o The Alpha Dawg... GET THIS Yesterday I had a customer call in and ask why when she found a vehicle online on Cars.com and went to the Finance tab and filled out the credit application she was immediately sent an email telling her to please contact the preferred ROADLOANS/Cars.com dealership in her area and proceeded to give her all the contact information for a dealership a few miles away. She then called Roadloans to ask about the mix up and they told her to just go to the preferred dealer anyway and they would be able to help her find a similar car. When she explained to them that she wanted OUR car, she was told that she would need to call and have us sign up with Roadloans in order to purchase the car... So basically if I'm getting this correctly, We are paying thousands of dollars a month to advertise on Cars.com. They have partnered with Roadloans to provide credit approval on Cars.com and Roadloans is then reselling those leads to other dealerships... That's what the dealer tells me... anyone have a similar situation?
The following are a few of the many responses that Jim Ziegler received... This could also be titled "Day 1 Diary of a Public Relations Disaster":
James A. Ziegler Is Cars.com double-crossing dealers through their finance affiliation?
January 31 at 6:36am
James A. Ziegler Okay, I want to hear from all of you on this one.. what is happening here? Time for the entire tribe to check in on this now.
Michael Anthony Brett Trekell Checking on it right now. Call your local cars.com representative. Cars.com is a Gannet company and they have a lot of companies in that group.
Allen Geissler I'm curious ..ill fill out an online app when I get to work.
Robert Stewart I am sure everyone would like to know what really happens. So lets try it out I own a few dealerships in Columbus ohio and my cars are listed with cars.com and we are not signed up with road loans. http://www.stewartautogroup.com/ the first customer with sub prime credit that comes into the dealership we will try it out.
Bob Scheetz I've dealt with this before. Customer on my lot had picked a car and then went online to find a loan. Roadloans approved her and tried to send her to a dealership 20 miles away. They do have a policy of only sending customers to their approved dealers, but if they are re-directing customers from cars.com, then dealers who pay for these leads and advertising are essentially giving up their business to others.
Shane Seys Is it any different than the Credit Bureaus selling leads to dealerships? We pay a fee to pull a bureau then they immediately sell that lead to another dealership. Yet we are required by law to pull that bureau so in turn we have to do business with them.
Robert Stewart This makes me sick! We are the only reason these companies are in business. We stopped all of our ads with car-fax now no one even asks for one we sold over 100 used this month and only one customer asked after you take down all the car-fax advertising around the dealership its done.
James A. Ziegler Wow This is a heated issue... my phones and private messages and emails are going nuts. You guys are really onto this subject.
Gary S. Hart Sounds like a class action lawsuit in the making. Are you also buying leads from Cars.com? Has anyone read the TOA for advertisers? I wonder if they've attempted to cover their tails.
My suggestion, even they you did not ask. Have someone go through the same process on Cars.com and take screen shot. This will prove the theory and can also be used as evidence.
James A. Ziegler Amazing! I know a lot of dealers were pissed off at AutoTrader for various things BUT this is the first time Cars.com has came up on my radar screen. I've been aware of multiple sales of the same leads but this issue today is way over the top. I hope all of you will test it with the same circumstances and get back with me concerning Cars.com paying customers allegedly having leads diverted to Roadloans preferred dealers. This could become a major AlphaDawg Blog like the TrueCar blogs last year. Okay Tribe, get on the case!
David Vatland Cars.com and autotrader all use roadloans. If you are not a roadloans dealer then you cannot process any paperwork the customer has. I just went thru it. We signed up as road loans dealer so leads would not be sent to other dealers.
Megan S Barto Autotrader's credit apps come directly to me - I then log into autotrader's backed using 2 separate passwords & pull the credit apps.
Kevin Mullins I've heard nothing like this before but have a call into my cars rep right now....I am skeptical of the claim because it would be a pretty open and shut law suit for the dealers...in my opinion..
James A. Ziegler I don't know Kevin that's why I am listening and not commenting too much. BUT, I have to tell you I'm hearing some similar stories this morning. That's why I asked the question. The letter at the top is exactly the way it came to me.
Kevin Mullins Thanks for bringing this issue to the forefront....
