Best PracticesIndustry News & Trends

It’s 10 o’clock. Do you know where your phone book is?

When was the last time you used a phone book to find ANYTHING?

Do you even know where your phone book is?  I don’t!

The Internet is the most important entrance to your dealership. If your phone rings 100 times a week, the internet was involved in 95 of them.Powered By Search Logo

For a moment, take off your car guy hat, go to Google and go car shopping. Are you visible?  Look at your competitors, are they visible?  Every one of your competitors is gunning for that same spot on page one and competition is fierce. How do you win in this game?  Back in the News Print and Yellow Pages days, all you had to do is spend more to get more.

You need brain power to beat your competitors! Having your 2nd cousin do it for you may have worked in 2007, but not anymore, those simple days are gone.

Today, we get to chat with Dev Basu, president of Powered by Search, 1 of only 4 global agencies chosen to participate in the prestigious SEOMoz Search Engine Ranking Factors and David Mihm Local Search Ranking Factors study.

Dev is one of the most brilliant minds in search in North America.  When Dev is not helping our members in the DealerRefresh forums he is working with automotive tier 2 and tier 3 clients including GM, Honda, Chevrolet, KIA, Nissan, Mazda, Suzuki, and Lincoln delivering unparalleled results via Organic SEO, Local SEO, and Online Reputation Management services.

Having been consistently ranked as a TopSEOs Best in Local Search company with press coverage in traditional media such as The Globe and Mail (Canada), CTV News, and ITBusiness Canada as well as SEO industry publications ranging from SEOmoz to SEOBook, combined with frequent speaking on the topics of SEO, Local Search, and Social Media at conferences such as Search Engine Strategies and Search Marketing Expo, Powered by Search is considered to be a thought leader in the Local Search space.

Dev has always been a straight shooter and I wanted to take a moment and interview him. Let’s get started..

Joe – Dev, you have quite a pedigree!  If a Dealer commits to finding a person (or an agency) that can help them conquer Google and Yahoo, (I can see that you’d want a specialist, but,) where does a dealer start? 

Dev – I firmly believe it is important for my clients to understand at least the basics– people should know what they are paying for. Here’s an article where I discuss 15 Questions You Should Be Asking Your SEO Agency

Joe – Automotive Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is very competitive and Car dealers are heavily dependent on Local results. 

From a dealer/manager’s perspective, let’s ask direct business questions like, “Why I should care?”, “Will it sell more cars?”, “Is this complex?”, “Compare DIY vs Pro”, If I go Pro, will I see ROI?”   And “will I beat my competitors?”

Let’s hit these one at a time:

1. Why I should care?

Dev – Local customers prefer dealing with local businesses, and auto dealers are no exception. Google and other search engines are the local search of this day and age, having replaced print publications and the Yellow Pages. The bottom line is this: If your dealership cannot be found on major search engines for a local search such as “honda dealer tampa”, you’re effectively invisible.

50% of new vehicle buyers and 58% of used vehicle buyers said the web was the most influential information source in their purchase decision (PolkView, Feb 2011).

“Search engines are commonly used, with Google cited as a primary mechanism for getting car buyers to the dealership website from which they purchased their vehicle. About half of buyers who visited a dealer website arrived at that site via search,” (

2. Will it sell more cars?

Dev – There is a very strong correlation between obtaining incremental search traffic to your dealership website and the number of contacts and subsequent sales that happen as a result of this traffic. While this can be measured succinctly using web analytics and call tracking platforms, much of the intuitiveness behind this is in the ‘consumer intent’ of the search term.

