FREE ADVERTISING! (Don’t tell your lead vendor)

sara callahan
When a dealer signs up with a new car, 3rd party lead vendor and agrees on a price per lead, the vendor then places the dealer on their network of independent automotive websites. This means that the dealer’s name and address will be shown to local consumers when the consumer arrives on the free price quote form on 3rd party websites such as,, Yahoo, MSN, AOL and so on. Generally consumers seek out free price quote forms once they have selected a specific vehicle they would like to price. Most research indicates that the lead conversion rate on independent automotive websites is around two (2) percent. This says that about 2 out of every 100 consumers arriving at a free price quote form decide to type in their contact information and submit the form selecting one or more of the dealers listed. What happens to the other 98% of consumers? If 98 out of 100 consumers arriving on a free price quote form, look at the dealers listed and decide not to submit the requested contact information, what do they decide to do? Do they decide to call the dealers they wanted to speak with? Do they decide to stop by the closest dealer now that they know the name and address of their local dealers? Maybe they decide to search on the dealer’s name in Google to find out more. For 98 percent of consumers arriving at a free price quote form, the dealers listed didn’t pay anything to be displayed because no lead was submitted. Isn’t that free advertising? Hey, I won’t tell the lead vendors if you don’t.
Brian Pasch
Sarah, can you give us an example link that shows what you are referring to for the sites you listed above. Before I comment, I would like to see how the dealers are being presented on the sites that you reference. Thanks
sara callahan
Brian, Thanks Brian, Here is a link to a lead form on with dealers listed when you search for a price for a Chevy Camaro in the 33437 zip code. This comes up without my having to submit any information other than the zip code and vehicle. This type of lead form is also displayed for all the other websites I mentioned such as Yahoo, and you can get there by looking for a free price quote on all websites mentioned.
Brian Pasch
Sara Thank you for providing this example. I am not a fan of Edmunds advertising models for car dealers nor am I a fan of this website page design that you suggest. I disagree with your endorsement of this business strategy. If you were a car dealer, would you really want your competitors listed on the same page? Any dealer who wants to invest in an advertising model that shares their attention of a web page with their #1 competitors is at best dilutive. From your examples, Edmunds appears to be in the business of selling leads to multiple dealers. I suggest that sites like Edmunds can not make big money selling leads to a single dealer. So playing their game is one that creates more leads for the dealer's competitors. I have studied the lead generation market for years and it is dangerous to imply that dealers get anything for free. In fact, it is just the opposite. Edmunds has created and published an optimized website page for every car dealership in the USA. These website pages generate free leads for Edmunds every. Why? Because these pages often show up on Google Page One for searches on the dealers trade name. Over 50% of car dealers in the USA who search Google for their dealership name will see on Page One. These leads are obtained at a minimal cost to Edmunds. They are collected at a low cost (virtually free) off the multi-million dollar "branding" investment of car dealers. So, be careful how you characterize this opportunity because in many cases with lead collecting websites, its not "free".
Rob Fontano
I have to agree with Brian. There is absolutely nothing free about Edmunds or any other lead provider for that matter. Edmunds provides "Free" quotes to consumers by charging dealers for the leads. That in and of itself is fine if a dealer chooses to have Edmunds represent them as a research tool directly or via another Third party vendor. Having your dealers name and address displayed amongst your competitors is not what I would consider free advertising. If it is in fact true that only 2% of consumers request a "Free" quote from independent automotive websites, then it speaks volumes to the need for dealers to instead invest their resources into developing their own web sites and SEO / SEM presence since the conversion rate on a dealers website is much higher (or should be).
Joe Webb
I have to piggyback on Brian and Rob's comments. I see what you are saying too. Dealers are listed on a major automotive resource site without having to pay out a dime so it could be looked at as dealership brand awareness. However, Brian hit the nail on the head when he stated it dilutes your own lead opportunities by listing you among competitors. Also, that dealer listed in the example you gave as the "Edmund's preferred dealer" is likely paying. Most third-party lead parties charge about $500 for that designation on the page - trying to tell you it gets you more lead traffic. Then again, their entire format will benefit the customer to allow them to choose multiple dealers to extract leads from. I am not completely opposed to 3rd party leads providers, but I DO believe dealers should do everything in their power to generate their own leads and only work with providers that offer some sort of exclusivity in their leads.

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