached to their results for dealers) have surpassed their adaptive counterparts. The real difference in the platforms that I have seen launched in rec... Read Post

Links May Die Someday for SEO, but Not Quite Yet

Inbound links still matter. Despite what you may here from SEO gurus around our industry, the power of high-quality, relevant, and natural inbound links to a dealer's website is still apparent. Google's Matt Cutts acknowledged that in the long run, this may not be the case. That day, however, is not today. Google is reportedly in the middle of a 10-year plan to discount links from the search algorithm. The best guess is that they're at about year 5 of this plan, which means that we still have another half-decade to make the adjustment. Many of us already are, but that does not mean that links should not be a part of the overall strategy. Earn them. Use them appropriately. Avoid anything spammy or unnatural. Focus on incredible content that can get people to link to you rather than schemes or techniques for building them. That's what we do. That's what you should be doing as well. Here's the video from Cutts answering the question recently about inbound links.     ... Read Post

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