The year was 2009. We were working on building out website content for a client and we wanted to get to know the different departments in order to personalize the content to make the visitors more likely to do business with them. A savvy General Manager taught me a lesson that stuck with me throughout my career.

“We don’t need to sell the dealership. We need to sell our website to Google,” she said. “There may come a time when people read the crap we put on the pages, but that’s not today.”

I didn’t fully agree then, but I understood the point. It wasn’t until very recently that I realized how right she was, particularly the last line. I was aware that website visitors do tend to go straight to inventory or specials, but I was always aware from testing that 14% of the visitors lingered on videos or read through content before moving on from or to the inventory.

This 14% was why I didn’t fully agree. Now, I realize how right she was. 14% is a drop in the bucket. Today, that number is much higher. People are lingering. They’re watching videos. They’re investigating the dealership as much as they’re researching the vehicles. In essence, they want to buy from a dealership they can trust for one reason (which I’ll get to in a moment).

Content today must be compelling and personal. There is no longer a need for “SEO content” the way that most understand it. No generic boilerplate content. No keyword stuffing. Content in written or video formats should be more than just discussing individual models. There needs to be a reason for people to want to buy from you.

In other words, the most effective dealership marketing and advertising includes messaging that separates you from competitors. It’s no longer just about price and selection. They are making buying decisions before they ever meet you.

Earlier I mentioned there’s a reason that people are investigating dealerships as much as they’re investigating cars. The reason is because trust is returning. The trust factor that the industry lost since the 70s has finally started shifting. Our industry has been much more transparent and forthright with customers for some time. Now, the customers are starting to believe in it since this is their second or third car they’ve purchased during the new age “good experience” era of the industry.

Personally, I’m not the most touchy-feely person, but from a marketing perspective I realize how important it is to be exceptional to your customers. Today, this is more important than it’s ever been.