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Why Dealerships Should Take Ownership of Their Google Accounts and Reputation

  • April 2, 2021
28 min read
Why Dealerships Should Take Ownership of Their Google Accounts and Reputation

Ilana Shabtay
VP of Marketing, Fullpath

George Nenni
Founder and Principal Consultant, Generations Digital

George Nenni is the Founder and Principal Consultant at Generations Digital, an automotive digital marketing consulting firm that empowers car dealers to eliminate ad waste and maximize their marketing dollars. He is the author of A Car Dealer’s Guide to Digital Marketing and A Car Dealer’s Guide to Google My Business, as well as the creator of the GMBspy chrome extension.

For nearly three decades, George has been a leading educator on emerging technology in retail automotive. He is a highly sought-after industry speaker and has been published extensively in industry journals.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • How George Nenni got started in the automotive space
  • George talks about writing his book, setting up Google My Business, and how he set up the categories for car dealerships
  • Why it’s important for dealerships to take ownership of their Google analytics and Google My Business accounts
  • George’s suggested categories that are ideal for a Chevrolet dealership
  • George discusses how vendors or agencies should charge dealers for their SEM
  • What dealers should do or look out for in terms of conversions and costs per lead
  • George’s advice and tips for improving and managing dealer reputation

In this episode…

A car dealership not only needs to have their own Google My Business and Google analytics accounts, they also need to keep their login details for these accounts safe. And one of the best ways that they can ensure the integrity of their account is to only share access with people that they truly trust.

And in terms of growth, it’s critical for growing dealerships to leverage the reviews that they receive from satisfied customers. Dealers should never rely solely on third party sites like or to boost their brand. Instead, they should engage their customers on personal one-to-one requests for reviews; and with the right strategy, these types of reviews can help improve SEO for the dealership.

George Nenni, Founder and Principal Consultant at Generations Digital, is Ilana Shabtay and Josh Sacks’ guest in this episode of the InsideAuto Podcast where he explains why dealerships should take ownership of their Google accounts and reputation. George also shares his advice on how to set up the right dealership categories, what to look out for in qualifying leads and conversions, and how vendors and agencies can price dealerships for their SEM. Stay tuned.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by AutoLeadStar, a company that helps car dealerships engage quality customers on the web and convert them into car buyers.

Co-founded by Aharon Horwitz, Yishai Goldstein, and Eliav Moshe, AutoLeadStar’s state-of-the-art software automates a dealership’s entire marketing funnel and provides around-the-clock service for dealers.

AutoLeadStar’s innovative technology helps dealerships automate ads, connect with customers, and discover ROI and performance metrics

Visit their website at to learn more about their around-the-clock marketing service.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:03

Welcome to InsideAuto Podcast where we feature everyone and anyone you’d want to talk to you in and out of the automotive industry.

Ilana Shabtay 0:14

Ilana Shabtay here, host of InsideAuto Podcast where we interview top dealers, GMs, marketers, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in and out of the automotive industry. And before I introduce today’s guest, this episode is sponsored by The AutoLeadStar platform is built on a technology so powerful, it allows you to market, sell and service cars as you would in the real world, online and at scale, making one to one matches between shoppers and inventory. AutoLeadStar is the only platform that is powered by scale, speed and specificity to change the way dealers do marketing. So today we’re going to do things a bit differently. In addition to having our guest who I’ll introduce shortly, we have Josh Sacks, who’s our SDR team lead at AutoLeadStar. He’ll be co-hosting the conversation with me. It’s his first time on InsideAuto Podcast. So a warm welcome. Hey Josh, how are you doing today?

Josh Sacks 1:03

Doing well and excited to be here.

Ilana Shabtay 1:05

Yes, we are excited to have you and we’re even more excited to have today’s guest who’s really making an impact in automotive. We’re welcoming George Nenni to the podcast. George, how are you doing today?

George Nenni 1:15

I’m doing great. Thank you.

