Category Archives: Search Engine Marketing

Which Keywords Should You Rank For?

Optimizing your website to rank well for search engines can seem like an overwhelming task to most people. Unless search engine optimization (SEO) is your specialty, it can be difficult to figure out which keywords your dealership website should try to rank well for. Although it is ideal for your dealership to partner with a website provider that has SEO expertise and that is able and willing to share their knowledge with you, being knowledgeable about how to optimize your own website is invaluable for your dealership.

So, where to start? You have to decide which keywords your potential customers are searching for to find your dealership. It won’t help to rank for keywords that no one in your area will use or that aren’t relevant to the content on your website.

One way to start is by using Google AdWords Keyword Tool. If you enter descriptive words/phrases into the search tool, it will deliver a list of related keywords and a rough estimate of how often each search term is used. You can also use the tool to analyze your website, showing you potential keywords based on the content of your site. These are, of course, just starting points designed to give you ideas about which keywords to use while writing your website content.

Another way to find out which words your potential customers are using to find your dealership online is to read what they’re writing about you. Any type of dealer review site, blog, or other user-generated content can be used to research potential keywords. If your customers are using certain words to describe the vehicles you sell and your dealership, chances are, they will also use those keywords when searching for their next vehicle purchase.

Use both of these tools to help determine which keywords your dealership website should try to rank for. Using them in your website content, vehicle descriptions, and marketing efforts like blogs or press releases, will help optimize your dealership website for the keywords that your potential customers are actually using. If you could use more guidance on how to choose the most effective keywords for your dealership website, feel free to contact us at chris@dealeron.com with any questions you may have.
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Written by Ali Amirrezvani
http://www.dealerrevenue.com/

Why Do You Use PPC – No Seriously Tell Me?

I am going to make my best case for why PPC is a total waste of money in the automobile industry, and I invite you, the dealerships, or PPC salespeople to join the fun and make your case. This should be some fun, let’s keep it clean, and professional. In the interest of full disclosure I of course sell SEO, in many ways a direct competitor for PPC marketing dollars. (Even though we don’t agree with the logic) We do feel dealerships should do some PPC, as well as SEO, the problem we see are so few dealerships invested in SEO because there isn’t immediate results. So in the sprit of the holidays, let’s get this rumble going!

PPC Is a Total Waste of Money

Yes that’s right I said it! Spending money on pay per click advertising is a waste for so many reasons. It has the staying power of a two year old newspaper ad. Although we do concede that targeted PPC can be quite effective, why on earth would anyone invest in something that will continually cost you money? Your cost per acquisition will always be there, and the second you stop paying for it, your customer will disappear. The fact is, even when PPC is executed perfectly, high quality ad copy, great converting landing pages and great follow up, you are still paying for every single click.

If dealerships can see that buying third party leads is a dead end, why can they not see PPC as the same thing? You get no long term marketing benefits for your investment, and depending on the market you may or may not even have a chance to close those leads you are paying upwards of $20.00 each for. We really want someone to make a compelling argument against this logic! In an era where dealerships are trying to cut costs and maximize their return on investment, how can paying for clicks possibly fit that business model? The sad thing is it still does for many dealerships.

Keep this in mind, in most markets you are bidding against yourself, OEMs are pouring piles of cash into online advertising and at least the big three all spend on PPC, why would you bid against yourself? It just doesn’t make sense, bidding against your local marketing group for the same customers? If you pull back and really look at PPC, your bidding against yourself by bidding against OEM’s, bidding against lead generation companies who want to sell you your own leads, and your competition all in the same market!

PPC Offers No Real Long Term Solution

Yes, that’s right PPC is a band aid, a temporary fix for lack of traffic to your dealership website. Google and other search engines are built to serve up the most relevant sites, so why isn’t your site coming up in the top position? It isn’t relevant, we don’t mean to poke fun, and are apprehensive to make such a blanket statement, but the fact is its true. It’s not really the dealerships fault, it’s the website providers and their misleading talk about how their sites will be great for SEO, dealerships believe it and even pay for “SEO” from their website providers.

A perfect example of this is Cobalt, (not to pick on them, there are plenty of other offenders) charged one of my clients for “seo services” for months, and never even bothered to customize the Meta descriptions and title tags. Within 3 months on our smallest package he had increased his organic traffic 300% and that hasn’t gone away. He has since stopped PPC advertising and diverted the money to SEO seeing similar increases consistently each month. The fact is, PPC is great for getting dealers all excited about “traffic” to their websites, but it doesn’t offer any real long term solution to the overall problem due to their lack of relevance. The important thing to know here is that if our client fired us tomorrow, he would still continue to receive that extra traffic, each and every month, generating more leads, and ultimately more sales. Let’s see PPC do that!

The ROI in PPC Pales in Comparison To SEO

The three letters driving any good dealership are ROI, we don’t disagree that PPC advertising can provide positive ROI. What we are saying is that it pales in comparison to the ROI a dealership will see with a good SEO service. Below we will explain.

