As part of our dealership Internet review process, we ask the business office to pull every bill even remotely related to the Internet.

Then, we review these expenditures and identify areas where the dealership does not see a sufficient returns. Here are some things that can come under that category:

Third-Party Internet Leads

These present an opportunity for a dealership to steal some Internet generated deliveries from outside its immediate market area, or keep customers who might be shopping around.

If you pay for these leads, you need to understand these customers aim to buy very quickly, and shop at multiple dealerships.

If you lack a great Internet sales process, the closing rate will be too low for decent returns. Letting an online lead go unanswered for a long time, then failing to follow up after you finally do respond is ineffective. Before you buy leads, make sure you're ready to close them!

E-Mail and Internet Marketing Campaigns

I love e-mail marketing. It's immediate and costs next to nothing - or at least it should. Too many dealers sign up for elaborate email marketing campaigns without realizing they can usually accomplish better results simply by using the technology they already have with their Internet lead-management tool. Email marketing isn't that complicated.

Social-Media Websites. The sudden explosion of people using social media websites has prompted a deluge of dealership contacts offering social media services. Unfortunately, many dealerships find statistics seductive and end up with a very expensive social-media presence that may sound good (“You've got 10,000 fans!”), but doesn't provide the kind of real customer interaction that can generate new business or retain current customers.

There are some tricks to doing social media well but most dealership executives don't have the time or initiative to learn them. This forces them to rely on providers with little real-world dealership knowledge.

Dual Websites

Dealerships are usually tied into paying for a manufacturer-provided website. Some dealers opt to develop and maintain a second website so they can promote a unique image of their dealership.

Any dealership website requires regular maintenance or risks losing credibility. Having two websites doubles the amount of maintenance required.

Other dealerships opt to pay for a second website because they are barraged with a battery of statistics about website visitors that they usually don't understand (page hits, unique visitors, page views, etc.) and are promised that a second website will draw more traffic.

This is rarely the case. Studies indicate most traffic visiting an added website is usually offset by a loss of traffic to the original site. It's usually just as effective, and much less expensive, to focus your attention on your existing site and freshen it regularly.

Website Optimization

Most dealership website traffic comes from links from other websites, with the largest percentage number coming from auto maker websites.

Real website optimization aims to improve your website's effectiveness on a national level. You don't really care if car buyers across the country can find your dealership's website.

Dealers who want to drive more traffic to their website should have a URL that is easy for customers to remember and spell, and use it in all advertising.

Pay-Per-Click Campaigns

I can't tell you how many times I've met with dealers who were involved in a paid search-engine marketing campaign, and getting basically the exact same placement from their paid result as from their free one.

I had a marketing company tell me once that if I entered the dealership's name and city into Google, its paid ad would come up on the first page of results. It did, right next to a free listing for the dealership at the top of the page.

Al Amersdorfer is the President and CEO of Automotive Internet Technologies. He can be reached at aamers@autonettech.com and 800-616-2632.

Questions or comments about this column?

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