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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Search Engine Marketing Companies for Auto Dealers - Be Careful Who You Trust

I received a call today from one of our clients who has been considering a pay per click campaign for their auto dealership. Pay per click (PPC) is one form of search engine marketing and can be very effective if done properly. This search engine marketing company has been pushing them to sign up for their SEM program, and the dealer wanted a professional opinion. He asked me to contact the company as a representative of his dealership and give him my thoughts about the company. The first words that came to mind were "smoke and mirrors".

The gentleman who had been calling the dealership was a sales rep, but he clearly had no product knowledge. When I asked even basic questions, he refused to give a straight answer and kept throwing out all sorts of features like "we'll get your dealership on the first page of Google". That's all good, but do you really have to tell me that 10 times when I'm trying to ask about your contract length? Rule #1 of sales: answer the prospects question either directly or indirectly. I eventually asked about pricing and the sales rep said he would call me back in 30 minutes.

45 minutes later I was on the phone with another client and got not one, not two, not three, but FOUR consecutive calls from this sales rep. It's OK to be eager about a potential sale, but don't harass your prospects. I was able to take the 4th call and he was ready for the price quote. I'll probably never understand this, but for some reason the rep wouldn't give me the annual price. It wasn't too difficult to figure out because he did tell me that 15% was due up front and that came to $630, but I flat out asked him what it broke down to annually since I didn't have a calculator handy and he had to put me on the phone with the IT guy who was more knowledgeable about the technical questions. By this point I was trying hard to believe this whole call wasn't a joke.

Enter "the IT guy". Same smoke and mirrors, just a louder voice. He couldn't answer any of my questions, he just kept saying how many clients they have nationwide. I even asked a 5th grade question to this guy which he dodged: "You say you guarantee page 1 of the big search engines. How much of the monthly payment to you is actually allocated to the keyword spending?" Surely they must have some percent, right? Apparently I'll never know, because he just started talking about how they're the "Wal-Mart of the keyword bidders" so they get discounts on their bids. Yeah, OK. Someone bids $1.00 per click for something and you only pay $.80 per click for placement above them because you have 6000 clients?

I'm making fun of these two people I spoke with, but the reality is that they do have a lot of clients. Search engine marketing and PPC campaigns are confusing to a lot of car dealers, and unfortunately there are companies out there who make their living by preying on these customers who don't know any better. Anybody can set up their own PPC campaigns fairly easily. To manage them effectively and get the highest return on investment, the campaigns must be done properly. My advice to any dealers is to thoroughly research any SEM company you're considering doing business with. Find out what exactly they do for their clients besides simply setting up a PPC account. Some questions to ask: do they provide ongoing analysis? How much of your money goes to actual clicks and how much goes to the company for managing it? Will they create effective landing pages for your website to maximize your ROI?

Choose wisely, and don't buy snake oil just because someone tells you it's great.

2 comments:

Brandon said...

id be curious who this vendor is. Can you email me the name?

Jake said...

I'd be happy to share the company name with you if you provide your email address or send me a message to info@higherturnover.com