Since my firm, Impact Marketing & Consulting Group, began consulting in the e-business realm of our industry, much has changed. Technology has grown, while best practices have evolved. The hottest lead providers have also traded places depending on factors that include how long a particular dealership has been with a given provider. Needless to say, selling cars over the Internet is an ever-evolving animal where change is the only constant, except for one truth. And that truth is the leads that will close with the highest percentage will most likely come from your dealership’s web site.

About UsTo draw an important parallel, I was watching CNBC’s Business of Innovation, and the panel of business leaders was asked a question dealing with using technology to become better, in essence, more effective. One member of the panel eloquently stated that sector leadership is driven by what you do with technology, not simply what technology you install. The underlying observation from my vantage point, looking at a sector that often lacks motivation for innovation, is that creative utilization of technology isn’t easy. In fact, it’s quite hard! But by creative thinking you will create value for your dealership.

Let’s apply this concept to the truth discussed above. There are multiple ways to develop Internet leads. If you hold beliefs similar to mine, you know that if you could have one third-party lead or one lead from your web site, you would choose the latter. And the data supports your inclination. But here’s where this gets tough – is it easier to call your lead provider and increase the number of third-party leads you receive each month, or is it easier to put in motion the steps to implement a Google ad word campaign coupled with a search engine optimization strategy? As long as there are salespeople working for the lead providers, the former will be easier, much easier.

This brings everything thus far to an important summation – if you’re willing to push through status quo car business operations and choose to take on a more difficult task that will ultimately result in more vehicles sold, your dealership will become a sector leader. Now, if you are willing to take charge of search engine management, I’ll help cut some of the brush that lies before you with a key list of search engine strategies.

Know The Key TLAs (three letter acronyms)

Before you make your first phone call or e-mail inquiry for search engine answers, make sure you know the fundamental differences between SEO and SEM; search engine optimization and marketing, respectively. SEO is the process by which your web site appears higher on a desired search without paying the search engine for the privilege. On Google, this would move your site higher in the non-sponsored results section on the left side of the page. SEM, on the other hand, is a pay-per-click service where your web site is listed in order of keyword bids in the sponsored link section. Don’t get these mixed up – especially when you’re dealing with a firm that promises results. Even if a firm uses optimization loosely in communication, don’t be surprised to be charged a sizeable fee for its service, and then be asked to select a monthly ad budget to pay for your ads. You have been warned, and you can avoid this easily by simply knowing SEO from SEM.

Find Your Target

The first step in our search engine program is to develop a list of areas you would like to target. For most applications, this is completed for a geographical target area. However, as the landscape changes, your target may need to adapt appropriately. But for now, start by finding a map and center it at your dealership. Figure out what distance customers are willing to travel, and construct a list of all cities and towns that call within your target radius. More importantly, be complete – leave nothing out, and then select your top five target area keywords.

Develop Your Search Items

Go ahead and spend an hour with your dealership managers to create a list of words that describe your dealership. If you’re a Chevrolet dealer, your list may include: Chevrolet, Chevy, cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, Corvette, Monte Carlo, Aveo, Impala, Tahoe, Trailblazer, Blazer – you get the idea. Don’t leave anything out or you will be missing opportunities to do business. Also, don’t forget to include service and parts terms, as well as finance keywords. Then, select the top 20 keywords from this list to be featured.

At this point, you should understand the difference between SEO and SEM, and have two complete keyword lists and two highlighted keyword lists. This will allow you to make the most out of your additional fact-finding and have educated conversations with the various firms that render search engine strategies.

As always, if you have questions regarding this topic, I’d be happy to help you find the right answers.


Chuck Barker

Chuck Barker has been CEO of his two companies, Impact Marketing & Consulting Group, LLC and Impact Summit, LLC, for the last 24 years, both located in Virginia. His experience ranges from an executive with Harris Corporation (16,000 employees) one of Fortune Magazine’s largest companies to the automobile industry where he has performed all executive positions. His companies specialize in growing businesses, dealerships and people. He delivers unparalleled sales & service development programs, management leadership workshop programs and dealer/principal business & profit improvement ideas for automobile dealerships. He has recently published the first comprehensive ‘in-house’ sales training solution program for dealers entitled The Dealership Success Guide.