Kevin Mullins I just went to one of our car on cars.com and clicked on a sponsored link and this is what it took me too...https://www.roadloans.com/apply?p=cars&LoanType=used&campaignname=VDP_Calc&ad=Bad&medium=Sponsor
Bad Credit Auto Loans, Car Loans & Auto Loan Refinance Car Loan
Login to check the status of your RoadLoans.com car loan or auto refinance application. Haven't applied yet? Whether time is your challenge, or low payments, or both, RoadLoans can help you get your new car now. Just apply online and in less than 30 seconds you receive a credit decision that could g...
James A. Ziegler Okay Kevin, if you went to Roadloans off the link on one of your cars on Cars.com, would Roadloans refer your customer to another dealer to find a similar car? I seem to think they may if you're not signed with them?????
Kevin Mullins I would think so too
James A. Ziegler Okay, we all know what needs to happen next. Start tweeting and blogging to all your car peeps and call somebody too. Direct everyone to this discussion on this page, its public and anyone can post here. Let's blow it up now!
Matthew Heath You're welcome James A. Ziegler. Didn't think it was going to blow up like this. Wow.
James A. Ziegler Everybody hit the "SHARE" button on this thread and put it on your own page.
Roe Roe I have done both Auto Trader and Cars Applications online and with autotrader, I have not recieved any sponsoring dealerships or phone calls from other dealerships HOWEVER with the cars application, it routed me to a dealership 65 miles away and I already recieved a phone call from that dealership itself. I am still awaiting for a response from my rep and his supervisor. next up will be a call to our legal team.
Matthew Heath I've been on the phone with a Cars.com rep this morning. They're are telling me that this rolled out over the summer and was "such a small part" of what they bring to the table that they didn't bother dealers with it. I was also told that for $300 a month I could purchase their secure credit application that would take it's place...
Chris Spensley I have this discussion in different ways with dealers every day- 3rd party leads being sourced through your dealership effort and then resold back to you. This is even worse and a real "hand in the cookie jar" moment!
Robert Stewart I just had a meeting with my staff and they found out this was going on two weeks ago they said a customer of ours was upset about it and complained. Our managers confronted cars.com and they said they are working on fixing the problem. Still not fixed.
James A. Ziegler Thanks, we'll get it fixed quicker I promise you
James A. Ziegler How many of you are getting phone calls and messages from Cars.com about this Facebook discussion????
James A. Ziegler Wonder if I'm still going to be invited to their party at the NADA Convention?
Robert Stewart You sure will get invited but when you arrive you will find out that you have been sent to the dealers united party.
James A. Ziegler Robert what is disconcerting to me is that, from what you told me three posts ago, they are aware of this happening and haven't fixed it... if they actually intend to fix it, or could it possibly be a play to force you to roadloans? I don't know but we're talking about an alleged technology company that can't fix their technology?
Robert Stewart They fixed the problem at one of our two locations. So the location that complained got the problem fixed and the other location the leads still goes to road loans.
James A. Ziegler My phones , emails, tweet messages and Private messages are on overload... this is going viral! Of course Robert, this leads one to ask how many of their customers don't know this is happening to them? (if it is that is) AND the larger question is, what makes us thinks it's accidental if they were able to turn off the complaining dealer? Does this mean they only stop when caught ? I'm asking the questions, I think every dealer should spot check your own Cars.com paid entries to see if you get rerouted by roadloans.
Brian Davis Folks - I'm a good friend of Matthew Heath and his former cars.com rep. I can assure you the social pitchfork riot that some folks are interested in starting will do nothing to help you sell more cars today. Our marketing, partnership, and solutions folks will be happy to address to the world with the reasoning and value behind what is being questioned here in terms of Roadloans and Cars.com. My colleague Alex Vetter might be able to help us get the info moving more quickly.
Thanks for your business and your patience everyone!
MORE BELOW - Ran out of HTML Characters!
ivities and our general productivity:
Tool #1 – Google Adwords Keyword Research Tool
Although the free Keyword Research Tool offered by Google’s Adwords doesn’t offer as many features as standalone SEO programs offer, this resource is a great option for checking general search, competition, and CPC metrics on the fly. Be sure to check out the feature that allows you to brainstorm keywords by URL in order to uncover the keywords your competitors may be targeting!
