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I just got off the phone with my Cobalt advocate and once again was shocked when I asked about "backlinks" and my rep wasn't sure what I was talking about. They seem to think that all we have to do to get organic traffic is add some nearby towns to our text and meta info and boom we will have plenty of traffic.

We only have this site because of all the captive programs GM is shoving down our throats now. I am glad I kept our other website or I could count my web traffic on two hands.

So, is anyone happy with Cobalt? Maybe you can share some tips with me on how to get some movement out of them. It took too long to get a templated website live and they keep telling me the seo is coming.

Tags: Cobalt, Dealer, Websites

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@Joey
Cobalt does allow you to update the META data on your website pages to cover the basic "on-site" SEO needs. The default websites delivered by Cobalt, as recent as a new one I saw this week, do not practice good SEO tagging. So, out of the box, their sites need to be tweaked.

Their inventory listing module has gotten much better in recent years in that each car has unique page titles and META description tags. The only major detraction is their car detail page URL, here is an example: http://www.circlebmw.com/VehicleDetails/535225453. It does not have the car information in the URL string.

Since you mentioned "backlinks" I am assuming that you would to get more organic leads from your Cobalt website. If that is the case, you need to consider two things. Has your Cobalt representative demonstrated clear knowledge of SEO and have they outlined a plan on how they will be helping your organic visibility.

Many dealer platforms talk about offering Automotive SEO services, but most apply to only on-site SEO and on-site content development. The majority of the lift that occurs from SEO services come from off-site SEO, which includes the backlinks you were asking about. In order to increase lead flow, your off-site SEO strategy must be targeting the keywords that you want to optimize and a clear plan on how to create links based on those keywords.

Tools like blog posts, press releases, microsites, document sharing services, and social media portals can provide these valuable back-links. I'm not sure how much off-site SEO services are included in your monthly fee. Ask.

If Cobalt says that they are doing off-site SEO, then you can ask them for examples of off-site link building. You can also check if any of their links are respected by using the "link" command in Yahoo.

Dealers in competitive markets need thousands of back-links to dominate in organic search results but a few hundred links is a good start. This does not happen overnight. A good comprehensive Internet Marketing Strategy would be able to lift the Cobalt website off the mat. If you need help, give me a call.

Brian Pasch
732-450-8200
http://twitter.com/automotiveseo
Thanks for the comments Brian. I have been following your postings here and on other sites. You offer some great information.

I did get a call back today from my advocate to try to set up a conference with an SEO specialist. Hopefully that can happen tomorrow.

You are right about the url strings for the inventory listings, our old Reynolds website had individual page listings with the year, make and model in the url. I asked them about submitting the inventory to Google Base but they didn't know what that was.

I have been watching for backlinks to show up for the site in yahoo site explorer and I have checked some of the other local dealers backlinks as well. We are not showing any backlinks as of yet for the Cobalt site and the dealers I have looked at their backlinks seem to all come from scraper sites, paid third party portals and local media outlets.

Thanks again for your comments.
Good back-links are the art portion of SEO and take years to discover how to create quality back-links in a short period of time. Crappy paid directories will do you no good and those irritating emails from companies in India offering hundreds of quality back-links for a small fee are a scam.

Getting PR3, PR4 and PR5 links from automotive blogs, and auto related websites will help you the most because of the established relevance of these sites and their keyword density for automotive terms.

I've stumbled upon some good ones that I leverage for my clients as well as have developed portals for just such a purpose.

If Cobalt doesn't offer a boutique off-site SEO solution, just find someone who can and you'll be fine.
Hello Joey:

Thank you for opening up this conversation. My first question from the Get-Go: Were you being able to set up an appointment with one of our SEO specialists to address your questions and needs, mentioned earlier in your starting post? If not, please be so kind and reach out to me, and I will personally follow up in Seattle/Lynwood to get you the desired answers and assistance.

Your idea to use and increased amount on back-links from and to your site is the right way to go. The additional Pages for each desired model in your Makes also are the desired way to go in today’s strategic SEO. As I know will that be no problem for Cobalt to establish on your website. When I was still in my role as an eCommerce Director, additional Model Pages and the cross-links and back-links from my Blog, Twitter, Micro-Sites and other Landing Pages we had in our "hat", had created the traffic I was looking for and earned me and my dealerships a great part of Real Estate on the Search Engine Rankings.

Joey, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. As I have mentioned I will also in the meanwhile reach out to my Support Team at Cobalt. Would there be a chance to let me know with whom you had so far contact from the Advocate site and who on the second call contacted you? Thank you in advance.


