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The Disgusting Truth About Reporting in the Automotive Community

Figures Lie, But Liars Didn't Figure on Wikimotive!

I nearly didn’t write this. The “lazy” Tim on my shoulder said, “Now Tim, you know what happens when you call people out and stand on your soap box! People will call you a self-righteous blowhard! They’ll accuse you of pandering! Don’t do it!” But this one literally kept me up last night. So I got up at 6am this morning to write this because it needs to be said and people need to be called to task, because this isn’t just wrong….It borders on fraudulent. Hell, it’s downright criminal and I AM going to name names! A lot of companies have their fingers crossed right now hoping its not them. Seth Godin wrote a book entitled, “All marketers are liars.” Perhaps we could adapt this to automotive… That said, I am sure there are a number other names that could be mentioned here that I just haven’t stumbled across, but I am rambling and we need to begin…

Recently Wikimotive decided to revamp its automotive SEO reporting in an effort to provide more value and greater transparency to our clients. What I found was actually quite unexpected. While my expectations of our own service were right on, I discovered that some other companies out there are wasting their time and their clients’ money.

Let’s start with dealer.com. For the record, I think this is a wonderful website provider. Their technology is awesome and the ease of use of their products is without peer. But… they are LYING to their customers and this is unacceptable. As one might expect, a number of our SEO clients are also dealer.com clients. Recently, one of my dealer clients asked me to evaluate dealer.com’s dynamic SEO service and determine if they really needed both our SEO service and dealer.com’s SEO. To be clear, this wasn’t an us vs. them test. If I found that dealer.com was providing value he was going to pay for both services. He was merely seeking reassurance that he was getting or at least had the chance to get a return on investment.

After examining all of the keywords that dealer.com was reporting successful ranking on (16 pages of keywords) I found that nearly ALL of the keywords being tracked and touted as success had a whopping monthly search volume of… wait for it… ZERO. Let me say that again so it’s really clear to everyone. Dealer.com had successfully ranked this dealer for hundreds of keywords that NO ONE has ever searched for. I thought to myself, this must be a fluke. But after examining EVERY dealer.com client we work with, I found the same thing. PAGES UPON PAGES of keywords that no one has ever searched!

To be fair, dealer.com is not alone; in fact, I suspect there are hundreds of companies that should be standing in the corner of shame right along side them. The next offender is possibly even more shocking. Another client (also a dealer.com client) was thinking of cutting one of their services but wanted to be sure before they did and asked Wikimotive to do a review of their reporting. To be fair, I don’t think I even went in to this with the proper approach for my customers’ sake. I had met a few guys from CarMercial at the last Automotive Marketing Bootcamp this past spring and thought they had a good product. So I thought, sure! I’ll take a look and help those guys; the dealer probably can’t understand what they’re looking at.

Just so everyone knows what CarMercial is, they are a Video SEO company. Using YouTube and similar video platforms they obtain ranking in SERP for terms by optimizing the metadata of videos. When my client showed me the report, at first I was blown away. 585 keywords in one month! What a monumental task to take on 585 keywords and obtain page 1 rankings in a single month! But what did I find? 583 of those 585 keywords had NEVER been searched. ZERO MONTHLY SEARCH VOLUME.

THIS IS CRIMINAL! You are taking a dealer’s money and returning NO VALUE! How can you do that!?

At first I was just sort of stunned. I thought there had to be something wrong. A reporting error on my end. Why would a vendor waste their time on so many things that accomplished nothing? 583 keywords that couldn’t possibly create an ROI… It really gave a lot of credence to what Steve Staunning said about wanting to avoid the made up rewards these companies had received in his Dealers United launch for SEO providers. I mean, CarMercial is littered with awards on their website, but to see a PCG Digital Marketing AWA award on there really turned my stomach. I’ve known Brian Pasch for years now and just can’t believe something this blatant would be accepted as passable let alone purported as best of the best. This puts the entire AWA awards’ credibility in to question in my mind. Brian, time to inspect what you expect.

I wrote back in June, that perhaps car dealers aren’t the lazy ones many of us in the vendor world claim them to be when it comes to online marketing. This clearly confirms it. I guess it is easier to automate something and just run a business on the hype that abc product is something a dealer needs regardless of whether or not the end user receives any real value. Personally, I think it is shameful. So I am putting a no strings offer out there.

