So, What's A MicroSite? (continued)
Copyright © 2008 Automotive Dealers Network. All rights reserved.
By Ralph Paglia
Director – Digital Marketing / ADP Dealer Services
View Jim Bernardi's profile on LinkedIn
Ralph has held positions such as OEM Partnership
Executive for Reynolds and Reynolds, CRM/eBusiness
Director, New Car Sales Manager, Used Car Manager,
F&I Director, General Sales Manager and General
Manager. He led the development and design of
nationally implemented CRM and eBusiness programs
for Ford, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and other car
companies. He also designed Ford’s BDC program
Mercedes-Benz StarLeads CRM system and the
Mercedes-Benz BDC.

    Who creates the online digital advertising that dealers would use to help drive
    traffic to microsites and landing pages?

    Creating online advertisements that dealers can then place on various web sites or as sponsored links with paid
    search engine advertising is typically done by the dealership’s vendors.  However, all too often vendors generate
    digital ads in either a size or format that is intentionally designed to prevent the dealer from using them
    elsewhere.  That’s why I give a lot of credit because even when they build a Flash based ad for the
    dealers that advertise on, you can ask for the same ad in an animated GIF file format which they will
    provide.  This allows the dealer to use that great looking ad created by on other web sites and further
    leverages ROI from the dealer’s investment in advertising. An example of a digital ad created for one of
    the dealers I work with in San Diego is shown below:

    Another example of a dealership’s digital advertising as created by is shown below:

    In my new position as Director of Digital Marketing for ADP Dealer Services, I am spearheading a project
    where we will by supplying digital advertising content to dealers.  Our first priority will be to provide digital
    advertising that has already been proven effective for dealers to those who have web sites supplied by an ADP
    Digital Marketing provider, such as BZ Results and ADP Dynamic Websites. This is a prototype example of the
    most basic ADP Digital Marketing dealership ads:

    When it comes to paid search advertising, text based sponsored links are usually created by a dealer’s SEM
    services provider.  However, despite the fact that there a lot of very knowledgeable SEM services providers, such
    as BZ Results Search Engine Marketing, Clickmotive, Jumpstart and others, in my opinion this is a bad practice.  
    Outsourcing the thinking and creative promotional exercises that have historically been done either in-house or
    in conjunction with a dealer’s ad agency is more likely to result in a failed digital advertising campaign.  This
    happens because separating digital advertising from the other forms of dealership promotional activity leads to a
    disconnect with the dealership’s marketing strategies.  I recommend that each dealer and management team
    control and monitor their digital advertising with the same diligence and direct participation that they use for TV,
    Radio, Newspaper, Outdoor, Direct Mail and all other media. Over two thirds of all car shopping is done online,
    does it really make sense for a dealership’s management team to pay so much attention to the ads placed in
    media used by a minority of car buyers and then ignore the ads seen by the majority of automotive shoppers?
    Does a dealer have to use an outside supplier to do this, or is it something
    dealers can do on their own? How do dealers organize to do this?

    All or part of a dealer’s digital marketing activities can be managed in-house. Alternately, a dealer may choose to
    pick and choose which components are executed in-house and which are to be outsourced, or a combination of
    both.  I am currently engaged in a consulting relationship with a Chevrolet store in Northern California that has
    never done digital advertising before I started working with them.  Their Marketing Manager, who creates all their
    newspaper advertising and works with their TV and Radio suppliers, is doing a fantastic job of using his skills to
    create digital advertising campaigns.  ADP’s own BZ Results has created a portfolio of microsites and landing
    pages for their use in online advertising campaigns.

    Yes, it takes focus, time and effort, and although all of a dealer’s digital advertising needs can be outsourced to
    save time, this typically results in the managers being disconnected and removed from the store’s digital
    advertising initiatives. Outsourcing digital advertising concept creation can result in a lack of commitment to
    making the sales to the leads generated that is required to get the ROI results.  I recommend learning how to do
    it, then doing it long enough so that if the dealer decides to outsource the work, they at least know what it is, how
    to measure it and what it takes to do a good job.  Now that I work for ADP Dealer Services, I would much rather
    sell Digital Marketing products and services to dealers who know what it is and how it works, than to those that do
    not know what they are buying. Other considerations are the ability to adjust campaigns daily, even hourly and
    saving money.  Most stores can save thousands of dollars by managing their online campaigns and by knowing
    how to evaluate a supplier for the portion of the digital ad budget that is outsourced.  Generally speaking, I
    consider a blended approach of both in-house and outsourced digital advertising to be the best of both worlds,
    and it keeps the vendors honest when you compare their results with the in-house results.  The blended
    approach also allows a dealer to shift dollars from in-house to the out-house as resources and budgets fluctuate.
    How can dealers manage multiple URLs?  How do dealers ensure they get
    ranked by the major search engines?  

