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The world of marketing has moved online where consumers are largely making their purchase decision before coming to your dealership. You know this and so you have purchased a website (or 2 or 3 or 10). You've got a PPC and SEO campaign running and maybe you're even running banner ads, Facebook ads, and a social media campaign.
But who owns your data? You would assume it would be you or your dealership, but you may be wrong and it could be painful to find out the truth.
Without your knowledge (and perhaps consent) some dealer websites are capturing data on your prospects and customers, sharing some of it with you, and have full ownership of it. If you are unhappy and leave, you could be forfeiting your account history for critically important products like Google Analytics and AdWords. That means you could part ways and walk away empty handed. We've worked with enough dealerships to know how to deal with this, and it's not pretty.
If you are unsure whether or not you have full access to your data, check with your web vendor. Ask them for access to your Google Analytics and Google AdWords account. If you are running Bing Ads, Facebook Ads, or anything else, ask for the login credentials to those accounts as well. The answer you get back from your web vendor will quickly tell you whether or not you have access to your own data. "But it's my data", you may say. Yes, but you may not own it, and you should.
Most vendors have the ability to add an account that will give you access to your data for Google Analytics. It will require that you set up a new Google Analytics account which you can do here. The bigger issues come when you want control of your PPC accounts like AdWords or Microsoft AdCenter (Bing). Typically they will no relinquish access to these accounts. Again, isn't that YOUR account? Shouldn't you be able to access that data to have an outside vendor conduct an audit if you are suspicious that you aren't getting results? Shouldn't you be able to walk away with the account in hand and take it somewhere else if you aren't happy? The short answer is yes. The reality is often different.
If you don't have full access to your data what's the worst that could happen? Well, for starters if you don't have full access to Google Analytics and are forced to start from scratch if you switch web vendors, then you will leave with no historical data on your sites.
So what? Well, in Google Analytics there is a wealth of data about keywords that drive traffic that converts, pages that are underperforming, geographic search data, referral data performance metrics (want to know how well that banner ad online from your local news site is performing? it's in there.), and a wealth of other data that a qualified search engine marketing professional can use to help make campaign refinements that results in navigational improvements, page refinements, increases in lead conversion, and ultimately more cars sold off your lot.
In AdWords or Microsoft AdCenter you would find even more keyword data along with your average Cost Per Click (CPC), Impression Share, Quality Score, Cost Per Acquisition (CPA), and a wealth of other information that could be extremely useful over time. Imagine if you've been running an SEO and PPC campaign for the last 3 years and found out that, when you leave your current vendor, you will be leaving without any of the data being captured on that account for the past 3 years. ALL GONE. 3 years of data on your target market wiped clean because your vendor is holding your data hostage.
It should be illegal, but it's not. So do what you can do to get control of your data.
We are living in an increasingly more digital world where compiling data on your prospects and clients is at an unprecedented level of sophistication. However, if you are just trusting your web vendor to "do the right thing" you may be in for a rude awakening when you part ways. Can you survive it? Yes. Should you do everything you can to ensure you own the data being collected for your dealership? Absolutely.
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