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Automotive Pay Per Click Strategy Is Easy. 

We’ve been talking about what are car dealership online marketing strategies that work effectively. Some of the topics are complex, some are easy. Pay per click strategy is easy. 

First we’ll define pay per click. From there we’ll talk about where it fits into your digital marketing strategy, and talk about why automation is the smart way to go. 

What is paid search? 

Pay per click marketing – a.k.a. paid search, paid search marketing, SEM, PPC, and search marketing – works like this: 

Say a search engine user types the phrase “pre-owned cars San Diego” in a search bar. A list of search results comes up. At the top of the page she gets an ad for a local dealership named California’s Coolest Pre-Owned Cars. If the ad lines up with what she’s looking for and clicks on it, California’s Coolest Pre-Owned Cars is charged a PPC fee. If she scrolls past it without clicking and moves to the organic searches, nothing happens.

The PPC fee is based on how valuable the keyword is. “Pre-owned cars San Diego” might (or might not) be a keyword phrase that a lot of local used car dealers want to bid on, which would make the PPC fee higher. Another keyword phrase, like “2007 Honda Civic San Diego” might be less competitive, and come with a lower fee. 

What are the strategic benefits of automotive paid search marketing? 

According to Google, six-in-ten car buyers don’t know what make and model of vehicle they want to purchase next when buying a car. Our own research indicates that a third of buyers aged 18-54 kick off their research on Google, Bing, or another search engine, and that the buying process begins as early as five months out for seventy-two percent of car shoppers.  

Google’s research goes on to tell us that these searches tend to focus on five basic micro-moments, or questions that a car buyer would consult a search engine for: 

  • Which-car-is-best moments are moments where the car buyer tries to identify “the best car” based on his or her criteria. The best car may be the cheapest of its type, the most fuel efficient, the most impressive status symbol, or best in some other way. 

  • Is-it-right-for-me moments are a lot like which-car-is-best moments, but they tend to weigh more specific considerations. Asking a search engine if a model of pickup truck has enough horsepower to tow a heavy trailer back and forth across the Rockies is an is-it-right-for-me moment. 

  • Can-I-afford-it moments are searches that focus on topics like price points, leasing, buying, lease-exchange programs, and trade-in value. These search moments are all about money.  

  • Where-should-I-buy-it moments tend to emphasize individual dealerships, and include everything from checking out inventory to looking up driving directions. 

  • Am-I-getting-a-deal moments resemble can-I-afford-it moments, but they come closer to the end of the buying process. A car buyer whipping out his phone to Google a sticker price he sees on a car lot is an am-I-getting-a-deal moment. 

As we can see, car shoppers are doing a lot of searches on a lot of different topics. A dealership website will be a very helpful result to get for some of these searches – like, say, “hybrids near me”; and not very helpful at all for others – like “car James Bond drives in Quantum of Solace.” 

The benefits of paid search marketing put your dealership front and center throughout multiple micro-moments. It also creates an opportunity to change up the search engine user’s micro-moments by giving them a prominent result. 

What might this look like in real life? Let’s say a customer is in the which-car-is-best phase and is considering a pre-owned electric car. He googles “pre-owned electric cars” and gets a search ad for a local dealership. It piques his interest and he clicks on the link. On the dealer website he sees attractive inventory at a great price. He either heads down to the dealership for a test drive or continues to research electric cars online, inspired by what he saw. 

What the search ad did here was take him from a which-car-is-best moment to a can-I-afford-it moment and, more importantly for the dealership, a where-should-I-buy-it moment. If the dealership was letting organic SEO do the job all on its own, the customer might have clicked on a third-party review of individual car brands, or maybe a news article on why the local pre-owned electric car market hit a lull in 2017.  

By making itself more prominent on the search page, the dealership is filling in the gaps at multiple points in the car-buying process and, quite possibly, setting itself up for a sale. 

Why not let a machine do all the work? 

A lot of the strategies we talk about in this series demand a degree of deliberation. With content strategy you have to choose topics. With video, you have to come up with a concept before you start creating content. 

Pay per click marketing can – and should – be a lot easier. Why’s that? It’s because the most logical way to run a SEM campaign is with automation. Consider the following: 

As of 4:34 PM Central Time, there were around 4,633,000,000 worldwide Google searches on October 8, 2019. By 4:35 PM, that number increased by five million to hit 638,000,000. This is a blistering rate of activity, far faster than any human could keep up with. 

According to Google Trends, “PG&E shutoff map,” “PS5,” and “Ellen DeGeneres” are the top daily search terms on the afternoon of October 8, 2019 – the date and time that this paragraph was written.  At this moment in human existence, a power outage in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco, a surprise Dave Chappelle show in Houston, and, again, the California gas company PG&E are the top real-time search topics in the U.S. These topics either affect or interest a very large cross-section of people, but they only account for a trace of what American Google users as a whole are searching for. There is an endless variety of things people look for on search engines. You can slice and dice all these searches down to identifiable trends, but even when you’re smart about it large patterns can remain invisible. 

Even when people search for the same thing they may do it in different ways. “Ford pickup,” “Ford truck” and “American-made pick ups” all might lead a search engine user to a new Ford F150, but which keywords make the most sense to bid on for an actual PPC campaign? It can be very hard to know. 

Our search marketing solution uses machine learning to manage SEM campaigns. The local dealership specifies a budget, and artificial-intelligence powered software looks for ways to spend the money smartly. For example, it might discover that the most profitable time to bid on “Ford trucks” in your local market is between 9 AM and 3 PM Monday through Friday; and that the best time to bid on “Ford dealerships near me” is on Saturday afternoon. Conversely, it might decide that the Saturday afternoon bids are a poor use for your budget and focus on lower-value keywords to cover this time, or not bid on any keywords at all. 

If you want to manage your own PPC campaigns, you can. Google has basic tips for building a keyword list. They recommend you think like a customer when you create your list, select specific keywords to target specific customers, select general keywords to reach more people, group similar keywords into ad groups, and consider close variants. There are also resources on how to conduct competitive keyword analysis, like this

The problem you might run into is that you may end in a suboptimal competition over general keywords. If you’re in a market where ten other dealerships are all simultaneously bidding on “Ford trucks,” you might not get the kind of return you’re looking for. You might also miss out on close variants you didn’t consider, bid on the right keyword at the wrong times, and so on. 

It sounds like a pitch but it’s not. AI-powered search marketing is a straightforward way to solve a search engine-sized problem. 

Ready for super-powered PPC? 

If you’re interested in seeing what automotive search marketing can do for you, LOCALiQ AUTOMOTIVE has an award-winning search marketing solution that uses machine learning and covers 98% of the places people search. We’re also Google Premier Partners. We know what we’re doing and are standing by to help. 


Contact us to request a free Dealer Scorecard analysis for your dealership or Auto Group. 


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