LAS VEGAS – A car shopper using Google.com types in the name of a dealership that enjoys high local-marketplace visibility because of its advertising and community involvement.

But what comes up in search results is a link to a website that’s designed to look like the dealership’s page. But it isn’t. It’s actually a third-party site trying to siphon off the dealership’s potential customers.

In such cases, “your brand name and cars on the lot are under attack,” Brian Pasch, CEO of the strategic-digital marketing firm PCG, says here at the Driving Sales Executive Summit presented with WardsAuto.

Competitors and other businesses using search-engine optimization strategies are leading that charge.

Pasch cites another example in which typing in a Hyundai dealership results in Edmunds.com appearing as No.2 on the search listing.

“Edmunds is a great firm, but they are not a dealer’s friend in this case,” he says. “It’s a third-party lead generator.” As such, the online auto site could direct the Hyundai dealership’s prospects to a competitor that buys Edmunds’ leads.

What do Edmunds and other automotive firms do to rank so high on search results? They provide content, Pasch says. “They write about cars.” Only a few dealers do the same.

That’s why if a consumer types in “2008 Chevrolet Silverado Denver,” no franchised dealers appear on the first Google page, despite an abundance of dealerships in that city.

Likewise, typing in “2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Baltimore” will result in six top search-result positions that have nothing to do with franchised dealers, Pasch says.

“It’s not acceptable to let 60%, 70% or 80% of page-one search results be controlled by others,” he tells dealers attending the conference.

Ways to gain a greater online presence start with uploading dealership brochures and videos, as well as engaging more with external links, Pasch says.

He also recommends creating more content on a dealership website by having a page for every ’10 and ’11 vehicle model. “Build a library for every succeeding model year,” he says. “Establish a content-publishing process.”

Search engines will pick up on such content. They also tie into blogs, social-media and press-release sites, so it behooves dealerships to maintain a name-recognition presence on those sites.

“The top term that drives traffic to a website is the dealer’s name,” Pasch says. “It’s not hard to write for search engines.” For example, a posted press release mentioning a dealer’s name and relevant information improves a search-engine ranking.

The Suburban Collection, a dealership group in metro Detroit, posts press releases on certain vehicles in stock to get premium play on Google.

“We write press releases on used cars and pay $30 to a posting service,” Dan Bosmier, Suburban’s Internet director, says.

“Depending on the vehicle, some press releases are harder to land on page-one (search results) than others. Originally, it took us 40 minutes to write the releases. We’ve reduced that to 20 minutes by using a template.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com