As I prepare for the Automotive Marketing Boot Camp
(AMBC) on February 12th in Orlando, I thought that I would start a conversation on automotive microsites and why they should be a part of an automotive marketing strategy.
I will be conducting a seminar on microsite marketing strategies at the boot camp, a topic that I am very passionate about. Microsites are a marketing sleeper strategy for most car dealers and platform providers. Dealers who attend this seminar will be well rewarded in the years to come.
Microsites are not to be confused with landing pages
or doorway websites.
are an optimized web page that dealers use in a pay-per-click campaign like Google Adwords. The landing page can be on your website or on a third party website. If a dealer was running a tent sale and created an optimized page about the event and directed clicks from Google Adwords to this page, it would be considered a landing page.
are a landing page placed on its own domain name. They are normally a one page website used to capture leads from traffic generated by pay-per-click campaigns, affiliate marketing programs, or in some cases, direct traffic. These doorway websites are not content rich and often are more graphically weighted with attractive designs or even flash technology to add pizzazz.
My definition of an automotive microsite, up until last month, was 10-15 pages of targeted content placed on a targeted domain name with blogging enabled but without
live inventory. This would be a base of content that would be added to each month; 2-3 articles per month.
A theoretical example is a BMW dealer that wanted to increase their service business in Atlanta. If they purchased www.bmwserviceatlanta.net
and created content about all their service offerings and common BMW service procedures, that would get hundreds of hits to this site organically each month. Google indicates that at least 400 people a month
type the phrase "BMW service Atlanta" and this domain would be an exact match for that phrase. With good content, this microsite would be #1 in search results because the ".com" version is being redirected to another website.
The question for service managers is this: "Would you like to attract another 25, 50 or 100 service customers a month from your PMA?
" With the right call to action, services specials and offers you can expect to capture some of those 400 customers each month who search that phrase.
WordPress Microsite Technology
The tool that I like to use for creating microsites is WordPress
. This popular "open source" content management system (CMS) tool is recommended because:
- There are no licensing fees
- It is easy to setup a website and blog
- It can be hosted inexpensively (<$100 a year)
- There are thousands of developers around the world improving the platform every year
- There are thousands of free software enhancements to make the website more attractive
- It is easy to maintain
- Anyone with Microsoft Word equivalent skills can create and add web pages
- You can drop in video, audio and images easily to any page
- It's an SEO consultant dream
Game Changing Technology
At the 7th Digital Dealer Conference
my definition of a WordPress microsite changed. DealerTrend unveiled the industry's first commercially available plug-in for WordPress that displays a car dealer's new and used car inventory. The plug-in creates an SEO optimized website page for every car you have in stock.
This plug-in has changed the rules for automotive microsites because it takes what was once a 20 page microsite with rich content to a microsite with a few hundred highly optimized model specific pages. Taking WordPress microsites to this level turns WordPress into a robust automotive inventory marketing tool
. I applaud DealerTrend for being the first to offer such a tool and taking the risk to offer it to car dealers.
The Pasch Consulting Group was the first Automotive Marketing Company to integrate the DealerTrend WordPress plug-in to our Automotive WordPress microsites. We have hundreds of microsites that are operating for lead generation, Internet Reputation Management, and branding. Having this tool available to our customers can transform these sites into more effective tools for car sales.
This plug-in creates dealer inventory microsites in minutes, once the feed is setup, and allows dealers to add content themselves or hire a consultant to write content which will make the microsite effective for organic search marketing. For more information on the plug-in, visit www.dealertrend.com
Can I Toss My Existing Vendor?
Some dealers have been quick to ask me if the WordPress plug-in will change the industry website landscape by offering open source website platforms that can replace the traditional leased website platforms. The answer is no
; at least for the near term. Also, the DealerTrend plug-in is not free since it requires your inventory feed to be hosted and fed to your microsite.
Adding inventory to a WordPress website is not a replacement
for a full service automotive website platform offered by companies such as eBizAutos, TK Carsites, Dealer.com, DealerFire, DealerOn or Dealer eProcess. Dealers need to have a solid infrastructure for Internet Marketing which includes tools for CRM, ILM, Newsletters, Video and SEM. Dealers need to find a core web infrastructure that gives them a set of robust tools for search marketing, sales process management and customer support.
