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T J Houghton

T J Houghton Corporate Director

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The DSES Hangover

 Boy does my head ache and it is not for the reason you would think from someone spending a few days in Vegas.  I show up at the brain child of Jared Hamilton not knowing what to expect.  What I got was a hangover of tremendous proportions.  My head is so full of ideas now that I haven’t been able to sleep for two days!  If I can put into place just a portion of things spawned from DSES it will take me the better part of a year!  I do think someone slipped me a Roofie though.  I will get to that later.

There are things that I get and things I just plain don’t.

Let’s get started with what my brain can grasp at this point:

The eXteresAUTO guy has verified what I have felt in my gut by proving how important Reputation Management really is.  Also, how important obtaining 5 star ratings in an honorable fashion.  My stores will never be on the 10:00 o’clock news.  93% of people go to the internet before they hit my brick and mortar.  What I need to make sure of is that the 93% go to my website and what they find there is head and shoulders better than the other sites they visit.  You didn’t think they were just going to look at my site only do you?  65% percent of those read reviews (I think this % is correct but having trouble finding it in my notes).  Wow, I need some reputation management.  Why doesn’t my “external” CSI match my “Internal” CSI?  Hmmm.  Better get started on putting a process in place for getting some reviews.  Real reviews.  My NetBizCoach Mike Fitzpatrick and I have a few things in the works to really maximize this.  Some real Super Secret Secret Squirrel stuff, so stay tuned.

Brian Pasch from PCG had brought to light the power of WordPress website platform.  Guess I made a good decision choosing DealerTrend for my new websites 6 months ago!  My NetBizCoach has fed knowledge to me as my mind can absorb and make sense.  Brian confirmed the need to constantly add relevant content to my site(s).  I am now feverishly searching for .pdf files to convert to text and place on my site.  My WordPress site rocks!  It is easy for me to add content.  Because of the platform that DealerTrend has provided, we are ahead of the game.   

Here’s a softball for content.  What is your franchise pushing in the media?  Build a page for it and see what happens.  Toyota recently began providing a 2 year maintenance plan with the purchase of any new Toyota.  I built a page describing what it is and guess what?  People were searching for, “Free Toyota Maintenance”.   Let’s see, we have Toyotathon coming up.  Wonder how that will work?

Brian also turned me on to  Because DealerTrend provides an RSS feed this will be an excellent back link source.  I wonder if I can find some local sites to link to that may rev up my organic relevance.   Does anyone have link ideas for the Dallas Ft Worth area?

PPC is one of those things that is/was sketchy to me.  Matt Murray explained PPC to me in a way that I get it, for the first time.  Why would I pay for a handful of clicks when I was finding hundreds if not thousands of clicks by improving my organic?  Well, the low hanging fruit is gone and I am now climbing the tree for fruit.  The real question is, “Do I have the stones to pull money from newsprint that everyone knows is dying if not dead already".  Am I beating a dead horse with news print?  Maybe that was a little harsh.  On life support may be a better description.  I have now firmly placed putting pay per click in our marketing plans for all the right reasons.  Another excellent point was the need for more Service Department content on our sites.  I recently put up service coupons for one of our stores and did an email blast of 2500 letting people know that we now offered them with a link to the page.  Over 300 people clicked through to the page the first day!  It is now our 3rd most visited page.

This is the part that I don’t get:

Brian Pasch also said people are saying to him, “I am going with a different website provider other than my factory site.  I am going to abandon the old site and focus on my new site.”  My ears perked up and I wonder did he just reach in my head and pull that out.  That is EXACTLY what I have been thinking.  Pasch says No, do not do that.  Work both sites.  You have traffic history and more people will see your site(s).  I don’t get it.  I always try and put myself in my customer’s shoes.  I am very sensitive about going with data over customer experience.  Let me explain it like this.  I basically fired my factory site provider and went with a company that will allow me to build a site with our personality built in.  One that I feel offers a better customer experience.  It’s not all about SEO.  Now suppose you are a customer and you Google something and our new site comes up and you decide to come over and meet us.  You like what you see and decide to put us on your short list of places to purchase.  A week later you go back to Google and search again and you click what you think is our site and you go to an unfamiliar place.  One that looks different, with different links and information.  Wouldn’t that be confusing to you?  I’m confused.  I don’t want to make a mistake.  Is there some other input I can get on this?

Here is where I think someone slipped me a Roofie:

SOCIAL MEDIA.  I don’t get it at all.  Yeah, I have a personal facebook page and use it regularly.  Wanna be my friend?  What pisses me off (it’s ok to say pissed because one of the other speakers at DSES said, “Shit” and I like being real) is when one of my friends from school that owns a jewelry store is constantly shouting, “Hey facebook friends!  Come get your ring resized.”  I have now blocked him.  We do have a nice facebook page for our Toyota store at that GoSo is helping us with.  By the way, another benefit of WordPress is there are widgets that will do almost everything I use GoSo for FREE.99.

