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(For discussion purposes, this does not relate to multiple DEALER OWNED domains. I am only referring to 3rd party landing pages)
For those of you considering a 3rd party landing page as a part of your SEM/PPC package, think again. I can understand copying your company owned domain into a shadow site so you can promote your online and offline traffic separately and know what you are getting for your money. That’s just smart. After all, SEM is supposed to be about trackability and transparency. But landing pages that are separate from your primary domain and that you have little or no control over just don’t make sense.

What would you think if someone told you this? I am going to design and construct a building. By the way, there will be another building that pretty much looks the same next door that sells cars. I know you already have your own building, but I can make a more “sales friendly” building. Instead of you learning how to construct a similarly “sales friendly” building for yourself, you can just use my building. In my building, I will sell your cars…I will divert all the traffic YOU PAID FOR to my building…where I will represent YOUR brand for me, I will do you proud. Instead of closing 20% of the people who walk in the door, I promise to close 25%. But when I go out of business…or you terminate your relationship with me…no one who ever before has driven by or come to my building to buy a car from YOU will know where you are now…NO ONE. And you will not have learned how to build a “sales friendly” store so you will have to find someone else to do it after I am gone.

THAT, my friends, is what is happening with landing pages. Dealers need to learn how to speak to their customers and prospects through their websites. Don’t rely on someone else’s landing pages! Don't let them suck you in when they say...I will build you a site and send search traffic to it for $X,000 per month. You need to be in control for the reasons pointed out above and the following:

1. You need to know how to build an effective website that people respond to anyway...why not start TODAY? The internet isn’t going away in 5 years. It will be even more important to your business.

2. 85% of internet users (possibly more) aren’t going to fill out a lead form online...period! Don't let anyone convince you otherwise. No matter how efficient that landing page is or how many plasma TV’s you promise to give away, an overwhelming majority of them just simply won't fill out a lead form. And many would argue that higher end buyers with better credit scores are even less likely to fill out promotionally based lead forms. So why don’t you expend your resources speaking to them in their own language…interacting with them…giving them a good feeling about your store, your staff and your service? That is, after all, what a well designed, effective site will offer you.

There is no magic formula that will make EVERYONE fill out a lead form. For that matter, there isn't even a magic formula that will make A THIRD of everyone fill out a lead form! It’s just not going to happen in a vast, vast majority of cases. So, what is the end goal? Isn't it to get a customer to come to your site...view your inventory…find the car they want…call or walk into your store…ask your well trained, well paid sales person some questions…and then buy the car? Isn't that how it works in an ideal situation?

Don’t get me wrong, I KNOW that some people legitimately fill out lead forms with their real names (not Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck). But by focusing ONLY on those people, we are focused on the smallest portion of visitors (and potential buyers) to our sites. Let's not forget, it’s not just about the leads! It's about selling cars! A strategy and budget that focuses only on sending people to a landing page and turning them into a lead is not a realistic or well balance strategy!

The greatest upside the web offers consumers is that it allows them to do it on their own terms. If you don't let them do that on your site by not offering logical, simple yet comprehensive navigation, they will just simply go somewhere else!

Tags: 3rd, landing, marketing, pages, party, ppc, search, sem

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Nice discussion Betsy.

No question that excellent, consumer friendly websites are far more important to dealers than landing pages but, can you share some examples of sites you believe to be effective in gaining consumer response?

Also, I wanted to chime in on the ReachLocal part of this discussion. I was perhaps one of the biggest ReachLocal skeptics or naysayers in the automotive internet world. ReachLocal approached me with regard to their automotive vertical in November of 2007. After seeing how their technology works I was truly impressed. I’m now proud to serve on their advisory board providing insight and guidance to their training, marketing sales and development initiatives.

I know how Google AdWords works. I’ve spent the time to learn how to set up and manage campaigns, I’ve taught dealers that were determined to be “do-it-yourselfers.” I have dealers right now that are very pleased with the results they achieve on their own without landing pages or SEM company assistance. I’m quite familiar with many of the SEM providers that currently compete for car dealer advertising budgets and I haven’t found ONE that can compete with ReachLocal!

Jamie did a great job explaining but, I want to reiterate that there is a huge difference in ReachLocal’s technology and “mirror sites”. ReachLocal does not create “mirror sites” for their customers. If they did, they would not be in business today. Mirror sites are bad!

With that said….

Betsy, I can tell by the words you write, you are honestly seeking the best interest of the dealers you work with. You have my respect. I sincerely hope to meet you at Ralph’s MEGA NADA ADM BLOWOUT EXTRAVAGANZA on Sunday (oops that sounded a bit over the top).

Ralph, my friend, encourager and teacher… as a promoter of micro-site, multi-website, open minded, progressive marketing strategies you owe it to yourself to get an inside view of how ReachLocal’s technology works. I thought I knew but, I had no idea and RL’s stuff integrated into some of the concepts that you already advocate could help take dealers to yet another level. I’m really looking forward to seeing you this weekend.

With encouragement and hope!

Thanks for the feedback and perspective. I look forward to meeting you Sunday as well!

For anyone interested, it's supposed to be 60 degrees and sunny most of the weekend in San Fran. It is thunder snowing where I live right now, so that is sounding pretty good to me!

Betsy, Shaun, Ralph, Jamie,

Sorry I'm late to the party. At first glance, here are some "real world" numbers on car dealers and bookmarking. We track the stats on well over a thousand dealer websites. Though I can't say I look at every piece of data that has come in, I can say I have never seen a return visitor from a bookmark. Not to say it doesn't happen - just doesn't happen much.

Email links have a fairly high rate of return clicks but those would not fall into this arena.

When our Automotive Lead System and/or LMS SiteEncore pieces are proxied by ReachLocal, the leads and re-entry activity takes a huge jump. I think at least in part this is due the the fact they target "buyer terms" rather than terms that get the spend up.

As car dealers learn more, they will eventually demand target marketing like RL's, rather than shotgun, wild wild west spending.

Steve Crim
Organic Search Optimization and Lead Generation
For ADM members who may be interested in taking a proactive approach to managing their dealership's reputation using the power of Consumer Generated Content (CGC) web sites, check out the dealership program by clicking on the image below and then using the green arrows on the bottom of the page you land on to advance through their presentation:


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