Let’s say XYZ dealership is spending 2500 a month on PPC advertising, and generating maybe $5000 in positive revenue, now in our opinion that number is high, but we will, in the spirit of the holidays give PPC some credit. At the end of the year the dealership has made $60,000. (doubling their investment not bad!)

Now let’s say XYZ spend the same $2500 on SEO. For the first several months, the dealership wouldn’t see any results, and lets say perhaps they generate fewer leads, that said leads generated from SEO convert much better and maybe the dealership starts to make $2500 a month after month 3. At the end of year one, they will have made $22,500.

But, now let’s assume after one year you stop spending, PPC’s year two profits will be 0, while SEO will remain and bring you another $30,000. Year two the same and so on, you see a trend forming here? Although these numbers are somewhat arbitrary the point remains the same SEO offers long term increased profitability while PPC only offers ROI today. Turn off your marketing dollars, and SEO continues to run on empty while PPC is out of gas! (Like our car reference?) In the real world dealerships have limits on what they can spend and often times two solutions will have positive ROI’s but the key is looking long term.
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Written by Jeremy Hambly
SEO For Dealers
http://www.seofordealers.com

Why the Search Market is Gaga for Google

As someone who has a lot to say about how your marketing budget is allocated, it’s probably not a major newsflash that “traditional” media — such as TV, radio, and newspaper advertising — is in decline. It also shouldn’t come as any surprise where most of that money is now being spent — online. The Internet’s gain has been just about everyone else’s loss, with Internet marketing budgets increasing by about 120% between 2005 and 2007, at the same time newspaper advertising decreased by about 52%.

US Search Engine Rankings

[img:3i0hv5zk]http://news.dealer.com/IMN/080508/Gaga_Google.jpg[/img:3i0hv5zk]

Of all that money spent on Internet marketing, a good chunk was allocated toward search engine optimization, which is really a high-tech way of saying that you want to make sure that people who use search engines to find a car can find your particular dealership’s website as easily as possible. This is something of an art, with Internet marketers employing all kinds of tricks, some legitimate, and some bordering on unethical, to create sites that are “search-engine friendly.” Why is this so important to your business? According to some recently released figures, 78% of potential car buyers all start their search for a new car in the same way: by typing a few key words into the field of a search engine. And when it comes to search engines, there are really only two categories: Google, and everyone else.

Google sets the standard today…

By virtually any measurement, Google has become the unquestioned leader in the search engine space. They weren’t necessarily first, but they were the first to really perfect the art of the search, and have become the de-facto leader in the market. According to an industry study by the research firm comScore, released in mid-July, Google accounts for a whopping 61.5% of all Internet searches, about three times that of its nearest competitor.

…and tomorrow.

While Google has done an excellent job of owning the desktop computer, the company’s dominance promises to continue, as the way we access the web continues to evolve. Consider the smart phone, touted by many experts to be the next iteration of the computer. These phones, which have been optimized to access the web via fast 3G wireless networks, represent the new digital gold rush with nearly every Internet company looking to stake a claim. Not surprisingly, most people who have started “prospecting” have found that Google has already discovered the mother lode. According to Neilson Mobile, during the first quarter of 2008 approximately 61% of searches conducted by mobile device users utilized Google, more than three times the nearest competitor. According to one blog, Google is not just the market leader, they’re the market period.

Making sense of Google’s run.

What’s behind Google’s market dominance? A big reason is just plain good marketing. The name Google has become synonymous with searching, to the point where “to Google” someone or something is now used interchangeably with searching for something on the Internet. Much like transcendent brands such as Kleenex, Frisbee and Xerox, Google is now part of the lexicon. Another reason is more tactical — Google has made its way onto more and more web browsers, as fewer Internet users rely solely on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Browsers such as Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox feature integrated Google search fields, making “Googling” a completely mindless action. A great example of this can be found with the introduction of the iPhone, Apple’s “must-have” smart phone that’s had everyone from the tech-savvy to the style conscious drooling for well over a year. About six months after the release of the first iPhone, Google announced that iPhone users were “Googling” at a rate of 50 times greater than other smart phone users, due in large part to the integrated Google search field in the iPhone’s browser. As the iPhone continues to surge in popularity and make inroads into the market shares of devices such as the Blackberry, experts expect this trend to continue as well.

Don’t underestimate the Google factor.

So what’s the bottom line? First, it’s obvious that Google has done an excellent job of making itself the search engine of choice for a huge majority of Internet users, and appears poised to dominate the market for some time to come. Second, if you’re going to try and do anything that’s search-engine friendly, the best place to start is by making sure your solution passes the Google test. Otherwise, chances are you’re only appealing to a small portion of the marketplace.
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Written by Sean Bradley
CEO and Founder of Dealer Synergy

Word of Mouth or Click of Mouse

In the old days, word of mouth was vital to a business’ growth. A great customer would tell gads of friends about their experiences and businesses would reap the rewards by having those referrals show up and purchase their products.

