We all know that the internet is here to stay and car dealers in particular are bombarded on a daily basis about the perils of non-compliance when it comes to internet marketing. As soon as they master getting the car descriptions right and publish enough pictures to achieve decent click through rates, the bar gets raised yet higher.
The more they spend on SEO (search engine optimisation), SEM (search engine marketing) and PPC (pay per click) campaigns and updating their websites the more their potential customers demand for information intensifies. Pity the poor old sales manager or independent car dealer it soon becomes a case of “what next?” such is the pace with which the web and people’s expectations, grows.
As always the more people involved in providing these kinds of services the more sophisticated they become as marketing companies seek to gain the edge. There is now a new acronym to contend with GPOM (Google page one management). One should not underestimate the importance of a car dealership appearing on the first page of Google results for a highly searched for “keyword” and this clamour for top billing has led to some “interesting” techniques being used in the USA.
American automotive publishing company Edmonds (which is like Parkers, Glasses Guide and Cap all rolled into one) provides prices for new and used vehicles, a database of national and regional incentives and rebates, vehicle test drive reviews and tips and advice on car buying and ownership.
What they also do, through a third party, is sell “leads” to car dealerships (if you don’t know a sales lead is the identity of a human or entity potentially interested in purchasing a product or service, and represents the first stage of a sales process). Which is all well and good but what they have also been doing is using Google’s Adsense program (the paid for ads that appear on the right hand side of Google’s search results page) to purchase ads for search terms including the names of prominent dealer groups in the US (I think you can see where this is going). They then harvest the leads and sell them back to the very same car dealers! (Dealer refresh – Edmunds.com, they’re stealing from me!)
As one disgruntled car dealer put it;
“Here is a company we pay lots of money to, buying and using our name to get people to submit a price quote request on their site to either sell back to us or to sell to one of our competitors.”
Edmonds have apparently now ceased this practice but it does show that everyone has to be on their toes and car dealers would do well to Google their own business name once in a while.
As an old school car dealer and marketer the cutthroat world of internet marketing does sometimes make my head hurt (and my heart sink) so It was quite encouraging then and somewhat ironic that whilst reading the broadsheets the other day I saw that the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world wide web, Google, still promotes its brand by taking ad space in more traditional media like national newspapers. Who knows, we may even see a small ad extolling the virtue of Google alongside the ad for your local curry house in the local newspaper.
Now obviously with such an unlimited marketing budget it would be foolish not to expand the brand at every level possible, but it certainly got me thinking that perhaps we don’t necessarily have to give up on local rag or radio advertising completely.
If the king of the net engages with tomorrows customers in this way, then it’s quite possible that car dealers may also still find some prospective customers in this way, even if it probably won’t be for much longer and a heck of a lot more expensive!
Unless Google knows something we don’t?
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