search engine marketing

Study: Auto Market Among Top Online Sales Categories

From Auto Remarketing
April 08, 2008

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Despite widespread retail declines across the American economy, a recent study projects an upswing in online shopping for 2008. This includes the auto industry, which analysts predict to be among the top three Internet sales categories.

The State of Retailing Online, a study conducted by Forrester Research, anticipates that online retail sales will increase by 17 percent this year to $204 billion. 

The auto industry is expected to account for $19.3 billion of those sales, which would make it the third-largest online segment behind apparel ($26.6 billion) and computers ($23.9 billion), the report highlighted. 

“From higher shipping costs to changes in consumer shopping habits, online retailers are not immune to the current economic climate,” said Scott Silverman, executive director of

“But the fact that online sales will increase substantially this year demonstrates the resilience of the channel and is a testament to the value and convenience most customers find when shopping online,” Silverman continued.

The study pointed out that as people become more comfortable with the Internet, online retailers must choose between two sales focuses: retaining current customers or attracting new ones.

According to officials, 53 percent of online retailers’ marketing budgets is devoted to finding new online customers, while 21 percent is for customer retention. 

But, many retailers have used search-engine or affiliate marketing as effective retention tools that not only market to existing customers, but bring in new shoppers, as well.

“What’s spearheading online retail sales growth is a tale of two shoppers that visit the Web for very different reasons,” explained Sucharita Mulpuru, Forrester Research principal analyst and lead author of the report. “The casual shopper goes online to look for the best price, leveraging the transparency of the Internet to save money.”

“However, more affluent customers appreciate the convenience of shopping online and are not necessarily looking for the best deal,” Mulpuru continued. “Retailers would be wise to recognize there are significant opportunities within both audiences and should market to them accordingly.”

In order to find new customers, retailers have used search-engine marketing more than anything else. According to the study, 35 percent of sales have originated from that source.

Moreover, 90 percent of respondents stated they use pay-per-performance search placement. Seventy-nine percent plan to make it a greater priority in the coming year, officials stated.

Still, such offline strategies as catalogs and direct-mail have helped retailers convert shoppers to the Internet. What’s more, the study indicated that retailers tend to use those tactics more than TV or newspaper advertising.

According to the study, 65 percent of respondents said they would focus more on social networking resources, while 55 percent indicated they would devote more focus to widgets.

These type of campaigns, however, are thought to be more useful in brand-building versus driving revenue or sales conversion, officials indicated. 

Instead, officials stated, the report recommended that e-mail marketing and free shipping promotions be used to boost sales.

Integrated Paid Search Makes Dollars and Sense

from iMedia Connection
March 31, 2008
by Lisa Wehr

A Record Year for Paid Search Marketers

In uncertain financial times, marketers return to the basics — accountability, flexibility and cost efficiency. These, more than any other online marketing strategies, typify paid search marketing. They also explain the remarkable growth of paid search (pay-per-click, display and other contextual ads). According to AdAge, during the recession of 2001, online paid advertising increased more than 175 percent and another 210 percent the following year.

Paid search has continued to grow and will be particularly active during the next downturn.

Here’s why:

1. Measurable results
Unlike traditional media, paid search marketing can be closely and easily tracked. A click on a paid search ad is a digital event that can be recorded, analyzed and compared to benchmarks and goals. A robust conversion analytics tool helps marketers quantify their goals and see what’s working and where, while looking at trends and the competitive landscape. Advertisers can see at a glance what the return has been on their investment and what factors are affecting these figures.

2. New competitive opportunities
Paid search allows marketers to buy their way onto the first search engine results page for selected keywords with what potential customers might be searching. Research conducted on our company’s clients found a likely increase in site traffic per keyword of more than 500 percent after two months and an increased conversion rate of more than 190 percent. In other words, it levels the playing field with competitors whose sites have established better natural search positions on the search engines.

3. New creative opportunities
Since the advent of Universal Search from Google in 2007, and similar changes from other major search engines, consumers are seeing some very different looking search engine results pages (SERPs). The SERPs might include images, videos, press stories and maps. To help advertisers be seen in this new search environment, Google and others now accept a new generation of PPC ads consisting of more than text, and incorporating a variety of media such as video.

