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Ten of the Most Common Ways Dealers Waste their Search Engine Advertising Budgets

This article is based on an edited version of the "Top 10 ways to Waste your Automotive search marketing budget" blog article referenced in an ADM forum comment by Michael Sweigart on November 12, 2008...

PureDealer states that they have handled millions of ad impressions on their automotive marketing (pay per click) accounts for their clients, and have taken over their share of mismanaged accounts from other automotive web developers, mom and pop shops, and even major companies that state they are experts in search marketing for automotive dealers. Here is a quick top ten list of PureDealer's no-no’s, along with relevant examples of how bad things can get when a car dealer just throws money at search marketing...

#10 - Geotargeting Search Engine Ads Outside of a Dealership’s Primary Marketing Area (PMA):

Too many dealers and managers adopt an initial search advertising strategy based on going after their competitor's local customers. They then go to great lengths to buy Google Metros or marketing areas too far outside of their own primary area of marketing responsibility, or area of responsibility. Often, this manifests itself in a young, new, inexperienced or uneducated dealership marketing manager asking that a search advertising campaign be geotargeted to a 100 mile radius around a metro dealership's location for new vehicle ads. Let's get real... What’s the REAL CHANCE a metro area dealer will sell a NEW Chevy to a customer who has to drive past 53 other Chevrolet dealers on the way to the store?

If you find that your SEM services provider is targeting your search advertising campaigns far outside of a reasonable area, then this could be an indication that they are intentionally burning through your dealership's budget in order to generate their monthly fees based on media purchases.

Used vehicles are a whole different story. PureDealer has some great success stories of dealers selling cars outside of their state, region, even the country.

#9 - Bidding on Model-Specific Keywords for Models a Dealer does Not Sell:

Beware of poorly conceived competitive model conquest campaigns... Of course people are cross shopping vehicles. And, yes you may convert a Porsche Cayenne "searcher" into an Infiniti FX45 sales prospect under the right circumstances. However, first and foremost attention should be placed on getting the proper keywords for the models you DO SELL. Cover your own products THOROUGHLY before you even think about bidding on any other model-specific keywords! Then, if and when you do bid on keywords for directly competing models, make sure your sponsored link ads clearly describe to the consumer that you are offering them an alternative to the vehicle they were initially searching for. Why pay for a click from a customer who won't even consider your competing model? Then, you must closely watch the clicks all the way through to conversion, so you can see if the rates indicate that you are turning these car buyers interested in a competing model into prospects for your model... Or, are you just wasting your efforts and budgets?

#8 - Bidding on Generic Keywords and Phrases:

Dealers that bid on high volume generic keyword phrases such as “cars”, “used”, "trucks", etc. are purchasing a one way ticket to "SEM budget wasteland". Dealers can attract all sorts of crazy requests especially if they bid on a “broad match” keyword basis, which may include such wonderful phrases as “cars for demolition derbies” and “used jeans just like Madonna”. When is comes to search advertising, "Caveat Emptor" applies... Automotive marketers need to beware, because a click is a click to Google and they will charge you if you are not smart enough to prevent your ad from appearing as a search result for ridiculous queries. This is also a good case for using negative keywords... Using negative keywords such as "salvage", "parts", "repairs", etc. can go a long way towards filtering out search queries from people who have no interest in buying a vehicle.

#7 - Landing Pages that Don’t Match the Dealer's Search Advertisement:

A dealer's search ad says “Toyota Camry’s for $199/mo” and is then pointed to the dealer's website homepage, placing the customer at least 3 clicks away from finding the actual Camry inventory featured in the search ad. Then, to really ensure failure, and alienating a customer, they can’t find the advertised $199 Camry special because someone at the dealership forgot to build the special into the web site's special offer section. Talk about wasting a customer's time! This is another one-way ticket to "SEM budget wasteland" and a sure-fired way to force a car buyer to find another dealer on Google. Having your search ads point to the dealership home page instead of the actual content described in the ad itself is just like having a customer walk into your showroom, who then asks about a Camry, and then you walk him around your entire dealership, showed them the Service Department, Finance, everything except your Camry inventory... Is there a better way to drive car buyers to your competition, and have the privilege of paying to do so?

#6 - Pay Search Engines to Publish Crappy, Dull and Meaningless Generic Search Advertisements

This is one of the most common major malfunctions of automotive dealership search advertising campaigns. Boring, low impact generic sounding "blah, blah, blah" search ad listings with no compelling reason for a car buyer to click on them. Sure it’s great you are on top of Google search results. but that will not last long if you have a low click through rate, and customer’s are only going to click on the search result listing that excites them, or seems relevant to what they are looking for. A recommended best practice to avoid this waste of SEM budget is to run many dealership search ads simultaneously within an ad campaign group and use technology to constantly make them compete to beat the next ad... A-B comparison ad testing. This is why some dealers see a 15% or higher click through rate, followed by high conversion rates into leads and phone calls, while other dealers say that pay per click just does not work.

