I am very fortunate to currently serve on Google’s Partner Executive Council. My very first meeting made a profound impact on a key business decision to “zig”, while everyone else was “zagging”. And our company is fortunate to be recognized as a Google Premier Partner and a Bing Elite Partner, one of only four organizations in our industry to hold both. As a result, we receive considerable training, advice, access to beta projects and key metrics they share on how we compare against the top performers in North America, which is my favorite part of the program.
After careful consideration we chose to build out our own digital landing page platform versus relying on the typical dealer websites that are widely available in our industry. On the surface, it seems illogical to invest considerable money for a landing page platform that we don’t even charge our clients to use…when every dealer already has a website, right? Plus, nobody does it this way…until us. Here is why we did it, and a few years later I can say it was the best decision we have made to best serve our clients and deliver the best ROI possible for their digital advertising budgets.
At first, we used the dealer’s main sites to send the paid digital traffic to, and like everybody else, we hoped for great results. The roadblocks were significant and immediately obvious. Dealer sites are incredibly slow on mobile devices. Google ranks automotive as one of the worst industries in mobile readiness. In fact, most dealerships websites are so slow they are rated as POOR by Google’s speed tests. Let that fact really sink in. The company that gets most of the money ranks our client’s main website as POOR. The slow mobile speeds killed any chance of great conversion rates from mobile devices, which make up the majority of online shoppers. In fact, many interested consumers never actually waited for the site to load and those that did had a poor experience. As a result, our quality scores suffered which drives up the cost for the dealer. We assumed this problem would eventually get better as retailers pressured their providers to do better, it hasn’t. Dealers sites have become convoluted, slow widget farms with bloated and outdated code.
More importantly, the technology available on dealers’ websites doesn’t contain detailed lease and finance payment information on all the models they sell. To be clear, I am talking about displaying a real lease and/or finance payment on every make and model a dealership sells…including all OEM programs and dealer compliant pricing. Yes, you might get lucky and get a cash price…but 85% of consumers finance or lease their vehicle, so a cash price isn’t relevant. Our real challenge was that while we could write compelling (payment based ads) on Google and Bing, we had to start watering down our ads because the dealer’s websites were not capable of presenting a real lease and finance payment, which is what the consumer originally searched for. All our experience and focus groups reached the same conclusion for deep “in the funnel” search phrases. Consumers want to know, “Do you have it, and how much is it?”.
So, before we developed our own landing page platform… our metrics from Google and Bing were in the middle of the pack…tightly bunched up with everyone else. Mediocrity is not part of our culture and we made commitments to our clients and our strategic partners at Google and Bing we would lead and no longer follow the rest of the industry.
So, we started testing, experimenting and building simple, really fast, mobile friendly landing pages that contained the same relevant information the consumer was searching for. Within a week, we knew the answer, because every key metric went through the roof. It was so obvious. We then went “all in” and invested millions in an entire landing page platform that automatically creates the relevant ads and fast mobile landing pages on the fly. Google and Bing were instrumental in advising us and most importantly constantly comparing our performance to their other Premier and Elite Partners. We started climbing quickly and now are at the top. We lead the industry in all the metrics that drive profitable results for dealers and it’s all because we turned left when everyone else stayed right.
Above are the relevant ads we can now create along with the fast landing page that have the highest conversion rates in the industry. Our next generation of landing pages will further allow the consumer to actually purchase, finance or lease any vehicle in-stock and schedule their own express delivery at the dealership or their home. Had we settled for mediocrity, we would still be waiting on others and our clients would be worse off. This technology helped us finish as a finalist in the coveted Google Innovation Award in North America and drove the performance that earned us Microsoft’s Bing Rising Star Award in North America last month. So, when you read what a “bad idea” these landing page platforms are from those that live in the middle of the pack, don’t take risks and wait on the automotive technology giants to solve their problems…just ask for the results. Google and Bing publish them every quarter and we make our comparison metrics available to any dealer or OEM.
As they say, either put the numbers up or shut up.