Car Dealer Internet Marketing

Complacency Kills: How to Fight the Demon within a Surging Sales Environment

Sales are down... for many vendors. That's the scuttlebutt on the street and it usually means one thing: sales are up at dealerships. Looking at the headlines on automotive journals, it's clear to see that we are indeed in a general upswing in the industry. As a result, this is the most dangerous time to be running a marketing department in the car business. It's also the most crucial time for dealers and general managers to act. It's dangerous for the marketing/internet manager because it's very hard to tell what's working and what's not. You can look at the numbers for your SEO company, for example, and see upticks in traffic. Are their efforts making the difference or does it simply mean that more people are searching? It's crucial for dealers and general managers because you have to keep the wave of enthusiasm high while looking towards the future with bold determination. There's a saying that goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." This is incorrect in our industry. The real... Read Post

The Growing Plague of Google Analytics Spam and How to Filter It

If you're one who checks Google Analytics often to see how your traffic is doing, you've problem seen a lot of sites popping up in analytics over the last year or so that don't make sense. It would seem like these you're getting traffic from strange sites, particularly those selling SEO or other marketing services. It's spam. That's the bad news. The good news is that it's not really hurting you. The better news is that you can get rid of it. You may have checked out some of these sites to find your link. Wait, where is it? There's no link to your website there. How did... what the... wait a second. You just did what they intended you to do. They got you to their website in hopes that you'll think, "Hey, I need SEO. Let's see what these guys can offer." Unfortunately, it works. They spoof traffic through a key sending requests from their website to yours, making it look as if they're visiting your website when they're not. This is how they get business. This is how they market th... Read Post

5 Things Every Dealer Should Do with Their Websites that Most Aren't Doing Today

The consolidation of website vendors and OEM mandates makes it challenging for dealers to feel like they can get an edge over their competitors. With the right best practices, you can take what you have and make it amazing. Here are five things we recommend to our clients that are pretty much universal. Some might be doing one or two of these. There may be some of you savvy DrivingSales folks who are doing three or four. If anyone is doing all five, we should take. I know a great place that could use your services. Go All Out with Analytics Many dealers wish they had a tool that could tell them how their different advertising sources were really working, what results they were delivering, what buttons people were clicking on... the list of desires is huge. The problem with these desires is that the tool is available to everyone free of charge. Google Analytics, when used properly, is extremely powerful. It's not the best tool in the world. In fact, the data can be misleading. Howe... Read Post

Straight to Inventory versus Landing Pages for PPC

There have been several studies in the automotive industry that have conclusively answered this question with hard data and compelling reasons why it is the way it is. Unfortunately, these "conclusive" studies often point in opposite directions and always seem to be conducted by companies that lean in one direction or the other. Which is better for search PPC, banner ads, and other forms of advertising? Should you point your ads to take prospects directly into vehicle details pages or search results pages or should you send visitors to landing pages with messaging first? The reason that the studies seem to take the same data and yield different conclusions is based on two things: intent of the company doing the study and ways through which the data is collected and analyzed. Our perspective on the issue adds a third factor that has helped us to come to our own conclusion for clients: visitor intent. The beauty of modern digital advertising is that it allows us to make determination... Read Post

What Should be Manual and What Should be Automated?

Digital marketing in the automotive industry has very few absolutes. When it comes to the difference between automation and manual effort, the proper answers are squarely in the gray area. Let's take a look at some of the different aspects of digital marketing and break down which ones should be automated, which should be manual, and which should be a hybrid. Spoiler Alert: pretty much all of them should be a hybrid to some extent to achieve the best possible results. Website Building and Maintenance When I worked for a website provider, our biggest strength was the fact that we built custom sites. Our biggest weakness was that we built custom sites. It's hard and in today's day and age I've become a fan of using templates that have flexible content management systems for design fluidity and enhancement. With that said, an automated methodology to the build that is guided by manual improvements is ideal. As much as we would all love to have websites hand-built exactly the way we ... Read Post

