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Google Product Listing Ads Outperform Search Engine PPC Advertising

Google Product Listing Ads (PLA) Deliver 25% Higher Return On Spend Than Search Engine Ads (SEA)

An RKG Digital report also released this month found that Google PLAs accounted for 20% of Google’s paid search clicks in Q3, with a CPC 15% less than the average non-brand text ad.

Yahoo! Bing Outperforms Google in ROAS

Kenshoo’s “Global Search Advertising Trends” reveals that, as in each of the previous 6 quarters ending Q3 2012, the Yahoo! Bing Network (YBN) outperformed Google in Return On Advertising Spend (ROAS), although YBN delivers only a fraction of Google’s click volume. On a normalized basis, the gap between ROAS for YBN and Google was 28%. Still, Google delivered 684% more overall traffic in that same quarter.

Spend, Impressions, CTRs Up; CPCs Down

US paid search engine advertisers (SEA) in Q3 saw a 21% YoY increase in impressions and a 20% increase in click volume.  Data for this report is provided by the Search Engine Marketing industry's most highly regarded campaign management and bid optimization platform: Marin Software.  

Marin provides the campaign and bid management systems for automotive industry dealership service providers Tier10 Marketing and Team Velocity Marketing. The Marin software platform is used by their respective Search Engine Advertising (SEA) and Social Media Advertising (SMA) teams to deliver marketing and advertising campaign management and bid optimization for car dealers throughout North America.

Click-through rates (CTRs) remained stable while cost per click (CPC) continued to drop, down 14% to $0.82. Kenshoo observed the same trend, though reported vastly different costs, with a drop from $0.60 in Q1 2011 to $0.48 in Q3 2012. By contrast, CPCs in the EU (excluding the UK) dropped over that same period from just over $0.40 to $0.37, while CPCs in the UK rose from about $0.39 to $0.45.

Kenshoo reports that regionally, paid search ad spend is up 29% year-over-year in the US, so is growing faster than in the UK or the rest of the EU. Still, each region shows increased year-over-year ad spending for each quarter of 2012.

About The Data: An aggregate data set was built from Kenshoo clients that had been active during the previous 18 months. This rolling data set covered several billion dollars in global paid search ad spend. In cases where it was useful to compare data from the previous 18 months to even earlier data, only data from the set of Kenshoo clients that had been active for the newly-defined and extended time period was utilized unless otherwise noted.

All volume metrics have been normalized to a factor of 1 based on the initial quarter of data (or other baseline quarter as noted). Data points from other quarters are based on a multiplier from baseline quarter – for example, 1.55 means that volume is 55% greater than volume in baseline quarter measured. To determine return on investment (ROAS), an aggregate data set was built from Kenshoo clients that had been active during the previous 18 months and tracking direct online sales revenue through the platform. For regional comparisons, UK was excluded from EU data (even though it is a member country) so that it could be analyzed separately.

PLA data reflects an aggregate of Kenshoo clients that are running PLA as well as Google campaigns with keywords covering similar product themes, excluding brand and head terms. Sample size includes more than 1.5+ million clicks.



Marin Software recently conducted a study of search and mobile trends during the third quarter of 2012. Our findings, which are presented in this research brief, will give you a better understanding of online advertising trends in the United States.

By downloading this research brief, you’ll come away with specific insights on:

  • Emerging trends in the paid-search advertising market
  • Mobile device targeting and its impact in terms of click share, budgets, and performance
  • Cost per click and click through rates for multiple sectors including retail, travel, education, financial services, auto, healthcare, B2B

Right-Click the "Save As" or "Save Link As" to download the report in PDF file format:

Marin Software Q3 2012 Online Advertising Report



Turn Impressions into Clicks, and Clicks into Conversions

In a search landscape where millions of keywords define intent, generating the most compelling creative can prove to be a daunting task. For paid search programs, big and small, creative optimization remains the single most impactful strategy for increasing traffic, lowering costs and acquiring more revenue. Download this paper to learn how advanced search marketers generate, analyze and iterate on new creative to maximize performance across paid search programs.

Topics Include:

  • Strategies for selecting appropriate test elements to maximize creative performance
  • Methods for testing keyword tokens and Dynamic Keyword Insertion to increase Quality Score
  • Best practices for executing a disciplined and statistically significant creative test


Right-Click the "Save As" or "Save Link As" to download the report in PDF file format:

Marin Paid Search Creative Testing and Optimization 

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Tags: 25%, Ads, Deliver, Engine, Google, Google's, Higher, Listing, On, PLA, More…Product, Return, SEA, Search, Spend, Than


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Comment by Ralph Paglia on October 16, 2012 at 6:05pm
Peter, the campaign and bid management were done by the same people, which were ad agency resources assigned. Keep in mind that every new ad format launched by Google historically starts off great due to low advertiser bid competition until it gains enough adoption rate for the auction to drive bid levels to true value. Also, the headline sounds dramatic but the actual numbers are within a very close range of each other. With a conversion rate of 2.05% over a 1.49% for SEA, I am not willing to grant PLA a carte blanch title to Adwords championship... Performance by all measures was close enough that the advantage could be reversed with some crafty SEA tactics around day parting, negative keywords, URL selections, query insertions, etc. However, this does tell me that we should probably figure out some best practice standards to include PLA campaigns in dealer budgeting for Google Adwords.
Comment by Joshua Michael Friedman on October 16, 2012 at 4:28am

Auto retailers using Product Listing Ads via Google Shopping?

Comment by delete please on October 15, 2012 at 5:29pm

I do ppc management for a living and I am curious as to who was doing the actual ad management for the dealers?  Was it an employee or a professional ad manager?  The difference between the two is night and day.  Everyday I see huge mistakes auto dealers are making in their ppc campaigns so I can only imagine how much better the numbers would really be if they were not managed professionally.  Great article Ralph!

Comment by Ralph Paglia on October 15, 2012 at 5:01pm

This article includes charts and two PDF White Papers with performance benchmarks available for immediate download and use by Automotive Marketing Professionals...

Automotive Professional Network and Resource Exchange for Car Dealers, Managers, OEM and Marketing Practitioners seeking Best Practices.

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