Tool #2 – Google Trends
With Google’s new freshness update in effect, picking up on and capturing breaking news stories and trends is a must for SEO. Google Trends is one of the best places to find this information, so make it a habit to regularly monitor this service for trends in your industry.
Tool #3 – Buzzfeed
Another site we use to identify the hot trends within our industry in order to rank highly for QDF (query deserving freshness) SERPs is Buzzfeed, a popular news aggregation site that covers a wide variety of niches. It’s also a great place to keep up on the latest memes and popular sayings floating around in Internet culture.
Tool #4 – Google Insights for Search
Before you launch any new SEO campaign, check out Google’s Insights for Search tool to confirm that there’s consistent demand for the particular search terms you’ll target. A few minutes of research on this free service can save you a fortune by preventing you from going after the wrong keywords!
Tool #5 – Google Related Searches
Any time you conduct a search in Google, you have the option of selecting from a number of other potential queries that Google considers to be substantially related to your original term. This data can be found in the left-hand sidebar of any Google SERP (under the “Show search tools” menu), and it provides a great opportunity to find potential LSI keywords for your blog posts and content marketing articles.
Tool #6 – Google Correlate
One final Google tool to take a look at is Google Correlate, which will help you determine if trends that exist in your target keywords’ search volume variation correspond with trends in the real world. This can be especially helpful when understanding unexpected SEO behavior or when predicting the potential variability of search volume for future projects.
Tool #7 – Alexa
Although the Alexa ranking system itself has some weaknesses, the service’s webpage offers website owners data on visitor demographics, top search queries, potential target keywords, and other helpful SEO metrics. Simply enter your URL into the company’s homepage search bar to get started!
Tool #8 – Keyword Discovery
Keyword Discovery is one of the most widely used, standalone keyword research tools on the web, and its breadth of features easily demonstrates why this site remains dominant in the competitive field of market research programs. Give the site’s free Search Term Suggestion Tool a try, and then consider signing up for a free trial of the site’s paid keyword research and competitive intelligence tools.
Tool #9 – Keyword Questions
Wordtracker’s free Keyword Questions tool is a godsend whenever you’re struggling to come up with article topics for your site or for your marketing campaigns. Simply enter your target keyword into the engine, and it will return specific questions that people have entered into the search engines that relate to your topic, providing you with instant article-writing fodder that’s guaranteed to interest your audience!
Tool #10 – SearchStatus plugin
Yet another SEO aggregation toolbar, the SearchStatus plugin deserves special mention for its keyword density measuring feature, which allows you to quickly measure the specific keyword usage rates found on other industry websites for your own competitive analysis.
Tool #11 – KGen
Want to know which words on any webpage will be deemed most important by the search engines? Then install the KGen plugin for Firefox, which enables you to view websites through the eyes of the search engines and uncover potential opportunities to outrank your competitors for valuable keyword phrases.
Tool #12 – Soovle
Another fun keyword research tool to take a look at is Soovle, which pulls search suggestions from the seven top search engines. Simply start typing your target keywords into the site’s free engine, and you’ll automatically receive related keywords that can be used to power your own SEO campaigns.
Tool #13 – Google Analytics
If you carry out any SEO activities at all, you simply must have a web analytics program in order to measure the impact of your campaigns. Google Analytics is by far the most commonly used option, and it’s easy to see why. The program is free to use and provides a wealth of data, including advanced event and goal tracking features that allow you to conclusively measure the ROI of your SEO campaigns.
Tool #14 – SEOQuake
SEOQuake is one of many different SEO extensions (available for both the Firefox and Chrome browsers) that return information about individual web pages, as well as about the listings within individual SERPs. Use this tool to check things like web page PageRank, Alexa traffic rank, site age, number of backlinks, and more crucial pieces of information to uncover when conducting competitive research.
Tool #15 – SEOBook browser extensions
By signing up for a free SEOBook account, you’ll gain access to the site’s selection of free SEO tools, including “The SEO Toolbar,” “SEO for Firefox,” and “Rank Checker.” Much like SEOQuake, these Firefox plugins pull several different SEO metrics that can be used to identify potential link partners, uncover weak spots among industries and competitors, and much more.
