Search Success: Leveraging Paid Search Advertising at Your Dealership

Successful car dealers not only use the internet to maximize their sales, they also understand the buying funnel and how to use different forms of online marketing based on where a potential car buyer is in the buying process. Leveraging paid search advertising helps make an impression on potential vehicle buyers early in their search, helping you maximize leads by becoming a valuable resource in their search for answers.

What Is Paid Search Advertising?

When consumers use a search engine to find information about specific vehicles, you want your dealership to appear at or near the top of the page that contains their search results. With search engine optimization (SEO) marketing, you can try to use techniques such as keywording (adding words such as the name of your business, city, brands, and models) to help your website pages appear higher in results. Using paid search advertising, you greatly increase how high you appear in search engine results. Depending on which type of ads you purchase, you may only pay when someone clicks on your ads or your ad is displayed on a page the shopper visits.

Success Key #1 – Early Targeting

The further along a car buyer is in the purchasing process, the more he may think he knows and the less information he may want. Paid search helps dealerships target customers earlier in the process, such as when they are searching by location. By matching vehicle shoppers through their search terms, dealerships can present ads to buyers at a specific stage in the buying process.

Success Key #2 – Better Targeting

While social media (such as recommendations from friends via Facebook posts and Twitter tweets) is increasingly influencing consumer buying decisions for other products, it isn't very influential when it comes to vehicle research. According to J.D. Power's 2016 Autoshopper survey, more than 20 percent of vehicle shoppers use social media sites for research, but most don't find them helpful.

Using search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing, consumers can quickly and specifically target the type of vehicles they want to research (e.g., sedan or SUV), brands, a particular dealership, or a geographic area. Having your dealership listed at the top of search engine results, and under your dealership name, can significantly increase visits to your website, boosting leads and conversions.

Success Key #3 – Vehicle-Specific Advertising

The more a dealership can target its ads to a particular buyer (e.g., someone looking for a particular vehicle by make and model), the bigger the return on investment it will get from its paid search advertising. Paid search gives dealerships the ability to advertise specific vehicles (inventory-based ads). This provides potential customers with a personalized experience that also lets them know a dealership has exactly what they're looking for.

Success Key #4 – "Follow" Potential Customers

Have you ever conducted an internet search for pet food, a piece of exercise equipment, or a lawn mower, and then seen ads for that product when you visited other websites? Thanks to technology such as cookies placed on a consumer's computer when she visits a website, dealerships can "follow" vehicle shoppers on their internet journeys, serving different ads at different stages of the buying process. For example, after shoppers conduct research on your website, your ad can appear on other websites they visit to remind them about your dealership and your inventory. This increases your return on investment (ROI) by generating more brand awareness, clicks, site visits, leads, and conversions.