Dealership Marketing

Should dealers be blogging?

I’€™ve been noticing a small buzz here lately around dealers and blogging, or their lack of.

Omuoto over at vFlyer wrote an article "Auto Dealer Blogs Where Art Thou?". The article was pointing out the lack of Automotive Dealers blogging, especially when compared to the Real Estate business.

"While the number of Real Estate blogs continues to grow, auto dealers are simply not making it to the blogosphere".

If you read the comments, you will see I shared 5 reasons why car dealers do not blog:

  1. Most dealers don’€™t even know what a blog is.
  2. Most dealerships still don’t view the Internet as an integral part of their business.
  3. Most dealers usually do not have right personnel on staff for consistent postings.
  4. Blogs will not sell you a car this month (that would be the perception).
  5. Blogs are too much work for most dealers; dealers have enough problems just keeping up with their website.

Then I stumbled across this article "€œNew Kids on the Blog"€ in Wards Dealer Business. A quote from the article reads;

"€œThe question is should you consider blogging, not why don’t you," – Brian Epro, director-Automotive Services Group for iMakeNews.

I totally agree with Brian. Blogging is not for everyone or every dealer and if a dealer does consider to blog, what exactly are they looking to get out of out? In the world of blogs and websites, it is said that content is king. What content does a dealer include in their blog and how do they stay consistent with it?

Consistency could be the key word here. I started a
Mercedes Dealer
blog several months ago and I have yet been consistent with my postings. I know what I want to do and where I want to go with it (mostly for SEO purposes) but at the end of the day, it’€™s not a top priority and I don’t always have the time to keep up with it.

There are a few companies trying to make a go out of providing blogging services for dealers. Could outsourcing your blog efforts be the way to go? I’m not sure if I agree with this. Being a blogger myself, I know a blog has to have "€œa voice"€ and if you outsource your blog postings, I think it could become very stale to the reader. Not to mention, with time, I have no doubt these companies will eventually duplicate information across blogs as filler posting and this could have eventually have a negative impact for SEO.

Then you have to ask..how much time and money should a dealer place into having a blog? Will consumers actually take the time to read it or are they just looking for your inventory? But then on the reverse, a blog could help build with branding and your message to your consumers.

I’m not sure where I stand on this subject and it sounds as if even Brian Epro questions dealers joining the blogosphere.

"Do I think consumers will be actively looking up blogs from their dealer website?" he asks. "I’€™m not too sure. Blogging that helps with search-engine optimization is good. Blogging for the sake of the sake of blogging – I tend to question whether it has any validity to the dealership."€

What’€™s your feedback?

R
That Ward's article was good. One of the site's referenced, Earl Stewart on Cars, had a great vibe to it. I am an advocate of dealer blogs like that, because they capture the essence of blogging. The Fiesta Ford blog was set up more as a conventional website but with fresh content. That is not a bad way to go either, but a lot of work.

Truly dealer-centric blogs are pre-mature right now and are difficult to justify. However, consumer niche-centric blogs make sense right now. I suspect that come NADA 2008 in San Francisco, blogging will be a timely buzz and the gate will be opened for dealer blog products.

Do you know that we both <a href="http://blogproautomotive.com/2007/04/27/lo-and-beholddealers-are-blogging/" rel="nofollow">posted</a> on this same topic, same article even, and on the same day?

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    Laura Cooney
  • April 30, 2007
I'm glad to see some discussion on this topic. I am a long time proponent of the web 2.0 technologies. fyi - here is another dealer blog - <a href="http://phillong.squarespace.com/" rel="nofollow">phillong.squarespace.com</a> - from the phil long group.

With so few blogs out there, i think it still remains to be seen where dealers will find value in them. and dealers should not be discourage from thinking of creative ways to use them.

The most important thing, is that the blog provides value to the reader of some sort. this could be a fresh list of coupons (like the fry's ad), articles that provide some kind of expertise (like articles from a senior technician, how-to's and other tips), articles from an individual voice, brand news and information, community news/events/info ... any other ideas?

