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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Another Google Update to Remind Us About the Importance of Marketing Diversification

Google confirmed recently that they pushed the 23rd update to their Panda algorithm since the first release in February, 2011. For readers who aren't familiar with what this means, this is the 23rd time in the last 22 months that they've "tweaked" the ranking mechanism which determines where your website ranks in their search results. This constant tweaking is a nuisance to some webmasters, as you can see from some of the comments on this Search Engine Land post. It serves as a reminder though. The important thing to take out of this is that Google has become such a large part of our lives that often we lose sight of how much we rely on them to drive business our way.

Someone searching for a car online may run across your vehicle that matches their search. Someone looking for a nearby dealership may end up finding your website. They only find these things because of Google or whatever search engine they're using. Imagine if Google decided to start selling cars and remove all car dealer websites from their search results so they could effectively "hide" their competition. Sure, that's an extreme example, but it's the sort of thing (the bigger picture at least) that you should be thinking about. Because the web offers so many advantages over traditional media, and because it's the most cost-effective marketing platform, it's become huge. Sure it may make sense to put the majority of your marketing dollars there, but don't put all your eggs in one basket, because although unlikely, the next Panda update could wipe your dealership off the most widely used digital map. A little marketing diversification can go a long way, especially when it's geared toward a combination of both traditional advertising media and various online platforms, not just a narrow focus on SEO for one search engine.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Don't Fall for the DNS Services or Domain Registry of America Scam

Every few weeks we get a call or email from a client wondering what the "bill" from DNS Services or the Domain Registry of America is for. The truth is, it's not a bill, but rather a shady tactic these unethical companies use to try and trick people into paying them money.

They market via direct mail, and send what appears to be an invoice for domain renewals, often complete with a message indicating the client's website is going to be taken offline if they don't act fast. They're presented in a fashion that highlights the "scare tactics", but if you read the fine print, it shows that it's not actually an invoice.

These companies make their money from the people who don't know any better and end up sending a check for domain registration services, at a rate of typically 10x the normal rate you can register a domain with a reputable company like GoDaddy.com. If you receive one of these fake invoices, our advice is to throw it in the trash where it belongs. After all, if a company has to trick you into doing business with them, does it really matter what they're trying to sell you? Avoid these companies unless you want to spend unnecessary money and cause yourself a headache.
Domain Registry of America Scam
Domain Registry of America Sample
DNS Services Scam
DNS Services Sample

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Changing Dealer Website Providers

After a lengthy process of restructuring our company website, I was thinking about how much a car dealer normally has to go through to switch website providers, and unfortunately the answer is "not much" with most providers. I say "unfortunately" because by not doing things properly, the dealer's website can take a big hit in the search engine results and rankings. It takes a lot of work to do things properly, and because dealers typically don't know any better, they trust their new provider will do it the right way. Providers can get away with not spending the extra time/effort and 99% of the time the dealer will never know, but as a reputable dealer website provider, Higher Turnover insists on doing things the right way whenever possible.

Usually a websites URL structure (the names of the pages) will change from one provider to the next. Someone may have an inventory page as "inventory" while another may have it as "vehicles" or something else. Pages get indexed in search engines, and if the appropriate steps aren't taken, all of your search results could be useless. Imagine your old provider has your vehicles at www.yoursite.com/inventory and that's the way your vehicles are indexed (included) in the search results. If you switch to a provider who uses a different URL, for example www.yoursite.com/vehicles, the visitor who clicks on your indexed link in the search results will likely be taken to an error page because the page they were taken to no longer exists.

Some things to put in place to avoid these problems are uploading a new sitemap to the search engines (which lets them know what pages currently exist on your site) and automatically redirecting all old URL's to the corresponding new pages. These are relatively simple things to do which help you retain search engine rankings, and perhaps more importantly help your customers actually get to your new site when they click on a link in the search results. If you're considering a switch from one dealer website provider to another, make sure they are accountable for making your transition a smooth and PROPER one.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dealers Listing Cars on Facebook

A new article was published today about the use of Facebook by retailers to promote their products. The original article is here and it got me thinking.

Car dealers are becoming more and more interested in promoting their dealerships on Facebook because let's face it, pretty much everyone is on Facebook. It's free, and there are hundreds of millions of people using the site regularly. While most successful dealers have at least set up a business page on Facebook and use it to interact with customers, other dealers use it to try and actually sell their vehicles to their followers/fans.

Some website providers these days offer to build a "tab" on the dealer's Facebook page which lists their entire inventory, just like their own website. The thinking is that potential customers (or anyone who "likes" the dealer's page) will click on that tab and browse their inventory. They feel that people will browse inventory on Facebook instead of actually going to the dealer's site and do it there. I personally have never bought into this, and today an article came out that suggests the same thing. (see the original article by clicking here).

On some levels it makes sense to market vehicles this way. If the people are there, then why not, right? Well the article I referenced quoted an analyst as saying for companies trying to sell their products through these means, "it was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar." Furthermore, people would need to actively seek out the vehicle information, whereas the entire philosophy of Facebook is to push content to the user, so they don't need to seek it out. This is why we offer a different service to our clients where individual vehicles are posted to the dealer's Facebook wall. This way they actually show up in the fans news feed and get exposure. It's important to limit the frequency of these sort of posts, but that's another article for another day.

If major retailers like Gamestop, Gap, J.C. Penny, and Nordstrom have all pulled the plug on these Facebook storefronts, I have to think there's some validation to my beliefs. I know I don't shop on Facebook for anything. Sure, I may visit a retailer's page to see if they have any promotions going on or to see what other shoppers are saying about them, but if I want to buy something I head to the retailers own website. Getting people to change the way they shop online can happen, but I personally don't think it's going to happen anytime soon, and Gamestop (and the others) have proven that point as far as I'm concerned.

I'm curious to hear comments from others, but I'm especially curious to hear from car dealers (or salespeople) who have tried the inventory tab on their company Facebook page. Has it worked for you? Do you know how its use compares to your other Facebook activity in generating leads?