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Why an e-Newsletter is More Effective than a Dealership Blog

For years dealerships have been encouraged to enter the blogosphere as a way to garner a better position in the great war for SERP dominance. A blog can be a very effective tool for a digitally active dealership to create fresh and relevant content and a great asset to your Google Page One Management strategy.
While many dealerships have gone on to create their own blogs, many have since abandoned them like a beater trade with a bad tranny in the back corner of the service lot. It’s not that a blog is too difficult a space for a dealer to manage, in many cases it either falls away as something that is just too time consuming and not a priority or the internet manager that started the blog has moved on and no one knows the password or that it even exists at all. 
Many automotive website companies have added blog like components to their platforms. Since they are not an actual stand alone blog, the articles generally don’t perform well as individual search listings. They do however provide dealers with a tool that enables them to easily add fresh content to their own websites, something that otherwise may not happen consistently enough to  provide an effective SEO advantage. 
One very powerful alternative to a traditional blog is an e-Newsletter. An e-Newsletter that is web based and published on it’s own unique and dealer relevant URL can provide an incredible platform for a dealership to not only create and publish good relevant content, but with a deliverability component that will far surpass most dealership blog readerships. Such an e-Newsletter that is published consistently on a monthly basis with relevant dealer and OEM content will have a very positive impact on your dealerships SEO strategy. Your e-Newsletter is also a great source of referring deep linking in-bound traffic to your website through engaging articles and compelling specials. 
A big advantage to an e-Newsletter is that your provider can write the content for you. Articles ranging from vehicle reviews to employee spotlights can be crafted to be dealer specific and search engine friendly. This consistent flow of relevant content will help you dominate your Google page one rankings and deliver first party leads to your website. 
Another important feature of an e-Newsletter lies in its reporting. While analytics can tell you a lot about your blogs traffic, they fall short on drilling into your customers engagement behavior. Your e-Newsletter reporting will enable you to not only track your delivery and open rates, but will show you exactly which of your customers and prospects are printing service coupons, reading articles and watching your videos.  With this kind of data, you can create targeted campaigns specifically aimed at your customers preferences. 
At the end of the day it’s all about engagement. Blogs can provide a source of information, but lack the ability to convert the reader with a call to action. An e-Newsletter can help build a more engaging relationship with your customers and maintain the “Top of Mind Awareness” that you are looking for.
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Tags: 3 birds, Marketing, Rob Fontano, automotive, car, customer, dealer, engagement, internet, leads, More…newsletter, retention, service


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Comment by Aaron Hassen on August 9, 2012 at 10:18am

Important article, Rob! It's a fact that eNewsletters can be lead engines for dealers.

Erin Castillo who handled email for The Cobalt Group (ADP) recently wrote an article:Turning eNewsletters Into Lead Opportunities: 5 Tips for Dealers. In that article she lists the following stats:

  • Organizations that nurture their leads experience a 45% lift in lead generation ROI (Marketing Sherpa)
  • 50% of users report that eNewsletters influenced their purchases (Neilsen Norman Group)
  • When asked the preferred format to receive updates from companies: 10% said Facebook, 90% said eNewsletter (Nielson Norman Group)
  • 80.8% of consumers report reading email on mobile devices (The Science of Email Marketing Study)

Like your post, the article highlights how dealers can do eNewsletters the right way.

Comment by Rob Fontano on August 3, 2012 at 1:49pm

Nancy: Thank you, I totally agree with your SEO strategy. The crux of my article was really based on the dozens of the dealership blogs that I come across month in and month out that have been essentially left for dead.

I maintained both blogs and Newsletters for my stores while in retail and blogs are a very time consuming undertaking, especially when there are multiple rooftops in play.

The premise here was to show dealers that a fully managed e-Newsletter is a viable alternative that would yield both a strong Google Page One Management strategy and deliver effective reporting that a dealer could use to engage with their customers and set appointments.

