1. Search Engine Marketing for Auto Dealers
Part 1; The Basics
Compiled and edited by Ralph Paglia
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are popular new
buzz terms in the auto industry, and they both represent profit opportunities important
enough that many dealers are starting to pay attention to them. If done well, SEM and SEO
campaigns can both provide efficient and cost-effective ways for dealers to attract new customers.
Many dealers are finding that SEM/SEO can generate far lower advertising costs PVR on
incremental business than more traditional media investments.
The key is to understand that you can measure the performance of your SEM/SEO program,
compare the results to other marketing
investments, and adjust your total mix
of marketing dollars to maximize the
ROI. This is something that is more
difficult to do with radio, TV, and print
advertising. New customer acquisition
costs with dealer funded SEM
campaigns are comparable to third
party leads, in the range of $150 - $350
per vehicle sold, making it much more
efficient in producing incremental
sales volume when compared to the
cost of traditional advertising, which
averages around $550 to $600 per
vehicle sold (NADA).
As the number of online vehicle consumers reaches market saturation, their use of search engines
has grown dramatically. According to J.D. Power and Associates 2005 New Auto Shopper Survey,
89% of online vehicle shoppers used a search engine during their buying process. And, as Dennis
Galbraith, senior director of Internet studies and marketing solutions at J.D. Power says; Dealer ad
dollars should move as consumers do. As the most successful dealers explore ever more effective
marketing solutions, the fastest growing area in dealers online ad spends is in paid listings, which
is what separates search engine marketing (SEM) from search engine optimization (SEO).
According to industry data, the amount of money dealers invest in SEM is expected to reach
$465M by 2007, up from $6.2M in 2003 and $51M in 2004. It is no wonder that scores of service
providers are cropping up.
The Opportunity to Grow Your Own...
The largest and most popular automotive sites employ SEM to get maximum exposure inside
search results. Third Party Lead Providers such as Dealix, AutoByTel, AutosUSA, iMotors and
others use SEM and SEO to generate the leads that become the inventory which they then sell to
dealers for $18 to $27 a pop. All too frequently, some of these lead providers sell these leads on a
wholesale basis to other lead providers, resulting in the same lead being sold several times to
multiple dealers. Savvy dealers can use SEM to grow their own leads and get the most relevant
exposure to local customers, while ensuring that the leads generated are not shared with their local
competitors, making these Home Grown leads far more valuable than the leads they buy from
2. Third Party providers. Although, it should be pointed out that value-added services such as the lead
scrubbing that Dealix does, which ensures valid email addresses and phone numbers is an
enhancement over the raw lead information for Santa Clause and Minnie Mouse that dealers could
get when they are growing their own using search engines sending customers directly to their
online forms, web sites and marketing campaign landing pages.
SEO or SEM? Common Terms Used in Search Engine Marketing
Since SEM is relatively new, there are a lot of people, especially those selling services to dealers,
that throw them around as if everybody already knows what they mean… Do not let a software or
web services salesperson use of jargon intimidate or impress you. Here is a list of terms to help
breakdown the buzz words into what they mean:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – SEO is a process designed to attract search engine
spiders to a dealer (or lead provider) website. Spiders are automated software programs that
crawl the Web to match consumers search terms with relevant content. SEO increases the
odds your site will get high rankings in organic search results, which are free, as opposed to
paid advertisements. SEO also incorporates keywords popular with consumers into your
website copy, making it more search engine friendly. Your website provider should supply
this service to you. However, keep in mind that certain web based technologies render the
content served up to customers on your web site invisible to search engine spiders…
Macromedia’s Flash technology is famous for making web sites invisible to search engines.
