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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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In all my reading over the years about the SEO industry, two things stand out. First, how the conversation in the general technology/Internet press is almost entirely dominated by discussions about how this SEO strategy is ‘wrong’ or this one is the ‘ultimate’. And secondly, how relatively silent the major automotive press has been on the serious benefits of SEO. For instance, recently, when I was researching what was being written about automotive SEO at the dealer trades, I did what every other person on earth would do—I googled it and found that while there’s a towering mountain of articles on every aspect of dealer Internet marketing (leads, paid search, email, etc.) and much technical bantering and sales pitches for SEO services, there’s hardly anything written in the form of truly objective journalistic information on SEO.

And while the conversation has been trapped between nitpicking…or no conversation at all…the upshot is this: the lack of good SEO is translating into a ton of lost business for dealers.

I think it’s high time to start a real, ‘big picture’, positive conversation about SEO, because the fact is there’s no single more sustainable and affordable way to drive sales and service business into your dealership than by improving your placement at the big search engines--where the vast majority of your customers turn when car shopping or hunting down service providers. And in this terrible economy, finding new, smart and super-affordable ways to drive calls and leads directly to your websites and stores has never been more crucial.

I would venture to say there’s NEVER been a greater disconnect between the consumer’s rapid adoption of a medium, the high ROI of search solutions and marketers’ slow reaction, than in the case of SEO. We all know search is huge and it’s not going anywhere, but dealers also need to know that advanced, professional SEO really works. It’s not black’s a real science and an art, with measurable, powerful results.

Despite all the confusion, I know that dealers understand the importance of home-run media placement better than anyone. A decade ago that meant a full-page ad in the paper or Yellow Pages or a catchy TV spot. Today the highest-impact media placement is less sexy, but lethal: coming up first 24 hours a day when that consumer types in, say, ‘Ford Dealer Miami,’ and finds you, not your competitor, and gives you the call.

As more dealers realize they’d be crazy not to promote their websites at the search engines (after all search results are the #1 way consumers are choosing car dealers), they need an honest, informed conversation to guide them.

And there’s so much to talk about. How do I get started? How does it work? What results can I expect? How to choose vendors and what you need to do to stay on top.

To that end, I will be posting regularly on many aspects of online marketing and how to leverage ALL of your dealership’s online assets to drive more sales. And I welcome all questions and comments—because it’s time to get real about SEO.

Richard Winch, CEO, eXtéres Corporation

PS Don’t take my word for it. These facts speak for themselves.

Search is the #1 Way People Find/Select Dealers:

* When’s the last time you picked up the Yellow Pages? Search engines have overtaken Yellow Pages as the first place Americans turn when looking for local businesses, and roughly 9 in 10 consumers now use search to select local businesses from which to shop.

* 4 in 5 consumers now primarily using search engines to locate auto dealerships.

Why A Dealership Has to Own The First Page (Or Might As Well Not Come Up At All)

* A typical Google search for local dealership information yields an avalanche of results. For example, ‘Honda Dealer Cleveland’ or ‘Toyota Dealer Chicago’ each generates well over a million hits at Google on a typical day.

* Searchers are more impatient than ever: nearly 7 out of 10 search engine users only click on results on the first page of results—the top 10 ‘hits.’

Vast Majority Choose ‘Organic’ Search Results Over Paid Ads

* 87% of all search clicks come from organic search—not pay-per-click ads.

* 95% of all paid search impressions on Google do not result in a single click.

SEO Becoming a Hot Priority—Especially In Tough Times:

* In 2009, numerous surveys reveal that SEO is quickly becoming a top online marketing priority. For instance, Internet Retailer recently reported that SEO now ranked as the #1 priority for retailers (73%)—and a TopRank survey showed SEO was the #1 Internet tactic marketers would focus on in the near future—beating paid search, email, social networking, etc.

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