eBay recently generated some buzz in the digital marketing world by stopping their paid search campaigns. The auction giant had paused ads in specific regions between April and July 2012, compared sales results with areas that still had ads running, and concluded that there were no appreciable differences. In fact, the team determined that paid search ads yielded a return of $0.25 for every $1 spent.
It’s always compelling when a major brand shifts ad tactics, but a closer look at eBay’s decision shows it had little to do with the value of Paid Search itself. In fact, it actually reveals the importance of well-executed PPC campaigns within automotive. Here are the key lessons for dealers.
1. Start with a “relevant” strategy
eBay’s PPC strategy revolved around an AdWords feature called Dynamic Keyword Insertion, which uses a snippet of code to alter ad copy automatically, depending on the keyword a searcher enters. Pushing this to the extreme, eBay served up ads in searches for almost everything, including ‘stolen cars’, ‘severed hand’, and even ‘crack pipe.’
Beyond the obvious issues, this approach actually drove up the cost of eBay’s paid search campaigns, compounding their poor ROI. Why? The ads didn’t deliver relevant content. Google rewards relevancy, and forces users to pay more if it thinks that ads won’t be relevant to searchers. Thus, a wrongheaded PPC strategy hurts on two levels: You’ll both pay more, AND get terrible search results.
Fortunately, the opposite is true too. Dealerships that consistently deliver exceptionally relevant content in ads – brand, location, dealership name, specific inventory and services– are rewarded with better placement and lower costs.
2. Test your paid search campaigns for specificity
So, how do you make sure your campaigns are relevant? Test them! Here’s how:
- First, make sure you perform this experiment during a time of day when you know your budget is active and ads are being served (If you limit the delivery of your ads from 7am – 7pm for example, it won’t help to preview ads at 9pm).
- Visit the Google AdWords Preview Tool
- Search for a piece of inventory you stock, new or used, by following this template – [New/Used] [Make] [Model] for sale [Geo-Location]. For example, a Subaru dealer in Burlington, VT may search ‘New Subaru Outback for sale Burlington VT’
- Repeat the process until your ads are triggered, then review the ad copy
- Finally, make sure you know the landing page that shoppers come to once they click ads from your different groups (For example, does someone searching for a used Honda Pilot click an ad that delivers them to a homepage featuring new Fords?)
Hopefully your self-test delivered ads that called attention to specific inventory, and drove to a vehicle details page (extra points if your ads included active incentives for new vehicles, which can deliver even higher conversion rates). If not, you’ll definitely want to contact your paid search partner or analyst.
3. Partner with an expert to improve efficiency
Even if your ads passed the initial test, it still may be worth a consultation with an expert to ensure your campaigns are optimized for efficiency as well as impact. For instance, there’s no reason to invest hours manually enhancing every campaign. The process of creating relevant ads for every new vehicle – plus pre-owned inventory obtained via trades, auction and wholesale – can be completely automated. Here are the key questions to ask during any consultation:
- Do my Paid Search ads include headlines describing specific vehicles?
- Does my Paid Search ad copy describe specific vehicles currently in stock?
- Are my campaigns featuring geo-specific text in some of my ad copy variations?
- Have we begun investing in Paid Search ads for profit centers like Parts/Service?
- Can shoppers see my ads when searching on their mobile devices?
- Do my ads link directly to a Vehicle Listings Page (or equally relevant page), instead of the homepage?
4. Keep improving!
As in all advertising, there’s almost always room to fine-tune your paid search strategy—to deliver even more relevant ads, and in turn be rewarded with higher placement, a lower maximum bid requirement, and increased form submissions, phone calls, and sales. By paying a close attention to your campaigns, or empowering a trustworthy partner to mind the store for you, you can ensure Paid Search consistently delivers a high return on your investment, and remains a cornerstone of your entire ad strategy.
Joe Mescher is the Digital Marketing Evangelist for Dealer.com