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When asked, many dealers will say they have a reputation management program in place and yet cannot say how they are marketing their reputation. Asked how it fits into their SEO strategy may just bring blank stares. Most often, their reputation management program is simply a review management program being mislabeled.
Review Management is NOT Reputation Management. Nor is it in any way, Reputation Marketing. And any effect on SEO is incidental. Review management is reactive, while reputation marketing is proactive
Lee Odden, in "Basics of Online Reputation Management" states, "Because these references (to reviews) occur within the search results, many companies perceive search engine reputation management as a SEO problem."
Let's instead, call it an SEO opportunity.
Rather than an SEO add-on, a dealer's reputation marketing program should be the central pillar of their SEO strategy.
Envision that SEO strategy as having five parts like five fingers with reputation marketing as the prominent middle finger.
The middle finger, in this analogy, should never stand alone (pun intended).
When it does, it is a tactic rather than a strategy, and a rather obnoxious one as well.
We can label those five fingers of SEO as Technical SEO, Social Media, Reputation Marketing, Onsite Content, and Offsite Content. This post is not the place to go into each aspect of these categories, but for those who may question Social Media as SEO, consider this by Jason DeMers, 6 Social Media Practices that boost SEO.
"The key to using social media to drive SEO is to build it to be your very own PR channel to promote your great content. When done properly, this will create a powerful synergy between your content publishing, social media, and SEO programs."
And as J.D. Rucker of Dealer Authority has written in Why Making Search, Social, and Content a Singular Strategy is Ideal for Car Dealers, "the promotion of content through our social media efforts helps the social media presence of the dealership, but it’s more than that. It helps the SEO as well.
In other words, when you build a marketing campaign that keeps multiple goals and disciplines in play, you have the opportunity to make them work even better than if you do it all individually. The whole truly becomes greater than the sum of the parts."
With the advent of online pricing, the differences in pricing between dealers has narrowed to the point where there is little price advantage between dealers. So where are the differentiators that make a consumer choose one dealer over another?
The differentiators are customer service, trust, integrity, and honesty all wrapped up under the term reputation.
Reputation is best marketed through word-of-mouth, referrals, and advocates for one's business. It is often referred to as "Organic Marketing" or "Inbound Marketing".
Take these next two statistics as predictors of what's to come:
71% of business leaders believe that customer experience is the next corporate battleground – Shaw & Ivens
70% of customer experience management best in class adopters use customer feedback to make strategic decision. 50% of industry-average organizations and 29% of laggards do. – Aberdeen Group
Let's add one more... "33% of current marketing spend is on brand awareness" – McKinsey
I would add that brand awareness is more than name recognition - it is and should be the reputation of that name.
Much has been said about the costs of negative reputation, however I submit that the minimal costs of marketing a great reputation are far more important as an opportunity utilizing SEO.
Anyone with a budget can battle it out in PPC/SEM for position, but SEO, although labor intensive, is the language consumers speak and hear. And reputation marketing is the true foundation of organic or natural marketing which IS SEO.
(Disclaimer: As an employee of Dealer Authority, I wish to state that I am writing on behalf of my position as an Editor on ADM and my post is entirely my opinion and not necessarily that of my employer.)
Dig Deep and Prosper!
Written by Tom Gorham
Editor, From The Trenches