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The Internet has changed many things for automotive advertising agencies but human nature isn't one of them.  In addition, many conventional automotive advertising wisdoms have also survived in the virtual world.  Delivering a consistent relevant message to a qualified targeted audience is still critical and automotive advertising agencies and auto dealers that think that all they need is an S.E.O. plan that will get them a number one position in Google are focused on the means -- not the end!


Quality of content, calls to action, frequency of messaging across multiple channels and media to develop top of the mind awareness are all key elements of marketing in both the real and the virtual world.  Of course the best message in the world -- real or virtual -- has no value if no one sees it so of course S.E.O. is a critical element that must be considered when driving the Internet Super Highway.


The solution can be exemplified by the diverse S.E.O. plans of  the masters -- like Brian Pasch for example -- who integrates content and diversity in blogs and social media to supplement their Google rankings for his dealer clients across multiple channels and verticals in his new Automotive Advertising Network.  Ron Morrison and his ronsmap that drive S.E.O. through C2C social media messaging and consumer generated content equally valued by Google algorithms and analytics.  And other resources like SiSTeR Technologies Video CarLot that relies on their automated video production platform with scalable human voice and customer interactive schema layers that provide vS.E.O. with the indexable weight of video in Google's algorithms as well as in their growing audience of car shoppers on You Tube.


My point is that beeng seen is good but if your S.E.O. plan stops there then your R.O.I. will be limited to good looking reports and positioning with little qualified site traffic and conversions to sales and service.  I plan to suggest some examples of what the end should be vs. the means in this post but I thought that I would first see what my ADM friends think of my point and see what I can learn before I presume to teach.


After all, what are friends -- and ADM -- for!



Tags: Advertising, Automotive, Brian, Morrison, Network, Pasch, Philip, Ron, Zelinger, advertising, More…agencies, agency, automotive, ronsmap,

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The more I understand about consumer behavior and Automotive SEO, your comments are right on the mark. In the past, getting sites to be found was a challenge but the automotive industry is growing up and so SEO specialists needs to grow up and morph into a more analytical, behavioral, and testing role.

Your article made me think about the day when all website vendors have inventory modules that are SEO friendly, integrated blogs, video, etc. and then what?

It comes down to the consumer experience; engagement and conversion. I don't hear too many dealers that are doing serious A/B testing on their landing pages and website elements. With chat, video, reviews, etc. as elements that can be added to the dealer website, it will be great to hear about what is working the best to increase sales and reach dealer marketing goals.

I know that you know, and if I only knew what you know now before I needed to know it -- then I would know enough to know what I should know tomorrow. Do you know what I mean?

Believe it or not, if you follow that last sentence it really does make a point! Tomorrow's technology already exists today since it takes time mature past beta tests and to establish sufficient market penetration and share to become recognized by the main stream and applied to current automotive advertising campaigns. Specifically, content is still key and the Internet is the ultimate resource with the various blogs, third party platforms and OEM sponsored sites that focus on the auto industry providing insights and information for car shoppers beyond the limited resources of even the best car salesperson, automotive advertising agency or individual auto dealership.

The market is a conversation and the auto industry has always been part of the dialogue as transportation has transformed to more of a need than a want. People have always preferred to do business with friends with referals and word of mouth advertising functioning as a critical element in any comprehensive marketing plan -- past, present and future. The Internet -- as with all things on it -- has amplified word of mouth advertising into the next generation of S.E.O. and vS.E.O. that I have defined as W.O.M.O.; Word Of Mouth Optimization.

Customer to customer comments -- C2C -- have replaced business to customer messaging -- B2C -- because the Internet has allowed it to and because customers prefer listening to like minded consumers vs. automotive advertising agencies or auto dealers. RSS feeds to social media based blogging sites and networking communities provide consumer-centric content that is more relevant and credible for the car shoppers. Auto dealers are sourcing and embedding these links and content into their dealer-centric web sites, micro-sites and dealer sponsored social networking communities to supplement their limited staff and resources.

The point is that simply posting product and price is not comprehensive, transparent or relvant enough to capture and keep the attention of today's -- and certainly not of tomorrow's -- car shoppers. To serve their information needs automotive advertising agencies, auto dealers and especially S.E.O. consultants need to know what they don't know and find out where and how to know it so they can offer it to their client's customers. If done properly, the net effect will be that the viral coefficient generated by the W.O.M.O. initiated by the S.E.O. will extend the reach and frequency of the more consistent and relevant message across multiple channels to a targeted audience; automotive advertising 101!

