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Training Dealers on SEO is A Waste Of Money

Steve Stauning, in his latest post on ADM representing Dealers United made this statement in regards to their selected SEO vendor to be announced on March 28th:

"In other words: they (Dealers United SEO Vendor) are physically doing the SEO work, and not busy trying to train your team on the ever-changing world of search engine optimization.

(While we value private dealer education above nearly all else, the realities of SEO and dealership turnover do not lend themselves to wasting a dealer’s money on SEO training for his/her team. As I’ve learned over the years, your team should be busy selling cars, not writing SEO content.)"

Here are two thoughts that come to mind after reading this post: 


1. Vendor partners that train their clients on SEO are somehow distracted from being able to perform actual "physical" SEO for their clients.  


This is an odd statement because most SEO vendors that I know including companies like TK Carsites, eXteres,, Cobalt, and WikiMotive offer SEO workshops and/or webinars for dealers.   In fact, PCG and TK Carsites have probably done 20 SEO workshops and articles a year, dedicated to education on SEO for the last 4 years. 

A company that cares enough to educate their clients should not be deemed a "weaker" company if they choose to multi-task with education.    


2. Dealers should not train their staff on SEO because its a waste of money.  


I guess this is the most prehistoric statement I've heard lately.  In fact, I think it is insulting to the hundreds of dealers that I have trained who have commented that their SEO training has helped achieve their online visibility goals OR how to manage their vendors better.  

Once they know how SEO works and how to do it right,  if/when they decide to outsource SEO, SEM, Social Media, they can hold their partners accountable.  Knowledge also allows dealers to create content that can react to fast market conditions and not wait on their SEO vendor. 

I believe that the best client to have for SEO is one that understand what SEO is, what is involved, and how they can assist the vendor achieve local search goals.  I can think of many examples where dealer's I have trained have become digital marketing "experts" in their own right.

The statement that "high" turnover is an excuse for not having an educated team on important topics like SEO, SEM, and Social Media is not an excuse for ignorance.  I guess you could outsource your sales team as well if you used that logic.


In fact, last time I checked, dealers are "selling" alot of cars from SEO, SEM, and Social Media strategies that they learned from webinars, workshops, and conferences.  Conferences like Digital Dealer and Automotive Boot Camp have rooms filled to the gills when SEO classes are offered. 


So I guess in Steve Stauning's world all dealers who invest in learning more about their primary digital marketing tools (SEO, SEM, etc) are wasting their money.   Do you agree?


In Steve's world it would be best for him to pick your SEO, SEM, and Social Media vendor and send you a bill and trust him that he has chosen the right partner.


Don't worry about what it is or how it works, he'll send you a report with the bill.  Now, you won't know how to leverage the data listed on that SEO report or make educated changes to strategy, but that will be ok.  

Get back on the lot and just sell more cars.


Is Steve Stauning's "experienced" view of dealers correct?  


P.S.  The 3rd Webinar in the Automotive SEO Study starts today at 2:00 pm EST. 

Views: 675

Tags: seo, seo education, steve stauning


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Comment by Brian Pasch on March 16, 2012 at 3:39am


Thank you for sharing your perspective and insights on the value of dealer education on their core digital marketing investments.

Comment by Silia J. Hatzi on March 15, 2012 at 7:46pm

I cannot comment on Mr. Stauning's alleged assertions as I have not read them; thereby I am commenting herein on whether, in my opinion, dealers should or should not be educated about SEO, and to what extent.

I am, what is termed in the automotive industry, "a vendor” & have been selling to C-level executives for ~30 years.

In my opinion, how educated an executive or a staff member should be in a particular area, is best determined by:

a) what percentage of their business revenues or expenditures are affected by such area and

b) what percentage of the responsibility for sound-decision making the executive or staff member has agreed to perform competently in. 

For example, while a dealership's Service Manager’s new customer base may be largely gleaned from the Internet qualifying him to benefit by understanding SEO to help steer strategies toward getting him more service leads, depending on the dealership's structure, she may or may not be held accountable for the marketing campaigns to generate new service business. In such a case his SEO education can be limited to understanding SEO enough to prioritize initiatives for getting favourable reviews from Service clients to help the dealership's Google Places listing, review rankings, etc. 

Whereas, a Vice President of Marketing or any other dealership staff member, formally or informally charged with such responsibilities (which may be anyone from a General Sales Manager, to the General Manager, to the owner, to the owner's wife or daughter or son, assistant, etc.), is making decisions that affect a dealership's or auto group's return on investments and essentially profit. Such staff member should track the source of all sales in which case they are likely to find that in this day and age organic search engine rankings significantly affect lead volume and sales. How can anyone inspect the work of vendors and ensure that those of us charged with your assets perform as agreed if you do not know what to look for?

If a vendor is performing extraordinarily well for you and could get even better results if a dealership invested more, how does one know? If a vendor is missing the mark, how does one know? How can any one of us know if we get what we paid for if we do not understand what we get?

