Search Engine Marketing 101- A review of the basic principles of search engine marketing
How you can use it to get the most out of your online presence.
By now, most dealers realize that the best Website in the world is not fully realized if its not properly making
use of all of the marketing tools and technology available to support it online. One of those tools is search
However, with all the terms being thrown around &ndash- meta tags, titles, keywords, organic search, pay-per-click-it can be a
little confusing for the novice.
There are a few fundamentals (consider it search engine marketing 101) that can get you rapidly and efficiently moving down the
road to more Internet-driven sales. It all begins with an understanding of search engine marketing (SEM) and its partner, search
engine optimization (SEO).
Search engine marketingand optimization
If you are not already doing so, you should be using search engines (Google, Yahoo!, etc.) to promoteand improve your
dealerships rank in organic listings, paid listings (pay-per-click), or, most likely, a combination of these. Moreand more car
buyers are going online to shop and research. After all, when yourelooking for a big-ticket product or information about the
product, youreprobably Googling information online, too. Search engines direct thesebuyers to your site.
Industry research is now documenting that the pendulum is shifting as dealers are spending more on search
engine marketing and reducing their expenditures in more traditional media such as print and broadcast.
A recent J.D. Power and Associates study found 75 percent of auto dealers are using search engine marketing and optimization.
While only 33 percent of the dealers currently use paid search engine marketing, more than 80 percent of thosedealers say they
believe that it improves Website visitation, as it takes vehicle shoppers directly to thedealer Website as opposed to shopping
through an online buying service. In addition, visitation to dealer Websites has theadded benefit of increasing visibility of the
service and parts department.
Dealers are starting to recognize just how important and valuable their Website is, especially considering that the best leads
dealers receive often originate from their site, says Min Cho, senior analyst of digital marketing solutions at J.D. Power and
Associates. In the2006 Used Autoshopper.com Study, we found that thepercentage of buyers who located their vehicle online has
doubled in the past five years. Having a presence on theInternet by subscribing to online buying services and using search engine
marketing methods is increasingly important in connecting with vehicle shoppers as more traditional advertising methods decline
However, as with any technology, the arsenal of online marketing strategies and procedures are evolving, and
can be a little complex. The key is to use this technology to reach in-market consumers and get them to the
dealership. But it can be complicated, and if not properly managed, can get expensive for dealers.
So how do you get the most out of search engines?
Internet search engines use spiders to sift through Websites throughout cyberspace. You need to make your Website easier for
these spiders to find. Ultimately, themore click-throughs that a sitehas, the higher it will rank on a search engine.
In its most basic essence, search engine marketing is a method of online marketing that uses search engine results to reach
potentialcustomers with an offer of a product or service- it also allows tracking and measuring of spending. This may include
improving rank in organic listings, purchasing paid listings, or a combination of methods, all designed to increase visibility,
clicks and, of course, leads and sales.
Taking that strategy to the next level, search engine optimization is the process of trying to choose the right keywords that
produce higher page rankings when those keywords are part of a potentialcustomers Web search. The goal is to choose keywords
that improve the lead flow from relevant search terms and drive the users you want to your Website. Your goal is to give these
search engines exactly what theyrelooking for. Properly optimizeyour Website, and the search engines will place your site high
atop thelist of search results.
Appropriateimplementation and ongoing maintenance of search engine optimization efforts increase thenumber of visitors to a
Website by ranking high in thesearch results (natural or organic) of a search engine. Thehigher a Website ranks in the results of
a search, the greater the chance that site will be visited by a user.
In order to get the most out of your Website, and your search engine marketing efforts, consider the following
Maximizing search engine marketing efforts
What is on your Website is crucial. The content of the siteis one of themost important factors for successful search engine
marketing. Your pages should providevaluable information that references very specific terms and concepts that are unique to
your Website and your dealership.
Place keywords in headlines and copy throughout your Website. But dont overdo it-using more keywords does not guarantee
higher rankings. Change and updateyour Websites content on a regular basis. When the search engine spiders find fresh, relevant
content, it is likely to increase your rankings. Also, consider a blog, forum, or myspace page as a great tool to keep directing
customers back to your Web site often.
Ensuring your dealership shows up in a search is absolutely critical, says Dan Maynard, national inside sales
manager for Kelley Blue Book. According to Maynard, as recently as five years ago, a dealer might naturally
show up in the top 10 search engine results for Los Angeles Toyota Store. Now, however, an un-optimized
dealer site, not on a search engine marketing or network affiliate-marketing program, might be listed after two
dozen Toyota dealers, some of which may be outside of his DMA.
Beyond these organic listing strategies, dealers can opt for paid listings (pay-per-click). They offer advantages,
but, as the name implies, come with a price. It is a good way to get traffic to your Website, even if the search
engines have not indexed it. You only pay for results-those who click through to your site.
Paid search is an especially effective tool for getting your message in front of prospects that arein-market. Studies have found
that paid search generates greater click-through when thecall for action is an immediate transaction. Of course, paid search also
guarantees higher placement, gets your message in front of searchers quickly, and provides the flexibility to adapt your marketing
Whats in a word? Searching for answers
When it comes to search engine marketing and optimization, the techie terms tend to be tedious. Below is a
concise but informative glossary of many of the terms bantered around in discussions related to this important
topic. A basic understanding of these terms will get you started down the road to search engine marketing.
