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Suddenly Everyone’s an SEO Pilot with a Team of Experts at their Arms

Catch Me If You Can

There are always going to be those who are real experts offering real products or services with proven strategies and the ability to make changes to their techniques as the market and industries change. There are also always going to be those who put on the uniform, slide on the aviator sunglasses, and pretend like they know how to pilot a passenger jet. Sadly, the latter is starting to outnumber the former, particularly in the world of search marketing.

It happens in many industries, particularly ones where things get easier. For example, owning a custom computer shop was a nice, tight niche just a few years ago. Now, you can drop a paper airplane off a building and have a 50/50 chance of hitting someone who can build a custom computer. It isn’t that they are faking. It’s that the modular design and cross-compatibility of computer hardware components has made building custom computers as easy as building a LEGO house.

The arena of search marketing is different. In both PPC management as well as search engine optimization, there has been a tremendous influx of experts and services filling the ears and inboxes of prospective clients. It’s not that it is easier than it was in the past. In fact, it’s harder today than it has ever been in the past, particularly with the complexities, risks, and quality needs of SEO. The reason that it’s growing is because the pitch is easy. Search is obscure. It’s super easy to fall for the wrong pitch because they’re all starting to sound the same.

In Catch Me if You Can, Leonardo DiCaprio‘s portrayal of the infamous Frank Abagnale Jr. was an example of what I’m seeing more and more of today in the search marketing world. It’s a matter of being able to talk the talk and winging it when it comes to walking the walk. Everyone says the buzzwords. Unique content. Targeting competitors’ cities. Market coverage. Link building. Social signals. I’ve heard pitches from people who can barely spell “SEO” that made them sound like their services were rock solid until you asked them detailed questions or demanded more than one or two example of successes.

Therein lies the two biggest problems. Those who are buying SEO don’t know the right questions to ask or what the correct answers should be. More importantly, every vendor in the industry has at least a couple of examples of where their clients are ranking well even if they had no hand in making it happen. This happened to me first hand this week when a site that I had optimized to rank well two years ago was used as an example of search dominance by their website provider. Their rankings had fallen in the two years since we had optimized them but they were still good enough to be an example of this web provider’s excellence.

There’s really no way to fight this, unfortunately. For my own company, I’ll be collecting dozens of examples of SEO domination to give to the sales team, but what about the smaller companies that are doing it right? If they have a dozen clients and they’re all doing very well, they still look bad compared to the giant company with 2000 clients that has 8 examples of good performance. Is there a solution? Is there a way to wake up the industry and show them how to tell the difference between aggressive, solid search marketing and the type that isn’t worth a buck, let along hundreds or thousands a month?

I will be taking the comments from this post and applying them to the Automotive SEO Study.

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Tags: "Search, Engine, Optimization, SEO

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Comment by Larry Bruce on June 10, 2013 at 7:36am

GEEZZZ this is pointless... I'm done! I will defer to Ron White on this one, just read the title of the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fL6wbsGx9qw 

Comment by Alexander Lau on June 10, 2013 at 7:33am

Furthermore, you had better have an SEO CRM in your strategy / game plan. A tool that measures on-site, off-site, social, backlinks, competitive intelligence and even more importantly conversions. Ignore the negative conversions, there were at about 5,000 the previous week.

7-day span:

Comment by Alexander Lau on June 10, 2013 at 7:27am

What does Google want? They want relevant, real content on the internet that people want to read and tell other people about. If Google doesn't bring you the most relevant content when you search they are failing to do their job. So by definition, even the word Search Engine Optimization (SEO) means to "game" the Google search engines (and others) to get your valuable content ranked higher than it would be if left alone to the forces of the Web. The bottom line is that all external SEO efforts are counterfeit other than: Writing, designing, recording, or videoing real and relevant content that benefits those who search.

SEO of any kind is pursued by gaming the system. There is nothing "natural" about any form of SEO. The fundamental concept of SEO is exploiting a flaw in a search engine’s ranking algorithm. The difference between white and black hat tactics is merely a function of where Google decides to draw a line, and this line is at least somewhat arbitrary. Google's goal is to confuse search engine optimization (SEO) efforts and to uncover aggressive SEO techniques through delaying, or obfuscating results from SEO changes being made.

I've stated this many times.

Comment by Alexander Lau on June 10, 2013 at 7:22am

LMFAO! Not sure how I missed this to this point. This is an EXCELLENT post, one of my all-time favorites. 

I don't have the time to look at the banter in this thread, but JD (per your usual self), you're absolutely correct. It comes down to a company's ability to produce sustainable results performed through best practices.

Whenever I hear somebody is going to hire an "SEO Expert" I immediately cringe. I cringe for the following reasons:

  1. I know that 90% of the time, this "expert" is not really an expert at all.
  2. The "expert" will most likely engage in techniques that will only favor the business short-term – and can potentially damage the business' online presence long-term. Black hat versus white hat.
  3. And some people think an "SEO Expert" will immediately be able to fix their traffic problems.

