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How to break up with Autotrader in three easy steps...


Three Steps to Dumping Autotrader


1) drop to the lowest Autotrader program; be sure your dealer merch page is full and fresh, and that all of your vehicles are accurately commented and appropriately priced

2) set up your classifieds posting with smartpillars, set up database farming through polk and imn or outsell, and be sure your feed is going to every free site and all your calls are tracked

3) fully SEO your home page(s), cut Autotrader and replace with intelligent PPC (like dealer.com's dominator)

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Tags: autotrader

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Comment by Brian Pasch on January 3, 2010 at 2:32pm
As Ralph suggests, any advertising or marketing strategy should be evaluated on its own to determine if it has value to your marketing strategy. Autotrader.com and Cars.com have vocal fans and vocal detractors but I’m not sure how much of that is based on data measurement and real A/B testing.

In my opinion, the future viability of car listing portals will be dependent on their ability to reinvent themselves.


Companies like AutoTrader.com and Cars.com have invested millions of dollars in branding so that consumers know their domain name and can go directly to their website to shops for cars. This branding has made them a destination website in the automotive community.

If the sales and calls created by these direct portals have a good ROI for your business, why would you drop them? It’s all about negotiating the right price for the benefit you are getting.

Empowered Dealers Are Changing The Rules

The mix of organic traffic, direct traffic and paid traffic that car listing portals have seen in the past will be changing in the future. As car dealers embrace SEO, social media and blogging, the ability for Autotrader.com and cars.com to appear on Google Page One organically in local markets will be reduced by better localized content. Their organic search traffic will decrease for year, make and model searches.

At one time, these car listing portals had better SEO friendly car listing pages than many car dealers. Today, the number of car dealer website platforms that have strong URL structure and good SEO meta tagging has dramatically increased.

As consumers get more empowered and confident in navigating the many automotive websites on the Internet, they will search and shop more for bargains and not just go to these portals alone. This means that good content that matches "make and model" searches is pushing national portals off organic page one results.

I've been advocating that dealers add great content to their websites for every car that they sell. Create a page of detailed content for each car and watch what happens. Localize the content, and see more surprises!

Ralph is right to point out that AutoTrader.com is not in the lead reselling business. In a similar manner, lead collection business models will also be under attack in the future by empowered car dealers.

Lead Collectors Will Also Be Challenged by Empowered Dealers

Dealers who implement a Google Page One Management (GPOM) strategy to protect their brand name from lead collectors like Edmunds.com, Automotive.com and Autotropolis.com will impact the bottom line of lead collectors significantly.

Why? Because with a Google Page One Management (GPOM) strategy in place, these lead collectors will not be getting the thousands of leads per month they are getting from pages on their websites that are optimized with dealership names across the USA.

Dealer Microsites Will Also Challenge AutoTrader.com


Lastly, microsites will continue to grow and their visibility will be a road-blocking technology for car listing portals as well as lead collectors.

A dealer in Massachusetts that ranks #1 for "Ford Massachusetts" because his microsite is #1 in search results, will draw leads and attention away from lead collectors and sales away from car listing portals. This was not the case a few years ago.

As car dealers start to embrace the concept of multiple local microsites for their brands, the third party lead collectors and car listing sites like Autotrader.com will be impacted. They will have to resort to more expensive pay-per-click marketing to get on GPO or implement microsites themselves.

In 2010 you will also see low cost microsites with live inventory. This means that car dealers can easily and cost effectively create THEIR OWN equivalent of what cars.com and autotrader.com is doing.

Larger dealer groups have a stronger opportunity because owning their own microsites with consolidated used car inventory from multiple stores makes these microsites a direct competitor to cars.com and autotrader.com .

A local dealer with a domain like "www.usedtoyotaboston" that has a few hundred used cars listed will come up ahead of cars.com and autotrader.com over time for any Toyota car search that includes the word Boston if they do it right.

If you see the writing on the wall, the car dealers that get to market first with their own "mini" car marketing websites that are search optimized and have live inventory will be getting more 1st party leads.

