Even now, with a limited PPC budget, ads can still convert.
Scroll down to see our update as of January 2021.
Most of us in America are heading into week three or four of ‘shelter in place.’ Everyone’s daily lives are completely disrupted. Many, if not most of us are working from home, kids are logging into digital classrooms, and trips to things as simple as the grocery store are a little daunting. So with these daily life shifts comes another significant change – how and what we are searching for products and services online, and this is something that dealerships should not disregard.
Many dealerships are limiting if not altogether eliminating their pay-per-click budget; however, dealers could be missing the mark by canceling their PPC strategy. With the right messaging, your SEM advertising could continue to produce conversions and help keep building your website’s retargeting audience that can be marketed to once ‘shelter in place’ is finally lifted.
“If there’s going to be an economic shock that roils the auto industry, it’s going to come from changes to consumer psychology and confidence and spending patterns.”
Alex Calderone | Calderone Advisory Group March 2020
All of our psychologies are shifting right now. How we approach products and interact with services is completely hands-off, and how consumers search for what they need online is seeing a significant transition and will continue to see a shift over the next coming months.
How should a dealership respond?
All of us are now spending more time online, doing our daily business, and looking for digital ways to order the products and services we need. To make sure that our clients were populating for new search terms, Dealer Authority’s Senior Search Strategist, Shannon Eshel hunkered down to create a strategy to ensure that dealers’ ads were still converting. I sat down with Shannon to talk through this process.
Q: Shannon, we all know these are challenging times for car dealers. How is Dealer Authority ensuring that our clients have a pay-per-click strategy that is reaching customers that have real needs now?
A: We have gone through and wholly overhauled all of our client’s current ad copy. Typically, each ad group has three ads running at all times. What we are doing now is taking the top-performing ad and pausing the other two. By doing this, we can maximize the dealership’s total budget. We then replace that top-performing ad with a new responsive ad that focuses on the client’s online buying tools, the ability to purchase a car from home, and any new rebates or incentives that the manufacturer is now offering.
Q: This ensures that the client’s budget is being capitalized within ads that are already proving that they are converting, correct.
A: Yes, that’s correct.
Q: Are you also changing where you are landing this traffic?
A: Yes. Most of the time, we are landing this traffic on the client’s “COVID-19 response” landing page for these new ads. In most cases, Dealer Authority is creating these new landing pages, but in some cases, the client already has one in place. If so, we point the ads to this page.
Q: In addition to the dealer’s COVID-19 response, what are some other messaging components that have had to be swiftly changed?
A: If the dealership can add a Service Department ad, this is extremely helpful. Here we can make sure their local customers know the availability of the dealer’s service department and include information about delivery and sanitation services. This gives customers a level of comfort by having this information readily available to them when they are searching online.
Q: We all know that there are so many more people online throughout the entire day. How do you make sure that we can maximize each dealer’s pay-per-click budgets and not waste dollars on random clicks?
A: That’s a great question! We are adjusting dealer’s campaign budgets daily. By regularly checking in, we can push funds towards low funnel and service campaigns that are converting. We want to avoid spending on searches made by customers at home who are bored and are just browsing. This doesn’t help our dealers convert sales.
Q: Are there any other recommendations you would suggest to dealers who on the fence about keeping or changing their pay-per-click strategy during this crisis?
A: Overall, making a 20% reduction in budget is a good place to be for dealers. We, of course, do not want to recommend eliminating a PPC budget unless they have no choice. Still, if you can make a 20% decrease, and are very intensional with what is in your ads, the audience that your ad is being targeted to, and where you are landing this traffic, you can make sure you are still building your website’s traffic and conversions.
If you do not have a service department ad running, and your department is operational, you need to set up a campaign immediately. Customers are going to be still looking for help with service and maintenance, and you do not want to miss out on these online opportunities.
Another interesting thing that we have noticed is that we are seeing a few of our client’s competitors starting to bid on the dealer’s name. This is never a best practice, but competing dealerships are seeing an opportunity when PPC campaigns are eliminated due to COVID-19 closures and trying to rank against the competition. If you can keep your campaign active, even if it is limited, please do so.
If you are a dealer that is operational and can offer delivery and online services and you are not utilizing your pay-per-click budget, now may be the time to reassess that, if you are able. Dealer Authority is more than happy to look at your existing campaigns and tell you where you could make improvements to lead to conversions. We are here to help you succeed. Please feel free to reach out to us via the form below. Stay well!
UPDATE: Almost 3 Months Later
Some of the trends that we saw back in April still ring true today in June.
One of the biggest trends that stayed on track is the performance of service-related ads. Keywords with the strongest CTR continue to be “auto service” and “repair” related. Advertisements that contain copy like “we’re still open”, “driveway delivery”, “free pick-up” continue to convert well.
The new issue now facing dealers is inventory. Our team has been shifting to certified pre-owned and used-car-focused ads. Coupling these ads with service department ads allows the dealer to continue to gain new business, even when new-car inventory is low.
“The best thing about PPC is that the changes you make to the ads or keywords are implemented in real-time. So, when the environment around us is continually changing, it’s great to have a marketing tool that can be updated at any time. The changes go live within hours, ensuring your marketing dollars are not wasted.”
– Shannon Eshel | Senior Search Strategist
UPDATE: January 2021
We once thought the pandemic would last a month or two at the most has now turned into many, many months, and although the way we shop may have changed, the PPC market is still thriving, especially for car dealerships.
Customers used to want to know what the dealership’s COVOD-19 response was, what precautions they were taking, how long will they be closed for, and so forth. Now customers want to get back out there. They want to go into the dealership, even if it by appointment, they want to test drive the car, even if the dealer has to bring the vehicle to them. They want the best possible deal; even it means changing their brand loyalty. They want their daily lives to go back to normal, even if that reality is still many more months away.
The automotive industry and our clients specifically have seen some great sales over the holiday months, PPC competition is back in full swing. The Paid Search accounts used to focus primarily on new car inventory are now including used and certified models. Service campaigns have been added, and more money is being spent on display ads that target competitors directly.
We are working on creative ways to help each of our dealership’s unique needs. Whether they want a “We Buy Used Cars” campaign to increase their used car inventory or if they want to start going after customers who may now have poor credit or need help financing, we are doing it all! Our digital marketing team prides itself on the ability to pivot strategies based on our dealers’ changing needs.
Could your dealership benefit from a new paid search strategy?