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Search Engine Guide Case Study: GM, OnStar Deliver Safer Cars but Don’t Communicate It Online

Though I don’t have OnStar in my car, a recent tour of its command center was enough to convince me that everyone should have it. From the hands-free phone to satellite tracking in case of theft or accidents, OnStar and General Motors offer features that deliver a safer driving experience.

Before my tour, I was lucky enough to listen to Gary F. Grates, GM’s vice president of corporate communications/ North America. One of the items he communicated was GM’s key marketing message to consumers: “Quality and safety.”

If you’ve seen the OnStar or Hot Button commercials, you know their advertising is on track. However, as a Web marketer with a communications background, I was eager to see how GM promoted this “quality and safety” message through the search engines.

I’m sad to say they don’t.

I searched on Google for safe cars, anti-theft devices, family cars and more. There were no results in the top 30! I opened the source code, checked the meta keywords and searched again.

Other than phrases that used “OnStar” in the query, only “air bag deployment” returned a first-page result. Unfortunately, it linked to an OnStar.com pop-up window (no navigation) that created the dreaded user trap. It’s a useless link. Most users will leave the site, do another search and find a competitor’s site.

Since 65 percent of car buyers go online to research models before buying, according to an Autoshopper.com study, and the big three search engines (Google, Yahoo and MSN) reach more than 80 percent of Internet users, implementing a plan to promote the “safety and quality” message online only makes sense.

Could GM and OnStar better communicate the safety and quality message through search channels? Yes. Yet even these world-renowned industry leaders have missed out on three basic search engine optimization steps:

· Optimize content for safety and security key phrases.

· Create additional content related to these terms, including optimized news releases.

· Advertise through Google AdWords or Yahoo Search for important or problem key phrases, especially those where competitors already advertise.

If I were Gary Grates or others in the driver’s seat at GM, I would recommend consulting with search engine marketing experts to develop a strategy that integrates the quality and safety message. With this guidance, GM and OnStar undoubtedly would earn first-page rankings for the terms that car buyers most commonly use in their online research.

Searches for Key Phrases

These key phrases from OnStar’s meta keyword tag generate approximately the listed number of searches each day, as reported by the popular keyword research tool WordTracker.

The only term to deliver a first-page result is “air bag deployment.”

As you can see, the GPS-related phrases generate the most traffic. GM and OnStar executives could consider this valuable insight into the mind of potential customers. One way to take advantage of it would be to create and optimize additional content that upsells OnStar’s GPS capability.

Key Phrase Estimated


· gps systems 764

· gps vehicle tracking 743

· gps tracking system 605

· car safety 301

· car security 244

· car security system 163

· discount auto insurance 154

· motor vehicle safety 121

· vehicle safety ratings 116

· airbag deployment 94

· vehicle safety 70

· hands free phone 45

· voice activated phone 41

· auto theft prevention 9

· auto insurance discount 4

· cars with onstar 4

· onstar vehicles 3

· auto theft recovery 0

For more articles from The Direct Marketer’s Essential Guide to Search Engine Marketing, visit http://www.dmnews.com/cgi-bin/artcategory.cgi?category_id=22

A PDF of the guide is available at: http://www.dmnews.com/pdffiles/semguide.pdf

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