Comment by Timothy Martell on June 10, 2013 at 6:56am

Some one pass the popcorn...

With all due respect to the dick measuring contest it seems the point of JD's article has been lost in the pissing contest. It seems there is still too much focus on the peas instead of the steak. SEO is not a marketing strategy. PPC is not a marketing strategy. Online marketing has been splintered into these neat little boxes for so long that its no wonder dealer's are confused, many of the people providing the services don't really seem to understand what they are providing any more.

Its very simple. Its just advertising. If you're going to advertise and you want to be successful you need to have a strategy. The components of that strategy need to work in conjunction not as separate pieces to a puzzle.

If you're looking for top 50 best SEO companies you've lost before you've begun. Any company that only provides SEO is either out the door or on their way out. You can't just do SEO anymore. It doesn't work that way. 

The who knows what better is all just nonsense. The only screenshots that matter are these:

What results did your client receive as a function of the service provided? Everything else is just posturing and detracts the value of the conversation. Cats in bags? How about money in bags? Like the ones my client's keep taking to the bank. ;)


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Comment by Larry Bruce on June 10, 2013 at 5:03am

@Manny LOL you really have no idea what a "site:" search is and you didn't watch the video I linked to in the post either did you? 

This is comical, Manny you really may be the embodiment of  this post. You are the guy in the Aviator Sunglasses and to make matters worse you either don't know it or think we don't know it and you won't educate yourself any one of these is bad. 

That said let me help you with how to do a "Site:" search and what you use it for.

A "Site: search is used to see a casched site the way the Google Bot see's it. the first 5 min of  the video from Matt Cutts I sent you talks about the importance of text on a page and how Google Crawls a page. 

You use this when you see a FLASH website to show the person who built it how Google and other search engines see their site. YOU DON'T USE IT TO SEE SOME SPECIAL LISTING IN THE SERP as you have done in your example! In case you are not familiar with the term SERP that stand for Search Engine Response Page. 

Step 1 - go to Google and put in "site: [site name with out the www or http://] you will get the listings for the site. What you are looking for is a little green arrow when you click it you will see choices for Cached or Share - Click Cached

Step 2 - after clicking cached you will see the site and int he upper right corner you will see "Text-only version" Click that 

Step 3 you will see the site as the bot sees the site. below is my site compared to yours.

suffice to say Manny you have a lot to learn about SEO. If you have 900 sites about your business and your not doing PPC so they are not landing pages, then you are also the embodiment of web spam as well. 

I could show you how to SEO a flash site but I think for now the lessons are over. You need to go figure out some things on your own then come back to the AutoMarketing community when you know what you are doing. 

Comment by Tom Gorham on June 9, 2013 at 10:08am

Interesting indeed, even without the jokes about punching.  I'm with Thomas Kelly.  Again, great post JD!


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Comment by Larry Bruce on June 9, 2013 at 9:27am

Well this turned interesting in hurry, LOL. Never ceases to amaze me in these blogs how quick they degrade to peoples opinion over help, facts and data. Apparently my comments hit a little too close to home for Manny. That said let's straighten this ship shall we? 

@Manny...Really? I would think the people reading this blog would know the difference between literal and sarcasm, however for those that don't let me be clear on the statement "Punch them in the mouth and throw them out of the dealership, that's just stupid"

I don't mean to punch them literally, @Tom forget whether they would kick you a## or not it's not worth going to jail over! As far as the stupid part... The notion that any vendor, in your top 50 or not Manny would tell a client that they could rank them page 1 for every keyword that they need to rank for IS ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS AND IT IS... MAKE NO MISTAKE... STUPID for anyone to say such a thing. The person my not be stupid but the statement certainly is.

Manny I know several of the founders and CEO's of the companies in your top 50 list. 

Will Critchlow Founder and CMO of Distilled and I have had a few conversations at SMX West and SXSW and Will would never tell a client "There is no need for ppc if you own all your markets organically" because he knows very well there is no way for Distilled to rank them for every keyword or "market", nor would Bruce Clay, he and I have had similar conversations at SMX East and we have a mutual client in NJ. 

As for #3 on your list "The following is our complete list of the top SEO company rankings... BlueGlass, perhaps you should think about updating your site and keeping a little better track of the advice you are giving dealers BlueGlass may not make it much longer their President Greg Boser has resigned and their Managing Director Patrick Price has made a video, see it here http://www.shoemoney.com/2013/04/16/blueglass-is-out-of-money talking about the current situation with BlueGlass and its cash flow problems. 

Here are a couple more articles on BlueGlass and their issues:

http://ppcprofessionals.com/ppc-blog/fall-blueglass/

http://www.seroundtable.com/blueglass-16696.html

Perhaps BlueGlass thinks like you and has been advising its clients to abandon PPC, making promises they can't keep and ultimately losing clients. 

