Best Practices

The 3 steps to Dealership Blogging

I didn’t get into blogging until I started writing for DealerRefresh almost 5 years ago.  As soon as I did, I recognized the potential and quickly set out to turn this new-found platform into something that would benefit my dealership.  I have a lot to thank Jeff for; blogging is a big one on that list.

I’m not here to sell you on dealer blogging.  I’m here to help you understand how I got into it (sort of a case study) and what some of the key elements of blogging are.

Shortly after getting the dealership blog setup there was a bit of a panic as we ran out of content ideas fairly quickly.  Yeah, this was a project we just dove into without giving it a ton of thought – TypePad only cost $14 a month then.  Because there were not many other dealerships maintaining a blog we had to pave our own way.

Some of the automotive blogging websites, like AutoBlog and Jalopnik, have been absolute gold mines of content ideas.  By subscribing to their RSS feeds or daily email subscriptions you can keep up with these sites fairly easily.

Key Takeaway: We were very comfortable writing about cars and automotive stuff all day, but we found customers don’t respond to too much car stuff.  Most people don’t like to talk about cars because most people really don’t care much about cars (it was as tough for me to write this statement as it is for you to read it).  So, write about cars for SEO.

Consistency (Step 1) and quality content (Step 2) are the two biggest success factors of a blog.

I’ll dive into consistency a little later, but can tell you that people like reading about people.  They also like reading about things that are close to them.  Your local market will respect you more when you concentrate on local content.

One of my favorite blog reactions occurred when we featured one of our BDC team members, Ryan Montville.  Ryan mentioned that “for some reason, my socks never seem to match!”  Soon after the article went live Ryan took a phone-up and was asked if he was the guy with the sock matching problem.  If I recall correctly, he spent more time talking about socks than about the car the caller wanted and scheduled an easy appointment.

You can watch what Christine Knowles does with Checkered Flag’s facebook page to see that people don’t engage on car discussions.

Here are some exceptions on writing about a car:

I got word that the new BMW X6 had just arrived; it was a Friday.  I posted a quick blog article about its arrival and we had people in line to test drive it Saturday morning.  By the way, nobody reacts to online content faster than BMW.  A truck carrier actually trusted us to stash a prototype 5-Series GT somewhere hidden while he unloaded the rest of our cars.  Little did he know a few of us were snapping pictures like we were running from Godzilla.  Those photos ended up on our blog, then a BMW forum reposted them, and I even saw links coming back to us from Edmunds and quite a few other places.  However, we got a call from BMW within hours and had to pull them down.  For a while there we were the authority on BMW 5 Series GT searches and got quite a few phone calls from prospects off our mischief (I should say “my mischief” – BMW, I take full responsibility).

New product arrivals and sensational “opportunities” are the two exceptions to my statement about people not liking to read about cars.  At the end of the day it is all just quality content that you are delivering to your target audience, so know your audience…..or experiment to find out who they are.

Consistency is a tough one; it always is.  In order to get consistent we hired a public relations agency to write 5 blog articles per week.  They were fantastic and some of the DealerRefresh O.G.’s might remember Audrey Knoth (Increase Sales by putting Web 2.0 in your Handbook & Web 2.0 Essentials for Dealers to survive Economic Crisis), who also wrote a few DealerRefresh articles. Audrey was that writer and she is fantastic.  She really helped us to pioneer blogging and many other new technologies as well.  Without embracing the ideas Audrey, a non-car person, brought to the table I don’t think Checkered Flag’s online public relations (call it social media if you wish) would ever be where they are today.  Don’t be shy about reaching outside of the industry for some help here….especially if this next step isn’t for you.

If you don’t like to write (Step 3), don’t blog.

I’m sorry to say that as I know so many people don’t like to write.  Virtually everyone online can read and I have yet to meet a person who was incapable of reading another person’s emotions.  People can tell when you’re writing for a job and when you truly enjoy the content you’re creating.

I’ve obviously talked about blogging from the customer engagement and public relations perspective.  From what I have seen most dealers are using blogging solely for SEO purposes, and there is nothing wrong that. However, if you make your tagging & titling relevant enough for SERP dominance and a customer to actually click on it, then how are you converting that customer on the content within the article they have come to read?

D
Well done, Alex. So many bloggers really don't get it!
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    Michael Haseck
  • December 2, 2010
Nice article Alex. I completely agree that once you find a nice read you keep coming back to see if they are consistent.


I find it very hard to keep all online properties updated so being consistent and "the writing" would be the take home for me.



Thanks for explaining that no one is really reading a blog for SEO or cars info, they really care about the holes in your socks!


-mike
R
Alex,


This was your best post for 2010... maybe I'm just a blog freak. Great insight!!! The content issue is where dealers/bloggers end up giving up.


I use a lot of non-auto bloggers for inspiration.
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    Adam
  • December 2, 2010
Alex,


Love reading your postings. Agree this is one of your best ones for 2010.


It's funny you posted this today because I just started a blog for the dealer I work at. Your post was helpful.
T
well put, its a chore sometimes to keep from being an online commercial but not coming across as too cheesy.... come to think of it i'm not totally convinced i do either all that well but i keep at it! thnks for the post, i can show the gm i am not alone in my perspectives at least!
P
Hi Alex,


Thanks for the Blog on Blogs! Of course I agree with your shared wisdoms which begs to make the point that linking information from other relevant bloggers to compliment the content on your site -- as well as theirs - provides added content and reciprocal S.E.O. for both blog sites.


Couple that with the ability to create a local network of like minded bloggers across multiple verticals discussing community focused issues that fuel conversations beyond buying or servicing a vehicle and you will tap into the viral nature of social media where C2C + B2B = B2C SQUARED!


The market is a conversation that exists before, during and after a customer's buying/servicing cycle. If those diverse conversations can be accessed from one central site -- like your blog -- then when your followers are in the market for a vehicle they will turn to their friend in the car business who they have already included in their daily habit to learn about what is going on in their virtual and real community.


After all, what are friends for!
E
Alex,


Great thoughts. I've tried to follow the same formula as well.


Wouldn't change a thing. (Except for finding more time)


(C+QC)W = Successful Blog
S
Blogging is a very time intensive task, but also can be rewarding on many levels. I find it relaxing to write up something and publish it whether its something for a client or for one of my own blogs.


One of the things I've found very useful in managing many blogs is to keep an ongoing list of titles to choose from.


This accomplishes a great deal of thought that usually takes place before writing the post, however if you've thought about how you might want to write about something put it into your collection of blog titles and when you write one of them just cross it off, or better yet think of how you could create another title that leverages the one you just wrote about.
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