Also, what i have not seen mentioned yet is blogs used as an internal tool. Other industries have taken to using them internally for any process that requires journal logging of some sort. any ideas here?
A
In my opinion, a dealer blog requires a somewhat unique situation for success. I think a single-point store that does not engage in what their market might consider exciting is going to have a tough time attracting readership. If you're a Porsche store with heavy sponsorship in Porsche Club events, and invite a popular Porsche Club member to co-author, you will have a better chance for attracting a reader-base.

The dealer groups have a better chance for pulling things off, but they're going to have a tougher time managing things. Dealer groups with exciting brands - brands that have a following (Porsche, BMW, Mini, some Honda models, etc.) can also invite co-authors.

We are going to set up a blog, but it is a combination venture with our public relations firm and marketing agency. We are the kind of dealer group that throws the full investment behind an "experiment" to know whether it will definitely work. I know most dealerships do not make these types of investments. Hopefully this one will work because I love the idea!
R
Alex,

That is a good philosophy. Getting PR and marketing behind it is important. I classify dealer blogging as a tool for CRM which means it could be used for promoting specials and incentives, and engaging with your customer base. This of course isn't their only use, but a useful one.

Something to consider is that you can't just throw anyone into your blogging efforts. Just like you need qualified people to work your specific functions of your business, you need people who understand blogging, the industry, and people, and enjoy writing, researching, and learning.
P
Managing blogs can be a very time consuming job, however the net rewards can be huge in terms of SEO for your main site and linking strategies.

Blogs can be used to drive incremental traffic to your website, improve SERP's, decreasing advertising budgets and the list goes on.

A blog network can work wonders for your online marketing efforts.


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    John Gale
  • October 25, 2007
The idea of dealer blogs is a non-starter. After being an Internet Sales Manager for 7 years, I can tell you than no one at the dealership is going to blog - at least not in enough numbers (even in the hundreds), for it to be a viable business for a third party.

As for Full-Service Blogging - there isn't enough news at a dealership to support this. It will be cost ineffective for the dealer and the provider.

There are enough 3rd party Online Service Providers already to help us drive traffic. I agree with the posting that says there isn't the market for this.
J
John,
You are so right, the skills and time needed to populate a blog are not found among sales staff. It's a lot of WORK. But, blogging for dealerships has SEO benefits worth looking into.

I am working on a new test marketing blog built specifically for Search Engine Harvesting. Give it a look: <a href="http://usedcarqueen.com/" rel="nofollow">The Used Car Queen</a> </li> you may get some ideas.

Although it's just a few weeks old, it's already exceeded my expectations.
Over 200 unique visitors (in a rather small market)
5 pages per visit!
8 minutes on avg. per visitor
40% Bounce Rate.

All traffic comes from Search Engines only AND there less than a dozen cars up there. Once we expand the selection the search traffic will follow too.

At this hour this is a SEO harvesting experiment so I haven't worked on any call to action items to work on conversion side. I expect there'll be a lot of easy ways to reach out an touch the visitor.

G'Luck,
Joe
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    Jeff Kershner
  • October 27, 2007
Rather then "Should" dealers be blogging?.. I'll rephrase it with "Could" dealers be blogging?

John, you have been an ISM for 7 years so you know first hand that 99% of dealers do not have the personnel, drive and consistency in their employees to start and carry through with a blog.

If a dealer can to make their Blog a priority and take the time to be consistent with it, then I believe that can become a valuable source of traffic and revenue for the dealer.

There is plenty for dealers to blog about. I like what Joe has going on and is something that I was/would do as well. Post your inventory, not every vehicle but find some of the special more rare examples. With Joe's example not only are you posting inventory for some SEO but this is also an example of branding. When I see this blog I see the vehicles but I also see a sales professional that cares.

What about accessories? Mercedes has an ipod module that I had posted about and it consistently brings traffic from the search engines and has resulted in several sales of ipod kits.

