Community

Share your automotive expertise

2 Write a Blog Post

Filed in: Marketing, Internet/BDC

3 Reasons Why You Should Fire Your Website Provider Today

By Timothy Martell on Jan 14, 2014

Original Article by Timothy Martell on Wikimotive's blog.

I'm writing today because a serious fraud is being perpetrated on virtually all car dealers, the scope of which seems to be far greater than any I've encountered before. What seemed at first to be merely a bad SEO practice, now seems to amount to copyright infringement, a willful attempt to harm dealers while profiting from them, and perhaps even collusion by OEMs and vendors to control market performance between franchise owners. I'm not going to name names at this point. I have included screen shots and examples which would certainly allow someone to search and figure out for themselves who the culprits are and what, exactly, they are doing. This all began when two new clients sought our services due to severe drops in search performance. They are both clients of website vendor A. The larger dealer group had received a web spam penalty from Google while the smaller group experienced the following performance over the past year:

Performance loss PV Performance loss Visits

What could cause two thirds of this dealer's client base to disappear in 7 months? Google's latest algorithm update? Negative SEO? A new dealer that caught SEO fire? What we found is much, much worse. Duplicate content, like we've never seen before. Now, I know what you're thinking. Wow, big deal. SEO crap. But this is much different.

What we've found is that many, many website vendors have engaged in a form of deception and fraud. What's worse, I believe some have simultaneously left their dealer clients in violation of copyright infringement. Here is the proof:

Dunning Subaru Website Vendor B

Pictured above is a page on Dunning Subaru's website about brake repair. This site is built by website vendor B. Below are the search results generated by searching for examples of this text. This search generated 1,540 results, and this was one of the smallest infractions we found. Upon closer inspection, we found that most of the websites listed here were built by website vendor A, but Jansen Chevrolet and Chevrolet of Puyallup were built by website vendor C. Now, if you visit sites by each of these vendors you will notice something at the bottom of each page: Dunning SubaruJansen Chevrolet, and Toyota of Santa Barbara.

Ex 1 SERPNotice that the Toyota dealer has a copyright mark. Now, not all vendors publish the mark for all of their clients. So some of these dealers are theoretically in copyright violation of the dealers that have marks. Of course, this begs the question, "How do you determine who first used the copyrighted content?"

I suspect the answer is a lot of billable hours to a good law firm.

Sport HyundaiSERP Fig 2In this next example, you'll notice 865,000 results for the same page. You might wonder how this is possible with less than 25,000 dealers in the US. We found that not only was this page duplicated across 4 website vendors on this one SERP page, but there were even instances of the text appearing on other sites as well. Try this: using the quotations, enter this text into Google search, "has an experienced and reliable Service and Parts departments that are open extra hours to help fit our customers' hectic schedules, and as always,". 

When I ran the search last week I found 1.9 million results.

Why is this so outrageous?

When the dealer enters into an agreement with a website vendor, there is an expectation of expertise. It's the vendor's job to be aware of practices or procedures that could harm their client and they should be dedicated to never harming their client.

In 2005, Google publicly announced that web masters who used duplicate content would see their websites penalized. While many SEOs would agree that this didn't take place early on, there isn't a (competent) web master on the planet that is unaware of the Panda update released by Google in February 2011.

"Google says it only takes a few pages of poor quality or duplicative content to hold down traffic on an otherwise solid site, and recommends such pages be removed, blocked from being indexed by the search engine, or rewritten.[11] However, Matt Cutts, head of webspam at Google, warns that rewriting duplicate content so that it is original may not be enough to recover from Panda -- the rewrites must be of sufficiently high quality, as such content brings "additional value" to the web. Content that is general, non-specific, and not substantially different from what is already out there should not be expected to rank well: "Those other sites are not bringing additional value. While they’re not duplicates they bring nothing new to the table."

"Only a few pages of poor quality of duplicative content." As we continue to research this issue, we're finding that virtually every page (we're talking hundreds and even thousands of pages in some cases) on most dealer websites is duplicate content. To make matters worse, in most cases, the primary offenders of this content plagiarism are also selling "SEO services" in conjunction with their websites. In almost every case, we've found that not only do these website providers NOT provide any form of SEO service, most of the time they are actually charging the dealer for creating more duplicate content and copying it to all of their other clients' websites! That means that they are actually doing more damage, faster, and charging a premium for it!

How can you tell if you are being plagued by duplicate content? 

The easiest way to determine this is your "about" page. If you didn't write your own content for your dealership about page, start there. Try selecting a large portion of text that doesn't include your dealership name or geo information. Copy and paste what you copied into the google search bar and then put the text in quotation marks. Do you get a list of lots of other car dealers? Chances are yes, you do. If you're not sure about how to do this, you can e-mail us at questions@wikimotive.com and we'll be happy to walk you through it. And before you suspect that we have ulterior motives, we are not an automotive website vendor. We DO NOT have a dog in this fight other than looking out for dealers.

My content is all over the web! What can I do?