Tool #16 – SiteTrail for Chrome
The SiteTrail for Chrome plugin allows you to pull up various website SEO metrics, including site rank, site traffic, and site analytics, from a simple link within your right-click menu. The tremendous amount of information this tool provides and the speed with which it generates SEO data make it a great option for conducting market research on the fly.
Tool #17 – SEO for Chrome
One final SEO research plugin to consider is the SEO for Chrome plugin. In addition to providing data on key SEO metrics from within the Chrome browser, this tool takes competitive web marketing research one step further by providing information on a given site’s social media presence.
Tool #18 – SEOTools for Excel
Although Microsoft’s Excel program may seem outdated, it can be turned into a productivity powerhouse with the addition of the free SEOTools for Excel add-in. Once installed (see the instructions here for tips on setting it up correctly), you’ll be able to use this tool to conduct on-page analysis, monitor backlinks, pull Google Analytics data directly into Excel for further exploration, and more!
Tool #19 – SEOSiteCheckup.com
Want to get a feel for whether your site’s SEO is on track compared to established best practices? Enter your URL into the SEOSiteCheckup.com analysis tool and get a free custom report measuring a number of different SEO factors.
Tool #20 – Hubspot Marketing Grader
Formerly Hubspot’s Website Grader, the new Marketing Grader service provides free reports that measure your site’s progress in three key areas: your promotional efforts, your on-page conversion optimization, and your website analytics.
Tool #21 – Majestic SEO
When it comes to competitor backlink research, a tool like Majestic SEO, which lets you view and analyze all the links pointing at other websites within your industry, is an absolute must. Although you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version for full access, even the free version provides some data on both your own site’s backlink profile and your competitors’ link collections.
Tool #22 – Open Site Explorer
The Open Site Explorer provides similar type of information as Majestic SEO, but since the two tools pull from different data sets, it’s worth comparing the results between both services to get a better feel for the health of your site’s off-page SEO activities. Again, the program offers both free and paid versions with different levels of access and functionality to suit your specific needs.
Tool #23 – Affiliorama SEO toolbar
While the Affiliorama SEO toolbar pulls many of the same pieces of information as the previous plugin recommendations, this free extension deserves a spot in any SEO’s tool chest as a result of its dofollow/nofollow feature, which highlights link attributes that are crucial to consider as part of your linkbuilding campaigns.
Tool #24 – Google Alerts
Google Alerts, which allows you to receive email updates whenever your designated keywords are mentioned online, can be used for a number of different SEO needs, including identifying potential backlink sources that reference your target keywords and uncovering negative brand mentions that should be fixed using Linkception.
Tool #25 – Onlywire
When used correctly, social bookmarking can be a good way to reach new followers and build brand awareness for your website, but since the process of hand-submitting links to multiple sites can be time consuming, take a look at the free Onlywire service. It will automatically post your links to the networks you participate on.
Tool #26 – Seesmic Ping
As another automated social bookmarking service, Seesmic Ping is a similar option to consider for your web promotion and SEO needs. Expanding on its predecessor’s (Ping.fm) weaknesses, the new Seesmic Ping service allows users to post from their iPhone, iPad, Android device, or email, in addition to providing advanced spell check and preview capabilities.
Of course, this is only a small selection of the thousands of SEO productivity tools out there. If you have other recommendations you’d like to share, please include them in the comments section below!
Tool #27 – SEMRush
SEMRush is the “Mac Daddy” of the SEO world when it comes to understanding the true monetary value of your traffic or the potential of your target keywords. It’s pricy, but it’s often worth the cost, given the amount of information made available through the service.
Tool #28 – Traffic Travis
While there are plenty of SEO tool suites out there, there aren’t many free ones that are as fully functioned as Traffic Travis. Whether you’re a beginning user or a more advanced SEO, Traffic Travis’s free collection of keyword research, search engine, PPC, and page analysis tools can help you to compile a significant amount of SEO data quickly and easily.
Tool #29 – Market Samurai
Market Samurai bills itself as a comprehensive SEO suite, and with good reason. Not only does this single program include keyword research tools, rank tracking, link sourcing, and more, its one-time fee makes it a great value compared to similar programs that require a paid monthly subscription.
