The Horrifying Truth About Reporting In The Automotive Community

Figures Lie, But Liars Didn't Figure on Wikimotive!

I nearly didn’t write this. The “lazy” Tim on my shoulder said, “Now Tim, you know what happens when you call people out and stand on your soap box! People will call you a self-righteous blowhard! They’ll accuse you of pandering! Don’t do it!” But this one literally kept me up last night. So I got up at 6am this morning to write this because it needs to be said and people need to be called to task, because this isn’t just wrong….It borders on fraudulent. Hell, it’s downright criminal and I AM going to name names! A lot of companies have their fingers crossed right now hoping its not them. Seth Godin wrote a book entitled, “All marketers are liars.” Perhaps we could adapt this to automotive… That said, I am sure there are a number other names that could be mentioned here that I just haven’t stumbled across, but I am rambling and we need to begin…

Recently Wikimotive decided to revamp its automotive SEO reporting in an effort to provide more value and greater transparency to our clients. What I found was actually quite unexpected. While my expectations of our own service were right on, I discovered that some other companies out there are wasting their time and their clients’ money.

Let’s start with dealer.com. For the record, I think this is a wonderful website provider. Their technology is awesome and the ease of use of their products is without peer. But… they are LYING to their customers and this is unacceptable. As one might expect, a number of our SEO clients are also dealer.com clients. Recently, one of my dealer clients asked me to evaluate dealer.com’s dynamic SEO service and determine if they really needed both our SEO service and dealer.com’s SEO. To be clear, this wasn’t an us vs. them test. If I found that dealer.com was providing value he was going to pay for both services. He was merely seeking reassurance that he was getting or at least had the chance to get a return on investment.

After examining all of the keywords that dealer.com was reporting successful ranking on (16 pages of keywords) I found that nearly ALL of the keywords being tracked and touted as success had a whopping monthly search volume of… wait for it… ZERO. Let me say that again so it’s really clear to everyone. Dealer.com had successfully ranked this dealer for hundreds of keywords that NO ONE has ever searched for. I thought to myself, this must be a fluke. But after examining EVERY dealer.com client we work with, I found the same thing. PAGES UPON PAGES of keywords that no one has ever searched!

To be fair, dealer.com is not alone; in fact, I suspect there are hundreds of companies that should be standing in the corner of shame right along side them. The next offender is possibly even more shocking. Another client (also a dealer.com client) was thinking of cutting one of their services but wanted to be sure before they did and asked Wikimotive to do a review of their reporting. To be fair, I don’t think I even went in to this with the proper approach for my customers’ sake. I had met a few guys from CarMercial at the last Automotive Marketing Bootcamp this past spring and thought they had a good product. So I thought, sure! I’ll take a look and help those guys; the dealer probably can’t understand what they’re looking at.

Just so everyone knows what CarMercial is, they are a Video SEO company. Using YouTube and similar video platforms they obtain ranking in SERP for terms by optimizing the metadata of videos. When my client showed me the report, at first I was blown away. 585 keywords in one month! What a monumental task to take on 585 keywords and obtain page 1 rankings in a single month! But what did I find? 583 of those 585 keywords had NEVER been searched. ZERO MONTHLY SEARCH VOLUME.

THIS IS CRIMINAL! You are taking a dealer’s money and returning NO VALUE! How can you do that!?

At first I was just sort of stunned. I thought there had to be something wrong. A reporting error on my end. Why would a vendor waste their time on so many things that accomplished nothing? 583 keywords that couldn’t possibly create an ROI… It really gave a lot of credence to what Steve Staunning said about wanting to avoid the made up rewards these companies had received in his Dealers United launch for SEO providers. I mean, CarMercial is littered with awards on their website, but to see a PCG Digital Marketing AWA award on there really turned my stomach. I’ve known Brian Pasch for years now and just can’t believe something this blatant would be accepted as passable let alone purported as best of the best. This puts the entire AWA awards’ credibility in to question in my mind. Brian, time to inspect what you expect.

I wrote back in June, that perhaps car dealers aren’t the lazy ones many of us in the vendor world claim them to be when it comes to online marketing. This clearly confirms it. I guess it is easier to automate something and just run a business on the hype that abc product is something a dealer needs regardless of whether or not the end user receives any real value. Personally, I think it is shameful. So I am putting a no strings offer out there.

Any dealer who would like an honest, no strings attached evaluation of the SEO reporting that their SEO company is doing for them can contact me and we’ll pay real close attention to the man behind your curtain. Truly, no strings. Ask and ye shall receive.

Before I go, I would like to point out one hero in all of this. Maybe that is an overstatement. I guess doing things honestly and correctly now makes you a hero, but for the record, I’ve had… lets say a, rocky at times and adversarial at other times, relationship with TK Carsites (now KPA). I may not be the biggest fan of their website platform. I may not be the biggest fan of their customer service (at times). But their SEO is what they advertise it to be. I expected to find a lot of keywords in their reporting that had zero search volume, but it was NOT the case. All of the keywords were valuable honest to goodness searches that people in their dealers’ markets were searching for.

My recommendation for dealers going forward is to require the following 3 criteria from your SEO company’s monthly reporting:

- Keyword Positioning

-Search Volume for each ranking keyword

-Link to every page of content, press release, slideshare, and link that was built, etc.