Remember, what Matt Cutts said, "Rewriting duplicate content so that it is original may not be enough to recover from Panda -- the rewrites must be of sufficiently high quality, as such content brings 'additional value' to the web." 

In most cases, this means a real need to start from scratch.

BIG IMPORTANT POINT TO TAKE AWAY

If you are a client of one of the website vendors in the results here, there is no immediate fix short of finding a new provider, and unless you have the knowledge and expertise to understand what differentiates one provider from the next, there is a real likelihood that you will trade one bad vendor for another. So far, we've only found a single website vendor that is not building sites this way and does not use duplicate content on their websites. If any other vendors are out there listening and are digging what I'm saying and wondering why no one has ever called this out before, please give me a call. We'd love to find more great solutions for our car dealers.

My website rep/seo guy/gal etc says that the content is unique because my name is in there and there are different geo modifiers in the content and that makes it unique. What is he/she talking about?

They are L I A R S or they were trained to say that by LIARS. Google SPECIFICALLY looks for content that is the same with minor changes like proper nouns and geo modifiers. It's the worst kind of duplicate content because it tries to be deceptively manipulative.

Well they said that Google allows for duplicate content for businesses because product information like inventory is all the same and can't be unique. Is that true?

Not exactly. This allowance is for e-commerce platforms and is suspected to be applied to the inventory on dealer websites. BUT there's a catch. The webmaster must include code on those duplicate pages that signals this to Google. Its called the rel=cannonical tag, and most of the website providers DON'T USE IT FOR INVENTORY! That means your inventory is duplicate content too!

I tried to include the regular spin you'll likely hear if you research this, but understand, one of the website providers listed here recently sold for nearly $1 billion. These are massive companies who's primary client is the OEM not you the dealer.

Why would my OEM want my website provider to hurt me?

Maybe it wasn't originally intended, or by design, but I have to believe that the most digitally savvy people working for OEMs realize that by devaluing the authority of the dealer website it makes it easy for the OEM to rank in the dealer's backyard which then gives the consumer choice. Remember, if you're a Honda dealer the best place to increase your sales efficiency is by taking deals from the nearest Honda dealer you compete with. The OEM doesn't want this because they still sell the same customer the same Honda. They want you to take deals from the Toyota dealer and the Nissan dealer. How can they ensure this happens? By controlling the level of competition in search.

We are still researching this issue and will continue to update the community on our findings. Our goal is to see these website vendors face the reality of the continually evolving digital landscape. You've known this was coming and if you haven't prepared for it, shame on you.

Its time to do whats right and serve the dealer.

Comments

Great article Tim. I for one can tell you this is an issue of scale that is becoming a self fulfilling prophecy. The truth is that it is very hard and time consuming to build a site with unique content. Hard work does not easily translate to profits. Providers are "forced" to take shortcuts so they can produce more sites, make higher margins and win the rooftop race. Dealers use the amount of dealers on your platform as way to rank vendors. Rinse and repeat.

January 15th

"The OEM doesn't want this because they still sell the same customer the same Honda. They want you to take deals from the Toyota dealer and the Nissan dealer. How can they ensure this happens? By controlling the level of competition in search."
Very interesting comment, Timothy.

January 15th

Thanks Mike. I appreciate the feedback.

Aaron, I agree that you've articulated the mindset that perpetuates the bad behavior, but not that it is a justification for it. And I think it is incorrect to purport that its all about the rooftop count for the dealer. Most dealers don't give a damn about what you did for the other dealers, they're only interested in what you're going to do for them.

Rinse and repeat happened. But its just self-justfication by vendors created to distract from a focus on ethics and quality.

January 16th

Absolutely. There really isn't a justification for it. The real point I wanted to make is that dealers generally applaud the reasons this type of thing happens. "VENDOR X has 3000 dealers on board they must be doing something right."

More often than not during the shopping phase a dealer will ask us how many dealers we work with. I'd be willing to bet that the majority of these dealers are thinking the more the better. With that mentality you get things like duplicate content.

January 16th

I am embarrassed that this is my store in the above article... But I hope others can learn from it and catch it quicker than I did.

January 16th

Not to worry, Matt. We'll get you moved to a provider who will deliver the goods in short time!

January 16th

Comments 1 - 6 of 6

You must be logged in to comment

Login Create an account

Add your comments:

   

Timothy Martell's Recent Posts

Related Posts

  • Spark Additional Revenue with Reputation Management

    It’s no secret that auto buyers are turning to online resources before making an in-store purchase. Today’s buyers are more informed and ready to purchase when they walk into their dealership of choice. This is because these internet-savvy shoppers are researching their favorite model, including options and availability, examining local dealerships to see who carries the model of their choice, and visiting review and social sites to gather other consumers’ opinions to solidify their decisions. Once this extensive research is complete, then buyers go to the dealership to test drive the vehicle. Sound about right? With these types of buying patterns, it is more important than ever for your dealership to make a good first impression. But, how do you make a good first impression on the internet? Believe it or not, there are plenty of ways to accomplish this, but today we’re going to focus on upholding a positive online brand image through reputation management of online reviews. ...Read post

  • Is it time for an individualized CRM for Internet leads?