After all, what are friends for!

There was a cliche' that was widely used not too long ago in regards to automotive digital marketing, and digital marketing in general; "Content is King"... I am not too sure that the intent of that phrase was EXACTLY what I am going to allude to, but the bottom line is that the arms race to get traffic to dealership websites, microsites and various designated landing pages CAN become a negative if it results in a lack of focus on the user experience when they get to these targeted destinations. Anybody who has read my articles, publications or blog posts over the years has heard me often times refer to the basic formula for Automotive Digital Marketing that was published, taught and became the foundation for the strategies that my team at Cyber Car's Technology Assisted Sales (TAS) Group taught and implemented at over 1,200 dealerships between 1999 and 2003... This basic formula addresses everything you are referring to... It is known by it's acronym as TIPS, which stands for:

T = Traffic; the tactical activities and budget allocations used to drive targeted consumer visitors to the dealership's designated sites.

I - Interactive Content; the design, features, functionality, content, forms and engagement applications that transform visitors into
revenue and business opportunities.

P = Process Management; the lead management tools, technology, people, policies, procedures, monitoring, reporting and all activities
related to what the dealership's designated resources do to transform consumer engagement into showroom visits, service
appointments that show up and enable actual revenue realization.

S = Showroom and Service Sales; the people, process and tools used by the dealership to maximize sales revenue from the
appointments, showroom visitors and service drive traffic that results from the dealership's website Traffic, content Interaction and
Process used to respond to online and phone engagements with consumers.

What has been most definitely true and has not changed in the past 15 years of automotive digital marketing activity, is that if a dealer wants to increase their sales and service profits using digital marketing strategy and tactics, then they must focus on the four major elements within the TIPS "Automotive Digital Marketing Laws of Nature" and continuously improve whichever one of the four areas are the weakest "choke point" and improve that area until one of the other 4 areas becomes the weakest link in their TIPS strategy, tactics and execution.

Your post discusses being aware of the "I" or "Interaction" component within TIPS... And, if that is the weakest area, then that should be strengthened until it is no longer the weakest area... Likewise, if Traffic (the T) in TIPS is the weakest area, then finding and improving the Traffic to the dealer's designated websites should be focused upon... Same for Process and Sales, the "P" and "S" in the TIPS formula... The real question is how do you measure theses four areas.

Measurement is a known, studied and well thought out area within Automotive Digital Marketing and there are many tools available to put into place, as well as well established benchmarks for car dealers. Here are the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for the TIPS Strategy and Tactics implemented by a dealer:

1. TRAFFIC; Total Visitors, Unique Visitors and the referring URL's, Search Engine Keywords used, URL's directly typed in by consumers, referring links and other sources of traffic to the dealer's designated websites. The initial KPI is an absolute number, with the key objectives being to increase that number, divided by the dealer's total investment into driving traffic, which yields a Cost Per Visitor, not to be confused with Cost Per Click! Ratiors are reviewed for related components such as percentage of traffic from search engines, compared to direct URL access and Links posted on other sites, advertising and such that are clicked upon.

2. INTERACTIVE CONTENT; Primarily measured from a performance management perspective as the dealer's "Conversion Rate" for each website calculated by taking the Total website forms submitted and dividing that by the site's Total Unique Visitors. This gives us the percentage of website visitors who filled out a form OF ANY TYPE on the website. The aggregate Conversion Rate is less useful than what is generally pitched to dealers if it does not include the number of PHONE CALLS originating from a unique number published on the dealer's website, that is added to the number of lead forms to provide a more complete measurement of engagement. Common "KPI Leaks" for measuring website conversion rates happen when the dealer has third party applications incorporated into the website or microsite which produce lead forms and phone calls that are not added to the website's quantity... Examples include Black Book Online, KBB Lead Driver, DealerCentric's talking credit app, as well as any other credit app plug in application on the site. Chat clients should also be recorded with each Chat engagement, regardless of whether the customer's information is collected, added to the total number of "Interactions" that the site's content produced. Additional KPI's for the "I" component of TIPS include Average Visit Time, which sections and apps within the site are being used, downloads of video, image and brochure content, utilization of apps such as vehicle configuration tools, monthly payment calculators, TCO calculators, and my own personal favorite; "Directions to the Dealership" where the consumer enters their starting address and is able to then print out, email or send the "Turn by Turn" directions for driving to the dealership to their cell phone.