Any dealer who would like an honest, no strings attached evaluation of the SEO reporting that their SEO company is doing for them can contact me and we’ll pay real close attention to the man behind your curtain. Truly, no strings. Ask and ye shall receive.

Before I go, I would like to point out one hero in all of this. Maybe that is an overstatement. I guess doing things honestly and correctly now makes you a hero, but for the record, I’ve had… lets say a, rocky at times and adversarial at other times, relationship with TK Carsites (now KPA). I may not be the biggest fan of their website platform. I may not be the biggest fan of their customer service (at times). But their SEO is what they advertise it to be. I expected to find a lot of keywords in their reporting that had zero search volume, but it was NOT the case. All of the keywords were valuable honest to goodness searches that people in their dealers’ markets were searching for.

My recommendation for dealers going forward is to require the following 3 criteria from your SEO company’s monthly reporting:

- Keyword Positioning

-Search Volume for each ranking keyword

-Link to every page of content, press release, slideshare, and link that was built, etc.

Original article about terrible SEO practices posted on Wikimotive under the title Figures Lie, But Liars Didn't Figure on Wikimotive

Views: 812

Tags: Automotive, Liars, SEO

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Comment by Timothy Martell on September 13, 2012 at 9:49pm

No worries Tom. No feathers ruffled! :)

I just don't think its right that lack of knowledge should make you a mark to be fleeced. Should dealers get more educated? Absolutely. Should they have an interest and be able to hold vendors accountable. But the reasons for shouldn't be because you're going to buy something of little to no value if you don't...

Comment by Tom Gorham on September 13, 2012 at 9:33pm

Tim, the self-defense isn't necessary.  I wasn't criticizing you... only making an observation.  The biggest thing I've noticed here is a lack of explanation from the companies you've mentioned.  To me, their silence says it all.

Hmm, what to do with a bad review?  We all know the answer.  It is not to stay silent.

My point was that dealers are not babies that have to be protected from big, bad vendors.  If they don't use common sense, as Ralph said, then shame on them. They're not as savvy as they think.

We all get burned sometimes, but we should learn from it.  Personally, I thank you for your expose, whether it's self-serving or not.  If it's not true, those who stand accused have a forum to defend themselves right here on ADM.

Comment by Timothy Martell on September 13, 2012 at 8:46pm

I knew I would get the self serving. I mean, how else can I put the information out there? I found it, I reported it. I think its BS that this goes on. Being dishonest is not the same as hype. Hype is talking about the positive merits of a thing and perhaps over emphasizing the importance. I'm ok with that. Its not what I try to do, but it is what it is. 

This is not the same thing. This is finding something arbitrary, that you know to be worthless and then sending it as proof of value. That is simply dishonest. Ralph, it may be common place in your opinion for vendors to flat out lie and mislead dealers, but it doesn't make it right. I don't see how you can have worked in automotive so long and have such little regard for the respect we pay to the people that provide our livelihood. 

People can play devil's advocate all they want about how self serving this article is, but those of you out there who know me, really know me, know that I am completely transparent. I am what I am. No hidden agenda. I'll tell you to your face the same thing I would say behind closed doors. I shoot from the hip. Insert cliche here. But its the truth.

I've spent 21 years in automotive retail and I am only 35. Many 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation car guys have a similar story. Started when they were kids. Fell in love with the business. I bleed automotive. My father is 65 and this November will mark his 44th year at the same car dealership. I was raised in the culture. I know the strengths and weaknesses of its people and truly understand what it is to try to make a buck when success means retaining 3% of gross annual sales.

I also know the terrible stereotypes dealers have earned over the years, but I have to say, I didn't know what shady business practices meant until I got in to the vendor world and Ralph Paglia told me it was commonplace and basically ok that vendors are flat out lying to their customers and dismissed it as not a big deal. Guess I still have a lot to learn...

Regarding "the use of wrong keywords." The vendor is responsible for delivering value to their client. In the case of SEO, there is no ambiguity. You pay to play. You are paying to get exposure for words that are being searched. I spelled out the specifics of the Car-Mercial report and it was because of the extreme lack of value that I labeled as I did. 

