Article

Search Engine Marketing: What's Next

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Todd Swickard - Also by this author

NADA was all the buzz of Search Engine Marketing. That was all well and good, but has the rush to this goldmine just started? Dealers have finally come to embrace the thought that their Web site may be more than something for show and tell at a 20 Group; instead it may be a new way for effectively cutting some of the advertising and adding accountability to the sales floor. We all have seen that advertisers are swarming to Google, Yahoo! and other search engines to get new car leads in the door. That is just the start. Online advertising has taken a quantum leap forward. You can list your entire inventory on the Web, buy radio commercials, advertise in magazines on a local basis, click and call the dealership from your computer, and schedule your service right, and all of this can be done online. I think the only thing that they don’t have in the pipeline is a way for it to drive your car to the dealership. I am sure the boys at Google are already planning this one.
So, where does it stop? It doesn’t! If 10 years ago you bet that this “Internet thing” was just a fad and it too will pass, don’t bet that horse again. It is only going to get worse – or depending on what how you react to it, better. Let’s break down what is currently available and what to plan for in the near future.

Currently

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – This is a necessary evil. If you don’t do anything else with Internet marketing, at least find a vendor that will submit your site to the engines on a regular basis. The search engines have to know you exist. Even if you don’t get immediate results, over time this will help drive traffic to your site.
 
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – Something is better than nothing, and you have to spend money to make money. Yes, we have all heard these sayings time and time again, but it actually holds true on SEM. Search Engine Marketing is the art where you buy words or phrases, and when someone enters your purchased words/phrases, a link to you Web site appears above the organic listings or to the right side of the page, depending on which search engine the search is performed. It is simple enough on the surface, however getting accounts on seven different search engines, managing the clicks, costs and ad can be a bit more difficult. Find a vendor that can at least get some searches leading to your site. Buying some good clicks is money well spent.
Google Base (Inventory Marketing) – Google wants to have your inventory. Why? The corporate answer is that it “enhances the user experience.” Reality is that it makes them the Wal-Mart of car shopping. Google Base takes the inventory feed and indexes it like a Web site. So, when someone searches the Google Base, it finds a car(s) and the dealers. This is where it will pay off to make your description as detailed as possible for your inventory. We have all neglected this part of our Web sites, but as time marches on, it will become highly important to make sure your vehicles are listed.

The Future

Media Buying by Net – Google and other engines are trying to figure out ways to make an advertising trading floor so to speak. If with one screen you could buy your radio commercials, print advertisements, and TV buys, would that be the life? Well, it is getting closer than you think. In the next year or so, you will see the ability to drive traffic to your dealership via the web, radio, TV and print all with a single log in.

Service and Parts – Fixed Ops, the long-forgotten red headed step children of the dealerships, will now be getting the love that they have been wanting for so long. These financial workhorses that have been sustaining dealers through the years are going to get their due. You will see people going to the Net to find everything including service and parts solutions. It may just be a phone number or directions to your location, but they will want to contact or find you. The savvy dealers will seize this opportunity and make sure that searching customers find what they want or at least what the dealer advertising wants them to see.

Change is the one thing that you can rely on in your race to improve your Internet department. This year, the focus has to be on improving your Web rank, getting those clicks to your site, improving your inventory listings and getting fixed operations ready for the new side of marketing.
 
Vol 2, Issue 3

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