A GPOM strategy and automotive microsites with inventory feeds should be part of every dealer’s 2010 Internet Marketing strategy. Now add dealer videos, press releases, blogs and a few other tricks and these lead generation portals are in trouble.

I bet that most dealers would love to be less dependent on these companies and generate more 1st party leads themselves. Just don’t throw out the baby with the bath water until you have less expensive or more productive replacement models in place.

Brian Pasch, CEO
Pasch Consulting Group
http://www.dealer-seo.com
http://twitter.com/automotiveseo
732-450-8200
Comment by Ralph Paglia on January 3, 2010 at 11:14am
I am revising and adding to a comment I posted on a more recent ATC blog because it is relevant to this entire discussion about Autotrader.com...

Many dealers are reporting an increased level of service from their local ATC representatives, which sounds like encouraging news and may provide some support for the monthly fees that Autotrader.com charges. It would be ignorant, by definition, to ignore the value that ATC provides by supplying people to visit dealerships and assist ISM's and managers to be more successful. I would suggest that if that service gets to a point where the value is significant, then reviewing the justification for monthly recurring expenses from ATC needs to take into account what it would cost to replace that type of consulting service as a replacement.

For those that would suggest that ATC should charge dealers on a "Per Lead" or "Per Sale" basis, this concept of "Pay For Performance" is a popular trend for many start ups that have VC money and need to penetrate the dealer services market, but the idea of ATC charging dealers based on leads or sales is out of sync with "Pay Per Performance"...

Why would I say that? Because ATC does not sell leads and they do not sell cars! ATC is a web site publisher that sells preferred placements, converts data into a publicly accessible user interface online and provides dealers with "Spotlights" and other value added services that I would venture to describe as "Advertising". ATC's role is to deliver car buying consumer eyeballs to the dealer's advertisements (inventory) placed in their publication... Period. The leads generated or sales that result from those phone calls, showroom visitors, and maybe a few form fills, are NOT the role of ATC... that is what dealerships, their employees, sales staff and management are responsible for.


If ATC were to charge dealers on a "Pay Per Performance" basis, then it would be by charging dealers for the number of people who see the dealer's advertisements or vehicle inventory listings or both...

Now, let's get one thing clear right now... I am not an Autotrader apologist or affiliated with, or a reseller of or in any way affiliated with Autotrader.com... In fact, I have been criticized for being overly critical of Autotrader by several friends who work there. And, I have battled with Autotrader on numerous occasions in negotiating monthly rates for dealers I either worked for or represented... But one thing has always remained a constant with Autotrader... They do not sell leads and they do not sell some type of outsourced sales person replacement service!

So, if you want to beat up on Autotrader, there are plenty of areas that they can improve upon, but they have never positioned themselves or represented themselves as a "Lead Supplier", that has only come from sources who do not understand the difference between selling advertising and selling leads. Likewise, ATC has never represented itself as some sort of supplier of replacement sales process services for those supplied by automotive sales professionals and managers.

If Autotrader is supplying less car buying shopper advertising impressions, or the percentage of people visiting Autotrader.com that is qualified to buy a car has declined, then these are all valid reasons to renegotiate a dealer's payments to ATC. But, if the dealership's inventory has dropped in the past year, and the volume of phone calls and floor traffic from Autotrader.com has dropped in an equal percentage as the dealer's decline in inventory displayed on Autotrader... Well, any intelligent business professional should be able to see the correlation.

Again, Autotrader.com has plenty of issues we can botch about, so there is no need to hammer on them over things that are either outside their scope of services or a reflection of something we are doing within the dealership's operations. The simple process of comparing the cost per impressions served on a dealer's inventory with Cars.com, EveryVehicleListed.com or even Craig's List is ammunition enough to reduce the costs being spent on Autrader.com when the data is collected and properly analyzed.
Comment by Arnold Tijerina on June 4, 2009 at 6:35am
ok, that's the "How" - now explain the "Why"....

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