4. Delivering a targeted audience
New geo-targeting and contextual advertising opportunities offer marketers a chance to define and deliver their messages to those they want to reach. Geo-targeting — such as a Midwest ski resort advertising on SERPs related only to Midwest winter travel — makes it possible for marketers to deliver paid ads based on location. There’s little waste. In similar fashion, contextual ads on sites of known interest to a market provide a more targeted and effective approach.

 More for the year ahead

5. Tailoring the message to behavior
The latest generation of online ads can match ad placement and content to an individual’s online search behavior. People who search for restaurants late in the work week might find coupon ads for local weekend dining placed on sites they routinely visit on Thursdays and Fridays. Another person who searches for tennis racquets and later travel bargains might find a free tennis travel case as an incentive in an ad for a tennis resort.

6. Affordable entry into new markets
Expanding into new markets, especially during difficult economic times, is a particularly effective way to stay competitive. For small and mid-size businesses, this type of expansion is critical. Many seeking to expand their reach, as traditional outlets for their goods and services are constricting, have effectively turned to new markets through paid search.

7. More media flexibility
With most traditional media, once an ad is printed, aired or otherwise published, there’s little to be done except watch how things play out. With paid search, keywords, creative and copy can all be adjusted quickly before and during a campaign, if necessary. And paid search can be an effective asset when coordinating traditional media strategies. Test promotional offers, ad copy or creative in PPC ads, then translate the most successful into a traditional advertising campaign.

8. Quick results
There are few online marketing tactics that offer quicker results than PPC ads. In the case of text ads, the turnaround from creative to placement is a matter of hours rather than days or weeks. With good analytics installed, the feedback can be analyzed and the ad creative modified again and again if necessary. And in very short order, the most effective version of the ad can be generating tangible results.

Examples of effective integration

In most cases, natural (SEO) and paid search campaigns perform better together than they do separately. Individually, SEO campaigns frequently prove more cost effective over the long haul, while paid search can provide a more immediate, but less permanent boost in performance.

Using SEO and paid search together builds synergy and greater effectiveness over doing one or the other separately. Greater awareness of a website created by a paid ad can lead to more natural traffic. In similar fashion, people are logically more likely to click on the paid promotional ad of a brand they’ve seen listed in the results.

Recently, my company, Oneupweb, completed a white paper on paid search marketing. As part of this paper, we conducted some research, looking at three different companies and the results obtained by integrating SEO and paid search marketing. With the first client, we found that they were successfully able to extend their usual buying season by three or four months when adding a paid search campaign to their ongoing natural campaign.

A second client was able to increase natural and paid traffic during an already busy selling season by adding a well-coordinated paid search campaign. A third client, who already had a very successful SEO campaign, added a regular non-seasonal series of paid ads, and their combined site traffic showed a steady rise.

These three examples were taken from three very different marketers, in three very different industries. What they had in common was tangible success integrating paid and natural search.

The essentials of integration

So how do marketers go about integrating their natural search presence and paid search into an effective marketing plan?

Here are a few tactics to consider:

1. Use consistent strategies, themes and graphics
Marketing strategies should logically evolve from a marketer’s goals; campaign themes need to work together and, when necessary, effectively stand alone. Each component should share common graphic elements rendering a strong family resemblance recognizable wherever it appears. This is done by establishing and applying graphic and copy standards.

2. Establish a consistent message
Corporately, this message should already exist as part of a marketer’s branding strategy. Is it “the fast, affordable source,” or “the resource for customized work”? Each new campaign can have its own message, one offer building on the next and cross-promoting each by repeating messages and promotions that have proven effective.

3. Use similar keywords
A marketer’s website should include keyword-rich copy that has been optimized. Create and test new keyword phrases being used by customers. Wherever practical (i.e., the costs for these terms are not too excessive), use those same keywords for paid search campaigns.

4. Create a complementary media mix
Public relations efforts and website content should support ads and promotions announcing new products before the ad campaign breaks. Catalog promotions should dovetail with PPC offers. Even customer service email campaigns can support advertising messages by touting new product lines or services.