Today, word of mouth is still important. but “click of mouse” is more powerful then any mouth or advertising medium. Let’s face it, dealers advertise to bring traffic in and today, it seems like TV, radio, newspaper, direct mail, doesn’t have the power like it had years ago. It seems like the only UPS bus coming on the lot is BIG BROWN.

Every dealer in America today needs to increase their traffic. That’s a fact. Most dealers are off 30-50 percent and some dealers aren’t even answering the phone anymore. Probably didn’t pay their bill or are OOFB, yes that’s Out of Business. So how do you drive the UPS bus to your dealership and make it cost effective?

The Internet is the highway or passage way to your dealership. Pretty Web sites are nice, but a pretty Web site is like an empty can of Coca Cola. You need to get the people to the Web site, have something interesting for them to see when they get there and capture the lead.

If you don’t think it’s that important or you don’t have time to educate yourself, please call me I am thinking of getting into the Automotive Liquidation Asset Business.

What the hell is SEO? Do I have to be a college graduate to understand this? Nope. Do I have to be a member of the Comp Geek Patrol? Nope. You just need to know that if you aren’t at the top of the world’s most powerful search location called GOOGLE, you are way behind the times.

According to GOOGLE scores of millions of people a day use Google as their search engine, roughly 75 percent of Americans use Google everyday for research. Google has more than 120,000 titles and more than 33 million pages of text available. Google bases their searches on highly targeted text advertisements that are advertised on Google.

Many consumers today relate Google and the Internet as one. So how does this help you as a dealer? No. 1, if you aren’t in the top positions in Google, most likely you will be passed over by the one-click downloadable generation.

I can see people going to pages 2-10 when doing research on projects, but not when it comes to searching for an automobile. Positioning on Google is more important today than ever, and should be seen as a lifeline to your profit-and-loss statement or survival. So what are you going to do? You don’t have to be an Internet guru to figure this out.

I can tell you this though, you must be skeptical of so-called Internet experts. I can’t tell you how many dealerships I have been in and the dealer tells me things like “Oh yeah our Internet service, guy, dude, person, tech, geek, salesperson, somewhat manager, Web freak, part time Internet manager, whiz kid from high school, my son, my daughter, my wife, my husband, is in charge of that.” Get a life man! Or get out of business.

Secret Recipe

Wouldn’t it be nice have the Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe or how about the Coca Cola formula, or the Mrs. Fields chocolate chip cookie recipe? All of those are worth a fortune. What if I told you the recipe to getting to the top of Google is available and you don’t have to mortgage the farm. Would you be interested or would you think like most, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.”

All I can tell you is, the recipe is available for you and your dealership, and if you want to start cooking again in sales, now is the time to ask for that recipe.

Check this out — go to Google and type in “In-house dealership sales training.” Type it in just like that and you will see how our company is at the top of this Google listing. The links above are sponsored links, those that a company paid for. They stay there as long as they keep paying. That could cost you a fortune. If you aren’t at the top or near it most likely these impatient consumers will miss your Web site. SEO is here right now and forever. It has changed our ways of thinking, researching, and how we receive information. Funny isn’t it? Dictionaries are like dinosaurs to a degree. Newspapers are like butterflies that seemingly float away with old news that is only hours old. Radio is now in the Smithsonian, and Stamps are just for the collectors.

Thousands of hits and leads

Well with the New Year here, hopefully you had SEO on your radar screen to improve your traffic right now. NOW means No Opportunity Wasted. You can’t sit back and wait. You can’t play the someday game. Don’t sit back and wait for your Search Engine Optimization to get going. Right now, you need hits, you need leads, plus a management and selling system to be one up on today’s Pro-Sumer, yes that is in place of consumer. Right now this business is coming down to CHANGE right now or die. The mouth is fast, but the mouse is faster.
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Known across America as the Human Torch for his energetic, fired-up presentations, George Dans is a dynamic speaker who specializes in changing behaviors through a positive life attitude. George shares his powerful message You dont need to know how to get to your goal, you just need to know you will reach your goal with audiences around the world. He can be reached by calling (951) 898.9071 or via e-mail at george@.georgedans.com.

What Can SEO and SEM Do For Your Dealership?

In today’s market, the Internet plays a vital role in connecting dealers to their customers. Dealers who are not web savvy are falling behind their competition, and the reason is simple. Estimates reveal that more than 90 percent of consumers begin their search for a vehicle online. The vast majority begins by entering search terms into Google or other search engines. Making sure a web site “gets found” should be a top priority for every dealer.

Unfortunately, many companies have jumped onto the Internet and search marketing bandwagon. As a result, dealers hear a lot of conflicting information from multiple sources. What’s right and what’s wrong? What delivers results and what’s a waste of money?

