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It’s amazing how many dealer principals and GMs I meet that don’t feel empowered to make SEO decisions. For many reasons, lots of dealers still perceive it as a ‘technical’ issue - a more minor concept – and it either gets semi-ignored, or the SEO decision is delegated to the Internet, BDC or IT departments. Everyone at our company is living proof: we get pushed from dealer management to the IT department, over and over. SEO is ADVERTISING pure and simple, and, done right, it’s the most powerful, sustainable advertising you can do - for the smallest amount of money. I mean, advertising is your specialty – you know advertising – you’ve always understood the importance of home-run media placement. Years ago that meant splashy radio/TV/newspaper ads, but today your highest-impact ADVERTISING is quieter, less sexy - but totally lethal (and nearly 100% targeted): ranking high, 24/7, when your potential customer types in ‘Philadelphia…Honda…dealer…’ (or those thousand-plus other relevant keyword combinations) and finds you – calls you. You’d never tap your IT dept. to create your next TV spot or newspaper ad. Given the staggering consumer use of search engines, you GMs and dealer principals need to be making the SEO decisions – and SEO needs to move INTO your overall marketing budget and then move to the TOP of your ad plans. It’s arguably the most important ADVERTISING decision you can make. It’s not ‘techie,’ and despite the speed of discussions that have people constantly a-Twitter, it’s not ‘old hat’ - advanced SEO is still far too untapped. What are you advertising with SEO? Obviously, your most potent online tool - your website. Where do you want to advertise it? Everywhere a consumer will look for you online. And you need to feel comfortable not mastering, or even understanding, the intricacies of SEO. What you really need to know? Find a reputable company, with known and satisfied clients that can provide proof of their effectiveness…and let them do all of the work. Your SEO specialist should not boggle you with technical jargon – because you probably don’t really care about the complex ways SEO functions, you care about results and ROI. Your SEO company should optimize your dealer website(s) to reach the maximum number of potential customers that are searching for your brand for sales, service and parts. Your search engine ‘reach’ (like any media buy) is important, because today’s consumer is more likely than ever to travel further for sales and service. You should demand a realistically good- sized demographic market. Your SEO company should only focus on one thing: delivering relevancy to your consumer. Giving searchers what they want, when they want it. And we feel strongly that your SEO provider should guarantee you total market exclusivity, and promise to work with only one brand dealer in your (extended) market. I mean, really…think about it: how can two competitive brand dealers both ‘dominate’ the same market in search? The consumer types in ‘Toyota Matrix Philadelphia’ and both ‘Ben Frankin Toyota’ and ‘Independence Toyota’ achieve top placement and visibility? Powerful SEO packs a powerful punch. Roughly 60% of local auto searches are generic brand/model searches, like ‘Honda, Philadelphia PA,’ and that’s what SEO tackles. Our studies show that dealers experience a pretty astounding lift in site visits, leads and calls when their SEO reaches critical mass of 60%-plus, 1st-page search placement rates, on all of their 1,000-plus, relevant brand-specific sales, service and parts phrases. When you cross that horizon, SEO quickly becomes responsible for the lion’s share of a dealer’s website traffic, and many hundreds of monthly Internet-generated calls. SEO should be your online advertising foundation (and it can be your advertising foundation, period!) – and PPC, third-party leads, Online Reputation Management, blogs, social media, micro-sites, etc. will pack a more powerful, precise punch, at a lower cost, with a great SEO program in place. Dealers’ perception of the importance of SEO is, of course, changing. In October, DrivingSales released the findings of a dealer survey, showing that if dealers’ ad budgets were upped by 10%, the top two things they would invest in now were SEO and their websites. Funny thing is, if you invest in great SEO, you’ll be able to significantly shrink your overall marketing budget… Please feel free to contact me with any (and all) questions. Thanks! Kim Orr: firstname.lastname@example.org or 866.994.2613.