Basically, if you can highlight text on your web site, as when you want to copy it to your
windows clipboard, then that text can be read by a search engine spider, and will cause
your site to be listed in the free search results. The icredible competitiveness of the SEO
landscape right now is part of the reason why SEM has become so important to dealers.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – SEM is a “catch all” term that includes the different
techniques used to get your website optimal placement in search engine results. SEM
includes search engine optimization (SEO), paid placement, pay-per-click online
advertising, paid call, contextual advertising, link exchanges, banner advertising that
contains links, etc. There is no Magic Button when it comes to SEM, the best results come
from managing a large number of variables on a daily basis... The $.50 cost per click key
word on Monday can get scooped by higher bidders and cost $5.00 by Tuesday. This is
why there has been a recent influx of SEM and SEO service providers into the automotive
industry during the past 18 months. Entrepreneurs are quickly siezing the opportunity to fill
the demand for these types of services from savvy dealers who want to establish the
SEM/SEO marketing presence before their competition does. Entrepreneurs such as Stuart
LLoyd and Betsy Nanson have formed Companies such as ClickMotive.com and Nanson
Interactive. Web providers such as BZ Results and others have established entire
departments that provide SEO and SEM services to dealers.
Keywords – Keywords are words and phrases used to find relevant websites. The goal of
search engine marketers is to match their advertisements together with popular keywords
used by the online search engine users whose profiles come closest to a dealers targeted car
buyers. Google allows dealers to bid on desirable key words to increase the odds that a
sponsored link will show. One of the best ways to experiment with SEM is for a dealer to
open up an account with Google AdWords. This service allows dealers to build and place
ads that connect them with car buyers at the precise moment when they are looking for the
make of cars or trucks sold by the dealership. The Google Search Network reaches more
than 80% of Internet users. With a Google AdWords account dealers can create their own
3. ads, choose keywords to help Google match the ads to your targeted customer profile and
then the dealer only pays when a prospective customer actually clicks on the ad and goes
the the advertising dealer's web site, group portal or campaign specific landing page, which
then provides the online forms and phone numbers that generate eLeads and phone calls.
Organic Search Results (relevant content results) – Organic search results are ads and website
links returned by a search engine based on the relevancy of the search query to the content
read and indexed by the search engine's spiders from within these ads and websites. If you
search for something with Google, the results you get in the middle of the page are the
organic listings; while those at the very top and to the right of the page are paid
advertisements, otherwise known as sponsored links.
Paid Listings (Paid Placement, Sponsored Links, Cost per
Click or Pay per Click Advertising) – Dealers pay to
have their ads displayed at the top, or on the right side,
of the free listings, or organic search results.
Advertisers, such as 3rd party lead providers, car
companies, dealers and other businesses bid on specific keywords and combinations of
keywords (such as 2006+Chevy+Tahoe) using an online auction setting in an effort to get
preferred placement of their ads. Those that bid more for keywords, and also get the most
clicks on their ads, (quality) have the best odds of premium placement in that search
engines results when prospective buyers look for web sites related to those keywords.
Pay for Performance - Pay for performance relates to the paid advertising part of SEM.
Advertisers pay the search engine (or Web publisher) when a prospect takes a desired
action, such as clicking on their ad, hence the term Cost Per Click, usually referred to as
CPC. The pay for performance model can work in other ways too, such as the advertiser
paying when a prospect calls a trackable toll-free phone number listed in the dealership's ad
or sponsored link. These numbers are normally supplied by Who’s Calling, Callbright, or
CallSource and can be paid for by either the dealer or the advertising provider, such as
what AutoTrader.com and Cars.com offers dealers.
Cost Per Click (CPC) – CPC is what the advertiser pays the search engine when someone
clicks on their ad in a listing of search results. CPC is the most commonly used pay for
performance program in search engine marketing. While some CPC rates may seem quite
low, around $0.10 or $0.25 per click-through, they can also go as high as $10.00 or more.
Dealers need to occasionally do a reality check and ask themselves if it’s worth it to pay
$1.00, $2.00, $8.00 (or more) every time someone clicks on your ad.
Paid Inclusion (Trusted Feed) – Paid inclusion allows you to pay a per click fee to submit to
a search engine or directory via XML to a Web page(s) that is indexed in organic search
results. CPC can occur from Paid Inclusion.
Pay per Call – As noted above, pay per call is a pay for performance program where the call
to action is for the prospective customer to make a telephone call using the number listed
exclusively on that site (usually a trackable toll-free phone number).
