Part One and Two of A Dating Guide to Automotive Advertising covered the automotive digital advertising landscape, unveiled challenges, and introduced ideas on how to approach them. As our “dating relationship” progresses, we will inevitably run into some issues. None of these are deal-breakers if we work hard to address and resolve them.  In Part Three, we’ll share tips on how to decrease the friction between your automotive search engine marketing efforts.

Don’t fight over material things

As mentioned in Part Two, there are three automotive tiers: Tier 1 (National, OEMs), Tier 2 (Dealer Groups), and Tier 3 (Dealers). Often, each tier will target the same keyword which inadvertently inflates keyword CPCs across all tiers. Our goal is to remove friction by focusing on four high-impact areas:

  1. Keyword targeting
  2. Ad position
  3. Ad message variation
  4. Audience exclusion

1) Choose your words wisely: Keyword Targeting

We must understand what we mean through intent. To identify this, we look at a user’s search query and separate explicit queries from implicit. This helps us allocate the correct keyword to the correct tier based on where the user is in the buying process. If keywords are too broad to identify intent, it’s best to let Tier 1 handle the heavy lifting. If keywords are distinct such as “Ford dealerships near me”, it’s best to promote the nearest dealer via Tier 2 and/or 3 efforts. A Venn diagram can help map intent and allocate the correct keywords to one of the three tiers or multiple.

Automotive Search Engine Marketing - Venn Diagram

Some keywords (e.g., “nearest Ford Explorer dealer”) are more explicit than others (e.g., “new SUVs”). When consumers search with intent to buy (e.g., “black Ford Explorer for sale”) they’ve likely researched and it’s time to send them to a local dealer. Here’s one way to organize your keywords – overlap may exist:

  • Tier 1 – “I’m Researching”:
    • Branded Generic – “Ford Cars”
    • Branded Model – “2017 Ford Explorer”
    • Category Generic – “New Cars”
    • Category Model – “Best 2017 SUVs”
  • Tier 2 – “I’m Ready to Buy, but Not Sure Where”:
    • Branded Generic – “Ford Dealerships Near Me”,
    • Branded Model – “San Diego Ford Dealerships”
    • Category Generic – “San Diego Car Dealerships”
    • Category Model – “SUV near me”
  • Tier 3 – “I’m Looking for Deals and Know What I Want”:
    • Branded Generic – “Mossy Ford”
    • Branded Model – “Mossy Ford 2017 SUV”
    • Category Generic – “San Diego Car Dealerships”
    • Category Model – “black SUV near me”

Keep in mind the nuance of keyword buying could be harmful to you if you don’t pay close attention. Here are some tips to limit any negative impact:

  • Avoid Inadvertent Conquesting – Be sure to add negative keywords to your existing campaigns and ad groups. “Honda new SUV” will match to your query “new SUV”, so you’ll want to negative out “Honda”.
  • Be Careful with Double Meanings – In Ford’s case, we would have to be careful with “Ford Models” as that’s a modeling agency. “Ford Car Models” may be better suited.
  • Avoid Irrelevance – Some terms may not make sense to purchase such as “for sale by owner”. You may want to make a play to shift sales to OEM’s, but if not, be sure to negative “by owner” out of your buy.

For best practices on how to develop and find best keywords for SEM campaigns, please read more here.

2) Sometimes we take a backseat: Ad Position Targeting

When keywords are ambiguous or broad in their meaning (e.g., “new SUVs”) we don’t know if searchers are looking to buy or something else – like doing marketing research for an automotive search engine marketing blog 😉. For moments where it is unclear, utilize as much search real estate as possible with multiple ads. This can help users click-to-intent rather than force one option on them. In this instance, it is important for the three tiers to clearly communicate and set some ground rules for who is bidding on what ad position. Without this coordination, each tier inadvertently risks bidding against each other and increasing costs.

Ambiguous Search – Intent is hidden (e.g., “2017 Fords”)

  • Tier 1 (ad pos 1)
  • Tier 2 (ad pos 2)
  • Tier 3 (no ads)

Specific Search – Intent is shown (e.g., “2017 Ford Dealers for sale near me”)

  • Tier 1, (no ads)
  • Tier 2, (ad pos 1)
  • Tier 3, (ad pos 2)

3) Have a voice: Ad Messaging Variation

When two or more ads are shared between tiers, showcase message variations. Saying the same thing twice is redundant. Users should have multiple options to get a seamless online experience.

  • Tier 1 – branding (your tagline), model comparison and prices
  • Tier 2 – offers and incentives
  • Tier 3 – contact (phone call, email, chat), schedule a test drive

Your ad doesn’t stop at the headlines and description. Use ad extensions to offer more information to consumers. Keep in mind, extensions should not duplicate the message of another. We’ll dissect this Ford automotive search engine marketing *ad (keyword: “ford explorer”) to help reveal what is possible:

Automotive Search Engine Marketing - Sample Ad Copy

*Ad extensions don’t show 100% of the time

  • Extended Headline – good, detail, user query, and call-to-action (CTA)
  • Display URL – recommend “com/suvs/explorer/ “
  • Description – good, call-to-action, and user query
  • Structured Snippets, Review/Rating extensions – used
  • Location w/ Call extensions – good, local information
  • Sitelinks – good, could use CTA for Sitelink number two
    • Sitelinks don’t always show up with descriptions. It’s best to choose a headline CTA.
  • Call Out Extensions – not showing (could show specifications or features)
  • Price extensions – not showing (show prices for different model variations)
  • Click to message – not showing (utilize to book a dealer visit or test drive)

There are additional AdWords features for the automotive search engine marketing category. For dealerships, you may want to run Dealer Automotive Ads. Participating in these mobile specific ads will not only help your consumers know you exist but will also let them easily get to you with a click of a button. This ad engulfs the whole page above-the-fold, so even with a strong organic search presence, you may not be seen unless you utilize this extension.

Automotive Search Engine Marketing - Mobile Ad

4) Don’t invite everyone to the party: Audience Exclusion

To make your automotive search engine marketing campaign more effective, start excluding certain audiences. First of all, share cookie pool data across multiple websites and tiers. Then, apply below outlined tactics:

  • Exclude searchers who recently purchased a vehicle
  • Exclude Tier 1 from users who already visited Tier 2 and Tier 3 websites
  • Remarket based on user journey
    • Consumer built a model (Tier 1 website) > remarket to local dealers
    • Consumer located dealership (Tier 3 efforts) > remarket schedule a test drive

In addition, without sharing the same cookie pool, we often double-count credit across tiers. Consider utilizing an attribution technology such as Adobe or Google Analytics to understand efforts holistically.

Final Thoughts

You may not have one agency managing everything, but communication between the different entities is key to success. In addition to sharing goals, objectives, coordinating bids and positions, data and technology can also help streamline your efforts. This will increase efficiency, and make your data more accurate.

If you want to explore even more ideas on how to improve your automotive search engine marketing activities, you can start with the ideas below and let us know if you have any questions:

  • Sync TV and Search – use Google Business Data and Scripts to increase bids during commercials
  • Similar Audiences – Build lookalikes based on existing customers
  • Conquesting – Bid on your competitor’s keywords
  • Video Remarketing – Seek YouTube video watchers with Google search ads
  • Ad Customizers – Build special offers dynamic countdowns in your ads

Next time we’ll focus on additional digital channels. If you want to learn more about how Symphonic Digital can help you, feel free to contact us. We’d be happy to conduct a free campaign diagnosis.

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