Volker Jaeckel (a.k.a. VJ)
Digital Marketing Ambassador
Cobalt Group
Cell: (480)290-8886
I have an appointment with one of your specialists set for today. Thanks for jumping into the conversation.
Is your SEO specialist Victor? If so, demand that Cobalt have the SEO team supervisor for your assigned Cobalt division and also demand that the further ups in the SEO team be on the call. If you have Ben Conlon or Scott Lovetere for an account advocate, they are great content guys and will push for you to get an in-bound linking form filled out for them to get you an inbound link. If your account advocate doesn't have this form- tell him to hunt it down. I got better results when I asked Cobalt how much it was going to cost me as a customer to get what I wanted and told them what I wanted accomplished and gave them an ETA to let me know an update. I had to schedule website phone calls every other week just to be sure the things I requested got done, yet it was worth it to get the needle moved forward on the website.
When your SEO call occurs, watch for the words "well this is what was set up when the site was originally set up with Cobalt and we had you fill out a worksheet..."- up til the last account advocate I had and getting everyone it seemed like at Cobalt on an SEO call with me; I could not get that worksheet redone- and I know they wanted to tell me it was going to cost their famous $199...anyways...
Also, watch for the words "well we see those keywords are getting a lot of hits, yet we can't send you the reports to back that up"- my Google analytics wouldn't ever match what their reports would say...I would ask for reasons why my site didn't own GPO and I would hear, "Well we don't know what their keywords are and what their SEO strategy is, yet yours is great because you're holding position 2 and 3"...and I would go to the other stores websites, view source and read off their keywords- and mind you, the entire time, I'm paying for some sort of SEO services with the dealership website...
And and nothing drives me more batty then hearing this on a Cobalt SEO call- "well we don't know what Google is measuring versus what our parameters are"...uh, I'm not the one that's the trained specialist, yet don't you want to be trying to closely match what the 1 company in measuring analytics is doing, or at least stay up on what's being taught to the dealers to measure their website's SEO strategy's effectiveness...
Wanna get a reaction out your Cobalt SEO call?- mention Hubspot's Website Grader...oooo...that was fun! I was entertained for 3 hours from that...
@Joey - Did you keep the old Reynolds Web Solutions site live at the same time setting up the Kobalt site? Because if you did, there are some pretty cool things you can do with various assets from the Reynolds Web Solutions WebmakerX platform and the Kobalt Nitra website architecture... Especially with the Reynolds WebmakerX inventory...

But, before you answer that, please help ADM by completing this quick survey... Click to take ADM Professional Community survey
Can anyone give advice for installing Yahoo Site Explorer on a Cobalt-hosted website? They have the META tags locked down (of course, I can add my own keywords & description, but I cannot add a custom META tag.) Plus I cannot upload any files to their server.
Joey - You have the right idea when you mention that you keep other web sites in addition to the GM mandated website... The days if a dealer accomplishing what most have as objectives for their digital marketing strategy using a single website have been over for quite awhile. The OEM mandated website should be considered an extension of the OEM Tier 1 site, and in some cases, the Regional Dealer Association Tier 2 website... This should be considered a good thing, because the pricing ranges from zero to no more than $500 a month depending on the OEM and the dealer website supplier(s) chosen.

Where far too many dealers make key strategic errors in judgment is to rely on your OEM mandated site to completely satisfy their dealer controlled website component of their complete digital marketing strategy... First of all, one website is not enough and simply makes no sense. That would be like buying one billboard or one newspaper ad every year and saying the job is done for that portion of the dealership's advertising program for this year. It simply makes no sense and with the low costs associated with setting up multiple web sites, it is being penny wise and pound foolish.

By all means, maintain your OEM mandated website, but do not allow it to become the primary focus of your online or digital marketing strategy and tactics... Let it be what it is, the place where people who click on your dealership link from the OEM site land... Then, focus your offers and links on getting visitors to your OEM mandated site out of there and into whatever the relevant website or microsite is that you have complete control over. Get your website visitors to a site that your dealership owns and controls and which does not present visitors with your local competing dealers at every opportunity, which is what most OEM sites and the web based apps and features connected to OEM mandated dealer websites tend to do.

Am I against the OEM's providing low cost or free websites to dealers? Absolutely not! This is a proven strategy for car companies and is a great way for an OEM to offset the majority of their franchised dealers who are indifferent to online marketing and advertising, and do not want, or see the value in hiring a resource to maintain their websites. This is a good thing for dealerships like yours who are wise enough to pay attention to the Internet and maintain their own dealer controlled websites as part of a comprehensive digital marketing and Internet sales strategy. Let your OEM mandated website be amongst the competing dealers shown to visitors of OTHER DEALERSHIP websites in your market area who do not want to be bothered with creating and maintaining their own digital marketing strategy.

Then, use your own unique online marketing strategy and the websites, microsites, social media and messaging that you have which is outside the level playing field that the OEM's are required by Federal Law to stage, as a means of gaining an unfair competitive advantage! Because at the end of each Internet Sales and Marketing day, isn't that what every dealer who gives a damn about online marketing really want? The unfair competitive advantage... Which every car company doing business in the USA is barred from facilitating by several Federal Laws and Regulations. However, not only is it legal for you to seek the advantage that car companies are forbidden from providing, it is what separates the most successful dealers in any market from the ones that are not as successful.

It has always seemed ridiculous to me that any dealer would use the OEM supplied marketing tools as their sole means of trying to get an advantage, because as every dealer knows, the first time a car company provides any particular dealer with preferential treatment that can be proven, there would be lawsuits flying all over the local and federal court rooms... So, why then would any dealer restrict themselves to the OEM mandated websites when there is no limit to how many websites any business can choose to create, publish and maintain?
@Joey

I created an ADM article on link building tips for car dealers since you brought up the topic. I hope this help you build some high quality back links.

http://www.automotivedigitalmarketing.com/profiles/blogs/car-dealer...

Brian Pasch
Hey Joey,

You know we`re a VW dealer & have to have also have a Cobalt site too. When I started at the Douglas Auto Group 4.5 years ago the site was pretty much obsolete. Soooooooooooooooooooooo I "tore it apart" & customized the entire site myself & today, I`m told that Volkswagen of America uses the site in their presentations throughout the country, when discussing websites amongst their dealers. We get a pretty good amount of traffic from it each month. Take a look at it & see if it gives you any ideas. www.VWHotDeals.com

* You can email me here or at kenabeam@aol.com if you have any questions.

Ken Beam
Creative Marketing Director

Douglas Auto Group
491 Morris Ave.
Summit New Jersey 07901
Exactly! I did the same thing with my regulation issue Cobalt Subaru website a couple years ago. I found that if you view the Cobalt architecture limitations as a challenge instead of as a party-spoiler that you can do quite a lot. You simply need to get creative regarding the limitations of the form.

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