4. Cost per Acquisition (Cost per Lead) – Your average cost generated when a prospect calls,
fills out a form, sends an email, or otherwise submits a sales lead. Calculation: Total
amount expensed to the SEM campaign, divided by the number of leads generated within a
time period, usually per month.
Cost Per Vehicle Retailed (PVR) or Cost Per Vehicle Sold – Your average cost accrued
from your SEM efforts to sell each vehicle. Calculation: total cost of the SEM program for
a given month (or set time period) divided by the number of sales made to leads and calls
generated from the program within that time period.
Interactive Web Site Design (Site Optimization) – Designing the layout, content and
functionality on your website in order to convert visitors into leads. For example, you can
add buttons and graphics (calls to action) that supply incentives and special offers on your
home page that attract visitors to online forms or inventory searches. The percentage of
unique visitors to a dealer’s web site that submit an online form is commonly known as the
Visitor Conversion Rate (VCR). The VCR is a key measure in assessing the effectiveness
of a dealer’s web site, and evaluating a web site provider’s user centric design, site
optimization and hosting quality. Technical quality factors, such as a web sites load time,
will directly effect the VCR.
Search Engine Landing Pages (micro sites) – These are special purpose, low cost web pages
with specific content relevant to a list of keywords used by customers in a search engine.
These campaign-specific landing pages are designed to serve up forms and phone numbers
that quickly convert more visitors into leads, compared to sending the prospective customer
to the dealer's more general purpose home page. This is one of the more exciting tools in
SEM, and these same landing pages can also be optimized for specific organic content that
results in free listing within the first page of a customer's search results, thus generating
both paid and unpaid (free) home grown leads for a dealership. Soetimes seeing something
live is more effective than reading about it, so go ahead and check out these 2 Search
Engine Landing Pages; http://www.yougotgas.com/ and http://www.2007tahoe.com/ , both
have been used to generate hundreds of leads each month.
Getting the Most from Your SEM Efforts - Local vs. National Search
While SEM campaigns can be cost-effective, you could still end up paying a lot of money if your
program isn’t well managed on a daily basis. Bidding for search terms and keywords on a local
level, or using a geographic modifier, is where your dealership can distinguish itself in your local
area. For example, a Chevrolet dealer in Phoenix, AZ will most likely want their ad to appear
when a consumer types [Phoenix Chevrolet dealer] or [Arizona Chevrolet]. You may also want
your ad to appear when a consumer types [Ford dealer, Phoenix] in hopes of gaining a conquest
sale. Visitors to your site resulting from these localized searches have better odds of becoming
good eLeads or phone ups. I have personally sold cars and trucks to leads from customers
thousands of miles away, but it is not easy. On the other hand, if a consumer searches under a more
general or national term, such as [pickup truck] or [Chevrolet] you may, or may not want your ad
to appear, and then generate a click that increases your expense. Popular terms can be quite
expensive to bid on, as you are now competing with your OEM, large dealer groups, the third party
lead provider that you may already be paying and third party auto sites all bidding for those
keywords. Even if your ad does show up in a consumer’s more general results, there is no
guarantee that the consumer is located near your dealership. Although many dealers tell stories of
selling cars to customers who live hundreds, or thousands of miles away, it is difficult to build a
5. business model on it. Dealers can set themselves apart from other search results by branding their
sponsored link, including a toll free phone number, address, and cross streets.
SEM Allows Dealers to Compete Locally, and 3rd Party Lead Providers can Compete on
behalf of a Dealer Nationally
Competing on the national level with search engine marketing is another way that third party lead
aggregators can deliver value to a dealer. According to Ward’s, J.D. Power, and other industry
sources, many consumers prefer to submit leads at independent third party automotive sites that are
not directly affiliated with a car company or specific dealership. Some consumers, already familiar
with strong brand names such as Yahoo Autos, AOL Autos, MSN Autos, AutoByTel, Car and
Driver, MotorTrend, GetAuto.com, CarsDirect etc., may start at these sites, or they may find them
in a search. If a consumer is doing some comparison shopping among different brands and enters
the search term [4x4 truck] for example, they're not necessarily looking for a manufacturer's or
individual dealership's site.
