Google Local Search

Google has done a great job making their search results better and more effective for the car buyers that use their search engine, especially when it comes to local search.  As it stands now, those who search Google for a term like “Ford dealership” or “used Nissan dealer” will see local results for these terms, even if a city isn’t included in the actual search term.

While this greatly helps searchers, and even your dealership, it isn’t helpful if you are attempting to research your competing dealership websites.  For example, if you want to see what PPC ads are appearing when you search for your competitor’s dealership name or where your dealership website ranks for those who search in the next town over, you may not be able to see what someone in that neighboring city would see.

That’s why the website SearchMuffin is great.  This site allows you to choose the city you’d like to see Google search results for, allowing your dealership to see what local searchers see when they search in Google.  You can use this information to see how well your dealership ranks in neighboring cities, as well as which PPC ads appear for those same searches.

Your dealership can use this data to tweak your website search engine optimization (SEO) to help your dealer website to rank higher in the search results of neighboring cities.  Don’t let your competing dealerships rule the search engine results without your dealership knowing about it–this could mean a loss in potential car sales.

Dealership Banner Advertising

Marketing, both online and traditional, is only effective if the intended audience actually pays attention to your message.  It’s also important that your marketing be effective at persuading consumers to purchase from your dealership.  If your marketing efforts aren’t seen by consumers and have an effect on them, you might as well be throwing that money away.

Internet banner advertising is ignored by 46% of the participants in a Harris Interactive study.  This means that almost half of web users that see your dealership’s Internet banner ads are blocking them out and not paying attention to your message.  That’s a pretty terrible penetration rate.

In case that wasn’t enough of a blow, the same study reported that only 1% of participants believed Internet banner ads to be the most helpful when making buying decisions.  Barely anyone turns to (or trusts) banner ads when looking for information related to purchasing.

According to this study, Internet banner ads are largely ignored and not effective in persuading consumers to buy from your auto dealership.

Instead of throwing this part of your marketing budget away, it makes much mores sense to reallocate it to marketing techniques that actually earn your dealership sales.  Search engine optimization (SEO) and even pay-per-click (PPC) advertising will be found helpful by your target audience and are much less likely to be ignored than banner ads.  Take a deeper look at the effectiveness and ROI of all of your marketing campaigns, and only fund those that are earning your dealership real sales.

Generating Referrals and Effective Followup

Everyone wants referrals, but a lot of salespeople are reluctant to ask for them.  It can be off-putting to some customers, and there seems to be a sense that if a referral comes without having to ask for it, it is more “deserved.”  There is nothing wrong with asking for a referral from customers that are satisfied after doing business with your dealership.  Here are some creative ways to make asking for the business of your customer’s friends, family, and colleagues:

Expectation:  After the sale of a car, tell each customer that you expect they’ll be satisfied with the process, and will check back with them in 30, 60, or 90 days to ask them if they know of anyone else who needs a new vehicle with a hassle-free experience and superb follow-up.  Of course, fit this to your dealership, and make sure that you actually do follow through with this promise.

Giveaway:  A lot of dealerships already send coupons, promotions, or discounts to their existing customer base through email.  Add some text instructing those customers to feel free to forward the email newsletter (including the discount) to anyone that might need it.  Your customers will refer their loved ones to your dealership while looking like the good-guys by saving them money.

Refunds:  Although this is essentially buying referrals, doing it in a round-about way makes it a little more interesting.  Tell satisfied customers that you will offer a certain percentage off of their next bill (service, parts, purchase, etc) for each referral they send to the dealership.  This allows you to track who is sending the most new customers to your dealership (they’ll have to tell you who sent them in order for the referrer to receive the discount), and they’ll be more likely to get their vehicle serviced with your dealership, bringing in additional money.

Asking for referrals from satisfied customers doesn’t have to be painful.  Try asking in a different manner (link to older post), or put a creative spin on rewarding those who refer customers to your dealership.

Dealership Demographic Targeting

Knowing how different groups of people use the Internet can help your auto dealership effectively target your online marketing and earn more sales.  When you take the time to segment and understand your market, it becomes easier for your dealership to send the right message to the right people at the right time, resulting in more sales for your dealership.

It seems as though one of the factors that most determines how users browse the Internet is gender.  eMarketer recently conducted a study that found slightly more women say they use the Internet than men.  The study also found that men tend to browse the Internet longer per online session that women do.  One reason for this increase in online engagement for men could be that men are more interested in watching online videos than women are.

Your dealership can use this information to better target men who may be shopping your dealer site for their next car.  Try adding videos of your new and used inventory to increase the amount of time your web visitors spend viewing your inventory.  Online video will also help satisfy those car shoppers who spend their time online watching videos.

This is one example of how knowing what your market wants can help your dealership sell more cars.  Placing videos of your dealership inventory on your dealer website can help increase the time that web visitors spend on your site, as well as how engaged they are while viewing your videos.  If you dealership isn’t taking full advantage of car inventory videos, you are missing out on potential sales.

Tracking Keywords and Website Analytics

When optimizing your dealership website for search engines, finding the most effective keywords to focus on is often the most difficult aspect (and one of the most important) of your SEO efforts.  With average search terms getting longer and longer, and 20-25% of the search terms Google sees are unique (never used before), it is getting more and more difficult to find the right combination of terms to optimize your auto dealership website for.

One tool to help your dealership find the most effective keyword phrases is to take a look at the search terms that car buyers are using to find your dealer website.  If your current auto dealer website provider has the right analytics, your dealership should be able to see exactly which keywords led to visits, leads, and sales for your dealer site.

Using this data will allow your dealership to tell which keyword searches are directly responsible for auto sales.  Using this information, your dealership can work with your auto website provider to tweak your SEO efforts, adding and removing keyword phrases as you track which are successful and which aren’t.

If your dealership manages your own pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns, this keyword information can be very useful when creating the list of search terms you decide to bid on.  This way, you can not only track their success in PPC campaigns, but how often each keyword phrase is leading to a sale through organic search.