Just yesterday, I saw an SEO proposal that was priced substantially lower than another. Even if both vendors are reputable how can a dealer know which one to chose? A staff member would need to understand that "managing 15 keywords per month" would not even cover an auto groups models to realize that the "inexpensive" option cost 5+ times more than the option of a vendor who competently managed 100 keywords+ keywords per month.


Certainly I am biased in this: in my experience, those of us who sell with competence and integrity prefer selling to über-educated clients; if for no other reason, because the are capable of appreciating our delivering excellence and they remain clients forever.


Thank you and kudos to Brian Pasch for addressing such an important point. Cheers, everyone. 

Comment by David Brondstetter on March 15, 2012 at 4:50pm

My philosophy has always been to educate and share knowledge with my clients. My responsibility is to provide a cost effective product and service that allows my company to do it just as well if not better for my clients at a significantly lower price then they can do it inhouse. 

The key is education. If a clients doesn't know the ins and outs of what you are doing for them, how can they possibly assign a value to your offering? If they don't know why they are writing you a check each month, chances are they won't be doing it for long. 

Comment by Brian Pasch on March 15, 2012 at 12:24pm


You have summarized the most important point of my post.  Education is vitally important to allow a dealer to lead in the digital age and it should not be downplayed.  Education on SEO, SEM, and Social Media for example gives dealers the opportunity to choose in-sourcing, out-sourcing, or a combination of both.  It is not wasteful rather it is an investment in successful business operations.  

Steve's comments remind me of the poor choice of words Scott Painter crafted when defending   Some people just should not be writing on behalf of a new product launch.

Comment by Joey Abna on March 15, 2012 at 10:48am

Thanks AJ!

Comment by Philip Zelinger on March 15, 2012 at 10:19am

Brian, rather than limiting my support of your assertion that training dealers on SEO is indeed a wise investment ... and risk taking a side against Dealers United who I believe is providing a valued vendor research and negotiationg platform to level the playing field for independent dealers vs. the large chains ... I will share a universal wisdom of my father who has proven to be my most valued resource that definitely applies to your post.

My father taught me that to succesfully manage and run a business - any business - you must be able to do or at least understand every job and walk a mile in everyone's shoes who impacts your business; including your customers.  Given the central role that SEO and even PPC plays in today's digitally driven automotive advertising world and the importance of our virtual online showrooms I can't imaging blindly delegating such a key element. 

Of course an owner/manager must determine what to do and what to delegate so I agree that the day to day functions associated with managing a comprehensive SEO campaign could and should be assigned to a specialist - either in-house or outsourced.  However, the owner can delegate the function - not the responsibility - so training and education of key decision makers at the dealership must be maintained.

The basic logic of inspecting what you expect definitely applies to SEO.  If the purpose of your post is to focus on that issue then I definitely agree.  I may not take it as far as some of our shared friends on ADM in terms of challenging Steve Stauning's motives in making his comments against training a dealer's staff on SEO since I don't believe that outsourcing the function is mutually exclusive with training your staff but I certainly disagree with his conclusion and suggestion.   

Comment by Rob Fontano on March 15, 2012 at 10:16am

I cannot condone any dealership hiring a "Best of the Best" company to do anything based solely on a need and a network referral. Dealers need to be educated and grow into this digital age so that they can choose a strategy and partner wisely.

A dealer that feels like they can breath a sigh of relief knowing that "someone else has got the wheel and now we can get back to selling cars" is not running a business, they are running into a wall.

Take the time to invest in and grow your people and they will amaze you, as well as being forever grateful! You cannot sub out vision.

Comment by Jim Canto on March 15, 2012 at 10:16am

Dealers who do not take the initiative to develop at least a basic understanding of SEO, SEM and Social Media leave themselves, and their business to the mercy of those who seek to profit excessively from their ignorance.

Additionally, those same dealers will continue to pay for position and pay for online leads in lieu of an organic optimization strategy.

Note: When done properly, and implemented from the top down, the negative impact of attrition and turnover are significantly reduced.

Comment by Timothy Martell on March 15, 2012 at 10:10am

Quite possibly one of the most ignorant statements ever made by someone claiming to be an "expert". While I'm a big fan of saying controversial things to stir the pot, I can't imagine how Steve could possibly benefit from the negative aspects of making what would seem to be a foolish comment that would only make him seem like an amateur. 

Having cut my teeth at a dealership who's success is the result of well crafted online marketing techniques; and that those techniques have resulted in that dealer becoming the 3rd largest volume dealer in its region in spite of location and market; and that that success has lead to the dealership undergoing a major expansion in a down economy; and that the ownership would be offered a new open point franchise in the same soft economy... I would say that such a statement is about the most asinine thing I've ever heard.

Comment by Ronald G. (Ron) De Angelo on March 15, 2012 at 9:49am

Right on the mark, Brian!  Your advise is very sound and will benefit our Dealership base!  Thanks

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