The best third party sites employ SEM to gain top placement in search results for national or
general terms like [Used SUV] or [New Chevrolet Silverado]. Through direct partnerships with
hundreds of these auto sites, some of which are exclusive, lead aggregators like Dealix,
AutoByTel, AutoBuyingUSA, iMotors and others can provide a basket of mixed quality leads. The
lead aggregator's job is to source, scrub, and distribute the right prospects to your dealership, no
matter where they originate. Certain efficiencies can improve and some dealers will benefit from
the larger economies of scale and technology utilization a lead aggregator can provide, much of
which is beyond the technical resources of the average car dealer.
The most successful dealers today, such as the Ward’s e-Dealer 100, employ a holistic approach to
their online customer acquisition efforts, using a combination of leads generated from their own
site, via local campaigns and search engine marketing, leads supplied by their OEM and leads from
third party aggregators. Third party sites, says Chip Perry (CEO of AutoTrader), provide car
buyers with an organized experience that they can not get anywhere else.
Performance: It’s Still about ROI and Cost per Vehicle Retailed (PVR)
As with any marketing program, the most important measurements of success with your SEM
program are your return on investment (ROI) and your cost per vehicle retailed (PVR). With
search engine marketing it is important to keep in mind that you’re paying for site visitors and not
individual sales leads. In order to judge the success of your program, you’ll need to track key
metrics such as site visitors, visitor conversion rates (VCR), which keywords were clicked on,
overall cost per click, and close rates for SEM leads vs. other lead sources. Outsourcing this
complicated and time consuming work can be the difference in whether your SEM program hits
top speed, or runs out of gas.
(see table on next page)
6. The following table gives you an idea of why tracking key metrics is important in your SEM
program along with your other advertising. By comparing these figures, you can see what’s
working and what isn’t. Keep in mind that these figures are examples and will vary depending on
your franchise, sales process, website company, third party lead provider, etc.
Traditional 3rd Party SEM –
Advertising Leads Dealer's Site
1 Month Investment $ 10,000 $ 10,000 $ 8,700
Management Fee n/a n/a $ 1,305
Views/Impressions 65,000 n/a 450,000
Conversion/Clicks n/a n/a 11,500
Cost per Click n/a n/a $ 0.87
Click to Lead Conversion n/a n/a 5%
Leads Generated 180 500 575
at 0.28% lead/views at 3% lead/click
at $20 per lead
conversion ratio conversion ratio
Cost per Lead $ 55 $ 20 $ 17
Close Rate for Leads 12% 6% 8%
Vehicles Sold 22 30 46
Cost PVR $ 455 $ 333 $ 218
Sources: 2005 Automotive News Market Data Book, N.A.D.A Data, Google, Yahoo Compete June 2005 Survey, and Cobalt and Dealix Corporation
Data. Figures are general guidelines and will vary depending on make, geographical area, dealership, and other market conditions.
Along with tracking key metrics, there are other detailed aspects to managing your search engine
marketing efforts. There are literally thousands of local and national keyword combinations which
vary in cost daily. It is also important to remember that leads generated from your own SEM
efforts are not scrubbed the way third party leads are. As a consequence, even though your site
visitors will increase with SEM, you may increase the volume of invalid leads that come in with
bad phone numbers, or email addresses that bounce back messages as undeliverable.
All this and you still need to sell cars today. That is why it’s critical to define your SEM success
metrics ahead of time. For example, shoot for an average cost per lead that is less than $50.00, and
an average cost per vehicle retailed (PVR) that is less than $500.00. Beyond this, benchmarking
what the best dealerships are doing with SEM can help your success, and choosing the right SEM
service provider(s) is essential. There are several SEM providers just coming into the market, and
others who have been doing it for quite awhile… BZ Results (www.BZResults.com) has had an
SEO/SEM team in place for several years and they have become exceptionally skilled at managing
both paid and organic search engine listings. One of the reasons that BZ Results has become so
adept at managing SEO and SEM is that their “Flash” based web sites require proactive SEO
management in order to achieve high search engine placement from an organic perspective.