Bottom-line it's irresponsible of you to say "There is no need for ppc if you own all your markets organically" Because you CAN'T Manny, YOU CAN'T NEITHER CAN ANY COMPANY ON YOUR TOP 50 LIST. 

Furthermore Manny I have to say I would be suspicious of SEO vendor who was running a FLASH website. http://vlautomotivemarketing.com/ I hope this isn't your main website but I couldn't find anything else. Do you know how Search Engines see or rather DON'T SEE Flash sites? Try doing a "site:" search on your site and take a look, I think the results will be an eyeopener for you. You should also watch this video by Matt Cutts, it's an hour long but for you it would be an hour very well spent. http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/seo-site-review-session-from-google-i... this is from his personal blog, which is Wordpress by the way. 

Manny if you don't know who Matt Cutts is, he is the head of Google's Search Engine Development and Web Spam team. 

As for the SHOT on incentivizing customers to come to the store. Ask yourself this question "What is the goal of all dealership marketing?" You will come to the inescapable conclusion it's to get a visit, and if you think you aren't paying people to come to your showroom now you're wrong!

How?

Well it's simple when you think about it. Once you get  the lead there are only 4 things you can talk to a customer about to get the visit. 

1. Experience - most customers will not respond to the whole experience thing EXCEPT when it's tied to a ONE PRICE concept so in that case your giving up $1500 minimum to get a visit.

2. Price - This is obvious you just gave up $1500 to compel someone to come to your dealership with no reason for them to really do it. They can just as easy take your price to another store and get it matched or beaten and many do just that.

3. Trade - Again, obvious you are giving up a bid for a trade you will likely have to over allow on with profit to get to just to compel the customer to come into the store again giving up $1500 or more to get the visit. 

4. INCENTIVE - This should be a no brainer:

"What's more appealing to your dealer, give up a big discount on the car to compel the customer to visit or a $25 test drive incentive?" I think we all know the answer to that one.

Not to mention what does the customer have to do to get the $1500 discount you are using to compel them to come in? THEY HAVE TO SPEND $30,000.00 TO GET IT RIGHT?

So what do you think is more valuable to the customer? A $1500 discount they have to spend $30,000.00 to get or $25 they get just to take a test drive, something they were going to do anyway? Here again I think we all know the answer, It's obvious. 

"Wow I haven't even let the cat out of the hat yet:)"

Manny you really should think about what you're doing next time before you even come close to "Letting the proverbial cat out of the hat"  

   

Comment by J.D. Rucker on June 9, 2013 at 3:47am

Thanks a ton, Thomas. One minor note - it's not that some vendors can and other can't. Anyone can. Most simply choose not to because it's easier to sell a $500 a month service that does nothing rather than a $3000 product that does everything. SEO and social are unique in that the results are not always as tangible to see. Unlike websites, for example, that have clear lead volumes and trackable results, SEO and social fall into the category of obscurity.

The reason is this: if you don't pay for SEO or social, you still have something there even if it's not very good. If you don't pay for a website or a CRM, the absence is very clear. SEO and social are both murky, so many vendors choose to do next to nothing (or truly nothing in some cases) or automate their services because it's much easier and more certain than keeping up with changes to Google and Facebook, adjusting strategies for thousands, and implementing best practices in an ever-changing environment.

Bottom line is this: it's not a question of large vendors versus small vendors. The trend shows that most large vendors are not doing the proper things for SEO and social, but there are large vendors that do it right and small vendors that do it wrong. The key is for dealers to become educated themselves about the right ways and wrong ways of performing in these murky waters, otherwise they are potential victims to being misled. I write at least one education blog post every day, 7 days a week, because I want dealers to be as equipped as possible with the right information. It's a self-serving task - the savviest dealers are always the ones that are most likely to buy our services, so the more educated the general dealer population is, the more successful my company can be.

It amazes me how many dealers pay for SEO from a vendor that is working for the OEM. SEO is about getting more business from other dealers of the same brand, but the OEMs instruct their vendors to keep dealers in their market area box. For them to be in charge of SEO is like hiring a vegetarian to manage your burger joint. Unless you really love tofu burgers, there's no reason to let a vegetarian control the menu, but that happens every day in our industry.


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Comment by Thomas A. Kelly on June 9, 2013 at 2:47am

I want to hear a sales rep talking "bad" about another vendor if the sales rep knows what he is talking about and in fact the other vendor(s) have been or are "bad". Each vendor's marketing strategy must make economic sense to them...that does not necessarily mean it will make the best economic sense to it's customers. It does not necessarily mean it won't either...Signing up with True Green for you lawn care is very affordable but chances are your lawn won't look as good as your neighbors if he is under contract with a local small fella that charges twice as much...As JD implies (I believe), some vendors can scale a superior product and some can't. I appreciate the "harder path" and am willing to pay for the superior results. Thanks for the thread JD, always informative and fair.

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