SEM & Microsites Generate Online Sales: Courtesy Chevrolet Capitalizes Opportunity

June 2007, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by John Zieglar - Also by this author

Courtesy Chevrolet in Phoenix, Ariz., is leading the country as a premier e-commerce dealer with over 4,000 online sales during 2006.  Their team, consisting of 35 dedicated specialists, manages over 60,000 Internet leads.  Results show that leads generated by Search Engine Marketing, or SEM, including microsites and landing pages, save Courtesy Chevrolet money.  The cost of these leads is almost 50 percent lower than leads generated by third party lead providers.

Research shows that Google has the largest share of searches by online car shoppers.  Courtesy has allocated their SEM budgets accordingly.

The highly volatile and extremely competitive automotive retail industry is not for the meek.  The pressure is on for dealers and general managers to keep pace with today’s industry by adapting to the market and adopting aggressive e-commerce strategies.  Those who choose to wait to implement these strategies due to the uncertainty of technological advances are at a major disadvantage.  Top leading managers are constantly looking for ways to attract and keep loyal customers.  The advantage of automotive e-commerce is that you can market to targeted customers.  Target marketing can reach the intended audience with less money than traditional media.


Courtesy Chevrolet has found that fully understanding how the concept of SEM works is crucially important due to the plethora of vendors offering Search Engine Marketing services. Courtesy allocates a significant SEM budget to BZ Results, the dealership’s Web site provider and search consultant.  However, 50 percent of the total budget is invested into several self-directed SEM accounts within both Google and Yahoo.  Multiple campaigns, with each campaign making use of multiple URL-based ad groups, are managed on a daily basis.   The staff at Courtesy investigated many industry leading providers and discovered that some SEM products look like they function well but are grossly overpriced relative to other equally or better equipped providers.  You can expect to pay an SEM service provider a base licensing fees and an agency commission.

Based on statistics of online searches by car buying shoppers, Courtesy Chevrolet decided to allocate the majority of its SEM budget to using online Google “Sponsored Link” ads to drive car buyers to its sites.  Courtesy Chevrolet uses the Google “AdWords” program to reach online car buyers at the moment they are looking for a new or used car. Using both text-based sponsored links and display ads, the Google Network reaches more than 80 percent of online car buyers.  Courtesy creates the ads, then uses key search words and microsites to target which people see the ads. For key search words, Courtesy utilizes pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns and only pays when shoppers click through to one of the dealership’s Web sites. For display ads, Courtesy bids what it’s willing to pay per thousand impressions for each of the third party Web sites targeted.  The dealership is listed on over 500 automotive portals.


To optimize their marketing strategy Courtesy capitalizes on the benefits of microsites.  A microsite is like a mini Web site that creates a completely self-sufficient user environment.  Microsites should consist of one or two pages with a marketing offer and various links back to your dealership’s main Web site.  This should be designed to build continuity with the inquiring consumer.   An experienced Search Engine professional knows that a good site experience is integral to the success of a PPC campaign.  Due to the simplicity of the microsite design, it doesn’t take long to recoup the minimal investment allocated to the SEM budget for developing microsites.   Courtesy saw an immediate increase in leads, conversion ratios and sales volume with Courtesy’s keyword segments coupled with the boost delivered through a microsite.

SEM & Microsite Results

In addition to lowering the cost per lead by nearly 50 percent, Courtesy Chevrolet’s SEM/microsite combination strategy generates other notable results. Closing ratios on SEM leads (7.27 percent) surpass the closing ratios on third party leads (5.15 percent).  The dealerships cost per sale on third party leads is $358.24, while the cost per sale on SEM leads is $134.93.  Since August of 2005, Courtesy Chevrolet has acquired control of over 350 URL addresses.  These URL-based domains are directed towards multiple full-featured Web sites along with multiple microsites and online landing pages to generate floor traffic, incoming sales calls and electronic leads.

The Co-op Advertising Niche

It’s common knowledge that advertising is crucial to marketing, whether through conventional media or the Internet.  Both methods can be costly, but with OEM co-op advertising, you can recoup a large portion of costly advertising, enabling your dealership to actually increase the quantity of advertising.

Originated and subsidized by the manufacturer, co-op advertising programs provide a means for reimbursements to dealers whose advertisements meet certain criteria.  The principle is based on the concept that when a local dealership advertises a vehicle, both the retailer and the manufacturer benefit through an increase in sales.  Because these co-op programs apply to all advertising media, it may enable your dealership to reach markets you had not been able to previously.
Even though the same reimbursements are available for online marketing campaigns, many dealers don’t take advantage of this win-win opportunity.  Courtesy Chevrolet participates in all areas of OEM co-op advertising and recently received reimbursements for December totaling $3,300.  If your dealership does not already have co-op advertising incorporated into your online marketing strategy, contact your OEM for guidelines and specifications because each manufacturer has different guidelines.  Be sure to know them before placing your ad, so you can be properly reimbursed.

Making It All Work Together

By designing and creating custom microsites to enhance the user experience and increase consumer participation, your online marketing campaigns will produce improved results by converting consumers into customers.  This will allow maximum conversion of click-throughs from online search engine sponsored links, brokered display ads, Web site banners and other image-based online ads.  This dealership has had tremendous success not only in generating Internet leads, but in converting those visitors into leads and subsequently sales.   Best case scenario is that your microsites will greatly enhance your dealerships profitability.  At worst, but highly unlikely, they will prove that your current site has already maximized results for your dealership.

How To Plan a Microsite

Vol 4, Issue 4


  1. 1. Bart De Pelsmaeker [ December 11, 2015 @ 02:44PM ]

    This is a very unique, cool example. Thanks for sharing! Came across it as I was researching microsite case studies. Really enjoyed this one and included it on my post called, "How Microsites Can Help Grow Product Sales" if you want to check it out


    Bart De Pelsmaeker
    CEO @ Readz

  2. 2. Bart De Pelsmaeker [ December 11, 2015 @ 02:44PM ]

    This is a very unique, cool example. Thanks for sharing! Came across it as I was researching microsite case studies. Really enjoyed this one and included it on my post called, "How Microsites Can Help Grow Product Sales" if you want to check it out


    Bart De Pelsmaeker
    CEO @ Readz


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