7. Because of this, BZ has had a full-time SEO/SEM team in place for several years and they are
amongst the very best in the industry at getting dealers the best search engine placements for both
organic and sponsored listings. BZ’s Team is well suited to those dealers who have a BZ web site
and for those dealers who have been less than thrilled with their current web site provider’s Search
Engine Optimization results. As good as BZ is with SEO, many dealers are not aware of their
strong performance managing dealership online advertising budgets with their SEM services.
Courtesy Chevrolet continues to allocate the largest portion of our SEM budget to BZ Results
because of their exceptional service, low cost per lead generated and our ongoing experience of
high sales closing rates on those leads.
There are dozens of new SEM providers in the marketplace trying to grab their piece of a lucrative
growth segment in dealer services. One of the more interesting new startups that is offering Search
Engine Marketing services is http://www.clickmotive.com/ which was launched in October, 2005
by Stuart Lloyd, Ray Meyers and Tim Clay. The three of them left Reynolds and Reynolds to start
the company and many dealers are familiar with their successes at Automark and Third Coast
Media before and after their companies were bought by Reynolds. Courtesy Chevrolet allocated a
portion of our total SEM budget to ClickMotive starting in January, 2006 and we have been very
pleased with the results.
The Cobalt Group is bringing Search Engine Marketing services to dealers through their new
PowerSearch product offering. Although they seem to be quite well prepared and Cobalt certainly
has a huge number of dealerships on their web site programs… At $500 in flat monthly fees along
with an additional 20% commission on search engine ads placed, they are by far the highest priced
provider at this time.
If you have any questions, comments or insights, please do not hesitate to contact me by phone or
CRM/eBusiness Director - Courtesy Chevrolet – Phoenix
602-279-3232 ext. 3219 Cell: 505-301-6369
8. Search Engine Marketing Buyers' Guide
Part 2; Choosing the Right Provider for Your Dealership
“Hiring an SEM firm can be a financial investment that can provide great results – and knowing
what to look for can ensure that your investment pays off.”
- Yahoo Small Business
Industry experts and dealers nationwide are hailing paid search advertising as the next evolution of
online auto retailing. Because paid search is such an important, yet time consuming and resource
intensive program, choosing the right service provider is critical.
The Dealix Dealer Newsletter spoke with industry experts who made the following
recommendations for choosing a paid search service provider. Paid search providers can be
evaluated in four key areas that are important to auto dealers:
• Business relationship you’ll have with the provider
• Quality of service
• Search provider’s level of expertise with search marketing
• Return on your investment from the program (ROI)
Does the vendor require a long term contractual commitment?
A contract with a paid search service provider should give you the opportunity to see the full
benefits of your program, without locking you into a long term campaign that is not producing
ongoing positive results. Dealers should be cautious of contracts that last longer than six months
without a performance based out-clause.
Does the vendor require minimum spends you aren’t comfortable with?
Your service provider should work with you to determine an ad spend budget that is tailored to
your market and your dealership. While some dealers may spend as little as $1,000, others will
spend $10,000 a month on their campaigns. The key to your success will lie in your provider’s
ability to find an amount that suits your specific needs.
Does the vendor charge you up front for click through charges?
Beware of vendors that collect your money for your ad spend before showing you any results from
your campaigns. Less established companies that require dealers to pay for ad spend up front may
not have the financial resources to cover their operating costs, let alone your monthly ad spend.
This can lead to a misallocation of ad spend to vendor fees. In contrast, a well established provider
should have the resources to cover the ad spend up front and bill dealers appropriately.
Does the vendor bill you a flat ad spend fee, or do they charge a variable fee based on actual click
9. Quality traffic matters more than quantity when it comes to paid search. Vendors charging a fixed
ad spend may make irrelevant keyword bids on tier two and tier three search engines, solely to use
up your monthly budget. Whereas a high quality service provider will only bid on appropriate
keywords for your dealership and your market with tier one search engines. This bidding strategy
is aimed at generating qualified traffic that converts into quality leads.
