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Blogging has given consumers unprecedented power with free outlets for the distribution of their written opinion about car dealers and/or the cars that they sell. This is both a blessing and a curse depending on the content and target of the written piece. For automotive retailers, Internet Reputation Management has sky-rocketed. Dealers are finding themselves confronted with highly visible commentary of their car dealership on Google, Yahoo and MSN searches.

General Managers often feel helpless in protecting their online reputation from valid blog posts and negative posts planted by competing dealers. On the flip side, car dealers often fail to leverage positive commentary and testimonials posted on the Internet. A simple test would be to ask your dealership how many press releases do they post a month. Having a proactive strategy for disseminating positive customer feedback can often be the best defense against future negative attacks.

Internet Reputation Management services have a bright future. New web content is growing in direct relation to the explosive growth of social networking portals. Each month new tools are being made available to allow a non-technical Internet user to create their own website, blog and social networking portal. With the ease at which content can be created, organized and shared on the Internet, business owners need to be mindful of what is being written about their company.
Free Starter Tools

Protecting your reputation on the Internet can start with using a simple and effective tool called “Google Alerts”. Once you create a free Google account, you can enter specific search phrases into your own watch list. Google will then send you an email with links to articles that include the phrases in your watch list. You can request notifications as they happen or summarized daily, weekly or monthly. I would recommend that you start with the “as it happens” choice for a week, and then decide if you want to move it to “once a day”.

My watch list includes ‘Brian Pasch”, “Pasch Consulting”, “Pasch Consulting Group”, and “NJ SEO”. We also include in our watch list some of the buzz words in the niches we cover. For our Automotive Marketing Division our watch list includes: “Automotive SEO”, “Automotive Digital Marketing” , “Car Dealer Websites” and “Automotive SEO Specialist” . We use Google Alerts for both reputation management as well as tracking what other companies are posting in our competitive space.
Creating your Reputation Management Watch List

A recommended strategy for an automotive watch list would include your dealership name, your product names and the names of your key executives. Knowing what is being said, both positive and negative, is the first step in creating a sustained reputation management plan.
Your Internet Reputation Management strategy should have a clear escalation plan for positive and negative commentary. Positive commentary should be evaluated and the very best should be included on your own company blog or website news page. You may want to get permission from the individual to repurpose their commentary in your marketing materials.

Negative content should have an immediate response strategy which is best handled by a seasoned SEO and Reputation Management Consultant (RPC). Every post will have a different strategy depending on where the post was made and the policies of the website host.

Negative Attacks Apply to All Businesses

Recently, a New York City executive coaching and placement firm called the Pasch Consulting Group about a barrage of vicious attacks on the firm’s founder and on the services they offer for executives in transition. The negative posts were well planned and well placed so that they appeared on Google Page One, when consumers issued a search on the company name. The CEO said that these comments were directly hurting their business and needed immediate relief.

The company’s lawyer had already pursued legal action against the individual who posted the verbal assaults under different names and aliases. This disgruntled individual eventually signed a retraction letter and promised to stop this Internet reputation attack. In reality, he never stopped posting. So we were called in to help. Within 30 days we were able to have the most visible articles removed from the various websites. We also found additional negative posts on business portal sites that we were able to remove directly.

PCG created an offensive plan to get articles posted about the hundreds of satisfied clients the company had from its long history. For this client, they never invested the time to post their client testimonials and case studies on the Internet. Using various techniques, PCG was able to add significant content in Google page 1 and 2 for searches on their company name.

Reputation Management for Car Dealers

For Automotive Dealers, online reputation management must be part of your Internet Marketing Strategy to protect your Primary Market Area (PMA) from neighboring car dealers. If a car dealer’s visible Internet reputation is poor, consumers may very well shop at a neighboring dealership.
I have seen posts on the Internet that were outlandish and shocking. If I were in the market to buy a car, these negative posts would give me second thoughts about buying from certain dealers. It only takes a few angry consumers to make any dealership look like the devil. You can search Google yourself to find dealers being called racist, discriminatory and deceptive.

Often, consumers have a choice between two dealers that are 15 miles apart. If one car dealer has glowing reputation scores and one has low scores, reputation can sway their final pick. I recognize that other factors play a part in that final decision like price, convenience and availability. However, if your Internet reputation can be improved, taking remedial action is mandatory to continue to grow your Internet sales leads.

Sites like DealerRater.com, Yahoo Local, Insider Pages, Google Maps and Yelp all have review engines that can appear on Google Page One when consumers search your business name. General Managers need to implement a system to regularly request positive review from their customers. This can include new car customers as well as service customers.

Automotive retailers should create a list of all review website pages in an email and send these links to satisfied customers. The email should request that they post an honest review of your company; make it easy for them to post a review with one click of their mouse. Do not attempt to post customer reviews from your own business computers. Many of these sites track IP addresses and you could be banned from the directory for review spamming.

Empowering Your Satisfied Customers

Reputation Management requires both an offensive and defensive strategy. The longer your offensive strategy is in place, the harder it is for negative commentary to drastically affect your business. If you have been lax at posting positive commentary, then ANY negative commentary will look out of proportion.

Car Dealers can no longer ignore public commentary and commercial review websites. A restaurant
owner that has a comment posted on the Internet about a food poisoning episode, without balanced commentary, will be affected for consumers looking to try a new restaurant using Internet based searches. A hotel that has posts about dirty bed linens and mildew will see their online bookings drop. Simply stated, any post with your company name needs to be reviewed.

The Pasch Consulting Group has effective methodologies and strategies to assist business owners in implementing a solid reputation management action plan. If you would like additional information, visit www.paschconsulting.com

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