Just Because We Don’t Republish Social Content Doesn’t Mean It’s Wrong

As a policy, we've always chosen to obey the "once and nevermore" philosophy with our social media posts for clients. We handcraft each post and that post will appear one time and on one dealership's Facebook page. Once it's used, it's done forever. A dealer asked me today if that's a best practice or something that we do for the sake of proper service. The answer is that it's both. It's a best practice to use unique content nearly every single time (with an occasional exception described below) and to make sure that any content is only used for one dealership page. However, that doesn't mean that the rule can't be bent a little, especially for car dealers who are doing it themselves. Let's quickly discuss both reasons that we made the rule and you'll understand why it's a rule that you're allowed to break. Unique is Best, but... In an ideal world, a company will be able to generate so much content that everything posted on Facebook is never reposted again. In the real world, we ... Read Post

Content is Important, but there's More to SEO than Building Pages

I've been pretty torn over the last few months. On one hand, I'm so pleased to see that dealers (and even some vendors) are really starting to embrace building content pages on their website. On the other hand, I'm concerned that many companies are starting to promote building these pages as their complete SEO strategy. What's worse is that many dealers are starting to believe them. We came across this recently when a dealer wanted to find out whether our SEO services were having a positive effect on their traffic, leads, and sales, or if it was another company that was working on things simultaneously. The other company builds pages. That's it. They don't support these pages with other signals and they don't build the pages with increased sales in mind. 2012 was the last time I made the recommendation to dealers to build content on their website or two hire us to do it for them. All I asked for was two pages per month. It was a reasonable request in my humble opinion - not too muc... Read Post

Why Does Automotive Social Media Still Suck?

When we first built our company in 2013, we had a big fear. It was a sense of urgency that drove us to make aggressive moves, hire talented people when we didn't have the revenue to support them, and drink lots of coffee to stay ahead of the competition. The fear came from the certainty that automotive social media vendors would catch wind about the true power of social media to drive local car buyers to the dealers' websites and produce an extremely high return on investment. Fast forward to the middle of 2015 and as we approach our two-year anniversary, we're happy to say that there are only a handful (two that we know of for certain) who have adopted a proper combination of public posts and dark posts through targeted advertising that accomplishes the goal of selling more cars. The rest are still stuck in the same old social media strategies that have produced very little for the last five years. When I say that we're happy about it, that's the business owner in me. The "car guy... Read Post

The Irony of Simplicity in Choice for Discerning Dealers

Consolidation is happening. We see it in the automotive industry all the time. Large dealer groups are getting larger. Big vendors are getting bigger. This adds a level of simplicity for dealers as they make decisions for operations, marketing, and processes. The irony is that this is something the industry needed six years ago when the recession was starting to turn the corner and dealers were making choices on their own. In many ways, there were too many choices. Consolidation back then might have been a good thing. Dealers were forced to fend for themselves and as a result, the "discerning dealers" chose to modernize their procedures and decision-making capabilities. In other words, they started hiring and training to meet the demands of the digital age. They hired new people or trained old ones who understood, responsive design, and behavioral targeting. If they didn't know what geofencing was, they researched it. Many dealers today know more about the various produc... Read Post

3 Keys to Knowing if Your Dealership's SEO is Really Doing the Job

This is one of those blog posts that my team will probably hate. I can already hear them. "Stop giving away our secrets!" As I've posted before, there really should be no such thing as secret sauce in automotive digital marketing, so I'm going to share our recipe. There are three key ingredients to a proper automotive SEO awesomesauce. You can taste for these ingredients in what you're doing today as well as in the presentations you hear from other vendors as they try to sell you SEO. If you taste it, you're on the right track. If you're missing any of these ingredients, it's time to find a better sauce. 1. Focus on Driving Great Traffic There are many ways to send traffic to your website. We look at social media, for example, as a way to attract shoppers to your website using dark posts and shopper data, but that traffic is great, not prime. Don't get me wrong - many of the visitors that come through proper social media advertising are ready to buy a car, but they're brought ther... Read Post

