The Ultimate Goal of Search Engine Marketing

December 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Tim Madel - Also by this author

Exactly what is Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and what can it do for your dealership?

To find the answers, I interviewed Timothy Nobles, search optimization engineer for Dealerskins. I learned that the answer to the second part of the question pretty much depends on the size of investment you’re willing to make.

SEM, also referred to as Pay-Per-Click (PPC), allows you to buy keywords and search phrases. It also includes a complicated bidding process that determines how your search marketing campaigns perform in the sponsored links section of search engine result pages (SERP). In simplest terms, SEM is merely advertising on Internet search engines.

Keywords can cost as little as 25 cents per click and as much as $100 per click, Nobles said. The more you are willing to bid, the better the chances of your search marketing campaign obtaining higher ranking. The ranking depends on multiple factors including:

  • How many other people are competing for your keywords and search terms
  • At what times of the day you want your sponsored links to display
  • The precision of your keywords and search terms.

How does a newcomer learn about Search Engine Marketing before investing money?

Good SEM information is actually available through search engines. It’s a simple as visiting Google, Yahoo or MSN and searching for “Search Engine Marketing.” Please note, you must include the name of the search engine of interest, e.g. “Google Search Engine Marketing.” (Otherwise, you will probably only get links for SEM vendors.)

Nobles said in the past six months, the number of dealers participating has steadily increased. More and more dealers see the value of using a provider to help keep up the constant monitoring and optimization of keywords and search terms. In addition, keeping up with search engine changes, technology and techniques is a full-time job.

And how effective is SEM?

“Search Engine Marketing is pretty fast,” Nobles said. “Within a week you can actually tell what kind of traffic you’re getting from it.” The number of leads will continue to increase over time if a dealer works with a knowledgeable SEM provider.

The ultimate goal is to attract online traffic, which will eventually lead to foot traffic in the dealership. “If potential customers get to your dealership rooftop from your Web site, they are more likely to make a vehicle purchase at your showroom,” Nobles said. The results-oriented approach is why SEM is the big buzzword in the industry right now.

To generate significant leads, Nobles recommends an investment of at least $3,500 to $5,000 a month. That amount is rather modest compared to the expenses many dealerships budget for print and broadcast advertising. You can also start small and increase in accordance with results.

The biggest misconception Nobles has seen regarding Search Engine Marketing is that dealers confuse it with organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO includes the strategic placements of keywords within the content of your Web site and is free. SEM, however, only affects the placement of your sponsored links and does not necessarily have an effect on your Web site’s ranking in general search results. Because of this, your dealership site will receive the greatest benefit by combining SEM and SEO efforts. All dealers should make sure the services they use provide both SEM and SEO; not just one or the other.
Vol 3, Issue 10

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