5. Make sure the media fits
A media mix should reflect a company’s marketing strategy and be appropriate to what it’s selling, its target audience and sales season. During the holiday gifting season, for example, it may be appropriate to sell computer games on some sites of interest to adults 40 and over; however, there would be considerable waste during the rest of the year when teens and younger adults are more likely to do the buying.

6. Coordinate campaigns offline
Look at tying paid online advertising campaigns to offline advertising efforts. Specifically, in print ads use similar graphics, headlines and offers to those used online; list landing page addresses where consumers can get specially coded coupons or product-specific information and promote separate phone lines leading into central call centers for tracking.

7. Be responsive to inventory
Coordinate promotions with the company inventory and sales calendar so that potential sales aren’t lost because the items referenced are not in stock. Monitor internal inventory and adapt promotions accordingly. For major seasonal sales promotions, plan campaign integration efforts a full six months in advance. There may be a large list of items that could and should be promoted, and each might have its own set of time and approval parameters.

8. Look for “upsell” opportunities
Marketers’ websites should include an “also purchased” or “related items” list of products frequently purchased with such products (i.e., the rechargeable battery pack with their mobile device, the color-coordinated sweater that goes with the blouse, etc.).

Overall, it should be a relatively good year for online marketers — particularly those who plan, use and integrate paid and natural search.

SEM increases as spending continues against gloomy economy

From Digital Dealer
Volume 3, Issue 13
March 27, 2008

Search engine marketing (SEM) spending exceeded projections in 2007 and, based on survey responses by marketers and agencies, the search marketing industry will exhibit continued growth, according to preliminary findings of the 2007 State of the Market survey by the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) released at the Search Engine Strategies conference.

While the numbers appear strong and reflect a desire for marketers to continue to spend on search, the survey can’t estimate the result of a shortage of searches caused by a major economic downturn. However, a critical finding is that search marketing spending is increasing at the expense of print magazine advertising, Web site development and other marketing functions, as marketers shift the portions of their spending pie, following consumers as they increasingly rely on search engines to conduct pre-purchase research.

The online survey by Radar Research was completed by 867 search engine advertisers and SEM agencies and administered via IntelliSurvey Inc.

Key Findings:

  • The North American SEM industry grew from $9.4 billion in 2006 to $12.2 billion in 2007, exceeding earlier projections of $11.5 billion for 2007.
  • North American SEM spending is now projected to grow to $25.2 billion in 2011, up from the $18.6 billion forecast a year ago.
  • Marketers are finding more search dollars by taking budget monies from print magazine spending, Web site development, direct mail and other marketing programs.
  • Paid placement captures 87.4 percent of 2007 spending; organic SEO, 10.5 percent; paid inclusion, .07 percent, and technology investment, 1.4 percent.

“The spending statistics show search engine marketing continues to prove its worth in the larger marketing arena. However, in light of the concerns about the overall economy, it’s important to note some of this spending is the result of shifting marketing dollars from other offline and online marketing endeavors,” says Jeffrey Pruitt, SEMPO president and executive vice president, corporate partnerships, iCrossing.


The 2007 survey showed an increase in North American SEM spending projections from $18.6 billion to $25.2 billion. According to respondents, the drivers behind this higher estimate are advertiser demand, rising costs of keywords and pay-per-click campaigns, an increase in the number of small- to mid-sized businesses using SEM, greater consumer participation in search and increased interest in targeting, such as behavioral and demographic targeting of searchers.

Fewer advertiser respondents in 2007 reported an increase in paid placement prices than the previous year – two-thirds compared to almost three-quarters in 2006. However, a key finding is that as with last year, approximately 75 percent said they could tolerate further rises in paid placement prices, and as last year within that 75 percent the respondents are approaching a spending ceiling – more than half want those expected price increases to be 30 percent or less.

“While CPC price inflation has slowed, marketers are finally beginning to recognize the value of search, and we expect search prices will hold and may even continue to move upward based on survey data,” says Gordon Hotchkiss, SEMPO chairman and president, Enquiro Search Solutions Inc.,b4TSprpk

Top Spots in Search Listings — Organic or Paid — Prove Key for Branding

From Marketing Vox, 12/11/07

There is significant correlation between brands’ appearing in the top organic search and sponsored placements, and consumer brand affinity, recall and purchase intent, according to results from a Google-sponsored eye-tracking study published in a whitepaper, reports MarketingCharts.

