I have just read an eye-popping article from the fine folks over at eMarketer titled, "Auto Industry Braces for Major Shifts in Search Marketing." If you don't have time to read it, I'll point out the highlights and give you some of my own thoughts.
As all of us know, paid, as well as, organic search helps drive leads, increase a dealership's traffic, and sell vehicles. This remains true. Yet, the emergence of digital marketing and its impact on search is changing the way your customers find your dealership online. Before we get into the nuts and bolts of it, take a moment to check out this graph. As you can see, there's a myriad of ways your customers, when shopping online, can find your dealership.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that MORE and MORE people are going online to search for their next car. (See: ZMOT; See also: it's 2013!! Everybody is going online first to do research before buying!!) So, how do you increase your traffic? Well, in a recent survey of US Auto Dealerships for Cars.com, Datium found that 55% of respondents' digital ad spending went to paid search engine marketing (SEM).
Think of searching online like putting together a puzzle. You dump all the pieces onto the floor, and now you have to somehow make sense of the rubble and construct one collective entity. That's what customers are doing when they go online to search. They are trying to sift through all the information to eventually make a purchase, and hopefully with a sustainable and effective digital and search marketing strategy, it's made at your store!
The thing, however, that blew my mind reading eMarketer's article is this little tidbit of information: "Only 20% of new-car shoppers in the US buy the brand they first searched for, according to Google data."
As the article aptly points out, "OEM brand sites—often developed with major digital agencies, strong media support, and cutting edge SEM and search engine optimization (SEO)—attracted more attention in search results than dealerships." While this is certainly true, things are changing.
Dealership websites are becoming more and more sophisticated, user friendly, and even mobile-friendly. If we had a time machine, we could go back a few years ago and compare a dealership's website back then to what it is today. The difference would be astounding. More and more dealers are recognizing the power of SEO as well as VSEO. The dealer with an optimized and indexed site is going to show up first on Google and as a result, draw in more traffic. After all, your goal should be to show up on the first page of Google. The recent studies have found this to be case as auto dealerships are in "direct competition for influence over U.S. Car shoppers."
Lastly, according to a 2012 survey done by a conjunction of folks like Google, Compete, TNS Global, and R.L. Polk & Co., 74% of U.S. new vehicle shoppers visited used dealership websites via desktop. They also surveyed the sties on mobile phone and/or tablet during the buying process.
This change in auto search marketing, due to advances in digital marketing, isn't exactly going to push OEMs out of the lineup, however. OEMs and other related agencies are still able to push foot traffic to your dealership thanks to such things like video content.
Where do you see search in the automotive industry going in 2013? Given the advancements of digital marketing, video social, social media, online reputation, the best it yet to come when it comes to search!