3. PROCESS; This key element of the TIPS automotive digital marketing strategy is initially easy to measure and gets more complicated as the dealership becomes more capable of executing the tactics associated with good process... By the way, PROCESS is NOT BEST MEASURED by overall Lead to Sales closing rate! That's a myth and a detour down the wrong rabbit hole... PROCESS EXECUTION IS BEST MEASURED BY DEALERSHIP VISITS DIVIDED BY TOTAL LEADS/PHONE CALLS. The most effective and accurate Key Performance Indicator for the dealership's design and execution of processes used to handle lead forms and phone calls received is simply how many of those leads and calls resulted in a consumer physically arriving at the dealership within any given time period being measured. It does NOT MATTER whether these customers who called and submitted lead forms scheduled an appointment that was recorded or not... It helps if we focus on getting appointments and then measure the appointments generated by each process, and leads-to-appointment and calls-to-appointment ratios are very important to track, monitor and optimize, but the overall most important KPI for Process is "Leads/Calls to Dealership Visits", then within that category, we absolutely must measure appointments generated and recorded by web form leads submitted and incoming phone calls to the unique tracking numbers posted to the dealership's various sites... Further optimization can be achieved by categorizing and measuring leads/calls by source and the subject of the inquiry. For example, look at Credit Apps submitted to Showroom Visits by consumers who submitted the credit apps... If it is too low, then you may have people who are prejudging whether or not a deal can be made by the customer's credit score, which is almost always not the way to sell the most vehicles... If you have a low Showroom Visit to Trade-In Evaluation form ratio, then you may want to consider a specialized process that focuses on how much the dealership would like to purchase the customer's vehicle outright, whether or not they buy a car from the store.

4. SALES (Showtime); I like describing the fourth element of the TIPS Automotive Digital Marketing Strategy as being what the dealership does to optimize "Showtime" which occurs whenever a customer has contacted the dealership prior to arriving in person. So, what is the KPI for the "S" in TIPS? Good old fashioned Showroom Close Ratio or Service RO to Service Drive Visitor Ratio (which better be 100%!). In the case of Showroom Visitors, the overall KPI for TIPS purposes is the Number of Showroom Visits by consumers who submitted a lead form or called the dealership on one of the website posted phone numbers who physically visited the dealership within the measured time period. So, if the store received 100 web form leads and 100 incoming phone calls within a measured month, and in that same time period received 20 Showroom Visits from people who had previously submitted a lead form or called the number on the dealer's websites, then the dealership achieved a 10% LEad-to-SHOWROOM Conversion Rate... If the number were 40 showroom visitors, then divide that by the 200 web originated leads and calls received in the same time period and you have a 20% Lead-to-Visitor ratio... Whether or not the visitors scheduled an appointment to come in does not matter... It just makes it easier to measure!

These days I like to close this type of comment or post with the guidance that all of us involved with automotive digital marketing need to exercise caution that we do not confuse "Key Performance Indicators" with "Return On Investment" (ROI)... Our ability to track and measure does not have anything to do with the ROI realized by the dealership from automotive digital marketing activities. Why do I bring this up? Because our ability to accurately obtain any element of "Measurement" is no more related to the "ROI" achieved from the activity we seek to measure, than a digital thermometer is related to the source of heat on a hot day! The ability to accurately track and monitor the components of an automotive digital marketing campaign, strategy or tactic has absolutely NOTHING to do with the Return the dealer receives from investing in that strategy or tactic... It is ONLY an indicator of our competence in the application of measurement tools and tracking systems, and has NOTHING TO DO WITH WHETHER CARS WERE SOLD OR NOT!

As always, your comprehensive real world application of concepts supported by processes fills in the holes of any post on ADM; thank you!

My intent was to start the dialogue to surface OUR shared point that dealers need to recognize that just driving traffic to a site through S.E.O. will not develop a R.O.I.. The experience -- as you describe it -- sourced from relevant content and transparency coupled with the ability to convert the visit to a meaningful exchange through processes including customer friendly conversion tools, lead generators and interaction platforms monitored by R.O.I. analytics that collect useful data beyond generic statistics like unique visitors and time on page is the true long term goal of any well orchestrated digital marketing plan.

The opportunity to virally extend the dealer's message through social media is just as dependent on the user's experience as your TIPS formula with the power to extend it beyond the originating source through W.O.M.O.. It is the leveraged power of the people fueled by human nature that I see as the next generation of automotive advertising in our new pull/push online marketplace. What was -- is -- and will likely be; so our job is to build on the proven wisdoms with new technolgies driving the engine of tomorrow in the retail auto industry.