#5 - Bidding Too High and Spending too much on “Gotta Have” Keywords

Michael Sweigart was at a dealership the other day, which shall remain nameless, where the dealer said “I have to win the word Honda... I don’t care how much it costs, but anything Honda, I need to be #1 in paid search.”. This dealership would have put together a pay per click campaign that resulted in clicks on Honda motorcycles, Honda outboards, Honda generators, Honda lawn mowers, Honda jet planes (yes take a look at them) and anything else. Plus the dealer may end up paying $10 per click on highly competitive single-word brand keywords. Insane.

#4 - Ignoring Omntiture SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics Reports to ONLY Focus on Traffic Generation:

90% bounce rates off a dealership's home page from a pay per click search ad mean that 90% of the customers attracted by the paid search listing are leaving almost immediately. If you are not looking at analytic reports then you are spending money on the wrong keywords, ads, sites, etc. We just left a dealer who was buying the word “free” in their PPC campaign. Sure, tons of clicks. Duh. Bounce rate near 100%. Duh. I can’t even imagine how much they paid per click. Factor in the exit rates (what pages people are leaving from) and the new visitor ratio, and you can get a good idea of the best sources of traffic. Buy more good, buy less bad.

#3 -Letting Google's Automated Services Run the Dealership's Search Advertising Campaigns

Sure it is easy and may be good to get you started, but Google suggestions will often just give you irrelevant phrases, or provide you with odd budgets. Buy what you need, leave the rest. Remember, Google wants to spend your automotive budget.

#2 - Bid Too Much Per Click Trying To Get Top Ranking

Sometimes, coming in 2nd is a good thing! When the price between being a first place listing and second place listing is $2.00 per click, it pays to let go of first sometimes. Often, we can buy several times as many clicks for our clients just by avoiding the “bid to win 1st” mentality. Sometimes, the “long tail” philosophy can lead to a boatload of clicks at a low price.

#1 - Bidding on the Dealership's Name as a Keyword

Here is our favorite one of all, bidding on your own name. There is a very popular and well known automotive marketing company who can get dealers a ton of clicks and “phone calls” as well. It’s easy when you buy the dealers name. If you are already #1 with your own name (most dealers are) and there is no competition, the DO NOT buy your own name. They will find you for free. That is buying the cow, AND paying for the milk. It’s insane that a major, well funded business has built a business model around redirecting a dealers own traffic back to the dealer, and getting full credit for it. There are cases where you do want and need to buy your own name but in most cases, it is not necessary. If your web site's organic ranking places your site's link at the top of the organic rankings for a search query on the dealership's name... Why would you bid against your own free listing?

About the Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

The Automotive Digital Marketing (ADM) Professional Community website serves Car Dealers and their management teams, including Internet Sales Managers, BDC Managers, Marketing Managers and Sales Managers. ADM is also a proven resource for OEM Interactive Media and eBusiness Managers who want to see, hear and read what the best Digital and Interactive Marketing professionals in the automotive industry have to say about relevant and timely topics. ADM is a great place for Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 Automotive Advertising Practitioners, as well as Web Site Managers, automotive software Developers and Solution Designers to get new ideas and stay up to date. ADM also serves Automotive CRM and Lead Management Tool developers and their sales professionals as an online exchange for strategy, tactics, best practices, files, resources and contacts within the auto industry.

- Currently, ADM has over 1,500 active members
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If you are interested in visiting and perhaps joining the Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community, go to:

The ADM Professional Community is about automotive Internet sales and digital marketing professionals working with Acura, Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Toyota, Chevrolet, Chevy, Honda, Nissan, GMC, GM, Mercedes-Benz, Mopar, Lincoln, Mercury, VW, Volkswagen and other car company brands.

ADM is also proud to serve as an online meeting place and idea exchange for web solution providers such as ADP Dealer Services, The Cobalt Group, The Reynolds and Reynolds Company, BZ Results, ADP Dynamic Websites, Automotive Websites, Dealerskins, Izmocars and Izmo CRM, TK CarSites, Autobase, DealerTrack, Arkona, Reynolds Web Solutions, Clickmotive, Xi Group and other technology suppliers and vendors.

Of course, the all-time greatest waste of Search Advertising and marketing dollars has GOT to be those silly Christmas Elf cards promoted by some office supply store:
Send your own ElfYourself eCards

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Tags: Advertising, Budgets, Common, Dealers, Engine, Most, Search, Ten, Waste, Ways


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