Digital Conflict of Interest

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Last month, I saw one of the most disturbing things in recent memory in digital automotive advertising. Multiple dealerships are running the exact same ads online. Read on to learn the strategy to make your brand standout.

A manufacturer-sanctioned and co-op-approved website provider was running the following paid search ads for a group of competing dealers in the same market.

The only positive thing is that at least the holiday was acknowledged in the ad copy. The fact that all of the competing dealers have identical ad copy is egregious, not to mention it gives no one a competitive advantage.

Now, let’s take it a step further. As the dealer, if you give your website provider direction and ideas on how to make your ads different from your competitors, who’s to say they aren’t going to turn around and reuse it for their other clients?

There are no rules in digital marketing, namely PPC and SEO, as to how closely competing dealerships can be located to each other and still work with the same website provider. SEO is the biggest area where this downfall occurs because again, unless you are providing clear direction on what you want to happen with your SEO they are just going to make yours like everyone else’s. The only difference would be your city name.

See this example in which another provider uses the same page descriptions across multiple website templates for dealers in the same market.

Again, the only positive thing to note is that at least you have these descriptions up. The negative far outweighs the positive in that you have no competitive advantage to your site.

Every dealer wants to beat and outperform their competition. It is the very nature and spirit that has driven the automotive business since inception. The problem is that when your single greatest asset has you on a level playing field with everyone else it’s impossible to outperform the competition.

So, what are the next steps?

Adopt a mindset in which you believe those who are on the cutting edge will win. Find the best-qualified sources to handle your SEO and PPC, not just the ones the factory dictates. If manufacturers make you use a certain website for compliance, then have a second site that positions you to be out in front of your competitors. If it costs you true dollars in reimbursement money, then do the math to determine whether that is a greater loss to you than the sales you are losing by giving up market share and losing to competitors. Don’t think that you can train a subpar provider to give you better service. You will end up wasting your time and teaching them how to give your competitors the edge. 

About the author

John Paul Strong: As owner of Strong Automotive Merchandising, a company that increases traffic up to 1,000% for dealerships, Strong lives by the simple concept that your attitude affects your success. Without a positive mind set he would not have been able to grow the company over the last decade from just 10 to over 80 full-time employees. The rapid growth is thanks to his ability to keep the company on the forefront of technology, market changes and an infectious talent to motivate and keep employees striving to fulfill their potential. His beginnings in direct mail gave him the tools and skills to develop incredibly successful marketing plans. From there he moved on to traditional forms of media and has now mastered the dynamic world of digital and social media advertising. With over 150 dealers to please, Strong takes a hands-on approach and personal attention to detail in all aspects of marketing strategies. His expertise in plan development gives him a keen sense on how to maximize a dealer’s budget and ultimately increase their bottom line. Strong is a passionate speaker in the automotive industry. He has authored two books on creating next day traffic. He graduated from the Executive Education Program at the Harvard Business School. Strong received a B.A. in Communication Studies from the University of Montevallo. He lives with his wife and three children in Homewood, Alabama.


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