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Used Car Advertising Platforms - Do Ads Matter To You?

I'm working on a white-paper to present at the Automotive Marketing Boot Camp that compares the choices dealers have to advertise their used car inventory. One of the elements of the white-paper is to document how Vehicle Detail Pages (VDP) are designed and presented to consumers.

From a dealer perspective I have a problem with automotive advertising partners that run competing ads on the dealer's Vehicle Detail Pages (VDP). You may not have a problem with that as long as the website produces leads and calls, so I'd like to hear your opinion.

I also want to disclose that I have developed a platform to advertise car dealer inventory; the Automotive Advertising Network. Over the past 5 years I have been a keen student of what other automotive advertising companies are doing online. I have not included my own platform in this data to avoid self promotion.

USed Car ADvertising

What Amount of VDP Advertising is Fair?

I have and will continue to look out for the dealer when I write my blog posts. I want to educate dealers that there are choices on the market and how to best evaluate those options. I'm not writing to put down any specific platforms; I want to start a good dialogue on the marketplace as it exists today.

I decided to share some of the data that I will include in my final white-paper on how the many automotive advertising platforms stack up to each other.

What I did was to search for a used car in my local market, and see how many ads show on the listing pages and how many ads show on the Vehicle Detail Pages (VDP). Now, I have no problem with ads on vehicle listing pages since those pages are the property of the website owners.

However, I do have a problem with the brand leaks and distractions on actual car detail pages. These distractions come in the form of banner ads, Google Text ads, and links to third party services like insurance quotes, car financing, and vehicle research reports which take consumers to another website or take business away from the dealer.

In the first table, I have listed popular car inventory advertising websites, listed alphabetically. The first set of data shows how many ads are running on "listing pages". A listing page would be a search for a query like "used Chevrolet cars". The second columns of data are based on the single used car vehicle detail page.

Used Car Platforms Ordered Alphabetically

# Ads/Links on Listing Pages Example Listing Page # Ads/Links on VDP Example VDP 10 View 9 View 15 View 10 View 15 View 10 View 8 View 6 View 8 View 10 View 2 View 0 4 View 6 View 10 View N/A 13 View N/A 8 View 1 View 7 View 5 View 2 View 1 View 14 View 10 View 13 View 8 View 6 View N/A 2 1 View 3 View 10 View 13 View 0 View 2 View 2 View 14 View 5 View

Ordered By Ads on Vehicle Detail Pages

# Ads/Links on Listing Pages Example Listing Page # Ads/Links on VDP Example VDP 2 View 0 13 View 0 View 8 View 1 View 2 View 1 View 2 1 View 2 View 2 View 7 View 5 View 14 View 5 View 8 View 6 View 4 View 6 View 13 View 8 View 10 View 9 View 15 View 10 View 15 View 10 View 8 View 10 View 14 View 10 View 3 View 10 View 10 View N/A 13 View N/A 6 View N/A

Notes on Chart Data

When the Ads on the VDP says "N/A" (i.e. it is because these sites syndicate data and drive consumers to the origination websites; they no not have their own Vehicle Detail Pages.

Views: 363

Tags: car advertising, used car advertising, used cars


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Comment by Ashley Corning on April 1, 2011 at 9:22am

This is a very interesting topic and one I feel very strongly about, being on the front line trying to juggle budgets and roi's, and explain to my GM why this $$ is going to this company, etc.


Also a topic to be noted in this space is the actual listing ranks in the various "markets/platforms".  Most, if not all but 1 that I have experience with, companies let the customers find the vehicles they are looking easily.  As Keith Shetterly said they are more "organic" searches, so the more relevance to the filter the customer puts on, the higher up the vehicle will place in the listings.  The one exception seems to be the highest priced, and lowest producing site.  AND from what I have seen above is one of the advertisers on the detail pages. 


What are thoughts on ranking in the markets?  As I've experienced, most allow the vehicles to speak for themselves, should the vendor be able to dictate through pricing and "premiums" the search rank in their site? 

Comment by Thomas A. Kelly on March 29, 2011 at 4:31am

I would not limit my concerns to the Vehicle Description Page. Third parties, in this context,anyone who hosts a platform to advertise car dealers inventory, can and often are more successful at positioning themselves on page one than the dealer for his own inventory, in large part because the dealer has what the consumer wants, not the third party inventory hosting site. The more inventory the third party collects for his site, the more SEPR he will qualify for. You once said, "I always challenge dealers to do a few searches from their own PC's to see how bad it is getting in saerch, and when they see the results they start to realize that they need to become content publishers.

Otherwise, larger and smarter national sites will suck their brand equity and leads with ease."

