The battle for online search terms and key words is becoming more competitive in the automotive dealer space.

Some dealers are frustrated with competitors whom they say are engaging in unethical behavior with their online marketing.

One complaint is that some dealers, in an attempt to drive more traffic to their websites, are buying key words from the Google and Yahoo search engines that consist of their competition’s names.

Companies can bid on key words they believe their customers use when searching for a product, and thus enhance their position both in ad listings and free listings.

Another practice some say is more egregious is placing a competing dealer’s name within meta tags in their website code to get a higher ranking on a search engine’s free listings.

As a result, dealers not paying attention may be losing valuable website traffic to dealers who are more aggressive with their online marketing.

One school of thought maintains dealers should buy key words that refer only to their company or products. However, restricting words companies bid on is a restraint of free trade, others say.

Google’s policy is trademarked names cannot be used by competitors in their ad copy appearing on search-engine results listings. However, companies can buy any key words they choose.

Google does have a system that allows companies to file complaints when they believe infractions have occurred.

Dealers are advised to remain vigilant. Make sure the dealership down the street isn’t hijacking shoppers online looking for you.

cbanks@wardsauto.com