Archive for the ‘Local Internet Marketing’ Category Directory Overrun by Realtors

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

A couple months back launched a local directory of professionals that extended to things like painters, landscapers, and various other contractors in the home improvement market. An obvious move for Zillow and expanding its reach in localized internet traffic. So I wanted to check back on the site after a bit and see how it was working and if it might be a worthwhile site to recommend to some of my local search clients, since I do a fair bit of website design and search marketing for contractors.

It’s a Spam Fest for Real Estate Agents

If you go to any large US city, take LA, Las Vegas, Chicogo or Houston for example, then search the professional directory for maybe a painter or a plumber and you see a pile of realtors dominating the listings. It appears its easy for a realtor to add tags to their profile to include other categories and many are taking advantage of it.


Changes to Come in the Auto Industry, Goodbye Dealerships

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

With the BIG THREE on the verge of collapse, bailout packages in limbo, GM shutting down North American production for the month of January after already shutting down South Korean production last month, and now a battle is brewing between the manufacturers and the unions, the car industry is in dire shape indeed. There are big changes on the horizon.

Too Many Vehicles and Too Many Brands

GM is still guilty of producing duplicate brands of many of its vehicles. You can get the same car under the Chevrolet brand and the Pontiac brand. This effectively doubles marketing costs, raises production costs to produce 2 slightly different body styles, and pits the two brands, and their dealers in competition with each other. Stupid.

The drastic production cutbacks are in response to the glut of inventories of new cars sitting unsold on dealers lots. The industry was overproducing as car buying slowed.

Seth Godin thinks we need more car brands, many more brands. He wants to see turnkey car businesses that are as easy to start up as a website business. And as he put it “Use the bankruptcy to wipe out the hated, legacy marketing portion of the industry: the dealers.” He’s only partly right.

Car Buyers HATE Car Dealers

That’s a fact. Just do a search in Google for “i hate car dealers” and see all the discussion on various forums and blogs. This comment on Susan Senator’s blog sums it up well;

I hate car dealers. I hate car dealers. I hate car dealers.

Every experience I’ve had buying a car from a dealer they’ve tried to rip me off. I hate car dealers.

You know who should do an expose on car dealers and how they rip people off every single day? The local papers and local TV news. Oh wait, a HUGE portion of their revenue is ads from car dealers. Crap.

Did I mention I hate car dealers?

People hate having to haggle on pricing as most of us are not good at it, meanwhile the salesman can spot us suckers from a mile away. But the internet is changing that.

Car Dealers Embraced the Internet and Local Search

In the realm of local SEO new and used cars are up there with real estate agents as an ultra competitive sector of the search marketplace. Through the internet people can do a lot more research on their vehicle choices before they even speak to a salesman. Many are also now armed with dealer invoice pricing and tips on how to deal with sales people, found on the net. states that their business is still steady despite the recession. Sure, car dealers may be funneling more of their marketing dollars to the net vs. traditional local media but when 700 dealerships have gone bankrupt so far this year in the US (projected to be 900 by year end) I have doubts about their projections. If GMAC goes bankrupt GM may loose 40% of its dealers, that’s another 2600 dealerships closing.

Dealers are dropping like flies and the best rankings in Google won’t help them as buyers are afraid what a manufacturer’s bankruptcy may mean for warranties on a new car or truck.

The New Model : Vehicles Made to Order

As Seth Godin rightly pointed out- the legacy marketing portion of the industry will change. Dealerships are not only hated, they are a poor business model. The overheads involved in that business are crazy. Millions of dollar in inventories sitting on the lot waiting to be sold, large buildings housing too many salesmen, the dreaded business office where they try to sell you overpriced unneeded things like rust protection, undercoating, fabric guard, etc… There is a better way and I’m sure it’s coming.

Dell does it with their computers. You choose your model and it’s options online and the unit gets made in the factory and shipped out to you. Why can’t cars be bought the same way?

People already do most of the research part of shopping for a new car online. Why can’t the manufacturers and dealers websites have a “buy it now” button and you’ll never have to speak to a salesman. Need financing? Apply for it online on the same site. Two weeks later your new car arrives.

I mentioned this to a friend of mine who is a car salesman. At a GM dealership no less, owned by his father, so he has strong bias. He adamantly rebutted me. He’s of the old school idea that the salesman is the most important part of the transaction. This is the self preservationist knee jerk reaction that will come from the industry, but it will loose that battle eventually. People hate the dealers and the salesmen, remember, and would embrace a change.

For those people who still want to deal with a salesman the new model of dealerships only need a couple staff and a computer terminal. Dealerships can downsize to a small office, no inventories on the lot. Maybe a few vehicles in a showroom and a few demo’s for test drives, that’s it. With such low overhead they can out-price a traditional dealer any day of the week. And one dealer can easily be selling multiple competing brands. Of course their service section will still be important.

No More Haggling Over Price

With a made to order online shopping model a fixed sticker pricing model may eventually become the norm. GM may have had it right with the Saturn brand and it’s no-hassle, no-haggle pricing. Granted that is not how it actually works. Saturn dealers still negotiate on price if it means moving a unit off their lot, or negotiate on the financing rate, or trade-in values, but generally Saturn customers enjoy the fixed pricing.

Saturn, it appears, is also already starting to experiment with the internet along the lines of what I think is coming. Ten Saturn dealers are participating in a pilot project where customers can use the internet to apply for credit, schedule test drives, set pricing, etc… Even trade-in values of used cars can be ball-parked online.

It Will Still be Local

There will still need to be a local dealer presence. It’s not about cutting out dealerships entirely with internet shopping taking place on the manufactures website. Internet auto purchases will be funneled to the local dealers. We car buyers still want to take a test dive at the very least. And there should be some continuity on the service side and honoring warranty claims.

It will take a while yet. The dealerships will resist it (change, yuck!). The manufacturers are not internet companies so they will botch the initial attempts, not understanding the web and marketplace. But it’s coming I tell ya.

Question is, will all 3 of “the big three” still be around when it comes?

What’s a Business to Do? Have a BAILOUT Sale!

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Every small business in America is feeling the pinch of the market meltdown and the credit crunch. Some business are worried about making payroll while lines of credit dry up. And consumers are clamping up their pocket books, and fast.

We in the search marketing industry are busy urging our clients to stick with their search engine marketing campaigns through this period. Too us it’s obvious that SEO and PPC marketing are providing the highest rates of return on their marketing dollars, but we still need to ease clients fears.


Wrong Marker Locations in Google Maps

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

It was only a little while ago that Google switched its map data provider for the Google Maps service and already there are lots of reports of errors. Entire towns are missing in Alberta, streets missing in various locations, and oodles of reports of marker locations being off the mark by a few miles or more.

I just got word from a client today that their map marker had went awry. A customer of theirs had told them after trying to use Google Maps to find them. The marker was on the correct street, but over on the other end of town. After going into the Local Business Center control panel to try to edit their listing and move the marker I saw that inside the LBC it’s still pointing to the correct location on that map. Weird.


Hurricanes and Local Search

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

As most know Houston and Galveston got rocked this past weekend by hurricane Ike. The aftermath has been rather devastating and a few days later over 1 million people are still without power. Many local businesses will be suffering for a while before things can get back to normal, while others will be experiencing a boom time (tree removal crews and arborists as well as window repair guys). There are also opportunities here for local businesses online.

I have a client in Houston and Ike will be meaning a slow down for them for a bit, but may lead to a pick up in maintenance work later on as the city recovers.