    After working with my dealer for 3 years now I have come across an issue that seems to rear its ugly head quite often... the problem is that my co-workers and managers alike just don’t seem to we willing to embrace the idea that customers are coming from the internet. Because of this we are always spending our entire marketing budget on print ads, "Beacuse thats whats working!" "I have set to see google bring me a deal."  I would like to get some input on my thoughts out-side of my dealer. It seems that we are now entering of not already head deep in the world of online. But the leads that come in via online sources are non-emotional. We have no way to gauge their interest beyond the words they surrender to us in their inquiries and I feel that it is unfair to simply place these leads as part of a dealers active CRM lowering the stats of a dealer. I feel that if possible Internet leads require a CRM outside of the current systems dealers have in place, as we still cannot con...Read post

  • Sometimes It’s Better To Cut Your Losses

    I am sure many of you have heard about the recent customer service debacle involving Comcast over the past week. In case you aren’t familiar with what happened, a customer called into their service center attempting to cancel his service after almost a decade. He was transferred to a customer retention department and, unfortunately, was connected with a person who did the exact opposite. The customer’s patience during this call is amazing. The Comcast representative hounds him for almost 18 minutes (only 8 of which were recorded) repeatedly asking the same questions in his efforts to either keep the customer or understand why the customer was leaving. The customer eventually succeeded in getting his services cancelled, while the Comcast employee succeeded in doing more harm to his company than good. You see, this customer recorded the conversation and posted it online. Since July 14, over 5 million people have listened to this recording. Countless articles have also been written ...Read post

  • How To Sell 24 Cars Every Month Online By Appointment [Graphic]

    Car Dealers: Each of your BDC Reps or Internet Salespeople can produce 24 sales every month each, working by appointment, by following simple math!Read post

  • Content Marketing for the Innovative Dealership

    Dealerships are facing an uphill battle in the fight to reclaim search rankings from third-party listings, as well as the attempt to win customers through social media. For both automotive SEO and social media marketing, however, content is the single most important factor for overall success. You can optimize your dealership’s site to compete for certain keywords, but that’s only going to get you so far with Google. In order to truly impact rankings, you need to acquire links to your site. The absolute best way to do that is to produce content worth linking to in the first place. That is the essence of content marketing. What is Content Marketing? Content marketing is the art of creating high-quality content for the purpose of building awareness about a product, service, brand, or company. This is typically accomplished without employing sales tactics or openly pushing an agenda, unlike other forms of advertisement. The idea is to create content that your target audience ...Read post

  • Your Dealership's Staff Wants a Culture of Appreciation

    A dealership is often a high-stress environment, and if you don’t have a viable plan to show your employees that you appreciate them, you’re going to have to hire and re-hire over and over and over again…ad infinitum. So how do you typically show your employees that you appreciate them for their work? The money. You give your team monetary incentives in return for their excellent skills, which helps them feed their families while creating success for your store. However, some employees are motivated by something other than monetary gain. Some employees, no matter how much you pay them, are really looking for you to show your appreciation through your culture and other resources.   Let’s put this in perspective. Your employees spend 8 hours (often more) of their life each day at your dealership. That’s one-third of their existence. They are taking time away from their immediate families to be with you and work for you. And if you want them to continue to spend their pre...Read post

  • Inbound Marketing: How To Win Customers By Influencing People

    Lead > Contact > Show > Sell (LCSS). That is the very definition of Automotive Inbound Marketing. Have you ever noticed that the vendors in the automotive marketing space who are minimizing the importance of leads are also the same vendors that have never been able to generate them with any success? Marketing is a conversation. The start of that conversation is a lead. If you’re relying on lot traffic alone, you are not maximizing your sales potential. By not seeking those conversations prior to the customer coming onto your lot, there is no way to know their motivations for being there. If you don’t know their motivations, then you are simply along for the ride. It’s much easier to sell a vehicle when you have information prior to the customer arriving, wouldn’t you agree?  The dealerships that understand the LCSS process are the ones who are selling more cars. Ask yourself this question: “In today’s connected world, how do you expect to compete if you ar...Read post

  • You Shouldn't Buy Your Suits at Walmart

    There's nothing wrong with shopping at the local supercenter. The convenience of getting toilet paper, bananas, a video camera, and a package of socks for the kids all in the same place saves time and often saves money as well. However, there are lines that shouldn't be crossed. If you're looking for something as important as a suit, you probably want to go to a place that specializes in them. That's why it concerns me when I hear from dealers who are marketing to their customer database or even to conquest lists through their one-stop-shop providers like CRM companies. I'm not trying to start a way with any of these companies, but it simply doesn't make sense to perform one of the most important and detail-driven marketing practices through systems that simply aren't designed to handle them. Yes, many other companies throw in loyalty or conquest marketing into their tool set because they can, but that does not mean that it will be effective. There is an art and a science to appendin...Read post