Automotive PPC – 5 Things You Need To Know

Car Dealer PPC | Automotive Digital Marketing

car dealer ppc

Virtually every major car dealership is now engaging in some level of Pay Per Click (Automotive PPC) advertising. In the automotive world it is sometimes referred to as Automotive Search Engine Marketing (Automotive SEM), but it really is just PPC advertising. In this article we hope to give dealerships an opportunity to really think about the dollars they put into this type of marketing and especially how to maximize their return on this digital marketing investment.

There is quite a lot of ground to cover when thinking about PPC advertising for car dealers, so we will attempt to distill the conversation down to it’s five most vital points that the average car dealership can wrap their minds around and implement quickly in order to gain control over their PPC marketing efforts.

1. Location Location Location

automotive digital marketing

This is a mantra for real estate value, and what are PPC ads if not valuable online real estate? A recent study by eMarketer done earlier this year shows the top five revenue generators in PPC advertising.One interesting fact that came out of this report is that Google will once again regain dominance over Facebook as the top revenue generator in PPC advertising.

The top five places for search engine marketing in order of dominance are:

  1. Facebook
  2. Google
  3. Yahoo!
  4. Microsoft
  5. AOL

These are not the only places to market your dealership via your automotive PPC advertising, but they are the most popular. Most car dealers have not even taken full advantage of the many benefits of advertising on Facebook and they stick to a very standard Google PPC marketing campaign.

We recommend spreading your marketing budget into several of these marketplaces as each of them has it’s benefits. Facebook for example allows you to target your ads to a very specific demographic. If you really want to laser in on a certain type of person, Facebook is a great way to get your message to them in a much more casual way. Often times your advertising dollars can be stretched further on Facebook as the cost per click will be less than advertising on Google or Yahoo!’s PPC advertising platforms.

The first thing you need to think about is where you want to spend your money. Google is obviously someplace you HAVE to spend part of your budget since that is where the majority of organic searching is taking place. Did you know that 25% of the people that do a search click on a sponsored listing on Google search results page? What does that tell us? That tells us that you should be heavily invested in organic automotive search engine optimization since that is where 75% of the searchers are clicking. However, with the sheer volume of daily searches in your local area, 25% of them is quite easy to get access to very quickly with Automotive search engine marketing.

2. Build Everything For Conversion

automotive ppc

In 99% of the cases there is only one goal with digital marketing campaigns, and that is to convert website traffic into qualified sales leads. We call this converting traffic into leads or web conversion.

We will talk in more detail in point number five about measuring conversion and using conversions as the gauge by which you should be determining the ROI on your PPC campaigns.

For now lets just really take a look at how your campaigns are set up and how the website your directing traffic to is working synergistically with your off site advertising to make the best attempt to convert the traffic you send to your landing pages. Here are words you need to be talking about relentlessly with your digital advertising agency — Specific and Relevant. How specific are your ads to your landing pages? How relevant is the verbiage on the ads? Do they match exactly the verbiage on your landing pages? Lets look at each in more detail.


When we talk about being specific, we are talking about making a serious effort to drill down your advertising campaigns. It’s not enough to go after broad terms. Yes, they are easy to drive traffic for, but do they convert? The answer is no. The more specific you get, the more likely you are to get conversions from the traffic you drive to your website. You are far more likely to get a conversion from someone that searches for a 2012 Honda Accord Lease Special than you are from someone searching for just Honda or Honda Accord. We know this and have proven it to be true time and time again.

Since we know that being specific drives traffic that is more likely to convert, and it actually costs less to get that traffic to your website than a more general term, why then doesn’t everyone do it? Well that’s a great questions and it also has a simple answer. Because it’s hard work. You just can’t automate the detail that is required to really craft specific campaigns. You need to be splitting your campaigns into smaller segments with different ad groups in each campaign. Further and further we drill down until you are displaying very specific ads for a small keyword set that is going to be highly relevant to your landing page and with those two things together, give you the greatest chance to convert that person into a lead.


What is relevancy? It is the marriage of your ads on Google, Facebook, and other PPC marketplaces and the pages those ads direct traffic to. Using our example above, if I am searching for a 2012 Honda Accord lease and I see your ad showing a 2012 Honda Accord Lease for only $249/month… then I damned well better get more information about that lease when I click on that ad. If not, I have totally wasted an opportunity and I might as well just be flushing my advertising budget straight down the toilet.

By sending that traffic to a page that shows me images of the 2012 Honda accord, allows me to view inventory you have in stock for that vehicle, and tells me all the great details about what is involved in that lease special, I am really taking care of that customer’s needs. What does Google want? They want you to take care of customers! They are going to reward you for having content that is so relevant to your ads on their network by giving you a higher quality score and paying less for the  traffic they send to your site.