Does the vendor make lofty promises in its marketing materials?
Dealers are wise to be cautious about fantastic search marketing slogans such as exaggerated
traffic numbers, keyword buys, and cost per lead figures. An experienced vendor considers your
market, your brand, your website, the customers’ stage in the buying cycle and many other factors
when developing your paid search program. Again, look for a provider focused on helping you to
generate quality leads from your site, not one that brags about millions of keywords or guarantees
Does the vendor provide a list of references?
A skilled provider should be able to give you a list of dealer clients who are pleased with their
“Ask to speak with a firm’s existing clients before you make a decision.”
- Yahoo Small Business
Are the vendor’s goals aligned with your dealership’s goals?
There are two primary strategies for keyword bidding: bidding for maximum traffic or bidding for
maximum leads. These strategies are mutually exclusive and your provider should tell you which
one it employs. Be aware that a maximum visitor strategy may result in a lot of traffic to your site,
but not necessarily quality leads. By contrast, a lead based strategy will focus solely on traffic that
converts into quality sales leads.
Level of Service
“Did it (the vendor) return calls and emails promptly? Was it responsive when there was a
- Yahoo Small Business
Does the vendor give you a named account manager to address your questions?
Auto retailers understand how important customer service is. That’s why a distant 800-number will
not provide the support you need for a successful search marketing program. Your provider should
be accessible through a dedicated account manager who is available to personally answer your
questions about this often complicated marketing initiative. Because this is a new program for
many dealerships, it is important for a service provider to be responsive to any questions or
concerns you have.
10. Does the vendor offer tools, support, and reporting that help you evaluate your paid search
Do not accept a “trust me” attitude from your search marketing service provider. A skilled
provider will give you the tools you need to easily measure the success of your program, and
outline its performance on a monthly basis.
Does the vendor leverage your dealership brand and messaging in your paid search advertising?
A skilled paid search provider will have both the creative and technical aptitude to develop
hundreds of tailored ads that help drive more visitors to your site, which will convert to high
quality leads. A provider that doesn’t offer advertisements that are customized for your particular
brand will fail to distinguish your ads fromyour competitors'.
Level of Expertise
“If you need a firm that can handle your entire online marketing campaign, but the firm you’re
thinking about using only does search engine optimization, you should look elsewhere.”
- Yahoo Small Business
Does the vendor have years of expertise and a comprehensive understanding of online automotive
The best SEM service providers should have an understanding of the entire auto retailing
landscape – particularly the online arena. Many firms offer search marketing services but lack auto
industry experience. Using one of these vendors for a dealership SEM campaign is like having a
refrigerator repair person service your car’s transmission.
Skilled providers that know the auto industry will understand how paid search advertising can help
dealerships meet their overall marketing and advertising objectives.
In a recent industry study, dealers surveyed said they would expect to get search engine marketing
services from their website provider or their third party lead provider.
Does the vendor understand dealership websites?
The focus of search engine marketing for dealerships is drawing the right buyers to your website.
Ideally, a good search marketing campaign will attract customers to all of your dealership’s profit
centers, for example: service, parts, or new vehicle sales. You can have a good search marketing
program that draws more visitors to your site, but the ultimate goal is to turn those visitors into
customers for what's offered on your site.
Does the vendor design your paid search campaigns to take advantage of your website’s offerings?
And does it keep you informed of any changes or modifications it makes to your website to
support paid search?
Vendor’s use different methods to collect leads, including making changes to the dealership
website. Your provider should always give you detailed explanations of any change so you can
11. track its impact, and those changes should be carefully implemented in order to avoid conflicts
with other elements of your website. A good provider will also keep you informed about the
rapidly evolving search marketing landscape and design your program to mitigate risks such as
website spam techniques, and the like.
Does the vendor understand third party leads?
Veteran third party lead providers have been working with paid search for years on their own sites
and through their third party site partnerships. There are many new vendors selling search
marketing to dealers that have no track record of success in this area. You want a provider that is a
veteran in the field, not one that is figuring out search marketing with your ad dollars.