Why Search and Social are so Closely Tied Together (and why they're not)

When you have two people who have combined for over two decades of working with automotive website providers, you would think that they the company they would build together would be another website provider. It wasn't. There's a reason for this. Search and social are the marketing venues we chose to pursue for one big reason: minimal parody. Car dealers have seen products and services come and go where there seems to be very little difference between one player and another. That's not the case in either search marketing or social media marketing. Sure, there are similarities between products, but the results delivered by one company can be completely different from the results delivered by another. That's not the case in other areas such as website marketing where switching from one to another normally yields only a minor difference in results. There's another reason that we chose these venues. They're tied in very nicely together. The activities that are associated with proper se... Read Post

Why Dealers Need Localized Non-Automotive Content on their Website

Over the years, I've grown used to having debates. Sometimes, people will oppose my perspectives for the sake of debate. Other times, they will truly feel like things that I recommend are truly wrong. This piece will likely fall into the latter category. It's ironic that I often tell dealers not to use social media for the sake of branding. Don't get me wrong - it's a great branding tool. However, if you utilize the right strategies and truly promote concepts on social media that will help you sell more cars, the branding will happen as a result. In other words, branding is a side effect of great social media, not a goal behind most campaigns. The reason it's ironic is because of the content marketing premise I'm about to divulge. When comparing search and social in regards to content, most would assume that social media is the place where content can be used for branding and organic search is not really a branding tool per se. My view is the opposite. There are distinct advantages... Read Post

Make Mobile Traffic a Top Priority for Your Website

It took a mini-debate with a potential client to bring me to a conclusion: numbers do lie. Conventional wisdom says otherwise, but in the digital age there is a huge gap between seeing the numbers and understanding them in a meaningful way. I should go ahead and add an addendum to the premise before I begin. Numbers aren't really lying, but they can definitely be misleading if not discerned properly. The numbers I'm discussing specifically are mobile numbers. A brief look at Google analytics reveals that some of the old school key indicators like time on site and average pages per visit would put mobile traffic in a poor light. Then, cross-referencing these numbers to lead numbers would support the premise that mobile website visitors spend less time, visit fewer pages, and are less likely to fill out a lead form. All of this is true. All of it is also false. In the recent past, mobile internet speeds combined with slow dealer websites created an environment where most visitors on... Read Post

On the Art (and science) of Social Media Posting Frequency

Common advice in the automotive industry: "There are very strict rules that dealers should follow when posting to social media, especially as it pertains to timing." Pop quiz: Who says things like this? Companies who post on schedules Gurus who want to demonstrate the need for their expertise Anyone who wants to automate their social media Any of the above There are many reasons that people want to apply rules to how and when to post to social media, but here's the thing: throw them all out. You don't need rules. Social media is an art that requires an understanding of the science behind it. The artistic aspect is easy to understand. You have to be creative. I've talked until I was blue in the face about the need for companies - both OEMs and vendors - to make certain that the creative was unique to each dealer, localized, and relevant to what a person would expect a car dealer to post. Both dealers and their vendors need to make every post count. What you post and how it's re... Read Post

Links Still Matter for Automotive SEO

I had a debate with an automotive SEO buddy back last year about the validity of high-quality inbound links for the purpose of search engine optimization. He contended that great content on the website was enough to boost rankings substantially. I argued that Google and Bing still look at outside signals such as links to help them determine the authority and validity of the content. A few months later, I received a phone call that confirmed it. The best part is that I didn't even have to do any research or testing on my own. He had set up a very clear and easily duplicated test to see who was correct. Two cities. Two Honda dealers. On both websites, he wrote up long pieces (over 1000 words) of content on similar landing pages. All unique content, all perfectly worded for SEO (which today means not written for SEO at all but written for real readers instead). In one city, he used my link-earning strategy that I showed him to get some love for the Civic page. In the other city, he d... Read Post