If I had found that 40, 20, hell even 10 of the 585 keywords being ranked had some kind of value in search volume, I would never have even mentioned them. I would have given them the benefit of the doubt that there might have been some kind of transition in process going on. I might have even reached out and asked if they knew this was going on. 

But when a dealer comes to me and says they've been using a seo product for an extended period of time and the reporting shows that 583 of 585 keywords have ZERO monthly search volume and the remaining 2 keywords have a combined monthly search volume of 530 searches, I MUST question the integrity of some one what would exhibit that as proof of value.

OK perhaps it doesn't meet the legal definition of a crime, but its just plain wrong. Maybe they didn't mean to do it. If someone from Car-Mercial wants to tell me something meaningful, I'll listen. I said in my article, I actually liked some of the people over there. Perhaps they're a victim of automation and no one was checking. Some one was asleep. But silence? Tell me something! 

Ralph, I don't know where you're going with your commentary here. I guess CarMercial should sue me now? Is that what you're suggesting? Because it clearly seems from your commentary that transparency to the dealer and the truth aren't all that important.

Comment by Tom Gorham on September 13, 2012 at 8:08pm

Thank you Ralph.  This article may have been true (I believe it is) but a bit self-serving.  I've never known vendors NOT to hype their product.  That's their job, isn't it?  The real story is dealers believing without understanding what they're believing.  As you said, "YES, dealers should use common sense!"

Comment by Ralph Paglia on September 13, 2012 at 5:40pm

Tim, as much as your article appears to be revealing something that was previously a secret... IT IS NOT!

Many of us who have been providing dealers with consulting services have ridiculed and chided suppliers who try to hype results for search terms nobody ever actually searches for when shopping for a car... For the past 7 years!  

This is a commonplace sales and reporting practice and ranks right up there with having 50,000 spammy pages generated by a website technology gone out of control and then telling the dealer that more pages indexed is better than fewer... Not 49,000 duplicated content spam pages!  

So, although I think you were trying to do the right thing here... Cmon, everybody knows that ranking for search terms not used by consumers is BS... Where's the news or new information in this post? I sure don't see anything other than YES, dealers should use common sense!

In regards to Car-Mercial, I have seen their videos show up in Google Search results over and over and over when I was not looking for them! And, I was certainly using the search terms such as city-make-model that are frequently amongst the top ranked in volume of use by consumers who are in the market for a car.  If their technology works based on factors such as tags, title and descriptions, and you are seeing low or no volume keywords used, would the right thing to do involve somebody like yourself, who endeavors to serve that same dealer, sending instructions to the other vendors to change their Tag-Title-Descriptions to better match what you have found to be the high volume search terms?  

In any event, calling the use of wrong keywords for SEO targeting within the Tag-Title-Descriptions used by any supplier "fraud" or "criminal" is not only untrue, but is as deceptive to those reading this article as the practices you seek to criticize, or worse.  At the very least, you (Mr. Tim Martell), may be crossing the line into tort territory and committing Slander by its legal definition.

Comment by Timothy Martell on September 9, 2012 at 6:45am

They say, "Practice what you preach!" So I called MYSELF out this time. I guess the only question you have to ask now is, would your vendor stop taking your money if they knew something they were doing wasn't giving you a return on investment?

http://www.automotivedigitalmarketing.com/profiles/blogs/our-google...

Comment by Tom Gorham on September 8, 2012 at 8:45pm

Manny Luna, you make a good point.  "Set and forget" just doesn't work today.  Everything online requires participation not only on the vendor side but on the dealer side.  Shame on dealers who hire a vendor and then forget about it.  I've gotten burned in the past that way by a very good company.  My advice?  Stay involved.  Know what your vendors are doing and act as an equal partner.  My pet peeve is Reputation Management.  Since when can you farm out your reputation?

Comment by Tom Gorham on September 8, 2012 at 8:38pm

Tim, LOL, you knew you were going to take heat on this.  The companies you mentioned have a choice... comment or not.  The proof, as always, is in the pudding!

Comment by Timothy Martell on September 8, 2012 at 2:07pm

Thanks Manny!

Comment by Timothy Martell on September 8, 2012 at 11:57am

Well Doug, if you don't believe in your own content, what are the chances anyone else will?

Thats it Manny. If you're going to do something do it well. If you're going to do something well, prove that its done well and don't take short cuts to make it seem good if it isn't. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth... so help me God.

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