search engine optimization

Why “Just Do It” Is A Waste Of Time

by Tim James

In this high tech age, there are numerous tasks that an Internet or eCommerce Director has to tackle in order to correctly market their dealership and its inventory. In the past, you were doing a great job if you were writing custom detailed vehicle descriptions and taking multiple photos of your pre-owned vehicles. You were a superstar if you were also doing these things for your new vehicles. Then video entered the picture. Some dealers embraced video and used data feeds to syndicate video, vehicle descriptions and photos to their website and other third-party sites. Forward thinkers also uploaded the videos with proper tags and descriptions to YouTube.

However, with the fast pace of advancing technology, the number of consumer touch-points keeps growing and it has become an almost overwhelming task to keep up and still try to sell cars.

But one thing hasn’t changed, the key to a successful marketing strategy is getting the right content, in front of the right shopper, on the right touch-point, and at the right time of the buying cycle. The more exposure you get for your content, the more impact that content is going to have on your sales. Content that’s not seen is worthless.

I remember a story from not too long ago about one of the largest volume dealers in the world. This dealer was manually uploading their inventory to their website and every third party website for over 10 stores – one by one – daily. They chose to pay someone $100+ per DAY, rather than use automation and data distribution technology to accomplish the same task at a cost of just $150 per MONTH.

I’m starting to see a lot of this same mentality today with video. Many dealerships have gone out and purchased some great video production tools, and are doing a great job producing some very good video content. They are then manually uploading their content to YouTube and manually embedding links on as many touch-points as they have the time and ability to do so (not all touch-points allow a manual upload). They would rather invest hours of their time to manually place their content on fewer touch-points, than use automation and data distribution technology to accomplish the same task (with more touch-points) for just a couple hundred dollars a month.

I believe that many dealers, managers and Internet directors understand the importance of having their dealership and inventory positioned properly and in as many places online as possible. The problem I see is two-fold: They either don’t understand that technology exists that could transform their Internet marketing and sales without putting an undue burden on their staff. Or they don’t believe that the investment in this technology will produce results.

I can guarantee you this. If you’re simply doing it for the sake of doing it, you’re wasting your time. If nobody sees the content you create, it might as well not exist. The fact is video is “content,” just like any of the other “content” that you utilize to market your dealership and inventory. You don’t spend your day manually cutting and pasting your other content on multiple touch-points all day long — manually uploading photos, and manually writing vehicle descriptions over and over. Why on earth would you try to manually manage your video syndication when producing the content can be time consuming enough.

If you focus your efforts on ensuring that you have great video content, and then utilize technology to get that content on as many of the sites consumers view in the car buying process as possible, then you will be significantly more likely to have the right content, on the right touch-point, in front of the right consumer, at the right time of the buying cycle. This is the only thing that’s going to engage more shoppers and increase sales.

Nike’s old slogan of “Just Do It” needs to be revised when applied to successful marketing strategies today to “Just Do It Right.”

Car Shopping: The Dating Game

by Tim James

For many car owners, their vehicles become an extension of their lives, a partner, and something that they have a true emotional bond with. In most places, cars are necessary to life. We use them to get to work, visit friends and family and take our kids to football practice. According to an article on the Tempo blog, a study done by Harvard Health Watch found that, on average, a person spends 37,935 hours driving during a lifetime – over 4 years of their lives. It’s no wonder that consumers build an emotional connection with their vehicles.

A time will come for nearly every consumer when a new vehicle is necessary. Perhaps because of an expanding family, an accident, or the fact that the age and condition of a current vehicle necessitates it. These can be emotional times for people, and can be an important thing for us to consider in the buying process — the fact that some consumers have emotional attachments to their current vehicle and are looking for their next “partner,” if you will.

