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The latest report by Clickz:

It's imperative that any dealer who is using a 3rd party to manage their automotive SEM campaign ask that company what their fees are. Reports are coming out that some Google Authorized Resellers are charging up to 60%. 

Google once needed these companies to vastly reach the SMB market (which includes Automotive Dealers), but Google is quickly figuring out that they can do just a good of a job without gauging the customer. 

I've always been a fan of a flat fee or in the very least a 100% transparent report on how much money is going to the search engines and how much your agency is keeping. The true ad agency world charges 15% - either on top or as part of the NET buy.

DEALERS - take control over your spending!  Just ask the right questions. 

Tags: automotive, dealer, engine, marketing, ppc, search, sem, seo

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Agreed. There are some black hat companies out there making the industry look bad. Beware click markups and any "black box" products!
The same goes for SEO. I've been getting a ton of comment spam as of late, on two different blogs from an SEO company (I presume) linking back to dealer websites (not directly). These comments have about 20 or so links in them and is full of garbage, I'm tempted to email the dealerships to let them know about it... might even be able to find out who they use for SEO.
Agreed (again). Spammy back-links have been growing in a lot of industries. From what we can tell, Google has been placing a lot more importance on Content (Size, Age, etc) and a bit less on links.
I'm not going to spread any rumors but I clicked through about 10 sites and each one was "built" by a very well know website provider.
I think it's in the a Dealer's best interest to have full control over the campaign. One of my dealers use to have a marketing company handle their PPC, and they use to get a monthly spreadsheet report from the company itself..not Google.

It's important to see your actual report. Besides how much money was spent there is a wealth of information in there.

If you look at your impressions it will tell you what the hottest searches are in your area.

An example is the Tampa Florida market. The word "Ford Mustang" was Googled 6,617 times as a search phrase in a 50 mile radius of the dealership for the month of March 2010.

The second most popular searched vehicle was (believe it or not) a Suzuki Forenza, the third was a Jeep Wrangler.

This dealer markets all of their inventory using PPC, and the information collected is a great tool when the big guy buys his newest inventory.

Normally I would use the Google Adwords tool, but I find it's not accurate anymore.
@Terrence - Thank you for a timely post with an important message. I have seen all manner of shenanigans used by various suppliers to overcharge dealers for managed services that claim to run and optimize their Google Adwords campaigns. One of the tactics that really gets me irked is when a provider creates a "Proxy Site" from the dealer's own eCommerce site built by a third supplier... And then the supplier drives organic traffic and usurps previously free traffic from clicks from searches for the dealer's OWN NAME by driving them into this proxy site. The dealer never sees a Google Adwords report, or anything else from a credible third party that would validate invoicing and the markeups being charged... All the dealer sees is something concocted by the vendor that shows:

"You Spent $XXXX.XX Amount and Received XXX Visitors for a Cost Per Visitor of $(practically free)". (but with cool looking charts and graphics)

How does anyone know if the numbers are real? First of all, if a PPC service provider is telling you they are using Google then they should be willing to provide the original Google Adwords reports and disclose their markup and any other costs that went on top of what they paid Google... And, always beware of any self-produced report from a supplier that shows "Cost Per Visitor" rather than "Cost Per Click"... Why? Because you may pay to get the customer to the site with the first click and then the customers come back on their own and the supplier is taking credit for your interactive content by mixing in the Free be-back traffic with the paid traffic to make their campaign performance look like it has a lower Cost Per Click than it actually does... Tricky Wabbits!

Secondly... Why would any dealer want to redirect web traffic to a supplier created and controlled "Proxy Site"? For reporting? So that the supplier can make up their own report cards along the way and not have to produce the actual Google Adwords reports? I don't get it, but yet I have seen otherwise highly business savvy dealers all over America buying Search Advertising from suppliers that use proxy sites and only show reports that they themselves fabricate, ahhhh, "generate".

As many of you know, I work for ADP Dealer Services, but you probably do not know that Google awarded the ADP Digital Marketing team their "Google Reseller of the Year" award for 2009 for a variety of reasons, but one of them is our transparent reporting (sorry, not a bunch of animated graphs with cartoon characters for entertainment value, just the facts, Jack!) and our markups were kept to the limits specified in our Google Enterprise Partnership Agreement... With Google doing what they call "Account Auditing". So, my team does not claim perfection, but I can assure dealers that we do NOT overcharge our Google Search Advertising dealer clients... And, Google can vouch for us on that issue!

One last thing... Why do people associate "Search Engine Marketing" with Search Advertising? The term refers to all aspects of leveraging Search Engine placements for the benefit of any business or organization, and it includes both onsite optimization, offsite optimization and all aspects of SEO along with the various types of paid inclusion and Pay per Click or Cost Per Click Search Engine Advertising. In other words, the correct use of the acronym "SEM" is to include both organic and paid strategies and tactics in the mix the term refers to... Maybe I am being too picky, but if you are paying attention to anything Google does, one of those things is to request that all AUTHORIZED Google resellers with actual contracts in place with Google (there are a lot of bogus "resellers" that target dealers) strike the term "Search Engine Marketing" or "SEM" from any reference to Search Advertising since the term refers to both organic and paid search marketing strategies, tactics, campaigns, etc.