Ilana Shabtay 1:18

Yeah, we’re excited to have you quick, impressive intro before we get into the conversation, George is the founder and principal consultant at Generation Digital, an automotive digital marketing consulting firm that empowers car dealers to eliminate ad waste and maximize their marketing dollars. We like to hear that he is the author of ‘A Car Dealer’s Guide to Digital Marketing’ and ‘A Car Dealer’s Guide to Google My Business’ as well as the creator of the GMBspy Chrome Extension. For nearly three decades, George has been a leading educator on emerging technology in retail automotive, and he is a highly sought after industry speaker and has been published extensively in industry journals. And so excited to have you here, what an impressive bio. How is it going? How are you? I know you brought your books today. So we’re excited to talk about them. But before we get into that, let’s talk about how you actually got into automotive. We love to talk about this with all of our guests, because everyone has such an interesting path into automotive. And so tell us a little bit about yours.

George Nenni 2:16

Sure, I started in 1993, two of my older brothers, I’m the youngest of seven, seven children, so my older brother started a business called dealer specialty index 89. That they still I think the industry leader in on site servicing for photography and data collection and distribution. But you know, they started that business as a startup when they’re working their normal jobs. I started as the first employee in 93, we really covered the country with franchisees and grew that business tremendously in the 90s. And then they sold it to trader publishing. And they both retired, I stayed on with trader trainer became dominion over the years, but made a lot of acquisitions in websites, digital marketing, CRM, DMS, I was fortunate enough to run operations for CRM and digital marketing, and also run the entire dealer, especially organization until August of 2017, when I left to start what I thought was going to be a digital agency. But I was kept out of certain businesses for a period of time. So I said, hey, look, I’ll just consult and see what comes of it. And really just the business kind of developed on its own, really just based on our needs we saw out there in the market.

Ilana Shabtay 3:29

And we’re in all that, did you write your book?

George Nenni 3:33

Well, you know, most of what we did, I think, is sort of stumbling opportunities. And so we wrote the books along the way based on either collections of articles we had put together or training we put together and dealers would say, can you kind of consolidate that and as we started doing that, we realized that publishing books was the easiest way to distribute that. So our Google My Business book, for instance, you know, we had written you dozens of articles on how to use you know, how to set up your categories, or how to claim your listing or how to remove duplicate listings. And, you know, it was Christmas break 2019. And the dealer said, Hey, can you kind of put those all together in a binder. And so, my son, my oldest son, Will’s a really good writer, and he got together with me, and we just started collecting all the articles. And as we put it together, I said, Well, this kind of looks like a book. And so we went back to the drawing board and built an outline and then kind of constructed that way. But that’s that’s we’ve really just kind of listened to the dealers and see what educational needs I have.

Ilana Shabtay 4:32

That’s great. Thanks for sharing that. And you mentioned something in the setting up categories. Let’s talk about that. Because that is a very practical tip for dealers to take away that they’re just not doing correctly these days. And they can get so much more traction if they’re setting up their Google My Business with the correct categories. And, you know, I learned that actually from a recent interview that I heard from you so I can’t take credit, but I want you to expand on that, that our dealers and our listeners can can walk away and fix that

George Nenni 5:00

Yeah, they do. I had no idea that categories had quite the impact they did. But yeah, categories and restaurants are the easiest ones to kind of search for and kind of field test this. But you know, vegan restaurant vegetarian restaurants, for instance, those are neither one but but those are two categories that not not many restaurants choose. And so if you search for vegetarian or vegan restaurants, you only find the ones that have those categories chosen. And if a restaurant adds it tomorrow, they show up tomorrow. So it’s just it’s pretty amazing how instant the categories work. And so that was also kind of another thing we stumbled into was this GMB spy extension. I read an article in January of 2020, I think by Darren sharp and white Spark, saying that he had discovered that in the HTML, you could, you could spy on you could see your competitors categories. And so I dug in and you do a right click, and then you look at the source HTML, and then you do a Ctrl F and look for the second till day. And then, you know, a few characters later, you’ll see the first and I thought, what a great fine, but what a horrible experience to try to do that at scale. And so we just hired a developer and wrote the Chrome extension. Again, we thought categories were interesting and important, but not nearly as important to the SEO community, because that tool just got really embraced. And today, I think we’re approaching 8000, weekly users 60% are outside the US. But you know, categories are a big deal. And dealers should not only set theirs, but if they’re losing and local search, you know, they should find out what their competitors’ categories are.