Comment by Nancy Liberman on August 3, 2012 at 12:22pm

Rob - Clearly you’ve hit on a topic that is near and dear to the automotive marketing community. But is the question really the newsletter versus the blog or how does a dealer craft an effective content-driven SEO strategy? Smart companies will invest in both a blog and a newsletter – and as Google continues to fine tune its algorithms, monthly content isn’t going to cut it when building a brand or driving SERP increases.

The foundation of a sustainable and results oriented marketing strategy is content – content in all of its various flavors, the newsletter for backlinks and engagement, a blog for fresh, consistent and relevant content, and social outlets to encourage new followers and auxiliary streams for engagement. So while you make some good points, I think the issue is far more complex that your premise implies.

Comment by Tom Gorham on August 2, 2012 at 8:34pm

Brian, "It's like dating...if a group of women have already expressed an interest in dating you, then of course your hit rate should be higher with that group than the general population."  I really like that analogy.  Can I use it in the future?  Credits to you of course.

I found myself agreeing with you in reading your aguments until the end.  When you said, "e-newsletters can be a huge profit driver, they don't belong in the SEO toolkit."  I'm a firm believer that almost everything you do online is an SEO driver.  That's why they call it a web.  Google recognizes (IMHO) volume, content, relevance, references (or in-bound links) and popularity.  I agree that SEO should not be the reason you do eNewsletters, but I don't discount the fact that they are recognized as part of the whole of you.

I too, am a believer in the power of blogs, but I'm a bigger believer in a well-rounded strategy that includes eNewsletters, Social Media, Reputation Management and more. Thanks for helping to make this an exciting conversation along with the other commenters here.

Comment by Brian Offenberger on August 2, 2012 at 8:01am

Rob, I totally agree that an e-newsletter can drive quality engagement numbers, website traffic and sales...after all, the target audience of a newsletter  are those that have expressed interest in receiving a newsletter or those that have done business with a dealership. Newsletter audiences by nature are more engaged than most other audiences dealerships need to reach their objectives.

It's like dating...if a group of women have already expressed an interest in dating you, then of course your hit rate should be higher with that group than the general population.

Your point though was that newsletters improve organic SEO rankings. The fact that newsletters won't improve organic rankings remains the same. 

A dealership that "dominates its own SERP" is not improving its's simply protecting its own SERP for its name. Your examples are more reputation management related rather than rankings driven activities.

And most dealerships need SEO help for terms not related to their dealership name. e-Newsletters won't help them get those non-brand rankings.

I'm a big believer in the power of blogs. Not only will blogging as you describe it Rob help a dealer with protecting their own brand name SERP, it can help improve organic search engine rankings. Just because the commonality of blogs and newsletters is content does not mean they should be used the same way or produce the same results. 

You're right when you say there are no "silver bullets" in the SEO arsenal. Although e-newsletters can be a huge profit driver, they don't belong in the SEO toolkit.

Comment by Rob Fontano on August 2, 2012 at 7:27am

Brian, With all due respect, a dealers first line of SEO defense is "Their Dealership Name". Many dealerships page one search results under the dealers name search are filled with third party lead providers and can even be occupied by competing dealers.

I was quite successful in my SEO conquest efforts as a digital marketing director for several dealers. I also know that Tim and I used many of the same techniques to gain positioning on his competitors page one.

We also shared a similar approach to dominating our own SERP. It was based on consistently publishing good relevant content and lots of it, which a successful e-Newsletter will contain. As you strongly agree with Tim, you are also shooting down his argument that blogs are effective SEO tools.

When I refer to deep linking inbound traffic, I am referring to the click through traffic from the e-Newsletter to specific pages on a dealers website that are relevant to an article or promotion published in the Newsletter.

The traffic we see from our e-Newsletter and fully optimized Engagement site to a dealers website is valuable traffic due to it's extremely low bounce rate, multiple page visit and time on site. I have managed eight different dealer sites and any referring traffic that hits 5+ page views, 6 minutes per visit, 60+% unique visitors and a bounce rate of 19% is good traffic.