I can not agree with you more. I personally have no problem with any site that gathers multiple dealers inventory and posts it on their site. Often times they are encouraged to do so because it is a "free" listing. I would ask is it really free? When you say "Now, I have no problem with ads on vehicle listing pages since those pages are the property of the website owners", I would disagree if it was my 2011 chevy impala stock# 12345 that allowed the site owner to "get found" in a search. I would not care who owns the site, if it was my inventory that got them there. Advertising, cross selling on the vehicle listing page would be just as painful for me. However, if I knew prior to allowing my inventory being exported to the site exactly what was intended and what the aggregator had to gain,if anything and what I had to lose, if anything, then all bets are off. I listed with full knowledge and understanding. It has been my observation that many, and I'm guessing most websites that host a platform to advertise car dealers inventories somewhere down the line also sell leads back to the dealers that lists a car and more than likely more than once per lead. Again, I have no problem with that model either as long as I know before I list. We as dealers always hear the upside but are sometimes shorted on the potential downside.

Comment by Brian Pasch on March 28, 2011 at 8:43pm


Some would say that without the dealer's inventory (millions of cars), these sites would have nothing to sell. They would not have relevance in the search engines nor would any advertising cause consumers to frequent the site.  The website owner is only a broker of the dealer's assets.

The "fly-paper" to attract consumers is not the "print media" like a newspaper but a "product" that the dealer, not the platform, has invested in.  So the comparison to newspaper is weak.


Comment by Keith Shetterly on March 28, 2011 at 8:35pm

Here is the argument that I got from one of these listed sites:  "Advertising in the newspaper didn't guarantee you exclusivity.  You could be on a page with a direct competitor, an insurance ad, etc.  Our site is ADVERTISING, the same thing, plain and simple."


My reply was this:  "I agree with the overall advertising point you are making, but as a dealer it's different being on an unchanging printed page with others than it is being on a web page where active links vie for shoppers to simply click and leave.  What is missing in your comparison to the newspaper is  that the advertising and the showroom have mixed now online:  And what is REALLY happening is that folks are being offered products (and perhaps what can be viewed as competitive products) WHILE THEY ARE IN THE DEALER'S ONLINE SHOWROOM.  And clicking on those products and leaving the site is the same as if, in the old days, we had provided advertising for other business on our showrooms and then offered a limo ride from our dealership to their location!"


I don't know what might change for the dealer here with these services.  However, I believe I've got a point about what's "wrong with this picture."

Comment by Brian Pasch on March 28, 2011 at 8:22pm


You mention "fear of loss" and this is something that is commonplace.  Most dealers can say that they have "fired" and "re-hired" third party used car advertising websites, MULTIPLE times.  The reasons vary but there is much to say about the angst that exists as dealers try to evaluate who are their best used car advertising partners.


Comment by Scott Falcone on March 28, 2011 at 8:12pm



You and I have discussed Page One Defense on and off for well over a year and you even coined the term "POD Score" for Page One Defense for those who are not aware of what it is...perhaps many in the industry haven't realized that there are hundreds and thousands of "Page One" opportunities to defend. You are pointing out a new group to many. Page One is merely the arrival point for a consumer...not only the "main" search page of a dealer's name (although that is arguably the most important).  So in answer to your question "How much is fair?" I have to say zero...Why is it that a dealer writes a check? To help support the next level of income for these sites? The dealer is expecting results for their Page One on these sites and a protected environment with which to showcase vehicles and instead this is what they get.

It is a sad state that many have fallen into and "fear of loss" is the tool companies are using to keep dealers writing checks month after month that allow these vendors to control someone elses Page One. This is a nice piece you have penned and hopefully it will move some dealers to question why they spend the dollars they do and allow these 3rd party vendors to own these "Page Ones" while siphoning off the opportunities for themselves or for a few click dollars...not my type of vendor/partner.


And by the way, this is not the only segment of our industry that has this type of leakage going on utilizing Page One squatting techniques. There are plenty of additional white papers to be written!

Comment by Brian Pasch on March 28, 2011 at 7:57pm

It's hard to say.  Any ad that leads a consumer away from the VDP is a distraction, from my viewpoint. 

Some distractions are potentially worse than others.  A local, same brand dealer, is more damaging than an insurance quote form. 

The point is to start a dialogue on what dealers think is reasonable...and I want to thank you for starting the exchange...let's see what other dealers think about ads on their VDP.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on March 28, 2011 at 7:43pm
I think there would be value in having that information separated out.  It's the most directly-competitive item, would you agree?
Comment by Brian Pasch on March 28, 2011 at 7:41pm
Yes, any ads (OEM or 3rd Party) that would take a consumer away from a page that the dealer would benefit from.
Comment by Keith Shetterly on March 28, 2011 at 7:34pm
Brian, are you also including the times that links to OEM sites are presented, not just insurance, etc.?

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