March 21, 2006 08:30 ET

CampaignTracker Automotive Industry Scorecard Finds Major Automakers Seriously Disadvantaged on Search Engines by Car Publishers and Buying Services

Honda Receives Search Engine Marketing Analytics (SEMA) Award for "Best Overall SEM Performance Among Carmakers in the Automotive Industry"

NOVATO, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- March 21, 2006 -- SEMphonic, search engine marketing (SEM) analytics technology specialist, today released results from the CampaignTracker Automotive Industry Scorecard which showed serious disadvantages in the search engine marketing campaigns of major car manufacturers, where automakers lagged behind car publishers and buying services in virtually every online category (except Hybrid and Fuel Efficiency Words). Surprisingly, major automakers fared worse, on the whole, with natural search placement (SEO) than they did with Paid Placement (PPC).

However, in a related announcement, Honda received the Search Engine Marketing Analytics (SEMA) award for "Best Overall SEM Performance Among Carmakers in the Automotive Industry." Hybrid Search Terms was the only category where the automakers won out-right with natural search. It was also a category where the automakers competed quite well with both the Publishers and the Buying Services. Among the strong players in this category were Honda, GM and Toyota.

In two bellwether categories for online car shopping (Car Pricing Terms and Car Buying Terms), the major automakers fared especially poorly.

The major automakers were virtually invisible in the natural search ratings for both these categories. Publishers (like NADA and KBB) dominated the natural search listing -- especially for pricing words. On the other hand, Buying Services (like Autobytel, and CarsDirect) owned the vast majority of Paid Placements. The Automotive Portals (Automotive Portals run by MSN, Yahoo and also the Wikipedia) had a modest presence in organic listings and very little paid presence.

This illustrates the difficulty major carmakers have had in competing for natural search listings. A difficulty highlighted by last month's de-listing of BMW Germany on Google for keyword stuffing.

The two strongest categories for automakers were Car Type Terms (like Convertible, Sedan, Hatchback, Luxury Car) and Hybrid and Fuel-Efficiency Terms.

For Car Type Terms, Honda was the primary reason the automakers registered a decent performance. With Honda being one of the top PPC buyers categorized and doing respectably with organic search placement as well. After Honda, however, most of the other majors were not doing well in this category. Publishers, not surprisingly, win this category in natural search -- but both Portals and Buying Services compete here as well.

"The spottiness of presence we see from the major carmakers is typical of many industries where the traditional brands aren't competing well with the online specialists," states Gary Angel, President and Chief Technical Officer, of SEMphonic. "We were surprised to find that Wikipedia showed up as a serious organic presence in this SEMA study -- which illustrates the importance, in certain industries, of knowing what's being said there."

CampaignTracker, SEMphonic's Internet advertising analysis tool, studied the automotive space online by generating an industry keyword list with more than 1,000 automotive terms. These terms were then categorized by type and the performance of all the competitors within each category was analyzed.

To purchase a full copy of the study or to request a customized version, please contact John Williams at

About SEMphonic

SEMphonic brings over 9 years of experience in Internet marketing competitive analytics to search engine marketing (SEM) professionals. The company focus is to develop and deliver powerful online campaign tracking tools that provide SEM practitioners worldwide with accurate and rapid methods to report comparative PPC search engine performance and competitor campaign performance. SEM professional now get faster, more actionable insights to help improve SEM campaign performance.

SEMphonic provides these technologies, tools, and services to maximize the competitive edge for Agencies and companies such as American Express, WebMD, AOL, CyberTrader, Charles Schwab, Endless Pools, Hotwire, Intuit, Mediasmith, iCrossing, and others. SEMphonic is headquartered in Novato, California. Visit us at for more information.

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