Is anyone having a similar issue with cars.com and Autotrader?

Mitchell Brenner
We have seen a sharp decrease in the effectiveness in our Cars.Com and Autotrader business. Leads are down. Phone calls are down. Hits to our website from them are down. Of course they're only answer is to always ask us what we're doing wrong so let's get that out of the way. We have custom comments on all our Pre-Owned Vehicles. We use First Look software to insure that our vehicles are priced correctly and we check it daily. We have 25 - 50 photos per vehicles and video on our AutoTrader site. Is this a problem others are having?
LORI FINNEY
I agree with the first post. I have much more trouble showing a good ROI for Autotrader and Cars as I done in years past. I have however started tracking my cost per impression but I am not sure this is good enough. I have seen a surge in my contacts from another source of usedcars.com which I only pay per lead. These make me feel much more comfortable and can go along easily with the ROI model I am used to. So, should I shift my justifications in keeping AT.com and Cars.comn to impressions? It would be fine with me but I have unfortantly trained myself and my owners to "clearly" see the ROI for online advertising. However, I feel that the push to prove ROI is shifting somewhat across the board. I do believe more people walk thru the door after finding vehicles online without contacting the dealership first. Now we back back to the game of "did the showroom salesperson ask them what brought them in." The answer is almost alway no. In short, I also find myself wondering are these listing sites such as Autotrader.com and Cars.com working for me??? I can't imagine that they are not but I find it much harder to prove than I used to.... Any other thoughts on these sources?
Jason Mattia
Tracking from this sites is just not as easy as it used to be. Consumers don't want to give up control of the sale by giving their email address and or phone number. Honestly, why would they. They have access to all the data they need and can filter it in numerous ways. If a Dealer does everything right. Great Photography, Competitive Pricing, Free Vehicle History Reports, Accurate Content, and a Good On-Line Reputation why would they send in an email or call? Maybe to check availability, otherwise they appear on the showroom floor as regular showroom floor traffic. It's doubtful that the majority of dealers have any real matrix in place to track / source showroom traffic, so these customers get lost in the Analytics. New car shoppers will start at research sites, and move from there to a search engine to find their local dealer, so SEO, SEM and On-Line reputation is key. But, Used car shoppers can't find the vehicle in a long or short tail search properly, and will most likely move to a 3rd party portal to be able to search multiple vehicles at once, that's why Photography, Pricing, Content and History Reports are key. The bottom line is, consumer habits have not changed that much in the Used car space, It just that dealers have gotten a lot better at pricing and marketing their vehicles, and consumers are just staying a step ahead. Try developing a robust, accurate way to source your showroom traffic, and I'm sure you will see that although Cars & Autotrader appear to be too expensive and your email / phone calls have been declining, they still provide a decent return. Think about it......Buy a car for yourself if your not in the business and where would you go for a Used car? Jason Mattia • AutoEngage, Inc.
Brian Pasch
At NADA we announced a new set of products to help car dealers publish their own inventory on blogs and social media sites. In effect, dealers can start to build their own local advertising networks for the cars they have in stock using low cost and free blogging and social media websites. You can read more about the product at http://www.carportapp.com and DrivingSales.com car dealership members can test drive the technology for two months for free, as long as you don't compete with an existing PCG client. Test drive a new way to publish your inventory and expand the visibility of the cars that you sell. If interested, contact Carrie Hemphill at 732-450-8200 so we can set your dealership up on our national, regional and local advertising platform tools. Brian Pasch PCG Digital Marketing http://www.dealer-seo.com
Camille Forte
@Brian, I couldn’t agree more; the entire landscape of marketing, particularly in the automotive industry, has changed drastically. Two old adages came directly to mind after reading all these posts… “the bend in the road is not the end in the road unless you fail to make the turn,” and “if you want something done right, you’d better do it yourself.” In the automotive marketing industry, we’re at a strange crossroads where the traditional customer purchasing funnel is turning, and individual dealership websites are functioning as their own research portals and even virtual showrooms. It’s about reducing customer burden, the 1st rule of marketing, and over ¾ of customers go online before ever setting foot in a showroom. If they could not only research their desired vehicle on your site but also get a comprehensive virtual view and an online special, they’re going to remember you for sure, and you’re their new research portal AND inventory destination. Now you can even get a fully functional dealership website for as low as $225/month, and it’s completely customizable with you in the driver’s seat, no pun intended. Meta tags are at least halfway into the history books, and SEO is about far more than inventory, it’s about branding within your content. Anyone can find a year X model Y on sale for Z through Autotrader or Cars.com, but they’re ruled by the highest bidder. Again, if you want it done right, do it yourself and you’re better off with a fully-optimized, dynamic site that’s packed full of content that will blow the traditional contenders(lead providers) out of the water. Furthermore, when you go with the traditional lead providers, you’re not directly managing your competition, you’re indirectly bidding against them for listings and leads. Microsites are effective, and serve as amazing boosters to a holistic marketing program in every way from SEO to “link juice.” Your best bet is to go with a web provider that can give you a platform you can control and change with your changing dealership activities, incentives and marketing needs… it’s web 3.0. If it’s traffic, leads and SERP (Search Engine Results Page) rankings you seek, opt for the seamless integration of a holistic online marketing program to go along with that platform. Doing so will get you an expert partner who can help you navigate all these industry changes and show you how to get and stay on top, dealing not only with your individual needs but also the activities of your competition. SEO isn’t just an algorithm, it’s an art, science and strategy. Nonetheless, the traditional methods of advertising have long-since dwindled by comparison with respect to ROI. A web 3.0, dynamic yet low-cost website - not only would you be able to optimize, but you’ll find yourself re-optimizing and re-optimizing until you really are on top every time.
Clarence Romero
@Mitchell I hope all is well, I know that Autotrader has changed some search functions and just like always think it's for the better. Their search is also based on what dealer pays the highest and it turns customers off. Your not the only one that feels this way about Autotrader. Cars.com is seasonal as Brian said. They have their ups and downs but have been doing ok for some dealers. My suggestion is to see their most searched vehicle report. I know Cars.com has a pretty detailed one maybe that can help. Clarence

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