Article

Fine Tuning Your Engine: Building An Effective Search Engine Marketing Stratagy

November 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by John Zieglar - Also by this author

Seizing the Opportunity
So, you have an exemplary facility and vast inventory. Your dealership has been marketing within the community, and honestly, you have never seen such attractive vehicles packed with so many standard features priced so well. So, why aren’t they rolling off your lot? The online automotive retail industry has been through a tremendous transformation in its brief history, opening many doors of opportunity. Creating and building a functional and appealing Web site is only half of the equation. Consumers must be able to find your site through searches on common search engines. As you’ve heard before, JD Powers & Associates reports over two-thirds of the automobile consumer population utilizes the Internet before they purchase a vehicle. The technological advances of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) have given birth to a whole new realm of advertising for dealerships.
Bringing that Engine up to Speed
Last month we explored the importance of tuning up and in some cases overhauling, your SEM strategy. Selecting the right partner to develop and implement the strategy is like selecting a mechanic. Make sure your search engine mechanic is qualified and possesses solid automotive credentials and knowledge of the market in which they are applying their techniques. An effective, well-tuned online strategy will dramatically increase traffic to your dealership and overhaul sales, finance and service departments into revved-up profit centers.
Keeping up with the Competition
Everybody has a superstar dealership that is within their market. Could it be that you are being left behind because the dealership isn’t spending advertising dollars where customers are shopping? A well executed online marketing strategy can radically increase dealership visibility by boosting your Web site placement and search engine ranking among the millions of other automotive sites, ensuring a listing ahead of competitors. An interesting statistic reported by the Insight Express Study for Google, reports that three out of four online consumers looking for a particular dealer use a search engine. Does your dealership fit into the big scheme?

KNOWING YOUR VEHICLE

Keyword Analysis
An important component of SEM is keyword selection. They are critical because they can help get you to the top of search engine rankings and help attract customers interested in your site's content and products. Choosing keywords requires input from you, the dealer, as you have a deep understanding of your business and industry.

All online campaigns should begin with detailed in-market keyword research and analysis in order to understand the search words that customers are using to find your dealership. This is an important step, and when researched and implemented properly, it can be instrumental in helping you capture leads from target audiences. You must become or employ an expert who constantly analyzes keyword search data. The resulting keyword intelligence and customer profiling are critical to developing a solid strategy for any SEM campaign.

Creative Ad Management
Just as you are attempting to grab attention with newspaper ads, your SEM ad copy needs to effectively capture a much broader audience. Once you analyze and develop a strategy and make the initial selection of keywords, the next step is to build the creative content. Choose a company that can create pre-approved ads and copy that can be tested and optimized once they are live. Expertise in keyword selection and ad creativity is the key to achieving sales, actions and higher conversion rates with your Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign.

Anyone who has been marketing online for any length of time knows that ad copy is the single most important factor that will make the difference between your success and failure online. Creating ads and copy about your dealership is not as easy as it sounds or looks. Even if you are totally convinced that the value you offer is the best, poorly written copy always turns people away. Web site copy must be written to motivate your visitor to buy from you.

Copy writing for a Web site is typically collaboration between a dealership and an SEM expert. Since dealerships know their product or service best, the company's core message and content are usually created by them. An SEM specialist will then adjust and/or attune it to their marketplace and target sector.

However, a successful SEM program is not limited to keyword analysis, creative ad copy writing and strategic implementation. SEM management also involves continual monitoring and evaluation. Even with good results, it is equally important to have someone dedicated to the ongoing management and qualified in optimizing campaign performance.

GAUGING PERFORMANCE

Are you getting your fair share of traffic from search engines and directories? How much of that traffic is resulting in revenue or lead increases for your dealership? If you don’t know, you’re not alone because only 20 percent of dealerships are tracking and measuring their search engine referrals beyond the initial click-through to their Web site.

You need to track your Search Engine Marketing efforts to ensure that your strategy is driving more immediate traffic to your Web site, phones and showroom floor.

There are some basic tracking methods you should consider include: Web site, phone call, e-mail and online coupon/promotional tracking. Site tracking tools record the number of times potential customers click on an ad to visit the dealership’s site. Phone call tracking tools provide dealerships with a unique toll free or local phone number that forwards the customer to the dealerships existing phone number. These numbers are assigned to track the effectiveness of individual campaigns. All campaigns the dealership runs should include a unique e-mail address that will automatically forward replies, allowing for tracking. Online promotions should include a coupon or promotional offer that forces a potential customer to register before redeeming the coupon. All coupon registrations should be automatically e-mailed to the dealership, which allows tracking.

CHOOSING ACCESSORIES

Where do Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & PPC Rank in your Budget
According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, in 2005, dealers spent, on average, about nine percent of their advertising budget on Web marketing, as compared to only 6.7 percent in 2004, and zero as recently as 1995. In 2005, the average car dealer spent approximately $36,000 on online marketing, with larger dealerships selling over 750 units averaging about $69,000.

Percentages of advertising budgets expended on paid-search are much higher than that on SEO. Recent reports estimate that paid-search accounts for about 84 percent of search marketing budgets. Many organizations adopt a strategy focusing on paid-search because it’s more controllable, and immediate results are possible. There are a number of reasons why you might need to opt for paid-search over organic search. For example, rebate incentives, year-end clearance and new model introductions are a few examples where time is of the essence. A true expert will know how to find the balance between PPC and organic marketing to maximize ROI on both types of campaigns.

Advantages of paid-search include

Straightforward. It is as easy as bidding more than your competitors, although Google takes other criteria into account. SEO requires continuing long-term review of site restructuring, link-building and technically complex work on page optimization, which can take months to implement and even longer to see results.

Predictability. Rankings, site traffic, expenses and ROI tend to be steadier and more predictable. Accountability is more immediate.

Customization. Creative copy and bids can also be readily modified during particular times.

Automation. Bid management systems can help by using pre-determined guidelines to control bidding in line with your conversion rates to reach an appropriate ROI. Substantial manual intervention is still advised.

Quicker. PPC listings appear much faster (usually in a few hours if no review is needed).

With the claim of an effective and successful SEM strategy in place, Honda North of Danvers, Mass., has results to back it up. “We tried to manage our own online marketing, but the many challenges that arise from a constantly changing and evolving technology caused us to rethink our entire marketing strategy. BZ Results has been our SEO provider and has proven to be a great investment,” says Edward Naczi, Jr., e-commerce Director.

As more new car shoppers head to the Internet, Honda North has chosen to allocate a large portion of their advertising budget toward an effective SEM strategy and competitively positioning www.hondanorth.com online to ensure their dealership is the leading vehicle provider listed within their market.
 
Vol 3, Issue 9

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