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Pay Per Click marketing, often called Search Engine Marketing, is slowly becoming one of the most sought after forms of advertising for car dealers. It is less expensive and often more effective than conventional marketing through radio, television, or newspapers, and has the convenience of an easily adjustable budget.
The problem with many of the offerings out there is that the products being pushed by companies are not maximized for the dealers' benefit. While SEM should always be secondary to SEO (which has a much higher and more sustainable return on investment) it is still an important part for many marketing plans. As such, there are less-than-desirable products being offered.
When looking for a search engine marketing firm, here are five things that you should look for, listed in reverse order from least important to most important:
#5 - Masters of the Automotive Segment
SEM for car dealers is completely different from SEM for realtors, lawyers, or pharmaceutical companies. A company should specialize in or be able to demonstrate proficiency with the automotive segment. It is unique, competitive, and most of all, hard.
#4 - Easy Accessability and Quick Turnaround on Changes
The OEMs have a tendancy of springing things onto their dealers on short notice such as sales and incentives. Nature can do the same thing with storms. There are many factors that may require a swift change in the wording or focus of a search engine marketing campaign. If it takes more than a couple of days to make this kind of change, that's too long.
#3 - Adjustable Budgeting on a Monthly AND Daily Level
As simple as it is to set up on Google, Yahoo, and MSN, it is amazing sometimes that vendors will not adjust budgets on the fly. The reason for this could be touched upon in #1 down below. It could also be a lack of ability in managing the campaign. Regardless of the reason, the result should be the same. If you can't adjust your budget regularly, you shouldn't go with that particular company.
#2 - Hands on Partnerships, Set-it-and-forget-it, and Everything in Between
Different dealers have different levels of desired participation. Different vendors offer different levels. Some are designed for dealers to write a check every month and do nothing else. Others have tools and resources available for the dealer to manage the campaign themselves. If you can find a company that will do both, plus anything in between, you are more likely to be satisfied with the product.
Think of it like this: in the beginning, you may want to be very hands on as you get a feel for the product. As time goes on and you feel that your campaign has hit its "sweet spot" you may want to back off and let your firm handle all of the tweaks and adjustments. Having that level of flexibility will help you keep your sanity strong and your campaigns even stronger.
#1 - FLAT-RATE MANAGEMENT FEES
There is no way to stress this more. Most companies take a percentage of the spend. They are then asked to recommend adjustments to budgets that will benefit the dealer. This is a conflict of interests. If they tell you that you should raise your budget by $500 per month, how can you be sure that they are giving you advice that has your best interests in mind? If you could do with spending less to gain a more effictive ROI, do you think that those charging a percentage of spend will recommend this?
Managing $1000 a month campaigns is not much easier than managing $5000 per month. With this in mind, why would they want to charge a percentage instead of a flat fee? A good amount for a flat fee should be betweek $300-$800 per month depending on the activity level of the campaign.
Regardless of what you spend and who manages your search engine marketing campaign, always remember that SEM should only be a supplement for automotive search engine optimization. Build a foundation with optimization, then spend the money to help your website grow.
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Learn more about Automotive SEO on this blog.