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Do you have a flat ad spend budget? Did your PPC provider "provide" you with a flat spend allocation? Do they tell you that has no effect, so a constant amount is okay? Or did they merely tilt it a little so that it distributes on a linear line? Is it really, however, a rising sawtooth? Or at least a spend that targets the buying cycle, which is usually the last third of the month? And does your PPC provider account for any of that? I'd like to hear from you on this in this thread, including vendors who'd like to speak out about it w/o making a commercial out of the post.


Thanks! Keith

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Keith, I just jumped onboard with FordDirect SEM.  It's only been two weeks, but I am just finding out how much control I don't have over the whole Ford SEM program. I have a flat spend allocation.  I have no idea what the click graph would look like, because they do not supply you with any reporting tools.  Also they do not tell you what words you are paying for or how much you would be paying for them. Thanks for bringing up key PPC practices to look for.  At this point, there is no accountability for any cost involved. 

It seems that most ppc vendors have replied mgmt platforms based on the same or very similar know-how
It seems that Dealers treat PPC advertising the same as Newspaper advertising.  Put it out there and see what happens without knowing if it is effective or not.  I see so many misplaced PPC ads for Dealers that I wonder who is running their PPC programs.  PPC ads should be constantly tweaked and not just set on autopilot.
Even last year I have seen some individual dealers literally broadcasting to the entire northern CA 24x7. Sure their business mgr had a heart-attack at the end of the month.
I understand dealers coming out of middle of nowhere with tens of thousands monthly print budgets; but Sacramento, CA ....
Ive budgeted for end of month like this at request of some dealers, usually Mercedes for some reason. With larger auto dig. ad agencies there is pressure on the analyst to spend to 100% of budget so it does add its challenge. To Bill's post though I'd say I'm sure FordDirect will provide you reporting. 2 wks with their program is just not enough data to make any judgment calls. Im sure after a month you should get at least list of kws that got activity and what the cost was. It's also a good idea to have someone in-house that is PPC savvy to keep the agency on their toes.
  Mike, You are correct that FordDirect will supply reporting, but what they report does not seem to bring value on making decisions for future campaigns.  Below is what I have been told concerning reporting. 

FD will supply monthly metrics that will include how many emails, sales, service calls and other key buying activities generated.  We will be providing monthly reports to you reporting on these goals: Website Leads. Inventory Searches, Virtual Showroom Visits, and Map/Location views.  We do not provide access to the Adwords account and its content or the keywords, ads, campaigns, as well as their structure and setup are proprietary.


I am the in-house person who needs to learn and understand PPC but if I cannot have access or input to keywords, the learning curve has just hit a wall. BTW, Ford co-ops the SEM and that was the determining factor to using their service. 

Interesting Bill, for a larger agency in the past I've provided all my Ford dealers with the 'Approved' kw list and a screenshot of an ad running as was part of co-op submission as general practice.

Personally I dont think providing transparency gives away any 'secret sauce', it is the service that you are paying for.

Keith, I've tried everything. 


We spend just under a million a year for the Eagle Group.  The best plays are consistency and a 90 day plan that you revisit on a monthly basis--with earthquakes, stop sales and additional inventory driving your adjustments.


Google allows you to set a daily spend, but my efforts to change campaigns on a daily basis didn't make a difference bc it took to long to respond.  However, you can move money between campaigns on a month-to-month basis and see a difference.  Example: 50-50 new/used allocation to 30-70 new/used allocation.


Anything I've done that tries to time pay days, holiday weekends, or end of month just doesn't play in the world the Google created. 


That's my 2 cents!  :)

Thanks Jim!  That's very interesting.  What that means to me is that there is something not clear about the way that clicks lead to sales.  I made a list of the variables I can see for ad conversion to a click:


geographic target(s)

text ad title

the offer present in the ad

current market draw of the make/model in the ad in the target geo

program of effective adwords

competition for the adwords

ad budget and allocation


Outer variables would be:


national events

national economics

typical make/model cycles

national OEM periodic marketing "cover fire"

national opposing OEM conquest efforts

national traditional media cycles and endorsements


For the conversion/landing pages, I listed success factors of click-to-contact:


compelling, ad-amplifying content (header matches text ad)

any inventory presented is same make/model, diff trim/color

phone number is prominent and trackable

email is prominent and trackable

form is available and trackable

chat is available, trackable, and effective


And what did I miss?


Thanks again!



Who are you guys currently using for PPC?  I like to collect as much info on other vendors and this area has been eye opening as to how poorly it can be handled.  I appreciate any feedback Jim.
not a vendor. when our webprovider was managing it, the report would say that the ctr & convertions are 9% & 4% respectively. But i could not obtain any details on which keywords were getting clicks & which of those clicks were leading to conversions. PPC was $2.52/click & $12/lead incl phone leads. Every report was only on a campaign level. Budget for 1 of our stores was $1,667 (2/3 of $2k - 'cause of 30% platform fees).

We went on adwording manually. First month (as any first month) consumed with setups (campaigns, grps, AB testing, etc), google getting qScores, etc. during the first month you could see tremendous exposure by google - huge ppc traffic hikes with below ave conversions. Second month was very smooth ctr on branding campaigns was ~40%, cpc - $.004 & ~$3/conversion (this excluding xtime leads). New vehicles campaign ctr ~8%, cpc ~$2.5, ~$14/lead (excl. chat & calls). fyi: we limit ourselves to a very few broad search phrases & used longtail keywords. because how arduous (impossible) it is to easily imports adwords campaigns to bing/y! & given that we get only %20 on bing/y! of organic search traffic, we have left bing/y! with branding campaigns only. (fyi: branding campaigns - with a primary goal of branding/pma protection - primarily consist of dealership & brand related keywords). Most PPC campaigns are killed from midnight to 3:45am & for ~2-3 days following the expiration of factory incentives & increases at the end of the month or for the holidays.

It seems our vendor's platform was leaving us exposed because the exhausted budget was spent on clicks & multi-clicks (within 30days) that would have come organically anyways.

Japan came along; ppc budget dropped to $600. but 2 wks later $400/mo was added for used vehicle acquisition - autotrader trade-in pack is unavail to us - already taken by a competitor.

Are there solutions that can provide click to sales conversion reports?

Keith, that's a great list. 


In a previous role I worked with a team of Rice MBA's in an effort to determine the best predictor of car sales.  We ran every leading economic factor, stock prices and many things you listed into a 20 year history of sales.  So some of this was even before Al Gore invented the internet.  :)


The strongest predictor didn't involve incentive dollars, inventory levels or even advertising.  For what it's worth housing starts turned out to be the leading predictor in the research we did.


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