A strong Google Page One Management strategy consists of a wide array of techniques being deployed including a well optimized websites and business pages, video, e-Newsletters, blogs, PR, etc. There is no silver bullet to SEO and there never will be. The e-Newsletter I refer to is just one of the weapons in that arsenal, and it has proven to be very effective for a whole lot of dealers.

Comment by Brian Offenberger on August 1, 2012 at 5:11pm

Hi Rob,

I hope no dealership uses an e-newsletter believing that it will contribute to organic search engine ranking improvements. It won’t.

I don’t mean to be adversarial. Your advice though that e-newsletters will boost search rankings is incorrect. Timothy Martell gave you several reasons why they have no impact, especially on the profit line of a dealership.

Here is the big reason why Timothy is right about newsletters not impacting search rankings…if the same originating website (regardless of page URL) sends links each month using the same anchor text to the same web pages, search engines will devalue the links…they will lose all authority value because they come from the same place, using the same terms, to the same destination, each and every month.

And since inbound links are the most important criteria to search rankings, this is a significant issue.

As to your statement that quality newsletters will “refer deep linking in-bound traffic to your website”…what do you mean? Most dealerships promote newsletters to their residential and commercial lists…how many residential customers have high authority websites that will link to a dealership website? How many commercial sites on a typical dealership mailing list would do that for an email newsletter? Not many that I know of. And I don’t see many links to dealership newsletters, websites or content on my friend’s social media feeds (Facebook or Twitter).

Often the dealership website domain and e-newsletter domain as you advocate is registered to the same source. So think about this for a minute…if two separate domains are owned by the same registrant, why would links from one to another have a lot of authority value to a search engine? It won’t, which is again why newsletters aren't an SEO tool.

The SERP screen shot graphic you posted shows results of a dealerships name, and although the newsletter URLS occupy space on the SERP for the dealer name, newsletters don't help the dealership with non-brand related term rankings, which are often quite important to success. Also, many SEO specialists would argue that there are better ways to get brand name related rankings. A blog on its own URL (like you advocate for the e-newsletter) would show SERP results similar to what you've outlined for brand related terms in your example with the newsletter.

Newsletters and email marketing, mobile and text messaging can be great profit producers if they are used correctly. They aren't however good tactics for SEO. 


Comment by Ralph Paglia on August 1, 2012 at 9:58am

A few years ago I was working on a project with Outsell, the eNewsletter and Live Chat supplier for car dealers, and the ideas around using the content that their writing staff creates for car dealers in social media, primarily blog posting came up and was thrown around quite a bit. The challenge with all dealer published content that comes from outside that dealer's own team are many. Localization, relevance and reflecting the personality of the dealership within their local community are all issues.  Today I find it a lot easier to use online writer resources to commission a steady stream of original articles that are written specifically for dealers. At less than $20 for an article between 500 and 1,000 words written by a professional writer, it is tough to justify paying an employee to take the time to create.  Where the employees come in is to publish and distribute, then respond to customer inquiries.

In my opinion, almost every car dealership should be doing both eNewsletters to a managed database, and blog publishing... Both are highly effective marketing tactics and the ROI is substantial for both.

Comment by Arnold Tijerina on August 1, 2012 at 7:50am

Tim, did you respond because you thought you had something valuable to say or was it simply to throw a bunch of back-links to Wikimotive and a not-so-subtle pitch for your services? 

Comment by Rob Fontano on July 31, 2012 at 11:42am

Tim, Regarding the SEO lift that a dealer would get from a typical newsletter, In most cases you are correct. That being said, I am seeing a terrific SEO result in many of the dealers that I am currently working with as can be seen in these examples. I am trying to cautiously walk that fine line between vendor and proponent of dealer education.

You are also correct that content is without a doubt king. A well written and maintained blog is definitely a powerful tool for a dealers Google Page One Strategy, but when you are looking at 96% deliverability and 24% open rates, an e-Newsletter can get in front of more people with current relevant content and create traffic with higher than normal conversion rates. I am seeing dealers with Google analytics that show the e-newsletter as a top ten referring site with 5+ page views 5+ Min. per visit and a bounce rate under 20%.

Note the intentional misspelling of Princeton BMW

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