Search engine optimization (SEO): SEO is a process designed to attract search engine spiders to a Website.
Spiders crawl the Web to match consumer 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.
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, paid
placement, paid call, contextual advertising, etc.
Keywords: Keywords are words and phrases used to find relevant Websites. The goal of search engine
marketers is to match their advertisements with popular keywords used by potential customers.
Organic search results(algorithmic results or natural results): Organic search results are ads and Website
links returned by a search engine based on the relevancy of the search query to various 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 are paid advertisements.
Paid listings(paid placement, sponsored links, or pay-per-click advertising): Advertisers pay to have their ads
displayed at the top, or on the right side, of the free listings, or organic search results.Advertisers bid on
keywords in an online auction setting in an effort to get optimal placement. Those that bid more for keywords,
and get the most clicks on their ads, have the best odds of premiumplacement insearch results.
Pay for performance: Pay for performance relates to thepaid advertising part of SEM. Advertisers pay the
search engine (or Web publisher)when a prospect takesa desired action, such as clicking on their ad,hence
cost-per-click. The pay for performance modelcan work in other ways too, such as the advertiser paying when
aprospect calls a track-able phone number in their ad.
Cost-per-click(CPC): CPC is what the advertiser pays the search engine when someone clicks on their ad in
search results. CPC is the most common pay for performance program in search engine marketing. While some
CPC rates may seem quite low, around $0.05 or $0.15 per click, they can also go as high as $8.00 or more.
You need to ask yourself if its worth it to pay $0.05, $2, or $8 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
Pay-per-call: As noted above, pay-per-call is a pay for performance program where the call to action is for the
prospect to make a telephone call (usually to a track-able phone number).
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: Number of clicks it takes to generate one lead
multiplied by the cost-per-click.
Cost-per-vehicle retailed (cost per vehicle sold): Your average cost accrued from your SEM efforts to sell one
vehicle. Calculation: Total cost of the SEM program for a given month (or set time) divided by the number of
sales generated from the program in that time period.
User-centric design(site optimization): Designing thelayout and functionality on your Website in order to convert visitors into
leads. For instance, you can show incentives and special offers on your homepage to give added incentive for your visitor to take
Case study: Bill Marsh Automotive Group
Until late last year, Internet sales at theBill Marsh AutomotiveGroup in Northern Michigan accounted for just two percent of the
dealerships overall sales.
A company that specializes in apartment complexes, not car dealerships, had designed their Website and it was difficult to
provide even the most basic information to the consumer. The inventory listed was hit and miss, theWebsite was not mentioned
in advertising campaigns, and no search engine optimization or marketing had been done to drive traffic to the site. Theresult?
The Website was only producing about 50 leads per month for the dealership.
That all changed last summer when eBusiness Director, Dana Pratt, began a review of Web solutions providers to find the best fit
for the dealership- We did an exhaustive RFP process and looked at various Website providers.
A few months later, in November, Bill Marsh Auto Group went live with a brand new Website built by Dealerskins. Thesite now
properly displays their inventory and updates it automatically. They display approximately 750 vehicles at any given time,
engage in several search engine marketing campaigns, and advertise theWebsite everywhere, including newspaper, radio, TV
and billboard ads. In just six months, the dealership has gone from 50-60 leads per month to 200-300 leads, just from their
Website alone. They are closing an average of 14.5 percent of these leads.
Pratt attributes thestrong number of leads submitted and high closing rate to the easily navigated Website design and multip le
opportunities for customers to send in leads. The www.billmarsh.com inventory seamlessly integrates with Dealerskins
Promotion Center, with direct links to dealer specials included within inventory. Inventory can also be searched by specials.
These Website tools enable buyers to spend less time searching and more time viewing dealers vehicles.
Another factor that contributes to the dealerships strong Internet lead closing rate is follow-up. We treat an Internet lead as a
phonecall, and in some cases, the person is called back so fast they are still sitting at their computer &ndash- that creates a huge
impact, as they dont expect such a fast response, says Pratt.
Unfamiliar with merchandising inventory on theInternet, we werent aware we could use a professional inventory management
tool and post inventory on other online sites. Now our inventory is posted on over 25 places-Cars.com, AutoTrader.com, MSN,
etc. It was a huge strategic step to take used car inventory and post it online. Also, as we are a one price facility -there is no price
negotiation so we post all of our pricing online, says Pratt.
Because Dealerskins allows their dealers to be involved in the search engine marketing process, Pratt is able to capitalize on
community events or implement a plan to help augment the core campaigns for his dealership.
The dealership has developed keywords and campaigns to drive traffic to the Website. Pratt has set up several other URLs to run
his own campaigns- he has six current campaigns running on URLs such as www.billmarshcars.com and
www.saturnoftravesecity.com, and spends about $300-$500 per month.
When I want to see what were doing on a deeper level the reports provided are simple and great- I can take a look at what has
been budgeted and can explain to ownership what campaigns are running and the results they are producing, says Pratt.
The campaigns have successfully driven traffic to thenew sticky Website-in April, www.billmarsh.com received almost 10,000
visitors with an average page view of 19 pages per visit. Pratt attributes this success to thenew design, theinventory posted and
the effort he puts into thesite to provide more value to theconsumer. Pratt keeps the Website updated with information about
events, a photo gallery, and other information.