Any vendor that advocates eliminating third party leads for an SEM program is doing you a
disservice. According to Ward’s, J.D. Power and Associates, and Forrester Research, the majority
of online auto sales leads are still generated at third party sites. In addition, any SEM vendor that
tells you to drop third party leads without discussing how much you’re spending on traditional
advertising, is out of step with current industry trends.
It’s important to keep in mind that no matter your website’s placement in search engine results,
some buyers will always prefer to go to third party sites, like Edmunds, AutoTrader, KBB, etc.
Some buyers will go to your site, some will go to third party sites, and some will visit many sites
before walking into your showroom. The key is connecting with as many in-market buyers as
possible, and selling to all of them.
Can the vendor integrate your paid search campaigns with the rest of your marketing efforts?
The best paid search providers will tailor a program specifically to your marketing needs. For
example, coordinating the ad copy in a paid search ad and a radio promotion can strengthen your
brand and reinforce your message. Search marketing campaigns should fit seamlessly with the rest
of your Internet marketing efforts and improve your overall sales efficiency.
Is the vendor a reseller for someone else’s core technology?
Your vendor needs to fully understand the technology behind its services so it can make necessary
adjustments in a timely manner. In particular, the technology needs to be appropriate for the
specific needs of automotive dealers. The automotive paid search market will change significantly
over the next few years. You need to be sure that your provider can adapt and meet your
dealership’s changing needs throughout this time period. A vendor reselling someone else’s
technology will have trouble doing this. Be cautious of vendors that have trouble integrating paid
search into your overall Internet marketing efforts, and that lack critical automotive industry
Does the vendor track and bid on keywords based on phone calls as well as email leads?
Studies are now showing that phone calls make up 60-70% of inbound opportunities that result
from paid search advertising. If a vendor is not tracking phone calls and bidding based on them, it
is essentially ignoring up to 66% of inbound leads. Would you ignore two-thirds of your leads?
12. Make sure you provider explains exactly how they are going to track all of your leads. This isn’t
just to prove ROI; it also ensures they are making smart bidding decisions.
Does the vendor have trusted relationships with top search engines?
Strong relationships with the major search engines is a must for any paid search provider. Any
vendor that does not have published partnership arrangements with the top search engines is most
likely managing your campaigns manually. This approach typically results in simplistic bidding
strategies and is prone to errors. Tight partnerships with Google, Yahoo, and MSN allow a good
search marketing provider to directly integrate its paid search technology with the constantly
changing search engine algorithms and expanding functionality. This results in real-time bid
management, on-demand campaign updates, extensive reporting, and a continual flow of insights
that help keep your program one step ahead of the competition.
Return on Investment
“Find out how long it took for the SEM firm to devise and implement their campaigns, what kind
of results they’ve had, and if they’ve achieved the ROI they were looking for.”
- Yahoo Small Business
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13. Does the vendor provide a return on your investment?
Don’t necessarily go for the low cost provider when it comes to search marketing services. A
search marketing program should be evaluated like any other advertising program – by ROI and
overall cost per vehicle sold. A service that seems more expensive, but generates higher quality
leads, could yield a lower cost per sale and ultimately pay for itself.
Does the vendor provide detailed reporting on your results?
Whether a service provider charges a fee for detailed reporting on your program results or not, they
should make it readily available to you so you can easily determine the ROI from your program. A
good paid search provider should be monitoring and responding to results, just as you are. So, look
for a provider that is more than willing to give you the data you need to be confident in your
Is the vendor’s fee structure clear to you?
Your provider should give you invoices that show you what you’re paying for, such as the fees it
charges and the actual ad spend. Don’t settle for one lump fee that combines ad spend and vendor
While paid search advertising is complicated, the promise it holds for dealerships cannot be
ignored. The key to choosing the right service provider is finding one that responds to your
question: “Will you make this easy for me so I can sell more cars?” - with a resounding “Yes.”
If you have any questions, comments or insights, please do not hesitate to contact me by phone or
CRM/eBusiness Director - Courtesy Chevrolet – Phoenix
602-279-3232 ext. 3219 Cell: 505-301-6369