AND THEN THERE IS TWITTER and the BIG OLE DSES twitter screen with all of that @ and # business.  And who the heck is Bitly?  I don’t get it.  We have a twitter account with a bunch of followers but most are vendors who want to sell me something.  I need to understand how something works at its core to really get behind it and push.  I’m the guy that when he decided to try and learn how to play golf, instead researched golf clubs and then custom built my own set.   Someone please help me understand how this will help me sell cars!

Talking about golf reminds me of the guy from Australia that teaches golf and played on the tour that spoke after breakfast.  Good stuff from him too.  Here’s a picture of my dog.  (You had to be there. It’s not a fish but it is random.)

Your input is wanted and very needed!

The take-away is I have set a goal to take our websites from an average of 3600 visits per month to 12000 per site.  We are at 5000 now with just barely launching the sites.  I believe once long-tail search for inventory kicks in, we should get another boost.  I am not just looking for long-tail, but super duper multidirectional double throw down long-tail search!

Let’s hope what happened in Vegas DOESN’T STAY IN VEGAS.

TJ Houghton
Corporate Director
McNatt Auto Group

Eric Miltsch
@TJ. Here's a couple of items for you, hopefully it'll help answer your questions: Social Media: Eliminate this term from your vocabulary & replace it with "Online Business Development" That's a great way to create the mind-set. A service that will shrink long URL's to ensure they fit within a tweet & also provide click-click though analytics/tracking (helps you know if the link you're sending out is getting any love) See more here: Twitter: It's not going to help you sell cars.(at least not right away) It'll help you create another way to drive traffic to your sites & connect with customers. Check out one of the best twitter educational resource sites: You learned golf by practicing your swing w/those custom clubs. Just need to practice building your online presence with the help of these custom tools. Choose those that help you find your path...
T J Houghton
@Eric. Just dl'd tweetdeck and set up our "OBD" accounts so that I can watch read and learn. Thnanks.
Alex Schoeneberger
Hi TJ - one great local site for you for deep linking is the Dallas Observer, which is powered by Backpage. Get your inventory to Backpage (we'll be happy to help you there if you want and it's cheap) and you'll have as many local links into your website as you have inventory posted. isn't local, but it can also help you with your SEO through your dealer storefront page's link to your dealership website when you advertise your inventory directly through KBB or CDM - and I would imagine that some other classified sites offer the same benefits. I do not think you're being too harsh on the newspaper remark. I read this morning that 55% of Americans believe that traditional media will be dead in the next 10 years. The concept itself isn't what shocks me - it's the percentage of people that feel that way. Regardless, internet marketing produces ROI you can easily track. Newspaper is a lot more difficult. I personally agree with you regarding the potential for negative consumer experience when you have 2 websites, but perhaps Brian will swing by and explain how this is not an issue or how the SEO benefits outweigh the potential for the negative experience. I'm interested in getting his take on this... Tweetdeck is good. I personally prefer Hootsuite.
Brian Pasch
TJ To answer your question, the multiple sites can look very similar, even though they are created by two different vendors. For example, you can create a WordPress microsite that has the same colors, header, and feel of a main vendor sites. The downside of having one website is that it will not protect Page One search results for a dealer's name. Secondly, depending on the dealership main URL, one site may limit your organic search results for non dealer name searches. If you stick to having only one website, you will allow lead collectors, negative press, and competitors on Google Page One for a search on your dealership name. Your dealership name is the most common phrase that drives traffic to your dealership website organically. In my opinion, that's much worse that having two or three sites that look similar and that all give a consistent brand message. TK Carsites offers car dealers the "Power of 5" which is actually 5 websites that are identical in design but placed on different domain names and that have different content. In this case, there is no negative customer experience and in fact, the content on each site is a best match for their search. This strategy increases the dealers organic visibility and POD Score. So, if a dealer has a Cobalt site (required by the OEM) and chooses to contract with a second website vendor, making them look similar and optimizing both sites will protect your brand and increase direct consumer leads.
T J Houghton
It's nice to take a look back and see progress. On 10/29/2010 my goals were to move toward CPC advertising and away from print. Build our site from 5000 visits to 12000. Goals reached! We have moved all of our stores to PPC to the tune of about $25K per month. We have specific landing pages for every campaingn that is set up separately for new, pre-owned, certified as well as buying inventory. Jan 2013 had 12931 visits to our Toyota site. Done and Done. Still haven't figured out Social Media. I ain't drinkin' the Facebook and twitter coolaid yet. :(

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