Ilana Shabtay 6:32

So that Chrome extension is not just for automotive, it’s for anyone, you could just go in, click, see what categories your competitors are using, and basically build your entire strategy based off of that.

George Nenni 6:43

Sure, yep, you can just make those changes. And then, you know, just and you want to do other things, as well as on Google, my business categories are important. But if you’re a 3.7 star with 10/10 ratings, I mean, you’re not going to show up, no matter how good your categories are. So you’ve got to have, you’ve got to have high ratings, you’ve got to have lots of ratings, and you got to have positive sentiment in those ratings. Not only keywords, you know, searchable keywords, but also best we love it just just things that things that Google’s gonna kind of amplify.

Ilana Shabtay 7:13

And think huge. Oh, go ahead, Josh.

Josh Sacks 7:15

Now you also George, you talk a lot about ownership, right? You talk about you know, owning a dealership owning it’s Google Analytics, it’s Google My Business. How important to you? I mean, I see a lot of your posts. I heard it on a podcast recently, how important do you feel ownership is for the dealership, taking it back into the hands and then being in charge, as opposed to the vendor as opposed to anyone else outside?

George Nenni 7:37

Yeah, you’re exactly right. You the dealer not only needs to own, their Google My Business, their Google Analytics, all of those all of those accounts, and they need to keep the passwords, I think, with a generic email address or not, you know, Joe at ninni Chevrolet calm, but instead, you know, maybe a generic email address that the dealer has the logins to and, and share those around with other trusted sources, but you just don’t want to lose. Imagine losing the last five years of your of your P&L, your income stable for a dealership would be really hard to run the business, you know. And so losing all that history of Google Analytics would not be desirable.

Ilana Shabtay 8:18

When you talk about the category, I’m sorry, I’m still stuck in this category, because I just can’t believe that dealers aren’t doing it correctly. But when you talk about the categories, what would you suggest? Let’s say you said Nana, shailesh a bit you know, Chevrolet dealership, and in a city. What would the categories be? What would that structure look like for a dealership like that?

George Nenni 8:36

For? Greg? Greg question. So first, strategically, you decide that you need to break your single store listing your Google My Business listing, into at least two, maybe three or four. So in addition to your sales listing, you’ve got to have a service listing. If you don’t create a parts listing, that’s okay, if you have parts and service combined, I think Body Shop is a great place you can win a lot of non branded category search through having a listing and so strategically I think laying it out there and saying okay, what are my biggest profit centers for my my dealership, and where do I want to set up those gmds then once you set those up, you know, you only have 10 data categories for each and for for fixed operations, there’s probably 15 categories at least, for sales, there might only be three or four or for brasiliensis dealer, it might be you know, a few more than that. But you know, for the franchise side of the house, you want to choose your franchise locations first, followed by the car dealer, all of my used car dealers and I think that’s about it. That’s about the only ones you know if you’re in Europe or something you outside the US car broker, and sometimes I think with Hispanic search, I see car brokers pull up a little bit, but those would be the primary and then for the fixed upside for service. It would be auto repair and then followed by all the other brake repair exhaust repair tires. I mean, you can know, and so as you do those, the way to determine if you’re winning is my volume of Non branded category search growing or not. And I think you’ll find for all of our dealers that we build those out, they absolutely start gaining additional share by having more real estate on Google My Business.

Ilana Shabtay 10:12

So how do you track that? Or how would you advise us to track that?

