Moving a dealership is certainly never easy, but it can be an even bigger problem to move it online. And, what happens when you also change the name of a dealership? Oscar Vanderkooij, IT director for Goodson Acura and Audi Dallas in Dallas, Texas, recently faced both of these situations. Goodson Acura moved from Irving to Dallas and the name of the Audi dealership changed from University Park Audi to Audi Dallas. For Vanderkooij, who oversees SEO and SEM efforts for both dealerships’ websites, these changes presented him with some daunting challenges.
Updating the physical address for Goodson Acura after its move from Irving to Dallas has been rather time-consuming, given that it must be updated on a number of search engines, as well as directory and review sites like Citysearch and Yelp. However, Vanderkooij has been making headway. While he said Google Places was relatively easy to update, the store’s Yahoo Local listing has been a different matter. “The biggest struggle has been and still is Yahoo because they do their local listings by phone number, so once a phone number is set to an address, it’s hard to move it,” he stated. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do with that one.”
The Audi dealership, although it didn’t move, recently changed its name from University Park Audi to Audi Dallas. A name change can be a little more complicated when it comes to a dealership’s presence online. UniversityParkAudi.com was already well-established with the search engines and Vanderkooij did not want to lose everything that had already been built with the old domain.
“We didn’t want to take down UniversityParkAudi.com because we get so much traffic off of that,” he stated. “That’s why we decided to keep the old domain active with a separate website.” Otherwise, he said, “All the listings in Google disappear with UniversityParkAudi.com, and we don’t want that.” They simply purchased a new domain, AudiDallas.com, to add to the mix. “This allowed us to keep all the search engine rankings for UniversityParkAudi.com while improving the rankings for AudiDallas.com.” He said he still wasn’t certain of the best course of action with the two domains and noted that the name change can also be a little confusing for customers.
Name change aside, SEO can sometimes seem like a full-time job on its own. Arguably, the biggest challenge is keeping up with the frequent changes to how search results are displayed on Google, the most widely-used search engine according to a Jan. 11, 2012, press release from comScore, which reported a 65.9 percent core search market share for the Internet giant in December 2011.
Vanderkooij noted, “There are a lot of changes right now in Google and how it displays listings. Google Places is becoming more and more important.” He explained that searches for popular keywords like “Dallas Audi” or “Dallas Acura” will pull up Google Places listings, which in turn push the organic results even further down on the page. For that reason, he has realigned his SEO strategy to some degree. “Our focus is going more … to the long-tail keywords to get a bigger result there,” he said.
In fact, focusing on long-tail keywords could be beneficial for site SEO in general, not just pertaining to Google searches. According to SEO company Conductor, which released a study on long-tail optimization in December 2011, “Long-tail (low volume) keywords with on-page optimization moved, on average, more than one full page in the search results (11.24 positions) compared to half a page (5.28 positions) for head terms (high-volume).” The company also found, “Conversion rates for long-tail terms were 2.5 [times] higher than for head terms.”
Another piece of SEO strategy Vanderkooij believed to be important was blogging. “The blog is really where it’s at,” he said. “You want to keep creating content and the best way to do that is with a blog.” However, he acknowledged, “It’s hard to write your own content.” While he has created a blog for Goodson Acura, “I haven’t really done a whole lot with it.” In addition to working on SEO for both dealerships’ websites, as an IT director, he is also responsible for all the computer hardware in the dealerships, leaving little time to focus on creating blog content. “Our struggle is finding somebody in the company who can blog good articles that really bring traffic to the site,” he said, adding that he hasn’t rule out hiring a third party for the task.
Outsourcing has proven extremely effective for Goodson Acura’s social media efforts on Facebook and Twitter. Vanderkooij said that since they began outsourcing to a third party to regularly update their content on Facebook, the Acura store’s number of “likes” has doubled and now number well over 1,400. Customer interaction is encouraged by things like funny photos to caption and an online game they can play for a chance to win a prize. The page is frequently updated with content such as information on new or concept car models, some interesting non-auto-related articles, recipes, and various coupons for service. Several customers have even posted comments about their experiences at the dealership. He said Audi Dallas, which still has someone in-house managing its Facebook and Twitter pages, has not grown its social media following nearly as quickly.
In addition to SEO, Vanderkooij said they have also invested in search engine marketing in the form of pay-per-click campaigns. “We do a very small campaign compared to some dealers that spend four or five thousand dollars on pay-per-clicks,” he said. They are able to keep their PPC costs down, he explained, by simply “being consistent with the company we use and the campaign we use. Because of that, our [AdWords] Quality Score from Google is through the roof, and obviously that lowers your cost-per-click a lot.”
He explained that Google assigns a Quality Score to each keyword campaign based on a number of factors such as account history, clickthrough rate, keyword relevance and landing page quality. A higher Quality Score means a business can bid on keywords at a lower cost. If the dealership switches SEM providers and starts a new campaign, they will have to begin building up that Quality Score all over again. “You’re better off staying with one campaign, one vendor, than you are switching vendors all the time,” he stated. He said this can be avoided if the dealership has its own AdWords account and can get their SEM provider to manage their campaign within that account; however, he said in most cases the providers have proprietary software and prefer to use their accounts.
He said the dealerships’ websites saw conversion rates ranging from two to five percent. Website conversion rates, he said, boil down to how a site is designed. “Some of that a dealer can influence a little bit, but since a third party creates the website it’s really hard to control the conversion rates, other than talking with your vendor and coming up with ideas on how it can be improved.”
He said it was also important to have websites optimized for mobile devices and added that he’s seen as much as 21 percent of his online traffic come from mobile users. He said the increase in mobile usage by consumers prompted him to begin thinking about changes that could be made to further improve the experience for mobile users. “I really think that’s going to be a big change that most dealerships will have to adapt to soon,” he noted. “A lot of people … receive most of their emails on their smart phones now.” An email with too much content or content that is very complex might not be downloaded or displayed in its entirety, so he has been “looking into how we can make our email templates shorter, more to-the-point and without all the stuff that you don’t really need.” He also mentioned the possibility of using preheader text in the email templates (a short line of text that appears at the top of the email before any HTML coding) to help get the customer’s attention. The preheader text will alert the customer to the content of the message even if their device doesn’t read HTML.
Aside from the two franchise stores, Vanderkooij still has a few projects ahead of him. “Goodson Collision is still located in Irving, and at the same location we now have an independent dealership called Goodson Motorcars,” he explained. Even before the Acura dealership’s move from that location to its new home in Dallas, he had been working on developing a WordPress site called MyDallasBodyShop.com for the collision center. There isn’t much advertising for the collision center on the dealership’s website, he said, explaining, “It’s hard to get [the collision center] on top of the search engines with a vehicle-sales-oriented site, so I really wanted to create a separate website for the body shop to see what kind of traffic we can get.”
Vol. 9, Issue 3