Brands lure consumers to their vehicles with original content designed to generate interest in their make. It is then your job to take that and transition it to interest in a specific vehicle. Think of it like speed dating. The car lots of the world are now represented online with every dealership of every make representing potential suitors. However, few do a good job of representing their potential “dates.” The consumer wades through countless profiles and descriptions trying to find their next “partner.” The process becomes frustrating as the consumer’s search narrow in, become more specific, yet they are met with numerous profiles that all virtually look the same. You have the same 35 to 50 photos as everyone else, the same list of features, and the same buttons with the same calls to action as everyone else. Why should the shopper choose you?

The point is that successful dealers make it as easy as possible for a car shopper to start the love connection with THEIR car by telling the vehicle’s story through images, narratives descriptions and, most importantly, a good unique video.

But that’s not all. Let’s take the dating analogy again — Perhaps match.com isn’t the ideal place for you to meet that next special someone. It’s certainly not the only dating site in existence. To position your dealership’s inventory to have the best chance of success, you need to make sure that you are on as many dating sites as possible. Ensuring that your car has the best chance of getting chosen involves developing a strategy that reaches the right shopper on the right touch-point at the right time in their buying cycle. With the right strategy, you will appeal to the fundamental emotional relationship that most shoppers are searching for (it’s not just a car to them) and successfully match more shoppers with their next “partner” than you will by simply trying to motivate the shopper with “price”.

Why Video Is Important For Your Marketing Strategy

by Brian Cox

When businesses ponder how to increase their presence on search engines, they typically turn to SEO strategies. Content marketing has always been a large part of any SEO strategy. It’s a given that the more fresh, relevant and unique content you produce, the better chance your online properties will have of showing in search engine results. According to an article by Search Engine Land, in the past, when considering an SEO plan, the primary type of content marketers thought of was text. As consumer behavior changes, however, visual content is becoming increasingly important.

According to the article, a Google study that tracked consumers’ points of influence on their path to purchase, found that 64 percent of consumers were influenced by video they saw on YouTube – 2/3 of which were “how-to” and “product visualization” type video. These videos match the content type that auto dealers use. In fact, according to the study, 60 percent of consumers reported that online digital marketing factored into their path to purchase. And a recent article in the Wall Street Journal reported that experts are now advising marketers to move 10% to 25% of TV ad dollars to online video.

Today’s vehicle shoppers have many decisions to make along the path to purchase. A consumer who visits an online shopping portal will typically be presented with a list of vehicles that meet their criteria in order of price, lowest to highest. They will then start filtering out vehicles from those results based on such things as mileage, condition, vehicle descriptions and pictures and video provided by the dealer. Vehicles with no (or poor) descriptions or ones that lack photos and video have a greater likelihood of being passed over. Vehicle description pages that contain rich details including images and video stand a far greater chance at seeing customer engagement. It’s hard to believe that anyone would disagree with this very basic assessment.

The same idea translates to search engine optimization. The goal, obviously, in any search engine optimization strategy is to be found whenever a consumer makes a relevant search. According to Search Engine Land, however, that’s not what the real goal is (or should be). Simply showing up does nothing except satisfy a marketer or SEO practitioner’s ego. The true goal is click-through-rate. The more opportunities you can provide a customer who is searching for a vehicle to find your dealership and/or vehicle (i.e. the more times you appear within a given search), the greater the likelihood will be that they will click on a link to your content versus your competition. To accomplish this, you must have a presence on all the consumer touchpoints in every medium possible – video, images and text – thereby offering more content for a search engine to crawl and deliver within the results.

The bottom line is that consumers are using more resources than ever before when shopping for a vehicle. Ensuring that the type of content a consumer wants to see is present on every touchpoint is essential to increase web traffic and consumer engagement. Don’t get me wrong, simply throwing money into video marketing is not what I advise. You would be wise to invest in a comprehensive video strategy that maximizes the exposure, quality and effectiveness of your video content. It will make the difference and allow you to dominate all of your online marketing channels.

In Marketing, New Trumps Used Every Time

by Brian Cox

Bob visits a website searching for a new vehicle. As he filters down to the model he is considering, he is confronted with a seemingly endless list of stock photos with similar prices. Frustrated at the lack of information, he leaves and attempts his search on another site just to get the same results.

