Why 'Irrelevant' Content on a Dealer's Website is Relevant

Once you get over the beauty of the 1970 Dodge Charger in the picture, you might ask yourself, "What does a 45-year-old muscle car have to do with automotive content?"

We've been asked the same type of question multiple times pertaining to content we publish on dealer websites. Sometimes, it's dealers asking. Other times, it's other vendors wondering what we're doing or "tattling" to the dealer about it. The funny part is that when compared to the automotive marketing "gurus" who question it, the dealers tend to understand the philosophy much more quickly than the vendors.

I'm not here to insult anyone. I totally understand why it's hard for many vendors to get, especially the larger ones who have mechanized content, search, and social strategies. The reality is that based upon the most modern algorithms for Google, Bing, and Facebook (amongst others), robust and potentially popular content influences the visibility of standard lead-generating pages, inventory, and landing pages.

This will seem to be relatively in-depth based upon the size of the article, but it's not. To get in-depth would be to write an eBook on the subject. Here, we're just going to touch on the basics, specifically why dealers should act on the strategy to differentiate themselves from the competition.

A Dealer's Responsibility

Before I get into the what, why, and how, it's important to establish something up front. Just because your website, content, search, or social company isn't using this strategy doesn't mean they're bad. We've looked at dozens of providers and have found very few that do it, mostly because it's pretty labor-intensive and not scalable at all. A nimble company like ours can do it, even specialize in it, but I couldn't imagine anyone with more than a couple hundred clients being able to pull it off without getting redundant.

In other words, don't use this as a criteria of quality when viewing your vendors. I don't want to get calls from CEOs telling me that I poisoned their dealers with unachievable expectations. It's not the easiest strategy in the world to do properly, which is why we strongly recommend hiring a niche player or doing it yourself. If you don't have the budget to afford a company like us or the time to learn and do it yourself, there's no reason to go deeper into this article.

What It Is

For the sake of giving "it" a name, we'll go with the popular term outside of the automotive industry, "Viral Content Marketing." It's a misnomer in all actuality since they rarely go viral; internally we simply call them "blog posts." Unfortunately, most dealership blogs are filled with content that has spammy SEO titles like "Drivers at Virginia GMC Dealership Gear Up for Winter". These SEO heavy posts are really "splog" posts instead of blog post, so for the sake of differentiation we'll just call them what marketers outside of the industry call them - viral content posts.

Here's the thing. There's a big difference between relevancy and all-in targeting. A post on a Dodge dealer's website about a 1970 Dodge Charger is relevant because it's about Dodge and helps to establish the dealership as an authority on that subject. It's not targeted at all, of course, unless you actually have a '70 Charger on your lot for sale (in which case, call me, I want it!). The problem is that dealers and vendors have been so hammered with the concept of all-in targeting that they focus 100% of their content on it, leaving no room for the type of supporting viral blog posts that can dramatically improve the overall marketing of the target posts.

Why It Works

Here's the thing. There's a big difference between relevancy and all-in targeting. A post on a Dodge dealer's website about a 1970 Dodge Charger is relevant because it's about Dodge and helps to establish the dealership as an authority on that subject. It's not targeted at all, of course, unless you actually have a '70 Charger on your lot for sale (in which case, call me, I want it!). The problem is that dealers and vendors have been so hammered with the concept of all-in targeting that they focus 100% of their content on it, leaving no room for the type of supporting viral blog posts that can dramatically improve the overall marketing of the target posts.

Think of it like this. In a roast beef sandwich, most people think that the best part of it is the roast beef. Using the all-in targeting mentality, it would make sense to sell a roast beef sandwich that had nothing else to it - no bread, no condiments, no tomatoes, no pickles. Just beef. If you ordered a roast beef sandwich and the server handed you a plate with roast beef and nothing else, you'd probably be disappointed.

Now, apply that to content on your website. Google, Bing, and Facebook are your customers. You know that you want to get people to the pages that generate leads (the roast beef pages) so that's all you produce for them to eat. Unfortunately, they also want the things that enhance the experience of eating the roast beef, namely viral content. When you give them all of the information they want and enhance it with other ingredients, it makes the roast beef pages taste better to them. Thus, they'll be happier and more willing to serve your pages to their customers (those on search and social looking for cars).

Viral content can earn more powerful inbound links. It can generate much more in the way of social shares. These things improve your domain authority which elevates the ability of your lead-generating pages like inventory and landing pages to rank organically in search and get more exposure on social.

How To Do It

Not to be too simplistic, but if I try to expand it much we'll end up with a 5000-word article. Therefore, here's a small step-by-step mini-guide.

  • Build content that people want to see. If it's the type of content that you would enjoy reading in Car and Driver, then you're on the right track.
  • Relevance supersedes popularity. It's not hard to write content that people would love to see - a top 10 list of funny cat pictures would be popular, but it's not relevant. Think about top 10 features of the Honda Odyssey instead. Less popular, much more relevant.
  • Make sure there's at least one vivid image over 600 pixels wide with a 2:1 size ratio on the page. This will give it much more attention when shared on social media.
  • Once you have the content, get it out there. Send it to the appropriate publications who might find interest in it. This is particularly useful when the content is about a local event or organization.
  • Share it on your social media pages and profiles. Put effort into the content - no automation. Hand-craft the description on Facebook and Google+. Give it an interesting lead-in or title on Twitter and Pinterest and make sure to use a hashtag or two.
  • Get some of your friends or coworkers to do the same. You don't want to "manufacturer" popularity by having the same people doing the same thing every time. Mix it up!

This is a very basic roadmap, I know, but it's enough to get you started. Feel free to reach out if you have in-depth questions.

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Comment by Big Tom LaPointe on January 25, 2015 at 4:01pm

the other option is be one of 5,000 dealers reposting the same press release about the next-gen Dart... WELL PUT!

Comment by steven chessin on January 24, 2015 at 3:20pm

Every month I get a couple dozen newsletters featuring generic "irrelevant but relevant content" about weekend get-a-ways that morph into making sure the car is ready for excursions to the bed-and-baths of wine country --- "click here to schedule a service appointment". Or the more direct, "Is it time to trade-in the old clunker?" Is that the sort of content you are suggesting ?

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