The study by eye-tracking firm Enquiro sought to determine how the placement of search listings and sponsored search ads affect consumer brand perceptions.

Using Honda as a test brand and “fuel-efficiency” as a brand attribute, the study focused on consumers early in the purchase process who had not yet selected a car model.

Among the key findings of the study:
Lift in brand affinity: Online consumers who saw Honda in the top ad placement and the top organic search result were 16 percent more likely to think of Honda as a fuel efficient car than when the automaker’s brand didn’t appear on the page at all.

Lift in brand recall: Online consumers were 42 percent more likely to recall Honda if the company appeared in both the top ad placement and the top organic search result, rather than just the top organic listing.

Lift in purchase intent: When Honda was featured in both the top ad and top organic listings, purchase intent for Honda increased 8 percent. However, other automaker brands absent from the page suffered a significant decrease in purchase intent – 16 percent.

Additional insights are available from the Enquiro whitepaper, “The Brand Lift of Search” (reg. required).

About the study: Using Honda as a test brand, the study sought to quantify the branding impact of differing Honda listing placements on the search results page. The experiment was conducted using subjects 25 years and older who were considering the purchase of a new car within the next year. Users performed a search for “fuel efficient car” and the search results appeared in five different variations: a Honda-branded listing in top ad position only, top organic position only, both the top organic and ad positions, side ad position only, and not at all (control group).

Enquiro measured eye fixation on the Google page and also surveyed participants to evaluate the search experience’s branding effect on each of the five consumer test groups.

Location, Location, Location

If you were going to build a new physical location for your dealership, the “where” would be as, if not more, important than the “what.” After all if potential customers couldn’t find you, then buying a vehicle from you becomes all but impossible.

Not coincidentally, the same principle applies online. If your customers and prospects can’t find you, you don’t exist. Having a memorable and intuitive web address will help, but the number one thing you need to do is ensure that your site plays nice with the world’s biggest search engines (Google, Yahoo!,, MSN, etc.). It is those sites that determine your “location” online. Being near the top of the first page on Google is like having your dealership at the intersection of town’s two main drags — it’s so easy to find that your customers can’t help but come across it from time to time.

Search engines are the maps of the digital landscape. And products like Dealer Impact’s Rank King can use a variety of strategies and tactics to ensure that you grab a piece of prime digital real estate. That’s the “where” of the digital marketing game… and it’s at least as important as the “what.”

D. Jones
Marketing Strategist/Creative Consultant
SmackDabble, LLC

Attention Car Dealerships: Google Doesn’t See, Google Reads.

Whether you’re creating a new car dealership website or maintaining an existing one, the chances are great that you’re doing so with the intention of your website being your ultimate marketing tool. You want it to be found by potential customers, who will peruse your “virtual dealership,” find what they are looking for, and eventually purchase a car from you.

But do you know how a website “gets found” by potential customers? Sure, you have your web address in your off-line advertising, but is that how the majority of people will find you?

Nope. Chances are, they will find you through a search engine like Google. If you show up on the first two pages, that is.

So how does that happen? How do you get Google to find your website, much less make your site “appear” on the first couple pages?

Well, it can be complicated, and no two search engines or websites are exactly the same. That’s why people like Dealer Impact Search Marketing exist: their full-time job is to be search engine experts, and to propel your site to the top of the rankings.

But there is one simple thing you can do to give your site a HUGE advantage: include content. Lots of content. Content on every, single page—including the home page.

Why content? Because Google doesn’t see, Google reads. The words on your page (and in tags like the alternate text for images) are what Google actually analyzes to figure out who you are and what you do. If your homepage (remember, your homepage is the most important page to have content on) states clearly that you are a Des Moines Car Dealer, you are increasing your chances that Google will rank you for “Des Moines Car Dealer.”

So, all those pictures of Fords you have on your homepage? Google doesn’t know they’re Fords. You have to tell Google they are Fords, just like you have to tell Google you’re in Des Moines. And not Des Moines, Washington, but Des Moines, Iowa.

Seem simple? It can be– it just takes a little bit of background into what Google really does, and how you can “optimize” your site according to Google’s strengths and weaknesses.