Tool #30 – Raven Tools
According to the company’s website, “Raven’s SEO, advertising, and social media tools help you work faster and smarter.” And there’s really no arguing with this statement when you take a look at the breadth of SEO information that’s pulled from SEMRush, SEOMoz, MajesticSEO, WordTracker, Google, and other services for aggregation in the program’s “Research Central” dashboard.
Starting at $99/month, it’s a more expensive SEO productivity solution, but the ROI of a toolset like this could be high if you’re able to secure higher SERPs rankings as a result.
Tool #31 – SEOMoz Pro
One final comprehensive SEO tool suite that you should consider is SEOMoz Pro, which combines the expertise of the SEOMoz community with top-of-the-line SEO monitoring and social media marketing products. Of special note is the service’s “Q&A” feature, which allows you to get expert answers to any SEO questions you encounter, a “must have” for new SEOs and webmasters.
Tool #32 – SEO SERP Workbench for Chrome
If paid SEO programs aren’t in your budget right now, check out a fun, little tool called the SEO SERP Workbench plugin for Chrome. It won’t do everything that the paid services listed above will, but it does give you a quick and easy way to check the position of multiple sites (including both your page and your competitors’ pages) for a given keyword in the SERPs.
Tool #33 – Spyfu
While Spyfu primarily offers paid services that allow you to “spy” on your competitor’s PPC campaigns, the free edition of the company’s “Spyfu Classic” service also provides free information that’s valuable from an SEO standpoint, including top organic keywords and top natural search competitors. Give the free tools a try, and then investigate some of the more complex options available in order to improve the effectiveness of your PPC advertisements.
Tool #34 – Google Adwords Editor
Once you start getting into PPC advertising on a serious level, you’ll likely find that manually creating campaigns, ads, and keyword groups within your Google Adwords account becomes tedious and time consuming. A better alternative is to download Google’s free Adwords Editor application, which will allow you to bulk edit your campaigns from your desktop and then automatically sync them to your online Adwords account.
Tool #35 – Microsoft Adcenter Editor
Similarly, if you advertise your website through Microsoft’s AdCenter program as well as Google Adwords, the Adcenter Editor program is a “must have.” In addition to allowing you to edit your PPC campaigns more efficiently from your desktop, the program offers performance alerts that will notify you whenever key campaign metrics dip below a certain level.
Tool #36 – SocialOomph
As social media continues to play a larger than ever role in search rankings, building and establishing your profiles on these sites should be considered a primary SEO priority. Since carrying out social networking marketing campaigns can be time consuming, consider adding an automation tool like SocialOomph, which allows you to schedule tweets for future updates, set up “following” rules, and more.
Tool #37 – Tweriod
In order to improve the effectiveness of the messages you send to your social networking followers, you need to know when they’re most active, and, therefore, when they’ll be most receptive to your offers or conversations. For this purpose, check out Tweriod, which will compile data on your Twitter followers’ online activities and provide you with recommendations on the best times, by the hour, to engage with your community on this social site.
Tool #38 – Twiends
If your social networking following isn’t as robust as you’d like, take a look at services like Twiends, which will allow you to quickly connect with potential new community members based on your shared interests.
Tool #39 – Triberr
Similarly, the Triberr website enables you to multiply the reach of your social marketing efforts through the formation of teams that automatically promote each other’s content to their own followers. Look for existing networks within your industry and request an invitation, or simply start your own “tribe” to effectively expand your social networking reach.
Tool #40 – Google Documents
Whether you collaborate with virtual workers around the world or simply need to share files with your colleague down the hall, Google’s free document editing and storage solution offers a great way to share and collaborate on files. As an added bonus, the program’s easy-to-navigate permission settings allow you to control exactly who can see and edit each file in your account.
Tool #41 – Dropbox
Another alternative for sharing files across teams is Dropbox, one of the web’s top file storage solutions. After you sign up for a free account, you’ll be able to automatically sync files from your desktop computer to your online account, allowing for enhanced backup protection as well as easy collaboration with other Dropbox users.
Tool #42 – Basecamp
Basecamp is the “Mac Daddy” of online project management and collaboration programs. It’s expensive, but the features this tool offers in terms of detailed task tracking and delegation across multi-person teams is unparalleled among free competitors.