Suzy is in the market for a used vehicle. After comparing vehicles by prices and mileage, she finds one that fits her needs and her budget. The vehicle doesn’t have a very good description, however, and she has questions about the vehicle’s condition. She fills out the form and asks for more pictures of the vehicle. All she gets in return are repeated invites to schedule an appointment while being bombarded with phone calls from salespeople.

Joe is shopping for a new vehicle also. Joe is a very meticulous person. His house is always in order. His DVDs are alphabetized. He refuses to buy anything used. He knows that he wants the new Mustang. He also knows that he wants it to have as few miles as possible and, if feasible, to never have even been test-driven. He visits his local dealer’s website and all he sees are stock photos. He resigns himself to the fact that he is going to have to physically go to the dealership and inspect vehicles, which he does not have time for.

In all of these situations, the online shopper could have converted to a lead or sale. The friction point that stopped the customer from converting was very simple – lack of information. Humans are all different in their peculiarities, but do have one thing in common; they want to get the best value for their dollar. Had any of these dealerships taken the time to enhance their VDPs with dozens of photos and videos, these shoppers may have taken the next step towards the sale. Instead, they are left with frustration and no information.

Imagine if, while searching, Bob had encountered a listing that had actual images or video of a real vehicle in stock at a dealership. Or if Suzy had seen a video walkaround of the used vehicle that caught her eye. Maybe actual images and video of a specific new Mustang would have allayed Joe’s concerns of its condition and he would have reached out to the dealer to start the buying process.

Sadly, many dealers fall short of what is optimum – they have their DMS push out their inventory the instant it’s stocked and then distribute it to all of the touchpoints a consumer may visit. When a consumer finds that vehicle they are poorly served and presented with a VDP that has no description, images or video, and sometimes not even a price.

Most dealers recognize the impact that great image and video marketing can bring to their used vehicle inventory marketing. They know that the faster they get those images and video onto their VDPs, the faster they will see interest by consumers, and the faster vehicles will sell. The one thing that most of the automotive industry neglects, however, also happens to be the thing they have the most of: new cars. Perhaps dealers feel that there is no point taking pictures and video of each individual new vehicle as they are all the same at every dealer. The fact is that marketing your new vehicles may prove to be more important than marketing your used vehicles.

Including images and video of actual vehicles will make you stand out from your competitors in search results on the many consumer touchpoints.

Most dealers have 4-5 new cars for every single used car in inventory. Chances are that your competitor isn’t taking pictures or video of their new cars either. We all know the value SEO has in gaining new customers. By marketing your new vehicles with descriptions, images and video, you stand out from your competitors and increase your content within search engines by 4-5 times! This could easily help you dominate search engine results and every other touchpoint a consumer visits.

If you are not shooting photos and video of your new car inventory, you essentially have no marketing for the largest segment of your inventory. Start taking pictures and video of your new vehicles and you’ll achieve maximum exposure, which will lead to more leads and, ultimately, more sales.

Sell the Car, Not the Price

by Tim James

Ever since the first car dealership opened, dealers have understood the emotional impact of “the walkaround.” As consumers move through the buying cycle, they get to a point where they don’t just want, but need to experience a vehicle that they are interested in. In the past, most consumers would visit the dealership in the evenings, when the lot was closed to avoid “being sold.” But driven by their need to experience the vehicle in person, they still came, day and night.

Well, believe it not, nothing has changed! Consumers still have an uncontrollable need to experience a vehicle first hand as they move through the buying cycle. The only difference is that the initial experience takes place online via a Vehicle’s Detail Pages (VDP Pages). Imagine, however, if a dealer could put one of their vehicles (or their entire inventory) in every mall, venue and every other busy consumer traffic area in their PMA, at no additional cost. Now image if they could have a salesperson at each and every location to talk to customers 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week.

