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Dave Erickson

Dave Erickson Internet Sales Director

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Stan, Your Biggest Fan


Many of you are aware of the Automotive SEO Study conducted by PCG Digital Marketing. If not, it's a place where SEO Animals are being born. I'm one of the hopeful animals. Like many others in the study, I'm still responsible for my day-to-day work, including selling cars. Often on test drives, I'm thinking about the study. I'm anxious to wrap up the deal so I can get a few more PR pieces in, because I want my keyword tracking spreadsheet to progress in big ways. I find myself thinking, "Hey, what about my parts keywords? That's low-hanging fruit and I better get after it."

Those are the types of things an animal will do. That's animal stuff. Animals will sooner or later figure out that they didn't update their meta tags and their work is suffering as a result.

Trying to be a good dealer contact, I didn't want to burden my website rep with a question that I can research online – so I went through their training videos. Someone took the time to make these videos. I should check them out, right?

But I see no mention of meta tags. It's like they don't care about them.

An animal's "Step 2" would be to log into the animal kingdom discussion board and hit up his animal friends. I go to the discussion board to find all the other animals who use the same website provider.

Like fellow animals, they tell me meta tag tools do exist. They even provide screenshots with arrows pointing to the "Meta Tags" button. They go all out to help.

Interestingly enough, I don't have such a button.

I finally call my rep. Instead of telling me why or how, he wants to know why I want to know – as if I shouldn't be asking. I explain. He tells me we have a SEO package with them, and they'll help me. I just need to put it in writing. I don't have time, but I do it anyway. I do it right away.

I give an overview and outline some specifics like the fact that some of our meta tags are misspelled. Until the animals told me we were paying, it never occurred to me we would pay for this SEO work. It wasn't nearly as detailed, in-depth, and comprehensive as what we were learning to do in PCG's study. The animals said they're probably billing me $500 for this SEO work. Again, the animals knew and volunteered this information, and they aren't even using the service. They are just dialed in to their vendor.

I asked our rep at the vendor, and he didn't know. He said he'd have to check the contract. I tell him forget the contract; it's not a service we need right now. He says he'll see what he can do and get back to me. This seems great – they'll come up with some alternatives. I hear nothing back for four days. I reach out for a status. The rep tells me we have a contract, at $599 a month, and we can't get out of it.

I would have expected an offer of a transfer of services – moving SEO contract work from the store I'm animalizing to our other, non-animalized store. After all, I'd been trying to convince the powers that be to switch from another CRM provider to my rep's solution since I started almost two months ago (the first week of the study).

The previous day, the vendor told me I couldn't have a license to demo the CRM service to everyone else for buy-off. I found out on my own (not from my rep) that our GM did have a license for their CRM demo. He hadn't logged in since May!  I was excited and emailed my rep to say I may have found a way to help get some buy-off. I'm confident that if I can show everyone, they'll agree it's a better CRM.

He said he couldn't switch it for me – the GM would have to log in and do it. I go to work the next day, interrupt the GM, help him log in, and the system says he's not authorized. Strange – it's the same message I got.

I call my rep. He sighs and says he'll grant me a license. No explanation. Just a sigh. I feel like telling him I'm trying to help him. I wonder why I'm being treated this way.

I remember that when I went to their site to find training videos (when I was baffled regarding meta tag changes), I also read they have an organic coffee bar for their employees, a full gym, and a state-of-the-art ping pong table. I have none of that. Even our voice mail system broke some time ago and was never repaired. I'm stealing the wi-fi connection from a dentist office next door. We finally got coffee just last month and it tastes like tar, but I'm growing accustomed to it. We're happy to have it. When it rained yesterday, it leaked through the ceiling, dripped onto my desk, and got my laptop wet while I was with the GM trying to get the license transferred. Since it was my first rainy day of working there, I hadn't expected it. Now it makes sense why the tile above me is missing. No damage though; all is good.

So I'm not sure why I'm getting the sighs from my rep. My paycheck wasn't even on time. After he gets off the phone with me, he can cruise to the organic coffee bar. No one's stealing deals from him, and no unexpected people arrive to his door for a car sitting 20 minutes away in a storage lot.

When the rep tells me how they won't help me, how they don't think it's unreasonable to take a few days to get back to me on my SEO requests, how I should put requests in writing (though, still nearly two weeks later, they haven't made my changes because apparently they don't agree with them), how they won't let us out of the contract or make any adjustments to it, I was beyond frustrated. They won't even let me access the button to adjust meta tags myself. Because adjustments I make could "interfere with the important and daily SEO work" they do.