Of course, there’s much more to it than content. But it’s a great rule of thumb to have content on every page of your site, really outlining what that page is all about. It’s a step in the right direction for the do-it-yourself search engine marketer.

But if you notice your rankings falling, or your competition seems to have an edge, don’t be afraid to call in the pros that optimize web pages for a living. After all, the farther down you are in the rankings, the less of an opportunity you have to find that next big customer.

Jamie Wilson
Dealer Impact Search Marketing

Internet Marketing Requires Embracing Change

Digital Dealer Magazine September 2007 by : Bill Mulcahy

In the new world of Internet marketing, one of the most challenging aspects for many dealers to embrace is the huge paradigm shift from traditional advertising campaigns to the ever-changing requirements of effectively selling cars on the web.

When developing ads for radio, television and newspapers, the number of “buys” was often set, with only the content of the ad changing on a weekly basis depending on what specials the dealer was running.

Today, Internet marketers at dealerships need to be aware of a constantly evolving Internet where a program that works one day may not be achieving the same results two months later. Unlike traditional media outlets, new web sites are launched every day, and a site that’s attracting car buyers one month may be an online ghost town three months later. Marketers must keep a close pulse on the industry in order to understand the online market and the latest technologies available.

In short, Internet marketing is a full-time occupation. For many dealers, it’s difficult to justify allocating resources to hiring one individual to focus solely on marketing. Often, an Internet salesperson or other unsuspecting employee will get burdened with—or perhaps even volunteer for—the tasks related to a dealer’s web presence; blithely unaware that once implemented, the Internet marketing program will mushroom into an endless, demanding maw of responsibility.

Take a look at the following elements necessary for an effective Internet marketing program, and imagine it as a job description.

Dealership web site: Work with vendor to develop and implement lead generating specials such as coupons and vehicle specials to be updated on a monthly basis. Keep welcome message on home page fresh and appealing. Monitor web traffic including bounce rate, and tweak appropriate web pages accordingly to increase click-throughs. Since there is no one magic formula that works for every dealer and regional differences require different marketing approaches, and Internet and market trends are constantly evolving, this will be an ongoing task. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Analyze marketing efforts of major competitors with the goal of finding out what works, what doesn’t, and why.

Vehicle inventory: Update on a daily basis to include specs and photos. Ensure that what appears on the web site matches what is in the DMS. Work with a full service or do-it-yourself inventory company to make sure all inventory is updated and distributed to inventory web site partners. Most importantly, keep your pricing up-to-date, accurate and competitive.

Search engine marketing: Monitor SEM reports and work with vendor to develop and update search terms that result in effective search engine optimization. Ensure SEM vendor is keeping your site optimized for search engines on a regular basis. Monitor performance of your site on search engines and tweak SEM marketing program accordingly. Work with vendor to develop paid search programs based on specials, holidays, and inventory changes at the dealership. The more competitive your target market or a time of year is for your dealership, the more you might want to consider an aggressive pay-per-click campaign.

Classified automotive web sites: Classified sites are highly advertised and attract many buyers. Your dealership needs a web service that distributes your inventory seamlessly and accurately. The idea is to get your inventory in front of as many qualified buyers as possible. Remember, on the Internet, buyers are searching for a specific vehicle and you need to make it available to them.

Constant change: If there was a proven scientific formula to selling cars on the Internet, every dealership would be using it. Even if you are selling cars effectively on the Internet today, is it important to be comfortable with the idea that it will be necessary to adapt tomorrow. The most successful dealers on the web constantly adapt their strategy to what works, so no single change will be your last.

If you want consistent results and an Internet department that will enjoy long-term growth, you must commit to an ongoing process and a plan that embraces technology changes and stay ahead of the competition. If your dealership is like most, it is constantly being solicited by vendors offering a “magic pill” that will revolutionize the industry. They might even tell you some nonsense like nine out of 10 of “their” dealers sell every car on the lot every month. Don’t be fooled by false promises of quick effortless results. Selling cars on the web is an ongoing process, but will ultimately come down to the dealership’s relationship to a prospective buyer. Take the television commercials that claim to help people lose 35 pounds in three hours as an example. If you want to lose weight you have to commit to a diet and exercise plan. If you want to sell cars on the web you have to commit to a dynamic sales strategy that creates the best possible online experience for buyers.

