Article

Does Your Engine Need An Overhaul? Choosing Your Qualified Mechanic

October 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by John Zieglar - Also by this author

Does your Internet marketing strategy need an overhaul? Has your dealership developed a viable and successful online plan that includes all the criteria necessary to be rated above your competitors? If not, it’s time to rev up your engine, baby!

A good online marketing strategy will drive significantly more traffic and profits to your dealership’s sales, finance and service departments by transporting potential customers directly into your dealership with a click of the mouse. A well executed plan can dramatically increase your dealership’s visibility by boosting your Web site placement and search engine ranking among the millions of other automotive sites on the Internet today.

The single most important factor when choosing and developing a strategy is selecting a partner that possesses solid automotive credentials. Many search engine marketing firms make promises but are unable to deliver satisfactory results because they lack the basic knowledge of trends that drive a successful online automotive marketing initiative, like OEM incentives and rebates.

Technical Service Bulletin (TSB): The power of the Internet

With more than 790 million online searches per week, the popularity of the Internet only magnifies the necessity of implementing and maintaining an up-to-date Internet marketing strategy. If over one half of retail consumer searches performed on Google are automotive in nature you need to work to capture your fair share. Last year more than $400 million were spent by local businesses for Search Engine Marketing, but this is a mere drop in the bucket compared to $2.7 billion forecasted by eMarketer for 2007. Online marketing expenditures are up 134 percent, according to a recent report by the Internet Advertising Bureau. Auto dealers continue to shift budgets from traditional advertising to Internet marketing programs.

Service Menu: Understanding the offerings

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a fundamental part of any online marketing plan. At this time, Web site submission and optimization are still the best methods of ensuring that your dealership site appears as close to the top within the “natural” or “organic” search results offered on the search engine directories.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) allows your text or image ads to appear among search results as “sponsored links”, “featured listings” or “paid ads.” Any reputable provider of this service will normally charge a reasonable margin on PPC advertising cost, which should be transparent with cost associated on spending. An advantage to allowing a professional to direct your Pay-Per-Click campaign rather than tackling this mundane task yourself is that a professional can set up and manage the campaign with up to 100 times more keywords than you because of experience. Resources available to professionals generate generate targeted keyword list leading to higher click thru rates, a better quality score and lower keyword count. The result is more targeted traffic to your site at a relatively low price because your budget is being continually and effectively managed.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the latest phenomenon in the world of digital marketing. The term SEM is used to describe the range of marketing techniques required to make an automotive Web site visible on search engines and directories.

A standard SEM package should include a commitment to continual research, search engine positioning and submission of your highly optimized Web site to directories. An SEM package should always include the use of Pay-Per-Click campaigns, targeted dealership keywords and customized keyword phrases for the site to increase visibility. Also, highly integrated analytic tools and reports should be included to assess any campaign’s effectiveness.

What does all that mean and how will my dealership benefit from an SEM program? With literally millions of automotive Web sites available to choose from, most consumers rely on search engines to find services to meet their specific needs.

Proper SEM execution ensures a strategic Web site listing ahead of competitors. Most consumers do not search by dealership name; instead by specific vehicle models or geographical boundaries. So when an interested consumer sits at his computer surfing the Web for a particular model in your area, can you be easily found?

Choosing your Mechanic Marketer:

Like finding a good auto mechanic to service your engine, selecting a qualified and effective Search Engine Marketer is crucial to the success of your Web site. A required characteristic of an effective automotive search engine marketer is that they must possess a vast working knowledge of the automotive industry, and must have a strong level of experience in contending online for competitive automotive search terms within different markets. Other things to consider when selecting the right firm to partner with are the different types of plans offered, fees for set up, and commission percentages.

Just as an ASE certified mechanic is necessary for your service department, an accredited search engine marketer is required for your Internet department. Consumers overwhelmingly use Google for automotive searches and it is the most widely accessed engine reaching over 80 percent of all Internet users, which is why it is important to select a partner who employs Google AdWord Professionals. These individuals have passed a demanding exam, as well as proven their proficiency by managing Google AdWord campaigns for clients for a minimum of 3 months. Qualified Google Advertising Professionals can effectively design and manage the most efficient solution for their clients.

Check Engine Light: Diagnosis, Repair

SEM is much more than just driving traffic to your dealership’s site. A beneficial aspect of a SEM program is the ability to provide measurable results. How much of an increase in traffic results in an increase in revenue or leads for your dealership? If you don’t know, you’re not alone. Currently, only 20 percent of dealerships are tracking and measuring their search engine referrals beyond the initial click-through to dealership sites.

Any reporting mechanism should include analysis reports to help you measure and improve the effectiveness of your SEM efforts by identifying exactly which search engines and phrases are paying off. Also, with all tools, you should be able to segment and analyze your dealerships results based on “paid”, “natural” or “all” activity.

It is equally important to be able to track your dealership sale conversions, as measured by additional revenue, average sale value and total sales generated during a given time period and you should look to your provider for a tool that can provide this information. When reviewing your reports, a key stat to understand is how conversion rates correlate to visitor searches and how those search terms match what you paid for.

Conversion ratio is the key statistic used to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of your online marketing. The conversion rate is the number of visitors who take a desired action (fill out a form or make purchases) divided by the total number of visitors who view the page within a given timeline (normally one month). Make more intelligent and productive keyword bids by knowing exactly which phrases perform the best.

Disclaimer: No Guarantee of Validity

Don’t take any wooden nickels from salesmen offering an SEM program that is based solely on a watered down version of Pay-Per-Click ads only strategy. These vendors typically position themselves as the “experts,” while charging outrageous fees, when in reality they are only the middlemen taking advantage of naive dealership personnel who could be better served by going straight to the provider of the paid ad space (e.g. Google AdWords).

There are also firms out there which are not “full service.” Many appear to have vast offerings but only provide basic link building campaigns. For example, some only offer submissions of your site to various directories, exchanging links with other sites and establishing other links that point to your site. Be careful when making your selection because with so many offerings available, it is easy to be misled by a complicated and confusing process.

Real life scenario: Tony Rimas Quotes

“We found that only 35 percent of our customers were looking at the newspaper before buying a car with us,” said Tony Rimas, Red McCombs eBusiness director. “As more new car shoppers head to the Internet and avoid newspapers, we have chosen to allocate a larger portion of our advertising budget to position http://www.redmccombs.com/ as the leading search listing within our market."

In fact, many dealerships claim that Search Engine Marketing is now their best online marketing investment. As a result, auto dealers continue to shift budgets from traditional advertising media to digital marketing strategies, third-party lead-generation sites and other Web marketing programs. It’s impossible to ignore the results.

The awesome advances of Internet marketing have given birth to a whole new realm of advertising for dealerships. Creating and building a great Web site is only half of the equation. Consumers must be able to find your Web site through searches on popular search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, MSN.. It is a common misconception that just having a Web site means you can be found. Proper Search Engine Marketing, a fast-paced and ever-evolving technology, can ensure strategic Web site listings ahead of your competitors.

The bottom line is an effective Search Engine Marketer should be qualified and know the market in which they are applying their techniques. They should be required to make your Web site visible on search engines and directories so it will attract visitors to your sites and dealerships. Don’t be left behind! Rev up your search engine today!

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