Search Engine Marketing has been around since the early 2000s and has quickly become a billion dollar advertising system for eCommerce. It is one of the most measurable and cost-effective advertising medias available. On the dealership side of the automotive world, Search Engine Marketing is still in its infancy. Many dealers think it is some sort of fad and I’ve heard over 50% of the dealerships in America do not engage in any kind of Pay-Per-Click advertising model. Those guys probably aren’t on Dealer Refresh, so let’s forget about them for a minute.
If you’ve been involved in paid search for a while you are probably familiar with the different stages it has evolved from. Originally, there were no paid search vendors. You had to go directly to the source (Google, Yahoo, etc), create your own account, and build your own campaigns. Stage 1 was very time consuming and reserved only for the most advanced eCommerce individuals….or those guys who worked at small highline stores with nothing but time on their hands <cough><ahemm>some people</excuse me> 🙂
Companies like Reach Local pioneered the second stage of handling your entire campaign on your behalf. You could just send them a check and wait for the monthly reports with the results. This is the stage we’re
mostly in right now. In this second stage, SEM has evolved a little further by allowing some campaign customization through a SEM vendor. Customization is basically how you want your campaign to go –
placement, verbiage, time and some vendors are even able to forecast an outcome for you. The downsides to that model are having to pay a large cut (typically one you really don’t know despite what a vendor might tell you – there is no way to really check this) and you have to wait for a report.
We are now heading into stage 3 of automotive SEM where it is a mixture of the first and second stages. You have a vendor who provides the working environment, but you control the campaign from soup to nuts.
Dealer.com’s Total Control Dominator (TCD) is the first product like this that I have seen. It has predictive measuring that will show you how much to invest on a particular campaign based on nationwide
performance for SEM campaigns targeting the same brands and locations. For example: you want to buy the main keyword of “Honda” with variations on how it is used by a consumer in a search phrase (“Honda Civic”, “Honda Accord”, “Used Honda”) and target a 10 mile radius around your dealership, TCD will show you that you’re going to need to spend $500 to get 1,000 clicks and x number of leads. Over time, you can adjust your campaign to target and position the keywords that are getting you a more impressions and higher conversions. This is nothing new, but it shows you instantly – without you having to contact a rep
at your SEM vendor’s HQ. Next to what a click costs is what a lead conversion will cost. This is where the dynamic changes. Instead of buying paid search engine placement by the click, you are looking at what it costs as a conversion once they’re on your website. This is where stage 3 is defined and becomes revolutionary!