By: Kevin Hourigan – Bayshore Solutions Executive Team

Today was the first day of the Digital Dealer Conference held in Fabulous Las Vegas. As CEO of an Internet agency I am attending this conference alongside our partners on the traditional agency side to get a look at what’s new, what’s abuzz and more importantly, what’s working in automotive digital marketing.

I find it interesting that this city, famed for glitter, excitement and the few but dramatic “Jackpot” winners, is the setting for this industry conference focused on Internet marketing, which also can be filled with “Shiny objects”, trendy tactics, and some gems in true performers.

On this first day, one thing I note already is that there are so many differing “niche” specialty points of view being presented. I can see how confusing it could be for an auto dealer here trying to piece together the best Internet strategy for marketing their dealership and growing their business.

Outlined here are a few takeaway points from the day’s sessions that I learned or thought would be valuable.


The first presentation said PPC was “the juice”, the second one said it was Organic SEO that “rocked” results. I uncovered some relevant detail in that the first presenter sells landing pages for PPC and the second is a full service web shop that heavily promotes SEO. Each session presented a case study with compelling data that supports the niche service of PPC or SEO. While I am not discounting that each had a great case study, I would hesitate to generalize that one or the other is the best digital marketing channel choice for all auto dealers.

The PPC proponent emphasized that organic traffic tends to be heavy with “Shoppers”, thus is less effective in conversions and sales than PPC generated traffic. However he did cite that 24% of the organic traffic in his study did bookmark the website, then return later as a “direct” traffic source (not driven there by a search engine or PPC click) and convert to a lead.

The SEO advocate showed a case for SEO management that brought a dealer from Last (11th) place in their market to 3rd place in just one year – and did so using half the budget that the #2 spot dealer was spending on channels including paid search ads.

My take on this, as CEO of an Internet agency with experience in the nuances of both tactics, is that unfortunately each of these presenters was siloed into defending (even a thinly veiled “pitching” of) their specialty. Key concepts for auto dealers trying to best utilize Internet marketing that were missed include:

  • Each dealer operates in a unique market and business model circumstance.
    • This and their specific goals will indicate a strategy that will call for different tactics for different reasons.
  • Car buying customers have demographically different buying cycles
    • Though the “last touch” often gets the lead source credit, there are key influencers in both digital and traditional marketing that lead a customer through their buying process and into the dealer showroom.
    • Marketing content to address each phase of the buy cycle and direct the shopper to the next phase needs to be in place – in multiple relevant channels.
  • Organic SEO and PPC tactics support each other with different areas of strength,
    • The most successful long term client results use the right combination of BOTH
    • And this combination is never a cookie cutter or assembly line stamp-out method.
  • There simply is no one “Silver bullet” to digital dealer success.

Landing Pages vs. Website pages

In one presentation a case was made for using landing pages separate from your main website for auto dealer internet marketing. Reasons cited included: landing pages create a back link to your site for SEO; it takes too long to use your website; Makes a/b testing too difficult; and you don’t want to have to use IT staff in creating these because they have to change too often.

While I do agree that landing pages are a convenient option to get the job done when a dealer does not have the access or ability to quickly make website updates (for example: a franchise or branch operation or who can’t easily affect content changes or page additions). My opinion, backed by Bayshore Solutions’ client results and experience, is that a website integrated with a content management system (CMS) alleviates most of these arguments.

My reaction to the “Landing pages as a link building strategy” is this: Good SEOs know that not all links are equal. In fact, recent Google algorithm updates aimed at demoting “link farms” made smart internet marketers re-evaluate the “quality” of their links and their link building strategies. It also put most of these link farms out to pasture. A back link created from a landing page is usually not a credible “Juicy” link, and could actually do more harm than good as a SEO tactic.

Again I found the underlying theme is that there is no “Silver bullet”. There are situations that call for landing pages as the appropriate choice. Not all dealers are in these situations. Determine where you are, then make your best informed decision.

Social Media Tips

Each of the sessions spent a little time on the topic of Social Media. Here are some key points I heard:

  • Social Media should be thought of Social Sharing of GOOD CONTENT on Social Sites
  • You Blog, as part of your root website domain, is your content home base –
    • It creates new pages on your website to build SEO strength and credibility
    • Syndicated correctly, it can create new back links and brand exposure to your target audience
  • Blog sites and Social Media are often top Referring Sites to dealer websites
  • Social Media is more about CONTENT, not about you
  • Dealers who post 200x or more per month have 10 times the amount of referring traffic than dealers who post 30x or less

Also, here are some great tips that were shared for auto dealer web marketing:

  • Every vehicle should have its own page organically optimized
  • – a web tool that will cross reference your sales to zip codes on a map
  • Customers Reviews on the Car Detail page increases conversion rate
  • Great Photo’s of NEW CARS sell more cars
  • Measured advice: Need to track ALL INFLUENCERS that generate an Action
    • Too often only the last lead source gets credit, but not the influencing lead sources

I look forward to discovering more “jackpot” ideas and actionable items that can be incorporated into winning automotive internet marketing strategies in the next few days…


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