I explain that I went from being their biggest fan to someone who will do his best to make sure no one else makes the mistake of signing up with them. I could suddenly relate to the Eminem song about Stan, Eminem's biggest fan. In the song, due to no response from Eminem, Stan becomes increasingly agitated in his fan letters.

But worse than feeling like Stan are the words my rep had for me. They've stuck inside ever since I heard them, and I may not ever forget them. My rep said to me, in a sort of tight-lipped way, "I don't know why you're being so difficult."

I don't recall anyone saying anything like that to me in my entire career – not once in my eight years in the software industry or six years in the auto industry. If I had to honestly answer why I'm being "difficult," it's because I'm frustrated and confused in dealing with this vendor. It's difficult dealing with something or someone that does not respond to you, listen to you, or help you. It's even more difficult dealing with an entity that seems concerned only with keeping its contract. Perhaps that's not the worst of it. Perhaps the worst part is that I used to believe in them.

I used to be like Stan, their biggest fan.

Ryan Thompson
This article is amazing!!! I think you showed true class by not posting the vendors name even though we are dying to find out. I've been involved with a lot of dealers and their website. Even if they don't have the technology for YOU to change the tags on your own, I don't see why you can't write the tags in an email that you would like to change. Should take 10 minutes. We preach online reputation management to dealers day in day out!! Maybe it's time for vendors to realize that their reputation is also ONLINE! Ryan Thompson CAR CHAT 24 Canada
Arnold Tijerina
Amen, brother!
Eric Miltsch
Dave, What an eye opener. I can't believe that anyone can operate this way - hopefully they won't be your vendor for much longer.
Gary May
Dave, Great, great, great post. Wow. A number of things flood to my head aside from thanking you for being (1) a dealership employee (2) posting on DrivingSales. We need more of you! There's not enough sales, management and principals communicating here, helping each other. Simply put this is unacceptable. I've encountered this only three other times in the past three years because our clients use companies that offer true SEO services. And by that I mean that when you get a website in 2010, it better not be an option. SEO is PART of a website and should have been for no less than two years. There is one way to pay for a website: all-in on the basics. That doesn't mean necessarily taking the mondo-content upgrade, building applications for download, widgets, two mobile sites, Facebook apps and more. No. But anyone paying $700 a month, with all due respect to your management, at a multi-million dollar dealership deserves to be had. It's disgusting that our industry tolerates this and it's self-perpetuating to boot. Just as I posted the other day, we don't seem to have an alarm clock big enough to wake everyone up and get rid of the crap. If anyone's dealership is in a metro market and thinks they can get away with spending under $1,500-2,000 on their website, don't come running back a couple years later and ask why the only terms you index well on have your dealership name with them. Anyway... The next 12-24 month period needs to see massive change. The experience you're having is unfortunate but is definitely the norm. Not only is there vapor-ware, smoke and mirrors, unrealized services and more being sold (not saying that is what your website vendor did), the lack of true understanding and comprehension beats dealers into submission. That scares me. And as a little 'pitch' for this automotive community and the summit they organize, promote and sponsor, this is exactly why there is a DrivingSales Executive Summit. You can't attend DSES and not realize that many vendors have thousands of dealerships wrapped around their finger, drinking the Cool-Aid. No, we're better because we can get the advanced information and be part of a better industry segment that is not taking part in a recession, is being progressive to build and not willing to simply wait for the factory to help them. Keep up the great work and make sure that you improve every week, every month, every year. There are some of us out there that are banking on YOU doing that. All the best, Gary May IM@CS
Dave Erickson
Thanks for the responses everyone. I really wish I was attending DrivingSales Executive Summit. I think every dealer who wants to be successful must attend. Great points Gary! I was going to edit into my piece that I'm even shocked knowing how much work goes into SEO how $599 even begins to cover the cost of it. Someday someone will come out with a $99 SEO solution and GSM's will implement a $29.99 mini and when they are utterly crushed by their competitors and they are blown out they'll be carrying around their "cost savings reports" on job interviews. I'm not saying saving costs aren't important, but some cost savings make about as much sense as shutting down the store every other day just to save costs. Too many people don't seem to be in it to win it (sorry to sound corny).

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