Use TIPS and W.O.M.O. to develop and exponentialy expand your contacts online while enhancing their experience with the objective of making friends who will become customers because, after all, what are friends for!
All the traffic in the world won't do you a bit of good if it does not produce sales. After all if you work for a dealership you don't get paid if no one buys a car or gets their car repaired. Getting plenty of visitors that do not respond to your message with a purchase is just like that sales rep that talks to plenty of people but can't close anyone.

You have to match the intent that brought the visitor to your content with your message. Whether that is through organic search, ppc or display advertising.

Exactly! Leave it to a car guy to cut to the chase and bring the point to the bottom line! As much as we discuss the technology, process and science of human nature we often skirt the issue that we all do this for a living and unless our efforts sell a car or service none of it matters.

The old chicken and the egg paradigm still applies -- which came first, the process or the people. The driving force is still the people who seek to make a living and who are constantly trying to figure out how to sell something to their friends without pissing them off! Monetizing social media demands that you sell your friends something in a social setting where you aren't supposed to sell them something. The solution is to be in the right place at the right time with an honest agenda to provide a service to satisfy a need or a want -- in that order -- for people that you legitimately care about.

After all, what are friends for!
Wow, I would have thought that after 3 full pounding days you two would be a little tired but I think between Phil and Ralph we have a text book here. Keep pounding, us minions need all that we can get.

Everything makes sense and yet is a little overwhelming. This one line stuck out like a level 6 header for me. Brian wrote: "I don't hear too many dealers that are doing serious A/B testing on their landing pages and website elements." The reason this sentence sticks out for me is, especially after meeting so many dealers at DD8, is just this. Most dealers don't have the resources, know how or flat out ability to figure out the small stuff let alone to do any testing on thier own. I don't mean that as badly as it sounds but I sat at two different round tables. IT Mgr single pt store, IT director multi-pt store. I only met maybe two individuals that I believe could even remotely figure any of this out on thier own. I'm in the same position as most. One man show, spread out over dozens of things and no additional man power to assist. So the testing that is done is basically counting beans on spread sheets.

So now that I have gone on a little bit heres what I believe is the answer. This is the perfect opportunity for any, let alone the dealers that were at DD8 to wipe away the dizzy look that you have on your face that you have after just reading Phil's opening post. Let alone trying to comprehend Ralph. What a walking manual. Get SOME HELP! If you're reading this post let me make an analogy for you. AutoNation, Penske and most large groups dont do it on there own, Why would you. Sometimes it takes someone that has become a specialist in a particular area to take care of the things that you Cannot. I get it but that does'nt mean that I can do it, or at least not do it all and get it all as right as it could be done. People like Phil, Ralph and Brian are the specialists. Pick up the phone or send the e-mail. Not an advertisement just a personal, from experience suggestion.

Phil, in the post you bring up SiSTeR Technologies. We are currently using Autotraders Video production co. (you know who they are) and will very soon be ending that relationship. You also mentioned BridVid at DD8 and I had the opportunity to spend some time with there people away from the conference. They seem very similar. After clicking thru and looking at some of the accolades and agreements that SiSTeR has I'm wondering with whom or which direction you would take especially as a current client.

Thank you again for a Great DD. Can't wait for session 9. We really should start a 75%+ Club or something. T-shirts and all!
Hey Andy,

First, I assure you that Ralph, Brian and I -- as well as the other equally focused specialists on ADM and at DD8 -- would agree that we aren't smarter than anyone in the field;especially you! Our secret is the fact that we can stand above the forrest and see through the trees since we are no longer on the firing line with the true experts -- you car guys/gals who live it every day.

Our role is to listen and learn from your current and our past experience to develop processes and apply new technologies and applications that provide efficiencies to help you sell more cars and service. In today's consolidating auto industry auto dealers must do more with less -- less money and staff to sell more cars and service with reduced profit per unit due to market conditions beyond their control. The ability to outsource key functions to guys/gals like me, Ralph, Brian, Joe Webb and the rest of the contributors on ADM and DD8-- such as the suggested A/B testing or review of R.O.I. analytics in a problem / solution format -- can't be done between T.O.s, make a deal meetings and all of the rest of the challenges of day to day operations at an auto dealership.