Search marketing experts are all too familiar with dealers’ varying success rates when they attempt to dive into the world of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) without knowing the facts. To help dealers get it right the first time, it’s important to separate the hype from fact.

Search engine optimization
The advantage to having a well-optimized site is obvious; when consumers enter keywords into Google or another search engine, a dealer’s web site will appear high on the list of results. But obvious does not equate to simple. The strategies vendors use to optimize a site are diverse, including structural design, updating content and linking.

The ideal solution incorporates a multi-faceted approach, from the way the web site is initially designed to updating content according to dealers’ goals. In addition, analyzing opportunities in local markets and developing partnerships with companies benefit dealers in terms of links.

It’s important for dealers to understand that they must also take responsibility for effective SEO by taking advantage of back-end tools and keeping content and inventory fresh, all of which affect how well search engines can find a site. It’s also important to realize that trends in SEO come and go, and what worked yesterday will not necessarily work today or tomorrow. New trends such as blogs and social networking have an impact on a site’s SEO rankings. Savvy SEO analysts make it a point to keep informed and implement new technologies that prove to be promising.

Search engine marketing
The primary advantage of SEM, or pay-per-click advertising is that vendors can set up campaigns that are very targeted and specific. If a dealer needs to focus on moving a particular make or model, an ad can be created to attract customers looking for that exact make and model in your area, and then link them directly to the inventory page. Conversion rates are very high with this type of ad. Once on your site, consumers are a captive audience. To increase the effectiveness of SEM, a site should be well designed; ensuring that phone numbers are highly visible on every page and forms are easy to find and fill out. Customers looking for service or parts can also be linked directly to those departments’ pages.

Another benefit of SEM is that results can be easily tracked, therefore ROI is easily measured.

An unbeatable combination
Both SEO and SEM are good solutions for attracting customers, but used together their power is multiplied. Statistics show that when both SEO and SEM are combined, the results are far more effective.

Here’s an example: If you’re doing SEO, you want to write descriptive content on your site that describes exactly what you offer. If you’re doing SEM, you want to be sure your paid ad and link appear if someone is searching for specific keywords, i.e. “Honda Accords Atlanta.” But if Google sees that your site has content about Honda Accords, it will be more likely to match the paid search ad with this relevant content, and your site will be ranked higher in the organic rankings.

Conversely, if you’re doing SEM you want to make sure your web site is well optimized for the paid search ad to be effective. And to some extent, it’s a pure numbers game. If you utilize both SEO and SEM, your site will be listed in more places and it’s more likely that one of them will be clicked on.

Five steps to creating effective SEO/SEM campaigns

Outline goals: Is it really important to be ranked number one with the keywords that you have in mind? Or, is your goal to attract more traffic to your site and increase conversion rates? Perhaps you want to reduce the cost of your leads, or increase closing rates. All these goals can be accomplished with effective SEO and SEM campaigns, but not necessarily in the way you think. A savvy Internet marketing provider can help you establish goals and then come up with appropriate strategies to help you accomplish them.

Know your vendor’s strategy: How will the provider help you accomplish your goals? This should not be kept secret. There are many different methods and approaches to SEO and SEM, and most vendors use a combination of various kinds. Is your vendor going to work with web site architecture, navigation and back-end structure, or will it focus on optimizing web site content? Your comfort level will increase greatly if your provider can explain their strategies in simple terms, and then back up what they say they will do with reports that clearly show how progress is tracked.

Hire experts: Many dealers believe that when it comes to SEM, they can do it themselves. But they really don’t have the expertise and raw data to determine which keywords are going to deliver traffic to your web site and once there, convert that traffic into potential customers. Unfortunately, many SEM firms aren’t much better. If you do hire an expert, you want to make sure you know how much they are spending on various keywords, and if they can give you reports that track results. A reputable provider will have no problem showing you exactly how they are spending your money. To help with this sometimes confusing task, see a complete checklist of questions to ask a potential SEM provider (located in a sidebar to this article).

Focus on placement: But not where you think. There are a lot of SEM firms out there that may promise you the number one ranking on Google, but they won’t tell you which keywords they are going after. What if your top ranking is for keywords that no one is using? Realistically, dealers need to focus on seeing themselves at the top of listings for the right terms. Garnering top placement for “Honda dealer Atlanta” may not deliver the same conversion rates as “2005 Honda Accord Atlanta.” The latter term is more specific and will likely deliver a higher conversion rate.

Be patient: Effective SEO takes time. If a dealer is expecting to see instant results once a web site has been optimized, disappointment is inevitable. Achieving a top ranking is a long-term strategy and can take months. One reason is that effective SEO results depend largely on what links you have pointing to your site. When Google and other engines perform a search, part of what they look for is links coming into your site from other sources. Getting these links built up takes time. A realistic timeframe for a site to show up in SEO rankings ranges from a few weeks to several months. SEM on the other hand, can deliver instant results. If a dealer wants a fast turnaround, a targeted SEM campaign is the medium of choice.

