Article

Web Marketing Refresher Crash Course

January 2007, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Todd Swickard - Also by this author

In the last two years it has been amazing how many dealer articles, companies and experts that have appeared on the automotive online marketing front. Dealers have been bombarded with information. Many of you signed up to sell cars, not become Google experts. So, a few years ago when I started writing these articles, I gave out some of the basics of marketing online. I think it is time to revisit some of those.

Where it all starts and ends – your Web site.

Let’s go back to when we started on this adventure into the Internet. The goal was to build an online showroom where customers could find your inventory, look up information and contact you easily. If you haven’t done it lately, go through every page of your Web site. Make sure it is as complete and easy to use as possible. Then, have someone that doesn’t work at the dealership (preferably not in the same state as you) go through it. Tell them to be brutal. Remember, companies can drive traffic there all day long, but if it doesn’t convert into contacts, the money you spend on online marketing is wasted.

Remember your name.

At what point did it become OK to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on marketing and then just abandon it? There was a time when everyone was happy about the domain name of their dealership. They put it everywhere; on cards, ROs, billboards, TV, etc. Is it still there? Amazing how I have walked into dealerships and it is missing. We all get so busy that we forget to look at the little details. Make sure that domain name is on everything that moves, leaves or is printed from or for the dealership.

Rings and Dings

OK, so now you have done a Web site checkup and made sure your name is everywhere you can think of putting it. Now let’s call the numbers displayed on the Web site. Do they go to the switchboard or to an Internet team? Are they being tracked? In our firm (and many others) we have found that for every one electronic e-mail we receive, we receive three phone calls, making tracking even more important. Remember, people use the Web like they did the phonebook 10 years ago. As much as car salespeople have a reputation, it still boils down to the fact that customers like to talk to you.

Now on to the dings – e-mail dings. Send a request for information to your site. Use a friend as a test. It is always an interesting exercise to see how the request gets handled. Make sure you get a copy of the e-mail to see if the format is professional, the information is correct, the spelling is right, a call to action exists and amazingly enough, a way to contact the salesperson is on the e-mail.

Choke the Engine

For those of us that had carburetors on a vehicle, you know that getting an engine warm is a good thing. Search Engine Optimization warms your dealership Web site similarly. You have a Web site, so if you aren’t using a SEO firm at the minimum, you’re driving a vehicle with a choke on. The service should only cost you about $100 to $125 a month, but it is well worth it. Think of SEO as an oil change. If you don’t do it, the engine just dies.

Toll Roads

It is how I explain paid search listings. Toll roads get you, in many cases, from Point A to Point B in the quickest manner. Do you have to take the toll road? No. Instead, you can take back roads, go over hill and dale, putt through small towns, get stuck by stop lights and endure speed traps. The back roads will get you to Point B, but in many cases not as quickly. Toll roads are the paid search listings. The back roads are the organic, or free, search listings. Search Engines, as a wide myth, are thought to be a free way to get traffic to your site. Yes, they can get you traffic, but most likely not the volume that you desire. Paid search gets you traffic quickly and still more economically than any other source.

Paying the toll – or a search firm – is not always the first route everyone wants to take, but your goal is to sell cars, not repair roads or become an expert on Yahoo! or Google. The only other advice that I have is: Make sure to market your Web site url. If you market anything that doesn’t take dealers directly to your Web site you are wasting thousands of dollars and you will be held captive by your search provider.
 
Vol 3, Issue 11

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