Automotive Digital Marketing

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Dealers Are Pushing Their Own Websites Off Google Page One

Before my seminar started at the 8th Digital Dealer Conference, a dealership employee asked me:
“What is your opinion on the effectiveness of sending a dealer’s inventory to be published on free listing websites”.
I have been researching inventory listing websites as part of the launch for the Automotive Advertising Network (AAN). The AAN is a membership based inventory advertising service which delivers unique benefits to its member dealers.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am the chief architect of the AAN model which display cars for sale on a national level at as well as on hundreds of regional and local advertising websites.
I have been testing car dealer inventory optimization and digital marketing strategies for the past five years.

In recent months I have decided to take those years of experience and create the first dealer-centric inventory advertising platform. As part of my research, I have observed the Google search results
for automotive searches in national, regional, and local markets.

Every month it seems like a new inventory advertising website appears and many have initiated their service by offering free listings of cars for sale. As a result, Google Page one search results are showing less dealer websites and more lead collection and advertising portals.

Some of the more recognized “free” inventory advertising websites are: Vast, Oodle, EveryCarListed, Trovit, BackPage, and Lemonfree. There are many more that are popping up every week.

Back To the Dealer Question

Is it beneficial for the dealership to participate in these free advertising offers?

Every dealer inventory advertising website needs to be individually evaluated on the number of leads (calls and emails) that resulted in a sale based on what a dealer can track in their CRM system. I analyzed over 128,000 leads generated over 90 days from 77 dealers who use free advertising sites.

The number of email "leads" generated from these free sites was about 2 per month. At this pace, dealers might sell one car every six months.

And while they are participating in this free model, their own car detail pages are being push down on the search engine results pages for six months. Imagine the COST to car dealers that they are not even considering.

If the number of sales is not significant, I would recommend that you contact your website provider or inventory management service, and tell them stop sending your inventory to non performing websites.

The more places that you send your inventory that don’t generate sales, the more you are hurting your own search results, sales and brand equity.
You are pushing your own car details pages off page one.

What About SEO Value?

Since most of the free inventories listing websites do not provide back links to the car dealer’s website, they also provide NO SEO benefit. Dealers may “think” they are getting a link because they have a link on the car page that says “Visit Dealership Website” but the link has a “no follow” tag which kills any SEO benefit.

The Multi-Million Dollars Advertising Model That Dealers Fund

If you haven’t noticed many free inventory listing websites are filled with Google Ads, cross-sells from related industries like insurance companies, and even OEM banners. In some cases, your car listing pages have competitor ads or lead forms that encourage consumers to get multiple price quotes from local dealers.

Think about what is really going on in this model.

Your car may actually match a consumer long tail search and the consumer lands on your car detail page on a free listing website. The page is designed to capture a lead OR to encourage the consumers to get multiple quotes from local dealers. So, since it’s a free listing, the website owners have no problem selling the leads generated from YOUR car detail page to your nearest competitors.

So your participation in this free website generates leads to your competitors. Have any doubts?

Follow this link, and look at the bottom of this car listing page on EveryCarListed which has similar cars from local competing dealers on this dealer’s listing page. These competing cars can lure consumers away from your page listing which can result in a purchase from another local dealer.

On the Vast car detail pages the name and address of the selling dealer is omitted. The page tells
only the name of the city where the car is located. This begs the consumer to submit a lead or call. The Vast lead form collects the consumer’s name, phone number and email information to send the dealer.

The privacy policy states that they can keep your information collected on the lead form and that they can give this information to other companies and subsidiaries. This implies that your car inventory is building someone else’s lead and marketing database and these leads can be resold. One good note is that competing dealer inventory is not shown on the detail page.

This Model Is Not Dealer Centric

The irony about the “free” advertising model is that car dealers generate millions of dollars to the advertising site owners for free. Dealers send these advertising websites their most valuable assets which enables the site owners to capture and sell leads in addition to lucrative banner ad sales. Dealers don’t share in that revenue. The more dealers that participate in this model, the more money these websites make from advertising.

If the majority of these advertising models don’t generate meaningful sales, why do car dealers keep sending their inventory out each night?

Once again I will restate that if a “free” website is generating dozens of leads a month which are converting into real sales, you should continue posting. In most cases, when I look at lead sources on Dealer CRM systems, these free sites are nowhere to be found.

Diluting Organic Search Results

Most dealers may not even be aware that their inventory is being sent to 3, 6, or even 8 different free listing websites that yield no sales. Why is this bad? There are only 10 organic listings on Google Page One. Dealer websites are becoming a minority on the first page of search results for the most popular search phrases.

The more pages that are created based on Make, Model and Year in your PMA the greater the chances that dealer websites will be pushed off Google Page One.

Why would this happen? As thousands of dealers participate on these free listing sites, the websites grow in PageRank and authority. This makes it very hard for a local dealer to compete for placement on Google Page One. All the time they have invested in on-site SEO, website design and consumer call to action is being sabotaged by their own actions.

Most dealers who have taken the time to create a beautiful website will agree that their website presents cars and a call to action much better than these free sites.

If you believe you have a better display mechanism for your cars, then why would you send them to places that may rank ahead of yours for long tail searches?

Why would you send your inventory to sites that will push down your own sites and yet produce no measurable leads?

What Should Dealers Do?

Dealers should print put a sales report for the last three months and see how many cars were sold by a lead source. Dealers should call their inventory management company and ask them to which websites they are sending your feed. Ask them to check this information carefully.

If your inventory management vendor gives you a list of websites that are not generating sales, I would send them a letter in writing, as well as an email, asking that your feed not be sent to any non-performing website platforms.

The Ideal Advertising Model

Here are my thoughts about what makes an ideal inventory advertising model:
  • Car detail pages are free from competitors’ banner ads.
  • Car detail pages are free from Google text ads
  • Car detail pages have live links back to the dealership website
  • Car detail pages that clearly show dealer name, address and phone number
  • Car detail pages are optimized for organic search in the dealer’s primary PMA

In addition to the functionality of a car detail page, the website should be easy for consumers to navigate and find the information they need without so many distractions.

Bian Pasch, CEO
PCG Digital Marketing

Views: 79

Tags: automotive advertising network, car dealer inventory, car dealer sale, cars for sale, used cars


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Comment by David T. Gould on May 5, 2010 at 1:44pm
@ Brian... saw you got a better response here Interesting feedback... Especially with Google's enhanced search abilities being able to find specific dealership inventory units by year, make, model with the type of descriptive urls you use in CarPort.
A Digital Marketing Strategy (Google Page One Strategy) today should have only the dealership's portals included. Example: Website #1 / Website #2 / Blog / Facebook / YouTube / Twitter ect... With resources devoted to promoting each to the top of their organic listing - while removing or reducing assistance (in this case inventory uploads) to outside vendors / providers. Good Selling! DTG
Comment by Brian Pasch on May 5, 2010 at 11:24am
I guess I have to stop posting detailed articles.
Comment by David T. Gould on May 5, 2010 at 11:18am
Interesting that there has been no other feedback here... this article sheds light on dealer's over all digital strategy...
Comment by David T. Gould on April 27, 2010 at 5:50pm
Additionally I suggest that dealers should hold their "pay inventory lead providers" to the same standard. I see no difference in the problems listed above, except, dealers are paying for it. Good Selling! DTG

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