How to Increase Car Dealer Referrals

Every sales person I have ever met is always looking for referrals.  Referrals tend to come with a level of built-in trust, which especially in the auto industry, can make it much easier for you to sell them their next car.  The struggle comes in knowing how to get your existing customers and salespeople (referral sources) to recognize potential referrals.

When most people ask for a referral, it’s a straight forward question like “Do you know anyone who might be in the market for a new car?”  When asking your customers this question, try tweaking it a bit so that it provides a solution to a problem your future customers may have.  This can increase the number of referrals your dealership gets, simply by helping your existing customers really think about the people they know who might need a new car.

For example, try asking your happy customers questions that address the reasons people purchase cars.

  • “Do you know anyone who has an unreliable car?”
  • “Can you think of anyone who needs to replace their existing car (accident, stolen, etc)?”
  • “Has anyone in your life received a promotion or had a baby?”

Another way to make this mindset work to increase dealership sales is to remind the salespeople you work with to listen for these key phrases in their daily life.  Expanding the view of the “I need a new car” that some salespeople may be listening for can help increase your dealership sales.

Referrals can come from a variety of sources, and helping your referral sources (customers, salespeople) recognize these key phrases can do wonders for your auto dealership’s bottom line.

Dealership Long-Tail SEO Searches

A recent study by Comscore finds that the “average” search term entered into Google continues to get longer and longer.  As it stands, the average search term contains just over 3 words, and this increase in the length of search terms doesn’t appear to be slowing.

This makes search engine optimization (SEO) even more important than ever for your auto dealer website.  Since Google uses “best-fit” guidelines to match search terms to relevant web pages, if a long-tail search doesn’t fit something exactly, Google will try to fit a web page to the search.  The better optimized your auto dealership site is, the more of these searches your website will rank for, even if you don’t have the exact words that were searched for.

While the increase in long-tail search terms is great for SEO effectiveness, it’s not as great of news for car dealerships that rely solely on pay-per-click advertising (PPC).  Many dealerships set up their paid ad campaigns so that their ads only appear for an “exact match” of keywords.  This means that your dealership ad will only show if the search term is the exact same as a keyword you bid on.  With search terms getting longer and more specific, the chances of getting an “exact match” to a keyword your dealership is bidding on gets more unlikely.  Slight differences in the way your account is set-up can make huge differences in your results, so it’s important that your dealership either has someone in-house who fully understands and devotes time to managing your PPC campaigns, or that you partner with an expert vendor.

Combining your auto dealership’s PPC campaign with an effective SEO campaign will increase the chances that your dealer website will be found in Google’s search engine results.  Simply relying on pay-per-click will make your dealership website show in search engine results less and less often as time goes on.

Car Dealer Radio Advertising

Radio advertising has just been dealt another blow–even Google can’t find a way to track ad spend.  A few years back, Google decided to try to automate radio advertising much as they do Internet advertising (PPC).  However, even the King of Analytics couldn’t figure out how to effectively track the success of radio ad campaigns.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Google never came up with a good way to measure listener response.”  After trying for over three years, Google’s engineers were unable to develop the technology needed to track ads as well as they were able to do with the online advertising model.  Google’s Chief Executive, Eric Schmidt, explained that “in the audio case, there wasn’t a good signal back to us about which ads performed.”

If Google can’t figure out a way to effectively measure and track the necessary analytics to prove the ROI of an ad campaign (directly related visits, leads, sales), your auto dealership or an ad agency isn’t going to be able to prove these analytics.

Traditional media advertising (like radio) can’t be measured in the same way that online advertising can, plain and simple.  Your dealership has no way of knowing whether or not your radio spend is bringing sales into your dealer showroom, and Google just showed that.  Given the ever-present threat of dealerships closing these days, it’s more imperative now than ever that your dealership knows which marketing spend is bringing in which sales.  With the right tools, this is only possible with your online marketing campaigns.

Google PPC Quality Score

Google assigns (and continually tweaks) Quality Scores to the websites and landing pages used by customers who purchase ads on their search results pages.  Quality Scores are a frequent topic of conversation in the search engine marketing circle, but are they really that important?

The short answer is definitively YES!  Quality Scores affect how much you pay per click as well as where your ad shows on the page.  Your ad rank (ad position) is determined by a combination of your Quality Score, your Click-Through-Rate (CTR), and the Maximum Cost Per Click (CPC) you’ve bid. This means that a higher Quality Score combined with a lower Max CPC could place your ad above a higher-spending competitor.

Also, your Quality Score (along with your competitor’s Ad Rank) helps to determine how much each click will cost your dealership.  Essentially, the higher your Quality Score, the lower your CPC, and the higher the ROI on your ad spend.

It’s pretty clear that the Quality Score of your landing page is very important if your dealership is participating in a PPC campaign.  So what are the driving factors that Google uses to assign Quality Scores?

Click-Through-Rates (CTR) — Your ad copy needs to the best it can be.  This means that your ad text needs to be continually tested, measured, and tweaked to attract as many clicks as possible.  Use the keywords you are purchasing in the headline copy and ad copy to convey relevancy to searchers.  Any keywords in the search that match your ad copy will result in them being bolded in your ad, which has been proven to increase CTR.

Landing Pages — Deceptive and non-relevant landing pages will lower your Quality Score.  Sending your click-through traffic to pages that reflect the keywords that were actually searched for will not only help with your Quality Score, but also help build trust with your future customers.  Additionally, it will lower the bounce rate of your landing page and increase your conversion—which again increases the ROI on your spend.

Targeted, relevant copy in both the ad and the landing page has a huge multiplying effect on your ROI.

  1. You pay less for the ad to get the same position if you have a higher CTR.
  2. You will get more clicks because of the higher CTR
  3. You will have a higher conversion off of your landing page because of the relevant content.

You’re actually leveraging 3 different factors that ultimately impact your PPC ads’ ROI when you optimize your ad and landing page copy.  If you increase the effectiveness of each factor by 10%, you can actually increase your ad’s ROI by 33%, which may be the difference between your PPC having a positive or negative ROI.

Google Profiles takes advantage of Identity Searches

When you meet someone new and you want to find out more information about them, what do you do?  If you’re like a lot of people, you’ll head straight to Google and search for their name.  I would bet that a large number of potential customers perform an Internet search on your dealership after they’ve decided to purchase from you.  How often do you think they do the same on the name of the salesperson they are considering purchasing their vehicle from?

Typical search results are your social media accounts (Facebook, LinkedIn), as well as website on which your name appears (dealership site, news articles, etc).  Google is now allowing users to create “profiles” in which you can upload images, link to websites and write a personal bio.  This tool is available to anyone who creates an account on Google after you go through a screening routine to verify your identity.

What’s great about this tool is that, from a business standpoint, you can have full control over an entry in the search results pages.  Those who have completed the verification process have found that this “profile” is being shown on the first page of search results very quickly (though this isn’t much of a surprise since Google will of course want to promote their own products).

To start the process, go to Google Profiles.   It looks as though this could be another great way to manage your online reputation as well as increase the search engine optimization results for your personal brand as well as your dealership.  Let us know how it works out!