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Jared Hamilton
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VJ VJ eCommerce Director

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Diaries of an Internet Sales Director, Chapter 1


After almost a couple of  years of working with a leading internet marketing vendor and working the speaking circuit Volker Jaeckel (aka “@VJnator”) returns to the dealership world as an Internet Sales Director.  “Here is my story of rejoining the store and the steps I took that made my website the best performing in my group and achieved “#1 CPO Dealer in the state” status six months in a row.  Let me share how I believe a new Internet Manager can quickly make their store a success as well.” (Stay tuned for my  upcoming workshop “Internet Marketing Cliff Notes -short, sweet and successful.”)

Chapter I - It hurts to crawl on my knees again. Luckily it is only temporary.

Don't forget to always crawl first when evaluating a new situation.

That is it….I am back into the dealership world. I missed you, the world of shiny showrooms, the smell of rubber and the so-distinctive new car smell. And yes, I missed the challenge of helping a store achieve its full potential as a 21st century dealership embracing the Internet.

Tip #1: View your site through your customer’s eyes

Where do I start? Personnel? Process? Lead Providers? – No, I decided that shouldn’t be priority #1.  What is most important is getting an idea of how your dealership appears to your prospects. I needed to first put on my “consumer-glasses” to understand what they are seeing, and then I can determine the path forward that will get the consumer to buy at my store. What did I do? Let’s crawl and see.

All of us in the dealership should know by now that at least 90% of all car shopping starts somewhere and somehow online. Shoppers “Google or Bing around” search phrases related to the model desired and the city they live in. This initial search generally leads to reviewing 3rd parties like Edmunds or AOL.Autos for test results and independent car experts’ advice. After that, they most likely end up on the OEM’s manufacturer website, lured by whatever seasonal offers or events are taking place right now. From the OEM website, the customer drills down to find which dealership is closest to their zip code. 

 So, taking this roadmap of typical automotive buying behavior, my first action should be clear: “CHECK YOUR DEALER WEBSITE(s)”. The things I will be looking for are pretty straightforward.

Does my website has the same advertising messaging my OEM is portraying on their site? For me as an eCom Director it is mandatory to have events like “Autobahn for all” or “Sign then drive” event on all my dealership websites. I am not speaking just about having the graphics but also written content of these national campaigns on my site(s).

Tip #2: Make sure shoppers responding to OEM advertising and programs find them on your site.

Adding OEM promotional content assures that local prospects looking for those campaign deals will find familiar territory and verbiage on my site. They know immediately that “VJ Motors” is participating in these well-known manufacturer deals seen on TV, Radio, Off- and Online. As a dealer, doing this will guarantee me a fraction of the millions and millions of dollars spent by my OEM. I get my piece of the huge advertising campaign pie – and everybody knows….I love pie.

Here was my first plan of action:
  • Determine my OEM’s current ad campaign (In this case the “Going Going Gone Event”)
  • Update all new car specials shown in the website with the particular “Going Going Gone” phrase
  • Main URL page showed as first slider Going Going Gone event participation, linked to the New Car Special page
  • SEO Content was modified and “Going Going Gone Event” as well “Autobahn for All” slogans were weaved in on homepage, New Car inventory page, New Car Special page and various model pages.

Because we all know that SEO results do not show up overnight, the written content placed on the described pages is here for the long run and should be not taken down when the OEM campaign stops – most likely you will see the same named event taking place again a few months down the road and in the meantime your content pages hopefully left some impactful results in the SERP.

Tip #3: Leverage all your content in social media and see SEO results soar

Post promotional content in your social media, such as a photo montage on your blog captioned “VJ Motors in Motorville enjoys the hundreds of customers stopping by customers during the VW Going Going Gone event.” The reason for doing this is that search engines love news updates through social media streams. By optimizing these channels with your dealership name and the event name in the post, you are supporting your organic SEO piece by piece. Try it – it has worked for me! 

Tip #4: “But I have no time to do any of this”

As a busy dealer, aligning with OEM’s may sound like a lot of work and too much of a hassle. I felt this way too.

There are two main ways I’ve found to alleviate the hassle issue: Choose an endorsed website provider and work with their professional account strategist. 

If your dealership has an endorsed website provider with OEM-coordinated advertising campaigns, the work you need to perform on your end will be a little bit less, thanks to perfectly timed and “ready-to-go” websites and landing pages at the start of the national campaigns.

Another thing that helped me was that I could speak to my account advocate at the website provider to assist me in my efforts to tweak my messaging to my taste. So, if you’ve signed up for this type of service – use it, bring up your ideas, and let them do the main frame work. That way you can focus on the other things you need to do, making a dealership or dealer group successful – as I will show you in my next chapter.

Hello Stephen: Thanks for your reply. Also when I appreciate your USP's and pointing them out, I still believe that the receipe described in my first chapter are working. I did the same tactic long time ago when I took over a Auto Group of 13 franchises in Georgia and catapulted them into higher spheres and sales. Now with the two franchises I served in my described example, I found the same issues. No brand identification, no announcements of national OEM campaigns and no USPs. And the funny part here is that it was not a Cobalt site but a different provider. Looking at the metrics and conversion of leads, from views and especially form submissions was shocking for me. My secondary website (Cobalt) actually showed higher conversion and call to action sunmissions than the primary non-Cobalt site. Especially when I had signed up for the Dealer Ad Packages guaranteeing me a more targeted SEo, Landing pages, mobile and retargeting. I went ahead and changed the mixture of displaying the website into mirroring the OEM campaigns. Resulting in increased unique traffic by +19% in the first 3 months. With mirroring the efforts, no matter if you use OEM endorsed websites or others, you will also create hopefully relevant content pages insde your site. They always paid huge for me!! Keep in mind, the OEM, who is spending let's say $40 million for a nationwide campaign offline and online, and you are able to surf on the wave with them for a small fraction of these costs. I made a test on "Going Going Gone VW New York" as search term, and only 4-5 dealerships showed up. Would you agree that when I am in the market for this event offers that I more likely will call one or two of the first Google page shown dealerships? So the fear you may have in not differentiating yourself enough from your 10 dealers surrounding you is not really the main concern you should have. The concern for me would be "Do I show up, when somebody is looking for the nationwide campaign". You definitively do very good on pointing out what "sets you apart" and shows "your competitive advantage", and I would push it as you already do as well. I know that you have actually 1770+ different options in a Cobalt website to design around your needs. I am actually always amazed when heaing about a "cookie cutter" design, which is just not true. Especially now that the new backend rolled out to design and create content. I was working with the Cobalt sites during my time at SONS Automotove and the most current and always differentiated myself enough that customers came in and said "you have the best website out there, that is why we came here" this is a true story! Please stay tuned for my next chapter of my diaries, which I will possibly launch around next week.
John Marzy
What happened to the dear diary blog? I just read chapter one and am looking forward to more....
LOL...thank you John and thank you for being a reader of my posts. The Diary blog is actually the collection of 3 stories, and from there on I also post the latest on research and experience I had with my dealerships and the positions as an eCom Driector. When you follow this link, it will automatically bring to all of the posts I have had written so far for drivingsales. Further you can always check out my private blog and the stories on - I will have a new post up there today, as well. Thank you again, and please spread the word! ;)

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