Questions to Ask Your Search Engine Marketing Provider:

[list:2s11ckhj]- Is your provider asking you to sign a contract or make some other long-term commitment? If a provider doesn’t deliver in a reasonable timeframe, you should have the freedom to try other solutions.

– How much do you have to spend per month (what fees are involved)? Some providers charge management fees, which can drive up your per-lead cost.

– Do you have flexibility? You should have the ability to change campaigns on the fly in response to market conditions or specials that you or a competitor may be running.

– Can you choose when your ads run? If you know about what hours or days of the week potential buyers are looking for cars, you’ll want to be able to turn your campaigns on and off to ensure you’re running at optimum times.

– Can you track your results? With money tight, it’s important that you be able to track your return on investment. You should know where every phone call and e-mail submission is coming from, so you can connect the leads generated for every dollar spent.

– Is it easy to use? Even the most sophisticated technology isn’t going to do you much good if you can’t figure out how to use it. Look for a simple user interface.

– Is your supporting web site optimized for conversions? As important as your ad campaign is, a high quality web site that’s been built to turn visitors into leads is the most important part of the equation.

– Can I divide my spend throughout different departments such as new and used car sales, service, parts, finance, specials etc.?

– Can I control what I spend? Only you should be able to decide how much per lead you want to pay.

– Is my inventory updated in the search engines in real time? Every time you upload new inventory, ads should be automatically generated and posted on Google. This connects buyers directly with the inventory they’re seeking, which increases conversion rates and closing rates.[/list:u:2s11ckhj]
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Written by Elissa Giroux
Elissa Giroux is search operations manager with Dealer.com.

What Does Optimization Really Mean?

Optimization wins for buzzword of the year. But what does it really mean? The concept of a well-optimized site is not particularly difficult to understand, but optimization, in and of itself, is fairly complex. So many factors go into a good lead generating web site. It may begin with search engine optimization and marketing (SEO/M), but it certainly doesn’t end there. According to the dictionary, the verb optimize means “to make as effective, perfect, or useful as possible.” In other words, just showing up in the search engines isn’t going to cut it.

As I’ve stated previously, it doesn’t matter how good your SEO/M is, if you can’t keep consumers on your site. If your web site isn’t “sticky” it will be ineffective. On the other hand, the most beautiful site on the web will go unseen without proper optimization and marketing. A high performance, lead generating web site requires a delicate balance of brains (framework) and beauty (compelling media).

Let’s discuss the points mentioned in the definition of the word optimize:

Effectiveness
Rich media is a huge part of web sites today, and it’s always changing. Video, configurators, scrolling banners, any element of your web site that engages the consumer and requires some interaction can be loosely categorized as “rich media.” Rich media’s role is to create and hold interest in your site. Flash movies are a good example of rich media and a space saving way to keep your consumer’s attention. Unfortunately, the very word “flash” carries a stigma. People mistakenly view flash as impossible to optimize and ineffective. The truth is, as search engines and technologies grow in intelligence (see Adobe’s latest searchable Flash technology) and consumers continue to require increasing stimulation, flash elements are perhaps the best way to go.

When used incorrectly, flash can be an obstacle to optimization, but when properly used, flash will enhance your web site and increase your lead generation. In today’s economy, it’s more important than ever to stand out and grab attention. People aren’t necessarily thinking about investing in a new car. When you get them on your site, you must be sure to make a positive and lasting impression. Without flash or other rich media elements, your web site is no better than reading the want ads. No one reads the want ads for fun; it’s all business. Your goal, especially today, is to bring users to your site with captivating media, good information, and subtle sales messages. This brings us to the next factor of optimization, usefulness.

Usefulness
Consumers are interested in a wide array of information. Many of your customers will be planning more cautiously over the next months if they intend to purchase a vehicle. The economy requires many people to adhere to a stricter budget than in past years. This fact should change your goals slightly. Rather than fighting to make a sale, work to gain trust by providing informative content that will help consumers find what they’re looking for. Change your call to action buttons to reflect your willingness to help. Rather than “Take a test drive,” consider “E-mail for more information.” Let customers know that your salespeople are ready and willing to answer questions and lead them to the perfect car for them and their budget.

Perfection (Completeness)
Last, but not least, we come to perfection/completeness of your web site. A well-optimized site should leave nothing out. Make sure all the information you provide is accurate and plentiful. Avoid using phrases like “call for price,” “no specials at this time” and “not available.” Your site should be free of dead ends and errors. Your contact info should be readily available and direct consumers to the appropriate departments. Every car should be pictured. Your specials should be kept fresh and never allowed to lapse. You get the idea.