My point is that auto industry focused social networking forums like Ralph Paglia's ADM, Jared Hamilton's DrivingSales.Com, Jeff Kershner's DealerRefresh.Com, my AdAgencyOnline.Net, Chris Saraceno's DealerElite.Net, Brian Pasch's InternetSalesManager.Org and many others provide easy access to best practices with the concept that a rising tides floats all boats. Use them to peek through the trees and turn to individual experts to supplement you and your staff when needed on a project basis so you can stay focused on the individual deals while applying the processes that they recommend to do it in a consistent, efficient and profitable manner.

After all, what are friends for!

Also, as far as the video solution -- VidBrid is a SiSTeR Technologies application within their Video CarLot platform that allows them to integrate existing footage and video elements along with posted vehicle pictures when they produce their videos to enhance the quality of their productions. When combined with their their vShock and other proprietary solutions to enhance their unique automated video production platform and earned vS.E.O. leverage they trully provide a video solution that is ahead of the curve. I suggest that you call me at 561-962-2738 or email me directly at and I will arrange a personal presentation with their owner and my friend/client, Israel Alpert, to show you why and how thay dominate You Tube with the largest indexed video inventory in the market and the most comprehensive integrated conversion tools and lead generators in the auto industry. Not bragging since they are my client -- just true -- and because I found them before you did!
@Joey, I am with you... While what we do is challenging and fun, it means little if you don't finish the deal. We have to deliver cars. With the advice & direction that Ralph, Brian, Philip, and a few others freely give us, we can in fact build a world class web marketing platform. If we dominate organic search, have a well structured, vehicle specific, interest specific network of micros, custom photos of used and new, good blog network, presence and active in social, have our own YouTube channel, produce and distribute photos and videos of our inventory to a wide network, have a solid, proven sales process in place from the lead to turning the appointment to a salesperson, etc., etc.,... all means nothing if we don't deliver cars....World class everything in the internet department is just fun stuff for us in the department unless and until the culture in the store changes with us. When we change the way we purchase used and order new inventory, when we change the way we recondition & transport our inventory, when we change the way we develop our pricing strategy, when we learn to blend our traditional marketing with our online marketing, motivate the current floor sales person to change or we replace them....learn to do what we have never had to do before, we will then have turned the corner and become an internet dealership..... To technically be among the best all 'round internet departments is only internet department, good, better, best makes little difference... we need the right inventory and it must be priced to the market which is not to say the lowest...if we in marketing are doing the right job, we will sell on the upper end of the range. Joey, you said, ... " you have to match the intent that brought the visitor to the content with your message " I would like to add that ultimately there has to be piece of iron that represents that message. I agree with everything that has been said in this thread and appreciate all the help I have received over the months from this forum, it has been a lot. I would respectfully invite any and all to help us car guys seal the deal and get more/better buy in from the GM, owner, and co-managers. It is tough getting different results from the same actions....I am not a golfer but I understand that the follow thru is just as important as the swing.... I think we are getting the swing thing down at my store, thanks in no small part you you fellas. Thanks, Tom
Mr. Kelly,

That's why it is so important to always follow the "Automotive Digital Marketing Laws of Nature" and the application of those laws to our marketing and sales practices...

1. TRAFFIC - To our designated URL's
2. INTERACTION - Our websites must convert visitors into leads, phone calls and showroom traffic
3. PROCESS - We must do what it takes to convert leads and calls into showroom visits
4. SALES - What we do to maximize the vehicles sold when customers get off the mouse, out of the house, and show up at our dealerships!

Hallelujah on this fine Sunday in April!
Wow, this is the start of a very good thread, in fact somebody may need to start a thread that brings great threads like this together, it makes for very good learning!

I agree with everything said, it's important to break things down in TIPS format, like Ralph mentioned, so that when you're not seeing the returns you want all you have to do is go back, take a look a one of the 4 areas and know whats needed to increase sales.

As Joey said, all the traffic in the world is no good if you don't make a sale.

As time progresses and you are using TIPS you will be able to see, at a glimpse, where the issues are and be able to correct them on the fly. I think it would be a great idea if from now on, whenever a blog is posted on ADM, that it be labeled according to the TIPS.

For instance this post would have been Titled: S.E.O. Gets You Seen -- But What They See And Hear Is Important Too! (TIPS: Traffic)

What do ya say?

I say -- agreed! As a matter of fact Ralph suggested and I agreed to integrate the TIPS filter into our ADM Consultant Challenge to organize the problems surfaced so I guess that great minds think alike!

Register some problems on the Consultant Challenge and lets see what solutions the auto industry experts on ADM can come up with.

After all, what are friends -- and ADM -- for!


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