Original article about terrible SEO practices posted on Wikimotive under the title Figures Lie, But Liars Didn't Figure on Wikimotive

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Comment by Timothy Martell on September 13, 2012 at 10:00pm

Ralph, I guess this is the kind of thing I would have expected to see in 1998 not 2012. There is far too much knowledge out there for suppliers to still be doing this to it's clients. And while this knowledge may be commonplace to you or I, I do not believe dealers are really aware that their vendors are basically lying to them. It's one thing to "spin" the positive aspects of your product to promote and sell. It's another to knowingly provide meaningless data for the purpose of customer retention. That is simply dishonest and should not be a practice that continues in 2013.

My hope is that great events like Autocon will arm dealers with the kind of info that will protect them from things like this!

Comment by Ralph Paglia on September 13, 2012 at 8:22pm

Tim, as much as your article appears to be revealing something that was previously a secret... IT IS NOT!

Many of us who have been providing dealers with consulting services have ridiculed and chided suppliers who try to hype results for search terms nobody ever actually searches for when shopping for a car... For the past 7 years!  

This is a commonplace sales and reporting practice and ranks right up there with having 50,000 spammy pages generated by a website technology gone out of control and then telling the dealer that more pages indexed is better than fewer... Not 49,000 duplicated content spam pages!  

So, although I think you were trying to do the right thing here... Cmon, everybody knows that ranking for search terms not used by consumers is BS... Where's the news or new information in this post? I sure don't see anything other than YES, dealers should use common sense!

Comment by Timothy Martell on September 13, 2012 at 9:54am

The best software for the average business is still google analytics. Now able to track social interactions and even provide information about consumer behavior prior to searching for and clicking on your site, this is an invaluable tool and it is free. 

The problem with google analytics for car dealers is the automotive retail environment. In order to properly learn how to use google analytics, one really needs a distraction free environment and the ability to dedicate uninterrupted time to learning how to use the tool and what the reporting means. This, of course, is the dilema because after 21 years in automotive retail I can say emphatically that for most dealer personnel, a distraction free envrionment is non existent in a dealership.

What ends up happening is that people learn little pieces of what analytics does which generally boil down to some rough broad strokes that don't really tell the whole story and so many people view it as a bunch of worthless gobbledegook.

The other alternatives can be good choices as well but would generally come at a great expense to a dealer and ultimately they would be underutilized. HubSpot for example offers excellent software and reporting that can be installed on the dealer's website. However, a dealer would likely spend a minimum of a thousands dollars a month for software like this and if we can't take the time to learn the free tool, how is a dealer principle going to feel about blowing twelve grand a year or more on something else that isn't being used.

At Wikimotive, we use a custom analytics tool that provides complete explanation of a dealers total digital marketing strategy all in one place. We can include multiple websites, multiple blogs, multiple social media channels, there aren't really any limitations. More importantly, the reporting is broken down with detailed, but simple explanations about what the reports mean and what a dealer should do with that information.

We provide this reporting free for clients and we provide full reporting whether they are using all our services or even just one of the least expensive services we offer. 

Comment by Bruce Hartz on September 12, 2012 at 10:45pm

Timothy can you recommend a good reporting tool?

Comment by Timothy Martell on September 11, 2012 at 10:19pm

Yikes... Thats a shame. The best way to show search results success isn't by doing random anecdotal searches. Utilize a reporting tool that has and approved google api integrated to show non biased results. At least, thats what we do...

Comment by Bruce Hartz on September 11, 2012 at 10:19pm

t's not just their reporting that's in question. How about some of their sales pitches being totally dishonest.

I attended a webinar recently that reminded me of a few encounters with SEO  salesmen and what you need to be aware of when shopping for an SEO solution. The presenter of the webinar evaluated a attendees website and praised how well it ranked.

He then wanted to show off his company's SEO efforts to us. His first mistake was to show us his browser screen and he was logged into his Gmail account.

Next he types his clients Make and City and does a Google search and shows us that his client owns page one of Google for that city's Make staying on the page for a few seconds only.

Having seen this before I go to the Makes manufactures site and search to see how many Make dealers are in the city.

Heres the count -Only  4 Make dealerships and 3 of them were owned by his client!!!

This dealers  3 out of the 4 sites would rank number 1 even if they had a one page website!

Now the Gmail deception. I can skew search results while logged into my Google account by hitting the sites plus one buttons and Google will serve that site up to me every time I search with a relevant term to that site.

There are many great SEO company's for hire and many that are not. Beware of how you spend your dealers SEO money.

PS  This is a well known company and I brought this misleading search result up to the moderator during the webinar but was ignored.

 

Comment by Joe Clementi on September 11, 2012 at 11:10am

Tim,

This is bit of an eye opener especially for a dealership that utilizes dealer.com and their SEO package. Thanks for posting the comments, it certainly opens some eyes that were narrowed by more than one vendor.

Comment by Timothy Martell on September 9, 2012 at 9:47am

They say, "Practice what you preach!" So I called MYSELF out this time. The only question is, would your vendor stop taking your money if they knew their product wasn't giving you a return on investment? 

http://www.dealerelite.net/profiles/blogs/our-service-for-google-su...

Comment by Timothy Martell on September 8, 2012 at 10:25am

Thanks Bill. We need to raise the bar as vendors. If Wikimotive was selling something that returned no value I would want someone to set me straight as well. We need to do better. We can do better.

Comment by Bill Gasson on September 7, 2012 at 8:22pm

Tim,

You hit the nail rite on the head ,level the playing field.

I also noticed your post on facebook a few week's back very professionally non-biased written material.

 Good work

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