The more specific the query being searched, the higher the chances of you as a dealer getting a highly qualified prospect. The type of search can separate a window-shopper from a buyer, and here are a few examples that illustrate this:


  • 2012 honda civic
  • 2011 honda civic vs 2011 mazda 3
  • 2011 honda civic review

Buying queries:

  • 2011 honda civic michigan city
  • best price for 2011 honda civic in michigan city
  • honda civic dealers in michigan city

3. Is this complex?

Dev – Local search optimization can be incredibly complex to execute, measure, maintain, and iterate, but at its core it relies on 3 things (google specific)

  1. Having a properly optimized Google places listing.
  2. Having consistent dealer Name, Address, and Phone # information throughout the web (3rd party sites, micro-sites, blogs, yellow pages publishers, directories, etc).
  3. Having many of these references to your business N.A.P (name, address, phone number) throughout the web. The number of reviews your dealership has both on Google places and elsewhere on the web (edmunds, dealerrater, insider pages) is important. We wrote about the 20 most important places to obtain these references (known as citations in the Local SEO industry) at

Joe – DIY vs a Pro?

1.  If I DIY, can you sell me a road map or a manual?

Dev – Though this is not specific to dealers, I wrote a 5 part guide to a Local SEO road-map over at Web Marketing Today and at

 2.   We’re busy selling cars, if I DIY, how long does it take?   Is this something a receptionist can execute (or mess up?)

Dev – A well-executed local seo strategy can take anywhere between 1-2 months to get setup, and then may take a bank of hours every month to continue to market and promote. Note that I did not say ‘maintain’. You can maintain a website’s hosting or code, but Local SEO is squarely a sub-set of internet marketing.

If you DIY, take the time to assign your dealership’s marketing manager or web marketing manager to all your Local SEO activities. Your receptionist will in all likelihood not understand the nuances of local search optimization. Poorly done local SEO can be very detrimental to your business, and even so-called ‘qualified’ professional in the SEM, Yellow Pages, and Call Tracking industries frequently get it wrong.

3.  If I go pro…   Is this expensive?

Dev – The SEO industry is not regulated and pricing can range wildly from $49 per month to $5000 or more month. How’s a dealer to separate the snake oil from the professionals who know the industry best?  Look for the following:

  1. The best in the industry are in high-demand and do very little outbound marketing. Good SEO companies are not likely to cold call you repeatedly.
  2. Is the agency or consultant transparent about what they will be doing to optimize and promote your site?  If they offer a black box approach to marketing, then run for the hills.
  3. Do they have previous case studies to showcase results with other clients?  Ask for references and ask tough questions.

Pricing models can range from the traditional hourly model, to performance and value based pricing. Powered by Search prices campaigns based on keyword competition and attaches a monthly retainer to our managed campaigns.

5.  Is there ROI?

Dev – Simply saying ‘yes’ would be an understatement. Next to email marketing, there’s no better medium to generate high ROI results. Most of our clients receive an ROI between 500$ – 2500% in their first six months of working with us.

However, most dealerships are terrible at CRM and full funnel conversion tracking. There is a disconnect between the attributed marketing channel that attracted a lead, the cost of that lead, and the final conversion (sale) value. Agencies like ourselves try to bride part of that gap by implementing proper online conversion tracking, call tracking, and CRM integration for larger clients, but to date I have not seen dealers execute an end to end ROI tracking strategy that breaks down by a specific marketing channel.

Joe – Selling cars is a competitive field, if I hire a PRO (like yourself) 

1. Will I get better results than I am seeing now?

Dev – Yes. Setting expectations is paramount, because SEO is not an over-night recipe to higher revenues. That said, the average local business (including all our dealer clients) see tangible and positive results within 90 to 180 days of starting to work with us. This time span differs from agency to agency, but the industry standard is usually within the first 6-9 months unless you’re trying to rank for something extremely competitive or generic.

2.  Will I out rank my competitor(s)

Dev – Modern SEO’s tend to focus less on achieving rankings and more on attracting qualified traffic. For example, let’s say a 1000 people are looking for ‘honda dealer nyc’. While a good SEO company or consultant can certainly help you outrank your competition, they will also investigate permutations and combinations of this keyword to create ‘key-phrase’ rankings that attract more overall traffic. For example:

  • honda dealers nyc
  • honder dealer new york
  • honda dealers in new york
  • most reliable honda dealer in new york
  • new york honda dealer … and so on.

The idea is to mine your web analytics to see your highest converting keywords and if those are not ranking #1, to make that happen.

