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Paul Rushing

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Many times we are asked by dealers "Should we really do that?" when we are designing dealer micro sites for them.  We will work to have a marketing property show up for competing dealers names and other market areas.  The type of content that we use to do this is neither offending nor do we try to confuse the surfer on the source of the content, they know which dealer sponsored the site. We were amazed when we found a property that was obviously created by someone close to one dealer slamming another, despite the denials in the content.  Below is a screen capture of one of the post with the names and cities of the innocent and guilty changed to protect their identity.

The title of the site was "Bad Rep Nissan" and the url was www.badrepnissian.popularfreehostingplatform.com.  Some of the other content was republished Rippoff Reports, Bad Testimonials and the slogan was "We will, we will srew you" as well as a blanket denial stating "I am in NO WAY affiliated with Dirtbag Nissan, Another Nissan Store part of Dirtbag Nissan's Group, or any of the XXX stores I cited in my original article."
As a professional who practices Automotive SEO and creates marketing properties for dealers I would never condone or participate in a scheme such as this.  I am willing to publish something when I disagree with others in this space, I will do it in my name and give the reasons why.  It generates business for my company and meets acceptable standards recognized by many, other automotive vendors do it too they just do it in emails, on the phone and in their pitches to dealers. It is fairly obvious which dealership created the property as there are several anchor text pointing to micro sites and the dealers main site using keywords they wish to optimize for, a very basic SEO practice.
From wikipedia on "Anchor Text" - Webmasters may use anchor text to procure high results in search engine results pages. Google's Webmaster Tools facilitate this optimization by letting website owners view the most common words in anchor text linking to their site.
The content that was found on this slam site would not encourage anyone to do business with either dealer.  It will not help the dealer, which sponsored the content, sell more cars other than optimizing other marketing properties of the "Dirtbag Nissan Dealer" and it goes to further tarnish the online reputation of "Bad Rep Nissan Dealer".  A consumer who lands on the site would probably chose to avoid both dealers.

How far are we willing to go?

I have my opinion of this type of content, stated above, and have even been a victim of it on more than one occasion.  While this may be an extreme example it is not far fetched to realize that it is happening across the space, false ripoff reports, fake slam sites and bad reviews.

Other forms of bad marketing:

  1. "Video Search Engine Optimization" by confusing search engine users as to what type of content they are going to see at free video hosting sites. ie : Camry vs Accord content that is nothing more than cheap video commercials to get people to test drive an Accord when they are looking for a Camry.
  2. Dealers using hidden text in free and paid classified sites.
  3. Asterisk pricing * saying "price listed is after down payment or trade equity of $x,xxx".
  4. Dealers flagging other dealers craigslist ads.
What is happening from this type of activity is compounding the negative perception of car dealers that the public already holds and demonstrates a lack of maturity in our online marketing efforts.  Even if the dealer is not aware, someone at their store who has a vested interest in online marketing is.  As a marketing professional its bothersome as a dealer advocate I see it as unscrupulous.   In either case the problem lies in what can be done about it?

Things that could be done:

  1. Good for the goose good for the gander - If we see dealers participating in this type of activity we call them out on it publicly and create a database site outlining their indiscretions for the public to see?
  2. OEM Involvement - Like in the example above Nissan is the real loser when the consumer chooses to buy another brand because the dealers are both looked at less than desirable.  Should the OEM allow this to go on without repercussions?
  3. State Attorney Generals - This makes for unfair competition and probably violates many state laws.  Should we ask that they take a more aggressive stance, do we really need more government involvement?
  4. "It is what it is" - Do nothing and keep our heads in the sand?
Personally I like the options outlined in 1 and 2. What is your opinion?  Leave comments below..
Paul Rushing 912-266-1629 www.ismintraining.com SEGA Systems, LLC "Without Traffic Everything Fails"
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