Perhaps the most important part of a “complete” web site is integrated marketing. Integrated marketing can really help keep your site relevant and visible via many varying keywords. All your advertising and marketing efforts should connect and direct traffic to your web site. If your e-mail address isn’t ___@yourdealership.com, get it changed to reflect your web address. All your advertisements should not only include a phone number, but the URL to your site as well. On the flip side, all of your online advertising should include slogans and specials mentioned in your offline advertising. You’ll be surprised at the traffic increase you will experience once you connect your marketing dots.

In closing, optimization is a key ingredient to success during these tight times. Be sure you take all of its factors into account, then sit back and let the customers come to you.
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Aimee Romero has been involved in new media management for the last seven years. She is heavily involved in research, data analysis, advertising and marketing within the automotive industry and currently writes for Dealerskins.

What To Look For In A Search Expert

A well-optimized Website coupled with the talent of a search engine expert is imperative to the success of a dealership Website. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your Website is, without traffic it’s useless. Conversely, all the traffic in the world will fail to create leads if your Website is unappealing or hard to navigate.
So we’ve already established that you want to be at the top of search results. Now, how do you get there? Some dealerships have a knack for search engine optimization and marketing, but they are few and far between. There is almost always more you could be doing. The fact is the search industry is constantly evolving. Staying on top of the latest trends and tricks of the trade can be more than you bargained for. Outsourcing your SEO/SEM can save you time, energy, and money.

Not all SEO/SEM experts, however, are created equal. Here are a few things to look for when shopping for a search expert.

1. Certification

When searching for search engine expertise, go to the search engines. Anyone who claims to be more capable than your staff should have something to show for it. Make sure the company you use has search engine certification (Google Adwords certified or Microsoft AdExcellence certified for example). At the very least, an SEO/SEM company should have several certified individuals on staff. Google, Yahoo!, and general search engine know-how is a must have; make sure any company you entrust with your online advertising budget has documentation to prove their prowess.

2. Industry knowledge

In addition to certification, look for companies that are active in the industry. Good SEO/SEM providers will be members of research organizations like SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization). They should be up to speed on all the latest techniques and technologies. Certified companies should have relationships with search engines like Google who help to keep SEO/SEM companies up-to-date on trends and certifications.

3. Experience

Look for companies who work specifically with the automotive industry. They should have experience to draw from and proven techniques that work. In addition to that, they should be flexible enough to incorporate your dealership’s insight and needs.

4. Proof of experience

Your SEO/SEM provider should have a positive track record and be able to prove it. Ask them for stats on their services. They should be able to provide you with evidence of their ability.

5. Transparency

Any SEO/SEM company that keeps you in the dark is dangerous. Make sure your provider lets you know which campaigns and keywords are most successful. You should also know where your dollars are going! Keep on top of your cost-per-click.

Remember that the most beautiful Website in the world means nothing if nobody can find it. Conversely, an unappealing Website won’t deliver leads no matter what kind of traffic it gets. If you take a little time to find the right SEO/SEM match for your dealership, you will see better results and ultimately save youself valuable time, energy, and money down the road.
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Aimee Romero is the marketing writer and analyst for Dealerskins. She can be reached at 877-707-5467 or email aimee@dealerskins.com.

Video Killed the SEO Star

More and more car buyers are going online, and video search engine optimization (VSEO) is the most powerful tool available for generating Internet leads.

Darwin explained his theory of natural selection as the “principle by which each slight variation [of a trait], if useful, is preserved.” In the world of automotive retail, we are all in a state of evolution, even if some of us fight it, kicking and screaming, along the way. There is so much opportunity to make money in your special finance department, but sometimes it’s hard to find the magic formula for success. To truly evolve, we must understand and adopt the strategies that have allowed the strongest dealerships to survive.

Video search engine optimization (VSEO) is by far the most powerful form of online marketing. Traditional search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are useful tools, but they won’t produce the results you’ll get from a VSEO campaign.

Common misconceptions

Many dealers out there are uploading videos to YouTube or MySpace and telling themselves that their VSEO campaign is under way. That is simply not the case. Anybody can upload a video; as a matter of fact, there are very inexpensive video cameras on the market that come pre-loaded with YouTube software. It’s an easy way to get videos online, but it’s not VSEO.

Another common misconception is that potential buyers are shopping for cars on those video hosting sites. Many Internet-savvy customers are, but the vast majority is more likely to initiate the car-buying process on a regular search engine such as Google, Yahoo! or MSN. For the first time, videos are popping up on the first page of search results, often in the top 10. That means people who weren’t necessarily looking for a video found one anyway, and that video was optimized to appear in the organic results. That’s VSEO.

You may have heard of Web 2.0, a term that describes the rapidly changing online landscape. It’s a push toward a more creative use of technology on the part of both providers and end users. Social-networking and file-sharing sites are excellent examples of what the future holds for the Internet. As more and more people move toward the Web and away from traditional advertising media, your dealership’s videos should be there to greet them.