This was a real issue for my team a couple of years ago because a lot of our printed materials and online content had mistakenly used the term "SEM" to refer to Search Advertising and PPC Campaigns. But, Google insisted that in order for us to be an authorized Google Reseller, we had to do things the correct way, including the verbiage in our marketing materials... The stuff we use to market the marketing services we sell... You know what I mean!
Thanks Ralph. It appears as if there is no argument for the other side, but I am looking for answers and have invited reps from some of these companies to come speak with us and allow them to rebut.

I'm so happy to see you agree regarding "SEM" being associated to PPC. SEM is truly the umbrella over SEO, PPC and Paid Inclusion (the days of Inktomi). I fought this for years, as I watched the Auto industry goof it up. But if you can't beat em'... you gotta join em sometimes.

I also do like your fee structure on SEM. In fact, I like it for all of our services. Overage is simply billed. Love it.
@Ralph
ReachLocal.com uses a proxy system and I have the same concerns about directing PPC campaigns to places other than the dealers primary site or microsite.

In regards to fees, it is common to see outsourced PPC companies charge 20-25% of the Adwords spend. I'm not an advocate for percentage based billing and prefer a fixed fee based on hours need to run the campaign per month.

For example, if a successful PPC campaign is setup and the dealer decides to increase his PPC budget from $3,000 to $6,000 in a month, why should the vendor get an additional $600? This is a carry over from the old advertising model where agencies got 15-20% of the ad spend for their placement.
I want to clarify why some companies don't link directly to a dealer's website. Google uses what's is called a quality score for all PPC accounts. The higher your quality score, the lower your cost per click will be.

Most dealer websites will have poor landing pages (for the vehicle). If you generate a custom landing page for each vehicle, you will get a high quality score.

When you obtain a couple of thousand clicks a month for PPC, this could save you thousands. My dealer in Tampa pays an average of $1.10 per click. Their last marketing company that managed their campaign had them paying an average of $2.60 per click. Obviously that's a big difference when it comes to how much you spend per month.

If you have a campaign running now, I encourage you to log in to check your quality score. It's a very important metric that can save you thousands of dollars a month advertising on Google.
I have not seen a dealer website in a long time that does not have an inventory details page for every vehicle in stock. The Inventory Details page is usually all about that specific vehicle and has a wealth of indexable data and information. Most dealer website inventory detail pages will produce high (>5) quality scores when used as a destination URL in a Google Adwords PPC Search Advertising campaign that is for that same year, make and model as the vehicle on the detail page. I see no justification for landing customers on the Search Advertising supplier's "Black Box" page, especially when it is an exact copy of the very same page that already exists in the dealer's site (proxy page).

Plus, most dealer websites have a web tracking, reporting and analytics application installed from a credible reporting company such as Omniture or WebTrends so that the dealer COULD verify the data supplied in reports from the Search Advertising supplier... But, maybe that is EXACTLY the problem!

Also be on the alert for dealer website suppliers who do not use a credible and established website visitor tracking and reporting tool such as Omniture or WebTrends. Again, it is like asking the fox to guard the henhouse! And, if a dealer website supplier provides a "Built In" search advertising engine that is part of the dealer's website back end admin tool... Well, then it is even more critical to have an independant measurement tool that is not something that the very same website supplier includes at no extra charge! It is always about accountability and inspecting what you expect for results using tools other than the employee's (or supplier's) word.

Landing Pages? Most of the dealer website suppliers now have a CMS tool that allows dealers, or their authorized suppliers (hint) to create customer landing pages anywhere in the dealer's full featured eCommerce website.

Or, as Brian pointed out, at least a specialized microsite built on a Wordpress MU platform would allow the dealer to install Google Analytics and provide for SOME degree of accountability... But, maybe that is EXACTLY the problem!

In any of the scenarios cited, if the dealer has a website that is so lame that it generates low Google Quality Scores from Inventory Details pages, then the dealer should be focused on either getting a better website, deploying one of dozens of microsite strategies using any number of suppliers who have now made specialized "microsites" a well worn and established best practice... BEFORE they invest advertising budget to drive traffic to a web site. Whether it is getting a second dealer website to avoid the OEM mandated garbage website, or a well planned microsite strategy, or even the utilization of GoDaddy, NetworkSolutions or 1and1 website packages that provide $5 a month websites pages that can be loaded with Quality Score enhancing text and content. Any of these are better alternatives than letting a PPC Search Advertising supplier build a "Proxy Site" that siphons off organic traffic, counts be-backs as "Clicks" and charges the dealer for them and is essentially a "Black Box" affair allowing the supplier to fabricate any metrics, analysis or reporting that they think the dealer wants to see, without any type of 3rd party unbiased validation.

I have heard people ask "how can you believe Google at face value?"... Give me a break!!! These same idiots look at some completely fabricated report produced by a suppliers built-in proxy site engine, or built-in search advertising application in the dealer website's back end and just ASS-UME that it is accurate and beyond reproach!
Very well said Ralph, very well said!
"These same idiots look at some completely fabricated report produced by a suppliers built-in proxy site engine, or built-in search advertising application in the dealer website's back end and just ASS-UME that it is accurate and beyond reproach!"...so true!

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