Dealership Marketing

Are other dealers buying your dealer name for keywords in the Search Engines?

A Toyota dealer in Los Angeles wants Toyota USA to help curb what he calls “abuses of online marketing by some competing dealerships”. Apparently some of their competitive dealers are buying their dealerships trades name in the search engines and believe the practice is diverting shoppers looking for his dealership to a competitor’s store.

(Click here to read the Full Article in Automotive Magazine.)

I agree, this can divert the shopper. However, I’m not sure if there is anything that can or should be done about this (other then retaliation).

I have heard through the grapevine that several Manufacturers have been talking about getting strict with their dealers practicing this BUT what can they do about 3rd party websites doing the same thing? Is the manufacturer going to be able to police this as well? What about if your buying leads from Dealix, and Dealix is buying leads from the website that is bidding on your dealers trade names, and your competitive dealer is buying that lead from Dealix..WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE? Just because it’s not direct…you’re basically contracting another company to run SEM on competitive dealer’s keywords then buying that lead. I just don’t see how you can police this.

My current opinion is to keep it open. As long as the dealer is not using your actual dealers name in the text of their ad, I think it’s ok. It’s no different then a dealer renting a Billboard right down the road.

Take a look at this…I did a keyword search on Google for “Hagerstown Mercedes Dealer”. You can see..#1 and #3 are my competitors (I’m in the middle) and since they are in the top positions, this reflects a high CTR (click through rate)..meaning people are indeed diverting from their original search and clicking on my competitors ads.

Note: Sorry for the Blacked out text but I do have a few secerts I like to keep to myself, HAHA..

I could get mad about this but it’s the game. I recommend setting up a separate campaign for your trade name keywords and having selective copy in your ad to better focus the customer towards your ad, what they came looking for anyways. MORE IMPORTANY..statistics show that “natural listings” have a higher conversion, so BE SURE that your dealers website is number 1 or more in the natural listing for these keywords as well!!

What do you think is fair?

Take the poll and be sure to share your thoughts and comments!

Founder of DealerRefresh - 20+ Years of dealership Sales, Management, Training, Marketing and Leadership.
  • B
    Bill Benak
  • May 31, 2006
I run into this all the time. Best thing to do is trademark your name…then you can protect it online. I was able to get yahoo to block anyone from buying Sunnyvale Ford for a while, they apparently have stopped blocking it because I see 3 or 4 vendors buying it right now. Google wouldn’t block it without a trademark.

I’m in the process of trade marking Sunnyvale Ford.

Bill Benak
BDC/Internet Director
Sunnyvale Ford
Well one thing good that is going for your dealership is the #1 spot in lcoal search results. I'm of opinion that down the road local listings is what's really going to count. Specially once Google base gets fully integrated into it.

Also If I find that AdWords or Overture(yahoo) is getting pretty competitive... I bump up the minimums on the other networks... like Miva, Ah-Ha, Search123... etc.
I don't think it is negative for a competitor to do this unless your dealership name is something unique. The problem with dealerships that are named "Town Name" "Make", for instance Frisco Honda or something like that is users will type those keywords into the search engine looking for Honda's in Frisco. I believe local search is very important for dealers to invest time in as many individuals will make those types of searches.

From my reports, I do notice a lot of users will type in the name of a dealership in the search engine. You want to be the #1 natural search result for those, as people will click on that result.

I hope every dealership has filled out information on Google, MSN, Yahoo etc.. with their local information. For Instance, Yahoo will place 3 local ads(actually Information) at the top of the search that contains a locale.
Bill, Google has a hands off policy regarding trademarks and Adwords. It is up to the the advertiser and the entity holding the trademark to fight it out.

Jeff, congrats on the blog, it is picking up steam!
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  • June 3, 2006
I agree Jeff...what's the difference? But...

I think the real shame is that the majority of dealerships aren't paying attention to the simple fundamentals of natural search results. It's not difficult to master and the average store can spend less than an hour per month getting that job done. Until the dealership takes the time to get ahead of the curve, companies like Yahoo and Dealix (a cobalt company right?) will continue to generate leads by bidding on the dealership name or paying sites that are able to outrank the dealer in natural search results.

Aren't some of these same companies out there hawking PPC campaigns to dealers now?

So let me see if I understand. A dealership pays a monthly fee for a website that utilizes fundamentally flawed techniques (as it relates to natural search engine results) like frames. Then they come back and pitch you on PPC services..'cause, well, nobody can find you. All the while they are selling leads from people looking for you, to your competitor across town because you don't have an agreement with their lead generation division?

The only thing that would sweeten that honeypot is if you could get the manufacturers to pitch it to the dealers for you! But nobody could pull that one off.... could they?

Trade marks, product names and federally registered marks will only stop advertisers from using them in there ad copy. This practice also known as keyword poaching allows your competitor to buy a company’s name which can be less expensive and better targeted than campaigns that use general terms such as “Mercedes Dealer”.

Unethical or not, Google, Overture and MSN allow it even after several lawsuits. One notable suit on topic was Geico vs. Google in which Federal Judge Leonie Brinkema rejected Geico’s claim that argued that Google should not be allowed to sell ads to rival insurance companies that appear when Geico’s name is typed into a Google search box due to possible confusion for customers and that it illegally exploits Geico’s investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in its brand.

In granting Google’s motion for summary judgment on this case Brinkema said…"There is no evidence that that activity alone causes confusion".

My question to readers is this… If your competitor is purchasing your company name at costs much lower than normal market value, shouldn’t you in some way help out the rise in keyword cost and purchase your own company name in the search?

Natural rankings on your company’s name are great but when this issue pops up it is the visibility of both Natural and sponsored that win the game.

Chad Long
Managing Partner
AutoONE Media LLC
It is abolutely fair. If I take the time to learn how to RUN an Internet department and its website, why shouldn't I take advantage of the "sheep" in the group who simply watch things happen, and complain when "their" leads are sniped by a more competent competitor? Is it any different from a customer coming in to your dealership with a newspaper ad from a competitor thinking its yours or asking if you can do the same deal? Is it any different (really) than an aggressive sales person on the point getting the majority of the ups?

Remember: Timid sales people have skinny children.

Great article, Jeff. Very insightful. Will be delving into the Google base deal.

Gerald Hand
Internet Director
Toyota of Irving