Search Engines Ignite Autobytel Traffic

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Conversions from search engines for Autobytel.com, a site for consumers to buy and sell new and used cars, soared in the past year after the firm implemented search marketing techniques.


The number of customers who visited Autobytel sites through search engines, then submitted a new vehicle "purchase request," climbed 79 percent in 2004 from 2003. Page views generated through search engines also rose 67 percent.


The gains can be attributed to various search engine optimization strategies and proprietary software the company developed to track keywords, said Michael Rosenberg, vice president of marketing and media service at Autobytel, Irvine, CA.


"We have improved the profitability of our search campaigns immensely over the past six or seven months," he said. "We have created an internal application that allows us to track individual keywords as opposed to groups of keywords."


Autobytel's proprietary software monitors up to 200,000 popular automotive search terms daily, such as "used cars" and "Honda," to measure how much revenue each keyword or phase creates. Then the software makes automatic "intelligent" bids on keywords.


Bidding on groups of keywords is inefficient, Rosenberg explained, because "you're bidding too much on some words that don't make enough money for you and you're bidding too little on some words that have a lot of potential."


Instead, Autobytel examines profit per word, identifying words that generate the most page views for the firm.


"It allows you to prioritize your limited budget and eliminate things that aren't working," he said.


Autobytel buys an average of 150,000 keywords monthly, but that number changes constantly, he said.


For natural search, Autobytel tracks the most searched words and ensures its pages are optimized for those.


"The bulk of natural search is Google and Yahoo," Rosenberg said. "We spend a lot of time making sure those pages are matched for those words."


Autobytel also likely will buy words on MSN after it recently launched a paid search marketing program, he said.


Though bidding on the correct keywords is important, search marketing includes ensuring that the search copy, along with landing pages associated with the search, is effective.


"We really have to look at getting qualified click-throughs," Rosenberg said. "The way you do that is to have good copy under your terms, then you have to have highly converting landing pages."


Autobytel also has channeled shoppers on its site to local dealerships. The company automatically presents dealership branding and marketing messages to local shoppers based on their ZIP code and brand selections.


"This 'local dealer search' function, in effect, mirrors or refines the search engine process, presenting relevant dealership listings based on buyers' online search parameters," according to a statement from Autobytel.


Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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