The Q-4 Scaries

Human hand cutting the budget word

Scenario: it’s the home-stretch of 2018. The fourth fiscal quarter hits and you see consumer traffic dry up like a raisin. Well, maybe things aren’t so dire. But we all know that, as a business, you’ve got to acknowledge and adapt to the seasonal change in consumer focus. No, it’s not like people have completely stopped buying vehicles in the last three months of the year—your amped up Black Friday and fear-mongering “Get Ready for Winter” ads have seen to at least a few vehicles leaving the lot since November but, admittedly, it’s nothing like the crazy consumer action you might have seen in July. “Time to tighten up the purse-strings”, you say, “if sales are down, it must be because our advertising isn’t effective, and we’ve got to seriously scale back for the lean months.” Next thing you know, you’ve slashed your total advertising spend in half, thinking you’ve done yourself a fiscal favour for the time-being. Continue reading “The Q-4 Scaries”

To OEM or Not to OEM? That’s the Advertising Question

William Shakespeare in period clothing sitting in school desk with laptop computer shrugging at viewer.

As an automotive dealer you’ve got a lot to worry about. No doubt, when it comes to your business’ online advertising you’ve got a keen interest in sharing the most effective message that’ll have the most impact in service of your business goals—to sell cars. At your dealership, you’ve got a certain idea of what your business is. It has a certain voice, a certain persona that you want online users to get acquainted with; it resonates with your audience and eventually prods them to trust you with their business. But what if you’re not satisfied with the message or advertisements pushed on you monthly by your OEM? Maybe you think their incentive message is too weak? Perhaps too generic? If you run the incentive advertising of your manufacturer, are you simply settling for creative that doesn’t do your business justice? It’s a fair concern, and one that deserves serious consideration. This post delves into the question of “why” run OEM incentive advertising, and questions whether individuality in your advertising, at this level, might not be the hill to die on. Continue reading “To OEM or Not to OEM? That’s the Advertising Question”

Trust Us: Using your Site to Build Credibility

Trust banner and icons

For any business, credibility is key in maintaining a high level of customer service and, in turn, a high level of customer loyalty. This is especially important for the automotive sales industry, the long-time favourite butt of many a joke aimed at the quintessential “used car salesman” and his well-greased “what do I have to do to put you in this car today, sir-or-madam” approach to business. How then is a dealership best advised when it comes to building a reputation that the consumer will trust? Focusing on the area of online presence, this post will outline a few of the steps you should take (or, frankly should have already taken) to help ensure that the legend of the sleazy car lot doesn’t haunt your reputation on the net! Continue reading “Trust Us: Using your Site to Build Credibility”

The Oldest Problem in the Book: Facebook or Instagram?

phone with social media icons, some crossed off

You know, we pride ourselves on being a reflective sort here at Strathcom Media. More than once, I’ve found myself sitting in my oak-bedecked corner office (most of us here have one), pondering a certain large, dark portrait that looms high on the wall and which ties the room together rather nicely. Glaring down at me is the grizzled oil-cast countenance of our own hallowed founder, Fauntleroy Pamplemouse the Sixth, Earl of Strathcom. I often think of how different the automotive advertising game must have been, back in 1886, when our noble firm was founded. Much has changed since; the marketing tools we work with are more persistent and more precise. What would Ol’ Faunty have thought about the marketing possibilities for platforms like Facebook and Instagram? What advice would he have dispensed to clients in the throes of deciding on which of Zuck’s social networks to focus their digital marketing spend? Alas, while we might not have Lord Strathcom himself here to give his insights on the topic, we have a close second. Myself. Continue reading “The Oldest Problem in the Book: Facebook or Instagram?”

Businesses, It’s Time to Go APE Over Google My Business’ New API!

Monkey going ape over Google API

Google’s omnipresent HAL9000-esque eye is trained on all things mobile these days, and when it noticed that local search on mobile devices is growing faster than mobile search overall, well, you better believe gears started turning. In response to the remarkable 50 per-cent annual growth in mobile search Google’s been adding new features to its SERP Knowledge Panel and Google My Business (GMB).

And then, an announcement! Google is introducing a new GMB Application Programming Interface (API). In tandem with this release, Google also revealed a new agency analytics dashboard and a new agency partner program. The API is designed to give agencies the ability to manage additional, diverse categories of business information, including merchant descriptions and Posts. For multilocational brands and small outfits alike, this new functionality promises greater control over a wide range of content. Continue reading “Businesses, It’s Time to Go APE Over Google My Business’ New API!”