Data integration and analysis will only get more important in months to come and the majority of dealer marketing budgets will move to online spending. Until companies come up with WordPress Plug-ins for CRM, ILM and other functions that dealers need to run their businesses, WordPress will still be a complimentary platform.
A number of people are working on WordPress tools, so in a year from now my answer could very well change. For small independent used car dealers, the WordPress platform and an inventory plug-in may be just the trick to give them the SEO marketing tools that they need at an affordable price tag.
Can Microsites Replace Third Party Inventory Marketing Platforms?
The WordPress enhanced microsites can feed into a dealer's main website system as an affiliate marketing source. Just as companies like Cars.com and Autotrader.com place dealer inventory on their marketing platforms and send leads to a dealer's CRM system, enhanced microsites with live inventory will perform a similar function. This plug-in allows you to create targeted, in-state inventory marketing platforms; the possibilities are just endless.
The WordPress open-source development environment and this type of plug-in makes it affordable to deploy live inventory on multiple domain optimized microsites. According to DealerTrend, dealers who implement five microsites would end up spending about $200 a month per microsite.
Are Automotive Microsites New?
Car dealer platform providers have the ability to offer microsites as part of a marketing strategy using their proprietary website software. From my viewpoint, most vendors in the website space do not see the need or the economics for such an offering.
Microsites marketing concepts have been around since for at least 10 years as Ralph Paglia mentioned on the Automotive Digital Marketing community. In 1999 Ralph was an early advocate of microsites and created numerous microsites while working at HAC Group.
What makes the WordPress option interesting is that it allows for unlimited content creation and hundreds of free software enhancements. The counter argument is that car dealer platforms are just now integrating blogs and content on-the-fly so they can now compete with the content creation element of WordPress.
The rules of marketing and consumer engagement are changing. The 2009 ASMA study of 34 website platforms revealed that nine automotive website platforms have industry leading platforms for search marketing. This includes content on the fly and fully optimized inventory pages.
We will wait to see, however, if automotive website providers have the insight to create a microsite marketing model within their existing offering. The marketing data that we have collected would suggest that microsite marketing is here to stay and it is an untapped marketing opportunity for car dealers.
Let me conclude by saying that some OEM's have been discouraging their dealers to own domains for web marketing that do not include their business name. I have witnessed car dealers being forced to consolidate or shutdown their microsites that have state or city names plus their OEM brand.
Restrictive marketing guidelines that forbid a Boston dealer from creating a microsite like www.toyotacamryboston.com
are a lucrative opening for third party lead collectors and automotive marketing platforms to dominate local search and force car dealers to pay for leads or advertising.
To be fair to OEM concerns, car dealers should not
be allowed to deploy domains that include their competitor's brand name. However, city names in or around their PMA should be open game if consumers are willing to drive to their dealership.
A strict crackdown on dealer domain marketing will be a boom for third party lead collectors and would restrict car dealers who are innovative and aggressive online marketers.
PMA Maps Are Invisible To Internet Shoppers
For years, TV stations and newspapers in Metro areas like Boston have run ads from competing OEM dealers in downtown Boston and its suburbs. Those were the rules of engagement since the media outlets crossed PMA lines. Treating the Internet in terms of PMA boundaries is a naïve thought.
Dealers should be able to innovate automotive online marketing with a microsite strategy that uses high value domain names. Otherwise, it would be like telling car dealers that they can't advertise on TV because someone outside of their PMA might see their ad and cause an unfair marketing advantage.
The first Toyota dealer in the Boston suburbs who is smart enough to purchase a domain like www.usedtoyotaboston.com
should be able to market their cars on that domain. OEM's already endorse car inventory advertising from multiple dealers in one state on Cars.com and Autotrader.com. The hypocrisy is amazing. Let's hope that cooler heads prevail in the coming years otherwise dealers lose significant tactical advantages.
What is Your Microsite Strategy?
Microsites are extremely effective tools for online marketing and they will increase in value as the evolution of blogging and social media turns car dealers into content marketing engines. Having the right website assets to place that content will determine who wins the competition for high value keywords in your local PMA and state.
A copy of this microsite article can be downloaded on Slideshare