Benefits of a VSEO campaign

VSEO includes the creation, management and distribution of multimedia, including audio and video, image files, titles and descriptions, metadata and keywords. For dealers, the proper utilization of all these facets of the technology can combine to land their videos on the first page of search results on all the video search engines, as well as traditional search engines. Think of VSEO as traditional SEO on steroids: Not only can your dealership get the placement it needs to attract customers, but those customers are greeted with videos, rather than a static site.

VSEO is more powerful than traditional SEO and SEM for the following reasons:

[list:jnxl4ujr]• Video content is more valuable to the search engines. A properly optimized video can and will get more visibility and higher rankings on a search engine. VSEO often can achieve top 10 rankings on search engines within seven to 14 days. Traditional SEO can take much longer to “kick in.”

• With traditional SEO, you have one Website, one URL. That means you can only show up in the results once, and that’s if you show up at all. With VSEO, you can run any number of videos online. That can mean more first-page results for you, and fewer slots for your competitors.

• Video is still new enough to set you apart. Think of the number of your competitors who haven’t even mastered SEO and SEM!

• Video allows you to interact with potential customers. As a seasoned presenter, I’ve learned that words alone have little impact. People hear more with their eyes and their hearts than their ears. Video communication allows your customers to pick up on your body language and vocal inflections.

• The strongest form of advertising is word-of-mouth. I’m talking about testimonials, testimonials and more testimonials! Create videos of your favorite customers. Get them talking about how they really, really needed a good car and a good loan, and you delivered. [/list:u:jnxl4ujr]
Getting the campaign under way

Try the following steps to get your VSEO campaign rolling:

1. Take the do-it-yourself approach, or select a third-party provider. Many dealers have channeled their inner geek to launch a successful VSEO campaign. They know about things like creating and maintaining multiple accounts on the file-hosting sites, not to mention keeping careful track of all the names, logins, passwords and uploads associated with each account. However, not everybody has the time to become a video expert, let alone wrap their minds around the intricacies of VSEO.

2. Shoot some videos. The big difference is content. You’re going to need different types of videos and lots of them. Start with video testimonials from satisfied customers, but not just one or two. Some of your customers found just the car they wanted. Others needed help getting a loan. And why stop there? Testimonials from lender reps and regional OEM managers can go a long way toward convincing potential buyers that you’re the real deal.

3. Diversify your library. Mix it up. You want to have some OEM-style, mind-blowing computer animations, but some serious and funny stuff as well.

4. Aim high. Remember, what you put into VSEO is what you’re going to get out of it. If you haven’t seen Johnson Automotive’s series of “No Badgers” commercials, do yourself a favor and look them up. You’ll find a series of very funny ads with high production quality. Johnson spent a lot of time and money to produce them, but they were a big hit. Millions and millions of people have seen them. However, there have been a lot of imitation badger commercials, and they’re pretty hard to watch. Don’t try to hijack an idea if you can’t do it well!

5. Understand the technology. Search engines are growing more sophisticated every day. Many have facial-recognition, pixel-recognition and speech-recognition software. This technology was developed specifically to ensure that the videos that show up in search results are actually relevant. Therefore, your subject lines, description, keywords, etc. must match the content of the video. You can’t just upload random videos and tag them with whatever keywords you think you need. Think about what your campaign is going to be about, create your videos, and tag them appropriately.

Special finance is a very profitable sector of the automotive industry. You want to make sure that you can properly convey your message to your prospects, and video communication is the best tool available. Bottom line: I strongly suggest that you create a VSEO strategy for your special finance department as soon as possible. Sell with it or sell against it.
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Sean V. Bradley is the founder/CEO of DealerSynergy, an award-winning international automotive training and consulting firm that specializes in special finance, Internet sales, BDC and technology. E-mail Sean at sbradley@special-finance.com.

Staying Out Of Google Hell

In recent columns, I’ve cautioned readers that tricking or attempting to game the search engines is a very risky proposition with only short-term benefits.

A few weeks ago, we encountered an auto dealership that didn’t understand why its universal search results were, to say the least, anemic. It took only a few minutes to determine that the issue with the URL was that the major search engines did not recognize the dealership in their respective indices.

While this story has a somewhat happy ending, others are not so fortunate. The incident prompted me to conduct a bit of research to determine what can happen when Websites become de-listed by search engines.

Most of what can be found is on message boards and forums. That is not surprising, given that the search engines are very secretive in their methods and do not feel an obligation to educate the world in proper search engine behavior. They don’t even inform a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) that it is being removed from their index. Usually, Websites who have found themselves de-listed did just that—they found themselves de-listed. They wondered why traffic was off, or why their Website wasn’t coming up in search engine results, and deduced that something was amiss. There were no warnings, no emails, and no phone calls. It just happened.

There are programs that can determine how many pages are being indexed by the major search engines. If the results of the scan determine that zero pages are in the search index, it is never a good thing. It is, in fact, a very bad thing.

My advice for people who find themselves in such a predicament is to be prepared for a long and arduous process. There is a reason that being de-listed on search engines is affectionately referred to as being in “Google hell.”