The Internet as a medium provides incredible opportunities for dealers who dedicate the necessary resources to take advantage of it. Ever-shifting and never static, the Internet requires a similar marketing mentality. Keeping up with what’s current is challenging enough, let alone trying to stay one step ahead of competitors. But for dealers who embrace this paradigm shift, the rewards will be the attention and dollars reaped from today’s online car shoppers.

The New Benefits of Search for Dealers

Good article about Search Engine Marketing…

Published: June 25, 2007 – iMedia Connection

Early internet education

In the early days of the internet, while consulting large metro dealerships about how the internet was changing their business, the concern was always the same. The internet made dealers nervous because web-savvy customers were only interested in looking up prices, which they would use as a negotiation point with a dealer’s competitors. At the time, these dealerships actually preferred not to advertise online because their “prime” customer was not an internet user but someone who would walk in off the street without having done his or her research.

The promise of online marketing

These days, nearly everyone is an “internet customer,” with 67 percent of all new car buyers researching online prior to purchase1. For the first time in history, online marketing can enable dealers to identify and speak to more than two-thirds of the people in their market area who will buy a new car in the next few months. Savvy dealers can now leverage the internet and turn their reluctance into profits, not only from new cars, but from used cars, financing and fixed operations.

That said, with the huge breadth of online media options (e.g., third-party research sites, online inventory sites, online classifieds, local news sites and social media outlets) dealers face a fragmented online media landscape. Due to the confusion that this invariably causes, most dealers have chosen to continue to spend the bulk of their advertising budgets on familiar and traditional media outlets. While this may reduce media buying complexities, we all know that successful advertising should follow consumer eyeballs, which are clearly on the internet.

Why search works for dealers

In order to gain mass appeal among auto dealers, media should be easy to purchase, have mass reach in the dealers’ DMA, allow for rotating offers to consumers and be highly measurable. Unfortunately, many online options do not fit the bill here, as most dealers do not have the time or expertise to evaluate the relative merits of thousands of smaller publishers. In order to simplify the media buying process while achieving the necessary reach, dealers have begun looking to search engines to deliver interested customers to their lots and phone lines.

J.D. Power and Associates cites that 85 percent of new car shoppers who use the internet for research are using search engines during the process. This means that more than half of all new car buyers use search prior to their new vehicle purchase, offering marketers an unprecedented level of reach. Because all of the major search engines allow marketers to leverage geo-targeting, dealers can message to actual auto shoppers in their DMA, a benefit that enables more targeted and efficient ad buys.

Many forward thinking dealers have experienced and realized the benefits of search marketing. Those leveraging search now have a solid view into how this form of advertising drives online and phone leads for sales and service and are now able to hold other media formats accountable to similar metrics.

Additionally, search ads enable dealers to test which messages and offers are most effective at driving interest from buyers in their area. Within hours of launching a campaign, a dealer can understand which offers are resonating and which aren’t. Real-time results can significantly enhance and inform overall advertising effectiveness; messages that are playing well online can be leveraged in other media channels as well.

The future

Search marketing at the local level is in its nascent stages. Auto dealers are just starting to think about this media as a viable alternative to traditional media and, as such, are just sticking their toes into the water. Today, most dealer search programs focus on new car sales and driving awareness of the dealership among new car shoppers. The possibilities of search marketing, however, are limitless.

Nearly one of every two online users visit Yahoo! each month (or the largest third-party research site, Y! autos) and we get over 150 million automotive queries every month in the U.S. Over 25 million of these queries are related to parts and service, and over 10 million are related to used vehicles. A dealer can leverage that knowledge to advertise used inventory and their service drive: the two most profitable areas of the dealership. Before long, a local dealer will be able to easily create a unique search ad for every piece of inventory — new and used — on the lot, rotating deals based on a user’s query. Additionally, that dealer can use search data to better understand user preferences in his market area to help drive inventory purchase decisions, lowering days to turn while increasing conversion rates.

What was once a source of apprehension can be turned into a smart and significant advantage in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

David Schwartz is senior category director, automotive, at Yahoo!