Five Sources to Drive Traffic to Your Web Site

The scope of the automotive industry has changed over the last several months. Web sites are becoming more functional, offering the quality that consumers demand when trying to research vehicles online. They're not all perfect, but for the most part, they offer inventory, credit applications and other tools so the online experience helps shorten the time spent at the dealership.
Now that most dealerships have jumped the hurdle on Web site functionality, they are realizing that they need to generate traffic to their Web site any way they can. Automotive Web site providers should really be marketing firms that focus on driving traffic. However, dealerships that do not have a marketing firm working with them can still get traffic by going after these five sources:
1) Search Engine Optimization
It is now a buzzword in the automotive marketing industry. Dealers understand that getting ranked organically for keywords that drive relevant traffic to their site is the most important factor in the health of a Web site. Vendors have caught on as well and most claim to have top-notch, first-class SEO to offer with their Web site and/or marketing packages.
SEO used to be something that required a lot of effort on the Web site but not much focus on anything outside the site. In 2009, it's a mixture of both with a distinct sway towards having offsite content linking back to the Web site. Links from another Web site, especially an aged automotive Web site, count as votes when they point to your Web site. Rather than get into the specifics, make certain to know what kind of link-building your Web site provider or marketing firm does to help optimize your site. If they are talking all about proper meta tags, run away.
2) Pay-Per-Click Search Engine Marketing
Once SEO is established, available budget should be put towards PPC marketing. Google-, Yahoo- and MSN-sponsored results traditionally do not yield the same volume as organic (optimized) results because less than 25 percent of searchers still click on the sponsored ads. You wouldn’t turn away 25 percent of our walk-in traffic, So as a supplement to SEO, PPC is worth it.
There are several types of PPC firms out there. Some manage campaigns based upon algorithms and automated systems. Others take a more hands-on approach. Regardless of their style, make certain to check with previous clients to ask about their results.
Management fees are the other concern. Some companies charge a flat fee, while others take a percentage of spend. There are good companies out there that charge a percentage, but most are interested only in increasing your budget to increase their profits. Flat fee services are normally the best, as they can be trusted. When they tell you that you should probably raise your budget by $500, you know they aren't saying it simply to increase the amount of money they are taking in.
Another option is to run the campaigns yourself. If you have an experienced Internet marketing person or a strong IT person who can do the research, it isn't hard or very time consuming. Avoid platforms that claim to make it easier. Running campaigns directly from Google is not difficult, but there are "services" out there that simply put Google, Yahoo and MSN in a management shell. Unless it's free, it isn't worth the expenditure.
3) Blog Marketing
So, you've heard of blogs. You may even have a blog or two for the dealership. Many dealers try blogging and stop because they don’t see results from them. Normally, this is either because the blog does not add value (i.e., all it does it talk about sales and specials) or it isn't updated very often.
Whether you pay someone to run a blog or you do it yourself, the key is to make it interesting and update it often. People who make it to your blog may not necessarily click on the link to your site. You may only see a handful of traffic referred by your blog, but don't be fooled. If you are active in the community (maybe a post about local charities, high school sports or academic events, etc.), people will remember you. When it comes time to buy a vehicle, they'll remember the dealer who highlighted their child's achievement. They'll remember the dealer who spent time helping a charity. Then, they'll go to your Web site.
Blogs also act as an excellent source for reputation management. If your blog ranks well on the search engines for people searching for you by name, it's less likely that they'll see something from, for example.
4) Social Media
Social news sites like Digg and Reddit have been known to send tens of thousands of visitors to a Web site in hours. That's not the kind of social media traffic that you want for your Web site. You want Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, Ning—you want the social networks. Just like with blogging, however, it's more effective to have a well-maintained account that offers value to both the local community and the online community.
When using social networks, remember to give as much (or more) than you take. Talk to other members. Talk about things other than the dealership. Get involved with the community. While these sites are world-wide and aren’t normally focused locally, it's very possible to build up a local following that will help to spread your Web 2.0 involvement through word of mouth (or in this case, word of instant messengers and e-mails).
5) Sponsorship
Many car dealers are actively involved with charities and local events. They are normally quick to make sure they get a banner at the event, but rarely do they focus on getting a link or banner ad on the Web sites associated with the events. People love to work with those who help, and just like with other sources of traffic, this may not appear to be helpful immediately. In the long run, it's a very effective method of getting people who want to do business with you.