Tool #43 – Evernote
Evernote is a great option for capturing ideas on the fly, whether that includes potential web development opportunities you encounter while working on your SEO campaigns or new target keywords you think up while running errands on your day off. We at Single Grain especially love the fact that the program syncs easily between mobile, web, and desktop applications, making it nearly impossible to forget the brilliant ideas you have while on-the-go!
Tool #44 – Skype
If you work with team members or clients in various locations, installing Skype is an absolute must. Not only does this free tool enable you to quickly set up text-based chats, phone calls, or video conferences, it’s also easy to record your Skype conversations for later reference (additional add-in tools may be needed).
Tool #45– Trello
Trello is a free project management utility that allows you to collaborate across teams through the use of project boards, activity cards, and task lists. Although it doesn’t offer all the same features as Basecamp, it’s one of the best free alternatives available today, and it’s one that we use frequently at Single Grain.
Tool #46 – Notable App
If you manage SEO campaigns for clients, you’ll occasionally run into situations that require you to obtain feedback on different web activities. Instead of asking clients to type out lengthy comments and explanations, the Notable App enables you and your clients to capture shared screenshots and add notes in an intuitive click-and-drag format, resulting in huge time savings for both you and your customers!
Tool #47 – HipChat
If you’re still using AIM, Gchat, or other free internal chat services to share messages among your team members, take a look at HipChat, a business-oriented solution for group chat needs. We love the fact that it operates across platforms, as well as the professional environment the app creates for business communications.
General Productivity Tools
Tool #48 – Excel
Excel and the rest of the Microsoft Office suite might seem like dinosaurs in this new world of online apps and cloud-based programs, but don’t count them out yet. When paired with the SEOTools for Excel add-in discussed earlier, this comprehensive data management program can be transformed into an SEO powerhouse that’s capable of providing many of the same features found in expensive paid SEO programs.
Tool #49 – Adobe Reader
Chances are good you already have this standard program installed on your computer, but are you really using its full capabilities? The Adobe Reader package can be used to search PDF documents, track comments across multiple parties, and even verify digital signatures, making it an important tool for any SEO’s arsenal.
Tool #50 – Jing
Jing is a free screen-capture utility put out by Techsmith (the makers of the popular Snagit and Camtasia programs) that can be used to take screenshots, record screen-capture videos, and collaborate on images taken by the tool. While it won’t substitute for a full-fledged image or video editing program, it’s a great option for visually sharing quick ideas between team members.
Tool #51 – Photoshop
While it’s true that Photoshop has a pretty sizable learning curve compared to Jing, it’s worth learning this full-featured program for a variety of SEO campaign needs. Whether you’re simply resizing images for web deployment or creating custom graphics for use on new websites, Photoshop has the advanced features needed to make your SEO activities more visually appealing.
Tool #52 – Filezilla
Every SEO worker needs an FTP program, and Filezilla is by far our favorite. It’s free, easy to install, and offers plenty of options for controlling the security of your remote web connections, making it an ideal solution for your file sharing needs.
Tool #53 – Boomerang for Gmail
The Boomerang extension for Gmail can help you take control of your inbox by allowing you to schedule outgoing messages, as well as set archived messages to be returned to your inbox at set times. It’s a major time saver over digging through your email account to find that one important piece of information you archived months ago!
Tool #54 – Gist
These days, professional networking requires more than just contact information, which is why you need a social CRM system like Gist. This tool integrates with your mobile devices and email accounts to pull additional social data on your contacts, including their most recent social networking activities, blog posts, and more. It’s a great way to get the conversation rolling with new and existing business contacts!
Tool #55 – Notepad++
Finally, when it comes to modifying code to improve a client’s on-site SEO, our favorite tool for the job is Notepad++. This free tool goes above and beyond the standard Microsoft Notepad editor, offering a number of features, including support for multiple coding languages and higher execution speeds, that are critical for efficient code editing.
Digital Marketing Agency
Sujan Patel is the co-founder of Single Grain, an SEO Agency based in San Francisco, CA. Single Grain specializes in helping start ups and Fortune 500 companies with their digital marketing strategy. You should follow Sujan on Twitter.
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