The one constant with digital marketing is that it changes… constantly. The challenge for car dealerships is keeping up with the ways in which digital marketing can help them discover and engage consumers, and turn those consumers into customers. In my interactions with dealerships, capitalizing on digital marketing is always top of mind and so are questions about how to do it. Here is what I’m asked most often.

What’s the biggest mistake dealerships make with digital marketing?
Dealers can focus too much on building on-site SEO (search engine optimization) changes, rather than giving equal time to the offsite traffic they can generate from content marketing, which includes everything from blogging to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn, and keyword-focused microsites. Over-investing in optimizing for search engines can backfire when these search engines change their ranking algorithms – and they do frequently. Then, suddenly your dealership is nowhere to be found online. Along with that, online paid advertising – such as paid search, display advertising, re-targeting, and advertising on social sites such as Facebook and YouTube – should not be ignored as a way to drive traffic to your site. Like most marketing, a multi-pronged approach to digital marketing makes the most sense.

What else is involved in content marketing?
Content marketing typically involves creating and distributing content on sites other than your own. The idea is to create content that is both relevant and valuable to your market audience. It’s the art of communicating without overt selling. Focusing equally on content marketing helps ensure that your blog, Facebook page, Google+ page, etc., continue to send traffic to your site. 

What type of digital marketing is most effective in creating leads?
In terms of creating more leads, and, therefore, more sales, the ad spend side drives the most immediate results, particularly through paid search. With paid search, the dealer’s website will always show up near the top of the search engine results page for the key terms that the dealership has set. Moreover, paid search lets dealers test and measure the effectiveness of keywords and assess how much each lead is costing them. That’s powerful information.

What are the issues with digital marketing? 
The biggest issues are how quickly things change in the digital world and how well prepared the dealership is to adapt. Dealerships don’t typically have the in-house expertise to completely manage digital marketing and still keep up with the changes. Just as a dealership might look to outside counsel for expert legal services, digital marketing experts can help dealerships stay on top of the digital world and respond to changes, such as when search engine algorithms change. 

How does voice-activated search technology like Siri affect digital marketing?
Siri emphasizes why dealers should focus on making sure their business is listed on major local search engines like Yelp and Yahoo! Local, as well as on yellow pages sites and local social networks. Dealers should have their information on these sites current and optimized. Claiming your business listing is an important first step in optimizing your location pages. Consistency is also essential. Your core contact information should be the same in all places; include your business name, address, phone number, and website URL. The business categories you select are also an important aspect to helping consumers find you online. 

What’s new in digital marketing? 
Consumers are continuing to move daily activities online, such as watching TV and listening to the radio. Smartphones are a significant driver of the growth. In a study for Direct Sat TV, video viewing on the phone grew more than 35 percent in 2011, while a study conducted by Arbitron and Edison Research found that 17 percent of all mobile owners have listened to online radio streamed in their cars via their phones – up from 11 percent last year. Dealers need to shift their digital marketing to sites where consumers are going – places such as Hulu and Pandora. Additionally, Pinterest, a relatively new content and image sharing site, is getting a lot of attention as one of the fastest growing sites of the year. In a study conducted this year by Shareaholic, Pinterest drove more referral traffic than Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn combined. 

More and more automotive retailers are ramping up their digital marketing… and rightly so. The dealerships that stand out from the crowd are the ones that understand how important it is to get noticed online and have the resources to make the most of their digital marketing. However, it’s also important to remember that digital marketing is just another channel. To successfully market your dealership, you must know who you are trying to reach, the message you are conveying, and how each marketing channel – from digital to traditional – completes your total marketing effort. 

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Amy Peck

Amy Peck


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