3. Maximizing Your Opportunities

automotive websites

Now that we know where to advertise and how to be both specific and relevant in what we are advertising, we need to take care that we have done everything possible to maximize our conversion opportunity on our landing pages and websites.

At this point, you’re making the advertising network happy, you’re paying less for your traffic, and best of all you have really captured the attention of this person who is looking to lease a vehicle in your area. Assuming your phone number his highly visible and contact forms for more information are easy to get to, you’re offering the visitors incentives to chat or submit their trade information, etc.You have done everything you can to do a great job of marketing your vehicles and converting your web traffic into leads.

Make sure you give the visitors to your dealer website every opportunity to connect with you. Are you utilizing all these methods on your dealer website that you drive your automotive PPC traffic to?

  • Live chat that actively attempts to engage visitors in chat sessions
  • Clearly and prominently displayed phone number
  • Forms that are very easy to get to and complete for more information
  • Click to call buttons
  • Coupons and incentives forms
  • Free tools like trade evaluation forms
  • Social profile connections
If your doing all those things then you have given yourself a great shot to convert your highly relevant web traffic into qualified sales leads that will help your dealership sell more cars!

4. Test & Tweak

automotive semNow that you have built these awesome, specific and relevant campaigns and you have your landing pages built for conversion and relevancy, the real work begins… not ends. Your digital advertising agency needs to be watching your campaigns like a hawk daily, early on multiple times per day.

Here is a short list of some of the things that get tweaked on your PPC campaigns once they go live:

  • The bid for each individual keyword on each ad group on each campaign.
  • The quality scores of your keywords and ads
  • The best converting ads and keywords
  • The conversions produced by the traffic sent for each ad group in each campaign.
Again, these are just a few of the things that will be tweaked on your campaigns once they go live.

5. Measuring Success

automotive digital advertising

Yes we left the best for last! There is some confusion about what is considered a successful PPC campaign, if you can believe that. Some people think that if show in the first spot for their biggest keywords then they are doing a good job and are running a successful PPC campaign. Wrong. Some people think if they are driving lots of traffic to their website then they are doing a great job and are running a successful PPC campaign  Wrong again. The success of your campaign can only be measured by one thing, and that is by how many more cars you sold as a result of your advertising dollars spent on pay per click digital marketing.

Now there are many ways that digital marketing companies profit from offering PPC services to car dealers. Some of them will take a portion of your budget, some of them will charge a flat fee and spend your whole budget, others will do both… charging you a flat fee AND taking a portion of your budget. We prefer to charge the flat fee as that free’s us to really show you what happens with the budget we are managing on your dealership’s behalf.

Most of our competitors don’t  want to really show you what happens with your budget, but we feel you can only really make educated decisions with this information. It is vital to your success and our ability to deliver real results to our dealerships.

Here are some of the standard items you will get in a PPC report from your digital marketing company:

  • Number of clicks from your ads
  • The click through ratio of your ads

It might be prettied up and it might be broken down by ads and keywords, but those two pieces of information are what your typical digital marketing agency is willing to tell you about your campaign that they managed. Now lets take a look at what a real marketing agency that is doing everything possible to deliver specific, targeted, relevant advertising that is built to convert can report on:

  • number of clicks from your ads
  • the click through ration of your ads
  • the cost of your clicks
  • the total amount of your budget spent
  • how many phone calls were generated from your PPC campaigns
  • how many form leads were generated from your PPC campaign (this includes finance, trade in, coupons, more info requests, service requests, parts requests, etc.).
  • How many people printed out window stickers for vehicles discovered through PPC advertising
  • How many people visited your directions page that came from PPC sources
  • How many people spent more than five minutes browsing your website from PPC sources.
  • What your monthly conversion ratio is comparing traffic sent from PPC sources to the total amount of conversions generated from that traffic.
  • How many additional cars you sold due to PPC leads
  • What the ROI on your investment in PPC advertising was based on sold cars versus dollars spent on PPC.

As you can see, when you take the time to setup, manage, and really perform with PPC advertising it is going to pay off big time for the car dealer. There is no reason to be confused about your SEM campaigns.

Hopefully we have armed you with enough information that you can have intelligent conversations with your automotive digital advertising agency about what they are doing for you and what they can do to improve upon it. Looking back over this article, I hope it didn’t get too long-winded, but I feel like there is so much more that we could have covered about automotive PPC marketing.

If you would like a free analysis of your current PPC campaign, we are happy to do a free evaluation of it so that you can get a complete picture of what your true ROI is on your current automotive PPC advertising campaigns!

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I am the owner and Chief Operations Officer of Drive Digital Group. My role is to oversee the operations of the company across all products & Services.

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Chris Burns

I am the owner and Chief Operations Officer of Drive Digital Group. My role is to oversee the operations of the company across all products & Services.