    As far as acquiring and using domain names (URL’s), although a lot of dealers use low cost domain management
    service providers such as and, I feel most comfortable going directly to
    the source by using where dealers can buy a domain and web forwarding services (if
    needed) for less than $47 a year.  Significant discounts apply if registering for 3 years or more.  Since it can take
    up to 3 months to get a new microsite organically ranked for free search engine traffic, I recommend creating a
    Google AdWords account and building a paid search marketing campaign using keyword bidding on text based
    sponsored links that point to the dealer’s new microsite.  This gets traffic going to a microsite right away, and
    then if the site is built well enough to be considered relevant to the intended sales, parts or service shoppers,
    you can back down the paid traffic after 3 to 6 months and let the organic relevancy of your microsite do its
    magic by attracting search engine generated traffic.  The people at Google have told me about a 3 month period
    after a new microsite goes live as being “in the sandbox”, where it will not get organically ranked, but I have seen
    exceptions made for really good microsites that covered a topic that does not have a lot of competition for
    relevancy in search results.  The Camaro site I previously mentioned is one of those… After your microsite is up
    and running, copy the actual URL string of characters from your browser’s address bar when viewing the site,
    then go to  and paste the microsite’s domain based URL string into the field for the
    site address.  Then type in a description of the site using no more than 20 words into the text field set up for it.
    Next, try to decipher the garbled up characters that Google displays to keep bots from being able to do this and  
    type these weird looking characters displayed into the indicated form field… If you are successful in translating
    the garbled up letters, when you hit the submit button you will get a confirmation page that says your site will be
    queued up for crawling and indexing by Google’s spider bots. I know it sounds like a bunch of hassle, but anyone
    who can figure out how to use GM’s Dealer World, Honda’s Interactive Network, Toyota’s Dealer Daily or Ford’s can ace this stuff.
    How can the dealer make sure that their landing page/microsite strategy actually
    delivers desirable content to automotive Internet users, and that the landing
    page sites deliver on any promises made in the ads themselves?

    Dealers should be consistent and transparent in their digital advertising campaign messages.  In the case of paid
    search campaigns, why would you want to attract clicks from people that don’t want to buy a vehicle, order parts
    or get their vehicle serviced?  Only if you are an SEM services vendor who is evaluated by traffic and leads
    generated! (oops, that one slipped out) When doing it yourself, make sure the ad contains verbiage that
    describes the landing page’s content that you are linking it to.  For example, if your ad says something like
    “Chevy Price Quotes… Get Discounted Prices on a New Chevy from Courtesy Chevrolet in Phoenix” and it points
    to you can be pretty certain that the people clicking on the ad are interested in
    getting a price quote on a new Chevy and that they are willing to buy it in Phoenix, AZ (duh!).  The landing page
    gives them the instructions and the form to complete that are in sync with the ad’s message, so it is a no brainer
    for the customer to fill it out the form and find out how your store will respond.  

    A good example of this is a microsite I built for a Free Gas advertising campaign that you can visit at www.  This microsite has a built in calculator that asks the customer how many miles they drive every
    week, then how many miles per gallon their current vehicle gets. It then shows the customer how much money
    they will spend in a year.  The customer is then invited to enter a contest to win a free gas card, or to register to
    receive a year’s worth of gas at no additional charge when they buy a new Chevy from Courtesy Chevrolet.  This
    is then promoted using image ads.

    If you visit the web site by clicking on the ad, you can’t help but see that the site delivers on the promises made in
    the ad itself.  If the ads were linked to my primary web site’s home page, and the consumer was then expected to
    find the free gas special offer from there, then it would not be delivering on the promise implied by the ad and it
    would fail to produce any results. Online advertisements should be directly linked to single click access to the
    promised content.
    How does a dealer incorporate the use of microsites into their existing CRM tools
    and processes to maximize the ability to track and manage results?

    Forms, phone numbers and links… This is one of the most important aspects of any microsite because ultimately
    the volume of forms submitted, phone calls generated and traffic linked to other sites operated by your
    dealership is how you will evaluate your microsites. The forms used to submit leads from a dealer’s microsite
    must be set up to be submitted into the dealer’s lead management tool in XML/ADF format.  Each form should be
    tagged to display the lead source as that microsite’s description in the dealer’s lead management tool.  Each
    microsite will have its own source tag so that leads and sales generated can be logged and traced to that
    source.  It is the same process as tracking leads from a third party lead provider, then calculating the ROI… The
    only thing missing is the profit requirements of the lead provider!  When done properly, microsites generate more
    ROI than when splitting the pot with a lead provider that uses the same methods to generate leads and then sells
    them to multiple dealers at a profit.  It is important that the dealership’s staff that will be handling leads from a
    microsite be shown the ads and site content used to generate those leads, so they can respond appropriately.  A
    best practice is to have campaign and microsite specific email templates and auto responders.  Until recently, if
    you submitted a lead through you would have see that the emails coming back are
    specific to that microsite.  Don’t worry about costing the dealer any money, because incremental leads from
    microsites don’t cost any money… They make money.
    During the Digital Dealer conference I was asked many questions
    about how microsites are used, what they were, where to get them
    and how much was the right price… I am going to outline a few of
    the questions and share my opinions as to the right answers.  The
    following questions and my answers to them have been set up
    within the context of a “how to” and “why” perspective for use in
    developing a dealership’s digital marketing strategy and ongoing
    digital advertising campaigns.
    The following questions were addressed in part 1 which can be viewed here.

  • What's the difference between a landing page, a microsite and a dealer’s website?

  • When and How are Landing Pages and Microsites used?