George Nenni 10:16

Yep, in the insights tab, so if you go into the admin side of Google My Business, you can click on insights. And Google has been busy working on that the last month or two. So it’s a little bit kind of in construction, it’s broken into pieces currently, but I assume it’ll consolidate up soon. But they’ll show you the number of searches by brand. And by franchise brands buy in by category. And so I can’t remember the names of I know what I call them, you know, I really refer to them as you know, like, the direct is the brand name. So if it were a ninny Chevrolet, it would be those two terms together, if it were just a Chevrolet dealer near me, that would be just what they’ll call a brand. So really a franchise brand. And then the other is discovery, or, for me, your non branded category search. And that’s really what winning looks like. When you grow that share your winning more, you know, tire dealers near me or Jeep breaks near me, those sort of searches.

Ilana Shabtay 11:14

Now, another part of what you’ve been doing, which I love reading about on your LinkedIn is focusing on the ROI for dealerships, they can get very, very busy, especially if there’s multiple vendors, and a lot of times dealers are getting away with, you know, paying twice as much as they should for let’s say, agency expenses. There’s obviously a lot of layers to making sure that there’s the right ROI and that there’s not wasteful marketing dollars out there. The first question I have on that is what is your opinion, or philosophy? On the way vendors or agencies partners should price dealers when it comes to or charge dealers when it comes to their sem? I know, you know, we there’s a lot of talk about, should it be a percentage based on their actual ad spend? Should it be a fixed fee? Are you somewhere in the middle? I’d love to hear a little bit about that. And if you think that contributes at all, toys will add dollars?

George Nenni 12:13

Yes, so I think I generally would fall in the camp of preferring a flat rate. But you know, it really depends on what your spend is, I think, really, at the end of the day, it’s more what is your effective rate? So if it’s a flat percentage, your effective rate is that percentage, if it’s a fixed cost, you’re not spending a lot, you know, 10 is your spend move. And so you know, and you know, honestly, I think agencies probably get beat up a lot in the market. It’s a tough business, I, you know, I’ve managed that for years at dominion. And the margins are pretty tough, you know, and so, so generally, we’re trying to keep that percentage, maybe 20, to 30, or 35%. But you know, to some degree, you can hold your nose if the results are incredible, right? So Facebook’s a great example. You know, we see agencies running Facebook campaigns with it with a spend of maybe 12 $100, with maybe seven or $800 agency spending, at first glance, you say, Oh, my gosh, that’s, that’s almost 100% agency fee, well, you know, no one’s gonna run in, no one’s gonna run 12 $100 with Facebook ads for a couple $100. So you’re gonna have to spend to get into that. And if you increase the spam, then your percentage would be lower. But you know, some of these agencies are really knocking out the park in terms of conversions from those campaigns. And so now, I really care what the percentage spent is, or really, what are my results? And so it’s kind of a long winded answer and roundabout, but I think, in the end, just just have transparency and know what, what percentage of spend, what percentage is free? What are the results from those campaigns? And what’s my effective rate?

Josh Sacks 13:43

You talked? George, you talk about transparency and conversion as well. I’ve heard you write about this a bit. So can you talk us through a bit of what you see. I mean, I know a lot of vendors come up with different ideas of conversion, and it ends up being that we’re all speaking a different language. Right. And I’ve seen you speak about this often. What do you think dealers need to be looking out for? What’s the conversion? how, you know, how should they be? Making sure that you know, it’s not smoke and mirrors? It’s, you know, real conversion, tangibly helping them sell a service?

