Car shoppers consult many media sources before purchasing a new vehicle. However, there is one source that continues to grow in importance in the auto shopper’s buying journey, and that’s the dealer website. But, before consumers can use your site, they need to find it when they search for new cars online.
In order to stay competitive in your local market with search engine advertising, it’s critical to establish some best practices when setting up paid search campaigns to promote new car inventory for your auto dealership. By implementing the following best practices, you can reach your target shoppers as they’re searching online.
1. Create Campaigns Using Makes, Then Models
When setting up your paid search advertising campaign, remember that you must make it easy for consumers to find your dealership and the car they’re searching for. So, it’s important to use make and model keywords along with your location so your ads are shown to someone searching for them.
To get the most from your advertising, it’s best to set up separate campaigns for each make your dealership sells. This will ensure you can effectively monitor and control the budget and performance for each campaign. For example, if your dealership sells Acura, Honda, and Lincoln brands, you should set up a separate ad campaign for each, rather than combining them all into a single campaign. Although it may seem like a good strategy to extend your budget by combining all the brands you sell into one campaign, you’ll never be able to divide or control how much you spend on each make.
Then, set up ad groups by model within each campaign; for example, set up a group for each type of sedan, SUV, etc. that you sell. For instance, when someone searches for “Honda Civic Atlanta,” shoppers are more likely to click an ad that contains the same keywords they are searching for. One way to improve this is with dynamic keywords, which will automatically insert the exact keyword phrase typed into the search box into your text ad so that interested shoppers will click through to your site.
2. Include Your Dealership Name in Keyword Lists
Setting up search engine advertising campaigns with keywords to promote the makes and models on your lot is important. But don’t forget to include your dealership name inside the keyword lists of your digital campaigns. Most big name advertisers do this today!
When someone searches for your business name online, what do you want them to see? Not your competitors, of course; but chances are they are already bidding on your business name and poaching searchers who are looking for your business. Plus, bidding on your business name keywords means you own more of the real estate on the search engine results page, which allows you to control the message and improve your online reputation.
Dealers spend a lot of money promoting specific makes and models. Why not spend some of those dollars on your dealership name, too? The fact is these terms aren’t as competitive as your make and model keyword sets, so these will be fairly inexpensive. Whether it’s an offensive or defensive play, you can achieve a significant ROI on a minimal cost-per-click given the average sales price of a new car.
3. Use Promotions to Reduce Current Inventory
The decision of when to add in new makes and models to your search advertising campaigns can be tricky. Promoting a new model or year before you actually have it on your lot may seem like a good strategy to build up excitement. But wait until those cars are physically on your lot or can be ordered.
Don’t spend precious advertising dollars on something you don’t have yet. Instead, use your marketing budget to reduce current inventory. For instance, you could create seasonal promotions for your text ads. Car dealers often utilize holidays like Christmas, Labor Day, and Memorial Day, which are big sales periods for new cars.
Also, update your text ads to have the newest dealer offers or specials that are going on for the brand. Something as simple as “2013 model price blowout” when you are trying to make space for 2014 models helps clear traffic. Most people searching for cars know that you are going to get good deals during the transition of years for models. Enhance that by putting it in your ad. Make sure the landing page you are sending traffic to also contains the offer or promotion to improve your quality score.
4. Understand OEM Guidelines When Bidding on Competitor Terms
When bidding on competitor terms, it is important to understand the financial impact to your campaigns and the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) guidelines. Bidding on similar OEM dealerships is generally against most OEM guidelines. For example, a Toyota dealer bidding on another Toyota dealer is often against OEM guidelines. However, bidding on competitor OEM terms is a common practice.
5. Build Customer Loyalty, Which Leads to New Car Sales
The lifetime value of a happy customer is more than just the profit made on one transaction. As you set up search campaigns for new cars, it’s important to understand that a good campaign can and will generate some calls for service. These are not bad calls.
If you bring in a new customer to your service department and the service is memorable, you have a customer for life. Service is probably one of your biggest profit centers! You should expect to receive some service calls as part of your campaigns.
Are you following these search advertising best practices when marketing your dealership online?
About the Author
Lori Jones is a Senior Marketing Manager with ReachLocal. She writes about digital marketing for the auto industry. You can follow her on Twitter.