Spring Cleaning Your Citations

online citationsIt’s that most welcome time of year, once again: the time when the white stuff melts and reveals an entire season’s worth of underlying dust and grit. While most people will find themselves beating rugs and washing windows, folks in our industry (of the automotive persuasion) have a spring-cleaning list of an entirely different sort — I’m talking about a good seasonal scrub-down of your online citations on the worldwide web. This post aims to elaborate on the nature of online citations (and their functions), while giving some recommendations on what to optimize and where.

Citations: What on Earth are They?

Let’s build on the basics; online citations are essentially your business’ calling card across various online properties. In their most basic form, citations are understood to communicate the Name, Address and Phone number of your dealership, also commonly referred to as the NAP information (NAPW if the citation features website URL information too).

In addition to this, there are two forms of citation: structured citations and (surprise) unstructured citations. Structured citations refer to those that appear on well-known websites geared toward providing business information/listings in a directory-style format. The underpinning intention of this type of citation is to use straightforward, codified data that a SERP could easily pull onto a search results page. Unstructured citations, similar to name-dropping, are in-text citations that mention a business’ NAP information in a more casual format.

Why Online Citations Matter

Citations are of huge importance to your business; they’re a major aspect of the way in which your website ranks on a search engine results page. In fact, it’s estimated that citation-related items comprise nearly 13% of ranking-related factors in local SEO. Why is Google so hung-up on citations? Simple: Google requires verification, and your business listings need to be validated. Search engines are in the business of providing the best possible answer to an individual user’s query, and the veracity of the search results they serve up is a big point of concern.

Dealerships change names, have colloquial nicknames, move locations, and undergo major rebranding all the time. For Google, information like this is fluid and hard to verify on its own. Barring that ability, it’ll take the next best course of action and set about looking for third party validation of your citation. Essentially, this is Google checking up on your references – a quasi-background check, if you will.

When it comes to ranking your site for search purposes, Google employs a rubric based on relevance (how well does this search result satisfy the user’s ask?); distance/location (how close is this dealership to the user’s location?); and prominence (how well-known is your dealership?). Prominence, the last of these three factors, is estimated via Google’s assessment your business’ online and social reviews, as well as the Click-Through-Rate (CTR) that your website maintains over time.

Where Should I Have Citations?

Citations are divided into four tiers that rank in respect to their levels of importance and risk threshold (a measurement of the likelihood that the citation is fabricated or false):

  • Tier One Citations: These citations have widespread recognition, retain a high domain authority, and match user intent closely. They include major listings on sites like Facebook, Bing, Yelp YellowPages, and the Better Business Bureau. Also included are more industry-specific properties such as Autotrader, Kijiji, and official OEM websites. Risk threshold for tier one citations is low.
  • Tier Two Citations: Citations of this type still hold a significant amount of domain authority; user intent is still well matched to the information provided in the citation, though the properties on which they appear are less well-known. Here we’re talking citations that might appear on sites like DealerRater, Unhaggle and Reviewsii. While risk threshold is still low, it is still a degree of certainty removed from those in the first tier.
  • Tier Three Citations: Third-tier citations are low-quality. They’re generic and they exhibit poor SEO practices like keyword stuffing. They also lack the relevance of the preceding two tiers, have a high risk-threshold, and lack serious domain authority.
  • Tier Four Citations: These citations have little or no correlation to user intent, and almost zilch in the way of domain authority. You get the idea…

What to Tidy Up First?

Look, we’re all busy. Especially those of us in charge of the online efforts for our respective dealerships. While it’s crucial that your business’ online citations are consistent across the internet, we recognize that, given time constraints, you’ll want to tackle the most important elements first.

Work on eliminating inconsistencies. Ask yourself:

  • Do my Tier One and Two citations have the same local business phone-number? – Emphasis on local numbers, not call-tracking numbers (as tempting as that might be)
  • Do my citations feature the same Canada Post-approved version of my dealership’s address?
  • Is the name of my dealership consistent? – Did we rebrand recently? Do we have a local nickname? (We were Johnny Appleseed VW before, and now we’re just Appleseed VW; we better get on this…)

Inconsistencies at the base level (such as these might seem) can really harm your business’ ability to rank atop Google’s search results page. It’s important that they’re sorted out, and they’re easy to fix, so why not?

In short, it’s important to shore up the information that features on your Tier One and Two citations first. Scratch Google’s back by being as consistent and straightforward as possible, and it’ll repay the favour by ranking you at the top of it’s search results. Once you understand the function and importance of your online citations, it’s easy to see why it’s a good idea to be diligent in maintaining them. Spring cleaning isn’t only limited to scrubbing away the month’s old veneer of road salt that’s been slowly devouring your driveway or airing a winter’s-worth of farts out of your feather quilts. It’s a time for cleaning up your online presence as well. Interested in doing so? Get in touch with us to learn more about online citations.