George Nenni 14:12

Yeah, that’s a great question. And so I think, you know, we, we teach dealers to get their antenna up when they hear the word conversion, when they hear the word engagement. You’re those two words, but you’re right, especially conversion, you’ll make the agency define it, because you’d, you’d just be surprised, and maybe you wouldn’t be surprised to just see it. You’re not all the time, but maybe 10% of time, especially with a new agency, you’ll get in and they’ll say conversions, and especially, they’ll show their paid search. And they’ll say it’s $10 cost per conversion from paid search to which I immediately know that we’ve got a definition problem because it wouldn’t be that low unless you’re buying only a brand. And so yeah, so it ends up you learn that a VDP is a conversion or a page scroll is a conversion. And so yeah, those those those soft conversions are those signals are interesting for sure but you can’t call them conversions what what we what we define is anytime that the dealers in touch with a consumer either through a phone call so a click to call or a dni phone call that would include a chat engagement where you may not know their name right so and you may not know their name from the phone call either but you’re you’re engaging the opportunity lead forms of course are fabulous trading lead forms great especially if you get pii information and then digital retail and all the other all the other combinations but so we generally lead forms chats click to calls texts trade leads dni leads if you’re using a provider like the dni phone calls using a provider like that

Josh Sacks 15:40

right that’s how philosophy as well i want to ask you about you said about a $10 cost for cost per lead for brand how deep do you go with your dealers i mean like are you looking at new inventory used inventory are you are you going should dealers be going that deep and if so you know how you know if i’m a gm of a store or not a marketing expert how do i get to that level of deepness that i can understand you know in a more expensive cost per lead coming from a you know a new a new inventory thing how do i manage that and how do i you know tell the difference between what should be a brand you know bottom of the funnel you know bottom of the tree this is a new inventory used inventory add that’s driving traffic

George Nenni 16:18

yep it i think from the paid search perspective the first thing you should the dealer should do is is make sure they understand what the strategy is and so the question might be what what categories and paid search are we currently playing in or what what’s the mission of our paid search and so in my mind there’s five there’s there’s dealer named so many chevrolet there’s make geo so chevrolet dealer near me or chevrolet dealer cincinnati right so those two are layups and paid search so you almost you know if you don’t run any paid search at all you shouldn’t run those then you’ve got new cars used cars and fixed stops your new cars can be difficult you got to make sure that you really watch those campaigns and you understand which make models especially today we’ve got dwindling new car inventory so dealer should really be careful they’re not running paid search campaigns for a model they have one or two of and then use cars as a category i would not run i don’t i don’t find those to be effective on paid search there’s just a lot more cost effective ways paid facebook marketplace to market used and then fixed i also i’m probably a bigger fan of email campaigns on fixed than i am a paid search but if you’re if you’re running out again so so once the dealer knows those categories then diving into specific keywords okay so for my brand how much is my cost per click how much did i spend last month on my brand how many conversions came from my branded clicks that’s the kind of digging in and i think when you really get to that keyword level what are my top performing keywords what are my most expensive keywords what are my lowest performing keywords you know as you as you see those you get into that granularity and it doesn’t take that long i mean that that whole exercise could take could take five or 10 minutes with the right agency then you then you really get comfortable to say okay i understand what’s going on and i know where where my where my search dollars are going i

Ilana Shabtay 18:05

think it would be great if the industry can streamline the way we talk about leaving conversions because i think and all this other stuff that we’re talking about too but especially if you want to see the impact of a change at the dealership right whether that’s you go from one agency to another you do you go from one agency to in house it’s very hard to do pre post without having that you know just like baseline understanding of what a conversion is and so how can we really know if your leads are going up and down up or down if you know they’re changing from one agency to the other the translation and those definitions really need to be streamlined so i really think if we can get there as an industry we would have a much much better more efficient way of being able to assess our marketing, before before we wrap here i do want to talk a little bit about dealer reputation i don’t know if this is something that you guys even offer in your consulting but i’d love to talk about it if you do feel critical to do our business and there’s so many parts of it it’s not just about reviews it’s also about creating positive image i’d love to know what you think about that and if you do advise dealers what are one or two tips that our listeners can take away from just reputation management in general