Joe – Dev, In your opinion, looking at the Dealer’s internet battle front now, here are the battle fronts I see:

  • PPC
  • Social Media
  • Local SEO
  • Organic SEO

 From your vantage point, please rank them in your team’s ability to generate ROI

Dev – Local SEO – We package this as part of Organic SEO month to month full service retainers because of the blended algorithm being more heavily skewed to organic ranking factors. Local SEO has the HIGHEST ROI ( starting at 500% average for our clients, and as high as 3500%)

Organic SEO – We do this as a standalone w/o Places optimization or citation building involved but don’t advise this package in markets where mixed results are displayed. Organic SERPs are the bread and butter of Search but have less ROI than blended local or map only results because they stand out less. The ROI on long tail searches are obviously higher.

PPC – We charge a base rate of $500/month for PPC accounts which scales up based on the complexity and number of hours involved. When we do both PPC and SEO we help clients ramp up on PPC in the beginning and scale down as their SEO grows stronger. Then, the PPC is restricted to a few head terms that have decent conversion rates, and it larges focuses on long tail traffic to ensure the highest conversion rate at the lowest cost per conversion.

Social Media – We only provide consulting and channel setup and optimization. Eg: Setting up Facebook Fan Pages, Branded Twitter Channels, Listening Programs, Scheduled posts, connecting inventory updates to post to all your social networks, auto-response programs to people that mention your brand or mention specific keywords in their tweets etc.

To summarize the order of ROI -> Local SEO, Organic SEO, PPC, Social Media. This is specific to qualified lead gen and not to other elements such as branding. One thing that PROVES all of this is Google’s new multi channel attribution reports. In almost all of our clients we see SEO as a whole being responsible for the lion’s share of the conversions.

Joe – Let’s end with some insight into how you came to become a Search Marketing authority and what you like to do “off the clock”.

Dev – I fell into the world of search marketing quite by accident while working for Microsoft as a channel marketer. Our resellers were complaining that they couldn’t find a reseller portal site on even if they used the company’s search engine at the time, This piqued my interest and the rest is history. In the last 5 years I’ve worked in the search marketing industry as a consultant, in-house, agency side, and now as an agency founder at Powered by Search. I live in Toronto, Ontario and have clients throughout North America, many of whom are Tier 2 and Tier 3 automotive clients.

Powered by Search is best known for its industry leading expertise in local search optimization and search engine optimization. We’re frequently speak at search marketing conferences like SES and SMX, and have been quoted in the press by the likes of online publications like SEOMoz, SEOBook, Search Engine Land, and offline newspapers and news channels such as the Globe and Mail and CTV News.

When I’m not working, I like spending time with my girlfriend, family and friends, watch movies and tinker around with my iPhone. I’m also an avid food buff, and I love trying food from different parts of the world.

— Thanks for your time Dev, it’s been  a real pleasure.

--Self Employed for decades. Co-Founder 3 successful start-ups. Professional Stock Trader. Marketing Dir. at Dealerships in NY for a decade, Recently ...
  • J
  • December 9, 2011
Joe, I would have commented earlier, but it has taken me three days to learn how to scroll down a window on my new MAC.  I hate MAC... (why do all these things keep appearing and disappearing???  Like David Copperfield designed the OS... but I digress...)

There was obviously an awful lot of time and effort, thought and collaboration thrown into this piece.  

You being the most obvious exception, there are myriads of dealers who think "being there" is enough, as in, "I have a website with a list of my cars."  I'm a "Digital Dealer."

In Web 1.0, maybe.  Not today.  It's funny how dealers DEMAND results from their digital expenditures, but rely on the GUT for traditional.... and spend 10X their digital budget on traditional.
Today, thinking in terms of "efficiency," (the PC term that replaced "frugal" in business language), you'd think that making your current efforts more efficient would make more sense (and cents!!).  But dealers addicted to crack, er, um, ahhh.... traditional advertising, refuse to make themselves more visible where the bottom-funnel eyeballs are congregating.  

Probably a subject for another discussion, but this HAS to be an education deficiency.  

Thanks again for the info!