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Why OEM Compliance is Killing Local Dealerships and Their Marketing Efforts

Whitney Norrad   •   

Jun 24 2019   •   

6-7 min read

That’s right, I said it. In a time when we’re seeing more requests than ever for local SEO services and more worldwide experts chiming in about how important it is, OEMs are falling backwards. 


OEMs at national and international levels are continuing to put dealers into corners by mandating them to use specific website providers and digital marketing companies that truly don’t seem to have their best interests at heart. On top of this, they’re killing local SEO and the flexibility that individual dealerships need to perform.

Don’t let them push you around.


Mazda, You’re Breaking my Heart

The most recent fallen soldier is Mazda Canada. While it’d be easy to head into full-on rant mode, I’ll refrain. This article by a current Chrysler digital operations manager speaks volumes about how unfortunate it is to see Mazda following suit, running head-first into a losing battle that other brands have been revolting against for years.


Over the years, Mazda has been one of the brands that I’ve been most fascinated with from an innovation perspective. It’s been all happy days and SKYACTIV tech, impressive fuel ratings and great features—now, this change feels like stepping back into a cave. 


Thankfully, we have loyal clients who are standing up and sticking to their guns. 


There’s Good News: It’s Not Mandatory

Why do we say it’s not mandatory? It isn’t. Even your national rep will tell you that much.


"It isn't mandatory, but I'll lose co-op dollars!"


Sometimes, that’s true. Other times, it’s not, but dealers simply don’t read enough into it. 


As a worst case, you “lose” co-op dollars. What’s the point of spending the same amount of money or more to perform anything less than your best? Start over from the ground up with your website’s SEO with a flawed execution? Seems silly. Nobody can be fully responsible for your website’s presence except for you: no matter what website platform you’re using.


From Ford to Mitsubishi, Chrysler to General Motors, we’re seeing more dealers ditching their mandates for services that aren’t at all co-op eligible. Why? Because they want sites and ads that will help them sell more cars. Because they want ads that are exciting and that convert, not ads that look like every other ad Toyota national has put out (and spent millions on—why compete?) and that people just scroll past. 


If a better strategy and presence help you to sell even one more car per month, you’ve made up those “lost” co-op dollars. Think about that for a second.


How do OEM Mandates Ruin Everything?

What we see, time and time again is that these heavy-handed deals mean that national strategies are forced onto a local playing field with no consideration for how this truly impacts dealers. A strategy doesn’t work like that.

Duplicate Content Hurts

In case you’re unfamiliar with why having the same content on your website as another (especially similar) site, take a minute to learn how it impacts your performance


It’s not a great idea. 


Take Mitsubishi, for example. In order to be eligible for (measly, really) co-op dollars, these dealerships are required to use a specific website platform. When they do this, they’re getting a copycat of every other Mitsubishi site in the entire country. I’m not joking. Look at these three sites from different stores across the country to see what I mean:


Fredericton Mitsubishi, New Brunswick

Valley Mitsubishi, British Columbia

Mid-Town Mitsubishi, Ontario


Almost identical titles, identical homepage CTAs, identical design, identical structure, identical imagery, identical metadata...are you sensing a pattern?


Not only is this a terrible user experience, it’s also bad for your dealership’s digital performance. These sites are doing few favours for local SEO or your customers; the people you really need to impress. If you’re like Mazda and you have a choice: do your research! Some providers are much better at local SEO, site structure, markup, content, and the details that are necessary for each to perform at their best. Any website can be made to be great, over time, but you need to do your research to ensure that where you end up is capable of making that happen and keeping you out of the Mitsubishi trap. 


The biggest and best-performing dealerships fall outside of the box on this one. Google will help you see for yourself. 


Lack of Ownership and Accountability

One of the most time-consuming and frustrating parts of our day-to-day agency life? Helping dealers hold their other agencies accountable. Almost all of the dealer-mandated providers we see out there refuse to let dealerships own their Google accounts. Things like:

  • Your dealership’s Google my Business property: the hub of your local SEO efforts and one of the first things searchers see when looking for you online
  • Your Google Analytics account: where all of the most important tracking data and information related to your site, its traffic, and marketing channel insights come from  
  • Your Google AdWords account: Notice a pattern with the “your” in this section? Your AdWords account should be yours, and an advertising agency should work as a manager within that account to build and execute campaigns within it. You should not just have access to this (which many don’t share), but you should own it. This way, no matter how long it has been or what vendor you’re with, you have access to long-term historical data as it relates to your business and its advertising.
  • Those are just a few of the most important ones! Make sure that your agency of record and/or website providers are allowing you full access to your data. There are many other agencies, that, like ours, let you share access to your data. Make sure you’re with one that does just that.

Dealers Deserve Transparency

When you don’t have full access to your own data, do you really know what else you’re not seeing? These programs can hide your ad spend in a bundle with an ads management fee and that’s not right. While some basic number crunching should give you an idea of this number, you deserve to know exactly what it is. Make sure that you ask your rep to confirm these details so that you’re not left in the dark.


Many platforms prohibit users at the dealership level from changing things like meta descriptions, alt tags, navigation structure, sitemaps, and more. Even more lack of control? No thanks! Make sure that you have permissions to access the nitty gritty of your site and its functionality.


Local Markets are all Unique

Your dealership in Toronto is different from a dealership in Nova Scotia or Alberta, even if they’re under the same OEM brand. One of the ever-increasing conversations in digital marketing is around local SEO, citation generation, cleanup and link building. The dealers that are taking care of this are succeeding. (Wondering how you’re doing on this front? Drop us a line!


Using the same strategy in every different market isn’t productive. Each dealer has internal promotions, unique service offerings, ways of interacting with their customer base, and important dealer-specific quirks that should be used to their advantage. Make sure that if you have a base site, you’re completing citations, using your own unique strategy developed with input from your dealership built by a trustworthy agency to ensure your success.


C’mon guys, let’s do better. If you want to make sure that, with whatever website platform you’re using, that you’re employing a great marketing strategy, reach out. We’d be happy to help you build a true-to-you digital presence that stands out.

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