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Is Your Dealership's Domain Name Under Attack?


I think we have a pretty great attitude in the auto dealer online community. For as long as I’ve been a part of it, I’ve observed dealers helping each other by sharing marketing tactics and Internet strategies. The daily posts about new ideas and enthusiastic cheers reinforces the idea that we’re all in this together.  But the auto industry is a competitive marketplace, and sometimes dealers might forsake a friendly perspective in exchange for an edge over the competition.

So says this article that Ralph Paglia reblogged on ADM a few days ago. Though a dealership is prohibited by trademark law from using a competitor’s proper name in the text of a paid search ad, some wily dealers are buying their rivals’ names when bidding for search terms to direct traffic. Dealership A might buy Dealership B’s name as a search term so that when shoppers search for Dealership B, they get a Google Ad that directs them back to Dealership A. Pretty sneaky, right?

Google claims that this practice is legally sound, but dealers usually have “gentlemen’s agreements” not to buy each other’s names. However, some dealers breach this unwritten rule just to throw a wrench in the competition’s spokes. What can you do about this problem?

Bid on your dealership’s domain name. You can get around this problem entirely if you’re up on your Adwords campaign. Google holds a continuous auction for specific ad words and phrases that allow dealers bidding the most for those phrases to attain top position on a Google search page. Since advertisers only pay when shoppers click on the ad, you may really want to consider bidding on your dealership name.

Search for your store frequently. See your search results through a customer’s eyes by frequently running searches on your own dealership. You’ll know if someone else has bid on your name if you see a competitor’s paid ad appear. Make sure to protect your ad position by checking up on your search practices!

Personally, I consider this practice predatory and borderline unethical. There are tons of ways you can increase your website presence without resorting to lowballing other stores around you. Follow the unwritten dealer code, and remember that we’re all in this together.

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Gordon Gibbs
Stephen - You have some valid points, in today's internet marketing world you've got to be aggressive without being unethical.  In my opinion digital ads (Paid Search) is no different than a dealership running ads in the traditional manner (Newspaper).  If you plan on running an ad in the newspaper and find out that one of your competitors is doing the same thing, are you going to be a nice guy and forego this from your marketing plans for the month? I hope not! Also; and I know for a fact,  some of  OEM's are running this same practice that you speak of, buying your dealerships name, aggregating the "leads" and then turning around and reselling them to you or to other dealers.  This truly is UNETHICAL!!

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