While placing a vehicle and a salesperson everywhere in the physical world isn’t practical for dealers, it’s absolutely possible in the digital world. In this age of online shopping, one of the most important assets that any dealer has is their inventory’s VDP. Chances are very good that car buyers who land on a dealer’s vehicle display page are very close to buying. Every vehicle in their inventory should thus be displayed to its best advantage, and on as many potential touch-points that a car buyer is likely to visit as possible.

Let’s face it. Most of your in-stock vehicles are competing for consumer interest. Many dealers choose to attract consumers via low prices, sacrificing profit for the sale. Smart dealers understand that high quality, visually appealing inventory marketing will get a shopper emotionally attached to a vehicle. It will motivate that shopper to want to visit their store to test drive “their” car long before any “price” motivation will. The fact is, once a shopper begins forming an emotional attachment to a vehicle, you no longer have to be the lowest price to motivate the shopper to visit your store.

Nothing can generate a higher level of emotional attachment than a quality video presentation of your inventory, nothing. The best part of the equation is that your shoppers actually want to see videos of the vehicles they are considering. In fact, video content is quickly becoming the media of choice for consumers. 85% of automotive shoppers stated that they watched a video of a vehicle during their car buying experience, and half of them (49%) take action immediately after watching. While dealers are sure to have nice websites, great pictures of vehicles, attractive newspaper ads with calls-to-action, many neglect the fastest growing type of marketing (and the type of marketing that will have the biggest emotional impact) – video.

Think about it like this, your online advertising should be focused on motivating a shopper to “visit your dealership”, not “buy a vehicle”. Price based motivation is asking the shopper to commit to a purchase before they’ve ever even visited your store or test driven the vehicle. Meanwhile, a video’s power is inherent in its ability to involve multiple senses when displaying the vehicle to an online car shopper. Having high-quality videos will allow shoppers to experience your inventory at the highest level possible online, making it more likely for a shopper to become emotionally attached to a vehicle and have an uncontrollable need to visit your dealership to take a test drive.

Having the ability to then place that video on multiple touch-points throughout the buying cycle increases the odds that the consumer finds, views and chooses your vehicle over your competitor’s, regardless of whether it’s the lowest price.

Improve the quality of your inventory marketing to potential customers and you will see more interest, higher conversion, more profit per sale and a faster turn rate. Sell the car, not the price.

Don’t Let Your Video Become a Flash In the Pan

by Brian Cox

There’s no doubt that video marketing, in general, has become increasingly important in today’s world. Google has the search market cornered which is why, as marketers, it is important to pay close attention to the changes they make. However, did you know it’s even more important to pay attention to the second largest search engine in the world? You might think that I’m referring to Bing but, in fact, the second largest search engine is YouTube. Thus the importance of video for SEO.

Dealerships have increasingly embraced video in various degrees for years – from simple stitched videos to professionally created live walkarounds. There’s no doubt that consumers love video. In fact Google’s recent automotive study indicates that over 80 percent of car shoppers will watch a vehicle video and then take immediate action.

The challenges that face car dealerships when it comes to creating videos are the same as they have always been – time and money. There are many solutions that exist for car dealerships in video marketing. I’m fairly certain that you would agree that ANY video is better than no video. And you may even believe that all video is equal. Well, with this blog, I hope to help dispel those erroneous thoughts.

Let’s start with the fact that live video is the most effective (which it is). I don’t think any dealer would deny that, in a perfect world, they would have video walkarounds for every one of their vehicles. The infrastructure and format of your video is just as, if not more important than the quality of it. Some providers use flash-based video which allows them to offer video services to their dealer clients at a lower price point… and, on the surface, there is no visible difference between a flash video and a real video. In reality, however, there are huge differences.

Flash videos are self-contained videos that require a player (like Adobe Flash Player) or a compatible web browser with a plugin. It wasn’t too long ago that flash video was the de facto standard. Technology, however, has changed. Consumers are increasingly accessing the Internet and websites using mobile devices. Guess what’s not compatible with those? You got it, flash video. In fact, in mid-July of this year, Google itself announced that it would start issuing warnings to people attempting to access websites containing flash with the statement “Uses flash. May not work on your device.” Chances are really good that a consumer coming across a website or video that receives this message will probably not continue, but rather seek their answers elsewhere.