George Nenni 19:22

Yeah so so we do consult around reputation and we help dealers track it on a monthly basis and give them encouragement and ideas and and campaign ideas on how they can drive more of that and in fact later later today i’m doing a presentation to a dealer group and and teaching their sales and service teams how to how to leverage reviews for seo benefit well we touched on before and so i think the biggest the biggest tip i can give is don’t just rely on podium in digital air strike whoever’s doing your service I mean, those are good companies. And those are good campaigns that are running with a, they’re emailing or texting every closed aro every closed sale or lease transaction, that’s great and continue that. But there’s no substitute for a personal one on one ask. And I think when you do that a number of opportunities get created. So, from the sales team asking for a review each month and saying, Joshua, thanks so much for stopping the store. And I’m so glad we were able to connect you and your wife with this great f150. I’m gonna go grab some paperwork here real quick. I think I still have your cell phone in my phone, I’m going to text you a link and you might leave me a Google review and mention my name. And you know, and then and then don’t say anything, you know, just just mean that person, if they’ve had a good experience, they’re going to come back with sure I wouldn’t mind it and you send them a link directly to your GMB shortcode, your short name and add slash review to the end of it, it automatically pops the stars up in front of Joshua, if he’s got a Google account, he’s literally one click away from leaving that review. He leaves my name in it now, you know, maybe my Boston George, I need two reviews from you every month that are five stars with your name in it, which is a good thing to tie in the incentive plan. But if I’m a smart salesperson, I know that if I get my name and enough reviews, and people read reviews, I’m no longer waiting on up. So I’ve got someone coming in asking for me by name because they read my name three or four times in reviews, and I take good care of customers. And so that’s a big one. And if you can, if you have a customer who said, I don’t know what I should put in a review what should you know, just coach them a little bit and say, Look, if you bought a car, just put the put the year make model that you bought from us, if you brought your car in for service, do that same thing, but then include whatever service you we love getting our new tires for our Mustang or our 2020 Mustang, you know, and then mentioned a person’s name, if they dealt with them. If they could use the word best, that would be great service, that would be great. We love these getting you’re just any kind of adjectives that Google can kind of pick up on and say, Look, when people are searching for the best new Ford dealer near me, you know, I want my store to show up.

Ilana Shabtay 22:00

You’re saying these software companies are great, but it has to be coupled with a strategy of just embedding it into the script of the day to day in the dealership, and that will make a bigger impact.

George Nenni 22:12

You’ll get so many more. So if you just leave it up to those companies. I mean, I think you’ll have trouble getting the double digits for a normal single point store. But once you inject that level, if we have dealers that then go 1015 a week. And you know, they’re all you hate to say it I mean, in some ways, it’s review gating, right? So if Google and Yelp, they all say gates, that leaf. I don’t know if I’m in that camp, but I mean, if I’m sitting across from Joshua, and he’s irritated, he’s been here for two hours, and we cannot get him out of the store on a cash deal. I’m not asking him for a review. You know, I just don’t want to do so. But you know, I’m picking my best customers and people I know, have had good experiences. And I say, is there anything else I can do to help you? But you know, George, we’ve loved it. We’ve loved you’ve been great, awesome. Hey, can you do me a favor? You know, I mean, that’s that’s the time, right? And I know, I’m getting a five star from him, you know, and so now I’m getting reviews.

Ilana Shabtay 23:05

Awesome. Okay, well, thank you so much. There’s so much content, so much education. We really appreciate your time. Anything else you want to tell our listeners? Before we do our quick sign off, show us your books, maybe we’d love to see those that are watching on video.

George Nenni 23:20

Car Dealers go to digital marketing car dealers guide to Google My Business. You can find them both on Amazon or you can just Google my name and you’ll find the GMB spile pull up and the books will pull up and we love your support. And we appreciate you having us.

Ilana Shabtay 23:35

That’s awesome. We all absolutely love and spending way too much money on there. So please check out the books. Thank you so much, Josh for joining us on the InsideAuto Podcast

Ilana Shabtay 23:47

It was great. If you liked this episode, please tune in to InsideAuto Podcast. We’re on all mainstream podcasts. Spotify, Deezer, Apple, iHeart Media. You name it Thank you so much again, George.

George Nenni 24:01

Thank you. You guys. Have a great day.

Outro 24:09

Thanks for listening to InsideAuto Podcast. Check out our other episodes with top entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

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