There I said it. Forget about long-tail, short-tail, META tags, “page one domination”, link-building, URL strings, SEO training seminars and SEO wiz-bang nonsense. Forget it. At least for the moment.
Unless you have a website in development or are switching providers where an SEO strategy is vital during the implementation of your new website, your #1 priority should be to have a PPC (Pay Per Click) marketing plan and budget in place for 2011.
Obviously SEO is a massively important strategy – one that should be implemented carefully and with the right data and people in place to do so. But this industry has become borderline infatuated with SEO without giving PPC the attention it deserves. I have dealers consistently making suggestions about their Page Titles or META data (impressive), but then go on to ask me if that will help them show up in the “pink box” at the top of Google. No, those are “Ads”. You have to pay for those.
Below are 5 top-level reasons and stats to get your brain on the right track about Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – the umbrella of SEO and PPC.
Automotive PPC spending for 2010 increased by 35% over 2009 along with increases consumer demand. OEMs, Tier 2 Associations and Dealers alike are increasing their budgets for 2011, which means if you don’t have a plan for Paid Search then most likely your competition does. (Source: Efficient Frontier)
SEO is a long-term strategy with long-term benefits. It could be weeks or even months before you start to see the fruits of labor. New domains can take up to 12 months to hit their stride, but most SEO programs don’t plateau until between months 6-9. With PPC, you could be on the first page of Google inside of 48 hours.
With SEO, you have minimal-to-no control over how you appear in the search engines. Optimizing your website requires a keyword strategy first – of which most dealers do not have. Once your site is optimized, Google will choose what it sees what it likes, and what to display. With PPC, you have direct control over where, when and how your ads appear. You control the ad copy, the day-parting, the sites you want to appear on, your geographical targets, and even the page you want your visitors to land on. Google is offering more and more tools to help you control your PPC campaign. Additionally, a solid PPC program will give you invaluable information such as top-trafficked terms which you can use to build a more effective and efficient SEO program
This one’s a biggie. Yes, your Google Analytics shows that 52% of your traffic is “Organic”. Guess what. The majority of that Organic traffic is for your Trademark terms. And it always will be assuming you have been around for a while and have done a decent job at branding. Take a look at the rest of the terms. There will be supplemental traffic from additional SEO rankings, but you won’t see the type of direct influence from SEO on individual keyword traffic as you will from PPC. Side note – a good SEO keyword strategy will include high-focus on 1-3 top-trafficked keyword phrases.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Although both PPC and SEO have been proven to produce the highest ROI when compared to traditional marketing, PPC should have a lower ROI in the short term, while ROI for SEO increases over the course of the program. For SEO, as organic rankings start to climb, traffic, leads and sales should go up thus increasing your ROI. However, with PPC your ROI can be measured instantly and more accurately. Within 5 days you should have your average Cost Per Click, your total spend, total traffic and total leads. From there, it’s a simple equation. More money = more leads. And it’s this direct affect that makes PPC an invaluable advertising medium.
Both SEO and PPC are changing dramatically, and obviously you as an automotive dealer (business owner) should have a solid handle on both. SEO has become more than just getting better /higher organic rankings with direct correlation to ORM (Online Reputation Management) and Social Marketing. PPC is also changing with new strategies and methodologies being adopted by the engines. Amongst many changes including comparative and more visual ads, we predict more emphasis by advertisers and the engines on CPA (Cost Per Action), which means you don’t pay unless someone takes action such as filling out a lead form or clicking to call.
Overall, it’s impressive to see the Automotive community come together, show interest and devote resources to improving their online marketing. My advice is to do your research, become knowledgeable and then put the right people in place to make it happen…preferably not you or anyone within your dealership. After all, you have cars to sell and customers to service.