Your website will certainly not benefit from video if your audience is not viewing it. In fact, flash video isn’t supported by any Apple device, nor Android versions 4.1 or higher, according to Google. These devices account for a HUGE share of the mobile market. Flash video is also not compatible with some third party inventory sites, and it also has problems with syndication to social networks and other touch points that consumers are on.

Real video, on the other hand, offers a few very important distinctions as web developers gravitate towards such things as HTML5 with mobile capabilities and syndication. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, “Nearly half of the U.S. population has a mobile phone with Internet access, and one out of five page views on the web happen on a mobile device – a number that is growing every month.” Needless to say, if you are using flash, you are already costing yourself 20 percent of potential traffic.

As a dealer, how do you know what kind of video you have? The answer is if your videos are syndicated across the web, viewable on a mobile device or tablet and the search engines can see them, you are doing the right thing and have real video. If not, you most likely have flash.

One of the largest advantages to real video is semantic search. Search engines don’t have the capability of indexing flash video. Real video, properly tagged and built using a semantic structure, can be indexed. Not only can they be crawled by search engines, but the search engines will read each video as an individual web page. This increases your page rankings. Last, but certainly not least, real video has the ability to be syndicated everywhere. All of those touch points that consumers use when vehicle shopping can display your video and increase the reach and impact of your video marketing. Of course more exposure brings more traffic viewing your inventory. And the more traffic your inventory receives, the more leads, conversions and sales you’ll see.

The bottom line is that flash video is a bad solution for video marketers. Flash video may be cheaper than real video, but what are you losing in the end? Just because it’s a shiny object and looks pretty, doesn’t mean that you should be using it. Real video offers businesses the ability to have a bigger footprint with their video marketing. It increases the effective of any marketing and the likelihood that a consumer will want to AND have the ability to watch it. This is the whole exposure aspect of real video plus real syndication. It equals more traffic, which equals more leads. The few dollars you may save by going the flash video route will pale in comparison to the profit you’ll lose from customers who never see your video or visit your dealership.

Are you making it easy for your customers? NO.

What do your dealership’s website and your retail location have in common?  It’s pretty simple, both are designed to take in consumer traffic and create a shopping environment that is conducive to creating a sale.

Imagine yourself as a Dealer Principal who had the vision to locate your franchise on the busiest stretch of road in town.  There is no denying that everyone in town (at some point) drives past your location.  You have also great sightlines, a brightly lit lot, the latest product, and a welcoming staff.

Now imagine, to your horror, the city has approved a major 2-year road improvement project that’s going to make it really hard for customers to get to your store.  Let that sink in. You have a great location and facility but a physical obstacle that hinders customers from reaching you.

In the digital space, this is exactly what the vast majority of dealers experience every day. Except it’s not the city cluttering things up; it’s your dealership’s website.

When you look at automotive retail dealership web design it can be a visual assault on your customer. The clutter found online is the equivalent of ripping up the road and scattering blinking construction horses everywhere. Here is an example

This turns off customers and contributes significantly to the “bounce rate” of your site. The fact is most customers who visit you have ALREADY decided what car they want to buy. They are only deciding if they want to buy from you.

Blinkers, clutter and junk only make them want to go elsewhere.  Like a bad breathed salesperson, you can be your own worst enemy.

Dealer Impact created the KiNETiQ® design platform with this in mind. Through analytic process, we took our 14 years of data to derive dealership platforms that are consumer-centric.

The science behind our design is why we are a leader in conversion friendly platforms.

By making sites that are a utility for shopping customers, we have moved away from the “digital newspapers” and brochures that affect how dealership websites are done.  At Dealer Impact, we have singularly moved the industry forward by making sites for customers that are simple and optimized toward turning traffic into customers.

Think of Dealer Impact as a bulldozer.

We clear out the junk in front of your store so customers can get to you and BUY from you.