Blogging can also be used to build transparency and value in the dealers branding. A perfect example of this is the Checkered Flag Blog. http://blog.checkeredflag.com/ This blog says "We are a part of YOUR community!!" That's strong in my opinion.

Could a dealer blog? Absolutely
Could it drive traffic and sales? Absolutely
Could it help build transparency and branding? Absolutely
Do you need right formula and "know how" within the dealer to make it work? Absolutely

Jeff
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    Gilbert Chavez
  • October 29, 2007
I started blogging with the Phil Long Group a couple years ago before it was in vogue. It's a great tool for a dealer to use to get out all kinds of information out to their customer base without slapping them in the face with a commercial. I highly recommend it.
A
Thanks for the plug on the Checkered Blog Jeff. We started it, like you said, to build transparency. We wanted customers to know we pay attention to the community, in fact, we're one of its biggest givers! We also wanted to do these things in such a way that it did not come off as bragging. I judge its penetration on how many comments are being added to posts, and it is just starting to get off the ground. It has taken us about 6 months of daily article posting to get it to a point where we get 1 to 5 comments per day. I could not have done it without outside help though. Goldman & Associates Public Relations deserve most of the credit.

It does take some work to blog. It doesn't have to be about the dealership. Actually, I think having a blog totally about the dealership is boring. You can position things to be SEO and transparent. I've noticed the smart Car category ranks number 1 in a whole bunch of varied Google searches! Most of the traffic to our Hyundai site comes off the blog's SEO clicks. If you had asked me who was going to benefit the most of our brands from this blog, when we first started it, the last thing I would have said was "Hyundai"!

It has been a very rewarding piece of our eCommerce equation...BUT, not rewarding in the $$$-sense...rewarding in customer appreciation. It is a PR piece, and you can't put a price on it.
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    TJ
  • October 29, 2007
I don't know how others feel about this but one of the lamest things I've seen w/rising frequency is online ad vendors or third party inventory company blogs that they start to generate interest in their respective companies, etc. and nobody responds to any of the posts over a period of time and then they still leave the blog up and active one and a half or two years down the line and it still has zero responses to any if not all posts. It comes across as pathetic to me because it shows absolutely no interest in what they have to say. Maybe it's me but it seems tantamount to spending time to build a large public address system that nobody listens to.
J
Kudos to Alex and his team!

October 29, 2007
Checkered Blog Captures Int'l Web Honors

"...Other winners include Sony Electronics and Wells Fargo & Co. The competition received more than 900 entries in its various categories from across the United States and six other countries..."

http://blog.checkeredflag.com/my_weblog/2007/10/checkered-blog-.html#comment-88010954


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Thanks Joe :)
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  • October 13, 2008
I am struggling with the decisions over what to include in my blog. I am an ISM for a large Honda dealership and want to be out there with the technology that is relevant right now. I do not have the luxury that some of my colleagues who aren't in the Internet department do, of a long list of customers and referrals because I am relatively new to the business. I want to be able to use my blog to connect and be relevant to my customers and their friends and family in a way that wouldn't otherwise be possible. Thoughts?
G
As was pointed out in last week's JD Power event and throughout publications over the last year, a blog is only one of the critical aspects of a dealer's presence online. Just as (or even more) important is reputation management and representation in forums, especially for dealers active in the accessory market.

Anything that drives an engaged, educated consumer to your virtual or actual dealership is a win for your store today. Many website providers used 'blogs' which were just long advertisements over the past couple years to just add content on buried pages for SEO purposes. This is one way that dealers were confused as to what a blog is and how it should be maintained.

If you're a high-line dealership, it should be an active part of your branding. Have a staff member that is web-savvy and can maintain the content? Try that for a while (make sure the content is triple-checked though) and see what happens.

At the end of the day, it is a hard sell convincing dealership management (or principals) that a blog or any other aspect of social or viral marketing can actually get them noticed. Explaining UGC and blogs usually gathers a timid response at best. If you start it, maintain it. Don't do it for two weeks, say it 'doesnt' work' and leave it to die on the information superhighway. That rule is followed so infrequently in the auto world.
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