As I reviewed the different posts from the various de-listees, I could not help but pity them. Their pleas to the search engines were pretty much ignored; some had no idea why they had become de-listed. I even found sample letters-of-apology one could send to the search engines, begging and pleading for a second chance with a confession of misdeed and a vow to never sin again.

Being in Google hell is an apt description. It is the roach motel of the World Wide Web; Websites check in—but they don’t check out. One colleague says that, in his experience, the only way out of Google hell is to get a new URL.

I could opine on possible ways to get out of Google hell, but I’d much rather give examples of how sites get into Google hell and, in so doing, help other sites avoid calamity. I do not know of a definitive list of all the reasons a site can get de-listed—nor is it likely that one exists, since the search engines are constantly trying to be one step ahead of the next new tactic; but suffice it to say, not playing by the rules is the over-arching theme. By understanding some of the offending acts of others, perhaps it will save someone the extreme frustration that comes with being de-listed.

Are your keywords on the up and up? A dealership I encountered not long ago determined that a good way to grow traffic is to put the names of competing dealerships and models of competing auto lines in their keyword string. I quickly advised them that they were playing a dangerous game. It isn’t as though someone can’t see the code for the keywords of the site. After all, all it takes is a Web browser.

I don’t think the dealership was aware just how obvious their actions were. Just one complaint to Google or Yahoo! from one of the competing dealerships who were in the dealer’s keyword list and that dealership would have their torch extinguished and be kicked off the island. The search engines want to provide searchers with valid search results. Any site should want the same thing.

In another recent incident, a dealership had multiple sites with the exact same content. This is different than a redirect where multiple URLs are forwarded to a central site. These were distinct sites with replication—clones.

The message boards are full of people who were not aware that having duplicate sites is a major “no-no.” The search engines look upon this as an attempt to have search results that indicate returns from many sites, when they are actually returns from the same site. Sites that have had that keen notion might want to be prepared for a really rude awakening—in Google hell!

A particularly unfair (in my opinion) way that a site can find itself on the search engine black list is by linking to other sites that are de-listed. I guess the moral of the story is to choose your partners very carefully. Remember, when you link with a site, you’re linking with everyone with whom that site has linked to. Before accepting or exchanging a link with another site, find out how their pages rank. If you don’t know how, find someone who does. It may save you a lot of pain in the long run. Besides, it really doesn’t help your search engine ranking much to accept back links from sites that have a lower page rank than you.

One other big, obvious offense is to provide black text on a black background or white text on a white background. While the search engines will see the text, they will recognize it for what it is: an attempt to gain search traffic undeservedly. Try that one and you’re pretty likely to burn—in Google hell.

What might seem like a clever idea may actually result in a site’s undoing. Be careful and do not ever believe that the search engines will not have a way of sorting and ferreting out those who want to raise their search rankings using less than acceptable methods. If it seems clever or innovative by half, it probably wrong is. Play by the rules and when in doubt, ask someone who knows.
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Neal Fondren is the director of new media for the Intermark Group. He spent 16 years working in cable television before pioneering Internet media for 12 years for such companies as HGTV and The Food Network. For more information, please call 205-747-3890.

The Right SEO for Your Auto Dealership

There is no doubt that search engine optimization (SEO) is essential to bringing potential buyers to your dealership website…and according to the ecommerce merchants surveyed by Practical eCommerce, 94% were using SEO to bring traffic to their websites, and over 60% believe that their SEO efforts account for 50% or more of their traffic. While this news is great, it’s concerning that a number of those surveyed didn’t fully understand the difference between good (White Hat) SEO tactics and those that are considered borderline (Grey Hat) and even bad (Black Hat) tactics.

Almost 70% of those surveyed said that paying for links on other sites was a somewhat effective tactic. Most SEO experts consider this to be a Grey Hat tactic if the links are purchased only for the potential increase in search engine ranking. What’s worse is that almost 54% of those surveyed consider keyword stuffing to be at least a somewhat effective tactic. Keyword stuffing happens when website content is “stuffed” with the keywords the website wishes to rank for, to the point that the content doesn’t make sense. This is considered a Black Hat tactic by most SEO experts.

So what SEO tactics are considered White Hat tactics?

[list:4s7d31g7]* Internal Linking: Use your content to link to other pages on your website. This includes having a site map on your website to help search engines find their way around.
* Content Creation: Have content on your website that people want to look at. Search engines will rank the most relevant sites, so make sure everything on your website is worthwhile.
* Site Optimization: Behind the scenes stuff like proper meta tags, title tags, and optimized content are very important, so having an expert handle them may be best.[/list:u:4s7d31g7]
Before you make SEO adjustments to your websites, make sure they aren’t considered harmful to your reputation, as most Grey and Black Hat tactics are. And when in doubt…ask an expert.
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Written by Chris Deringer