Google Pulls Page from Yelp's Playbook with Local Guides

Google loves social/mobile/local interaction. They have always coveted the personal data that Facebook has, the mobile data that Apple has, and the local data that Yelp has. They continue to make strides in all three areas with the most recent advancement coming in the form of "Local Guides". It's like Yelp Elite, so much so that I would be shocked if Yelp doesn't cry fowl in one way or another. People can apply to be these Local Guides and they can earn minor benefits for hitting milestones such as 50 high-quality reviews as well as 200. Before anyone starts alerting their staff, friends, and local cousins to get their Google Reviews pumped up, let's keep one thing in mind. Google has the money to try and fail at things and they do so much more often than they succeed. I learned long ago not to jump on something that Google rolls out just because it says Google. In fact, I'm less inclined to try their new products or services or to even pay attention to them when they roll out. W... Read Post

Why 'Irrelevant' Content on a Dealer's Website is Relevant

Once you get over the beauty of the 1970 Dodge Charger in the picture, you might ask yourself, "What does a 45-year-old muscle car have to do with automotive content?" We've been asked the same type of question multiple times pertaining to content we publish on dealer websites. Sometimes, it's dealers asking. Other times, it's other vendors wondering what we're doing or "tattling" to the dealer about it. The funny part is that when compared to the automotive marketing "gurus" who question it, the dealers tend to understand the philosophy much more quickly than the vendors. I'm not here to insult anyone. I totally understand why it's hard for many vendors to get, especially the larger ones who have mechanized content, search, and social strategies. The reality is that based upon the most modern algorithms for Google, Bing, and Facebook (amongst others), robust and potentially popular content influences the visibility of standard lead-generating pages, inventory, and landing pages.... Read Post

It’s All Going Mobile. We Get It. Now What?

Compared to a couple of years ago, the number of dealers who have some sort of mobile strategy is exponentially higher. As an industry, we're starting to really understand just how important mobile is, but there needs to be more action and less discussion, in my humble opinion. Here's an article I wrote on one of my blogs. It was originally meant for a general business audience but I adjusted it slightly so we can apply to the car business as well. Enjoy: When I finally stopped counting, I found 43 articles posted this week on various publications proclaiming that everything was going mobile and that marketers and businesses need to make the appropriate adjustments. All of the articles had two things in common: they gave reasons why we needed to market to mobile users and they didn't give very good ways other than the basic or generic methods for doing so. Well, I'm here to give you some good ways to do it. That's all. No need to convince you that you need to do it. If you're rea... Read Post

Some People MUST Read Reviews First

It's been a while since I bought a car. Six years. Yep, I'm one of those people. A lot has changed since then. I know that next time I buy one, I will definitely do something that I didn't do any time before. I'll check reviews. It occurred to me this morning that I don't do anything at all without checking the reviews first. Before I watch a movie, eat at a restaurant, buy electronics, or get my hair cut, I read reviews. Heck, I usually won't watch a YouTube video if the ratings are too low. I don't think that I'm alone. I've always known that reputation management was important for car dealers, but I suppose it never really hit home until I had my epiphany this morning that there must be other people out there who simply will not do anything at all without checking reviews. I have an insider's view, having a stake in a reputation management company, that makes me skeptical about them to some extent. I realize that positive reviews can be encouraged and negative reviews can be par... Read Post

Your Message Must Match the Marketing Venue

Let's call it what it is. This is a post about active digital marketing versus passive digital marketing. It's one that covers two of the types of marketing disciplines that are near and dear to my heart, but more importantly it lays the groundwork for an understanding of the various marketing styles and how we should classify them. First and foremost, let's get an understanding of what the difference is between active and passive digital marketing. In our industry, the word "passive" is often shunned, but in this particular case it's not bad at all. Passive marketing lets the customer make the first move. Search marketing is an example of passive marketing because you must wait for them to engage with the search engines to find a car before the marketing kicks in. Active marketing goes out to them - you make the first move. Email marketing is an example of active marketing because you're initiating the action. On our website, we compared it to stand hunting vs still hunting. With ... Read Post

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