Tuesday, 04 August 2020 21:38

Car Dealers Dig into Taking Digital Reviews Seriously

Written by Alex Kwanten, Wards Auto
Seelye Auto Group salesman Jay Rustenholtz delivers a vehicle to an Owosso, MI, customer. Seelye Auto Group salesman Jay Rustenholtz delivers a vehicle to an Owosso, MI, customer.


It’s been a wild year for digital retailing, but marketers got yet another surprise in June.

That’s when Moz, a Seattle-based firm specializing in search-engine optimization, released an annual survey that puts Google My Business (GMB) and Google Reviews first and second among marketers, ahead of search-engine ranking results that are influenced by how close a business is to an online consumer.


This is probably down to marketers trying to influence things they can control, said Miriam Ellis, a Moz search marketer. “A business location is out of their hands, but GMB and Google reviews are core to local SEO.”


The Moz study isn't Google’s own take because it doesn’t disclose how its algorithms work. Rather, the survey is of thousands of search experts telling what they see and do to capitalize on those algorithms.


“COVID-19 has brought e-commerce to the fore in an environment previously dominated by in-person, in-store shopping,” Ellis said, which has cast a spotlight on online business reputations, largely influenced by consumer reviews on Google. For automobile retailers, that means work ahead.


“What the Moz survey tells me is that Google isn’t just focusing on the closest businesses,” said David Telfer, national manager of digital and social media at Lexus. “They know they have to send users to a good business.”


How does Google determine a “good” business? By how it interacts with customers, said Matt Murray, co-founder of Widewail, an online reputation management company. 


“What do customers say about it? Does it respond to customers? How do they handle negative reviews? Those things are directly factoring into that store's position in Google search,” Murray said.


These are also core elements of reputation management, Murray added, and the pandemic has put them front and center. Most dealers, however, lack enough staff to respond to every review or comment across a multitude of platforms.


Last year, Lexus launched an initiative aimed at giving its dealers the latest tools and support for enhancing their web presence. “The next step,” Telfer said, “was social and online reputation management resources.” To that end, Lexus partnered with Widewail to assist dealers.


Widewail, which also partners with BMW and Mini, is only one such service. DealerRater, Digital Air Strike, Reputation.com and others also manage reviews and digital interactions.


These companies offer an array of services: teams and software which monitor and respond to reviews and social media interactions across platforms, data reporting on how dealerships perform at these tasks, assistance in responding to negative feedback and in some cases content creation for GMB and social channels.


“Ten years ago, there was a perception that reputation and social were distinct,” said Erica Sietsma, Digital Air Strike’s COO.


Lines have blurred since. “Now Facebook has reviews and you can put video and content on GMB.”

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