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Kelly Kleinman

Kelly Kleinman Digital Content Director

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SEO or PPC: What's More Important?

Just recently, a friend of mine approached me about his dealership site and how they had a consultant (SEO guru), do an SEO analysis of his site. He was concerned that he may be losing money on keyword selection based on the analysis. As I explained to him there is some confusion out there regarding the entire Google platform and that having a balance of both high-level SEO, and an optimized PPC campaign is the ideal. I also explained that you only get charged by clicks, not keyword choices (lol)

Let's cover SEO first. SEO stands for "search engine optimization" which is a practice that makes sure that your website follows all of the necessary rules of engagement to make it easy to rank as organically high on the search engine results pages (SERPs) as possible. It includes having good content in the form of copy, pictures, and video. All material should be relevant to the subject matter and have keywords and key phrases as an essential part of the site copy.  There are other technical aspects but forget those for now.  Having great SEO is the "free" way to get listed.

Offsite SEO is still a huge part of the overall SEO mix. Having other high-quality sites backlink to your website is the water that lifts the ice cube to the top of the glass so to speak. Having your dealership properly listed via all of the 300+ listing sites and the 4 main data companies (Factual, Acxiom, Infogroup and Neustar (Localeze), means that people will correctly know your company name, address, hours of operation, and telephone number. To have incorrect info strewn about the internet will definitely hurt your chances of getting highly-ranked. It will hurt your overall "Quality Score" which is essentially what Google uses to rank you in the search engine, and that's where PPC and SEO strike their balance.

What is the "Quality Score"? Quality Score is Google's rating of the quality and relevance of both your keywords and PPC ads. It is used to determine your cost per click (CPC) and multiplied by your maximum bid to determine your ad rank in the ad auction process. Your Quality Score depends on multiple factors, including:

1) Your click-through rate (CTR) (PPC campaign)

2) The relevance of each keyword to its ad group (PPC campaign)

3) Landing page quality and relevance (SEO)

4) The relevance of your ad text (PPC & SEO)

5) Your historical AdWords account performance (PPC)

As you can see, there is a mix of PPC and SEO involved in optimizing a Quality Score which essentially determines where your stores website is going to show up in a typical search operation. Great SEO alone can get you on to the first page of search, but unless you are well-branded, your position may vary from near the top, to not on the page at all. The leads you get from great organic (unpaid) placement are basically free and are high quality. However, to get into the top position and get the most clicks possible, and the best clicks according to numerous studies, you have to pay for placement.

PPC guarantees a first page presence. The cost of that presence is somewhat based on the quality of the website's SEO execution. The ads in the pay per click campaign have to be compelling enough to get a good click through rate, but the words and phrasing used in each ad must also match those keywords and phrases (long tail search terms) on the website pages they are linked to. The better the execution and matching of verbiage in ads and on the site, the better your organic ranking, and the cheaper you clicks will be. It's a seriously incestuous relationship. Google wants to reward you for creating a good user experience (SEO) but needs to make money so they have PPC to nudge those rankings to the top if you pay enough to rank high.

Google really has it figured out. It used to be that Google had two columns on every search results page. The left column had the organic listings (best SEO executions and/or brand names). People used to click at an 8:1 ratio favoring the organic or "free" listings over the listings in the right column which were all paid for. Google then eliminated the two column design and started putting PPC campaign ads on top of each SERP which now has only one column combining paid and free results. This cut down the ratio that favored free search results and increased Google's click revenue.

The point is, having as much visibility as possible in any search operation is crucial. It's termed "page dominance". In my estimation, the companies that do both well, win. The companies that only do PPC, run inefficient, expensive campaigns. The companies that ignore PPC, are likely too budget-conscious to compete and suffer with inconsistent visibility. Those who combine Google Best Practices, and optimize both SEO as well as their PPC campaigns, dominate their competition.

I hope this helps clarify the decade-old question of how SEO and PPC affect one and other, and how using both to your advantage is the best way to the top of the mountain.  If your dealership is looking for some expertise in SEO and PPC for that distinct advantage feel free to consult with those who responded to this article or visit www.cardealerppc.com for their solution to your current needs.

Al Amersdorfer

Both SEO & PPC are great option if you are looking to promote your business in Search engine rest it depends on your requirements like if you want quick sales or quick response then you should go for PPC because from PPC you will get clicks or call from only those  peoples who are looking for that specific services. In simple words with PPC you will get filtered traffic and on other hand if you are looking for creating quality backlinks so that your site can perform well in search engines in terms of rankings then SEO is great option. You can create quality backlinks with different off page SEO techniques. Currently we are performing SEO activities for our site and we are getting good results in terms of traffic and rankings. Automotive Dealership BDC Consultant

Kelly Kleinman

Good summation Al. The way I see it, there is no option though.  If you have a car dealership and your site is a cheap template that isn't truly responsive and reflective of the best practices SEO doctrine, you're fooling yourself.  If you aren't running ppc, your losing business.  For that matter, if you're using expensive paid classified sites, you might also be losing money that could be better used in a ppc campaign to afford you better visibility in search and more bottom of the sales funnel click traffic that can also be retargeted, but that's subject for another article. Thanks for responding Al.

Andrew James

Thanks for posting this article Kelly! I think your summary at the end is key: "Those who combine Google Best Practices, and optimize both SEO as well as their PPC campaigns, dominate their competition."

While there are definitely advantages to running both Adwords and SEO campaigns simultaneously, I think the key differentiator is how you're positioning your brand for long term success.

With SEO, you're actually building an asset. You're investing time and resources into ensuring your website is accessible to search engines, and valuable for real people who visit and (hopefully) purchase from you.

With PPC, you're automating your marketing by investing $1, and getting more than $1 back in ROI.

Each can run both independently and simultaneously, and ensure you aren't wholly dependent on one source of traffic.

Kelly Kleinman

Thanks Andrew.  Written like a person who has run a campaign or two!  The next article should be a case study or two of how to set up attribution modeling.  I saw a case study of an Audi dealer who was working with a big classified site that was attributing 17 leads to that dealer.  None converted.  The dealer took that budget and pushed it into other channels and went from #6 to #1 in market.  God's honest truth.  Now, how much went into ppc and how much was thrown back into traditional media I wasn't told but I did see the numbers and it didn't surprise me.  

Patrick Bergemann

I think Andrew makes a great point that SEO builds your website as an asset. However, I'd like to throw in that great content development makes your SEO work well long-term.

Big picture: as the SEO algorithm continues to change, Google's software engineers are trying to build it around the human factor. You used to be able to rank well with keyword-stuffing and content that could use a lot of buzzwords to say nothing. Now, the algorithm has become a lot smarter... Kelly's third point of "landing page relevance" wouldn't have even made the list years ago.

My point being that when talking to "SEO gurus", I'd ask about their long-term plan. The algorithm will continue to evolve, but what will stay consistent is the focus on the user. If you write your content to be SEO friendly, but customer focused, it will be relevant for a lot longer than someone whose selling point is a guarantee you rank on the first page of Google.

Ranking on the first page of Google is huge. 95% of users will click the first link on the search results page; PPC or organic. BUT customer focused content is king. PPC and SEO will lead to great web traffic, but unless you have a user-friendly website and content that gives them reason to trust you, your bounce rates will most likely be high and your conversion rate will be non-existent.

Great content will build your SEO and brand trust while staying relevant long-term.

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